Good & bad

I’ve had such a hectic few months I’m now in Glasgow for the weekend, relaxing. My mind never drifts far from the croft, though.

I have a sense of satisfaction this weekend, I have made progress in the right areas and I am confident that the croft is going to provide a viable income.

Through the day job, I had to pop out to the dump in Stornoway, where I took the opportunity to ask a question about a subject that I’d been thinking of for a while; using old tyres as an animal shelter on the croft. My crofts are flat and offer little in terms of shelter from the wind, and this is a (hopefully) cheap way of doing it.

It was recommended that I contact SEPA though, as there may be an issue in terms of pollution. I did that and applied for a licence which now means I’ll be able to take old tyres from garages etc and create wind breaks with them for this winter.

I’ve also been working on the efficiency of the hen house. I think I’ve got my system in place for ensuring the maximum number of eggs remain clean (I can’t sell dirty ones in shops) and now all I have to do is get my lighting situation sorted and I’m good to go! I think I have finalised my labels too, so hope to get them finished shortly.

I’m on a week’s holiday from work now, so I’m getting round to sorting out all the wee jobs that I can’t get to in a normal week.

The one aspect of the hen house I have to improve is the mucking out; I spend too long moving wheelbarrowloads of it and end up reacting to the wood shavings I put down. This is how I combat it!

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One negative from this week was an apparent otter attack on one of my young ducks. I found it like this on Thursday night.

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I’ve lost a couple of birds to a buzzard attack in early 2013, but never any to ground predators. I’ll perhaps have to be more vigilant now.

Surprise Ducklings

A couple of weeks ago, I had to let my ducks out of their run, as the stagnant water was becoming a hazard for them. I have to build them a run around the stream on the croft at some point. Trying to clean out the wee pond they had just wasn’t feasible. Anyway, I let them out and off they went, enjoying life. There are 2 black ones and they disappeared very soon after getting out. I would see one most evenings, but not the other. I feared the worst until she appeared last Sunday with 9 ducklings!!

I was in the kitchen and heard all this commotion outside. Bud ran to the back door too, barking, so I guessed something weird was going on. I ran outside and saw a flash of yellow to my left; ducklings!

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Unfortunately I was not the only one attracted by the noise. As I came out, a crow swooped down and flew off with a duckling, which was still wriggling in it’s mouth. I ran after it for a while, but it landed about 1/4 mile away. I had to make a split second decision, so I sacrificed that duckling (which would have been severely injured, probably dead, by the time I got there) to make sure that no predators got the other 8.

They are so fast along the ground so it took me a wee while to get them all collected but they’re now safely in a run in the barn.

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One smaller duckling died during the week, but the other 7 are doing really well.

The other black duck is still out and reappearing periodically. I am convinced that she’s sitting on a nest too, so don’t be surprised if more appear!

Ducks & ducklings

A few weeks ago, I ordered some duck eggs online. 6 came, and I put some of my own in too. The eggs were due to hatch this week, which they did, with mixed results.

I was a little concerned with the eggs, bought off eBay, as the packaging was damaged in transit.

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Nevertheless, in they went, and four weeks later, out pops this wee one

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In the meantime, Innes and I had been busy getting things ready for the adult ducks. They’ve been roaming around for a while, but plans were afoot to get them penned up permanently. Firstly, we dug in the paddling pool for them.

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Then this week, I had Feisean nan Gaidheal’s Coig Latha group visit on Tuesday. They helped build the run for them, as well as learn lots about all the different animals.

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So the ducklings have now hatched

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And will be in the brooder for the next wee while, nice and cosy. 4 of them made it out alive, while a further 3 died during the hatching process. I’m not sure why the mortality rate was so high, but I fear a couple of power cuts in the latter days may have had something to do with it.

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Soon enough, they’ll be able to join the rest in the run – happy days!

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Progress

I’ve been quite quiet on here in the past fortnight, mainly due to the fact that I haven’t been at home for the past 2 Saturdays. Last week I was in Inverness for the day, and I’m in Cambridge this weekend, visiting my brother Innes, with my brother Murdo. Here we are attending Charlton v Burnley yesterday, as part of our day out in London. It wasn’t a very good game….

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Last month, I made public my plans for Air An Lot 2.0. I have been working away on this, behind the scenes, and have secured grant funding from Comunn na Gaidhlig (CnaG) for 65% of the cost of a new, bilingual, website. This site/blog won’t be affected, as I enjoy having the vent for all my activities, but I will be incorporating it into the new site. I also need to finalise my application for grant assistance to CnaG for bilingual external signage.

That’s that side of things taken care of, but I’ve also put a lot more thought into what activities I will be offering. I have drawn up a list and costed them, but I’d be happy to hear suggestions anyone has, or any enquiries about attending. You can comment here, or private message the Air An Lot facebook page.

Back on the croft, there has been plenty of activity. The incubator has been switched on again, this time with some duck eggs. I hope to see some movement here around the 14th of April. I’m a wee bit worried, though, as I bought the eggs off the internet and the packaging was damaged. We’ll see what happens!

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The most exciting time of year is just days, maybe hours away. I’m expecting the first lambs over the next couple of days – I cannot wait. There are 3 Cheviots due to lamb this week, with the rest in the days after. I’ve felt a bit of stress recently, with my day-job and freelance work, but hopefully lambing will provide a good distraction – and plenty of physical stress!!

Ducklings

I ordered some Khaki Campbell duck eggs on Friday night (rock & roll, I know) so I’ll put these in the incubator once they arrive. I already have a couple of KCs, but they’re not very friendly and I rarely get eggs from them. I managed to catch the female yesterday.

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She had a failed attempt at hatching eggs last summer, so I thought I’d take matters into my own hands. I’ve tried to source some locally, but no one seems to have any. 6 ordered just now, so hopefully it won’t be long until I have some very cute ducklings!

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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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