Adventures Category

  • New Hens

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggsComments (1)

    On July 10, 2016 • By

    A little under two years ago, I travelled the length of Scotland in a hire van to collect 320 hens. This week, these hens have all gone, and have been replaced by 300 new ones.

    The past week has been hectic. I decided to rehome the old hens, rather than cull them all, because even though a two year old hen isn’t commercially viable any more, she lays enough to keep a family in eggs.  Production for me recently was at about 30% of what it was last spring – with feed costs the same – so I have been eagerly awaiting this new batch.  I ordered them over the winter, from Donald ‘The Hen’ in Skye, and he delivered them to my door.

    The old hens left during the week, with folk coming in their droves to rehome them.  Many took 4-6, while some took 10-30.  I didn’t ask for any payment for the hens, I was just wanting them gone.  I did have to cull some, though.  It wasn’t something I was particularly keen on doing, but there were about 30-40 that couldn’t be rehomed, for one reason or another.  Myself and Innes did that on Thursday night.

    Saturday was a really strange day.  The hen house was eerily quiet, with only a handful of birds left. That didn’t take long to change though!  The new ones arrived around 2.45pm, and by 4 they were all in their new home.

    Because the hen house is a hundred metres off the road, we had to transport the crates using my pickup. Uisdean here came to give me a hand.

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    Myself and Uisdean ferried them to the hen house, while Donald unloaded them.  It was smooth and easy, so I was quite happy with how it all went.

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    That’s them all inside, bunched up in the corner.  Very nervous in their new surroundings, I will have to get them used to me going in and out, and also Bud being amongst them! He comes with me every time I go up there, so the sooner they get used to him, the better.

    These birds are around 17.5 weeks old, so should start laying in the next 2 weeks or so.  I reckon it’ll be around a month before I have decent sized eggs (pullet eggs are very small) but it’ll be full steam ahead then!

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  • An Lot 2.0

    Adventures, Freelance PiecesComments (5)

    On January 24, 2016 • By

    As I posted on facebook last week, BBC Alba have given the go ahead for a second series of An Lot, but before I talk about that, I suppose it’s time for me to get some of my thoughts down about the first series.  I can’t believe how well it’s gone down, so many people have given me great feedback over the past few weeks, more than I’ve had for any other programmes I’ve ever done.

    For me, the most important thing was that it came across as natural and was a true reflection of what things are like here, and on many other crofts.   A lot of that is down to the vision the director, Neil Campbell, had from the beginning, and also the editing skills of Paul Duke.  MacTV were really easy to work with over the 18 or so months of filming, and I think the whole process was helped by the fact that there were a few crofters involved from the production side of things.  It all works well when folk ‘get it’.  My worry was, had it been a different production company, that they would have come with the story they wanted to tell already in their minds, and would have wanted me to play up to stereotypes – that wouldn’t have worked and wasn’t the case.

    I think the whole family came across very well.  We are all big characters and I think that showed.  The typical response since broadcast has been referring to ‘Poor Innes’. I don’t feel sorry for him!

    Oh, and for EVERYONE who keeps asking, the song over the closing titles is ‘All I Have’, by Bart Warshaw – I love the song!

    On to series two then. We’ve had an initial chat about it and plan to start filming around lambing time.  I’m not sure when they plan to broadcast this series, but I’m sure the slot series 1 had was brilliant, being over the festive period.  We shall see.  Filming in series 1 started in July 2014 and finished in early December 2015, so there was loads and loads of material to choose from.  This series will probably mean a little bit more planning – despite that being something I don’t do a lot of!!

    Keep watching this space!

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  • Lamb meat boxes

    Adventures, AgricultreComments (4)

    On January 24, 2016 • By

    Who fancies some Air An Lot lamb?

    Over the past few years, I have sold some lamb meat boxes locally, but this year I am looking to expand.  I am offering to deliver lamb boxes to Inverness or Glasgow.  Obviously it is months away and the lambs are still to be born, but I hope to get some orders in advance, to allow me to plan a trip!

    If you are interested and want to find out more, please drop me an email info@airanlot.com

     

     

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  • A Boaring Day

    Adventures, Agricultre, birth, PigsComments (0)

    On January 1, 2016 • By

    I have had pigs, on and off, over the past 6 years. Usually just weaners for the freezer, but over the past year I have been gearing up to having my own breeding stock.

    I kept two females that were born in spring 2014 and added a 4 year old sow that was free to a good home in spring 2015. Because of the restricted opening of our slaughterhouse (Aug-Dec) I wanted to have any piglets that would be ready to go in the autumn, so I have held off with a boar until now.

    I have been on the lookout for a boar for a couple of months, and had some options, but then a 3 year old Gloucester Old Spot became available for sale locally this week, and I was fortunate enough to get in there first.

