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  • Lamb Sale

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    On August 26, 2012 • By

    All is arranged for is year’s sales. The lambs were lifted from their mothers earlier this week and now I’ve been given a date of 14th September for the lorry coming to collect them and take them to Thainstone. Apart from selling a few eggs at £1 per dozen, the lambs are the only income I make from the croft.

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  • No crop this year.

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    On August 26, 2012 • By

    I blogged earlier this year about my vegetable plot. I spent hours, days and weeks ploughing, rotovating, putting up fences and shelter, as well as planting only for things to go a little wrong while I was away filming. After one of my first trips in June, I came home to find some of my sheep had got into the vegetable plot and eaten every single last one of one of the seedlings that I’d planted. Not one left! All my broccoli, sprouts, onions, lettuce, carrots gone. More than slightly frustrated. Next year, I am not leaving a gate on my veg plot, I will close it off completely, easy for me to hop the corrugated iron shelter anyway.

    To top it all off, my potatoe plot was pillaged last week by the rampaging piglets! We’d lifted the earlies already but the main crop has gone completely. I was away filming at the Scottish National Sheepdog Trial from Wednesday till Monday and came back to stalks stripped of all leaves and the ground churned up and potatoes eaten. I will blog again about the pigs but next year the vegetables and potatoes will be protected like Fort Knox!

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  • Lamb Lifting 2012

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    On August 22, 2012 • By



    So last night was an important step in the year of the lamb, separating them from their mothers.  Done around this time of year as the lambs are ready to be weaned, the sheep are usually fed up of them and the sheep also need time to recover before going back to the ram in October.

    There are several options open to crofters in the islands for selling their lambs.  There is the auction mart in Stornoway, where buyers come from the mainland, Lewis Livestock, where lambs are collected from different villages and then transported to Dingwall for sale, and the option which I have taken for the last few years, send them to Thainstone in Aberdeenshire.  I have got pretty good prices there so happy to continue to use them.

    So we gathered all the sheep & lambs, decided which to keep for ourselves, which lambs to sell and which ewes would have to go.

    Here are the ewes penned, with my father fighting off the midges.  The lambs are in the background, having been removed.


    Here are the lambs that we are selling (plus 3 cast ewes)





    And here are some of the ones we are keeping.  3 ewe lambs (I plan on buying some more), one ram lamb and the rest for the freezer.


    It had been a wet day but very warm and sticky, so I didn’t want to wear waterproofs.  I ended up covered in midge bites, soaked all the way up inside my legs and my top covered in lamb poo and paint!




    Of course, all of this was done under the strict supervision of the boss!

    The lambs will stay on the croft until Friday 14th September, for the sale on 19th.  I have my fingers crossed for a £50 average.  I’d be very happy with that.


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  • Ness Sheepdog Trial

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    On July 29, 2012 • By

    Last week saw the annual Hebridean Sheepdog Circuit. 7 trials in eight days.  Watternish in Skye, Berneray (Harris/N Uist), Scarista (Harris), Shawbost (Lewis), Ness (centre of the universe), Staffin and Dunvegan (both Skye).  Watternish is first, on the Saturday, nothing on the Sunday, then work their way round the rest of the circuit Mon-Saturday.  The Ness trial is held on the Thursday, on Lionel Machair, opposite Lionel School.  Here is Google Earth/Streetview of the location.

    I had the day off work (my cousin was getting married the next day) so it was my first chance in a few years to go down and relax at a trial. I think 48 dogs ran on the day, down from the 60-odd that were supposed to attend.  Numbers have been down slightly in last 2 years, despite many handlers booking their places months in advance.  I’m not sure if it’s to do with the expense of visiting the islands, or because people book up so far in advance and then realise they can’t make it due to other commitments closer to the trials.

    We’re well organised in Ness, with a special are reserved for our VIP guests….As you may know, my puppy is called Bud – here is his mother, who ran on the day.  Her owner is Dolaidh Macleod from Point.  Most Lewis folk will recognise him as the guy that used to read the meters for the Hydro.  He’s recently retired and started trialing again

