A time of giving…

A few days ago I posted a picture on the Birchwood Croft’s Facebook page about putting up our ‘Christmas tree’. It was very similar to the one above. However, being a theatre nurse by trade does mean I have OCD and as said on the post, my shweng-fee had noticed that the original was not symmetrical (reality had been that it started off getting stacked to see if I could keep the driving rain out of the buckets and nothing to do with having seasonal cheer).

Today, I decided we needed a more ornamental tree. This was after I tufted the cows out to spread the remains of the latest straw bale. At the start of the week I had placed the bale into the byre and it was one of the Green Fairies who unrolled half the bale and placed the rest in the corner. It’s then been slowly forked out to give fresh bedding for the cows throughout the week. The plan is that only one more bale of straw will need to be organised before the Crofter returns home. The big count down has started (always helps when you get to the single digits).

Yes, the next flight off the rig will be his. Which means if this baby decides it’s time for a labour party at the local hospital, the Crofter will just have to wait until his scheduled flight (and I’m sure a few in the office have just breathed a sigh of relief that they haven’t had to deal with getting him home in an emergency). I’m not sure how many others have birth plans that include names and numbers of who can feed/deal/drive various livestock and machinery in case of an emergency (I’m pretty sure I have spoken to everyone listed but just in case any friends/neighbours/acquaintances get a random telephone call; don’t have a heart attack, you obviously told me to call if I needed anything so I have taken you up on your offer…).

So often in agriculture we have to deal with sudden changes (a calf arrives overnight, an animal becomes unwell), seasonal issues (power cuts), and weather conditions (gale force winds/ice). With awareness of these potentials, we try and have plans in place with contingency back up. However, life does have quirks and even out-with the ‘norm’, life goes on regardless. From public holidays to life events, in agriculture, you don’t suddenly have a day you can just put your feet up.

Which works well for me. A lot of events are not specific day related to me. I do not feel that I need to eat certain foods on specific days. It’s more who I am with. Friends, such as the Green Fairies, really are the angels on the top of my ‘tree’. They turn up and give a hand; they seem to be the opposite of what often gets portrayed at this time of year. They aren’t dressed in red, looking overweight, sitting about asking my son if he has been good (apologies for coming across as a Scrooge but I want the Mini Crofter to know where his gifts have come from, to be thankful, and that not all gifts are material, let alone expensive). I have no issue with using our imagination; I just do not see why I need someone to dress up and pretend all presents come from him. One of the best gifts I am given, is people’s time. Just as I can work/labour/give time to look after our livestock, I look forward to the time of the Crofter being home (and sharing the work). I want the Mini and Micro Crofter to understand money can’t buy everything. In a similar light, I wish to help people understand why we spend time looking after livestock and how we can also enjoy the meat. So, this year I may be with friends and family on a certain day. Or I may not. Time will tell.


The straw that brought the community folk back

Yes, straw is light. Put it in a bale and you need a wee bit of ‘umph’ behide it. The kind of umph I’m missing while counting down to a labour party with a midwife. So with that came help last weekend to give the cows a bale. Community spirits are alive and well around here and I am thankful for the help I’m being offered. With the help means I can usually avoid all strenuous, heavy and hard tasks. It just means someone else ends up doing it thought. So with that at the weekend, half of the straw bale was unrolled in the byre and the rest stacked in a corner for another spreading mid week. Hence my job today.

A fairly easy job really but I seem to be more in tune to camels. Thus I needed a wee lie down, although not for a broken back, just because it felt that I had forked hard core for an hour. But while doing the task, I was thinking about labour. Not the political or midwifery type, but just how much ‘work’ goes into the croft. This came about after a conversation with a researcher for Newbie at the James Hutton Institute. We never found a concrete answer. Looks like I’ll be doing one of those hour by hour charts for a week to see. Slight problem at the moment is a 15 min task takes about an hour. Never mind, tractors were made with lots of space…


Two sides to every sheep.

