Friday, 28 November 2008

As time goes by

Where have I been?
As time goes by between each entry, I realise I am not as selective with my time as I should be.
For one reason or another things always seem to get in the way.
I hate the dark mornings as nothing can be accomplished until there is some sort of day light.
For us it is a little harder in the Winter hours, I leave for Fort William every morning at 7:00am and do not return until 6:00pm so my week days are taken up with a full time job outside "Crofting Life".
My husband sets too with the byre when I leave,the animals have to be fed and cleaned out and that takes up a lot of the morning for him.
Once the animals are turned out he goes out to his work, luckily he is a self employed fencer so he can pick and choose his hours, but at this time of year everyone is thinking of Christmas so work is a little shy, especially now with the "Credit Crunch" everyone is tightening their belts.
What have we been doing over the past month?
We have ha a lot of problems getting the cows in calf this year, for one reason or another they keep coming back into season, hence we had to take two of them to market as it is some time since one of them produced a calf.
Jinny and Bella, they were taken up to Fort William the night before the sale as we had two bullock calves that were going to the sale the next day also.
Bella has the luck of the devil, they were housed in a pen with other cattle one of which was a Highlander, they must have ha a spat during the night as Bella had her tag torn from her ear, it was pointed out that she could not be sold because she had no tag, after a minor dispute with the official we told him she would return home with us.
So Bella through no fault of her own had a reprieve, it is hard to let go of them as they are such friendly animals, part of the family and they all have their own habits, Bella is good as a substitute leader she takes the others way out on the Mointeach Mhor, she has always had the wander lust in her.
Jinny was a little harder to bare, I helped bring her into the world, she had her stubborn ways about her, she was also very fiery but I hated parting with her.
She lost a calf when she was seven months pregnant, we tried her with AI'S and the bull but she must have gone wrong inside, so she had to go.
I could not go into the ringside and watch my baby going under the hammer, I knew she would be going straight to the abattoir.
Such a waste of a beautiful animal, Bella came home and never spoke to us for days, she must have know her card was marked, well she will get one more chance as she has always been good at holding the bull in the past.
We have spent a lot of time over the past couple of months cleaning out the large drains they have not been done for a few years so it was time they had a flush.
We have kept the cattle off the in bye land this year as they make such a mess of the fields in the winter, so we are letting the ground have a rest, I must say the fields are looking the best they have in a long while, hopefully next season there will be plenty of lush grass for the cattle to graze.
We managed to find a main leader water pipe under the big field, we opened it up and cleaned it out, we also found a lot of the chains to the leader also, this in it's self was a great job done, especially with the rain we have been getting, the fields are not flooding touch wood.
The old tractor went away she gave up the ghost and decided not to go, someone who likes doing them up made an offer for her, so away she went, hopefully he will get a lot of pleasure out of bringing her back to her former glory.
We seem to have a lot of heifer calves this year more than usual, but Dolly came up trumps again this week and gave birth to a beautiful chocolate brown and white Simmental boy, he is a hardy little creator, straight on to the teat no messing hence no pun intended Thomas "Hardy", Tom Tom for short.
My husband went into the byre an there he was sitting up looking at him as if to say "who are you disturbing my sleep", well it's the first thing a man does isn't it, lifts the calves leg to see what he has a boy or girl ; ) not that it matters much nowadays, the subsidise have all changed, but the habit hasn't.
The sheep have a new boyfriend, we decided to put the ram out a little later this year, but as yet I have seen no signs of any luv between them.
I am quite surprised how mild it appears to be, the cattle did not come in until last weekend, they have been in at the end of September before now, they are still wandering about on the Mointeach Mhor, Bella bless her has her uses, but they are coming home in the evening to be in the nice cosy shed on their nice comfortable beds.
Well I cannot sit around here all day, I have a byre to re-illuminate, the outside needs some more lighting so I bust strike whilst the iron is hot and the weather is calm.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

New Openings

We spent most of last weekend digging out the large drains that run adjacent to the croft.
Our new neighbours kindly let us use their digger to do this.
It the first time in a few years since the drains have been cleaned out.
The banks were covered in Bramble bushes, bracken and rushes.
Because the Bramble have grown on the bank side they have eroded them quite a lot.
So it was a little tricky getting to close to the edge of the bank side to clear them out.
Well the water is running well now, I noticed a few tiny Brown Trout in the burn and thought that at some time the Trout must have travelled up here to spawn, they are a very hardy fish indeed, hopefully they will come back later on and find it much easier to travel up the newly cleaned out burn to spawn again in abundance with much more ease.

My husband also dug out a path on the common grazing's down to the old lazy beds field, this will be of great use to us and the cows especially in the winter months.
The old trail out to the lazy bed field was deep furrows which were made by generations of cattle walking down to the field, it made it hard work when we needed to bring the cattle in for any reason, because you were stepping on turfs that were up to a foot high all the way down to the lazy bed field, a bit like stepping on high stepping stones for at least quarter of a mile.
Well now we can walk out to the field with out any bother at all.
Also I noticed that the cattle have taken to lying down on the path as it is sandy bottomed but also provides shelter from the wild, they can be smart at times.
We are going to sort out the rushes that have appeared in great clusters and re seed the lazy bed park, this park used to be used by the croft for growing all of the vegetable in the bygone years, the ground is very fertile down there, but needs to be tended to to keep this fertility.
Also we are going to feed the cattle down there in the winter month so that they stay down there and do not hang around the gate on the croft making a nuisance of them selves.
Well we also picked a few more of our home grown potato's, some were Kerr's Pink and the others were Red Roosters, it has been a good year for growing potatoes, they tasted absolutely delicious, well your own home grown food always does taste better than shop bought.

We have got a few more jobs to do out and about but that's a story for another day!!

