A small motley flock of (mostly) Shetland Sheep graze through these lands
a sheep's life at achpopuli...
The sheep are holistically grazed through the pastures, heath and bog here, managing the grassland for wildlife and productivity, keeping soil healthy and capturing carbon. Diverse forage and natural salt licks provide their nutrition and mineral needs.
In the spring it's lambing time, I am breeding for health and suitability to these lands. The grass starts growing again, and they are very enthusiastic about transitioning back to a fresh forage diet. In the early summer I start shearing, so they can regrow their fleece in time for winter.
In winter mob grazing continues when possible, eating standing hay in the field supplemented by preserved forage - hay and tree hay. If the weather is really bad they are brought to the field with a shed, but mostly they are fine with mobile shelter in the mob grazing system. In early spring we are experimenting with the optimum hay meadow grazing management.
My sheep are small, hardy beasts, mostly Shetland or a Shetland cross. I will be adding a few other breeds over time such as Hebridean, and breeding to diversify colouring and selecting for fleece quality as well as suitability to the land and my grazing system.
Customers have described Achpopuli meat as
Shetland sheep are slow growing, and as mine are 100% pasture fed too the meat I sell is a little more mature than the lamb you might be used to.
Most of the meat I sell is hogget, a sheep 1-2 years old. This has a little more flavour than lamb, but is still tender and succulent.
I also have mutton available sometimes, a sheep over 2 years old. This is more flavourful than hogget, but needs lower, slower cooking - one of my favourite meats and though little known to many is having a bit of a renaissance!
The flavours of the meat are deep and complex, and I hope this will only improve over time to reflect the increasing biodiversity of their diet.
My sheep also produce a beautiful array of fibres, something I am exploring and building on. As I have so many different sorts of fleeces, from different breeds and crosses, it's meant I can try out a few different things to see what I enjoy best - and what the best uses are for different fleeces.
I am gradually building up my felting skills, and with the help of my mums knitting prowess we are getting into a groove of the Achpopuli style - see what sort of things we've been making! But I really love wet felting to show off the beautiful natural shaggy coats of the sheep, so will be developing this by splitting the flock at tupping time: keeping the Shetlands pure and working to develop softness for yarn, but putting everyone else to a Hebridean tup to eccentuate those gorgeous shaggy textures and introduce a bit more colour.
I am excited to be the inaugural farm to contribute our Shetland fleeces to Loch Ness Yarn - a collaboration with local indie dyer Loch Ness Knitting to produce a local, sustainable and naturally dyed yarn. A huge thank you to Creative Scotland for their support in this project
In the future, there will be natural colour yarns available each year, depending on the mix of fleeces that go to the mill, while I work on my spinning skills.