A look back at 2013

As 2013 draws to an end, I thought I would do that typical thing of looking back at the year.
It wasn’t the easiest of years on the croft, with many more losses over the last winter and my lamb prices being lower than previous years, but it was still an enjoyable one. It’s been another busy year, with a full time job, playing in goal for Ness F.C., vice-chair of the Social Club and my freelance media commitments.
I’ve gone through my blog posts and chosen my favourite ones. I have chosen them because I liked them or because I think they are important for one reason or another.
Thanks for reading!

My first one is from January and is a video of Bud struggling to come to terms with the laminate flooring in the kitchen.

In February, I had a Buzzard attack some of my chickens. I haven’t chosen the post about the attack, but I’ve chosen the video I managed to get of the Buzzard returning a couple of days later, enticed by a chicken I had to cull. I think this was the single most viewed post in 2013, with thousands of views on facebook.
Easter is my favourite time of year; lambing is usually in full swing and the local football season starts! Love it. Here are a couple of my lambing related posts, including Lasarusina, the lamb that came back from the brink of death (I kept her, she’s a beaut)

I also used my incubator for the first time, it wasn’t as successful as I wished, but at least I got some chicks out of it.
May is peat-cutting season, this year a group of us helped a neighbour who wasn’t able to cut his own. A very enjoyable evening for all of us.
Now, I fancy myself as a bit of an amateur photographer and was quite chuffed with myself for getting these pictures of a cuckoo – a bird I had never actually seen in the flesh before, despite hearing them all my life.
Every now and again, something happens that reminds you how susceptible livestock are. In June, one of my older ewes had her eye removed by a black-backed gull. Don’t look if you’re too squeamish. The sheep is fine, and still with us.
My egg-laying empire took a big step forward this year, with the introduction of my new hen house. I had to assemble it myself and I also got a 60% CCAGS grant for it (which I am still to claim), otherwise it wouldn’t have been viable.
I ended up with an extra cat for a few days in September (can’t believe it was that long ago). She was a stray but has successfully been rehomed, elsewhere in Ness.
One of the most important acts in the crofting year – releasing the rams. This needs no further explanation!

Cat in car accident

Unfortunately one of my cats was hit by a car last night but fortunately the person that hit her let me know asap, so I found the cat and took her in.

20131112-093937 am.jpg

She was hiding in a bush & only spotted her because her eyes reflected the torch. She ran away from me but I managed to catch her. She seemed ok, apart from a graze above her eye but her eyes were responding correctly to light, so hopefully no concussion/brain damage.

20131112-093949 am.jpg

She spent the night on a cushion by the fire in my parents’ house and, by the time I had gone to check on her this morning, she had been up and about and even rolled over to let me rub her tummy.

One lucky cat, with only 8 lives left

Lambing holidays over

It’s 7.42am on Tuesday. I’m back to work today after over 2 weeks and I’m putting it all off by writing a blogpost instead!

I’m just going to summarise my Sunday & Monday, with the aid of pictures, before I go to work. I’ve always taken pictures of the things I do, long before the blog, and it’s a good way of remembering all you’ve done.

My Sunday started off with the big cat acting weird. I soon found out why. He had taken me home a present. This wee fellow was soon released back outside. We have a big problem with rabbits here but I couldn’t dispatch this guy at all!


Lambs were still coming thick and fast. This cross-cheviot was born on Sunday afternoon.


I had a wee bit of a panic on Sunday too, one of the day old lambs went missing. It took me half an hour to find her – snuggled up in a corner.


We had a wild night on Sunday. The wind was sustained at 77mph and gusting to 86. Not ideal lambing weather but this ewe had the right idea. Use the hay ring as a shelter for her newborn.


On Monday morning, I had to take Bud to the vet for his vaccine booster. This is how he felt:


He’s not a fan of the car, especially not long journeys to Stornoway. I feel his pain.

There were several off-jobs to be done. First up was cleaning the hen houses. Look who I found sound asleep in one of them.


Last summer, we got a boat. We haven’t taken her out yet and she spent the winter beside the barn. We took her in yesterday, as my dad is off this week and will get her ready.

It means I can get my green bin back, it’s been home to the engine for the past 7 months!


While I was out at my parents, I transferred the chicks from their kitchen, out to a corner of the barn. They’ll be here for a few weeks now.


I have a few ducks, 2 of them are Khaki-Campbells. I haven’t got close to the KCs since I got them over a year ago, but I managed to catch the drake yesterday. He had got himself stuck in a net. What a fine beast he is!

Shame the photo is out of focus…..


And with that, it’s probably time I got up and went to work.

The day in pictures

It’s 11.30pm as I write this. I’m in bed and I’m exhausted but it’s been another great day.

I did my first rounds of the sheep some time after 6. I don’t set an alarm or go at a particular time, I just wake up around that time and go outside asap.

I nearly always go back to bed and did so today, sleeping until nearly 9am. The morning was quite easy, as I was still stiff from football training last night. Quite often, a boy from the next village comes to help me on the croft and today was his first visit of the year. Here is Uisdean holding the lamb that was born on Saturday (no lambs since)


We did the usual stuff while Uisdean was about: fed the sheep, tidied up etc.

When I was cleaning out the shed, I came across the big cat, sound asleep, chilling in t


The day wasn’t all good, though. Dolaidh Beag, who uses a croft near mine, came to me to say he’d found a dead sheep that wasn’t his. I went up to have a look and it wasn’t nice. The poor thing had jumped a fence, for its rear legs stuck and its neck rested on the top wire, choking the poor animal. It was still warm when I reached it, probably dead no more than 10 mins. I’ve been in touch with the owner to let him know and covered the carcass, to stop birds getting to it.


I got this quick snap of one of the pullets jumping up onto Murdo’s car. Chickens really make me laugh – great animals to just sit and watch.


Finally tonight, I put 24 eggs into the incubator 10 days ago. I candled them tonight and looks as if 12-15 will be ok. Delighted with that, if it carries on. They’re due to hatch on Thursday 11th April – when I’m at a friend’s wedding! Fortunately Innes is home and will be on duty.



Saturday was one of these insanely busy days that seem to be cropping up too often these days!

The day started with lamb number 2 awaiting me on my first round of the day.


As usual, I had to collect the eggs. I got a new hen house on Friday and the big cat just had to have a look around it.


The sheep have all been moved into the lambing fields and I had to move the big bale down with them too – no point wasting it.

We moved it with the tractor transport box, quite easy really!


My afternoon was broken up by football. I play in goal for Ness and we had a pre-season friendly against a local Welfare team. We won 9-1, so it was quite straightforward. It wasn’t the busiest afternoon I’ve had between the sticks…


My brother, Murdo, is home for a week too. I think he’s agreed to give me a hand one day doing some bits and bobs. He hates having his photo taken but I did snap him driving the tractor last night!


So that was Saturday. I had a wee night out in the Social Club and won £100 – great coming home with a profit – checked the sheep at 1am and was back in bright and early after 6.


Now to rest and get ready to do it all again tomorrow!

A week in pictures

I’ve had a busy week and haven’t really had time to blog so here is a quick summary!

Myself and the crofter next door both lost a sheep each on Monday, so we buried them in the same grave, instead of digging two.


Chops’ son Neil came in to dig with me. Here he is digging away, while I….supervise


Bud was his usual mischievous self this week and I always get suspicious when he goes quiet and this is where I found him the other night. Somewhere he isn’t allowed to go!


I had a day off on Friday and moved some sheep. This is one that had the yellows as a lamb and she was covered by a swarm of black


There is a moose loose aboot this hoose, well the shed. My dad spotted one, maybe 2 this morning. I picked up my big cat and took him into the shed. Within 30 seconds, he had stalked and caught a mouse. What a killing machine!

Within half an hour, he was back in the shed, patiently waiting any further mouse moiv


A great day for a winter walk

We’ve had a pretty good fortnight in terms of weather. High-pressure has meant clear-skies, beautiful days and crisp, cold days.

That continued today, although not quite as nice as yesterday, so I took advantage and went for a walk to Traigh Chrois (Cross Beach) which is at the bottom of my croft. This screen-grab from Google Earth gives an idea of where it is. The blue dot is my house and the beach is the one directly above it. It’s about 3/4 of a mile away.


For those unfamiliar with Ness/Lewis, this screen-grab puts it in context to the rest of Scotland. You should see the blue dot in the north-west tip of the island furthest to the north-west.


First I fed the chicks on my way in, they were sat on top of their house, warming themselves in the winter sun.


Bud came with me in the walk, and we were also followed by one of the cats, the one that was posing yesterday, also came along.

I think Bud was a wee bit jealous of the cat, and did a some posing himself, once we got to the beach.


I didn’t have my Nikon camera but I had my iPhone and I had a go at playing about with the panorama setting. This is the beach.


And this is the end of Abhainn Chrois (Cross River), which meets the sea at the beach. This is a place where my brothers and I spent many days playing during the summers. Great memories.


And these are the rocks at one end of the beach


While I was walking among these rocks, I came across this wee rock pool. It had a couple of fish in it but it was the bright colours that caught my eye.


Bud still had enough energy to jump over the fence when we left!


The cat was up to mischief though, he was hunting for rabbits while we were on the beach. I’m not sure how far down the hole he goes, but at one point, I could only see the tip of his tail!


I took a few videos of playing about with Bud and threw them together here, just in case anyone wants to see him in action!

p.s. I have him on a long line in case he decides to do a runner and chase some sheep when I don’t want him to!

Morning routine

Lovely morning here. Round about -2, the first properly frozen morning of the winter. Thought I’d just run through what I do most mornings.

First up for feeding are the hens.


Only two eggs today. The eggs have dried up at this time of the year. Hopefully they’ll be plentiful again by spring.

Then I feed the wee lambs that I have in front of the house. They had a keen audience for their breakfast today.


But those sheep didn’t have to wait long, I gave them some feed too. I don’t normally feed them but I’m giving this flock a wee bit so that I can get a close look at the eye problems.



You can see that the one in the middle is still suffering from it in her left eye. She’ll get another injection on Tuesday if I hasn’t cleared.

Next up are the chicks. Some of these are 12 weeks old today!


They had an audience too but these sheep didn’t get any extra feed!


I do my rounds with my helpers each morning. Bud is keen on the sheep now.


And the cats follow me everywhere!


They all got fed too, now it’s my turn!


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.