Lochaber Agricultural Show 2008

Well it's the last show of the season and what a hectic season it has been.
But a most enjoyable time we have had, not only for the showing but meeting new people, old friends and competitors.
We all put a lot of effort into these shows, without the competitors and the crowds there would be no shows at all, everyone should make an effort at least once to experience the Agricultural show events, not just for the nostalgia and history but for the truly enjoyable family day out.
We spent the day before grooming and washing both sheep and cattle for the final show.
We took Penny a cross limousin, she is so easy to handle and will let you do anything to her, even her feet got a polish.
We also took a Ewe in milk Myran, her lambs Chirsty and last years Ram Craigy.
We took two Tup Rams Rabbie & Raff, a gimmer Babs and ewe lamb Nelly.
There was a bit of a mix up at the beginning because Myran was not breed locally she was entered in the open and the others were also entered in the open class, the mistake was pointed out after two events had already taken place but I felt it was unfair to swap into the local class when the events had already started, some people might take exception to the move.
I said it had been noted for future reference and would not happen again.
Nevertheless I came way from the event really happy with our outing.
There was a lot of entries in the individual classes.
We got a second for the Ram Craigy, a first for the Tup ram Raff and Chirsty the ewe lamb in the open North Country Hill Cheviot section.
Raff and Chirsty have not been beaten in any of their classes this year which is some going.
They were both up against a 2 shear ram and a ewe for the champion but were beaten in the end.
I was not disappointed as they will get their outings again next year and a lot of people take part in these shows and go home with nothing, it is nice to go home with just one rosette at least you have got something to show for all of your efforts.
It proves also that you do not have to throw big money at an animal to win either, it also proves that no two judges have the same opinion about an animal be it cow, sheep or dog.
I have seen animals take champion at some of the big shows then second at others and nothing at all at other events.
As long as you know in your heart you have done the best you can then nothing else matters.
Our Heifer Penny got second in her class and stood out really well.
It was a spectacular day the weather was absolutely blazing hot, there appeared to be a lot of wasps about this year and most of them converged on the show field.
We watched the terrier race which was won by a cute little terrier, which according to the owner had been trained be dragging a fox tail behind a quad bike, she was a game little dog anyway.
It's great also to see the kids taking part a couple of the little boys took their pet lambs into the unusual pet show and won a rosette.
The kids also come up and ask questions about the animals and want to pat them, they should be encouraged to experience what maybe an unusual animal for them, as some of these children probably never get this close to any kind of livestock.
After all they are the future and the way things are going with this granny state of ours they probably will not be able to touch any kind of animal including dogs, just in case they get some kind of allergic reaction to it.
Well that was the end of the Agricultural shows for this year, now it's time to batten down the hatches for the autumn and get everything ready for the winter season.

Whisky's trip on Canna

It's been a little while since my last entry and there is a lot of catching up to do.
So I'll start with our trip to Canna three weeks ago.
We decided to take a trip to Canna for the day as neither of us had been there before.
After the hectic few weeks with the Agricultural shows it was a little bit of quality time out for us both.
We had one more show to go the following weekend so it was a nice break.
We took the early ferry on the Saturday morning leaving at 7:30am from Mallaig.
The crossing was really smooth and the day looked to be quite promising.
We took the dogs for a run out too.
Cullan the collie was a little anxious about going up the gang plank as he had not experienced one before.
Once he got on the deck he made a run for the seats and got under them, he can be a bit of a baby sometimes, Whisky on the other hand never batted and eye.
We had to sit outside in the shelter with the dogs as they were not allowed in the passenger quarters.
So we had to take it in turns to have breakfast on the way over.
We arrived in Canna about 10:30am we had the reverse problem with Cullan he would not come down the gang plank without a lot of coaxing, once he was back on dry land he was like a little puppy, he has traveled on ferry's many times before, but never had to endure the gang planks or open staircases.
Well we decided to walk along the road to the other side of the island on the way we met an obliging couple who gave us a brief run down of the things we could see whilst on the island.
We decided to visit the Celtic cross and old grave yard.
I took some pictures of the cross, some of the etchings are still visible, on one side there appears to be a man on horse, back something that looks like a wild cat, and a couple holding something between them.
On the other side it is a little more eroded and I could only make out what looked like a large crab at the bottom but I was told later that the pictures appear to change in the light and could be mistaken for something else.
There was also a long tall stone that I was told was a punishment stone.
On one side it had two holes and a small kneeling stone at the base, the victim had to kneel down in front of the obelisk and place their thumbs into the holes.
No one appeared to know what kind of punishment was endured, why was the victim to be punished? what for? did the victim have to stay there for a long period of time? did their thumbs swell up inside the hole? were they flogged? only the ghosts of the past can answer these questions.
There used to be about 400 inhabitants on the island years ago now there is about 30-35 and they have no real knowledge of their history as it has been lost in the sands of time.
We went around the grave yard whilst we were in there Whisky our Jack Russell got a sniff of rabbits on a steep hill behind the grave yard, now Whisky is getting on a bit and not as agile as he used to be, he decided he had got out of his depth and turned to come back down, but he mis-footed and fell about 15 feet, I heard him whimpering as I got over the barbed wire fence and started to climb the hill to find him, he had hurt his front paw, and could not walk on it it was not broken, his leg must have cushioned the fall.
Anyway I had waterproof jacket in my rucksack I made a sling up like they do in Africa to carry their babies, so Whisky spent the rest of the day in the sling being carried around like a baby.
We came down to a farm yard and my husband as he does stopped to talk to the occupants, they were the MacKinnon family, they were very informative and told us all about the island and what they do, we have seen them at the auction mart but never had the opportunity to talk to them.
Their cattle are beautiful, we were told that they do not buy hay for the winter, they strip graze out there.
They have an abundance of fenced off portions which they rotate the cattle around on every 10 days, the cattle appear to know the routine as they are waiting at the next gate to be let in the field on the 10th day.
We said our goodbyes and told them we would catch up with them later.
We walked around to the small Island of Sanday which is attached to Canna by a new bridge.
The original bridge was washed away in the storms a few years ago, it was nearly a year to the day after the storms that the new bridge was installed, the old bridge can still be seen as you walk along the shore line of Sanday.
The children had to be taken over to Sanday by boat for school, when the tide was out they could walk back over the mud flats to Canna it is also possible to drive a vehicle across the flats.
St Edwards Chapel is at the point of Sanday, a very majestic building with stone carvings by Thomas Nicholls, it is one of the first buildings you see coming in by ferry to Canna.
We had a flask of tea and sat down to drink in the atmosphere and scenery, it was so peaceful.
After walking back to Canna over the bridge we called in to see the MacKinnon family again, my husband mentioned to Patrick that he saw a farm away out on the point of Canna at the other side and would have liked to have seen it, but the ferry leaves again at 6:30pm which would have been tight for time, Patrick kindly offered us the use of his wife's Land rover, we decided to borrow it and visit the cafe first for lunch before we set off on our excursion.
The hospitality and the meal was second to none and well worth a visit, we enjoyed the company of the other diners there and departed with full tummies and a warm glow.
Patrick pointed us on the right road to see the old steading's.
Part of the road goes along side a cliff edge and is quite a long drop, we decided to park up at what the locals call the hairpin bend and walk the rest of the way in.
What a spectacular view something not to be missed, there was even Highland cattle grazing right on the cliff top edge enjoying the view.
We sat down for a while and enjoyed the warm weather and cool breeze from the sea.
We set of back as time was ticking on and we still had a couple of places and cattle we wanted to see.
We drove back past the cafe and headed in the opposite direction we had just come from, we wanted to see Coroghan Jail (Castle) which was reputed to have been built by Donald MacDonald 13th chief of the Clanranald to imprisoned his second wife Marion MacLeod because of his extreme jealousy.
I managed to climb up the small but rough pathway, although I did not climb into the structure, as I thought it looked easy to get into but I think it would have been more difficult to get out of because of the way the doorway was positioned over the top of the cliff.
We headed back to Patrick's and said our goodbyes as we had a ferry to catch.
Walking back we decided that we will have to come back again next year for a couple of days to take in the rest of the islands beauty.
We did not have to much of a problem with Cullan getting on to the ferry as we went on via the slip way, but he had a little stammer coming back off in Mallaig.
We would like to thank everyone for their kind hospitality on the island.
I have posted some of the pictures I took for you to peruse at your leisure.
We took whisky to the vet's he had not broken anything thank goodness, but he is still hobbling about, Whisky got more than he bargained for on his trip to Canna.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

