Island Shepherding in Downeast Maine

One of the more unique aspects of living in Downeast Maine is the practice of putting flocks of sheep on uninhabited inshore islands. I got a chance to see it first hand, thanks to the ladies who shear my small flock for me. They have sheep on two islands off South Addison, in an informal partnership with two or three others who practice Offshore Shepherding with as many as 130 sheep on some of the bigger islands. They needed some new blood to freshen up a flock on one of the islands and struck a deal with me for one of my ram lambs from my 2006 crop. I kept him back when I took the rest to be slaughtered and held him until they were ready to put him out on the island.

They ferry sheep back and forth between islands and the mainland in an open boat. Once the sheep are in the boat, they calm right down and enjoy the ride. Got better sense than to jump overboard and try to swim for it, I guess. I must admit, venturing a mile or more offshore into the North Atlantic in an open boat in November was not intially my idea of a Good Time.

My ram and two new ewes were loaded aboard and tucked up under the spray shield. Alf and his two girls stood in a strategic spot to keep them there, tho they didn't put up much fuss.

With everyone safely aboard, and a skiff in tow just in case, we headed out to the island. The day was a bit overcast, but the wind was down and the seas had flattened out after two straight weeks of heavy weather.

We snuggled up to the rocky shore (now you know where the colorful phrase "The Rockbound Shores of Maine" comes from...) and Donna hopped ashore as we passed the sheep to her. They weren't long heading up over the hill to see what was on the other side.

I've been telling my ram that he was in for a treat (especially considering the alternative) Here he is, standing atop the ridge surveying his new domain as we headed back for the harbor.

The bay and harbor are dotted with many small islands, mostly uninhabited.

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