Lambs fed on angelica
Livestock moved out to the islands
Interview with Halla Sigríður Steinolfsdottir at the farm Ytri-fagridalur
Halla Sigríður Steinólfsdóttir raises lambs with her husband, Guðmundur Gíslasson, on the farm Ytri-Fagridalur. During the summer months, the lambs are reared on the plant Angelica, which changes the taste of the meat. Halla takes an active part in social activities in the country and is a representative on the local council.
Why do you rear the lambs on Angelica?
We started in the summer of 2007 after coming across a study that clearly showed that the feed the animals received had a major impact on the flavour of the meat. It is considered sufficient to rear the lambs on Angelica for four weeks in order to bring out the flavour, and it is very obvious in our lamb. We move the livestock out to the island in the middle of July, where they stay for a month and live on Angelica. They are then slaughtered in the autumn.
What happens when the animals have been slaughtered?
We let the carcases hang for longer than is normal. We have facilities in Hvammstangi, where we process all the meat in co-operation with the meat tradesman. I then take the meat home and package it.
Where you raised here on the farm?
Yes, I have lived here since birth, but I moved away when I was sixteen, and I was away seven years before I came back. It is wonderful to be here; the environment is beautiful. In addition to the sheep, we keep a few chickens for ourselves, and we have three dogs. Our children are grown and are studying in Reykjavik, so we are the only ones left.
Hunting and handling seal meat
Do you hunt?
Yes, we catch fish. From here, it is a very long way to the nearest shop, so I often ask people who are planning to visit to shop a bit for us. When the children come to visit, I always send them to the Bonus supermarket. We try to grow all our own vegetables, and we have, of course, the lamb. Here, there are also plenty of seals, and I have been utilising them. I know several old methods of cooking, and therefore, I can prepare the seal and smoke it or salt-cure it. Seal meat is not my favourite food, but it is nice in between. I also prepare lumpfish.
Which ingredients do you love to cook most?
My favourite is a rack of lamb, but I also like to experiment with offal. I often use a clay pot when cooking. The pot was created by an artist from the town of Stykkishólmur, using clay provided by me. I provide her with the material, and she creates bowls, cups and other beautiful things for us.
Qualified tour guide
Is farming your only job?
I worked previously as a meat assessor, and I graduated as a tour guide in the spring. I am good at telling people about the countryside around me, and the number of tourists is constantly increasing. The countryside surrounding me is my favourite place in the whole of Iceland, but it is also a short distance from here to other countries.
Did you grow up in this house?
Yes, and it has not changed since then. Here, there is always plenty of work to do. We have also considered going entirely into organic farming. A short while ago, an assessor came to evaluate the farm. We only give the sheep hay to eat, so they are already considered organic. We are only waiting for the certificate. The assessor had very few comments, so we expect to receive the certificate next year.
Have you kept home-raised orphaned lambs around the farm?
No, I have not; instead, I put them out onto the islands with the other lambs. Home-raised lambs tend to be demanding, annoying and destroy everything around the house. During lambing season, we do 24-hour shifts for 3–5 weeks. Care must be taken that all lambs are being nursed. This year, it was cold for a long time and the water was frozen, so we had collect all the sheep back to the farm. These were difficult days because the sheep, of course, kept on delivering the lambs.
A great traveller
What are your interests?
The local people and social activities in the countryside are my main interests. I am on the local council and feel pride that we stand together and help each other instead of everyone being out for themselves. We argue a lot about the collection of herds, the dogs, horses and sheep. I am a nomad by nature, and I love to travel.