A Tribute to "Stuarty"

I hope you do not mind but before I add anything else to my blog today, I would like to pay tribute to one of our friends who died last Tuesday.
We only found out yesterday evening from another friend that "Stuarty" those of you who knew him will no who he is from Skye died last Tuesday.
I do not know the full details as to how he died.
Stuarty was one of the nicest quietest most modest people you would ever want to meet, he had a bit of mischief in him and at 60 years of age it seems a great waste.
I first met Stuarty in the Torlundy Auction Mart in Fort William about 8 years ago, after I bought a heifer through the ring that was Effie, she was the rowan heifer who I have mentioned a few times in my blog previously.
After I had bought her my husband and I went to see the previous owner who we found out was called Stuart Nicholson or "Stuarty" as he liked to be called, we give him a lucks penny, this is something most buyers do when they purchase a beast through the ring they give something back to the seller for luck, usually £5 or £10.00.
Anyway Stuarty did not want to take the lucks penny, but we told him we would be highly offended if he did not take it.
He told us about Effies history and her mother and he said he knew we would be good to her, which we have been even though she has been bad to us with her temperish ways we would not part with her.
Every time we seen Stuarty after that at the market he would make a bee line for us asking how his heifer was doing, I started taking photographs down to the mart for him to see her and also pictures of her off-spring, we would also let him know when any of her off-spring where at the sale, so he could go over to take a look at them.
He had a big soft heart and would shead a tear on the odd occasion when he looked at the photograph, saying I was a kind kind woman with a good heart.
I think Stuarty was of the same stature a good man gone for ever never to be replaced.
He loved his animals as we love ours with passion, and he was happy that his heifer went to a good home.
Stuarty also had a mischievous side to him and although he was not married liked the ladies, and was not adverse to tweaking my bottom as well as any other poor unsuspecting female that came within his sights.
We missed him at the last sale for what ever reason I do not know, I cannot remember even if he was there at all, but it would have been nice to spend the time catching up with him again.
We never know what is around the next corner for any of us, life is to short and sometimes very cruel, that is why there is no point in brooding over spilt milk, or holding grudges or arguing with one another, because you never know when you will get your calling.
I for one will miss Stuary as will many others who were his friends we will all miss the chatter and laughter we had with our great friend from Skye.
Stuarty I hope you are in heaven tonight watching over your friends and making new ones too, but please don't tweak the angels bums, and if you have to do it, do it with that mischievous look you have, they will laugh all night.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Here we go again

Well here we go again, August has been a busy time for us so far.
We have been showing at both the Black Isle Agricultural Show and the more local Strontian Agricultural Show.
We were meant to show at the Lorn Agricultural Show on the 2nd August but the weather was against us from the start, there was high winds and heavy rain so we did not want to cause the animals any undue stress with the long journey.
Luckily the Black Isle Show day was forecast for better weather it was held on Thursday 7th August.
I took three days holiday from Wednesday to prepare the sheep we were going to be exhibiting.
We spent all of Wednesday washing clipping and preening the one's we were going to show.
We decided to take Myran and her ewe lamb Chirsty and her Ram from last year Craigy now a one shearing Ram.
We also decided on Babs a Gimmer (a Gimmer is a sheep that is between a lamb and a ewe sheep) and Raff the Tup lamb. (Tup is a ram lamb).
Well we had to set of at 4.00am in the morning as all entries had to be on the field by 8.00am
So you can imagine it was a long day for all involved, one of our friends went along to lend a helping hand as he had never been before, so it was a bit of an eye opener for him.
We used to enter in the Crofters section an did really well, but we were asked to compete in the North Country Cheviot Hill Section instead so we did.
The entries in the individual sections were large on average 18 exhibits in each section, mostly big estates and large farms and a couple of crofters.
We were little fish in a very big pond, needless to say we were up against it and we knew it.
Well the crofters never even got a ticket all the big names were in the driving seat.
So I am not ashamed to say this little fish will not be swimming in the big pond for a while yet ;-)
I was put well and truly in my place and some people like to let you know that in their eyes you are not worthy of swimming in the big pond.
But that's life we all have to start somewhere, just as they did once upon a time and probably were made to feel the same way too, what short memories people do have.
Anyway we were not ashamed of our little flock they did us proud and strutted their stuff, and comments by the audience were warmly received, but then they are not the judge on the day if they were we would have got at least one ticket ;-)
The weather stayed dry except for a little shower that passed over in the late afternoon.
Once the judging had finished and our animals settled down we had a wander around the show ground, our friend picked up a few bargains as did we, there is normally something you can find that you have always wanted at these big events.
There was plenty of stalls to draw you in and browse around.
We went to have a sit down meal in the large food tent, it was very enjoyable, after that we watch the sheep shearing competition, one competitor sheared 8 sheep in 6 minutes 14 seconds, that's some going it takes me half an hour at least to do one Ha Ha.
Anyway we had our fill enjoyed the day and loaded up at 4.00pm as the exhibits could not be removed until then.
We arrived hove at about 8.00pm, once the animals were fed and tucked up for the night that was us, done in and ready for bed.

