There’s more to us than reindeer…

Coming to visit us in the Cairngorms again when this is all over? Here’s a blog that’s been adjusted slightly from an old newsletter about the wonderful wildlife that surrounds us here in the Cairngorms:

It’s not just reindeer that you might see here, there’s so much more. Around 25% of the UK’s threatened flora and fauna can be found here, and some of it is very easy to spot. The Red Squirrel is perhaps one of the most iconic animals in Scotland, but there’s no need to search too hard for them at Reindeer House as they are usually to be found on the peanut feeders in our garden or in the reindeer paddocks beside the house. Sometimes people soon forget about the reindeer when the squirrels make an appearance!

Photo by Peter Trimming
Crestie on the feeder. Photo by Hen Robinson

Another bird feeder highlight is the Crested Tits, a much sought after species for bird watchers due to their rarity. And like the squirrels, look no further than our front garden (but only in the winter months)! Every winter we have absurdly good views from our office window, mere feet away. The bird table is also visited by Siskins, Chaffinches, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Robins, Blackbirds and Dunnocks. Among many other species, Crossbills are to be found in the forests around Reindeer House, and Pine Martens are seen regularly right outside the house at nighttime, much to our delight.

Many visitors to our hill enclosure remark upon the Mallards pottering around amongst the reindeer, a somewhat surprising sight it seems, especially so in the snow. The ducks do have an ulterior motive as they are after the barley in the reindeer feed, arriving every day on schedule to clear up after feeding time! They could well be the best fed ducks in Scotland. Other enclosure visitors are the Snow Bunting flocks in winter, having bred up on the high mountain plateau during the summer; and sometimes we have a pair of curlew in summer residence too.

Snow Bunting in winter plumage

In fact our 1200 acre enclosure on the slopes of the Cairngorms is home to a variety of wildlife all year round, much of it being rather secretive. May expeditions to search for newly born calves at an unsociably early hour result in good views of Black Grouse, displaying right in the middle of the enclosure. However, by the time we take visitors up the hill at 11am the grouse have sensibly retired for the day. The Red Grouse are easier to see, and are a common sight on the reindeer treks in the summer as they nest near our trek routes. Most exciting of the grouse species is the elusive Capercaillie, of which we see a few of each year in the pine forest down near Utsi’s Hut, in the far reaches of the hill enclosure.

A male capercaillie displaying. We more often see the smaller, brown females. Photo copyright: sighmanb

And there’s plenty more. We spend hours out on the Cairngorm plateau in the summer, checking the female reindeer and their calves (if we can find them!), and frequently see the most alpine of the grouse species, the Ptarmigan; and Dotterel, rare migrant waders. Golden Eagles are spotted occasionally too.

Dotterel high up on the mountains in their summer breeding grounds. Photo by Andi Probert

So while our focus is undoubtedly the reindeer, sometimes they do have to share the limelight with other species. Reindeer were originally native to Scotland, and while we will probably never see the likes of bears, wolves and wolverines roaming free here again, visitors to the Cairngorms can catch a glimpse of the past as the reindeer browse the heathery slopes.

Hen

What do furloughed reindeer herders do?

As you probably know, many of the reindeer herders are furloughed just now as the Centre is obviously closed to the public. So while Fiona and Lotti are working away trying to keep everything ticking over at Reindeer House and Andi and Derek are doing the same at the farm, what are the rest of the staff up to?

Sheena: What have I been up to… well I’m very lucky, I moved in with my 87 year old mum just along the road – she’s great fun and we’ve both kept very busy and well;  3 dogs and a cat and a big garden!
Sheena at work in her art studio

Some of you might know that when I’m not a reindeer herder I am an artist… so all this time I must have been busy painting yeah?… Well yes – my mum’s garden fence!! And a wee bit of crafting, the odd cycle and swim in my Loch with the dogs as its been so nice at times.

