Thursday, 1 September 2011

The nights are drawing in now

The nights are drawing in now.
It's been a while since my last visit, I have been busy for what seems like an eternity, I cannot believe it is September already.
Work commitments have kept my busier than usual, the company I work for is building a brand new Sawmill, so I am working longer hours away from home, as it takes an hour to get to work and an hour home again my time is limited on the croft, but that should soon change I hope.
Our summer seems to have been short this year, we had terrible rain in June it never seemed to end, the trouble with the rain is once it starts it forgets to stop.
There have been a lot of tourists in the area this year, we cannot capitalise on this industry as we live down a dirt track and people cannot get of the beaten track with some of the low profile cars that are on the market today.
Although the people we do meet on walks etc always say they love it down here for the peace and quite, not to mention the views that are so spectacular in the summer time especially.
We had cut a lot of peat for the winter fuel earlier in the year, and thought we were going to lose it because of the rain, but the sun came out for a couple of weeks so we managed to get it all home and stored.
We took the dogs down to the peat fields, but after an hour they got bored, they never went down again, they lay on the road and watched from a distance.
It is hard work cutting peat as you have to lay it all out flat on the ground to dry, it is a spectacular thing to see the peat field mounds covered in a blanket of drying peat.
When he peat gets a crust on it we then have to stand it up into little pyramid shaped mounds, so that it drys on the outside.
Once the peat is completely dry we either build it into a large peat stack for storage or bag it up and carry it home.
Because the weather has been unreliable we decided to carry it all home.
We do not have all the modern conveniences of quad bikes and the likes, everything is carried out of the peat field on our back.
My husband carried the majority of the peat out, I helped as much as I could, I am not weak by any means but it is back breaking work, so I did my fair share.
The feeling you get when it is all stored in the shed is quite exhilarating knowing you will have plenty of winter fuel to keep you warm through the winter months.
The little things are sometimes more pleasing and important than the big things that we all take for granted.
We have had 4 of calves since my last entry, there is one due immanently, so I have been on maternity watch.
The expectant mother is a first time calving Heifer named Helen, so we have to bring her in this week just to make sure she does not have any problems during calving.
We had to say good-bye to her mother Angela this year, it was heartbreaking sending her to market.
She was blind in her udder so even though she could have more calves she would not be able to feed them herself, that would be down to human intervention, which is what we did last year with her last calf Hope, who is doing well and will be kept to be the next generation.
It was a shame she had to go but sometimes we have to be hard even though it hurts to let them go, it was hard enough looking after Hope last year as her mother used to chase me when I went to feed her, because Angela thought I was stealing her baby away from her.
That's why she ended up with the nickname pshyco, because she had funny ideas about things.
I miss her in the field with the others, she was always on look out duty, any sign of something she considered to be out of the ordinary and she would take off for the hills with the rest of the heard, in particular when the vet came to visit she knew his vehicle when she saw it and would take off like a bat out of hell, that is unless you got her in before hand.
But she always knew there was something in the wind because you had interrupted her routine, so even when she was tied in the byre she would watch the door and skitter everywhere until you let her back out.
When we sold her at the market my heart sank as I knew she would not be long on this earth, something I never do is check the electronic movement data once the cattle have been sold, but on this occasion I did just to see if she had been kept, but Angela got three days after we sold her and was taken to the abattoir, I will not look at the electronic movement data again.
My babies will all be kept in my heart forever as I remember them.
She has left good breeding stock behind her so she will live on in them and I can see her in some of them in particular Hope, who would not have been here if it had not been for our perseverance and intervention.
She has turned out to be a credit to her mother.
I have only showed the sheep once this year due to a persistent back problem, I took them out to the last show of the season in Fort William last Saturday, they all behaved perfectly on the day.
I won overall North Country Cheviot with a 4 year old Ewe in milk, called Teeny.
She was sired by Balnakiel Snowman and her mother is Sharon, one of my founder Sheep.
It was the first time I have ever shown her, I spent two days dressing her and clipping her up and she turned out really well I was not expecting her to win, in fact I was not going to take her at first but I am glad I did now.
Anyway what do you think?

My rams have summered well in Morar, not far away from here.
Every time they see the car drive down the track they come running down to the gate to greet us.
Creag Mhor my first ever ram who is now 4 years old is over there along with Sandy and three of Sandy's offspring, Monty, Charlie & Rory.
Sandy's three sons will be sold in November for breeding rams.
They are so friendly and greet you like old friends, I will miss them when they go.
Monty is the bossy one, he pushes the others about when he wants your attention, he likes to be clapped.
We took him and Sandy to the show and Monty beat his father, he shows great potential already for a year and a half old.
We are starting to get ready for the winter coming in, sheds cleaned out bedding being stored and repairs being carried out ready for the animals coming in when the nights start to close in.
At the moment the cattle are enjoying the dry weather and are spending a lot of time out on the common grazing.
Something I thought was quite funny is they way people think about things, that happen on farms and crofts.
My husband was in the shed one evening and the midges were really biting bad, he had a Midge net on his head to protect him from the biting bugs.
A visitor came down past the shed, where some of the calves were standing outside the gate waiting to come in and get fed.
The visitor started to panic and tried to drive past the calves rather rapidly when she saw my husband come out of the shed.
He asked her to take care and slow down when she was going past.
The next day the visitor came back and stopped to speak to my husband, she apologised for her bad driving and explained that when she saw the man (my husband) with the Midge net on she thought he was from the abattoir or something and was there to slaughter the calves????
Why would people think that something like that would be carried out in the middle of nowhere and especially in front of an unsuspecting visitor.
It makes you wonder what people really think what happens on farms and crofts.
Maybe my little bits of information will educate some people how things really work, then again maybe not.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Well it's that time of year again!!!

Well it's is that time of year again.
Lambs have been popping out everywhere.
We put Sandy the dad out a couple of weeks early this year to catch Myran the matriarch first,
We have had 14 little packages so far 5 girls and 9 boys, 1 set of Triplets to Sharon one of our founder sheep she had two big boys and a dot of a girl who I called Dotty, what she lacks in size she makes up for in noise as she is the loudest of the lot.
We have had 4 sets of twins 6 boys and 2 girls, the rest have singles.
Myran going on past births usually has 1, but I think looking at the size of her she may have 2 this year.
She is lying in the sun in front of the house this afternoon, like lady muck.
I say sun what there is of it between showers that is.
Hopefully the rain will stay off for a while, as it is great entertainment watching the lambs gadding about the field racing back and forward to see who is the fastest.
They are such inquisitive little souls, I love watching them out of the kitchen window, I could stand there for hours watching them play, you know they are healthy when they are running about and playing.
It makes your heart burst with pride when I see new life come into the world, I love them all to pieces.
They are all showing off and have their own personalities.
I go into the shed in the evening and watch them all settle down, the Triplets snuggle up together in the corner whilst mum stands guard.
Some of the Twins sleep on mums back when she lies down, I found one in a pen that belonged to the next door pen, she must have been laid on her mums back and mum must have stood up and coped her over the gates into the next pen, boy her mum was mad and making such a racket because she was not with her.
The 3 Tup rams I kept back from last years crop are making a nuisance of themselves at the moment, everywhere you turn one of them is following you about, I think there dad encourages them as he is not much better himself.
They will be going away soon until later in the summer when they will leave to be sold for breeding.
Cheviot's are such beautiful faced sheep, they look at you with doleful eyes as though they are reading your mind.
Nelly is one of the smartest, if I shout her name she comes running to the fence for tit-bits, I
usually give her the carrot and turnip peels, she loves it, but a couple of the younger ones have twigged on to this also and they come running to the fence to try and get there before Nelly, they have no chance as she is fast on her feet and most of it is gone before they get there, she is like a hoover to watch.
The cows have been busy too, we have had another two calve since the new year, Miss prissy and Eddy.
Miss Prissy got her name because she walks on her tip toes like a lady la-de-da so hoity.
Eddy got his name because he is like Eddy the eagle he thinks he can jump the cattle grid, which he has tried to do on numerous occasions instead of using the gate like the rest of the heard.
Luckily the grid is more of a deterrent as it is not really deep so any animal that goes in it can scuttle out of it.
It is only there so people can go over it instead of getting out of the car to open the gate and drive through, it also stops people leaving the gate open and letting the cattle back in the park, which is what used to happen a lot in the past.
Then you would find cattle in the shed if a door was left open, or worst still in my garden eating every bit of greenery they can find.
The weather has been hit and miss so far, we have had a lot of rain over the past couple of weeks, but when it is dry it is beautiful, you can see things starting to bud, our crocus and daffodils have popped out and the blue bells are coming up now.
In March last year the heaths were burning in the night sky all around us, this year I have not seen one at all as yet as it has been to wet to burn anything.
I found a couple of ticks already on the Cullan our collie, horrid things, Freachan the Jack Russell loves to be in amongst it when you are trying to find ticks on the collie he is so nosey.
The cows have started to stay out on the odd night it has been mild, but they are still coming home in the morning, it has been a long hard winter I cannot believe it is April already, where is time going, one minute it is Christmas when you next blink Easter is nearly upon us.
Some times I wish I could stop the planet and get of the merry -go -round for a while, to sit back and smell the Roses.
But we all seem to have no time for anything that is important and held up by inconsequential bitty things that hold us back from doing what we desire, things that make the heart and soul feel good about, like enjoying the smells and sounds of nature, standing in the sun and watching the animals grazing and relaxing in the warm heat, and as I have been doing this morning watching the lambs run around the fields and playing.
Well nature moves on and the grass will soon burst into life, the heather will fill the air with it scent in the Scottish Highlands, and I have to go and clean the byre, I will leave you with some pictures I took this week.
Just as I finished inserting the pictures a hugh wind came up and the heavens opened, the mum's came running over to the shed with the babies for shelter, how's that for smart!!