Strontian Agricultural Show was held on Saturday the 9th August.
We were showing a Heifer called April who as you can guess was born last April, she is a beautiful Charolais cross sandy coloured with a white blaze on her face, we spent the night before cleaning and trimming her up.
We also took two Gimmer's Babs and Poppet the twins from last year, Nelly and Raff twins from this year, Craigy the ram and wee Rabbie the Tup lamb.
My husband was showing the heifer I was in with the rest of the family;)
The cattle classes were well entered and there were some fine exapmples of the breeds on show.
April our Heifer did really well coming first in her class and third overall being beaten by another Heifer.
The Heifer was later beaten by the Texel ram for the overall Show champion.
All of the classes for the sheep were well entered with over 15 entries in some sections, I was really surprised after the lows of the Black Isle I got a first and second for Raff and Rabbie the Tup lambs, poor Rabbie was pulled out first but was swapped over with Raff, I said "poor Rabbie you got demoted " and everyone laughed.
Nelly the ewe lamb got a first in her class of about 16, Babs also got first in her class and was runner up along with a ewe sheep, Raff and Nelly to the Texel Ram that won the overall sheep and show.
Craigy the ram came second to the eventual overall Texel.
Poor Poppet never got a place, never mind we still love her she will come good yet she has the potential and the style, she is just a little bewildered by it all as it is only her second time out.
When it was all over we had a wander around, I could see Craigy laying down as usual he is not put out by all the fuss I think he enjoys all of the attention really.
We went over to check on them wee Rabbie was making a racket as usual, Craigy gave a deep Baa and Rabbie went quiet? It was just like the older said to the younger " Just sit down and relax we'll be going home soon so stop complaining" ; )
Any way that's the Lows and the Highs for now.
Our last outing or the year showing will be Lochaber on the 23rd August, so we might see you there if not I will let you know how we did.
I have posted slide shows of both Back Isle and Strontian for you to see some of the competitors.

Thank You to Iain from Nairn

This is a big hank you to Iain Fairweather from Nairn.
Iain kindly allowed me to use some of the photographs that he had taken at the Nirn Agricultural Show this year, after my camera decided to play up.
He kindly got in touch with me to offer some assistance.
Iain is a professional photographer in Nairn and also manages the visit Nairn site.
I have added his links as a thank you for his help.
I have posted some of the pictures in the slide show opposite, but the one I wanted you all to see was the picture of the two old age pensioner mannequins that were on display at the Nairn Show.
As I said previously the person who thought them up should have got an award for ingenuity.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Arisaig Highland Games 2008

The Arisaig Highland Games and Clan Ranald Gathering took place today.
I have posted some of the pictures I took of the events.
A parade through the village to open the games took place at 11 am with all of the Clan heads in the prosesion behind the Local Lochaber Piped Band.
My husband and I went along to the games field as my husband was the piping steward for the day.
I wandered around taking photographs of some of the locals and some not so locals who were also competing from as far a field as America.
The oldest competitor in the Heavy section is a local man in his early 70s well done him for showing the young boys how to do it.
Every year he says it will be his last but I for one would like to see him come back next year.

The piping competition was well entered by both adult and junior pipers and the winner was an excellent piper he won three of the four events.

There were two ladies also entered one senior and one junior, the senior came from America, unfortunately she went away empty handed, the junior on the other hand came second in both her classes, well done to her.

The weather started fairly calmly but became a little blustery later in the day with the odd rain shower.
It did not dampen the spirits of the audience though they stuck it out, they were very vocal in their support of some of the local competitors especially the oldest competitor, he seemed to rally at their calls and put on a tremendous performance.

We presented a new trophy the Creag Mhor Trophy for the Caber Tossing competition this year, this is in remembrance of my husbands father who was also a competitor of the games in the past.
My husband presented the trophy to the two joint winners this year, who tossed a coin to decide who took the trophy home for the first six months ; )
Once all of the festivities had finished we helped clear the field.
It is so quiet once again, now the crowd have gone.

To all those who took part well done for supporting the games and keeping them alive.
To the visitors who came thank you and hope to see you next year.
I hope you all enjoyed it as much as we did?

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Not so lucky Heron

I thought I better let you know what we are up to as it's been a while since I have put anything on here.
Well it's been all quiet on the Western front at the moment.
We have had some brilliant weather here with the odd days of cloudy and wet outbursts.
It's good for the grass and keeps the midges down we hope.

We went to a wedding in Girvan a couple of weeks ago and it was a brilliant day for a wedding.
The other guests on our table were all men that worked for a company called Barr Construction that worked on the Arisaig to Kinsadel By-pass a couple of year ago.
My husband made friends with a few of them whilst they were in Arisaig and kept in touch when they finished the road.
One of them got married after a long long engagement, we were honoured to be asked.
The only thing that was missing was the good old Scottish Ceilidh band, but it was a great day and night anyway.

We managed to finish the second new bridge across the burn last week, which is a strong and sturdy structure, It will probably outlast us two anyway.
Well we thought the cows would use them as the original bridge had been down for a while, even thought the bridge was down the cows still insisted in coming up the burn on the opposite side of the burn, but cows have a mind of their own and the day after we finished the first bridge they decided to come up the burn on our side and never used the bridge at all, well you cannot win them all can you ; ) even now they still have not used the bridge.

