A busy Monday

I used to blog about busy Saturdays, but that’s not as much the case any more. Since reducing my hours at work, I am off every Monday and I now have a wee bit more time to split work between Saturday and Monday.

This week was a bit of catch-up on Saturday, as I’d been away for work Wed-Fri the previous week. Hen houses were cleaned on Saturday and lots of other jobs too, mainly working on getting electricity connected to my portacabin. My cousin and uncle (both electricians) were over and got most of the work done. It’ll make a difference having power to the place, especially now that it’s getting dark. I’ll also have to work on lighting the hen house – although I’ve got that one figured out in my head.

So Monday was awful, weather wise. We had gale force winds and pouring rain, so it was a day for doing indoor chores. That meant cleaning out the portacabin and organising things the way I want them. Once I have a picture in my head of how I want things to be, it’s not easy to persuade me to do something different – I have to know if my idea works!

Once the portacabin had been sorted, it was off to the lambs with me. The Government announced a new subsidy scheme for less favoured areas earlier this year, with each ewe hogg kept meaning a payment of €100 (around £80). No one seems to be sure when it is kicking in, so I have kept every single female lamb that was born, in the hope of receiving extra payment, but I’m hearing now that it won’t kick in until next year and that means getting rid of this year’s females.

There is one more sale here, on Thursday 16th Oct, so I have gone through my lambs and kept 18 for breeding, with 17 going. There are a few more being kept for the freezer.

These are some of the ones I’m keeping

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As you can see, they are mainly Cheviots, as I am looking to build up my cheviot flock. There are a couple of nice Suffolk/Cheviot crosses in there too, along with some Suffolk/Roussin hybrids. I have plans for them, and we’ll see how they go.

The rest are off to sale on the 16th, and I’ll need to borrow a trailer for the day, as mine won’t take 17.

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Next up is to book in some lambs and pigs for slaughter. October is turning into a busier month than I expected, although I am off to Glasgow for the weekend for some much needed R&R!

Piglets arrive

I haven’t had piglets on my own croft since 2011. The last ones we had were on my neighbour’s croft and they went to slaughter in late 2012. I usually get weaners every second year, so it was about time I got some more.

I had booked 4 off my usual supplier at the beginning of the year, but he had some difficulties and I had to find some others. Fortunately I managed to find some piglets in Ness! I went down to collect them this week, a litter of 5.

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Piglets being piglets means they tend to escape. It didn’t take too long catching them, and I had taken down one of Bud’s crates to transport them back to the van.

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That’s them in the container now. They arrived on Wednesday evening but, unfortunately, one of the piglets hadn’t been well and died. The other 4 are in great condition and enjoying life in their new home. They haven’t escaped. Yet……

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Piglets

I usually get piglets every second year and this year is no different. I have got them off Cudaig in previous years, but had to find an alternative supplier this year, as he didn’t have as many as he usually does. Fortunately, I found some in Ness, so I went to see them yesterday.

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I love pigs and piglets, so much fun and personality! They’ll be ready to pick up the week beginning 9th June, so I don’t have to wait long.

Costs for keeping pigs have gone up a bit in the last 18 months, as the feed prices increased. This means that many people have got rid of their pigs, so there aren’t as many around. I think I might keep 2 of these for breeding this time. A gap in the market & nothing ventured, nothing gained!

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!

Some Air An Lot developments

I am full of enthusiasm for the crofting year ahead. So many ideas are popping into my head and I’m having a job prioritising them just now. The barn is obviously top of that list, but I have a couple of smaller developments, which should provide a little additional income.

First up is the eggs. More hens are coming into lay every day, and the new hen house and run are proving to be much more efficient than I could have hoped for! Last year I was lucky to be getting 3/4 eggs a day, as the hens were laying them in long grass and crows were stealing them from the hen houses. I am now at a dozen eggs a day, here is today’s haul

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I’ve been selling them regularly at work and also to a few people locally, but I’m now at the stage where I’m still left with more. For anyone in Ness, including my regular customers, I’m putting a plastic box on the main road, at my parents’ house, to sell additional eggs. £1.50 per half dozen.

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I’m also firing up the incubator tonight and hope to put 15-20 suitable eggs into it shortly. Once they (hopefully) hatch, I think I’ll get some duck eggs to hatch too.

My other, more exciting development, is that I’ve booked some piglets! I bumped into my pal ‘Cudaig’ last week and asked him to keep me 4 piglets from his next litter – hopefully around Spring time.

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I’ve had pigs before, all from Cudaig; 2 in 2009, 4 in 2011 and shared 4 with neighbours in late 2012. My plan for these ones is to fatten them up and sell the meat. If you want top quality pork, you can get your 1/2 or whole pig right here! The sausages are just out of this world!

The return of the pigs

The pigs are back in Ness now and all settled in the freezers. They went away last Tuesday , hung in the slaughterhouse for a week and butchered yesterday. They were due to be butchered on Tuesday/Wednesday this week, but I got a call from the butcher saying he had to do them early. In quite a different kind of lunch break from work, I went to pick them up.

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Four pigs in trays. I managed to squeeze them into the pickup – I really do need to get a canopy for it, so much more practical.

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I was working late last night so didn’t get home till near 10pm. I went straight out to deliver the other pigs before I took our own out to my parents house. I took what I wanted, while my father sorted out the rest

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I think I might have some monster chops for my tea tonight!

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