One of Sheena’s recent artworks
New coat hooks!
I signed up to be a Kindness Volunteer for Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland so I’ve gone through a online training with them, helped out delivering  the odd parcel in the community and done a lot of weeding at my  mum’s… can’t wait to tackle the jungle at my own house when this is all over!! Mostly really I can’t wait to run up a hill to see the new additions to the herd. Missing all the reindeer herders too and missing meeting all our wonderful visitors.
Taking time of from herding for a spot of sketching instead a few years back

Dave: So what have I been up to ? Well it’s a fairly long list. I feel lucky to be healthy and secure when so many are really struggling. I look after a small Croft. So between that and my 2.5 year old son I have been very busy. My four ewes have all lambed successfully so that’s cool.

New lamb on a frosty morning! Though Dave appears to still be wearing shorts…

I have also built a new mobile chicken coop. Heaps of new fencing and gates. Been planting things and painting things. But the coolest thing is the new river side den I’m building for my son! Ciao!

Dave contemplating reindeer…

Hen: I’m luckier than the others perhaps, in that I live closer to Reindeer House so have been able to get up the hill to see the cows and calves on occasion within my daily exercise allowance. Has kept the withdrawal symptoms under control!

Hen in happier times with old favourite Puddock. Favouritism possibly always not returned…

Other than that I’ve been in my garden as much as possible, and have finally started work on a rockery and a pond that’s been in the pipeline for years. Rather a few years ago, at age 30, I woke up one morning and the family genetics had suddenly kicked in – must grow plants NOW! I think Fiona was very relieved when I moved out of Reindeer House in 2015, having filled every spare inch of space (and there’s not much space spare to start with in RH…) with plants.

Overenthusiastic tomato growing in Reindeer House a few years back. This wasn’t even Hen’s room…who needs curtains?

I even grew strawberries on the feed shed roof for a couple of years, prompting some strange looks from visitors in the Paddocks on a regular basis, looking over to see me climbing up the side of the building carrying a watering can!

By the end of lockdown this will look like a rockery rather than a building site (apparently)!

Chris: It turned out I had a million and one things that needed doing so I don’t think I’ve ever had the time go by faster ever! I’ve been selling loads of stuff on eBay to try and boost my bank balance. I was cleaning and sorting out some old cycling/running shoes to sell and wondered what/how many shoes does it take to herd a reindeer?!

Part of Chris’s extensive selection of reindeer herding shoes!
Walking boots x1: for when it’s too cold for wellies
Ski touring boots x1: For when there’s so much snow it’s easier to ski out to find the reindeer!
Cycling shoes x4: for when the reindeer have gone too far and its quicker too cycle out half way to where they are. No, we don’t have helicopters/drones/quad bikes which I’ve been asked several times on Hill Trips!
Hill running shoes x50: the joint most important shoe of a reindeer herder!
Light, comfy, grippy and worn almost every day outside of winter for running around the hills chasing reindeer and fixing fences/boardwalking.
Wellies x1: it is Scotland, it rains a lot, the ground is wet, muddy and boggy. Wear wellies.
But what sort of shoes is Chris wearing for *this* type of reindeer work?

Nicky: A different side of the Reindeer Centre Business is selling meat from our Glenlivet hill farm,  where we have free-range cattle, soay sheep and wild boar. As lockdown kicked in and with meat scarce in the local shops, I received a message on our Reindeer Herders Whatsapp group asking if any of us would like any meat dropped off from our farm and I came up with the idea of offering an ordering and delivery service out to my neighbours and friends. We set up a safe payment and delivery method and, as I’m sure everyone has found, I never knew I could become so well acquainted with my wee bottle of hand sanitising gel that I now carry everywhere with me!

Nicky with meat orders ready for collection and/or delivery!

This was just the start. The word spread, other neighbours wanted to join the ‘meat delivery group’, and friends, family and colleagues I mentioned it to also wanted to join our gang. Many customers have expressed they are finding it so superior and delicious compared to other meat they have tasted. It’s lovely to receive such praise and appreciation and pass it on to my colleagues at the Reindeer Centre and Farm.

It feels good to be doing this on so many levels. For people to be able to get ethical, locally sourced meat; to get to know more of my neighbours; to help some of my elderly neighbours who aren’t able to go to the shops and are having supplies delivered to them; to deliver to friends who work for the NHS; it brings a wonderful sense of community when everyone pulls together in times like these.