Yesterday we went to the Nairn Agricultural Show, the show had been relocated to a new venue just out of Nairn, we thought it was a lot better on the new ground as parking was a lot easier and the show ground had room for more attractions.
It was very hot and sticky weather, it was a brilliant show, I had some pictures to post, but my camera decided to throw a wobbly and I lost everything, I was so fed up all the memories lost.
The overall show champion was a beautiful Clydesdale Horse, it was in against a Suffolk Sheep and Belgian Blue Bullock.
I had a great picture of the Suffolk which could be seen between the legs of the horse like little and large, I had pictures of at least thirty vintage tractors and a comical picture of two dummies that were made to look like and old man and woman sitting on the back of a tractor on a back box the old man dummy was holding an accordion and the old woman a wash board, such a shame.
I lost all of the wedding photographs I had taken also and a picture of a Heron standing on top of our Byre roof this morning.
Someone told me it was good luck to have a Heron on your roof unfortunately on this occasion I think the luck flew away with the Heron.
We have a few shows left to compete in ourselves over the next couple of weeks so hopefully I will have sorted the camera out by then and post a few more of our memories.
I will keep you posted how we do.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Here there and everywhere

We have been here there and everywhere over the past couple of weeks.
We visited the Highland show in Ingliston near Edinburgh a week last Thursday.
We like to go down on a Thursday as that is when all of the judging of the animals takes place.
There was some splendid examples of all breeds of animals on show.
We switched between the commercial cattle and the sheep judging, as the both were being judged at the same time.
Fortunately we did not have to walk far between show rings.
The winners were:
Commercial cattle
Supreme Champion cross Bullock Silver Lining.

Supreme Champion Black face Gimmer from Milnmark Corsack

Supreme Champion Hill Cheviot from Hownam Grange Kelso

Show supreme Champion Charolais Cow Dunesk Unesta from Brechin.

Congratulations to all the winners and well done to all of you who took part.
Without you all, these show would not exist and the public would not see the amount of work that goes into turning these beautiful animals into fine examples of their breed.
We wandered around the cattle stalls to have a closer look at the exhibits.
There was a very large turn out, but it was pointed out that there was a little less than last year.
Could this be something to do with the cost of fuel?
It was a wonderful day out, the weather was not to bad maybe a little cold in the later part of the day.
We also had a wander around the machinery stalls, well some of the tractors on show would not get through our gate never mind down our road, even if we did manage to get a tractor that big down here we would sink it on our peaty land, these machines are for the big boys not the likes of us, a little grey furgie is more suited to us ; )
Well the show was a great diversion for the day, but we have things to do at home, so back to the grind I am afraid.
We had to repair an old bridge this weekend that had fallen apart later last year.
It has been across the main burn for over thirty years, it is made from old railway sleepers and one of the main sleepers holding it up broke into.
So we had to dismantle it all and rebuild it again.
The cattle being cattle have followed the same path year after year, instead of coming up on our side of the burn they come up on the opposite side, which means they stand on the opposite side mowing and calling because they cannot cross the burn.
So we had to go let them in through the top field which belongs to our neighbours.
Who said cows are bright, not always they are not.
Anyway we decided to bite the bullet and repair the old bridge.
We had a couple of Green heart sleepers which were discarded by the railway a couple of years ago, so we used them as the main supports for the bridge.
Green heart wood is extremely hard and strong, so hard that it cannot be worked with standard tools.
Being extremely durable in marine conditions, Green heart is used extensively in the building of docks and in similar applications and was an early choice for fly fishing rods.
Anyway it took most of the day to rebuild the bridge as you can imaging we were working above the burn which is about six foot deep, luckily the water was only a foot deep at the time as the weather has been rather dry.
But as there is only the two of us it was hard work dragging these 8ft wooden sleepers up a bank and across the supporting sleepers.
We managed to get it finished last night just before the heavens opened thank goodness.
Now lets hope the cows have common sense to use it : )

Sunday, 15 June 2008

It's Show Time

Well it's that time of year again when we go through the paces of preparing the cattle and sheep for their annual outing to the Arisaig Road to the Isles Agricultural Show.

The first show of the year for us, so there is a lot of preparing to do before the big day.
The cattle were shaved on the Tuesday before the big day.
This involves shaving their faces and tail tops.
Clipping their underbelly and combing out their coats.
They were washed and groomed up on the Friday night, what a blessing that it was a mild day and there was no midges out to eat us or the calves.
We decided to take two Heifers both just over a year old, one Limousin cross named Penny and a Charolais cross named April.
They are both placid and easily handled, once they were all cleaned and dried they were penned in deep straw to keep them clean for the next days show.
The sheep on the other hand are a different matter.
We decided to take Myran a Cheviot Ewe, her Ram Craigy from last year, also her Ewe lamb Cirsty from this year.
We also took Claire's Ewe lamb Babs from last year.
They were all sheared a few weeks ago, to give this years coats a chance to come through.
Craigy was first on the block, he was trimmed up again to shape his fleece, his hoofs were clipped and he wash shampooed up with a bright white shampoo to make him look really white as Cheviot's should.
Myran and Babs were next with the same routine, I must say they were all well behaved, by now they are used to this routine as they have all been through it a couple of times.
Cirsty on the other hand was a little fighter, she hated getting a wash, we had a large trug bucket for her, I think I got wetter than she did.
But they all came out like little snowballs ; )
They were all dried up also and bedded down on thick straw to keep them clean.
Now being crofters you have to be inventive sometimes, we only have one cattle float which is not big enough to carry all of the animals so we manufactured the other trailer we have to make a sheep trailer to transport them to the show, if I might say it looked quite the thing and did the job really well.
My hubby unloaded the calves and penned them up, then gave me and hand to unload the sheep.
The classes for both cattle and sheep was very strong as is usual for the Arisaig show.
The cattle started first in the big ring and the Black face sheep in the smaller ring.
Whilst all this was going on my daughter and I set about touching up our sheep.
Whitening their legs and faces with a powder mix, to make them white and clean looking.
They are very patient animals and stood well for the finishing touches.
Mean while my husbands class was a strong class and he picked up a third and forth rosette for his efforts, he was beaten by a supreme beast.

