All at sea

Tonight I launched my dad’s boat and my neighbour’s boat. It was a perfect, flat calm night here and we headed down with the boats after work.

The boats are easier to launch in Skigersta and then taken round to their moorings in Port of Ness. Out boat went in first, before I went to get Donnie’s boat.

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My pickup was the best vehicle for the job, so all I had to do was reverse down the slipway. Sounds easy but Skigersta is very long and very steep!

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This was my view, we got it down easily.

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Within 20 minutes, both boats were in the water. Donnie and James took his round, while my dad took ours round. A perfect night of boys and their toys!

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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.

Busy fortnight

I haven’t blogged in a fortnight, things have been hectic!  After shearing, I was away filming Farpaisean Chon-Chaorach in Argyll, played 3 games of football (I was sent-off in my last one, last man offence) and the day job too.  So many things to do at this time of year, I actually found myself looking forward to the long winter nights when I can relax and do NOTHING!

When I came back from from filming, first thing I did was check the hen that had been sitting on eggs for the past few weeks.  Much to my surprise, this wee fellow was waiting for me!

I think this was the first (and only, unfortunately) chick to be born on this croft in over thirty years.  My mother thinks it’s that long anyway.  This didn’t end well, however, I found the chick crushed by it’s mother after 3 days.  Gutted.

I added some more hens that week though.  A friend was looking to cut down the number of hens so I took seven off her hands.  This is me up to 16 hens, plus 2 cockerels now.  Here are the hens boxed up for transportation.

A few months ago, I acquired a second (possibly 3rd or 4th) hand hen-house.  It’s a wee bit shabby and wasn’t being used to I took it for a tenner.  I eventually got round to doing a couple of temporary repair jobs on it, to house the new hens.  In true Lewis crofter fashion, I recycled some bits and bobs that were in the barn to patch it up.  The door here is a tile left over from the laminate flooring that went in my parents utility room – perfect fit!

Couple of other things needed repairing too – like rehanging the door!

I’ve noticed that the number of eggs I get each day is down.  As of 3 weeks ago, I was getting 4-8 each day, now it’s one or two.  There are 3-4 hooded crows that are pretty much resident around the house and I think they’ve started to pinch them.  That’ll need sorting soon.  I also suspect that some of the hens are laying in this patch of long grass.  Will get the strimmer on it when I have time.

The grass is growing there, but it’s not everywhere.  Most of the UK is complaining of heavy rain but we’re the exact opposite as this Farmers Weekly article shows.  The article also features an interesting map, showing rainfall percentages across the UK, oh and a quote or two from me.

The plus side of no rain is nice days!

As I posted last week, all the sheep have been shorn.  The wool has been bagged up and sitting in our barn since then, so myself and my father closed the bags and prepared everything to take them over to Stornoway.  The bags are usually picked up by Hebrides Haulage sometime in August, but three bags take up a lot of room so we’ll take them over next week.

The bags are sown shut and a label attached, identifying who they come from.  We had 65 sheep shorn at £1.50 each (£3 rams) so paid £100-110 for it.  Depending on wool prices, we should get most of that back, maybe all of it.  I remember getting a cheque for around £10 a few years ago, for all our wool.  You don’t make much money out of it but it’s something that has to be done anyway.  Prices are much better now, I think we got £70-80 last year, making up for what we paid out.

We still haven’t been out on our new boat yet.  She hadn’t been at sea for a while so there was some work to be one.  The outboard has been serviced and my dad has painted most of her.  We had a joiner up yesterday putting a floor in her.  Here’s Donnie “Disaster” Campbell, checking out his handywork.  We’ll hopefully get out sometime in the next fortnight.

Lots of other things being done too.  The dry spell means I have to take water to the sheep on a more regular basis than normal.  They’re all home now after a week in the village park after shearing.  All marked and drenched (for worms etc) and split into different fields.  The rams, hoggs and gimmers come home this Saturday, hopefully not too early in the morning as I have my cousin’s wedding on Friday night!

The following week I’m off to Glasgow for 5 days, filming Faraisean Chon-Chaorach and also going to Hampden for Olympic football!


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!! 🙂

Fishing with Lìn-bheaga

First questions for many of you will be what are Lìn-bheaga?  I think the English for them are Small/Short-lines.  Basically a long-ish line with baited hooks on it.  There are also Lìn-mhora – Long-lines – that are used, in my experience, for commercial fishing.  I’ve had experience of fishing with Long-lines in the 90s, on my fathers fishing boat.  Would use the Long-lines to catch Bioraich (Dog-fish).  I was always told these would be used in shark-fin soup but I’m not sure if that was the truth or not.  We would also catch Dalagan (Spotted Dog-fish).

Co-dhiu, these Lìn-bheaga were an experiment my father had been wanting to try for a long time.  He is originally from the island of Scalpay, off Harris, famous for their fishing, and used to use Lìn-bheaga quite often but had never tried it in Ness, in the 33 years he’s lived here.

We’d prepared and baited the lines (with mackerel) several weeks ago and kept it in the freezer until weather conditions were better.

There are about 15o hooks on the line.  This box was home-made to launch the lines

This is us parked up at the bottom of my croft, above Traigh Chrois, about to set the line.  The beach is about a mile from my house.

There is an anchor attached to each end of the line, which are set at low tide.  The tide then comes in and covers the line & baited hooks.  Here is my dad attaching one of the anchors to the line.

My dad surveying the beach.  I must point out that I did most of the hard-labour but it’s not easy taking pictures at the same time!!

It took us about 90 minutes to set the line.  By this time, I had been waist deep in the sea. Fully clothed. My wellies had to be emptied 3 times….

We finished setting the line at around 2.30pm, just in time to go home and watch the Scottish Cup Final.  We returned just after 6pm, before the tide got too high.  As you can see from this picture, there was quite a lot of seaweed on the beach, something which I have never seen here before.  We had rough weather earlier in the week, so a lot of it has come loose and come ashore.  This was to prove to be a problem, as we will see shortly!

Starting to haul the line in.  All this is done by hand.  You can see from the nearest breaking wave, that it is full of seaweed.  This ended up catching onto the hooks, instead of the flat-fish we were hoping to catch.  It also made for hard work hauling it in!  The line was gathered into the basket at my father’s feet.

We took about an hour to haul the line back in, with difficulty at some points.  I would love to show you a picture of the basket we had down for all the fish we caught  – but we got ZERO!!!!

All the hooks are safely tucked away into the foam rim of the basket.

So time to head home and plan our next assault on the beachhead!