Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A Crofters Work is never done!

The weather today has been simply appalling. Constant very heavy rain, strong wind and really uncomfortable to be outside. Lots of people might say "Lovely weather for ducks" so, to prove the point, here is a photo of our ducks this morning wallowing in a mud pool!

At this time of year we are waiting for the lorry to come and pick up our wool clip which was sheared in June/July. As is usual, we are so well-organised that we have to do it the day before and, as usual, the weather was against us. We backed the pick-up close to the side of the house
and rolled fleeces on the tailgate. As registered sheep producers with more than five sheep we have to send our annual clip to the British Wool Board (the nearest depot to us is at Evanton near Dingwall). We are able to buy and sell our Hebridean fleeces as we please since, as rare or vulnerable breeds, they are exempt from the usual rules. The reason producers have to trade through the Wool Board is so that the wool can be traded in world markets in larger quantities than would be the case if individuals negotiated to sell their own clips. This results in a better price for raw wool for the producers and accurate statistics being collected to monitor
the industry.
Here is a potted version of how to roll a fleece to BWB standards- just in case you ever need to!

First of all you grab a fleece and shake it out to check its got no daggy (pooey) bits in it.

Then you spread out the fleece, cut side uppermost. This is for hill sheep like blackface, cheviot and swaledales. If you have lowland sheep like dorsets, romneys etc. then you lay it cut side down.

Fold the sides of the fleece to the middle....

... and roll it up, making a hole in the fleece and tucking in the tail wool to keep it tied together.

Finally the rolled fleece is packed into a large wool bag called a "sheet" which is supplied by the wool board. The top of the sheet is stitched shut, not forgetting to put your name and address on a label inside the bag, and a swing label on the outside to identify the producers group it belongs to.
Here on Scalpay our producers group is called "Scalpay Township" and though there are only three crofts putting away wool now, in the old days every croft would be sending away its wool each year. It is all collected together when the lorry from Hebrides Haulage in Stornoway comes to our part of Harris and transported to Stornoway where it goes across the ferry to Ullapool and ends up in Evanton.
This is the story of our wool clip. I hope you have enjoyed it.


donnie said...

great story - your ducks are hardier than mine - mine get miserable in the mud and wind

Nina said...

Mmmmmmmmm Ducks look yummy..lol
Intresting story about the fleeces keep one for a rug for my new house HAA HAA.. I was hoping to pop dow to see you this week but still have no car .XX

Anonymous said...

See. I find things like this fascinating. - a whole world I would never know about if it wasn't for blogging. Please do keep sharing your insider crofter knowledge