Never mind there is always next year, it's the taking part that counts, without the entries there would be no show at all, these people come from miles around, with the price of fuel as it is and the fuel strike that is going on, I take my hat off to them all for turning out to make the day a special one.
My classes were also strong this year too.
Craigy my Ram was first out and beaten into second place by a beautiful Suffolk owned by a neighbouring crofter in Arisaig.
Both the Ewe lambs also picked up second places too.
Myran on the other hand went through all of her classes to win over all Sheep Champion again this year, she was up against a strong Black face Ewe in the final.
Myran is a great show off, she stands in the ring and strikes a pose and that's it, she takes it all in her stride and wonders what all the fuss is about and why all of these people are looking at her.
Well we were pleased as punch that she did it again, it is a great feeling to win something after all of the effort you put in to preparing the animals for a show.
She went into the ring for the overall show animal with a Highland Bullock also owned by a local to the area.
It took a long time for the judges to debate and choose a winner.
The Highland Bullock took the prize and a well deserved congratulations goes out to them.
We were very happy with what we had already won.
After all the fuss had died down, we took a walk around the show and had something to eat, it is a long day and unfortunately you cannot get away to have a walk around until you finished with the main events in the rings.
This years main ring attraction was a sheep dog demonstration, which was really entertaining, the dog handler had seven dogs working in the ring at the same time, quite a hard task to do with two dogs never mind seven and three puppies too.
There was speed ball events, and dog agility events, quad bike challenge and much more.
All in all a great day out for everyone.
The end of the day came and we loaded up and came home, we let the animals out for a feed and had an early night ourselves after all of the hard work we needed it.
Thank you to everyone who came up and congratulated us on our win, also to the many friends that came to support the show from far and wide, I am sorry I did not get around you all to spend some time with you all but will catch up with you all later.
Also a big thank you to my Husband and Daughter for all of their help.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

It's Show time

Today is the day of the Arisaig Agricultural Show.
This is a local show and well supported.
We have a couple of heifers in the cattle side of the show and a selection of sheep also.
The show day has always been renowned for having good weather, and it seems like that tradition is going to upheld today.
We have been really busy over the past few days, the sheep are white as snow this morning.
Myran has been very good, she has been through this all before so she knows what is going on, Craigy also was really well behaved while he was preened and trimmed to make him stand out in the crowd.
The heifers were washed up and scrubbed last night, we shaved their heads and trimmed their tails earlier in the week.
They all look fantastic this morning, they and wee have nothing to be ashamed of, they will all hold their own.
Keep your finger crossed that we get a prize today, if not well.
There's always other shows to go to this year.
I'll keep you posted with the results of the show and photographs.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Do Midge's have teeth?

Since my last posting we have had brilliant sunshine all the while.
It has been beautiful in Arisaig and Lochaber.
The only hing to spoil it is the flipping Midge's in the evening.
I ask myself if they have teeth because every time they bite it feels like I just lost a chunk of skin.
This year the Midge have been absolutely ferocious, the dry weather has brought them out in droves.
We have been really busy as usual here on Creag Mhor Croft.
My husband cannot remember the last time he managed to get all of the peat we cut, bagged and stored so early in the year.
It is bone dry and all gathered except for about 10 bags, we managed to collect 52 bags in total so far, we also gave a few away too, so not to look to far forward and rush the year away, we will not have to worry to much about heating our bones in the cold evenings.
Everything has become so expensive this year our fuel costs £1.30 per ltr at the pumps in Fort William, the red stuff for the tractor has gone up to 75p per ltr.
We hired a small digger last week to sort out some of the drains on the common grazing's because they were not running away quite well, it was so dry down there that we nearly got to the river Caimbe.
We managed to bury our water pipe to the house from the burn and do all the other little jobs that needed to be done, my husband cleared away the manure heap and leveled off the gravel we had stored for around the byre, what a difference the machinery makes to the jobs that would take forever by hand.
I went around weed killing the rushes which seemed to have popped up every where this year, the grass is not growing due to the lack of rain, not that I miss the rain, but we could do with a bit now just to help the grass on a little.
We had our first cattle sale this year and sent 3 of our bullocks away, we were supposed to send 4 but I took pity on the poor wee crater Rump Ramp Romp, he looked at my through the hay frasach on the morning of the sale with his big doleful eye's wanting his sweeties from his bucket, he always gets his food in bucket because the bigger calves push him about, he is not the bonniest but he is the smartest of them all, after all he is still here isn't he?
We the other 3 went to Fort William sales, what a day it was, I have never seen so many people there at the same time, it was really humid in-doors.
We had a really great trade, the prices for beef was nearly double last year prices.
Anyway they all went to good homes, lets hope they all have a good quality of life even though it will be a short one.
I have pictures to post of the day when I get a little more time.
We also went to the Stock judging competition this Saturday past, it is something we love attending, it gets you out for a while you meet friends old and new to have a good blether about the price of cattle, weather up and coming shows and so on.
Well my husband took the overall male winners cup and I won the over all female cup so it was a double for us, and to top it all I got 4 numbers on the lottery and won £97.00 what a lucky weekend we had.
We have been busy clipping our cattle and sheep for the up coming agricultural shows, the first one kicks off on the 14th of this month just outside Arisaig on Camasdarrach, the show has been blessed with good weather every year lets hope the tradition holds.
Also a small foot note to Simon thank you for your comment, I too had a go at the water divining, your right it does work for some and not others.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