    I saw him yesterday (Hogmanay) and went to pick him up today. This wasn’t as straightforward as I had hoped. The boar isn’t keen on trailers and it took us around an hour to get him in!

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    We had taken the roof off the trailer, to encourage him in, only for him to jump straight back out!!

    Take 2 wasn’t too bad, but this time we left one of the sows that was with him in the trailer, until we got the roof on. We had to strap it down as well, as he kept lifting it!

    Anyway, it was a 10/15 minute drive home from Borve, and he went straight in with my own pigs.  It didn’t take him very long to settle in. Less than 5 minutes, in fact….

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    I know there will be a certain Councillor in Callanish that will appreciate that photo!

    That should mean piglets in 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days, from 1st January, so around 25th April, I think.  There are another 2 sows in with them too, which will come into season over the next 3 weeks.

    Yesterday, I prepared extra sleeping accommodation for the boar. We’ll see how he takes to it. My neighbour James came down with his chainsaw to cut a doorway in an old oil tank. All systems go now!

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  • Drenching Hoggs

    Adventures, Dog, Lambs, Medicine, SheepComments (1)

    On December 13, 2015 • By

    Over the past few winters, I have had some problems with Liver Fluke – specifically in the lambs that I have been over-wintering.  I have spoken to my vet about this on numerous occasions, and this year I am increasing the regularity of my drenching from every 6 weeks, to every 4.

    There are 2 reasons for this: the primary one being that I would like to reduce losses of ewe hoggs to an absolute minimum.  Nearly all my losses in the past few years have been due to liver fluke, a parasite that is transferred via water snails in wet ground, that feed on the sheeps’ liver.  The secondary reason is business-related. This year we have the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme, which means I get paid around £73 for every female lamb from 2015 that I overwinter until 31 March 2016.  As a result, I have kept a couple more females this year, so I want to keep on top of any fluke issues – and prevention is way way better than the cure. It’s better to cut out any liver damage before it happens.

    With all this in mind, I have added an extra drenching in my usual rota.  They were drenched in October when they were dipped and normally they wouldn’t get another one until nearer January, but last week I gathered them and drenched them all.  Since dipping, they have all been out in the village park, so Bud and I went out to get them last Saturday (5th).  The green area is the park, the red line is the route I use to walk the sheep, and the blue is their home for the next month.

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    We took a wee while to get them all gathered, it’s quite a big park with tough terrain, and the 40mph+ winds meant that Bud couldn’t hear all my commands!  He still enjoyed himself.

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    Once in the fank, I separated my own lambs from everyone else’s and gave them their drench, along with a mineral drench.

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    After this, Bud and I walked them home.

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    That’s them now in towards the shore, in a 1 hectare field that has been empty since September.  The hoggs will be here until the Christmas holidays, then I’ll take them closer to home and start training them to eat feed! January and February are the critical months for surviving the winter, so it’ll be make or break then!

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  • ‘An Lot’

    Adventures, Agricultre, birth, Chickens, Freelance PiecesComments (2)

    On December 3, 2015 • By

    Having started filming 16 months ago, we’re now just a couple of days away from the first airing of ‘An Lot’.  I am excited, and also quite anxious. I’m more than comfortable in front of the camera, although this is a little different.  Usually, I am talking about a third party, but not this time.  This time I am opening myself up to the big bad world!

    To date, I have seen (and added my voice to) the first four episodes.  The final two will be completed on Monday, the same day the first one is broadcast.  I am delighted with how they have come together; Director Neil and Editor Paul have done a power of work, while locked away in a studio for the past couple of months.  I think I come across as myself, which is one of the things that I was hoping for, and I feel the series gives you a true taste of what crofting is like; full of highs and lows, not just a romantic image.

    Filming started in July 2014 and follows the arrival of the 300 chickens, ups and downs of the sheep, my family and has plenty laughs. I think the parts with Innes and Martin will make quite a few of you laugh!

    Anyway, the series starts on Monday at 8.30 on BBC Alba.  You can get more info on the BBC website – or you can ask me!  Hope you watch and I hope you enjoy!

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  • I am back!

    AdventuresComments (1)

    On November 9, 2015 • By

    Firstly, apologies for the silence here. As you can see, I have an all singing, all dancing new website.  This is why the blog has been quiet, as I couldn’t update it while things were being upgraded.  It took so long because I’ve been so busy and was always slow in getting stuff to Derek at Heb Web Design, but it’s all been worth it.  I strongly recommend Derek if you’re thinking of a new website – I am delighted with mine.

    Anyway, it has been quite the six months Air An Lot.  I’ll summarise what’s been going on and I should probably start with the hens, they are the profitable part of the croft business after all!