    Here are some 4-week old pups belonging to Stuart Grant from Ullapool.  They did the whole of the Heb Circuit with him and the rest of his dogs!      Alasdair ‘Beag’ MacDonald running.  He is from Cross, the next village to mine.  I always knew he was an expert when it came to sheep, but since I started on Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach, handlers from all over the country have spoken to me about him, saying he could have been amongst the best in the UK, had he stayed on the mainland and regularly competed in trials.Dolaidh and Roddy ‘Norrie’ studying the scores.John ‘Inch’ from Cross, talking things over with Murdo ‘Bloxy’ Murray from Back.  Bloxy used to play football for Back and his son Kevin is one of the best footballers I’ve ever played against.  Murdo himself is now a well respected trialist and regularly travels to trials on the mainland.  I think he’s the only Gaelic speaker that competes at the Scottish National.  He won the local aspect of the trial, with his dog Jim.Visitors come from far and wide for the Heb Circuit, with many of them making it their summer holidays.  Obviously it’s harder on some than on others!  Here are Alfie Kyme (left) and Steve Duckworth, both sound asleep!  Alfie won last year’s English National and himself and Steve have been regular visitors to the islands over the past few years.Plenty other familiar faces around too.  Standing on the right here is Stuart Grant (owner of the pups that were shown earlier) and seated is Jim Cropper, one of the best handlers around and finished second in Ness.

    Winner was James McGee from Ireland, pictured here on the left.  Winning the Ness trial should rank as one of James’ highest honours – although I’m not sure it will compare to winning the 2011 World Trial!  He won that with Becca but retired her straight after so he won Ness with his 2 year old dog, Sid.  James also went on to be crowned ‘Lord of the Isles’, awarded to the top scoring handler across all seven trials.  Also pictured is John Palmer, another regular in the England team, who has visited the islands before, winning the Shawbost trial in 2009.Image

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  • Better lamb

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    On June 28, 2012 • By

    I blogged yesterday about a sick lamb, with a very swollen head.  I had another look at it today and it is an awful lot better.  The swelling has gone down significantly.

    This is how it looked on Tuesday night

    It’s eyes were swollen shut before, but seem to be ok now.

    I gave it penicillin (Norocillin technically) before, I gave it another dose today, along with some multi-vitamins.

    I had a visitor while doing it too!


    That should be that now.  It might lose it’s ears but it seems to be healthy enough.  I’ll have a look at it again tomorrow.

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  • Back from the vet

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    On June 15, 2012 • By

    I blogged last week about a worrying loss, with a lamb found dead and it looked as if it was an eagle attack.  I discussed it with one of the vets in Stornoway this week, as well as showing him several photos.  There is no way of proving how the lamb was killed, but the vet says it is highly likely that an eagle was involved – due to the fact that more than just soft tissue was eaten.

    Leaving it at that, at the moment.  The sheep & lambs are still in the same field and seem to be ok.  The one that died was a twin (and they were the only set of twins in the field), so if it was an eagle, it’s mother could probably only defend one lamb at a time.

    I’m not going to make a song and dance about this.  The eagle was just doing what is natural and I still enjoy seeing it from time to time!

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  • Jubilee Weekend in Ness

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    On June 4, 2012 • By

    ok, it’s not anything to do with crofting but it’s been a busy weekend in Ness with the Jubilee and, even though I’m not the biggest fan of this kind of stuff, I took a lot of pictures because I was covering them both for BBC Alba.

    I have posted all my pictures on my flickr account

    The lighting of the Jubilee Beacon was by my mother, Annie, and Tormod Sgiugs – Norman Smith.  My mother is Deputy Lord Lieutenant of the Western Isles and it was quite fitting that Tormod was invited along too.  He spent his 19th birthday in Fort George, his 20th on Anzio Beachhead and his 21st as a Prisoner of War in Germany – true service for the Queen.  While in Anzio, on Easter Sunday of that year, a Padre took them into the woods for a service.  The Germans attacked the position they had been defending and Tormod probably wouldn’t be with us, had he not gone to the service.

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  • Tractor Troubles

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    On June 3, 2012 • By

    April & May have been very busy months for me; sheep/lambing, peats and ploughing – while working full time as well!  This means that my wee Massey Ferguson 135 has been working flat out for the last few months.  That was, until an incident in this past week!  I went out to finish some ploughing on Monday evening to find broken glass and diesel all over the place!  Below is one of the fuel filters, but this filter should be up at the top of this bolt, with a glass bowl underneath it – the glass bowl which has disappeared!

    Here are the remnants of the bowl!

    You can see the other filter on the left, with the metal bowl underneath, thats where the glass should have been on the one on the right!

    To make things worse, I’d put £20 of diesel into the tractor a couple of days before!  This is a picture of the tank – bone dry!!!

    With the help of some helpful friends, I managed to get everything sorted, and the tractor was up and running again on Friday night!

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