Things have been good so far. I’ve fed a baby lamb from a bottle, seen something absolutely disgusting come out of a sheep and nearly lost one of their dogs.
The dogs are my favorite part. They got so worked up when a lamb gets away from the herd that they practically fall over themselves having a conniption and are almost too enthusiastic to do anything about it. Apparently they used to have a really good farming dog, but it died, and they got these two together which meant it was difficult to train them because whenever the dad scolded either one of them, the other thought it’d done something wrong too and stopped working.
I’m very excited to get on the horses. They’re the friendliest group of horses I’ve ever seen. The whole herd comes across the field to greet me when I step under the fence. Unfortunately, they need to get their shoes on before I can ride them, so I still have to wait a couple days.
Right now I’m sleeping in the big house with the family, because the dad was worried I’d be lonely if I was out in the cabin by myself. That might’ve been true because right now the guest house is empty and it’s a ten minute walk from the house. There’s a gravel road that goes out past the house and the farm to the guest house and then out beyond around the lake. I took April (one of the dogs) out for a walk with me and enjoyed watching her sprint among the moors chasing birds until she vanished out of sight. Not knowing her name, I yelled “Dog!” until she came back around, feeling very Audrey Hepburn. By the end of our walk, we’d worked out a better system and by that I mean she was so tired she thought about listening when I told her to come back to me. When I turned around though, she followed immediately and herded a group of rams off the property in excitement.
It seems having a useless animal is the highest form of compliment an animal can get on the farm. The dogs are clearly having the time of their lives. They were useless enough, however, that I got to be a herd dog in the evening and went into the pastures with the sheep and their lambs to herd/wrestle/get trampled by the group as I tried to move them out of the barn and out of doors.
I’m having a little problem with the life of the sheep. I asked if they were used for their wool and Steve (I don’t know/can’t pronounce/don’t have the right alphabet to know his real name. This is the younger brother. He’s cute, very nice, speaks fluent English, has a great sense of humor and lives here with his girlfriend. And he looks like a Steve, though his name has a rolled H (yes, that’s a thing) and a couple r’s masquerading as other consonants) laughed in my face. They’re raised for their meat. He used to work at a slaughterhouse and now their older brother works there in Akureyrei.
They have over 1,000 sheep with lambs right now and I’m telling myself that it’s fine because they wouldn’t be alive without the farmers and they have a really good life and they don’t have to feel the pain of getting sick and dying, as they probably would have to in the wild/they wouldn’t be alive in the wild. Sheep 394 is my favorite. He’s a little black lamb who lets me pet him because I also feed him from the bottle.
All of the farmers got sad because one of the lambs died, which surprised me, because they’re raising the animals to get killed. But I guess they see it as giving them a good life or else don’t think about the death of the animals, since it happens off the farm. I also feel gross about the idea of a breed animal, but I’ve been observing the sheep and am fairly convinced they’re not that smart, as they will trample their own young to get food/lose them a couple times a day and panic/will walk right off the edge of the wooden feed thing and topple over on their heads.
Sometimes the lambs will hop up onto the rack where the hay is put and wander down, which produces widespread panic among the dogs. The newly born lambs are the funniest, because they sit and shake over the trauma of what’s just happened.
The people are good. I like the dad, Steve and Ran the best. Steve and Ran are perfectly fluent and seem funny. Unfortunately, all of the jokes are told in Icelandic. Dinner last night was a little rough, with them, their mom, their older brother, their cousin and Steve’s girlfriend, all speaking very animatedly and humorously in Icelandic. I was too tired to know if it would bother me normally, so I went to bed.
An eye mask is clearly the most necessary thing. Even with cloud cover, it’s so bright here that electricity is unnecessary. All of the hot water in the house is geothermal and I was told to “shower for however long that I wanted” though I couldn’t figure out how to get it beyond warm and it smelled like sulfur. Through my window cover, my eye mask and a pair of shorts that I wrapped around my head, the brightness was enough to wake me at 8 this morning. I’m not sure when the sun “goes down” but it was perfectly light at 1:30 this morning, when I woke in disorientation.
Icelandic is such a specific language that they don’t translate it for the television. I wonder if this is why all of the young people are so good at English. They have subtitles, which the adults watch, but if they want to listen to sound, it’s in English.
The farm is actually less isolated than I thought. By that I mean it’s off the road. When I say “the road” I do think I mean the only one that goes through Northern Iceland, but I could be wrong. There are also at least seven other farmers around because Steve says they have partial shares in the lake. Land is very Icelandic here. They have a couple “split-owned” areas which seems to just mean they can each use it for whatever/whenever they want. Ran was out of the house most of the day yesterday because in Iceland the “government” (and they put that in quotes, not me) pays for mentally disabled people to be taken care of one to two weekends a month, so that their parents can get a break. Steve and his dad were also out of the house until late yesterday because they, along with the rest of their all-male, all-farmer’s choir, were singing in a hot spring.
School is different here. They have “high school” from 6-16 and college from 16-20. Steve’s graduating class was 6, of which he was the only boy, and he says the entire “high school” isn’t usually more than 60 people.
Food was fine. Ran apparently know I don’t eat red meat, though her dad thinks that’s stupid. We had pasta, salad, and something that was probably ground beef, though I ate it anyway. They drink coffee at all hours and gave me a “classic Icelandic snack” which was dough fried in sheep fat. Breakfast this morning was anything that I could find, so I had cereal and went out to help the dad feed the sheep.