Sunday, 31 May 2009

New Faces on the Croft and a Haircut

What with all the excitement of the ducklings hatching, the broody hen sitting on her six eggs went almost unnoticed until yesterday. When we checked her out four of the chicks had hatched and by yesterday evening there were five. This morning we moved the run, the nestbox and the happy family to a new position where they will be warm and we can keep an eye on them, so I seized the opportunity to take a snap of the wee ones.

They are all different - two cute little stripey ones, one classic yellow fluffy, one little naked neck who hatched from an araucana egg! and another little auburn chick who has the look of a miniature nankin bantam about it.

The chicks and mum will be going down the road to their new home sometime this week where they will be lovingly cared for and protected till they are big enough to fend for themselves. They have a magnificent hen house to live in when they are grown - I will get a piccie of that as it is a landmark in itself.

Yesterday was a good day for being out and about on the croft. The sun was shining but there was a bit of a breeze to keep things cool. Daisy was looking a bit tatty round the edges, so we coralled her into the fank and sheared her. Here she is before......

Here she is during.......

Sadly we don't have one of her after as she escaped while I was getting the camera and high tailed it off into the distance. Hopefully we will get one of her next time she comes to the fence.

Meantime there is a lovely bag of fleece - clean, white, classic cheviot with a bit of a crimp to it. Staple about four inches which is about right for a first shear, and very oily. All in all a job well done. The fleece will spin up beautifully so I will need to contact Mrs Tin Shed to see if she wishes me to spin it, or if she is going to do it herself!

Friday, 29 May 2009

White linen off the loom

We finished weaving the white linen and took it off the loom.

It looked very good - quite shiny and smooth and very white. Here's a close up of it going over the rollers between the loom and the lapping table. You can see the herringbone pattern very clearly on this. The sett is not quite as tight as I might have hoped, but once it has been through the mill we hope it will adjust back to what it should be.

Last night was the Knitters Club in Tarbert. We have got a new name - the SassyGael WoollyWags. Here is a picture of us at work......

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Time for something new...

This morning we decided that we had had enough of the white linen - we must have woven at least 60metres with no blobby black bits falling off the boards onto the warp and there is still quite a lot of metres left on the back beam.

Since this state of affairs is unlikely to continue for much longer, we called it a day with the white and chose two colours of Harris wool to complete the warp as a Harris linsey woolsey. I bought a gorgeous fuschia colour ages ago from the Shawbost mill, and it is a popular shade for this years tweeds, so I am using that along with a very attractive purple. Here are the bobbins on the weft winder.
And here is the final effect on the loom.

As long as we can get at least 10 metres we will have this mill finished along with the white. So if anyone is interested in a length of either in two to three weeks, please let me know.

Ducklings are progressing well. They were out in the sun early this morning but its got very dreary and drizzly here now, so they've gone back to their nest.

Monday, 18 May 2009

New family in the sun

Mother duck brought her ducklings out of the nest this morning for a breath of fresh air and a glimpse of the sun. They all dined on crushed cornflakes, rich tea biscuit, brown bread and cream cracker soaked in water and then lazed about for quite a while. The ducklings were trying to preen themselves and couldn't quite manage to stand on one leg for more than a second or two, so there was lots of tumbling over and bruised pride!

Not my best photo I admit, but didn't want to get too near as mum is still a bit hissy and I don't want to panic her unnecessarily.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Three little ducklings

Last evening we moved the rest of the eggs and ducklings down to a covered enclosure where they would be safe. This morning we lifted the lid and I popped the camera in and took this photo.
One more egg has pipped but it looks like the others may not be going to hatch.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

First glimpse of the ducklings...

Here is an early picture of the growing family. Currently three ducklings have hatched.

Now, here's something a bit different. Was fiddling about with some Harris Wool that Calana Crafts dyed for me in gorgeous purple and blue, and it was during my hyperbolic crochet phase (remember the brain coral at An Lanntair?). This looks a bit like a cabbage.....

but then you start to unwind it...

and it becomes a scarf.
This is a great way to package the scarf for sale - I'd been looking for something that didn't involve just folding it up - and now I think I have it. It will be available in my loomshed for sale very soon!

Stop Press!!!

08.00 BST. Ducklings starting to hatch. More news and hopefully pictures later..........

Monday, 11 May 2009

In Holiday Mood!

