Sheep scanning.




Ian and Gillian in conversation –

‘Two but very late.’





‘Ssshh now….’

‘See the head on this one, see its vertebrae ?’

‘What colour’s she got on her arse?’

‘Green, touch of red.’

‘Green, first colour ? No she’s definitely a red arse.’

‘Sheep are different every year…..oh here we go, its so small it’s difficult to count. I think it’s just one, but she’s lost another one. The grass will be growing when she lambs.’


‘Right, thats looks like three.’

‘I told you about the one we had one year when she lambed, two beautiful lambs and I thought these lambs haven’t had a drink. I turned her up and not teets.’


‘She’s maybe borderline. She’s a red but……

‘Aye I’ll run her, she’s an old sheep’.

‘Come on toots’.


‘Go on now precious.’

Tuesday 8th January.




New year. A gentle pirr of wind from the north cools my left cheek while the sun in the south warms my right. Walking across the yard I am met with ‘Morning Santa !’ from the men taking down the sheds. Carole calls them the Chuckle Brothers. We chat about holidays, building work, and how its impossible to keep the house clean with all the boots and mud and weather that gets in but the new porch should make things better. Her own work which involves taking school children to farms in Fife will start again shortly. She tells me the biggest challenge in farming today is the paperwork. Ian can come in after a days work only to spend a further three hours on admin. We talk about Young Farmers and the close-knit social circle of farmers and families, the problems if young ones get together but then break up. They will continue to bump into each other beacause of their network. Carole and Ian met through Young Farmers, she says most do.

The heifers cloudy breath softly, warmly fills the byre. I sit on the hay and they run away. After a while the more curiuos of them inch forward until eventually one has his head almost touching my hand, its nose smelling what I am. Its tongue curls up and cleans each nostril.

Outside black plastic billows in the breeze where the wind has torn it from the hay bales. Corrugated roofing sheets lie stacked in waves. Far off a dog barks. Birdsong. A chirky wren wheeks past into a hollow of an ash tree.