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Alive & Kicking

Well I did not realise it has been so long since I last posted anything on my blog!!.
I had a computer problem for a while & with being busy all of the time it has made it a little difficult to juggle everything.
Firstly I would like to wish you all a belated Happy and Prosperous New Year, may all your hopes and dreams come true.
Secondly, I would like to thank all of you for being so patient, and thank those of you who have asked after me.
I am still alive and kicking or as someone once said, I'm still above the ground.
Since my last visit we have had a few new arrivals on the croft, the twins are both fine.
It was hard in the beginning as the youngest who we named Doddit had to be bottle fed to kick start him until he was strong enough to feed himself, we were also still bottle feeding Hope as her mother was unable to feed her because she had lost her milk.
So every feed time was a frenzy in the shed, impatient calves who are hungry don't understand wait, they charge at you and knock you flying in a mad rush to get the bottle first.
But now they are both fending for themselves.
Doddit is just as good as his brother Hoddit, it is hard to tell the difference between them, but they are both gentle calves.
We had two more heifers in October, Skye had her first calf which was a little girl we called her Kyle, she has a really bad temper like granny which is Effy the cow that put my husband in the river.
Bunnacaimbe had a little girl too, we called her Duchess, she is the spitting image of her mother, she also has a soft nature like her mother.
They all pal about together.
Pal our heifer had a little girl two weeks ago, we called her Pollyanna, she is a beautiful red colour, and so nosey.
Skye had her calf out on the common grazing's, she came in one day with the heard and my husband said she had had her calf and not brought it in with her.
We went out to look for it and chased Skye out to bring it back, we spent all day wandering about looking for it.
As dusk started to come in we found it, she jumped up from her hiding place and ran literally for the hills.
My husband chased after her, I brought the cows down to the bottom of the hill, so the calf would hopefully see them and join up with them.
Just before the calf came around the back of the hill where the cows were now grazing, she decided to make a run for it over the top of the hill and missed the heard altogether, by the time we got to the top of the hill she had vanished into thin air.
She must have laid down in the long undergrowth to hide herself.
By this time it was starting to get dark so we had to give up the search until the early hours of the morning.
Skye was standing out on the common grazing's where she left her calf the day before, we spent another two hours looking for the wee so and so.
My husband spotted her in amongst our neighbours cattle, we went to catch her, as the heard started to move off home over the bridge, she ran towards my husband who was waiting at the pass so to speak, she tried to make a jump for it and jumped clean into his arms.
After a bit of a fumble and rugby style tackle we managed to get her into the back of the landy.
We got her into the shed, whilst my husband went to get her mum, as she must have been hungry by now, I started to make the pen comfortable for them both, the little bisum charged clean at me pushing her head into my legs and grunting wildly like a grizzly bear.
I have never in my life ever had a calf do that, my husband said she is like her granny as two peas, mad as a hatter.
She has calmed down now, I suppose it must have been as much of a shock to her as it was to us.
After all she had not seen a human until we rolled up and tried to catch her.
I am waiting for my sheep to lamb, Sandy did well last year, I hope he has a repeat performance this year, he has been busy.
Craigy my other ram was on his holidays again in Newtonmore, he came back today, I missed him, he is a big softy really, he has made himself at home already, letting the young tup rams know he is back by bawling at them from the shed.
I just hope everything goes well and the lambs are all healthy, I hate to lose any of my babies, be it cow or sheep.
They all deserve to breath and run around, but nature can be so cruel sometimes, when you least expect it something comes along to pull you up with a sharp shock.
I cannot wait for the spring to come, I love to see the lambs running around and the smell of the flowers that start to bloom early.
Pictures Are
1 Hoddit & Doddit
2. Duchess
3. Hoddit & Doddit with mum Rosie
4. Mima Myrans Lamb taking in the sun last summer

Thank you for reading look forward to you popping in again.