It was an early start this morning as four wethers boarded the boat to spend the summer on an offshore island. Because there is limited enclosed areas on the croft, wethers are taken to some of the nearby uninhabited islands to fatten up. They jump in and out of the boat as though born to it. Bramble the dog goes to the oversee the journey....
The weather today is simply glorious, sea and sky blue, mountains very clear.
The Singing Weaver has reached day 12 of her blog - so you can read all about her visit to Harris and to our loomshed, as well as the other venues they called at during the day.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

A Sheep and Chicken Day

Today the island sheep were moved from the crofts - where they have been safely grazing all winter - to the common grazings. The north side population was moved yesterday evening, and the south side, which includes ours were moved today.
On Scalpay, because we have the open township system of grazings whereby no-one encloses their croft, and sheep roam free to graze where they like, most of the husbandry activities like dipping, shearing and moving are communal with all the stock owners involved. Everyone who has stock owns a dog, and they all work together to clear the crofts.
The picture above is of some of the sheep coming along the road being joined by others coming up from the shore and down from the hill behind the houses.

This is one of some of them going out through the gate on the main road. This year we managed to get all the sheep along the road and out onto the moor before any traffic came along. If the sheep stay calm and keep moving along they follow one another - the older sheep remember where they are going and the younger ones follow on behind. Because we live nearest to the grazings gate, I was in charge of making sure the gate was open at the right time and had to make sure that no sheep got past the gate and escaped up the road! My husband took the dog and gathered sheep with the others.

Bramble the dog worked very well but got muddy and had to take a shower when she got home!

Also today, we bade farewell to three of our hens who are starting a new life in the Bays of Harris. They are all of Araucana extraction - one pure bred lavendar and two crosses but all lay the characteristic blue eggs.

Two of our other hens have gone broody ("Clucky") so we put one of them went under a fish box for a day or two to get her out of the mood, and the other one we put in the nest box with six eggs under her.

Here are the eggs - all different. One araucana, two frisian, one buff orpington, one naked neck and another one we couldn't identify. So if we get a hatch, it should make for an interesting mix!

This is mum, protesting loudly at being removed from her comfy basket in the hen house where she was monopolising a space and preventing other hens from laying.
Now she's in solitary confinement she can concentrate on incubating the eggs for the next 21 days.
So, not much weaving today, but plenty of crofty stuff. We've had hail storms, rain, and warm sun in equal measure. The cuckoo has been cuckooing for about three days here now and duck down in is great demand for extra special soft nest linings for starlings and robins alike. Now the sheep are on the grazings, or confined in fields, we can look forward to some plants growing around the loomshed. It's 9.30pm BST and I'm watching a lovely pink and orange sunset out of my window.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

White linen and Getting ready for Summer..

The white herringbone linen is weaving well so far. Though its not one of my best beams....

It's a bit cramped up and packed up with all sorts of things to keep it level. However, what matters is what its like at the front. So we'll not worry about it.

One man and his dog, and indeed, his sheep, getting ready for Saturdays move to the Summer Grazings. We move all the sheep on the island which are presently wandering about the crofts, lying on the roads and munching their way through the grass, onto the common grazings. A few of the sheep - mainly those who lambed late, or those who were bottle fed and therefore not hardy enough for the grazings, or those who are waiting for transport to an offshore island to fatten up for the abattoir, are put on tethers and allowed to stay as long as they behave themselves. They are moved every day so they get a fresh patch of pasture to graze on, and generally lead a lazy life till the end of September when everybody returns for the winter.

Hopefully I shall get some pictures of the move to post.

Monday, 4 May 2009

A Reminder for Anyone Who Might Need It...

A quick reminder that anyone who needs to put in a return for Single Farm Payments, Less Favoured Area payments etc (IACS), the final date for submission is 15th May. This year, info on common grazings is required on the main forms, so if you use any common grazings, make sure you know its field identifier in good time.

What will happen next year when we have to electronically tag all the sheep? For stock owners like us, it will not be financially viable, and is totally unnecessary. The only place our sheep go is to the abbattoir (and that's just the wethers). We have never sent sheep off the island for any other purpose, and any sheep we bring on to the croft live there until they die naturally.

Is the EU really trying to kill off businesses like ours who rely on access to wool from little flocks, widely scattered? What will the land look like when all the sheep have gone? Do the administrators in Brussels know that the Outer Hebrides looks the way it does only because of generations of grazing by sheep and cattle. Do they care?

Sunday, 3 May 2009

A Snowy Outlook

Just to remind us that even though its the beginning of May - winter hasn't deserted us completely. We woke up this morning to see our mountain (the Clisham, highest point in the Western Isles) with a snowy frosting on top. It is also really cold. The bottle fed lamb and the black one are jammed into their shelter box keeping each other warm. I am staying indoors doing my accounts for last year!