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Piling Stones

Today, we built two cairns on Shanley Hill.  According to Wikipedia, a cairn is "a man-made pile (or stack) of stones.  It comes from the Scottish Gaelic: carn (plural cairn).  Cairns are found all over the world in uplands, on moorland, on mountaintops...."  Shanley Hill certainly qualifies as an upland - and there are plenty of stones to work with!

While cairns are built for many reasons, in sheep country they've often been built as landmarks in country where there are no natural landmarks - or where shepherds are bored!  In the American West, Basque sheepherders built "harrimutilak" - translated as "stone boys" - to mark significant spots and, probably, to pass the time.

We decided that we could put the rocks on Shanley Hill to good use by building a couple of stone boys or cairns.  Our goal was to build them taller than Emma - you'll see by our photos that we succeeded!  Our friend and fellow shepherd Roger Ingram joined us, along with his dogs.  After finishing the second cairn, we enjoyed a lunch of sheep's milk cheese, apples, blood oranges and crackers - like shepherds before us, probably!  We wondered what archaeologists in 1000 years would think of our cairns!

Enjoy these photos!

Emma working on the foundation for cairn #1.

Almost taller than Emma!

Cairn #1 completed!

Roger and Lara working on cairn #2.

About half-way done....

3/4 done!

The completed project!

Another shot.
Our new landmark!

I'll leave you with another quote from Wendell Berry.  If you've never cared for a significant number of sheep, this might not make sense:


"In him, as he stood before her then, she saw the ancient unthanked care of shepherds.  The sheep merely suffered what was to be suffered, living the given life, dying the given death.  They did not ask for care or appreciate it when they received it.  And yet the care was given.  The flocks throve by no care commensurate with a price, but by an overplus of love, filling a known need in the shepherd, passionate and beyond memory old."

We'll start lambing sometime after mid-week this week.  I enjoyed starting the week by doing something that countless shepherds have done before me!

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