It's all go on the Croft

It's all go on the Croft at the moment.
The weather has been absolutely tremendous for the past three weeks.
We decided to turn over the ground behind the caravan instead of the front this year and planted potato's and carrots, already the early potato leaves are popping through.
We have split the lazy beds into three sections and sowed a few beds of potato's a week to ten days apart, to give a longer productive season.
We have been trying to locate the old clay drainage pipes that my husbands father put down about 50 years ago, some of them have been blocked, we can tell this by the amount of water that is sitting on the surface of the land, also because they are orange clay pipes in some cases you can actually see and orange coloured silt that is pushed up to the surface because the drains are blocked.
Well knowing a pipe is there or there abouts is one thing but finding it is another.
The field in the front of the house has been excavated over the past year trying to locate the clay pipes.
It is important to open the bottom field drains first, so when we open the back top field drains the water will run freely out to the burns at the end of the bottom field.
So eventually we found all of the drains on the bottom field, it takes a lot of time an patience.
We do it the old fashioned way, which is with a long thin steel probe with a pointed end and a T handle at the other, a hand shovel and a fencing shoveler.
Once you have a rough idea where you think the pipe is you push the probe down into the ground pointed end first of course, our ground is quiet peaty so it is not as hard to pull the probe back out, you keep prodding around in a left to right movement each prod 2" apart until you here that distinctive metal against stone noise.
This is when the hard work starts, we dig a hole down to the pipe, my husbands father put down 1 leader pipe with 8 chains to it in the bottom field alone, all placed 4 foot below the ground, so you can imagine how much earth had to be dug out to get to each of these chain pipes.
Once we dug a large enough hole to get into, the pipe is separated and opened up, we push an plastic pipe up the way and down the way to clear out the dirt and silt.
Sometimes the plastic pipe gets stuck and will not go any further down the clay pipe however hard you push and pull, so it is out of the hole and locate the clay pipe further down the field and dig out another hole and repeat the process all over again.
Well we managed to clear all of the pipes in the bottom field, now we have to sort out the back top field, we have already started this and opened up 2 chains, as this is a larger field we expect to find a lot more chains here.
A leader pipe is about 6" internal diameter which goes across the field diagonally from one corner to the other, the chain clay pipes are approx 2" internally which come down from the top field and are attached to the larger leader, my husband's father appears to have put all of the chain pipes at 15 paces apart, which makes it a little easier to find the approximate area of the next chain clay pipe.
To think he did all of these fields with just a shovel, no modern diggers in these days.
As they say in the Highlands he was a hardy man.
We cannot use a digger on the field as it would get bogged down and make to much of a a mess, so we have to do it the hard way too.
We have also taken advantage of this dry weather and stared to harvest the peat for the winter fuel, because it has been really dry, we have managed to store some of it already, My husbands father dug the peat fields right up until he was 87 years of age, which I think was a great achievement for anyone to do.
I never met my father in law as he died before a came here, but I have heard stories about him.
He was a strong character and worked hard all of his life, he was also a fencer as is my husband.
We have also sheared our flock of sheep and clipped their hooves, dosed them tagged the lambs ears and docked their tails.
I hate docking the tails, I feel so sorry for the poor lambs they give a little whimper when you do it, I do prefer to dock them rather than put a rubber ring on them and wait for the tail end to drop off, this must be even more painful for them, as some of you may know what it is like to put an elastic band say on your finger and leave it for a while how much pain would you feel if you could not take it off.
I have lots of other bits to add to this but I will do it when I have a little more time, I have added a photo of my husbands father scything the land with the peat stacks behind him.
Known locally as Alec Creag Mhor he was 87 years of age when this photograph was taken.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

What a difference

What a difference the long days make.
We have been basking in sunshine for the past three weeks, and it has been great for the soul.
We have had a new calf born since my last visit she is a pure white Charolais cross, her mother diamond is doing well, we called her new baby Trudy, her father is Thrumpton Unstopable.
We are waiting for Annie to calve any day now.
The cattle are starting to stay out over night on the odd occasion but still coming in on a morning for breakfast.
The rain has done so must damage this year and the grass is slow to grow.
We are not the only people suffering from grass shortage it is happening all over the country, farmers and crofters alike are feeling the pinch of the purse strings with the amount of feed we are still having to buy in to keep the animals going until the grass takes off.
We are doing our best to help the grass on a little, last weekend we spent two days spreading manure out one one of the six acre fields, by hand, the ground is still pretty soft so Tractors are no good as it will make a mess of the ground.
We have a small quad which we attached the harrows to, this spreads the manure more evenly, I must admit what a difference it made to the ground just with the harrows.
(Harrows for those of you who do not know are like a bed of steel pieces linked to one another that have spikes sticking out underneath, when you drag them along behind you they deep rack the ground helping the manure/fertiliser to impregnate the ground)
Anyway we spread the manure, Harrowed the field now we have to keep the cattle off which proves difficult sometimes, if you leave a gate open they are in he park, how they know the gate is open him upstairs only knows as they seem to have a built in radar attached that says go home and cause chaos.
Well if we keep them out we have done our part and all we have to do is sit back and watch the grass grow fingers crossed.
We decided to use the manure on the fields this year as like many others artificial fertiliser has become far to expensive to use, some farmer on the East coast are using straw on the fields instead.
So for the past couple of weeks while the weather has been with us we have been working like beavers to get as much manure out as possible, it's a pity we cannot get the roller out yet but the ground will not take it.
Oh while I remember we decided to call Myran's little lamb Chirsty, she is such a little bundle of joy as they all are, Wee Rabbie and Katie come to me when I shout their names, they love to get a tickle under the chin be fussed over on a night before they settle down for the night.
Unlike Craigy, who has decided that I am to get a butt up the bottom when he cannot get his own way, unfortunately he will have to go to a new home after the shows are finished this year, or else he may get amongst the young hog lambs (his sisters) and breed with them.
He is up to mischief all of the time, if the garden gate is left open he is in and starts feasting on my flower beds.
Yesterday we hand clipped the three mother sheep, this was a military exercises on it's own, Myran is not to hard to clip as she will stand on the head halter she is to big anyway to get a good grip of, Claire was easier to do as the fleece was coming to the rise as they say which means she was ready to shear, Sharon as usual had to be awkward, fighting every move, and flinching and jumping at the sound of the shears clicking, I might add that not a drop of blood was drawn or skin caught in the shears, so what she was flinching for was beyond me, because every time she did flinch I jumped too because I thought I caught her skin.
Not only a trauma for her but for me also.
Anyway I am suffering from a stiff hand today after all that fighting, pulling, pushing and clipping, I am glad I only have a hand full of sheep, next year we will have to invest in an electric clipper, then what will Sharon do?
Next weekend we plan to shear the hoggs and Craigy, that will be fun and games, they will all need their hoofs trimming as well.
So lets hope it goes with out to much of a drama.
Below are pictures of Diamonds calf Trudy, also Boris Diamond's calf from Last year.

