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SS1 schmitt may24 road.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


This highway runs through the Aezkoa valley, alongside the Irati river, and past innumerable of these traditional stone barns, many now abandoned. The village of Orbaitzeta serves as gateway to the Irati forest, a dense beech woods at the foot of the Pyrenees.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.
2 OF 11
SS2 schmitt may24 farm.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


The Aezkoa valley is extravagantly green: rich pastures for grazing.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.
3 OF 11
SS3 schmitt may24 sheepface.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


The indigenous latxa sheep are easily recognizable by their black faces and curving horns.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.
4 OF 11
SS4 schmitt may24 twosheep.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


Latxa rams have impressive curling horns.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.
5 OF 11
SS5 schmitt may24 sheepcoat.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


The unusual long wool of the latxa was traditionally used to stuff mattresses, though it can also be spun into strong yarn. Now there is no market for it and it is often burned.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.
6 OF 11
SS6 schmitt may24 building.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


This traditional farmhouse is the home of the family which runs the Arrazolako Gazta cheesery, one of the last remaining cheeseries in Orbaitzeta. Almost all the cheese produced at the cheesery is sold from home to passersby or to restaurants, though some few wheels are sold in specialty stores in Iruña (Pamplona). The sign reads "cheese sold here" in Spanish and Basque.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.
7 OF 11
SS7 schmitt may24 cheeseroom.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


The cheese is cured in a cool room for a minimum of 3 months.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.
8 OF 11
SS8 schmitt may24 cheese.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


Idiazabal has a fine rind and a smooth, hard texture. In Guipuzcoa it is usually smoked but here in Navarra it is not.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.
9 OF 11
SS9 schmitt may24 indoorsheep.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


While latxas graze in open pasture all year long, these females have been brought in to the barn to lamb. Most of the flock lambs in December in order to sell the lambs for Christmas roasting.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.
10 OF 11
SS1O schmitt may24 sheepeyes.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


A latxa matriarch. As milk sheep go, latxas have a long life span: an average sheep lives 8 or 9 years.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.
11 OF 11
SS11 schmitt may24 forest.JPG

Photo by Juan Alcòn


The Irati forest has a magical quality, and is very probably inhabited by ancient Basque spirits.
Maggie Schmitt discovers that Israeli sheep are spreading, causing
The Basque Sheep Wars .
Farmers must choose to save their culture or their farms.