Ticks

Ticks are not something I have to routinely deal with on my livestock. Yes, the cats seem to pick them up, but I’ve only once seen a tick on a sheep. That was until last week, when I saw two in 5 minutes!

I was drenching & injecting the sheep the day before scanning and spotted ticks on two of them. One under a sheep’s chin and one of the side of it’s neck. I can only imagine that the rest had ticks all over them too. They were all dipped in October, so these ticks have attached since then. The winter has been mild though, so ticks are still active.

IMG_4480

IMG_4479

IMG_4477

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.
http://airanlot.com/2013/01/21/bud-and-the-door/

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.
http://airanlot.com/2013/02/26/brilliant-buzzards/
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)
http://airanlot.com/2013/04/28/lamb-pictures/
http://airanlot.com/2013/04/23/lazarus-lives/

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.
http://airanlot.com/2013/04/14/five-alive/
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.
http://airanlot.com/2013/05/20/helping-with-the-peats/
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.
http://airanlot.com/2013/05/28/cuckoo-pictures/
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.
http://airanlot.com/2013/06/14/horrible-stuff/
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.
http://airanlot.com/2013/09/14/complete-hen-house/
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.
http://airanlot.com/2013/09/29/unexpected-guest/
One of the most important acts in the crofting year – releasing the rams. This needs no further explanation!
http://airanlot.com/2013/10/25/rams-let-loose/

The Guga

This week we are holding the first ever Guga Eating Championship in Ness. It is being organised by the Ness FC Social Club, of which I am vice-chair, and it has made me think about the way the Guga (and hunt) is perceived outwith these islands.

For anyone unfamiliar with the Guga Hunt, you can have a look at the BBC documentary that was broadcast in 2011, photos from my trip to Sulageir this summer, and here is my own post about Super Guga Saturday. The Hunt is still as fiercely defended in Ness as it ever was, although criticism of it today seems to arise from far-off places, from people who appear to have little clue what they are talking about. I suppose it is a sign of the times and the reactionary social media culture that we have, that these ‘campaigns’ raise their heads, disappearing as quickly as they appear. Personally, I steer clear of all kinds of online campaigns. People think they are making a difference by supporting a campaign, or signing a petition, but they usually have little, or no impact. Fortunately, that is the case with the Guga. I don’t believe there is any danger at all of the license granted to the Guga Hunters of Ness being revoked, and the ill-informed rants that appear don’t worry me at all, only anger me. There was one in 2010 that read “The guga hunt is not vital to the inhabitants of Sula Sgeir.”. Of course it’s not vital to the inhabitants of Sulasgeir. Sulasgeir doesn’t HAVE any human inhabitants; it is merely a rock in the middle of the North Atlantic! This kind of behaviour isn’t restricted to the Guga, though. One of my favourite examples are the comments in this blog post Highlighting beautifully some of the ludicrous arguments that are put forth.

The most popular argument used is that the Hunt is “barbaric” and that the animals suffer. Now, I am an animal lover. I rear plenty myself and care about their welfare. I personally have no issue at all with the methods used to dispatch the Guga and I know, from my time working there, that the RSPB locally have no issues with it, just as the local vet and local SSPCA have no issue with it. Those who criticise it are themselves often guilty of extreme hypocrisy; happy enough to eat their intensively reared chicken, pork or any other meat, without thinking about how it lived, where it was reared and how it was killed. The population as a whole seems to be increasingly detached from where their food comes from, and it takes something like the horse meat situation to highlight how little people think about what they eat. The best a comment I have seen from a do-gooder, was questioning a crofter as to why on earth a pig had to die to provide his family with food, when he could go down to the supermarket and buy sausages like a normal person. Yes, I know. Ludicrous.

To the critics, I often reply with a series of questions: what about all those poor fish who suffocate on boats? What about the deer/rabbits/game birds that are shot and possibly not killed instantly? What about pigs who spend their lives in a crate? Out of sight, out of mind.

So, back to the first ever World Guga Eating Championships. Yes, the ‘World’ part is tongue-in-cheek and the event is a celebration of all things Niseach. We are so proud of where we are from, we have a strong identity as Ness-folk and the Guga is a big part of that. I for one cannot wait!

Mink Traps

I posted earlier in the week about a (probable) ferret or (unlikely) mink loose around our houses.

I got home from Glasgow this evening and was greeted by two traps; one beside the barn next door, and the other at the corner of my chicken run.

The one at the barn is hidden under blocks, near where it’s suspected that there are some rats and trail the ferret left.

20131016-181126.jpg

Mark, the Mink trapper, had his Bedlington terrier on Monday, and it followed the trail left by the ferret/mink. This went right along the fence I’ve erected for my new chicken run.

I let Bud have a sniff of it, under my own supervision, so that he wouldn’t be as curious next time.

20131016-181144.jpg

It’s not a well known fact that I was employed by SNH as a mink-trapper back in 2007. I was on a no set hours type contract and had applied for the job as I had just started out self-employed and wanted to make sure I had enough work. As it turned out, I did the training but I was busier than I expected with my self-employed stuff, so I never actually got to go out. That’s actually one of my biggest regrets in my working life.

Ever since, I have fully supported the Mink Project. The mink (and ferrets/polecats) are alien species here and have decimated ground-nesting bird populations.

The traps don’t harm the animals, they spring shut and hold them inside. When the trap is open, it is checked on a daily basis. If a mink/ferret is inside, it is dispatched with an air pistol.

20131016-181134.jpg

A concern

A slightly worrying turn of events in the last couple of days. Next door told me that their cat & dog had got worked up by something at the end of last week, suspected to be a mink or ferret.

20131015-071524.jpg

I got in touch with one of the mink trappers, from the Outer Hebrides Mink Project, to come and have a wee look.

Mark turned up with his Bedlington Terrier, who soon confirmed that there had indeed been a mink or ferret nearby. The dog followed the track right along the side of my new chicken run and hen house. Not good news!

Mark’s going to come back and set a couple of traps in the next few days, hopefully that will catch them before they cause any damage. The dog also smelt some rats next to the barn next door.

there are quite a few ferrets near us. Mark has caught several about 50m from me, down by Cross River, and this poor pictures ferret was drowned in a bath on my croft back in March.

20131015-071437.jpg

I’ll update once there is some progress!