Since the sheep have been moved next to the house, it makes it easier for watching them. And with that, one was spotted on Sunday with a bad limp. As she was holding it up this Monday I decided I needed to have a wee look. Och fine, it’s just a wee ‘un thankfully (and just one). I can do that.

Plan A has been to move the sheep hurdles into the chicken pen and I would then be able to get her contained. However, the sheep looked like they were pretty interested when I appeared so I thought, ‘No bother, I’ll see if I can get them in without all the lifting of gates’. Walk in with a bucket, and they join me like the 12 lords a’ leaping. What a festive bunch.

Then came the unexpected, for right in front of me was said lame sheep. Pretty wee so figured I’d just upturn her and see (although I had no foot trimmer or spray with me). During this time I should say that my mother-in-law was watching on with the Mini Crofter so I wasn’t being totally unorganised.

However, wee sheep can put in a bit of ‘umph if they decide they don’t want contained! With the help of a mother-in-law and a mini rugby tackle (my tackle was anything but graceful, and having a Micro-Crofter on board catches you off guard with maintaining balance, it was more of a science from Wallace and Gromit, and besides, some people pay to go to rides at amusement parks just to be jostled about). But, with the undignified pile on, one limping sheep was caught. However, the kit required was in the shed so Mother in law was given the option of holding said sheep or going to get the hood trimmers. She opted for the run and Mini Crofter stayed with me.

With the return of super-granny, purple spray, and a hoof trimmer the foot was inspected. Thank goodness she’s a wee one because after just a basic trim, I was feeling it. Guess that’s another thing off my ‘still doing’ and moved to the ‘need to ask for help’ list. For yes, she looks like she has foot rot. But from my view point, I’ll get someone who can bend easier. Now where’s that number for the lady who does mobile nails and gel polish, think she could fill in…?


Hello Mr Rock and Roll

Or maybe more Mr Punk. But either way, the sheep were moved back to the top field where trees abound to give shelter. They decided to set up a spontaneous gathering at the nearest gate while I was supposed to be sorting the cows (spreading out more straw and ensuring they have hay and water). I may have been one field away but when you are aware you are being watched by multiple onlookers, you decide it might be worth heeding their silent pleas and go open a gate.

This was after a wee incident in the byre though. See, before the Crofter left for work I was back in the tractor seat to ensure full confidence in getting bales into the byre. Not a difficult task, just when you get full risk aversion due to carrying a Micro Crofter, any potential for tripping a tractor or other damage starts to be a potential threat. Now, I know this dip in confidence will return but nature has a way to avoid placing us in danger. But it can be a problem with ‘normal’ tasks. So, on Sunday straw was placed in the byre by myself which went smoothly enough. A hay bale was upturned to minimise me heaving bales into position. The straw bale just needed to be spread out today. The hay bale however, had taken a turn for the worst. As the cows chomped through it, it tipped back away from their feeding line. I had promised the Crofter I would not man handle any full bales while he was gone. He didn’t say anything about half bales right enough. And considering we use to have to tip whole bales every week before we got a tractor with a front loader, I looked at it and thought, ‘aye, should be fine’.

Maybe not. And before I have a team of Manual Handling Experts come at me for it, I just tried giving it some welly from my shoulder. No abdo muscles or misusing a pregnancy bump. And quickly decided that this wasn’t an option at 36 weeks. Problem solving was used (yes, I could phone a friend or two but I’d rather save that requirement for when I need help and have no way of getting by). So, I’ll just be pulling hay off the sides until light enough to tip back. Everyone happy (well, until the Crofter reads this and finds out).

Once the cows were back in and sorted, it was on to the sheep. Simple task of walking over to far field to open gate. Well, it left like I was 16 hours into a days Munro bagging trip and still had four to go. Waterproofs, insulated wellies, layers, all made it more of a waddle and not an easy one. Breathing can be hard with so little space but the eyes see it as a quick and easy job. Think basic tasks are going to get harder in the next few weeks so here’s hoping for mild weather and a baby who waits until the Crofter returns home.