Thursday, 6 December 2012

Infamy, infamy, they've got it infamy

I think since my last post we have "appeared" in the Stornoway Gazette. When I say appeared I mean the sheep. We have become soooooo famous the Sunday Post have a spread on our sheep this Sunday. Don't know what they're saying, but everyone else will find out before we do as the papers don't arrive until Monday.

Apart from the fame everything has been going fine so far. The sheep have been moved to Lemreway, the lambs in a receding and the "grown-ups" on the croft, hopefully making lots of little lambs.

The loom shed is coming on. The ground works are under way and the containers should be arriving on site soon. The crunch will be moving the containers that they are together and level. Fingers crossed!!!!

Fencing will be on the agenda soon as well as cutting through the containers to join them together, moving sheep, feeding them every day, so all go.

So to end a couple of photos...












The Loom Shed.......



and another sheep, and a view to the Shiants....



Sunday, 4 November 2012

Best Laid Plans.........

Well, I thought I'd better give everyone an update on how the sheep are etc.,

Unfortunately 2 died last week. We were totally gutted. Amelie, who was a year old and Thordis who was one of our lambs. Braxy was the killer. Braxy happens around the 1st frost and usually affects strong and healthy animals. This happens all over the place. It has to do with the cold grass and the fact that sheep are ruminants. Gasses build up in their stomach and they die rather quickly, bloating up and rather smelly.

So, only 5 ewes went to the ram last week. We were going to hold off until the 5th of November (Barry White, champers, and fireworks) before putting Nautilus, the ram, in with our ladies because Icelandic sheep have a shorter gestation period (by 5 days) than "normal" sheep, and the other rams in the neighbourhood were getting rather frisky. Better to have our own pedigree lambs early next year than some skanky crossbreeds. So the pheromones are flying, although sedately at the moment. Nautilus has "tupped" just one of the blackfaces we put in with our Icelandics (he likes a bit of rough), but we are optimistic that in the next few days he'll be "busier" (we even bought him a rather fetching raddle to wear, and some Brut aftershave. Maybe should have been Old Spice seeing he has a nautical name). It will be interesting to see how the Icelandic/Blackface crosses come out.

Here are a few photos:         Annabel                         Kaeti


                                                                      Astar
 
Aclaire

                                                                Nautilus (the ram)
                                                           
                                                                   Gudny (grey)

more to follow.

Weaving has been quiet the past few weeks with the mill on holiday and production slowing down for next year. We are not too bothered as we have started building our loom shed/visitor's experience on the croft (photos to follow).

The weather at the moment has been okay. A couple of wet days, but once the sun goes it gets quite cold. It has also started to get dark at the back of 5pm now. Stargazing!!!

Speak soon

Thursday, 11 October 2012

An Epic Adventure.....

even the Vikings would be proud of.

Well,on Sunday we eventually set off to the mainland to collect our sheep. Travelling down to Harris for the afternoon ferry and on to Skye, arriving at 6pm. Driving through Fort William down to Stirling was the Wicked Weaver's shift as I slept (soundly), missing Glencoe. I was back on the wheel from Stirling to Gretna, where we had to call out Green Flag as the fuel filter light came on. After a slight delay it was time for my snooze. I was "rudely" woken up as we entered the Manchester area as we were going to Ikea first (you've gotta do it, haven't you).Fully expected Ikea to be on the outskirts of town, but to find it in the middle of Ashton-under-Lyne. Quick lane changes and kamikaze roundabout (circles for our Dundee readers) manoeuvres finally found us in Ikea (which was some feat considering the 12ft trailer attached to our 4x4. Manic trolley dashing and meatball fest later we were ready to finally pick up the sheep.

Picked up our sheep (7 lambs, 6 ewes, and 1 ram) and two ram lambs for someone in Biggar. at about 7pm on the Monday. The return journey was much the same, but we stopped of at Abington to transfer the two ram lambs to their owner. Finally arriving at the Uig at 7am on the Tuesday. Onto the ferry and a few hours later (back of 12) back home. The ram (Honorwood Nautilus) has been moved to a field on his own as his nose was beginning to rise (a sign of sexual readiness). He has to hold on to his lot until November the 5th (yeah, Barry White and fireworks) to get to the 6 older ewes (the lambs, although sexually mature don't go to the ram this year). Matthew is putting 5 of his blackfaces in with him too.

