Agricultre Category

  • A spot of recycling

    Adventures, Agricultre, Lambs, SheepComments (1)

    On January 23, 2015 • By

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    This lovely load of tyres is on its way to my crofts, to (hopefully) provide some shelter for my livestock.  I have flat open crofts, with zero shelter and have decided to try something different.

    On this trailer are 30 bales of tyres, weighing over 20 tonnes, to be spread out amongst the crofts that I have and use.  This will provide shelter for the animals and also not be blown away like sheets of corrugated iron!

    I applied to SEPA for a Waste Exemption Licence and received the bales free of charge from the council.  I think the council get a landfill tax rebate, as the bales are diverted from landfill and put to a good use.  Basically everyone wins!

    They are being dropped off tonight and placed on the crofts tomorrow.

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  • Hatches battened down

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggs, SheepComments (1)

    On January 8, 2015 • By

    Finally sat down and had my dinner after coming home early to get ready for the storm that’s about to hit us.

    Last night, this is the forecast that we had for Fri/Sat (this is from xcweather, the site I use almost exclusively)

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    96mph, which usually means that we will have gusts over 100mph. The weather station that was formerly Eoropie Tea Room has been relocated to my village, so should be interesting to see what it reads. I’m pretty sure it’ll be over 100mph. In the past few hours though, the forecast seems to be dipping ever so slightly, so I’m hoping it won’t be as bad as feared – but still very very bad.

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    Because of this, I came home early from work today, to make sure everything was as secure as it could be. On Monday, I put the blackface sheep out onto the moor. They are hardy and can find plenty of shelter out there. As you can see from the picture, though, there is absolutely no shelter on the crofts.

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    So I went to take the Cheviots back from the field they were in at the bottom of the croft, and leave them in front of my house for the night, where they can shelter. That was supposed to be a 5 minute job, until I noticed the rope on the gate had snapped (probably in yesterday’s mini-gale) and the sheep had disappeared!! Fortunately, they came when I started calling them, they had gone down to the shoreline – probably the worst place for 100mph winds straight off the Atlantic!

    They followed me all the way out, nearly a mile, and I treated them to some feed in front of my house.

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    Everything else tidied away, bins put in the barn and peats taken in. One more job was to check the hens. I am pretty sure the hen house itself won’t move, but I am concerned about the roof. One section tore away in December but hopefully the repairs will see out the winter and then I’ll replace it with box-profile.

    One wee issue has been wind-driven rain coming in under the ridge. This is because the roof has a shallow pitch, so wind doesn’t have to fight gravity when pushing rain in. I think I have plugged most of the holes with expanding foam

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    Now I’m in by the fire, all gadget fully charged, torches to hand and ear plugs by the bed. Hope I sleep, although worry and wind will probably keep me awake.

    One thing is that I bought a generator this week and it’s sitting in the back of the pickup, at the back door, ready to be put to use if (or probably when) the power goes out.

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    I just hope the hens are all ok in the morning!

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  • CCAGS

    AgricultreComments (0)

    On January 5, 2015 • By

    Tonight I did something that I’ve never done before; I wrote the following letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochead. I must be getting old!

    A’ charaid choir

    Bliadhna mhath ur an toiseachd. Like many crofters, I today welcomed the opening of the new CCAGS scheme, which provides a vital mechanism for active crofters to make capital improvements. I was, however, dismayed when I realised that CCAGS applications would now require three quotes.

    Previously, CCAGS had a very sensible rule that meant that an application for funding of less than £2000 required only one quote. For some reason, this was removed in the past two years and all applications required two quotes.

    This inclusion of a third required quote provides crofters with an additional layer of, in my opinion, unnecessary administration. Crofters already have to deal with European, UK and Scottish Government paperwork and this bureaucracy seems to be never ending. In my own experience, it is the most active crofters who apply for CCAGS, and it is the most active crofters who have the least amount of time to deal with additional, unnecessary paperwork.

    As a crofter, I have recently completed an economic survey (the findings much celebrated by the Scottish Government) and also the crofting census. I will shortly receive my annual Sheep census form and then my IACS form. This is an additional level of bureaucracy does little to encourage people to remain in crofting, or young people to enter into crofting.

    I believe that this will have a negative impact on crofting, and on crofting communities. As well as discouraging applications, I believe there will be a negative social impact. Crofters are often part of small, close-knit communities and guidelines drawn up in an office fail to take this into account.

    If a Crofter is applying to CCAGS for some fencing, those is small communities tend to know who will carry out the work before they apply. Three fencing contractors must be approached, but contractors 2 & 3 already know that they will not be carrying out the work, should it be approved. Why would a self-employed contractor be willing to waste more of his (unpaid) time providing quotes for work which he will never carry out. This will have nothing but a detrimental effect on small communities. For items such as fencing, SGRIPD staff already have guideline rates for work, so quotes are almost identical anyway – further waste of time!

    I request that the scheme for one quote for applications under £2000 be reinstated, and that all other applications return to a two-quote requirement.

    I would also like to know where the requirement for a third quote came from; my understanding, following a discussion with a civil servant, is that there is still uncertainty as to whether European funding will be used to pay for CCAGS, so I take this to be an internal Scottish Government decision.

    I look forward to your reply

    Leis gach dùrachd

    Dòmhnall MacSuain

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  • My thoughts coming into a new year

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggs, SheepComments (1)

    On December 21, 2014 • By

    As the year draws to an end, I have been thinking about it a lot in the past few weeks.

