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Matt Willen Matt Willen | Friday 22. Mayá2009

Baaaa (or whatever it is that sheep say in Iceland)

We´ve been so busy working on the website and traveling around meeting people that I am afraid that the blog has slipped over the past couple of days. Tomorrow is a writing day, in order to get caught up with content for the website, and to let Gústi take care of doing some of his photo projects.

We were on the road all day yesterday. We drove to the south to visit a woman (Ester) who owns a farm at Foss, north of Bildudalur, with the intentions of talking to her about the work she does collecting down from the Eider ducks. We did speak to her a little about ducks, but when we arrived she and her daughter (Þora Maria) were busy caring for their sheep who were busy delivering babies (it being spring).  So we spent the afternoon in the barn with the sheep, as they went about their business. We are now putting together a profile of Ester for the people section of the web site but a few things stood out about the experience:

1) They thought Gústi was kind of green when it came to sheep. I am not certain if they thought the same about me, but I was wearing my overalls so perhaps they thought otherwise (people often think otherwise about me).

2) Between the two of them they take care of over 400 sheep. It is hard for them (and it turns out farmers generally) to get help with caring for the sheep. Ester is 72 years old, and she made both Gústi and I feel weak; she goes non stop. It is hard work, and rather dirty, but it was very obvious that both of them love it. Watched Þora Maria delivered a lamb that would not have made it with out help; the care was apparent. Interesting point: when I went to photograph the birth, she asked me not to: 'It isn´t right.'' But as soon as things were done, no problem.

3) They had two rams to take care of all the ewes.

4) As far as Eider down is concerned: many people erroneous believe that they are killed for their feathers. In fact, the feathers are harvested as a sort of wild agriculture. The ducks near Foss return yearly and the family prepares nesting areas for them by digging holes in the rocks and sand, or putting out tires, and then lining the holes with hay. The ducks come and then line the nest with down feathers from their chest. After the ducklings are born, they collect the down and replace it with wool or other soft material. They take a lot of care to make sure that the ducks aren´t disturbed (´´The hardest job is keeping the tourists away from the ducks'') and will return annually to breed.

Today, as I pointed out, we worked on the site, and then visited Ásthildur (I may have the spelling wrong and if so I apologize) this afternoon. She works for the town of Ísafjörður tending to their plants and gardens. She and her husband live in a geodesic dome in town, and tends to three greenhouses on her property in which she grows flowers, spices, and some vegetable. The entrance to the house is itself a veritable greenhouse, tropical in climate in fact, there we sat and talked about her work, how she came to live in a greenhouse, her family (she is a proud and caring grandmother with 20 grandchildren).  So we are also working a profile of her to post tomorrow or Sunday.

So, yes, things are going well. Gústi and I are in the zone working on this project, and are feeling like this is good work. What more can one ask for, except I guess being a ram on a sheep farm.



┴g˙st G. Atlason, Friday 22 May | 21:05

Hahaha, a ram, a lot to take care of I guess. It is a misunderstanding Matt, about what the sheep sound like, in Iceland, they say Meee heeee heeee. Hey, rembember the silence we experienced!


Sylvia Morra, Saturday 23 May | 18:41

Matt, you've done a wonderful job portraying the people and their interests. Work seems to be created from what is around us and our inclinations. I've really enjoyed reading your notes and the photos. I especially like the photo of the church and graveyard, under the arch of rusty metal. Sylvia


Karen Hodges, Tuesday 26 May | 03:39

Hi Matt,
GREAT website. GREAT photos! Oh, how I would love to meet Ester! Can't wait to read more about her!


Carol Ouimet, Tuesday 26 May | 11:19

The pictures are beautiful! I can't wait to see more.


Matt Willen, Tuesday 26 May | 18:16

The profile on Ester is up and running. Along with a couple more under both people and work. Enjoy.


Ian and Jackson, Wednesday 27 May | 01:20

Hi dad! Can you bring back a baby lamb? Pleeease!


Matt Willen, Wednesday 27 May | 11:32

Jackson and Ian,
I will see what I can do about the lamb. Maybe some lamb chops on Sunday.


┴g˙st Atlason, Wednesday 27 May | 11:54


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