Death of a ram

I’m really gutted tonight. I’m in Skye for some filming tomorrow, and my dad phoned me to say one of my rams had dropped dead 😦

I bought him as a shearling in October 2012 , so he was still a young beast. I checked him on Saturday, and he seemed healthy enough. 3/4 Suffolk, 1/4 Texel was his breeding.

I hate losing the animals you get attached to, rams in particular. They get special attention because they’re valuable, and they do have their own personalities. Its the loss of a £200 asset as well, but the monetary loss is secondary just now. He was due to be replaced this year anyway, as his daughters will be going to the ram, but still not a nice way to go.

Here he is in one of my favourite pictures on the croft: a good looking beast.

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Big bales

I had a busy few hours after coming home from work earlyish on Monday. I had ordered 6 big bales from Ironside & Son a couple of weeks ago, and they arrived yesterday. He was supposed to be here at 9/10am, but was delayed until the afternoon due to ferry problems.

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Unloading the hay is quite straightforward!

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I ordered 6 (for £49 each), while My neighbour, Chops had 4 delivered here and another 2 at his house. I used my tractor to move all the bales onto both our crofts.

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The sheep are tucking into their first bales now, while I have the remainder stored in an old garage on one of the crofts. Ready for use in the next few weeks.

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chicks hatching

Oh it is all go today!

A beautiful morning so I popped out to feed the animals before work.

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I have 10 eggs in the incubator just now and thought they’d start hatching later on tonight, so I popped in to check there was enough water in the humidifier, to get through the day. There wasn’t, but that wasn’t the surprise, I had a cute wee chick waiting for me, with another on the way!

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The second wasn’t long in joining it.

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It’s 5pm as I write this and there are still only two, although at least one more is showing signs of hatching. I’ll update later!

Saturday Marathon

Phew. Time to put my feet up and relax in front of the fire.

I’ve had a busy week and had a few jobs to catch up on.

First up was cleaning out the hen house and making sure their food & water was topped up. I lock the hens out of the house while doing this, and sometimes they lay eggs outside. Martin helps me clean the hen house so I asked him to go outside and collect the egg. It took him 5-10 mins! I hope you can all spot it!

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He also gave me a hand feeding & watering the sheep. A helper really is handy!

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Of course, Martin gets some eggs as payment. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours. A nice mix in this box.

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After feeding the sheep, preparing for the arrival of big bales on Monday and running Bud on sheep, I decided to re-pen the ducks. They’ve been free to roam for a few months but unfortunately 2 of them ventured out to the main road, before Christmas, and were run over. I’ve tried to get them into a run a couple of times, but they are nigh on impossible to catch!

Today I decided to give it another go. Last spring, my brother Murdo and I made some new pens. I used it for sheep during lambing last year, and latterly for chicks.

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I used an old fishing net that my dad had (with his permission) to stop them flying away. Hopefully I’ll start to see some eggs now, I haven’t had any in a while.

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The weather has got nasty later on in the day, so I moved indoors. I put some eggs into the incubator nearly 3 weeks ago and it was time to switch off the turning feature and increase the humidity. Two eggs have burst in the last few days (two on the left, 2nd & 3rd down), so I removed them. With luck, some chicks will hatch on Monday!

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Air An Lot 2.0

Air An Lot is expanding. Starting this spring, I will be offering croft tourism. Whether you want to see and interact with the animals, have a go at peat-cutting and other traditional activities or just sample life in an island community, I’ll be able to provide that for you – in English and in Gaelic.

There will be a bit of rebranding on the website soon enough, along with detailed information about what I will be offering, but I just wanted to get word out there.

Croft life has been my passion since an early age; my first memories are of feeding the sheep with my grandfather, and I’ve been thinking about doing this for quite a while. I might as well do something I love and try and make a living out of it. I will continue to work full-time, as well as carry on with the freelance media work, but my job only runs until December of this year, so I have to start thinking about what I am going to do long-term.

I will be mainly targeting visitors to the islands but I am more than happy to accommodate any requests from closer to home. Group visits will also be welcome. I have a good idea what type of activities I will be offering, but always willing to listen to suggestions. 2014 is going to be a great year!

Starting Feeding

I had quite a quiet day yesterday. Did boring stuff like catch up on housework but I had an important step to take in terms of the sheep. The first lambs are due 6 weeks tomorrow and feeding them starts in earnest now. They were scanned on Tuesday, so I now know which are empty & how many lambs are in the others. The twins and triplets are right beside my house, so I had to bring feeding troughs to them. This is when the tractor and buck rake came in handy!

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These are the singles. They get less feed than the twins. I’ll be feeding the sheep every single day now, until lambing.

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Odd jobs

My sheep were scanned on Tuesday, but I hadn’t sorted them or taken them home, so I did that today. I had left them out in our apportionment and it’s a quick walk back to the fank (dash it, I just remembered I forgot to close the apportionment gate!!)

The sheep were behaving today, and strolled straight in to where I wanted them.

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I drenched them all for fluke and split my twins & triplets from singles. Not happy with the number of twins but what can you do!

I walked the singles home, before coming back out in the dark for the others with the trailer.

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I hope to get some painting done now, over the next couple of days. I want to paint my chain harrows and also my small hen houses. I have three of them and think I’ll maybe sell one of them, I’d anyone is interested. This one is sitting in the barn now, having been cleaned, and will be painted soon.

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Pig Prep

I mentioned before that I’ve ordered some pigs for later on this year. Today, I started getting things ready for them.

The last time I had pigs, we shared the 4 between 4 of us. Meaning cost and responsibility was also shared. This year, I’m going it alone. I plan on selling the meat later on in the year.

The container we previously used had been moved off my croft, up to the croft next door, as it belonged to my late neighbour ‘Perky’, and the last pigs were on his land. I spoke to his widow, Willina, last week about using the container, and she was happy for me to do so.

My pal Stumpy was up last week, helping unload my new harrows. I asked him then if he’d move the container. He gave me a call this afternoon, as we were both free, and got it moved.

Stumpy has just finished building a new house, and bought a telehandler to help him. This was the perfect tool to move the container.

Stumpy climbed on top to hook on the straps.

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The telehandler had gone in my croft and lifted the container back over the fence.

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We came down the croft, back to the pen I normally use for pigs.

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We had a bit of bother getting the container in place, so I didn’t take any more photos. The pig pen has the remains of some old blackhouses, so the container is sitting within one of them. It’s angled as well, to allow water to run out of it.

I bumped into Cudaig, who I get my pigs from, and he thinks I’ll have them in June. I’ll get the pen pig ready over Easter and we’ll be good to go then!