    2014 didn’t get off to a good start for me at all, as I felt some backlash, both locally and nationally, for arranging the world Guga eating championship. Afterwards, I made a conscious decision to move away from community-involvement and focus on my own plans. I had been involved in numerous community groups over the past 10 years; Ness FC, Social Club, Comunn Eachdraidh, village Grazing Clerk, Ness Golf Club & the Community Council, but decided to focus on my own plans after this.

    And focus on them I did. As soon as lambing was over, I ordered 320 hens. The thinking was to provide some kind of sustainable income from the croft. The sheep and everything else washes its own face, but I needed something that would make a decent profit. Having done the sums and spoken to shops, I decided that hens were the answer.

    Another big step was at the end of June, when I reduced my hours at work. I now work 3.5 days a week, having every Monday off, as well as every 2nd Friday. This has been invaluable during the winter, as I’d have no time to get anything done otherwise.

    There are plenty folk who were trying to convince me to work full time or who thought I was crazy in doing it, but I have always been of the opinion that work is there to fund life, life isn’t there to sit in an office. Work to live, not live to work. I know what I want to do and 18 months of hard work will get me where I want to be.

    The hens arrived at the end of July and things have gone well since then. They started laying semi-regularly by mid-September. Things have been ticking over since then and I hope to hit the ground running by the end of January.

    There are loads of things going on behind the scenes too, but I can’t share all of those quite yet, as things are at a sensitive stage. I cannot wait for 2015 though, I know it is going to be my most successful, profitable and happiest year as a crofter.

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  • Monster Saturday

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, eggs, Lambs, Rams, SheepComments (0)

    On December 21, 2014 • By

    I’m lying in bed on Sunday morning, feeling like a broken man. Not because of a hangover, but because of how much I did yesterday!

    Last week was one of these rare Saturdays when I actually managed to do everything I’d set out to do. Funnily enough, I repeated that feat again yesterday.

    I didn’t do anything until after 10am, as we had strong/gale force winds overnight and they didn’t ease off until mid-morning. I had arranged to help my neighbour Donnie take his ram from the ewes, and then he’d help me do the same with mine. We got them all in the trailer and moved them, with me travelling with them in style :)

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    We put the rams together on another croft that I have started using – more on that in a few weeks. They’ll be happy there for a while & are easily accessible to keep an eye on and feed, right out on the main road!

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    After this I caught up on tagging this year’s lambs. Lambs need to be tagged within 9 months of birth, so I tagged the last 5 today, as well as upgrading the slaughter tags in 5 I had bought. You can put a single slaughter tag in a lamb, which apparently markets & buyers prefer, but it means they have to be slaughtered within a year. The ones I bought will be 18 months before they’re slaughtered, so I need to upgrade. I just have 2 ram lambs to tag and that’s it all done. Hopefully I’ll do that on Tuesday.

    The 24 lambs I have we’re drenched for fluke and then I moved them to Cross, the next village, where they’re on good grazing for the next month or so.

    By this time, it’s getting dark. Back home and to the hen house to collect the day’s eggs and sort them. I now have 95 boxes of eggs ready to go. Anyone fancy some???

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    In an unusual act for me, I am going to work tomorrow. I haven’t worked a Monday for a while, but the weather is rubbish and Tuesday looks a lot better. I think tomorrow will be my last day of the day-job this year. No rest for the wicked though, plenty to be getting on with over the next fortnight!

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  • Video of the storm

    AgricultreComments (0)

    On December 10, 2014 • By

    Some footage from the Butt and Port today

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  • Scrap The Crofters Tax

    AgricultreComments (1)

    On November 13, 2014 • By

    Every time I see adverts in the newspaper for croft registrations, I get annoyed. Crofters are paying for the dereliction of duty by the Crofters Commission for generations – I will refer to the registration fee as the Crofters Tax from now on.

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    In the Ness paper, Fios, today, I counted 16 applications to register crofts. Lets do the sums: each registration costs £90 and at least £36 to advertise. (90+36) x 16 = £2016.

    Two thousand pounds out of crofters’ pockets just like that, and nearly £1500 of it leaving the fragile local economy. What do we have to show for it? Nothing but a pain in our backsides from sitting filling in the paperwork.

    You also may have to get assistance with the mapping as well, which will come with additional costs.

    The main reason I am annoyed by this tax is that it is all mapping work that the Crofters Commission should have been doing over the years and now you can barely do anything with a croft without going through the tax process.

    Scrap the Crofters Tax and get bureaucrats to do the jobs they were supposed to be doing all along.

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  • Calendar

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, Dog, Fishing, Lambs, Peats, Pigs, Poultry, Sheep, tractor, WildlifeComments (2)

    On October 25, 2014 • By

    2015 is just around the corner, fancy an Air An Lot calendar? I’ve printed a few using some of the most popular photos from the past year and I’m selling them for £10. Leave a comment if you’re interested, payment via PayPal.

    Here are some of the photos:

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  • Good & bad

    Adventures, Agricultre, Chickens, death, Ducklings, Ducks, eggsComments (2)

    On October 12, 2014 • By

    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.

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  • A busy Monday

    Adventures, Agricultre, Lambs, Pigs, Poultry, SheepComments (1)

    On October 7, 2014 • By

    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!

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