Thursday, 20 December 2007

Merry Christmas

My Husband and I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone out there a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous 2008.

I would like to thank those of you who do spend a little time reading my ramblings.
But I also get great pleasure out of reading back some of the things I have jotted down, it is like a diary for me, only a diary that has no secrets.

To all of our friends old and new who have taken time to read and comment.
Merry Christmas may you all have Good Health, Peace & Harmony.
We hope good fortune shines upon you all for the coming year ahead.

Kindest Regards

Anne & Hughie Creag Mhor

Boiling Pots & Dolly Tubs

Well it's that time of year again, no not Christmas although it soon will be.
No that time of year when the weather is cold enough to freeze the crown jewels off a monkey.
We have had such a cold snap since Tuesday our water to the house has frozen solid.
We are back to the old ways of fetching and carrying water from the burn until it thaws.
We installed a 62mm Dia plastic pipe three years ago so we would not have this problem again we hoped.
But like all things that are sent to try us, it failed!!!

I have never known it to be so cold so fast, we used to have a few hours in the morning of frozen pipes until the heat of the now turned sun would thaw things a little bit, but not this year.

So we are back to the old ways of "Boiling Pots & Dolly Tubs " Boiling water to wash everything, including ourselves in the Dolly tub in the kitchen, it reminds me of the days as a child sitting in front of the open fire in the old tin bath on a Sunday night, in those days we used to bathe once a week in the bath and then have a good old wash down in the evenings in the kitchen pot sink.

I forget how much we take things for granted, then suddenly we are hindered by the slightest thing, because we are not joined up to the village mains water.
Our water comes from the burn, which I might say taste absolutely beautiful, even more so when it is freezing cold.

Well it is one of life's oh so small burdens for us, as we can buy water from the shops, not so for the poor souls in the countries where they could not even find clean water any where to drink let alone wash in.
So I will not grumble about our loss, I'll just keep boiling Pots and washing in the Dolly Tub for now.

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Double Trouble

Well as usual you set your stall out to do something and sods law steps in and turns everything upside down. Bonny one of the cows that was due to calve went into labour in the early evening. We sat with her until 2:30am as I wanted to video the birth for those of you who had never seen a calf being born.

We decided to take a break and go for a cup of tea, as she looked as though she was going to be a little while yet.
Low and behold there he was on the floor of the calving stall when we went back 20 minutes later. She decided she did not want an audience, well he is beautiful we called him Cocoa as he is a deep chocolate colour, his father is a Limousin called Ronwick Hawk.
Well we thought we would wait for the second calf to be born a couple of days later and try again, but Dolly decided to go it alone and showed no signs of calving, when we went in to the Byre the morning after, my husband thought it was Cocoa laying in the parlour, but then he saw Cocoa having his morning drink, he realised it was Dolly's calf, we called her Pal as she is the double of an old cow we used to have but she die 3 years ago at the ripe old age of 20,
she used to be the leader.
Maybe Pal two will take that roll on when she gets older?
Pal's father is a Simmental called Dernean Jacob.
So videos unfortunately will have to wait for the next one later this month.

But I have a couple of pictures.


Cocoa .........................Pal


They have become best buddies, Cocoa follows Pal around everywhere, where there is one you are usually sure to find the other.
They have taken it upon them selves to investigate the feed store in the mornings especially if your back is turned.
Pal is like quick draw MacGraw, she fires her back legs out so quick if you blink you will miss it, She does it in a playful kind of way, like a child that does not like being told what to do.
At the moment they think it is great fun to annoy the Jack Russell, who does not take kindly to being sniffed and jumped around, so the skulks off swearing away to him self.
The Collie on the other hand loves the attention, he can be found quite often licking their faces, particularly after they have had a drink of milk.
I love watching them charging around the Byre, when they are outside everything is new to them, each day brings a new adventure for them something else to discover.
They are both fit and healthy.
God bless mother nature for the miracle of life and our double troubles.






Friday, 23 November 2007

Not enough hours in the day

Sometimes I wonder where the days go?
Since the clocks went back it has been none stop.
We both work full time and run the croft as well.
So other things have to take a back seat in the Winter months because there are not enough daylight hours to do the jobs you want to do in the evening.
So for us most weekends are used as catch up days.
Unfortunately for us this has been impossible too as we have for the past three weekends been at our work.
My husband is a full time Fencing Contractor and at the moment he is busy until way after Christmas in the local vicinity thank heavens, this would cause even more work if he was away from home at the moment.
I on the other hand work in Fort William which is a good 35 miles from home, my stores department is going through a refit so I am having to work weekends to get it into shape.

The cattle are all in through the night they started coming in about a fortnight ago.
My husbands father used to have an old saying "better a dry back than a full belly", which I think is so true, they thrive a lot better indoors when the weather is like this.
We have been getting up at 5:30 in the morning to feed the cattle and clean them out, my husband lets them out before he goes to work, he is back home before me in the evening and feeds them in their stalls when they come back in, by the time we have fed the cows, sheep & dogs it is between 8:30 & 9:00pm before we sit down to feed ourselves.

For the past few weeks we have seen nothing but rain and wind, this week has been really kind of mild for the year.
Last week our burns and fields flooded because the water could not get away quick enough, we had Geese and Ducks floating around in what was supposed to be our fields.
But last night it was really cold, my fingers where stinging they felt like frozen sausages.

Well the cows are loving it indoors on a night the calves think they are on holiday.
We have a young calf we called rump ramp romp, he is always last in and last out, he will not go out until he gets his bucket of nuts on a morning, he spends most of the day on his own, although I have noticed that he has started to play about with a much younger calf of late.
Friendship at last from one of his own kind.
His mother does not seem to bother with him, that is until her udder is full, but she can call as much as she likes, he makes her come to him, after all she does not bother with him the rest of the time, it's probably his way of getting revenge on her for ignoring him the rest of the time.

The lambs are getting used to us being around them, the tup craigy is so demanding, when you go in the byre he starts butting the gate and clambering up on the rails to get a scratch on the chin, Poppit one of the Ewe lambs has started taking food from my hand, she stamps her feet on the ground to let you know she is waiting for you to give her a titbit.
The other two lambs are still a bit nervous, but they will come around, they always do.

