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.