I was going to introduce you to them today, but it was chucking it down. Maybe tomorrow.

A few things I noted on the journey:

Service stations are actually quite clean and up-to-date.
I paid 156p a litre of diesel at an "Eurocentral" (6p more than I pay on Lewis)
Travelling at 50mph down to Derbyshire and back is tiring
The vet call out to check the sheep was only £25ish - thank subsidies and the vet thinking we are still in the age of "All Creatures Great and Small"

I will post some photos of them soon

Friday, 28 September 2012

Diversification

A crofter's life is one full of surprises and what a surprise we had in the last week. As part of my total submersion in to being a crofter, after a year of wanting to do it, I borrowed 3 of Murdie's creels last week and threw them over the cliff just to see "what would happen" (I obviously tied a rope to the creels). We, my able assistant Stevie and I, chose the 3 sites, one at the point into Cromor Bay, the second was "lobbed" about 30 metres further down, and the third was pushed over at our excellent fishing place (we still haven't caught fish from the line). To cut a long story short....in the last week we have caught 6 brown crabs of an edible size, 3 wrasse, and 2 lobster (all other little crabs were returned safely). We also caught 3 starfish, but the lobster were catch supreme



I'm no friend of fish, but I did enjoy my lobster omelette. It was great. A free meal. The eggs from the neighbour and the lobster from the sea. I'm sorry being being a tad smug....nah, I'm not sorry ;-).

We finally managed to take a journey to the Uists. We travelled through 6 islands in a day. Lewis, Harris (where the ferry departs), Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula, and South Uist. We could have driven through Eriskay for the 7th island, but time was tight and the return ferry was at 4pm.











Apart from that.....not much happening. We are looking forward to getting our sheep next week. Once they are settled I'll take photos and introduce them to you

Till then

Saturday, 1 September 2012

September Already!!

I know you know that you don't need to tell you what time of the year it is, but the Wicked Weaver has been on the Island for a year now......time has flown.

Also as it's September the weather has decided to "turn". It has been windy and rainy all day yesterday and today, whereas Thursday was beautiful.

We'll be getting our first 6 Icelandic pedigree lambs (although they are now classed as hoggs) soon. We can't wait. I am really excited, but also a bit nervous as half of South Lochs have asking about them. The Wicked Weaver has been testing her carding and spinning skills on coloured fleeces given to her by a neighbour. Going off on a tangent here, but did you know that the British Wool Marketing Board bought each fleece for 16p last year, yep 16 pence. This year they expect to get about 56p a fleece. If it wasn't for the fact that the sheep really have to be sheared most crofters wouldn't bother. So if you want to card and spin your own wool drop me a line and I'll see if you can have some for next year as the majority of the crofters have already sent them to BWMB. Anyway back on course now.








We are also getting an Icelandic ram called Honorwood Nautilus. He is 2 years old, white and with spots, therefore tried and tested (although he won't be allowed near the hoggs this year). There may be some more Icelandic additions too.

Why Icelandics? Simply because they are a primitive breed (like me), probably are very similar to the sheep the Norsemen arrived on the Islands with (Vikings went down the east coast of Britain and the Norsemen down the west, apparently), are prolific breeders, the wool is unique (google lopi), good dairy sheep, and, although we won't be eating them (we will have a couple of black faces for that) excellent tasting meat, oh, and they are beautiful (wait and see our first new born lambs).

The last few weeks were pretty quiet, apart from the lambs being weaned. They do make some racket. The lambs have been getting fattened up to go to market. 10th of September and they'll all be gone (apart from the ones being kept of course). The majority of crofters are glad to see the back of them, because they are a nuisance. Breaking out of fields, hard to catch, not bucket trained so they are hard to catch again. Today we tagged them with their EID tags (the ones going) and the EID tags and croft ID tags (for the ones staying).