Nicky in the winter with Crowdie and Kipling
So there you have it – lots of reindeer herders using their energy in different manners than normal! While some of us are quite enjoying our time off, others are itching to be back working with the reindeer. So the sooner the world can get back to some semblance of ‘normal’ the better!

Calves, calves and more calves!

At this time of year it seems that all anyone really wants to see are photos of calves – so here you are! A big calving for us this year, and we’re not finished yet either… But in the meantime here are some pictures 😀

Border Terriers and me!

In this week’s blog we’re taking a diversion from reindeer to dogs, to hear from herd owner Tilly:

Tilly with Moskki and Tuva. And her customary very short shorts!

Well I have to say I am one of the lucky ones. Living on our farm at Glenlivet, with the wonderful countryside around me I can safely enjoy the great outdoors without compromising the current lockdown requirements.

The Glenlivet Estate is a real gem, with a wonderful mix of open moorland, farmland and woodland and from our farmhouse I can go walking and running with my two border terriers Moskki and her daughter Tuva.

Tuva with mum Moskki

I got Moskki as a 6 week old pup in January 2014 and she has been the best wee dog I have ever had. When there is nothing to do she happily sleeps, but when its time to go out to the hills she’s the first to get ready. She has accompanied me on nearly all my Munros ( Scottish Mountains over 3,000 feet ), which I finished in November last year, so she is certainly fit!

Spending most of their time sleeping!

At the end of November 2019 Moskki had a litter of pups and I decided I would keep one of the girls in the litter, hence Border terrier no.2! There were 3 female pups that were quite similar colouring to Moskki and so I decided ( after much procrastination ) on the ‘middle sized’ female of the three. I took some time to choose a name for my wee pup and finally settled on ‘Tuva’. Tuva is the name of South Siberian Reindeer Herding people and I was honoured to meet representatives of these people ( a mother and her grown up daughter ) at one of the World Reindeer Herder Association Congress meetings in Jokkmokk, North Sweden.

Moskki with Tuva and her siblings

Moskki also has a reindeer herding association (can’t think why! ). The ‘moskki’ is ‘a small place’ in a kåta ( Sami tent – pronounced ‘kota’ ) where household items like pots and pans are stored. So my love of reindeer strangely enough strays into my two dogs. We’ve also had a Swedish born reindeer bull named Moskki in the past, and currently have a Kota too!

Tuva has grown up to be a clone of her mother. Sleeps well, enjoys getting out and devoted to me (unless she is on the scent of a rabbit!). So my two borders have given me a huge amount of joy in these difficult times and added to that we have had the warmest and driest April on record.

Tilly in more normal times with her beloved reindeer. Photo: John Paul

But I am yearning to get back to normal life, like everyone else. I can’t wait to immerse myself again fully in reindeer herding, general farm life, showing people around the farm, but most importantly seeing my grandchildren and playing with them at home and on the farm. Happy days ahead.

Tilly

A day at the farm

Whilst I’m normally based over at the main visitor centre in Glenmore, with the current chaotic situation I’m spending a lot more of my time at our second base, the hill farm at Glenlivet. The Smiths have farmed there since 1990, specializing in native breeds such as Belted Galloway cattle, Soay sheep and Wild boar crosses, plus of course extra summer hill grazing for our lovely reindeer herd. I thought I’d give all of you wonderful folk a snapshot of one of my typical days at the farm…

7.15am: Up bright and early, it’s a glorious sunny day outside. Breakfast, pack my lunch (leftovers from last night, win!) and plenty of snacks, just like the reindeer my appetite is never satisfied!

Nice way to start the day…

7.55am: Out of the house to head over to the farm. It’s about a 35 minute drive for me, and at the moment it’s rare for me to pass more than a couple of cars. Not a bad commute!

8.30am: Arrive at the farm and make a plan for the day. The morning is usually spent feeding the animals. I load up the quad bike, a lifesaver when lugging heavy feed up hilly fields!

9am: First stop, the pigs. We have a mix of Wild boar and Tamworth, also known as “Iron Age” pigs. They get fed first because if you leave them too late they make a pretty big effort to break out and come and find the food themselves! When I first met the pigs years ago, I was a little daunted as they charge up and down grunting and slathering ready to eat, but actually they’re pretty well behaved and haven’t attempted to nibble on me yet!

