Friday was time for one of my least favourite tasks, when it comes to sheep – shearing. For the last 5 or so years, we have got a contractor in to shear all the sheep in our village, around 200 in total. 200 is not a lot of animals; we are a small village and only 4 of us have sheep! Before getting the contractor in with his electric shears, all sheep would be shorn by hand with a deamhais. Back breaking work which I hate!

Anyway, we have been using the same contractor since we started, Colin Chisholm. We gather all the sheep from the village parks and the crofts, before he arrives so that we hit the ground running. Here are some of the gimmers/wedders in the park while gathering.


Shearing was rained off in other parts of the island on Friday, as well as Thursday, but we were really lucky with the way things worked out on Friday. Nice dry breeze to keep the midges away, dry the sheep and keep us cool!

Everyone has a specific job; one to catch the sheep, one to take it to the shearer, the shearer (obv) and one to fold wool and pack it into bags. Helps to have this many guys working because it means it isn’t too tiring!

Here’s everyone at work. Donald ‘Chops’ Morrison with his back to me, my dad in light blue, Calum ‘Tod’ Mackenzie ducking, young Alasdair (Chops’ son) and Colin the shearer on the right.


At this stage you may, quite rightly, notice that I’m not doing anything. I dislocated my finger 3 weeks ago and I’m not willing to risk it around sheep – especially because I had a cup final to play in on Friday night (we lost, lets leave it at that).

Here are some of my sheep in a pen, awaiting their haircut


And this is how a sheep looks when they’re done!


This is a quick snap of the machine used


I left to go to the football as they were starting the last 30 sheep so should have finished around 5pm. I will help Calum with his 60 or so sheep when they are shorn an evening this week, and that’ll be us completely finished with shearing for another year! Incidentally, costs us £1.50 per sheep & £3 per ram. I had around 65 shorn. They’ve been left out in one of the village parks for the next week and we’ll gather them next Saturday to mark them and drench them. Next stage is separating lambs and mothers, in a few weeks. Needs to be done to allow the sheep a chance to recover and be in good condition for going back to the ram in October. I shall leave you with a picture of this quirky sheep!


We got a boat!

Pretty chuffed tonight, we finally got a boat.  I’ve previously mentioned that my father was a fisherman (and was at sea for 40 years) but has been boatless since 2005.  There have been whispers of getting a boat for a year or two, but tonight we finally did it!

First thing we did was give it a clean with the pressure washer.

I’m not sure I like the name ‘Osprey’.  It might grow on me, who knows.

She’s a 16 foot Orkney, with a 9.9 horsepower outboard engine.

Martin was quite taken with her too!

She’s in the barn tonight and will get a coat of paint before putting her to sea.  If it’s raining tomorrow, she may get painted sooner rather than later!


Lin-bheaga Take 2

Some of you may remember our previous attempt at fishing with small-lines in May.  Well, we tried again this evening.  We went out around 8pm and will lift the line at around 7.30 tomorrow morning.  I didn’t want to risk getting my camera or phone wet so I didn’t take many pictures!


Just a quick snap of Traigh Chrois and the 4×4…

And a lovely out of focus pic of the line, with the 50 baited hooks.


I’m off work on Friday (I’m supposed to be shearing sheep, weather permitting) so I’ll hopefully get the chance to blog about ALLLLL the fish we’ll catch!! 🙂

Better lamb

I blogged yesterday about a sick lamb, with a very swollen head.  I had another look at it today and it is an awful lot better.  The swelling has gone down significantly.

This is how it looked on Tuesday night

It’s eyes were swollen shut before, but seem to be ok now.

I gave it penicillin (Norocillin technically) before, I gave it another dose today, along with some multi-vitamins.

I had a visitor while doing it too!


That should be that now.  It might lose it’s ears but it seems to be healthy enough.  I’ll have a look at it again tomorrow.

Sick Lamb

I checked the sheep last night and came across the below lamb, which is obviously not well.  It’s face, eyes, ears, everything were extremely swollen.  I have had a sheep like this before (her picture is at the bottom) so gave it some penicillin straight away.  The other sheep lost her ears, eyelids and horns, so I expect the same to happen with this one.  The ewe has gone on to have lambs on numerous occasions but unfortunately this one is a male so he won’t be hanging around as long!!  I’m taking him into the barn tomorrow as it appears the swelling is due to photo-sensitivity (allergic to light).  I posted it on facebook and have been told it is yellowsis (which I knew) but that it was not caused by ragwort (which is what I thought) but by another plant, possibly Bog Aspohdel.  I’m confident the lamb will pull through, just got to keep an eye on it!

The sheep that had yellowsis before, with the twins she had this year.  I seem to remember delivering one of them at 5.30 one cold morning!


Farpaisean Chon Chaorach

So a wee break from the norm last weekend, started filming series 5 of Farpaisean Chon Chaorach (Sheepdog trials) for BBC Alba.  Some of you may know that in another life, I present this programme, and have done so since it began.  This is over and above my day-to-day work with the BBC.

We were at Ian Brownlie’s farm near Alloa.  I’d been there before, filming a feature in series 1 in 2008.  Anyway, here is myself and my co-presenter, Catriona MacPhee.

But I think this is closer to our usual on-screen relationship…..