    I have been very busy with them all year and the summer selling season was better than I expected; I had more and more shops coming to me for eggs.  Unfortunately, I have a limited supply, although it is very difficult to turn down more custom.  After juggling it all for a while, I have eased off as we head into the autumn, obviously coinciding with the hens laying fewer eggs.  I hope to be back up and running at full capacity shortly, once they start laying again.  Fingers crossed it won’t be long, less money coming in but the same going out!

    I had a mixed year with the sheep and lambs.  Lambing wasn’t great and a poor growing season didn’t help matters at all.  I have to admit that I did miss documenting things in detail on my blog, and I think it will be more noticeable for me when I look back.  The blog has been so handy for me checking records etc, as everything is noted on here, even if I have forgotten to note it officially elsewhere!  I have been sharing things on the Air An Lot facebook page, but I have to admit that it is usually photos and some fun stuff there, I tend not to go into too much detail, as sometimes things can be taken out of context, particularly if someone just happens to come across a photo.

    Loads of stuff going on in the background too, which I will share when I can – the most exciting is the BBC Alba series ‘An Lot’ which has followed me since July 2014 is due to air from 5th December. A 6 part series which I will remind you all about closer to the time.

    I’ll get back into the groove of blogging again and more than happy to take suggestions on topics – I really want to get my teeth into putting my thoughts on paper again.  I feel I need to voice my opinions about crofting in general soon…..

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  • A hell of a day

    Adventures, Chickens, Lambs, Medicine, Poultry, Sheep, WeatherComments (0)

    On March 6, 2015 • By

    I’m sitting on my bed at 8pm, just having had a shower and feeling exhausted. Today was an unplanned day off work and I expected to take it reasonably easy, but that wasn’t to be the case.

    We had a gale today, probably 60mph gusts throughout the afternoon, with strong wind and heavy rain all day.

    The ground is totally soaked after relentless rain and is really tough on livestock

    Yesterday, I got a load of big bales delivered, so I took the tractor out for the first time in 2015 and moved the bales to the appropriate fields. All was going smoothly until the tractor got stuck in reverse! Not one to give up when I’m in a working mood, I finished job while drivinng backwards.

    Next, I checked the livestock. One ewe, scanned for twins, was on her back, and had probably been so for several hours.  I righted her and took her out to my parents barn. I noticed a wee bit of blood round her rear, so I phoned the vet to be safe.

     

    The vet gave her the usual injections but also left me some pen & strep to administer over the next few days.

    Fortunately, the blood around the rear was a peck or two by a crow, and not the beginning of her aborting, as I had initially feared. I had hoped it was a peck, but you always fear the worst!

    When he inserted the digital thermometer into her, she was so cold it didn’t get a reading. Looks like I got to her in time. She had a heater beside her for most of the afternoon and was eating when I checked her around 7.

    While the vet was leaving, I noticed 2 hens, who were standing around looking very sorry for themselves.  They were outwith the hen enclosure and totally soaked. They were so cold, they couldn’t move and didn’t look like they’d last long.

    I took both out to my mother and we both sat in front of the fire, drying them and trying to warm them up. I left them with my mother and went to feed the sheep. When I came back,  I was SHOCKED at what I saw.

    I’m so surprised at how well, and quickly, they’ve recovered. They’re in the barn tonight and will be back in the hen house tomorrow.

    That’s not it though, there was also a recently-acquired lamb that was suffering from exposure too. It spent the day between a heater and a heat lamp! It too will be kept inside for a few days.

    Predictions then are then that hens are fine, the lamb should be ok but I’m worried about the ewe. She’ll need some TLC.

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  • Pickup Disaster

    AdventuresComments (0)

    On February 22, 2015 • By

    My pickup is one of the most useful things I own. I go everywhere in it and do everything with it. But not for a wee while.

    On Wednesday, I was pulling a trailer and my clutch went, completely.

     

    I was on the main road, fortunately, so help wasn’t too far away. I flagged down a passing van, which happened to be Irish workmen, and they gave me a lift up to my friends.

    The clutch was damaged a bit last summer, during a problematic tow of a boat up a slipway. It had been acting up recently but the weight of the trailer was obviously too much for it.

    Thanks to Duncan & Donald for getting me and the trailer back home!

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  • Highlights

    Adventures, Agricultre, Cats, Chickens, Lambs, SheepComments (2)

    On February 22, 2015 • By

    I am going to post a selection of my favourite photos from the last month or so. I can’t wait for spring, the extra hours of daylight will be a big help – as will some grass growing!

    Gizmo wanting in

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    Returning a lost ewe to the flock

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    More repairs to the portacabin. Still awaiting payout from my insurer.

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    Hungry Hogg

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    Swollen eye

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    A couple of visitors

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