We are waiting for two calves to be born, one was due on the 20th the other 22nd but as usual they will come when you are really busy or least expect it.
The old crofters used to say the cows usually go with the full moon, if that is the case we should have action stations tonight, I will keep you posted.
I have just purchased a new camera that does movies, if I can manage to figure it out and it is not to dark I am going to try and film the birth and post it for those of you who have not seen a calf being born. fingers crossed.
Anyway must crack on there is not enough hours in the day to sit playing on this all day.




Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Updates

It's been a while since I last put anything on the blog.
We have been so busy over the last few months.
We have managed to finish our new hay shed just in time for the winter hay delivery.
Once again the weather was with us when the hay arrived.
The two hay men are from Stirling and the hay smells absolutely wonderful.
This was the hay we saw being bailed a few weeks before in the fields.
I love the smell of fresh hay, it conjours up all sorts of memories from my childhood.
The hay men stayed for lunch, and we had what they call in the Highlands a good old cheildh (natter or gossip to the outside world).
The weather on the west coast has been a bit hit and miss, sometimes it is glorious other times the heavens open and it pours it down for days on end.
This is a great hindrance when you are trying to do anything.
We have kept two heifers back this year to add to the herd as some of the older cows will have to go away, we also put the young calf in with them who lost his mother a few months ago.
We called him Tefal, I thought he had a big head but he turned out to be a rather nice calf as did they all.
He cried for his mother for days on end, but the heifers soon settled him down.
We are going to winter him, so he will have a good life while he is here after his turbulent start.
He can be quite cheeky when he wants he looks at you with those large doleful eyes and my heart just melts.


The heifers have been good to him and looked after him, usually they can be bullies with the younger calves but I must say all three have been really quiet easily handled calves.
We called the heifers Joanna and Beauty.

Joanna has a striking resemblance to a cow we used to have except she is soft natured her name sake used to be rather crabby.
She is a lovely Red colour, Beauty is jet black and she also is soft natured.
They like nothing more than a good brush, they would stand there all day and let you brush them if you let them.


Love is in the Air

Myran


Claire & Sharon
Time waits for no man and things will move on even if you are ready or not.
Well it's that time of year again, and our Cheviot's are in the mood for love.
We have managed to acquire a beautiful ram who we have called Raf.
He is a two shear and stands well, he has a great set of horns which is sometimes unusual in a Cheviot ram.
He has been chosen to serve our Cheviot's this year.
He is quite a handsome chap and I hope they feel the same way too.

Already Claire has been served so that is one down two to go.
To some it may be a bit of a laugh as we only have three in the foundation flock but last years ewe lambs have come on in leaps and bounds, they are the next generation and anyway we love them all.
The Tup Ram who we called Creag Mhor has already started to show great potential.
He is really friendly and loves nothing more than a good old chin scratch.
We will miss him when he has to go away, but we are not letting him go anywhere for the present.
Poppit, Babs & Teeny the ewe lambs are still a little timid but they are all little beauties.

They were all rather noisy when we seperated them from their mothers, but that was only to be expected, just like any child would cry when they are taken away from their parent.

Monday, 17 September 2007

The Highlands & the Islands

Where to start.
Lets start with the Highlands.
We have been so busy this past couple of months time seems to have slipped past us so quickly.

The country has been hit with foot & mouth restrictions again, which is devastating in it's self, but for those of us who rely on the cattle & sheep sales at this time of year it is absolutely sole destroying.
Our livestock sales at this time of year help to support our winter months feed bills and such, so like everyone else in the country we will all be feeling the pinch at the moment, you can only pull your belts in so far.
A lot of the farming industry like ourselves will be feeding livestock already as the grass is scares due to the torrential rain we have been having of late in the east and west of Scotland.
Our fields are holding water which is making it impossible to even put round bales out with the tractor.
I suppose the festival goers would love all that mud, but not our animals or us.
Some farmers cannot even move animals across the road to fresh pastures because of the restrictions, so they have been feeding earlier than ever this year.
Lets hope the industry can get back from this without to much hardship.

On the Croft.
We have been busy trying to complete an extension on the Byre for feed storage, it has been slow going because of the weather, but we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, most of the hold ups are due to deliveries of materials, because we are in such a remote area the suppliers cannot guarantee when we will receive anything, this is because they like to try and fill their delivery wagons up for one big run rather than a half loaded wagon.
Then again they cannot fill the wagons to much as we have three small bridges on the road to Arisaig which all have height restrictions on them.
At the moment there is a new road widening project on the go for about ten miles of the single track road, we were told originally that the three bridges would be altered to take the new European standard wagons, but for some reason this has been put on the back burner, so we will get a wider road but we still will not get a good full sized hay delivery because of the bridge heights, well we live in hope that this will all change sooner rather than later.

The Islands
A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went out to Eriskay a beautiful island off the west coast of Scotland.
My husband had a job to do for a friend out there.
The weather was warm but not hot, which was better as if it had been to hot we would not of got to much done.
We took a ferry from Mallaig to Armadale on Skye, then from Uig on the other side of Skye to Lochmaddy on Uist.
The sea crossing was calm on both occasions and the scenery was beautiful.
We did not arrive into Eriskay until late so it was to dark to see much.
The next day we cracked on with the fence that my husband was out there to do, the ground is mostly rock in some places but once he found the sweet spots as they say he was on a roll.
We went out for a meal in the evening to the Pallahar Inn in South Uist it was delicious and we certainly had worked up an appetite.
My husband took me to meet some of his relatives on the island, his mother was from Eriskay originally before she settled on the mainland, so there are still quite a lot of relations still out there.
The people on the island are so warm and welcoming nothing is a bother to them, they all made me feel welcome too as it was my first visit to the islands, they were all pleased to see him as it had been 11 years since he was last out there.
We went to see my husbands Aunt Margaret and her son Iain, who gave us some of his home grown organic Maris Piper potatoes, he gathered the seaweed for fertilizer from the beach himself.
I can say they were the best potatoes I have tasted in a long while, not like the supermarket potatoes that are all battered and bruised by the time they reach the shop.
Iain's mother was in fine form, a woman of 85 years of age who to me seems as though she had a hard but rewarding life, nothing will come easy working and living on the outer isles even back in her younger days there will have been great struggles in life, it was nice to meet them both, in such a warm and relaxing atmosphere.
We also went to visit my husbands other cousin Joe and his Wife Marie ann.
He was not expecting us as we had told no one that we were going out to the islands, so it was a surprise for him to see us standing on his door step.
We spent quite a time there as they had a lot of catching up to do, but a thoroughly enjoyable evening mostly talking about the "good old days"
I myself would like to say thank you to all of the people we met and who made us welcome, let's hope the next visit is not as short as the last, but not so long till we are back.


Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Make Hay whilst the Sun shines

Well the weather has been a bit hit and miss during the past couple of weeks in Arisaig
Some days have been absolutely glorious and others, well you would think Autumn was coming in early.
As the weather was good my husband and I went down to Stirling last week to see the chap who we purchase our hay from.
Both himself and his wife were furiously making hay whilst the sun shone.
His wife was driving the tractor & hay bailer, whilst he was driving a loadall machine with a telescopic arm that could pick up eight square bales of hay at a time and stack them on top of one another.
We could see well covered haystacks all over the land.
His wife continued on whilst we had our trailer loaded up by her husband.
There is nothing that beats the smell of freshly cut hay.
They had been working none stop to gather the hay before the bad weather set in, if I might say so they were doing a fine job.
It is a long time since I sat and watched a square hay bailer in action.
In those days not so long ago the square bails dropped into a bed all higgledy piggledy, now the bed on the back of the bailer sorts them out into a kind of shoot once the eight shoots are full the back door opens and they are left behind in a nice neat squre.
The loadall comes along with the special grab that fits over the top of the bails collecting all eight bales in one go, which are then stacked on top of each other.
I think they were five rows high I could not be sure as I was busy trying to keep the dogs away from a prospective lamp post as you might say.
In the past men worked on the pile of bails stacking them by hand, I remember my father coming home with husks stuck in his back from lifting the bails and stacking them, my mother used to spend half the night taking the husks out of his skin.
Them days always seemed to be long hot and dry, these days we seem to have to race more against the weather.
We sat for a while our host had a flask of tea and home baking in a picnic basket, which in true Highland tradition we delightfully excepted, we were talking about the price of feed and the demands already being made for it, all the while we were watching the hay bailer, tractor and his wife working away in perfect harmony.
I could have sat and watched all day but unfortunately we did not have the time and we did not want to hold back the workers when they are trying to beat the weather.
The animal feed will be in short supply this year what with the flooding down South and the East coast not growing well either because of the wet climate.
We got home not to late and unloaded the trailer, the next day we put some of the bails out for the cattle and sheep it smells beautiful.
As they say the proof is in the pudding, our animals are fussy and will not eat just anything, they never left a bit so looks like they have given the Creag Mhor seal of approval.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Screaming out load

Where do I start today?
I have been walking around in limbo since Saturday morning.
It all started in the early hours but we were unaware of a problem until we got up at 6:30am.
We have been rebuilding our feed store as the old one was getting past it's sell by date and has more leaks than Wales.
So we were keen to get going as soon as the light came in.
My husband got up to make a cup of tea then came running in to the bedroom saying he thought the old cow was dead as he can see a cow laying on her back with legs in the air.
We rushed to get dressed and jumped in the car, our road is an old dirt track road with large pot holes on it so we would probably have been faster running.
On the way down we passed the old cow a white Charolais called Snowy chewing the cud on the road side.
As we drove through the heard our minds were rushing trying to place which cow was missing.
Then I saw the orphan, his name is Tefal he is coming up for five months old, he was stood on the side of the road with his head hanging and calling every so often with a mournful heart breaking sound for his mother.
It was Pearl our three year old Simmental cow white and golden orange coloured patched.
She was laid in the middle of the dirt track with her legs in the air.
Her calf was running up and down the road calling all the time for his mother.
We ran to call the vet, he said he would come up as soon as possible, it is an eighty mile round trip for him to get to us.
Meanwhile we went back down and covered her with a tarpaulin.
The vet arrived later in the day, my husband called in on our neighbour and asked if he would bury her for us, he kindly said yes, his son came down with the digger.
In Scotland in certain places we are still allowed to bury our cattle because of the difficulty removing them from the peat bogs and so forth, so I was quite relieved when we were told we could bury her at home.
The vet thought that she had an eptopic pregnancy which burst one of her main blood vessels, she would not have felt a thing as she seemed to drop where she stood with out a struggle.
I could not take it all in she came up to me at the fence the previous night with her mother for a scratch behind the ear, she did not show any signs of illness or that anything was wrong, I wanted someone to explain to me why my young cow had died, without seeing anything.
The vet said we would not have been able to do anything for her it was so sudden.
My husband said he supposed it is like humans some are born to live to a great age some are born to die with out reason.
Our neighbour started to dig the hole after the vet had taken samples from Pearl.
He said he was sorry for us as he knows how much we care about our animals and left.
I could not stand to watch our young cow being put into a hole in the ground.
I walked away and left my husband and neighbour to do the dark deed.
As I was walking back up the track towards the house Tefal came running down the road again calling for his mother, I could not help it I broke down into floods of tears my heart was wrenched by this pitiful baby without his mother.
I heard myself screaming out load until I could not scream any longer what a waste what a sad sad waste.
He is still mourning for his mother this morning poor soul, but he will be spoiled by me his surrogate mother, I will watch out for him.
All of the heard went out on to the common grazing's by Pearls grave last night they lay down around about it, it's funny how they do that for a while like they are saying good bye then after a couple of days they leave.
It will take a little time to get over the shock of loosing Pearl but I will have her calf to keep me busy and occupied.
We never got much done in the end on Saturday as neither of us could concentrate on the job, I ended up hitting my thumb with the hammer so hard I nearly fainted, instead I let it all out the pain the loss the heartbreak, the deep scream from within, my husband grabbed me and hugged me, it does not mend anything but it makes you feel someone is there to catch you when you fall.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Waiting with baited breath

We heard this weekend that there has been an outbreak of the deadly disease Foot & Mouth again.
It appears to have broken out in the Guilford area in Surrey England.
We were supposed to be attending the Agricultural show in Lorn near Oban on Saturday the 4th Aug but we received a call from one of the organisers late on Friday evening telling us that there has been a movement restriction put on all Cattle, Sheep & Pigs because of a suspected outbreak.
Well we watched the news bulletins all through the night to find out what we could, I know we are a long way from Surrey but this disease can spread so quickly if not controlled straight away.
This time all movements were banned as soon as the outbreak was confirmed not like last time when shows and sales were still going on.
Millions of animals were slaughtered needlessly because of panic by the government agencies.
Hopefully it will have been stopped in it's tracks.
I think all the Agricultural sector at this time will be waiting with baited breath to see what happens in the next 10 - 14 days.
I don't think many more of us could stomach another catastrophe like the last one.
It will be even harder this time if it does get out as we are going into the Autumn quarter of the year soon and the animals will require feed and if movements are still suspended that means we will be feeding surplus animals through the winter because we cannot sell them until the movement bans are lifted.
We have been told by the press agencies that the outbreak is suspected to have come from a Government testing laboratory 3-4 miles away from the outbreak.
Isn't that ironic, we are penalised and jumped on from a great height if our quality procedures are not adhered to in any way and the government let the most vicious of bacteria escape from their laboratories who will penalise them I ask myself?
So we are all praying that this is a one off incident and no more outbreaks will show up, but god help us if it gets hold.
I worry about people traveling up on holiday over the border from the south this disease is an airborne virus and can travel for miles.
It all has a knock on effect even to tourism which parts of our area depend on.
In our area most of the livestock is on small farms and crofts, this would mean devastation for our area if it broke out here.
We just seemed to get back on to an even keel and import, exports on the go again when bang we are dropped from a great plateu into darkness again.
If this is our governments fault they will have a lot to answer for by the agricultural industry.

Monday, 23 July 2007

The Wanderer Returns

The Wanderer being our Belgian Blue cross called Bella.
She takes to wandering off like a nomad, not exactly part of the heard but always there or there abouts.
We bought her about three years ago with a calf at foot, she is so placid and easy to handle you would think she had been here all of her life.
Well she returned with a beautiful brown and white bullock calf on Saturday his father is a Charolais called Simpsons Greag.
She was about a week early but I am not complaining he is so pretty.
We called him Jocky he has a brown spot on the side of his cheek and two ringled eyes as they say up here which means that his eyes have rings around them.
I struck up the lawn mower and over she came for the cuttings.
That is her party piece, it does not matter where she is if she hears the lawn mower from anywhere home she comes for the free dinner.
She is so fly that she will walk around the back of the heard and come in the long way round so that they do not see her and she does not have to share, the others have not twigged as yet but it will not be long before they do.
We could not see the calf later in the morning and went out to look for him in the park.
There he was curled up in a small ball in amongst the tall grass all that you could see was a little piece of white from his forehead.
If you did not know he was there you would have walked straight past him.
I always find it amazing how the cows manage to hide their calves so cleverly.
Well I have a couple of pictures so I will post them later on this evening.
I really must get my act together and post the pictures for you to see.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Gathering Winter Fuel

It only seems like 5 minutes that I last entered something on my blog.
But there you go life on the Croft has been so busy that I do not have as much time as I would like to dedicate to putting thoughts down.
So I have a bit of catching up to do with myself.
We were cutting Peat in the late spring on the Croft it is a great alternative to coal & oil for us in the winter.
It is hard work but rather rewarding in the end, just imagine on a cold winters night you sitting in front of a raging fire with a distinct smell that only peat gives out wafting around the room.
Peat cutting is almost extinct in our neck of the woods, I think there is only one other Croft doing it, the chap is in his 90's and still cuts peat, a hardy character and not many of them left.
Peat gathering used to be a great annual event for the crofters, everyone used to help one another gather but no-one seems to bother much now, maybe they find it to hard work for very little gain, why bother when they can buy fuel from a merchant instead without the hardship.
The tool used is called a toirsgian (pronounced treshcan) it is a Gaelic word which I believe means peat knife.

We have been rather fortunate with the weather this year and managed to get the peat dry rather faster than usual.
Peat as I said earlier is cut with the toirsgian which is a long wooden handled tool that has a thin metal blade on the end of it, on the left side of the blade as you look down on it there is a right angle piece of blade pointing outwards away from you, there is a small notch on the right this is used rather like a spade, you use your right foot to push the blade into the peat which is a little strange to get used to as we all tend to use left foot to push a spade into the ground.
It is far better if two of you gather peat as it is quicker and easier.
Firstly you have to remove the heather and other plant life from the top of the peat.
The toirsgian is pushed into the peat, the toirsgian cuts a brick shaped block of peat about 10" long depending on the size of the blade you have, the user then passes the block of peat over to the collector who uses a fork to pick the peat up and then place the peat in a gathering area, it is spaced out to dry for a short while turning it every so often so that it is dried on all sides, then placed into
stacks which are shaped rather like huts.



Once they are dried out the shrink to about half the original size, they are gathered up and stored away in our old byre for the winter.
We give a few bags to some of our older neighbours as they love the smell of peat, and as I said it has a distinct smell, the older folk reminisce about bygone days and old friends passed.
I too love the aroma especially at Christmas time it makes the season feel more festive.


Monday, 18 June 2007

Road to the Isles Sheep Champion

Myran Creag Mhor & Creag Mhor himself.


Meet the new overall Sheep champion of the Road to the Isles Agricultural Show.
This was her second outing, her Tup lamb Creag Mhor was second in his class and they make a perfect unit.
It is the first time in the Agricultural Shows 12 years history that a Cheviot has ever won the overall Sheep Champion, this honour is normally bestowed on the Black Face Sheep.
We entered her with her first lamb, she was so well behaved and stood with grace and elegance, I was so surprised as to how well they behaved, I was even more surprised to lift the coveted Trophy.
She was breed on Skye, by Mr & Mrs C Carter of Sarsar Farm in Waternish on the Isle of
Skye, her Sire was owned by Mrs Joyce Campbell of Armadale. Sharon & Claire who were also from the same flock came 2nd & 3rd in their class so we were ecstatic
We spent all of the day before clipping and washing all three sheep and four lambs.
They were like white clouds when we finished with them.
I went into the Byre the next morning to find them all lying down except for Creag Mhor the Tup.
He was trampling all over their backs with his dirty hoofs, he causes so much havoc for such a small thing.
He has even started jumping on my car bonnet he thinks it is great fun to jump on anything and everything at the moment.





Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Bye Bye Babies

We said good bye to some of our babies on the 1st June 2007.
It was time for some of our cattle to go to market which is the bit I always hate.
I know you are supposed to be hard and some people would say money orientated, but I would keep them all if I could.
We had two bullocks and three heifers plus a three year old Charolais Cross cow in calf to a Limousin Ronwick Iceman.
We spent most of the previous night washing and clipping them, just spending our final hours with them as we always do, talking to them and brushing them up, I now it sounds foolish but that's what we do and I think it settles them down a little bit as they know something is going on.
They are all around about the 9mth old mark and all well behaved.

Trudy the Charolais was the choice between two cows, we have not got enough room for her and she would not tie in a stall.
She is a bit of a bully with the younger ones and was not frightened to put her head down to you on the odd occasion so we decided to keep old faithful.
She held herself well in the ring and we got a very good price for her, even though my heart sank when the hammer went down.
The good thing is we always make a point of finding out where they are going and who is getting them, she is going to be kept as a breeding cow so I was really happy that she will be going to a new home.

Jasmine was the other one I would have liked to keep, she is a simmental cross, chocolate brown in colour with white patches all over, she is really placid and spoiled.
They were all bidding on her everyone likes a coloured cow, she did best of all in the ring.
She also went to a good home for a breeding cow.
All the Heifers will be used for breeding cows, unfortunately my boys will end up the way all boys do.
We said our final good byes after they had all been sold and told them to be good.
I hate walking away from them I feel like a mother abandoning her children, or having them torn away from me.
Sometimes I feel so empty after they have gone, because you are always looking for them amongst the heard.
It is usually quiet in the car on the way home as we are lost for words.

I always remember my first cattle sale on the way home it was hell, I had a black Aberdeen Angus Cross called Prince, he was Angela's son, he had preformed really well around all of the local Agricultural shows we got a couple of reserve champions with him.
When it was his turn to go to market I cried all night, he had been my pet, always there around your feet.
When he came running into the ring, he slammed on the anchors and looked at all of the faces watching him, he spotted me in the crowd and bellowed continuously until he went out, he never took his eyes of me.
I left the ring with him and followed him to his pen.
I clapped him, brushed him and talked to him, I think he was as heartbroken as I was.
My husband said it was time to go we went to the car I could hear Prince calling they were loading him onto the wagon he spotted me on the way up the ramp, he ran to the back of the wagon and poked his nose out of the little slats on the side, calling all of the time for me to come and get him.
I will never forget how hard it was to walk away from him, I cried for 4 days solid and could not sleep or eat, I still have a little tear for him even whilst I am putting this down in words.
It is the worst thing in the world to feel loss even if it is an animal.
But even if it is only an animal they can give you as much pleasure and happiness than some human beings can.
I would like to think that I am a guardian to all of the animals that are in my care, and as such I have a responsibility to be kind, gently and compassionate towards them.
What we sow in life we will be rewarded for in Heaven as my nan used to say.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

A King is Born

Well Miran finally did it, she had her lamb, a little boy the first boy lamb to be born on Creag Mhor Croft.
As you know we are commercial cattle breeders normally, but we took a liking to sheep when I had a couple of pet lambs to rear.
So we ended up with three beautiful pure Hill Cheviot's named Miran, Sharon & Claire.
Sharon had her first lamb a female called teeny, Claire had twin lambs called Poppet & Babs.
Miran had a little boy and we thought it only fitting to call him Creag Mhor Creagy for short.
We had to give a hand to help him into the world as he was so large, his mother was very large so we expected twins but she only had Creagy, both doing really well.
She went into labour in the morning a week last Tuesday, she struggled for a while, we thought it was best to let her have a go herself as nature intended, but after a short while it became obvious that she was not dilating enough to get him out.
So we got the nursing pen ready and put her in.
She was as good as gold, my husband held her and I managed to get my fingers inside to put a small pulling rope around his feet.
We managed to get his feet and nose out but it was a struggle to get his head out.
Once his head was out he popped like a cork out of a bottle, I caught his back legs and give him a little swing to get the mucus from his mouth and nose, as soon as he bleated I knew he was going to be okay.
We laid him in front of Miran and she licked him wildly and made comforting noises all the while.
They all answer to their names and bleat back to you when you call them, they are so entertaining you could watch them all day running around and skipping here and there.
Creagy has decided lately that it is much more comfortable to lay on his mothers back than on the ground, I will try and get a picture later to show because as soon as I approach them he jumps down, but I will prevail as it would be one for the scrap book as they say.
The lambs all have their own personalities already, Babs likes to climb on things, Poppet likes to run and jump about and be the fastest runner as she appears to race the others up and down the field, Teeny is a little shy like her mother Sharon, Creagy is wanting to be boss.
They all come in on an evening, the lambs have not spent a night out yet, we have a few foxes in the area, so we don't leave them out not until they can fend for themselves anyway.
When they are in the pen it is like a frenzied free for all each lamb darting under any mother and sucking which ever teat is available at the moment, that is until the mother realises it is not her lamb sucking, then she walks away, Creagy has been left standing in mid suck with his mouth in a pursed position on many an occasion, it is quite a comical sight to see, but he goes straight back and has another go.
What determination.



Creag Mhor




Saturday, 5 May 2007

Sowing The Seeds

Well what can I say, after all my moaning the other week about cold and rain, the weather has surpassed it's self.
We have been basking in glorious sunshine for a few weeks now.
It does the soul good to get those rays after a long dull winter.
You know the feeling when you suddenly notice that the trees are greener the flowers are popping up bringing marvelous colour and scented smells everywhere.
I heard the Cuckoo for the first time this year a week last Saturday, nice to hear him back again.
We have been busy on the Croft this is the time to sow the grass seed and fertilise the ground.
There is plenty of fertiliser to go around I can tell you, especially after the cows have wintered in doors.
We have been having a few problems with our old Massey Ferguson 565, she just seemed to groan and die, so a lot of the work spreading fertiliser, grass seed and such has been manual labour until we can get old faithful going again.
I thought about offering a mechanic a free weeks holiday in our caravan if they could repair it, but my husband said that would be silly, I thought there was no harm in it as they used to barter for everything in the old days, some people still do, never mind it was just a thought.
Anyway we could not miss the window of opportunity where the weather is concerned, so it was all hands to the seed bags pardon the pun.
I must say I did not mind it to much even though it was a long few days of hard slog for us.
It put me in mind of when I was a little girl, my father used to do the same thing.
Then the whole community used to help one another, the women wound make doorstep sandwiches and scones, my auntie was good at making ginger beer, that is something I always remember the taste of ginger beer is totally unique, there is an art to making it and a lot of patience is required, the children would run around causing mayhem laughing and playing, but it was all good fun like a great family picnic, neighbours and friends together.
I remember watching the farm workers walking up and down the fields behind the old hay bailer, building the bails up into haystacks. The summers then seemed to last forever long and hot ah for those lazy hazy days.
Now it is all fend for yourself or be damned.
Anyway I digress, we managed to get the grass seed out the fields will be a lush green before you know it.
The lambs and calves are enjoying the long warm days, the lambs are quite comical they rush about everywhere and jump around, I wish I had that much energy sometimes.
We are still waiting for one of the sheep (Miran) to have here lambs, she must have been shy of the ram, or maybe she didn't like the look of him, never mind he got there in the end!!
We docked the lambs tails last week, I have never docked a lamb tail and I can tell you I felt so sorry for them, I cringed when I had to do it, but it had to be done, it was either that or the rubber ring, which I think is really cruel as that is enduring pain for weeks until the end drops off. At least they will not get caught up in anything now or be prone to infections because they snagged it.
I must say they didn't seem to bother to much about it, I inspect their tails everyday just to make sure the fly's have not infected them.
We called them Poppet because she is always popping up and down, she is not sure if she wants to lie down or stand up, Teeny because she is the smallest and Babs after a good friend of ours who used to baby sit my pet sheep Katie when we went away for the day.
Katie was a pet lamb I hand reared, she died last year, she has been in my thoughts a lot lately, she would follow me everywhere she was like one of the dogs, every time I turned around there she was beside me, she would look up at me and make a small grr kind of noise, just to let me know she was still there.
The calves are all doing well, our big Charolais (Snowy) who is bigger than your average bull I might add, has still not let go of her calf, she is about 10 days late now, sometimes they go with the full moon, that is what they say anyway, I have maybe had the odd one's that have given birth through the night of a full moon, perhaps it is a coincidence, or maybe they are right, I have yet to be convinced.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Long may they continue to gather?

This will take a bit of time to read but it is well worth it.
I wrote it as a tribute to the Shepherds in Newtonmore after my visit with them.
Since then one of the band died last year in an accident more or less in the same place we had our incident.
I would like to think he is still gathering in heaven today.

A couple of Friends of mine invited me along to a sheep gathering in July a couple of years ago in Newtownmore.
As I had never seen this fast dying art I decided to go along and experience the daily toil of the hill Shepherds at first hand.
I arrived in Newtonmore one of my friends was spreading fertilizer. When he had finished we went inside for a bite to eat, we had not been indoors long when the phone rang, one of my friends neighbours was calling to ask if he could give a hand with clipping sheep.
We arrived on their steading about 15:30, I was introduced to the friends and family members of the sheep clippers, I was shown how to roll up the fleece as the shearer's removed them from the sheep, and there was over three hundred to shear. There were four men shearing also a brother and a wife of one of the shearer's sheading the sheep one at a time ready for clipping.
An old shepherd and I who was father to most of the boy's shearing; rolled and bagged the fleece, every thing was ticking away like clock work, all knew their jobs and carried them out with army like precision. The sheep may have protested but I bet they were glad to be a bit lighter, as they sprung through the doors to the outside world like spring lambs to join the rest of the flock.
When we were half way through we stopped for a break, the camaraderie and banter was something to behold, old stories of past clippings and tall tales of men long since past. Hero's of a past age, no longer with us in body, but still there in spirit and mind.
We returned to the matter in hand and finished the next batch of sheep. Once they were all sheared the work did not stop there, we all pulled together and cleared away every bit of wool, not a piece of fleece was left, it was as though no-one had been there at all.
I hung around in the shed for a while, when everyone went outside for tea, it was so quiet inside no sound of bleating sheep, droning of shears, or laughter and chatter, just stillness and silence.
It brought to my mind what feelings and thoughts the Farmers and Crofters must have had in the borders, when they stood in their empty sheds and byres, after their herds and flocks were destroyed because of the foot and mouth disease last year. Now the ravaging serpent of foot and mouth has slipped by how many of them have returned to their trade, picked themselves up and dusted them selves off and started all over again?
I joined the others; they were bragging amongst themselves, of who had sheared the most and the fastest, to tell you the truth I thought they were all champions.
My friend and I left and made plans for the gathering on the mountains the next day; I retired for the evening.
I was rudely awakened by the slamming of a door and dogs barking, I got up to see what it was, my friend was driving down the road in his pick-up, I got myself ready for the busy day ahead of me and waited for my friend to return.
My friend returned a short time later, he said he had been down to feed his calves, it was
now 6:30am.
The weather plays an important part as the sheep are strung out along mountain ranges some people could only dream of climbing or seeing, if the weather is bad it puts the gathering timetable back and the opportunity is lost in an instant.
The morning we intended to go out started with the mountains covered in fog.
The shepherds and I eight in all sat around in our various locations from 6:30arn waiting for a break in the weather.
When the fog started to lift about 11:30am, we set off along an old drovers track in two pickups laden with sheepdogs and men. The drovers track had been used for decades by man and beast and the average person would find it quite hairy to drive any kind of vehicle along these tracks, but these men knew the dips and hollows, every crook and cranny as this had been their way since boyhood. We drove out about two-mile along the old drover's track.
We arrived at our destination, five men and me, ten sheepdogs all different size's and colours, the dogs were running around like exited pups as they knew what was about to come, they sniffed each other running this way and that greeting one another like old friends long missed.
The men plotted out their various courses, who was going to be doing what, where and when, it was like listening to a tactical maneuver. We all set of in the same direction, I asked my friend what the mountain ranges were called, he told me that they were called the Monadhliath Mountains, but the locals called them the Cailleach and the Bodaich, which means old woman and old man in Gaelic.
On the way we chatted about this and that, I asked my friend how many shepherds there were in the area, he told me that once upon a time there was at least sixty, now there are only six, the farming industry is dying.
The young ones move away to get better jobs, once they are away they do not want to come back. I found it all rather sad that generations before him had walked these hills and when he passes it will be split up and sold, as the generations following do not want to carry on the tradition, which is fast becoming a distant memory. I suppose it is like the Shire horses no longer do they till the land because of progress, soon farming will follow in his once proud footsteps.
My friend and his companions climbed steadily through the day heading ever nearer to the top.
The old shepherd took his two dogs and left us a little earlier to move further around the hill to my left, I do not think I am unfit but compared to these men I felt puny. They climbed away never tired or gasping for breath. I on the other hand, felt as though the back of my throat had been scratched by a hungry chicken and that my legs were going to explode, with the lactose I was manufacturing, but I was not going to be defeated by this mountain, I climbed on without complaint.
As we climbed higher the day progressively got worse. My friend said in all the years he had been climbing these mountains he had never seen weather like this.
The mist was getting very thick now; we could only see 20 or 30 feet in front of us, the shepherds knew where they were going, as this has been their stomping ground for years.
We eventually reached the summit; it would have been a glorious view if it had not been for the mist. We reached what they called the picnic area, which was a lot of flat stones that were stood up and laid on the ground in various places, put there by other shepherds and them selves over the years.
I was soon to discover why they were stood up. The wind came howling over the top of the mountain and hit me full force in the face, it was bitterly cold, and we all sat down on the stones which were laid flat and huddled behind the standing stones for shelter from the wind.
We opened up our flasks of hot tea and ate our packed lunches, whilst we waited for the wind and rain to die down.
Further planning of routes to take were being prepared by the men. I could hear the distant sound of a motor, my friend told me it was another shepherd coming from the other side of the mountain on a quad bike, he was to drive the sheep towards our position, and it seemed to be working. In the distance just in eyeshot of the mist I could see a scattering of sheep, they appeared to be staring at us, they were probably wondering what we were doing in the middle of their grazing patch.
Anyway, one of the men decided to try and get behind them with his dogs, he set of and quickly disappeared from sight as the fog was still quite heavy, I asked my friend if he would get lost, he responded no with a grinning face. I forgot that these people have traveled the length and breadth of these mountains most of their lives. My friend told me to stay close as we broke camp, two of the other shepherds went off to my left with their dogs, we set of towards the front of the mountain.
My friend told me to keep the wind on my right cheek whilst we were heading down, just in case I got separated from him, it was not hard to feel the wind as it was taking the skin clean of my cheek. So we all had our courses plotted out we were heading down the mountain in a sort of V shape to capture any sheep in front. It was still difficult to see anything, the shepherds shouted to one another when the wind died a little.
I could hear the old shepherd on the mountainside opposite; he was making his way down the side of his mountain.
The two shepherds that left us at the summit were also calling to the old shepherd; they were just below the mist and could see sheep just disappearing in to the mist on the old Shepherds Mountain.
He sent the dog after them but with the mist being so thick he called the dog back as it was like trying to guide in the dark.
Anyway we all gradually came in to view of one another all spread out over three different parts of the mountainside. It was quite eerie coming out of the wind and mist into the warm sunshine. I could see the whole valley stretched out before me it was a sight that I will never forget, the valley was dotted with white fleeces all heading down hill and bleating in protest as they plodded on.
I stood for a while watching the sheep filter down in to the valley below like small streams heading towards a mighty river, they walked along paths that were cut out of the mountainside by generations of sheep before them.
I could hear whistling sounds echoing around the mountains, from the shepherds guiding their dogs this way and that, steadily pushing the sheep onwards. The hills as they say were alive with music, well to my ears anyway; to the shepherds it was all careful instructions to their four legged friends.
As we moved down into the valley we were soon joined be the old shepherd and his son.
The old shepherd pointed out that the sheep he had tried to bring down earlier had boxed themselves on to a plateau further up the mountain, his son said he would go back up to try and turn them around.
His son made his way back up the side of the mountain; he was quite agile, I found out that he was a stalker, so I suppose he had to be fit. Anyway he reached the spot where the sheep had come to a stop, he made his way around them and sent the dog in after them, some of the sheep were quite stubborn, they started to resist the dog, putting their heads down to him, they were standing then: ground.
One of the sheep made a lunge for the dog; the shepherd called his dog out, as he was standing on the edge of an overhang. As the dog moved out the sheep decided to make a dash for it and a few of them jumped the over hang on to the other side making a dash for the back of the hill. We could not see the son or the dog at this time, then as the sheep were jumping the overhang, one must have miss-footed and fell about 50 feet with another one close behind, at once we all leapt to our feet. We all held our breaths the silence was broken by the old shepherd shouting his son’s name, we all started to shout, then with a great sigh of relief he popped up over the other side of the hill with his dog. For one dreadful moment we thought he had been pushed over the side by one of the sheep.
The two sheep that had fallen off the overhang, were put out of their misery, they had both suffered injuries. It was unfortunate that the sheep had to be destroyed but it would have been cruel to let them suffer.
We all waited for the son to come back down the hill with his dog; we were all relieved to see he was not the one lying at the bottom of the cliff. He explained that he had seen the other sheep running over the top of the hill. He took his dog and tried to cut them off but they beat him to it, then he heard us shouting not knowing what had just happened until he came down and saw the two injured sheep. He put them both to sleep, instead of letting them suffer.
We sat down and had a tea break, talking about the events that had just unfolded, how we all thought the son had fallen, the shock and relief of it all. I could see in his father's face that he was very relieved that his son was not injured.
We set off back down the hill and watched the sheep steadily march on deeper into the valley; we met up with the other shepherds and told them the tale of the miraculous escape.
As we neared our journeys end daylight dwindling, I looked back on the day's events there were highs and lows, but I can truly say I would not have missed it for anything in the world.
As one day all this gathering will be a thing of the past, like so many things that man has started then tossed aside because of progress.
There will be no need for these shepherds in the future. When I look around now there is hardly a sheep to be seen on any hill.
As this once great country begins to import more meat like so many other things that we import farming will be a dying trade, just like the fishing, coal mining and steel industries, the villages that go with them, no hope, no work, no return.
I never thought of the dangers in these mountains, it could be so easy for one of them to get lost in the mist, take a wrong turn and be at the bottom of a cliff.
I take my hat off to these guys for their strength, perseverance, camaraderie and most of all there open armed welcome to a virtual stranger.
I would like to say a warm and heart felt thank you to each and every one of them for a wonderful experience. It will be something I will treasure for the rest of my days.
Long may they continue to gather?
By Anne MacDonald

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Global Warming???

What's all this about global warming?
We have had nothing but rain for the past week there is nothing warm about that I can tell you.
The poor calves look bedraggled out in the rain, we have kept the youngest ones in with their mums.
We have also kept the sheep and lambs in doors on a night just to be on the safe side, as we have had foxes sniffing around not to mention again the cold rain.
It's good to watch any young animal thrive in the dry, my husband always says "better a dry back than a full belly" there is nothing worse than calves suffering from pneumonia, scours and tummy upsets because of a wet back.
The fields are starting to look greener even though they are still pretty wet, cows can make a bit of a mess when they walk through peaty ground, not that it is their fault.
I cannot believe just how green everything looks after the rain has died down, our garden has just burst out into colour over the past week or so, nature is a wonderful thing.

We will be saying goodbye to some of the young heifers and bullocks soon as market day will soon be upon us.
It is a hard time for me in particular as I get a little to attached to the young ones during the winter months.
They all have a name and all have their own likes and dislikes.
Some like to be scratched under the chin or along their backs, others like their tummy scratched or just brushed all over.
I would like to think the heifers would go to good homes for breeding, we all know what will happen to the bullocks that is guaranteed they will go into the food chain at some point poor things.
But at least we can say we gave them a good start in life and a good quality of life while they were here.
After all they are doing us as humans a great service the ultimate sacrifice you might say.

The birds are singing late into the evening, it will not be long before we hear the Cuckoo calling from the Creag Mhor Mountain, there are usually two or three of them about at this time of year.
It's quite on the mountain this year as our neighbour took all of the sheep off the hill, we do not hear lambs calling anymore except our own.
A person can do a power of thinking when you are cleaning out byres and such, I remember when I went sheep gathering with friends in Newtonmore a few years ago.
Well that's another story best left until later.
Maybe I will post that one next???



Saturday, 21 April 2007

Spring has Sprung

Well it's me again with more news from the Croft.
We have been ultra busy this month, so I have not had much time to sit down to the blog as much as I would like.
But I will update you all on the events of the past month.
We have had another three calves this month and another one still to arrive.
We have also had some lambs from the pet Cheviot's.
Where to start??
First as promised the pictures of the calves born in February in particular Effie's calf, remember the one that we could not get in and she attacked my husband.
We called him Buster in the end.
He pushes his way in and swaggers about like he owns the place, he will not hang out with the younger calves but he likes being around the larger calves, you know the type a bit like the small kid that wants to be a big kid and keeps getting pushed around but will not give in, he just keeps going back for more, well Buster is just like that.
His mother is a Short Horn Cross, Buster is a Limousin Cross his father is Ronwick Iceman, the is a beautiful rowan colour with a white blaze on his chest and forehead.

Buster, Boris & Penny









Boris is a white Charolais cross, his mother is called Diamond and she is a first time mother who is also a Charolais cross, his father is Simpsons Greg.
Penny is a Limousin cross, her mother is Diana a Shorthorn cross, Penny's father is Ronwick Iceman also.
We have had another two calves since they were born, one of which needed a helping hand or should I say three pairs of helping hands, she did not want to come out into the big wide world.
Her mother started in labour in the early evening, but in the early hours she was still trying to get the calf out I felt around inside to see if the calf was coming out the wrong way, but it appeared that she was so big that she was stuck at the elbows, we had to call the vet in to help out, as mother was to tied to push any more, so the vet arrived, we tied ropes to the ankles of the calf and gently eased her out into the world.
Mother and calf are doing fine, I will post some pictures of them as soon as I can.

As I said earlier we also have some lambs too, not any trouble with them they came into the world without any help at all, every one doing fine.
So far we have had all girl lambs smart cute as anything.
This is Sharon with her lambs, may they be the first of many and grow up to be strong & healthy.


Thursday, 22 March 2007

The Thugs



This is my Thugs, they are pure breed Hill Cheviot's from Skye.
They are in lamb and we are expecting them mid April.
They were put to a 1000 guinea Tup in November last year.
They are beautiful soft natured animals.
I named them Miran, Sharon & Claire.
Miran appears to be the leader the other two I believe are twins as they are inseparable, but all three hate to be apart from one another for any length of time.
We took them to our local Road to the Isles show in Camasdarach nr Arisaig, Miran won her class and Claire came second.
We also took them to the Black Isle Show last year Miran came second in her class to a park Cheviot, and Claire came third, we knew we would not beat the park Cheviot they are a different class altogether.
But I think for a first time out they all did really well.
They were nicknamed the thugs because they walk around in a pack and anything that gets in their way will get chased or butted, including the young calves, they have no fear what so ever.
They have been known to stamp their feet at me when they cannot get their own way.
They also appear to know when the garden gate is left open, they will appear from no-where and have a feast in my flower beds, nothing is left standing in their wake.

But they are so comical I do not think I would like to part with "My Thugs".

Sunday, 18 March 2007

"Lambs a Leaping"

"Katie"


















This is Katie the Black face lamb, she was one of our pet lambs, her mother was taken by a fox just after she was born.
She had to be hand reared, lambs are very difficult to raise if they do not get their mothers milk for the colostrum when first born. She had a lot of problems like joint ill, ticks, bloat and so on.
Katie was a mischievous little lamb, if you did not watch her she would come running into the house and make herself comfortable on the furniture.
I had even caught her in front of the open fire warming herself before now.
She would wait for me to come home on an evening from work, she knew she would get extra nuts from her
adopted mum "me". She would follow me around all day with the dogs, she thought she was a dog.
Katie was very playful and energetic she loved our collie "Cullan" and would often snuggle up to him in the garden.
Unfortunately she become ill just as she got to the year old age and we could not do anything for her, she passed away quietly, I was heart broken and still miss her terribly, we buried her in her favorite spot.




It has taken a long time to get over Katie as I became so attached to her, my husband bought some Cheviot lambs from a good bloodline in Skye.
They were tupped at the back end of the year to a £1000 guinea ram, we are expecting the pitter patter of hoofs mid April.
I just hope they all do well have no problems and the mum's look after their babies, I could not go through rearing another lamb only to have it die of one thing or another.
Someone once told me that "sheep were born just to die"
I thought this was foolish at the time but not anymore.