Big Brother Boris & Trudy & Diamond

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Myran is a mum

Well Myran had her lamb, she gave birth on Friday evening about 8.30pm on the 11th April to a little girl.
We are still debating on a name for her, but she is all there and beautiful too.
The other four lambs are running around like nutters, they give us great joy when we go into the byre.
They are always running around and jumping everywhere so exited.
The weather has not been kind to some lambs this year, I have seen the odd ones dotted about on the way to Fort William that have died, probably due to the weather or the hooded crows.
We have been seeing reports on the television of Ravens taking the lambs eyes and tongue before they are even out of the mother, the Ravens have even taken the mothers eyes out whilst laying down in labour.
I feel sorry for the people who own the sheep as this is yet another hardship they are having to endure, as the sheep and lambs are having to be put down humanly.
I think how fortunate our little flock is to be kept in through the night whilst they are small so the foxes and birds do not take them.
Although since Saturday we have been having some glorious weather, lets hope it hangs around for a while.
We put Sharon and Claire out with their twin lambs on Saturday for the first time, the lambs where making such a racket, going out into the big wide world must have been something of a shock to them, all that open space for miles around, one of the little ewes I called Katie was making such a din she kept running back and forward first along the road to her mum Claire then back to me at the byre, she was not sure if she should be in or out and could not make her mind up.
Well she settled down after a short while and the four of them started springing about in the field and jumping over the burn at the other end.
They raced each other up and down the field, it was great to see them all healthy and running about, I could sit and watch them all day.
I have called Claire's Lambs Katie and Rabbie, Sharon's are named Nelly and Raff, as I said we are still thinking of a name for Myran's lamb.
I took some photographs which I promise to post later once I get a few of Myran's wee lamb.
We have been busy clearing the byres out, the cows are gradually staying out through the night, they must be finding something to eat on the Mointeach Mhor, they are still coming in on the morning for their breakfast of supplements, grass is not enough just yet.
So we have managed to clear out and wash down the big shed, all by hand, we have been spreading the dung on the fields by hand too as the ground is to soft for the tractor as yet.
Myran will stay in until her little pride and joy is a bit stronger.
We were surprised when she popped out as she should no signs of going into labour earlier on when we went in to feed her.
We went back over to the byre after tea just to check all was well for the night before settling down ourselves, my husband went into the byre I was sorting something out in the back byre, when I heard him shouting, I went around to see what was happening, and there she was our little gem, my husband said Myran was pushed against the wall and the wee one was half in and half out of mum, my husband gave her a helping hand and let mum do the rest, Myran was so proud licking and making low hum noises all the time.
I snipped her cord put Iodine on her "belly button" just to make sure she did not get any infections.
But all is well in the lamb shed thank goodness, we are waiting for a couple of calves to be born hopefully I might have some news this weekend.
Craigy and the ewe hogs are all fine, and have quietened down since the new arrivals appeared.
It will soon be time to clip their wool and trim their hoofs, that is a job I do not look forward to.
Lets hope we have a long mild summer this year the land needs a rest from all this rain we have had through the winter.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Some pictures as previously promised

Creag Mhor

Our finished shed
Bella Stealing Hay

Cullan and Whiskey enjoying the viewfrom Creag Mhor Hill
View of our Croft
Babs Poppit

Skye Effie the rowan cow's calf
Pal, Prince & Rump Ramp Romp

Pal & Rump Ram Romp

Easter Twins & Twins again

Well it's great news from Creag Mhor last weekend, we had four new additions to our small flock. Sharon and Claire two of our Cheviot's decided to have their babies through the night last Saturday.
We were not expecting them for another week or so but they decided that nature was going to step in and send our little packages early.
Well all three sheep including Myran were in the lambing shed, all settled in for the night, no sign of anything unusual so away to bed we went.
Early Sunday morning last years lambs were making such a commotion we thought something had got into the main shed with them.
So we rushed over to the sheds to find out what all of the noise was about, I was still putting on my waterproofs when my husband shouted over to come quick, I rushed over to the shed and poked my head in thinking all sorts of things, what did I see four new baby lambs running about in the shed.
Everything was so exiting in the shed last years lambs were calling out noisily, the babies were calling out, mums were calling out, we were calling out, you can imagine the racket in there.
We had stalls ready for the new mums to settle with their own lambs so that they bonded.
The only problem was who had had who and which mother's had had them?
Well we finally decided or thought we had which lamb belonged to which mother, Myran was eliminated right away as she was not dirty in the rear end, so she was put out with the hogs (last years lambs).
We watched for a while to see which lamb went to which mother, and put them in their separate pens as I said to bond.
Well we thought we got it correct but we did not, we got there in the end and managed to sort them out.
Sharon and Claire had both given birth to a girl and a boy each.
Sharon's little girl was really small and Claire's little girl was the opposite, the boys were the opposite way round Sharon's was Large and Claire's was small.
Anyway we let them settle down for an hour or so just to make sure they were alright with the lambs they had with them.
Sharon's little girl was so small and weak we ha to intervene, so out came the milking jug and bottle.
I milked Sharon to take some of her colostrum from her to give to the newly named Nelly the lamb.
Nelly took all of the milk, the others managed fine after a little tickle on the bum, we tickle the bum under the tail to make them move towards the teat, it is like their mother nudging them to encourage them to suck, it is far easier than trying to hold them on to a teat with them fighting against you and getting themselves all stressed out.
Well they have come on in leaps and bounds (no pun intended) so I have put a few pictures up for you to see.
Myran last years Champion at the Arisaig Agricultural show is still hanging on to her lambs, as usual she has to be last.
Raff the ram has done a great job, we are so proud of him, needless to say he is proud too....

Well here they are...

Sharon with Nelly & Raff


Claire with Katie & Rabie

Nosey Katie


Raff & Sharon in Luv....

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

A day at the sales wahay!!

We had a day away on Saturday 15th March, we traveled up to Dingwall for one of the implement sales that is held at the Auction Mart every so often.
It was a beautiful day and has been since Saturday.
It was good to get away just for a day, we have not had a day away from the croft since Christmas other than collecting Animal feed, this was a day away just to enjoy.
I have never seen so many people at one of these events, it was impossible to park in the car park, people were just abandoning their cars at the side of the road because they could not get in, we were one of those people also, typical farmer mentality abandon your car anywhere and don't bother if it causes a nightmare for anyone else ;-) well we managed to get up onto a grass verge near the entrance so it was not to bad.
The sale started at 10am there was everything there that you could ever wish for if you had silly money to spend on some of the things on offer, a two year old Valtar tractor worth about £22,000 went for £12,100 bargain if you had that kind of money.
We were on the look out for a couple of items, my husband got his calf feeders and I wanted a lawn mower as my old one had decided it could not cope anymore, well I got a bargain, petrol lawnmower all singing and dancing, I am not proud as long as it does what it is designed for I will not complain.
These sales are great for catching up with old friends and meeting new people, the crack as they say was great.
The Auction mart has a well maintained cafe and was busy all day, even though we had to queue it was well worth the wait.
We left about 4.30 and got home about 7.30 it was close to a 200 mile round trip which I can say I truly enjoyed, just to get away for the day and have a sunshiny day too what more could I ask for.
A few pictures of the trip up to Dingwall and the venue: