Good & bad

I’ve had such a hectic few months I’m now in Glasgow for the weekend, relaxing. My mind never drifts far from the croft, though.

I have a sense of satisfaction this weekend, I have made progress in the right areas and I am confident that the croft is going to provide a viable income.

Through the day job, I had to pop out to the dump in Stornoway, where I took the opportunity to ask a question about a subject that I’d been thinking of for a while; using old tyres as an animal shelter on the croft. My crofts are flat and offer little in terms of shelter from the wind, and this is a (hopefully) cheap way of doing it.

It was recommended that I contact SEPA though, as there may be an issue in terms of pollution. I did that and applied for a licence which now means I’ll be able to take old tyres from garages etc and create wind breaks with them for this winter.

I’ve also been working on the efficiency of the hen house. I think I’ve got my system in place for ensuring the maximum number of eggs remain clean (I can’t sell dirty ones in shops) and now all I have to do is get my lighting situation sorted and I’m good to go! I think I have finalised my labels too, so hope to get them finished shortly.

I’m on a week’s holiday from work now, so I’m getting round to sorting out all the wee jobs that I can’t get to in a normal week.

The one aspect of the hen house I have to improve is the mucking out; I spend too long moving wheelbarrowloads of it and end up reacting to the wood shavings I put down. This is how I combat it!

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One negative from this week was an apparent otter attack on one of my young ducks. I found it like this on Thursday night.

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I’ve lost a couple of birds to a buzzard attack in early 2013, but never any to ground predators. I’ll perhaps have to be more vigilant now.

A busy Monday

I used to blog about busy Saturdays, but that’s not as much the case any more. Since reducing my hours at work, I am off every Monday and I now have a wee bit more time to split work between Saturday and Monday.

This week was a bit of catch-up on Saturday, as I’d been away for work Wed-Fri the previous week. Hen houses were cleaned on Saturday and lots of other jobs too, mainly working on getting electricity connected to my portacabin. My cousin and uncle (both electricians) were over and got most of the work done. It’ll make a difference having power to the place, especially now that it’s getting dark. I’ll also have to work on lighting the hen house – although I’ve got that one figured out in my head.

So Monday was awful, weather wise. We had gale force winds and pouring rain, so it was a day for doing indoor chores. That meant cleaning out the portacabin and organising things the way I want them. Once I have a picture in my head of how I want things to be, it’s not easy to persuade me to do something different – I have to know if my idea works!

Once the portacabin had been sorted, it was off to the lambs with me. The Government announced a new subsidy scheme for less favoured areas earlier this year, with each ewe hogg kept meaning a payment of €100 (around £80). No one seems to be sure when it is kicking in, so I have kept every single female lamb that was born, in the hope of receiving extra payment, but I’m hearing now that it won’t kick in until next year and that means getting rid of this year’s females.

There is one more sale here, on Thursday 16th Oct, so I have gone through my lambs and kept 18 for breeding, with 17 going. There are a few more being kept for the freezer.

These are some of the ones I’m keeping

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As you can see, they are mainly Cheviots, as I am looking to build up my cheviot flock. There are a couple of nice Suffolk/Cheviot crosses in there too, along with some Suffolk/Roussin hybrids. I have plans for them, and we’ll see how they go.

The rest are off to sale on the 16th, and I’ll need to borrow a trailer for the day, as mine won’t take 17.

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Next up is to book in some lambs and pigs for slaughter. October is turning into a busier month than I expected, although I am off to Glasgow for the weekend for some much needed R&R!

Quad

So. I bought a quad.

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I’ve never had one before but the chicken work kind of forced my hand. Carrying 5-10 bags of feed up to the hens isn’t really an option and the pickup was going to end up damaged if I carried on, so I got this instead.

I’ve done a heck of a lot of spinning around with it – it’s great!

It’s a diesel quad. 2 wheel drive. Not fast but it is exactly what I’m after. Very happy.

Catch up

I’ve never been good at keeping the blog up to date in the summer months, mainly due to the fact I’m out working while the sun’s out! Now the nights are getting longer, I’ll have more time to share my thoughts.

At the time of my last post, I was embarking on the first of two Farpaisean Chon Chaorach film trips; the first to Tain for the World Sheepdog Trial and the second to Roscommon in Ireland, for the International. I actually came home early from the World Trial because Ness were in the Lewis Cup final – and we went and won 3-1!

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Back home, it’s the time of year when changes are made to your stock. I’ve bought in around 20 new ewes, while some of the older ones had to go, due to missing teeth or faulty udders.

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It’s not a job I particularly like, but it’s better for the sheep to be sent away, rather than struggle through the winter here.

I wasn’t happy with my prices in Dingwall though, particularly for the 11 lambs I sent away. I think I might try the Stornoway Mart next time, at least I can take them home if I’m really unimpressed!

More Guga ‘controversy’

I started writing the piece below as a letter to the Times, to complain about an article that appeared in the paper on Tuesday of this week. I’ve since learned that the story was also on Good Morning Scotland on Radio Scotland on Wednesday, but I am unsure as to whether or not this article prompted the BBC to follow it up.

