Bleeting on about him

For well over 100 years, the socio-economic life of the Falkland Islands has been substantially assisted by the farming of sheep. The vast expanses of uninhibited grassland lend itself to the cultivation of large flocks. Combine that with the high winds and you have some of the finest wool around, apparently. These conditions, however, are both a blessing and a curse: our agricultural guru informed us that 35% of all lambs born on the islands die. The cost of selling a sheep doesn’t warrant the cost of supplement feeding them so sick/orphan lambs are sadly left to their own devices, often fated to become part of the food chain surrounding the predators and scavengers of the Islands (the turkey vulture, in particular, does well out of this bargain).

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The turkey vultures, taking advantage

One of the more unexpected consequences of this state of affairs is that there is no shortage of lambs available if anyone does feel like adopting one. Many of the farms out in Camp have small groups of pet lambs, you may recall Han and I helping to feed some of the lambs out at San Carlos.

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Early encounters at San Carlos farm

Our good friends Zoe and Travis brought home several lambs from Saladero (the government farm) last Christmas and you may recall that we ended up adopting one from them, a large Merino lamb called Milo.

We thought, as he’s become quite a large part of our lives here, we’d comment on our/the ownership of sheep as pets. Milo was originally kept on by us as a solution to our lack of lawnmower, but he has endeared himself to us in a frightening way (particularly in Han’s case, as most people that have met her here will testify). He’s also been helping some friends with their grass so he’s become fairly well known among our acquaintances. Nevertheless, we’d highly recommend these characterful, productive and easy-keeping quadrupeds for any home without a lawnmower. At first, they do require a fair amount of feeding but it’s quite fun and they’ll happily spend time with you as a result, especially if you’re chilling in the summer sun:

Having been weaned off the milk, he’s grown significantly over time on ours and our neighbours’ lawns:

He’s also made a few more character traits known to us over time, such as his love of a broom massage (thank you Marek for finding that one out) and his latest trick of jumping up for tea and/or biscuits:

But most of all, he loves two things; dandelions and Han:

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He’s booked in for a day trip to one of the local farms to be shorn next season (hopefully with a little help from us) and as he’s finest Falklands Merino, Han’s looking forward to getting to work on his wool and proving that he’s both handy for the lawn and productive for the wardrobe. Watch this space.

So close, yet so far

Due to an intricate legal/migration standpoint, the Falkland Islands have an official unemployment rate of 0%. This is partly due to the small population, partly due to need for work permits to relocate here, partly due to the obligation of hiring local people before being allowed to look elsewhere and partly because all jobs here need to be advertised locally in the national press (the Penguin News: the local newspaper, not a newspaper about penguins). Last week two jobs appeared in the Penguin News that sparked my interest. I wouldn’t apply or be able to get them, but they highlighted a couple of reality checks on the limitations of our time here. One post was as a First Mate on board one of the local yachts run by the family of Polar Medal holder Jerome Poncet, providing charter sailing trips and expertise to film/research crews heading to destinations such as Steeple Jason, South Georgia and Antarctica. The other was a job with South Georgia Government (who are based here in the Stanley). It’s not particularly important what the job was, the point was that it offered a chance to get to South Georgia! As a Shackleton and remote island fan, this one was pretty tempting.

For some years visiting the Falkland Islands had been a pipe dream; one of those destinations you’d like to end up some day but realistically know you probably won’t do in your lifetime – I mean, who gets to visit the Falklands, really? Now that this has been well and truly achieved, a few other quasi-local destinations have bumped their way up the list: Steeple Jason, South Georgia, Antarctica to name just three. Knowing that South Georgia’s nearest neighbour was the Falklands, I had hoped that we’d be able to jaunt across there during our time here. That same ignorance was displayed toward Antarctica: I foolishly thought we’d be able to get hop South from here too. How wrong I was!

As it turns out, South Georgia IS accessible but mainly by one of the cruise ships that stops off here in Summer. They might give you a day to spend there (not nearly enough!) but would  cost many thousands of pounds as they stop off on their way South and end up returning you to Argentina, where a week would be spent waiting for the next over-priced flight back to the Islands (sadly, not a feasible option for a working man). Alternatively, you can privately hire one of the Poncet family’s boats to make the 4-5 day turbulent sailing, before the 4-5 day return crossing. Also, sadly, not a realistic option on our budget.Before you say it, it’s bloody cold and 963 miles. I’m not swimming.

Antarctica presents similar difficulties. When you realise that Stanley is about the same longitude South as London is North you realise that the chances of ‘hopping’ to the polar regions are remote (excusing the pun). The cruises that do go down leave from South America (mainland) and are not pleasing to price up. Despite being so far South, so RELATIVELY close and so intrinsically linked to these places, it seems these destinations will continue to elude us.

I guess there will always be somewhere more remote, somewhere more extreme and somewhere more Southerly to visit. We’ll just have to settle for our time in the Falkland Islands, for now.

Opportunity Knocks

We expected a move to the Falkland Islands to be an adventure – it played a large part in the decision to move here (that and the fact that I’m a Falklands War geek with a mild resentment of being forced to move to the pancake flat expanses of rural Essex). One trend that I’ve noticed as a running theme of our time here is the sheer number of new experiences, opportunities taken up and unusual skills gained. I can’t say all of them will be all that useful in the future (I suspect our ability to mimic the unique walks and calls of 5 different species of penguins might be somewhat defunct elsewhere in the World) but it doesn’t stop us taking part in the different things that go on simply for novelty’s sake. Two examples have featured in the past few weeks.

Firstly, the annual Mid-Winter Swim took place on Saturday 18th June 2016. In the middle of the Southern Winter, some 307 idiots assembled on Surf Bay just outside Stanley to plunge into the South Atlantic Ocean and raise some money for some local good causes and, most importantly, earn a Certificate of Lunacy signed by HE The Governor of the Falkland Islands. Not being ones to turn down some lunacy, we turned up with the other ‘swimmers’ to get stuck in. I did notice a distinct  surplus of contractors, military personnel and visitors, with very few of the more sensible locals getting stuck in but nevertheless it’s all in a good cause. Han takes up the story with her version of events:

Some friends of ours with the local TV crew (FITV) also turned up to take the story so here’s their version of events if you want to check out their YouTube channel: FITV take on the Mid-Winter Swim

There are some other new experiences to be had here. It would appear that some of the laws that changed in the UK following a particular incident in Dunblane haven’t extended down here. As a result, we nipped along to the Stanley Gun Club to give this a go while we could:

A fine way to spend a clear but cold day. Han walked away the victor (thanks to 5 bullseyes scored from 10m, but I might add not from the 15m I got my 3), leaving plenty of room for references to Irish shooting skills.

Thankfully, there is always enjoyment to be had from some of the things that used to be novel but have become quite regular of late: