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.