Saw a polecat last Sunday. We were up at North Tolsta beach and me being the eternal kid wanted to climb the rocks to see the caves. Well, I nearly stood on the thing. It was squealing and making a clicking noise. I almost, well you can guess. Photos to follow in my next installment, maybe.

Well that's about it for now........take care and be good!!!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Crofting Olympics

I believe the Olympics are on (haven't watched telly in over 10 weeks. It's great!!!), so I thought it would be good to have an olympics for crofters. Something along the lines of the decathlon.

Event 1 - throwing nets out in the bay
Event 2 - catching the lamb that has escaped out of the field over night
Event 3 - lamb chucking from a squatting position over a fence
Event 4 - shooting (no, not the lamb you couldn't catch) rabbits
Event 5 - peat throwing
Event 6 - ram wrestling (try saying that with a mouthful of marbles)
Event 7 - dry stone walling
Event 8 - cailleach (old dears) cake trying (if you're lucky this can be one of the 1st events
Event 9 - peat stack building and balancing
Event 10 - all of the above, but for your neighbour on the same day

The majority of the time I start at event 8 and stay there.

Well, we attended the Lochs show and I must say I was very disappointed. £4 to get in and the majority of the home baking had already been sold!!! There were prizes for the best scone and again I reckon the Wicked Weaver's scones would have won, if she had entered (or at least gave them severe indigestion). I was looking forward to the sheep competition, but again this was pushed away into a corner and there was only about 20 sheep entered. The main attraction was some bike display team that was in BGT I believe. So, next year I'll save my £4 and buy a can of green marking spray instead. Shame, cos the hog on a roll was quite good.

The realities of crofting hit home last week. We (Matthew and I) were out drenching the sheep and lambs, marking them, clipping their hooves (I'm used to clipping the Wicked Weaver's hooves) etc. when we saw one ewe that had an awful lot of flies around her. Between her legs it looked like she had droppings hanging from her belly, but on closer inspection we saw that it was actually half of her udder hanging off. No idea how this happened. It could have been a dog loose on the moor, or she caught it on something, anyway, inside the udder it was full of maggots. What to do? Call the vet in Stornoway, wait until he arrives (sheep was in discomfort), for him to put it down and charge £100? Decision was made that we would dispatch it ourselves. Now, I'm glad Matthew was a bit squeamish of this otherwise it would not have been normal for a 15 year old. So I went home for one of our ceramic knives and did what I had to do and slit the ewe's throat. Wasn't a good day.

Ah well, such is life. Just thought I'd share a bit of bad news with you for a change.

Got a new toy today. The Handy. A trolley that is also a dumper trolley. It's amazing.

Have fun ya'll. I'm away to shoot me some pesky wabbits!!!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Why not join us

I was thinking that with so many people wanting a similar lifestyle to our own I have thought it would be nice for everyone to see what your money might buy in Lewis etc.

£90k - http://www.kenmacdonaldproperties.co.uk/properties_detail.php?prop_id=713 - North Lochs and far away from yours truly

£85k - http://www.kenmacdonaldproperties.co.uk/properties_detail.php?prop_id=685 - across the bay from yours truly (with this one there are an additional 2 re-seedings that you can put your sheep in at certain times of the year and over 3000 acres of common grazings)

I don't work for the estate agents!!!, but seeing the one in Lemreway reminded me that when you buy a croft there are so many things you should be looking for. A well or spring is desirable, an old blackhouse to do up as a holiday home (grants available), fencing in good condition, bracken and/or reeds free, re-seeding specific to the croft, re-seedings that you can share, peat runs, out-buildings, access, good drainage, good neighbours ;-), and a lot more.

Venison costs £1 for a 1lb (comes whole), mutton and rabbits en masse, raise a couple of chickens, sea food at your door, who needs vegetables (sorry Suzanne).

We have the Coop, Tescos, Argos and the fisherman's cooperative in nearby Stornoway (45 mins), Talk Talk are recruiting at the moment too.......


I also don't work for the Outer Hebrides Tourist Board!!!