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.