Tasty Local Food

I delivered a meat box from Melbost Farm to a fellow Niseach today, receiving a couple of steaks and some sausages from Angie at the farm for my troubles! I reckon that’s a pretty good deal.

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Collected some eggs from the hen house too, so scrambled egg and sausage will be on the menu on Saturday morning. Tasty, fresh and all local.

What are your own favourite local foods?

Crofting Article

I’m working on my next article of the Scottish Crofting Federation’s Crofter magazine, which I think is due out in March. Here is the piece I wrote for the December edition:

This might come as a bit of a surprise, but going to the fank is a real social highlight for me. That statement might say more about me than I care to admit, but it’s true! I know people reminisce of days gone by, when everyone helped each other, but these days haven’t gone completely. Our wee village still come together quite often and help each other with dipping, shearing, gathering etc. We recently dipped all the sheep in our village, and I can’t describe how much I was looking forward to it!

I know it’s one day when the work isn’t too strenuous, there will be plenty bodies to help out and we’ll have a good laugh at all the stories from the bodachs. This year was no different; almost perfect weather, sheep all doing as they were supposed and lots of young lads on hand to help out – and the best thing was the help from the youngsters. At 29, I’m still classed as a youngster myself, in crofting terms, but we had several teenagers giving up their Saturday morning lie-ins to help out. I think you can go on all the courses you want, but there is nothing that can beat hands-on experience in a real working environment. No sterilised work-place here; you are told exactly what has to be done, go ahead and do it, while under the watchful eye

Communal activities like this are a window back in time, particularly for the younger lads. Stories about the arguments and characters that used to frequent our fank are common – as are the unrepeatable stories of what they go up to! Young people have so many distractions these days, but I really think communal days like this help crofting lose any fuddy-duddy image it may have. For people like myself, who are employed full-time, it’s not always easy to make time for communal days and it is often easier to soldier on alone, but the long-term benefits are incalculable. Roll on next year!

Eye problems – the bright side

I had a great day on Saturday, lots of work to be done and all day to myself. Just perfect.

I was on a bit of a high after making my brilliant discovery earlier and carried on with my croft work.

I had to move all the sheep, as they had been in their current fields for long enough, so set about doing that before the weather worsened. One of the sheep I have is a little old, she should probably have been cast last year, but I gave her one more chance. When she approached me, I noticed she had lost some condition, so I decided to take her closer to the house, so that she gets additional feed. As I enticed her to the gate, I noticed another with some discharge around her eye.

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Some of you may remember I had really bad eye problems last winter, with nearly 1/3 of my flock suffering from infections. That had all started from one gimmer who returned from the moor with a burst eye. This then caused major problems with the sheep and I remember burying an animal on each of the 4 Saturdays in January 2013. Majorly depressing.

I’m taking no chances with this, even though I think it’s just a little conjunctivitis. She has been taken home, along with the one that lost some condition, and another that was limping. I’ll keep an eye on the 15 others she was with and speak to the vet tomorrow about treatment.

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I’m quite relaxed about it, I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.

I moved the rest of the sheep, after this. They were quite keen to move onto fresh grazing.

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I also went out to feed the rams in the village park. I feed them once a week, or so, just so that they are friendly enough and it allows me to keep an eye on them.

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I’m a genius

Sometime you have moments of inspiration which surprise yourself. Yesterday, I had one of them.

I was doing my usual Saturday morning chore of cleaning out the hen house floor. It’s covered in poo and saw dust, and takes a wee while cleaning it all out with the spade; maybe 15-20 minutes.

Just as I was starting, I thought I might try and use the snow shovel that has been sitting unused in my utility room for the past 2 years. We’ve had no snow to talk of in that time, so I haven’t actually ever used it. I thought the plastic might be a bit flimsy for the gunk on the hen house floor, but it was just perfect. I can’t describe how delighted I was!

5 minutes later, I had a pristine floor and it didn’t take long for me to lay down the fresh sawdust.

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This will make mucking out so much easier and I might actually enjoy it, when the weather starts to improve!

The other plus point is that the eggs are coming thick & fast now, up to around 10 a day.

Won’t be long until the hens have paid off the hen house!

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Time for a barn?

I finally got moving on something I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while: build a barn.

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I’ve had the croft for nearly 9 years now and have made do with using my parents’ barn, but it’s not ideal and doesn’t fit in with my long term plans for the croft.

Couple of things to do, gather the quotes required and apply for prior notification for the planning side of things. £74 for that and circa £25,000 for 45×30 foot barn!! Hopefully I will be able to do it for around £10,000, if I become VAT registered and get the 60% CCAGS grant.

Some of my friends are building a house just now, and blogging about it here. Hopefully mine will be much more straightforward!!

Exciting times!

Another Accident

I haven’t posted much recently, because I had third crofting accident in a month. This one was bad though.

Myself and 2 other crofters were putting our rams out into the village park on Saturday 11th January. I jogged ahead with feed, so the rams would follow me, and ended up slipping on the wet ground. Landed with a bang on a rock which hit me just below the knee.

I was in agony all weekend and went for an X-ray on the Monday, there was no break, just bruising. I haven’t been able to do anything, other than the bare minimum of feeding etc. Back to normal this weekend though.

Crofting Training

I have agreed to arrange a series of practical training courses in Lewis, on behalf of the Scottish Crofting Federation. Still in the early stages of planning, so I thought I’d see what kind of courses people would like. Have a look at the link below, plenty of examples of other courses there. You can leave a comment here, or private message me any ideas/requests.


Disappearing Chickens

I’ve had the chickens in the new hen house and run for a couple of months now, but there are less chickens in the run than there should be!

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I haven’t counted them in a while, but decided to today. I know there were 45 chickens in the run to begin with, but today there were only 39.

I check them every day and haven’t had any die in that time. A couple escaped in the first month, but they usually just come down to the house and wait for food. Don’t think a ground predator would have done it, as more than 6 would have disappeared, so my guess is maybe crows/buzzard. I’ll have to consider something across the top of the run.