Saturday, September 17, 2016

Hildarett Roundup

Here is the map published (in that same newspaper I mentioned in an earlier post) which provides the dates and rettirs (rettir is the Icelandic for corral) for the roundup: It may be too hard to read from my photo, but each name identifies a particular "rettir". The "rettir's are permanently standing corrals. Many are made of wood, like a fence. We saw one made of turf. I believe there are about 170 of them around the country.

  Generally, they feature a center circle with pens built in wedges radiating out from it,  like the spokes of a wheel . Sheep are brought down from the highlands/rangelands by horses and herded into the central pen. Then the sheep are sorted by ear tags and sent to the "spoke" of the wheel which is designated for their tag. Each tag - which might be an ear notch like the I shared on Facebook, or might be a plastic colored tag - identifies the farm, the region and the sheep Once sorted, each farmer then herds (with the help of lots of kids, family and friends) his/her sheep home by foot, along the road or across fields!

We were fortunate on our visit to the Lake Myvatn region to witness the rettir at Hildarett. Hildarett is one (if not "the") oldest rettir in Iceland. And it is a beautiful stone structure, as hopefully the next pictures show. It is so large, I couldn't get a single photo showing the entire structure!

But hopefully you can get an idea from the photo above on the right that there is a central circular pen (currently empty) and radiating out from it are the wedges (or spokes) of a wheel, some of which still have sheep in them (like the wedge in the foreground) and others are empty because those sheep have already been run home. 

In the photos below you can see that it takes a lot of people to herd the sheep from the rettir back to the home pasture. Kids of all ages are participating in the occasion and helping to keep the sheep in line! Even young adults now living in Reykyavik, like the hiking guide I had in Landmannalauger, head home on the weekends to help their parents or grandparents with the roundup. It is clearly a celebratory event. The young kids in particular were having a grand time -  first herding one batch of sheep back to the farm and then hopping  into the back of a truck - laughing and smiling - to be driven back to the "rettir" to get the next batch to herd home. Afterwards, they all gather for a feast. In fact, the Cow Shed Cafe which we had hoped to get some geothermally steamed bread from was closed on this day because they were participating in the roundup and readying for the meal afterwards. So it is an "all hands on deck" event.

 Here are just more photos of the corrals and some individual sheep to show the great range of colors. I learned so much more about the sheep and the farming economics etc, but I'll save those for tomorrow's post!

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