Every good programme needs a good Director, and here is ours; Gary Coia.  Gary has been our Director since day one and he is responsible for FCC’s unique style!  Here he is with his new “hat of power”

Here are 2 of the crew, Anne Morrison (from Lewis) and Laura Dickson.  Never realised that Laura was out of focus – sorry Laura!

Mairi Alice Bartlett is also from Lewis, but she wasn’t as willing to pose for camera!!

Stan Leech is one of 5 cameramen who cover the trials, here he is filming from his platform

His ‘platform’ is his van!

The sixth cameraman on the shoot is Neil MacConnell (also from Lewis), he films the hilarious links that we presenters deliver!


Oh, there are also some sheep and dogs on these days….  Here is Mary Caul running.  I will get more pics over the next few weeks, there is a distinct lack of dogs so far!

Sunday afternoon walk.

another fine day here, so I went for a walk in the croft with Bud, the pup.  I usually walk in my own croft, but went in number 18 instead, to check the new piglets, who arrived on Friday night.  I let them out of their wee enclosure for a while – and they seemed to enjoy it.

#Bud is intrigued but also a little freaked out by them!

Further on down the croft and I was greeted by a sea of daisies!

I can’t remember what the English is for this plant that’s growing on the crofts, it’s a kind of wild rhubarb.  We call them ‘gallan’ in Gaelic.        This is is growing on a patch of no-mans land and creeping onto the croft.

It usually grows quite thickly on my croft too but it’s been quite heavily grazed up until now, so it looks like this just now.

I carried on down to Traigh Chrois, one of my favourite places in the world!

While the rest of the of the country has been suffering from heavy rainfall, we have been suffering from the opposite!  The driest spring/summer in a while.  This is Cross River, which usually covers most of these stones.  This dry spell isn’t totally unheard of, we had a similar spell in 2008.

Slightly further upstream, this is where myself and my brothers Murdo and Innes used to mess about when we went on our Sunday walks.  I remember making a raft here one afternoon, as well as trying to catch tiny fish in jars!

It wasn’t just myself and Bud that were on the walk, one of my cats came too.  Here she is chilling in the shade.  She vanished on the way home, probably off hunting rabbits.

We walked back up through the gallan on the way home.  Bud was loving it.  Rather than walk through it, he was leaping! This is him mid-jump.

I sat down for a wee while and took a couple of pictures of Bud.

As I was sitting down, he jumped up on my back and started barking.  I think he spotted another dog on Cross machair, about a mile away.

Arrival of the new piglets

I have had pigs twice before, once in 2009 and again in 2011.  This year, my neighbour has got 4, one of which is mine.  Pigs are social animals, so you have to keep them in groups of 2 or more.  It makes sense to keep all 4 together – especially since these are all siblings!

I went up to Calanais to get them this evening.  Calanais is famous for it’s standing stones but that’s not why I was there!  Here are the piglets, sound asleep in a barn

I was playing football for Ness tonight (yes, I am playing despite my dislocated finger) so I couldn’t leave until after 9.  Calanais is 30 miles away, so it was a late one, not arriving back home until 11.30pm.  I prefer getting it out of the way now, so I don’t have to use up some of my Saturday – which is going to be busy!

Anyway, here are the piglets feeding, once they’d woken up.

These piglets are Gloucester Old Spots and I’ve been getting them off the same guy since I started with pigs.  This is Cudaig Macleod (Cudaig is Gaelic for cuddy, a small fish).  He is a crofter and has also just been elected as a councillor to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council).  Here is Cudaig carrying one of the pigs out to the trailer.  I know it looks a little cruel but this is the best way to hold them – the pigs are totally calm.  They tend to scream their heads off if you hold them upright but they don’t even struggle this way.  Less stress for all involved.

Here are the piglets in the trailer, with a very very excited Bud looking on.

This is back in Ness at 11.30.  The piglets new home.

My brother Innes came to help me once I got back and the pigs are now settled down for the night.  Perky (my neighbour who’s taking responsibility for them) is back home in the next few days, so I’ll keep an eye and feed them until them.  Fingers crossed they don’t escape!!

Back from the vet

I blogged last week about a worrying loss, with a lamb found dead and it looked as if it was an eagle attack.  I discussed it with one of the vets in Stornoway this week, as well as showing him several photos.  There is no way of proving how the lamb was killed, but the vet says it is highly likely that an eagle was involved – due to the fact that more than just soft tissue was eaten.

Leaving it at that, at the moment.  The sheep & lambs are still in the same field and seem to be ok.  The one that died was a twin (and they were the only set of twins in the field), so if it was an eagle, it’s mother could probably only defend one lamb at a time.

I’m not going to make a song and dance about this.  The eagle was just doing what is natural and I still enjoy seeing it from time to time!

More peats….

Yes, all these posts about peats may become a little tiresome – but just imagine how it feels going out there all the time!

The script out there just now, is filling bags with peats and piling them into the trailer!  I think the trailer takes about 30-33 of these 25kg bags, that originally held sheep feeding stuff.

I filled a few bags, but didn’t help with loading them onto the trailer, due to my broken/dislocated finger.  Instead, I got to annoy my father and brother by taking pictures of them!

Think that’s four loads of peats home, maybe another two or three to go.  Getting them home within 3 weeks of them being cut is impressive – I don’t remember us ever doing that before but the weather has been very good and the peats have dried quickly.  They should all be home by the end of the week!

And if you’re going to leave me smart-alex comments about how we could fit more in the trailer, should be using a tarasgeir etc, etc – don’t bother!