Next up are some of the Soay sheep and Red deer. Soays are quite wild in nature, a lot more skittish than most sheep you’ll meet, which also means they’re hardy and self-sufficient, rarely needing any assistance lambing or seeking much shelter from the weather. But they do enjoy some extra feed! The red deer are very different from the reindeer, much livelier and jumpier, but come charging after the quad in expectation! Their antlers are growing at an insane rate – every time I see them they seem to be a few inches bigger…

10am: After reloading the quad with more feed, it’s up the hill to check on the reindeer. Throughout spring we have the male reindeer in what we call the “French” enclosure, as it’s where we initially housed our reindeer who joined us from France in 1995 (original hey?!). There is a large shed which is handy for providing shade and also for handling the reindeer for vaccinations etc, and the enclosure extends right up onto the hillside, providing natural grazing.

Roman decides I’m being too slow to put the feed out…
Trough of feed = happy reindeer

The reindeer have pretty good body clocks and are ready and waiting, and cheerfully come in to eat their food from the troughs round the shed. This gives us an opportunity to check everyone looks happy and healthy – we’re already into tick season, and these biting pests can make our reindeer poorly. Today though, everyone is fine, so after chatting to everyone and admiring their lovely antlers, also growing fast though nowhere near as large as the ones on the red deer, it’s back down the hill.

Dr Seuss showing off his new antler growth
Spartan has a good set coming along
Strudel
Stenoa looking… handsome?!
Young Sherlock
Beastie, Jonas and Matto
Houdini, Origami and Bovril enjoying lunch
Atlantic
Atlantic’s older brother, Hamish
Bingo
Old lad Bourbon
Another of our old boys, Moose
Olympic
Young bull Pratchett
Svalbard

11.30am: Powered by a good cup of coffee (essential!) and a snack, my next job is mixing up a big batch of reindeer feed. We have worked out a good combination which is perfect as a supplement to the natural grazing our reindeer have on the hills. They do love their feed, it helps them put on body condition in the summer and maintain condition through winter, and means they’re pleased to see us every day – in the same way that I like to see people who have a habit of bringing me cake! We use a repurposed cement mixer to do the hard work for us, and bag it ready for the next few days of feeding the herd.

Mixing feed

1pm: Lunch! Working outdoors makes you hungry, a great excuse to eat plenty of food! (I think I just take after the reindeer…).

1.45pm: I hitch up the snacker trailer to the back of the quad and fill it with feed for the Belted Galloway herd. The cattle were in fields in the glen, across the river, so getting there involves a bit of hopping on and off the quad to open and close gates. Once there, I run out the feed in a line and count the cattle to check they’re all present. It’s calving season and the new calves look incredibly fresh and clean, like they’ve just been through the wash!

The Belties are delighted to go anywhere for food.
Look at them go!
Dolly the Highland cow, and a beltie calf

3pm: The rest of the afternoon is taken up with odds and ends, sorting out a delivery of burgers and sausages into the appropriate freezers ready for sale, packing firewood into storage, and folding up tarpaulins… there is never a shortage of things to do on a farm, even when I can’t drive a tractor!

5pm: Homeward bound. I’m tired after being on my feet for most of the day, but I’m so grateful that I can spend my time like this – I’m appreciative of how lucky I am to be out in the country, working with animals and able to pretty much forget what is going on across our planet. The reindeer, cattle and sheep have no idea that our lives have changed so much in the past couple of months – they are still living life as normal and expect us to feed and care for them as normal. It’s a welcome break from the news and social media updates which can be pretty worrying at present. Whilst you may not be able to escape to a remote hill farm, I hope you can find your own escape if you’re finding things hard, whether that is in a good book, taking a new route for your daily exercise, or deciding to turn off your laptop and phone for a day. Take care all!

Andi

Lockdown for those who are still herding reindeer!

We are now into week 5 of lockdown and life for the reindeer herder who is still working has taken a dramatic change in some ways and yet it all feels completely normal in others. Myself (Fiona), Andi and Lotti are still employed while all the other staff here at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre are on furlough leave… a term I’m sure everyone is familiar with now. Hen is tending to her ever growing garden, which in this weather is the best place to be; and Dave has got plenty of work on his croft to keep him amused, especially now his sheep are    lambing! The other herders have got plenty to keep them busy, though I suspect are missing their ‘reindeer’ time, especially as we go into a crucial time of year… the calving season. Unfortunately they cannot be involved with calving this year but we will be sure to keep them updated with all the new arrivals.

Bringing the cows into the hill enclosure ready for calving

Where the reindeer management has remained the same over the past month (luckily coronavirus doesn’t affect the reindeer themselves), being closed means our work is chopping and changing between a lot of hill time, feeding the herd and a lot of office time. We have had lots of new adoptions come in, as well as donations. Folks who used to adopt reindeer but maybe it has lapsed over the years have renewed as a way of supporting us while we are closed. We are so very grateful to you all so a massive THANK YOU. We will keep our social media well updated so where we can’t have the Centre open and taking all you lovely people on the hill to visit the reindeer, hopefully we can keep you in the loop with the goings on in other ways.

Kipling WILL get to the bag of feed, one way or another!

The past week in particular has been pretty hectic so it was all hands on deck! There was a group of six female reindeer who had decided they wanted to venture away for calving into the depths of the mountains so we headed out to bring them home. With four of them haltered up the other two followed nicely and we brought them back to our mountain enclosure. The next day the rest of the herd were brought in too and Lotti and I did the big split of who is pregnant and who isn’t. The ones pregnant have been kept back to calve in our mountain enclosure and the ones who aren’t will head back onto the free-range. That isn’t the last we will see of them though, as we will hopefully still catch up with them daily. The ‘Christmas reindeer’ (castrate males) and bulls who have spent the winter either here on Cairngorm or on the Cromdale hills are now all back at our hill farm on the Glenlivet Estate. Although we aren’t doing guided public trips onto the hill daily the management of the herd will remain the same so we may well get a few of the male reindeer back over here to Cairngorm once calving is over.

Fetching the remaining group of male reindeer down off the Cairngorm free-range.

One thing we have been publicising a lot is our Wild Farm meat which is our sister company based at our hill farm at Glenlivet with our other animals (NOT reindeer!). Reindeer herder Nicky has been fantastic in drumming up local business from her friends and neighbours, so meat sales have gone through the roof. Got to make the most of what business we can still do. I’m having to get involved with setting up adoption packs again. My role in the company over the past few years means I haven’t been so involved with this, but luckily I haven’t forgotten what to do! When Lotti and Andi need a hand to get a load done I swoop in to help out. As long as they don’t expect me to do this when everything is back to normal (wink wink!).

Such glorious April weather!

All in all we are getting quite used to the not-so-normal life of a reindeer herder and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t rather enjoying it… Our local area of Glenmore is quiet so we have the surrounding hills and Loch Morlich beach to ourselves. With four of us living here at the Centre – Lotti, Olly, Joe and I along with the two dogs Sookie and Tiree we get out running, swimming, cycling, early mornings to watch wildlife at its best, watching movies and TV dramas and lots of lovely cooking. We have even had a pub crawl. This involved each of us turning our bedrooms into a pub… Maybe that is another blog for another time, watch this space! The one enjoying lockdown the most is my dog Tiree. For those of you who know her she isn’t the most sociable dog to strangers, however if she knows you, she loves you. So when going out on walks and pottering around the house with no strangers coming to visit, she is in her absolute element. She is currently fast asleep below my feet in the office after her 7 mile run with Joe at 6am this morning and the morning feed up the hill with us… It’s a dog’s life for sure!

Fiona

The Curious History of Reindeer in Iceland

At the beginning of February I took a trip to Iceland in winter conditions and learned about the fascinating history of reindeer on this island country in the North Atlantic. Although I did not spot any reindeer, the history of the animals their interesting story is worth sharing nonetheless.