Here is an image of the article, I don’t want to link to the original.

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On Tuesday 2nd September, a story ran in The Times newspaper on the Guga Hunt titled ‘Scottish SPCA wants end to ‘brutal’ hunt’ and I wish to raise some issues with the reporting of this.

While the SSPCA has raised issues in regards to the Guga Hunt in the past, they have not, to my knowledge, issued a press release on this matter since 2011. The piece in the paper appears to be a rehash of old releases, with no new quotes and referring to SSPCA efforts from over 3 years ago. Why this is deemed to be newsworthy is unclear.

There are also no attempts to gain the Ness men’s perspective, with a quote from John MacFarlane (Dods) lifted from a 2011 BBC documentary. The article also describes Mr MacFarlane as ‘retired from leading the cull’. Mr MacFarlane is currently on Sulasgeir, having led and partaken in this year’s hunt.

I also have issues with some of the over the top language used in the report. I am unsure as to why they are referred to as ‘baby’ gannets. This kind of language is not used when talking about ‘baby’ lambs or ‘baby’ chickens as food sources. It is an unacceptable bias in the article, attempting to humanise the juvenile gannets and make them appear ‘cute’.

The description of the process after death is also unnecessary. Use of words like ‘decapitated’ and ‘singed’ are totally unnecessary in this context. Nearly every animal eaten in the UK is decapitated after slaughter, yet we won’t hear of a piece of sirloin steak having been decapitated, skinned and butchered as part of it’s preparation.

That brings me to the slaughter process. It is described in the article as ‘clubbed to death’ and ‘killed with a stick’. These terms are used, in my opinion, in an inflammatory manner to make it appear barbaric and give the image of numerous blows required to kill each bird. This is not the case, with birds killed by a single blow and are dead within 2-3 seconds of leaving the nest.

We currently have an issue of geese wreaking havoc on crops and land in the Western Isles and the only way of dealing with this is shooting them. This is deemed to be acceptable, despite wounded birds dropping from the sky and possibly dying a slow and painful death.

Do the SSPCA or news media raise issues about this on as regular a basis as they do about the Guga? Or about Halal slaughter? Or the mincing of male chicks, which are of no use to egg laying industry, at birth? No, because these have big industry and money behind them. They continually target a small community and attempt to bring negative world-wide attention on them through half-truths and inflammatory language.

Long live the Guga Hunt!

Progress, progress, progress

I can’t wait for winter. There, I said it. This summer has been the busiest I’ve ever had; 320 hens, sheep, filming, football and a job are all catching up with me. I’m looking forward to getting into a routine and being able to focus on getting things running properly instead of getting them started.

I have 2 sheepdog filming trips in the next fortnight, the World Trial and International, while our football season ends next week with a cup final on Saturday night. That should mean a little more time to myself, once they’re done.

There has been so much happening here in the past 3 weeks and I haven’t been updating this as much as I should have, purely down to long long days.

The hens are settled and starting to lay their eggs. Buckie, the joiner, has built a fantastic hen house and decorated it in his own unique style.

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I’m currently getting around 20-50 eggs a day, a far cry from the 250 I need to fulfil orders. I hope to be in the position to sell eggs when I’m back from filming, probably week beginning 22nd September.

Buckie has also been busy getting the portacabin ready too. One of the rooms is where I’m going to have my egg packing station. It’s coming together nicely. Just about ready, just needing a clean.

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I also hope that I’ll be able to show you my egg box labels some time this week. Fingers crossed anyway!

I’ve also been fortunate in that I’m now using a barn on the croft next to mine. It has been particularly useful for storing feed and Buckie was also hard at work here, fitting large double doors that make it much more practical.

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I was at the lamb sale in Stornoway last Wednesday and ended up buying 17 sheep; 9 lambs and 8 ewes.

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I’ve since agreed to buy a few more ewes, so I’ll have to sell some lambs soon and maybe move on a few sheep. I have twice as much land this year, so I have plenty scope for expansion. I’m not sure my father will agree, though!

On that, I am putting sub-tenancies in place on the crofts I use. First up is my mother’s croft, which I received confirmation of this week.

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What a fortnight

First of all, my apologies for lack of blog posts. Summer is a really busy time for me, with croft work, day job, filming and football keeping me busy, never mind throwing 320 new chickens into the mix!

I’m relaxing in Glasgow just now, having spent the last 3 days filming at the Scottish National Sheepdog Trial. We’re filming series 7 of Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach, a programme I have been co-presenting since BBC Alba launched in 2008. This is our Scottish Team

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Our typical day at a trial begins with us recording our links during the morning and then, after lunch, interviewing the top placed handlers of the day, before a winner’s interview and then our closing piece to camera. Some days, like Thursday of this week, can be very long. We weren’t clear of the trial field until around 9pm. We have two elements to the film crew; the majority film the runs, while the Single Camera Unit (us) film the links & interviews. This is made up of presenters, cameraman and director. Here is a post-National selfie of myself, Catriona, Craig and Neil.

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I go home tomorrow and prepare to do it all again next month for the International Sheepdog Trial.