Icelandic reindeer

Similarly to the reindeer here in the Cairngorms, reindeer in Iceland were introduced from another part of the world. However, unlike Scotland reindeer in Iceland were never native to the country at all. All land mammals in Iceland aside from the arctic fox were introduced to the country over the course of its natural history. Reindeer are the largest amongst all of them. In the late 1700s reindeer from Norway were brought to Iceland because the king believed that the reindeer would be a perfect match to the cold, harsh conditions. Being that farming was the most common trade in Iceland, it was assumed that all of the farmers would then take up reindeer herding.

The reindeer were brought to four different regions in Iceland: the South, Southwest, North, and East. And right from the start this venture was a complete failure. Within the first few years the majority of reindeer in Iceland had died off. The harsh volcanic landscape proved difficult to maintain the food resources necessary for the animals to survive. To this day, the only surviving group is in East Iceland where the habitat is more suitable to the needs of the reindeer and food resources are abundant.

Hen’s photo of reindeer in East Iceland, back in 2007.
The stark volcanic landscape of Northern Iceland

Those reindeer continued to thrive though and herding them never took off at all leaving an estimated 6-7000 wild reindeer roaming about the Eastern Fjords. The Ministry of Agriculture found that ‘reindeer farming’ would not be viable given the amount of resources compared to the large population of wild reindeer. Ultimately the decision was made to not begin any sort of commercial reindeer farming.

Our Cairngorm reindeer free ranging on a beautiful February day.

Just like in Scotland, the reindeer in Iceland do not have any natural predators to control their population. So each year the government issues 1200-1300 permits to hunt reindeer as a means to prevent overpopulation which would collapse an already fragile ecosystem. Where as here in the Cairngorms, the numbers of reindeer are much smaller which allow us to control the population through selective breeding each Autumn. As a result of this, when the snow begins to melt in the spring we are looking forward to another wonderful calving season, just around the corner.

Bobby

Visiting the Cromdale reindeer

Before we went into lockdown I had one last day of fun catching up with with our boys and girls free-ranging on the Cromdale Hills. The ‘Christmas Reindeer’ (males who are trained to harness) are generally fairly lazy and don’t stray too far but every now and again the females, accompanied by the young bulls, wander off a bit further away than we like.

I headed off into the hills with Tip, herd owner Tilly’s son Alex’s (and his wife Emily’s) dog, to help them find their way back to where they should be. By walking into the hills towards the reindeer and making her bark it is usually sufficient to get the reindeer to head swiftly back in the opposite direction. As the Cromdale Hills form a vaguely straight rounded ridgeline the reindeer – usually – head in the right direction easily enough. Once within a few hundred metres of the reindeer they spotted Tip and myself before promptly turning round and making there way back in the other direction.

With Part 1 of our job done Tip and I made our way back to the van and headed off to the farm. Tip’s work for the day was done, but not for me. Back up onto the Cromdales, this time powered by a quad bike to carry the feed. I caught up with all the reindeer, some of which I hadn’t seen in about five months, giving them some food to reinforce which part of the hills are ‘good’ and which are ‘bad’ to be on. It’s always good to catch up with them. They all seemed in good health and a few antlers starting to grow amongst the bulls. Roman looks to have got a bit of a head start on the other boys!

Hope you enjoy a few of the photos below

Chris

Frost and the boys waiting expectantly by the quad bike (i.e. buffet on wheels).
Diamond enjoying the afternoon sunshine!
Dr Seuss enjoying the wonderful views from the Cromdale hills.
Galilee showing off her beautiful beard, proving once again that females look great with beards too!
Spartan – one of our lovely young bulls.

A winter not to be forgotten…

It’s not been a very snowy winter at all, and nor was last winter either. While there’s been the odd decent fall every now and then, it’s generally all melted away quite quickly. Until, ironically, about 6 weeks ago, when winter finally made a proper appearance. Since then the mountains have been much whiter, and the skiing good… until our new and nasty acquaintance known as COVID-19 stopped play for the ski centre, and pretty much the rest of the world to be honest.

But thinking about snow reminded me of the incredible 2009-2010 winter, when it started snowing at the beginning of it and just didn’t stop. So here’s some photos of back in the days that we got ‘proper’ snow – all of 10 years ago!

Many of you may have seen this photo (above) before, in one of our calendars or on a Christmas card. But in front of this line of reindeer are herders Fiona and Mary, struggling through deep snow while the reindeer had the easy job behind. This was the day we moved them from the hill enclosure out to the ‘free-range’, having closed to the public at the end of the Christmas holidays. But before moving the reindeer themselves, we had to make a path ourselves – easier said than done in some places!

We were wearing hi-viz as we’d led the reindeer the easy way until this point – i.e. right down the middle of the road.
I like to call this photo ‘Congo takes a wrong turn…’

Back down at Reindeer House, it just didn’t stop snowing!  Day after day there were several more inches of fresh white stuff each morning, and gradually everything disappeared.

Including the garden fence (nearly)…
…and then almost completely…
The elves were well and truly snowed in!

 

Think Reindeer House’s oil tank is under there somewhere…
Icicles everywhere.
Any flat sections of roof required clearing regularly to stop them collapsing. The elf house roof is just visible at the left of this photo.
Feed storage on the hill became trickier to get to than normal.
Big snow required big machines…
Thank goodness reindeer are so well designed for snow! Here’s old lad Sting having a good rest in a comfy bed.

But thankfully the reindeer coped just fine, and being as a lot of the deepest snow was during our closed spell in January and February, it didn’t matter and we had a ball playing in it most of the time.

A photo from a different year, but it’s kinda cool!

Hen

Weather the Storm

As everyone knows all too well, these are worrying and testing times for all and my heart goes out to anyone reading my blog. With the latest ‘call to arms’ by the government we really must all help to slow the spread of the coronavirus that is sweeping the world.

Nobody is immune from this, young or old, but some people will sadly be more susceptible to the symptoms and it is these people that our thoughts need to be with as their lives depend on all of us acting sensibly and not selfishly.

But we must all stay positive and work our way through the crisis and although this is only a part analogy I would like to think, for myself anyway, that we will ‘weather the storm’ like a reindeer.

Reindeer wait out a blizzard, always facing into the weather.

In blizzard conditions reindeer just hunker down. Face the wind to keep their hair flat, trapping air in their coat and so helping to not lose heat. Reindeer will then lie and wait for the storm to pass. For us all these testing times will eventually pass and in the meantime we must all ‘hunker down’.

Coated in snow as they hunker down, each with their own bubble of personal space.

Interestingly although reindeer are a strongly herding animal, gregarious like people they do have a social distance that they like to maintain whether they are lying down or up grazing. They don’t ‘huddle like penguins’ but they enjoy each others company at a distance. So maybe think of the reindeer when you are out and about, keep your distance (at least 2 metres) and this too will help to slow down the transmission of the virus.

After the storm

As many of you know when we name the calves born each year we choose a theme and the name of each calf (there are exceptions!) has an association with that theme. The association is sometimes quite tenuous but that makes it all the more fun and challenging to match a name to a reindeer!

2012 was an exciting year, with the Olympics in London, the Queens Silver Jubilee and indeed our own silver anniversary. May 2012 was 60 years since the reindeer were successfully brought back to Scotland, by Swedish reindeer herder, Mikel Utsi. So with that in mind we thought 2012 and 60 years would make a good theme for the calves born. Olympic, Gloriana, Duke and LX are some of our reindeer who were born that year.

Introducing the wonder that is Boris!

One of the male calves born that year, was born with a wonky nose, which made him look slightly different from the rest. In 2012, Boris Johnson was the Mayor of London and oversaw the Olympics so we called our funny looking reindeer Boris!

To this day Boris still looks different to the other ‘straight nosed’ reindeer, indeed at a Christmas event a couple of years ago in Huntly, a young lad was heard to say, “That reindeer has got a nose like a banana!” Now I’m not saying Boris Johnson has a squint nose, but he does seem to like to look ‘different’.

Our Boris just chilling on the Cromdale free-range last week, a bit less on his plate than the other Boris has…

Anyway I hope my wee story about ‘Boris the wonky nosed reindeer’ has put a smile on your faces and maybe even our Prime Minister’s face during these dreadful times.

Maybe this Christmas we could be singing Boris the Wonky-nosed reindeer had a very funny nose, instead of Rudolph with his red, shiny nose!

I’m humming it already!

Tilly