Crofting Life, Livestock

In the jungle, the mighty jungle…

Yep. The lion sleeps tonight. And as much as I come across as a lion to some, I don’t have the skill to sleep like a lion. I can go through phases more akin to the night owl. And not that I want to, but whether a career with night shifts and on calls did it but I can really struggle with sleep. This past week has been no exception. Now, it’s not just that I struggle with sleep. If I have been asleep and a mini crofter wakes up in the night for whatever reason, I can’t get back to sleep. Ping, that’s me wide awake and ready to go get ’em. I blame the on call rota for that. Which is fine if you need an emergency operation in the night. Not so fine if you still have to crack on with the day jobs and there really isn’t anything you can do during the night. One night of it is fine, a few start to take their toll, usually at the four plus I start struggling. Top it with about a 3 hour sleep night and I feel like I’ve just forced myself to stay awake after coming off of night shifts. The eyes are gritty. And you spend the day clock watching to bed time.

But as bed time approaches and I start closing curtains, I spot the cows. Not bellowing, but they have been mingling at the water trough for a while. Hmm, who’s serving drinks at the bar and why are none of you socially distancing? Cows usually meander to the water trough throughout the day. It’s unusual for them to be at it together. It’s not a group exercise to the water hole as it is for other creatures. I watch Tilly, she raises her head and there is no water dripping. Aghh, something has gone wrong with the water. Scrap the early bed calling. Grab a pair of gloves, my stick and off we (the dog and I) head up the hill to check the water source.

The thing is, it has been a wet summer. Or so it seems. And we did get a bit of a downpour the day before. Has gubbings come off the hill and blocked it? Hmm, no is the answer. Everything looking like it should be other than, there wasn’t much water in the burn. Gus and I snake back along the pipe. Fine, fine, fine, and there we are. A connection point with water leaking and a soggy mess down hill. The connection is more stubborn than I am so I quickly give up and decide to put the cows onto option two. If you aren’t happy with your drinks at one bar, head to another.

And this is where confusion enters the scene. I shut off tap one up stream, which is needed before turning on tap two. Start heading to the next one and I hear water flowing. Ehh? I go back up and check. The pressure gauge has gone up and there is definitely water coming down. Which means the tap was off. So the leak further up was only because of the high pressure (so hence I couldn’t get it any tighter). When did that happen? And how? I plod over to check the trough and sure enough the sound of water gurgling and spurting through is a lovely noise. The cows stop their mumblings, have a bit of a tussle as to who gets served first before each one soon starts heading off back to chomp grass.

As to how the tap got shut off? It’s near the beehives which I had checked the day before. I had forgotten the tap was so close to them as its under thick grass. I had no awareness of turning the tap when taking things on and off the hive but it would seem I and part of the beehive was the root of the problem. Although the idea of the bees joining forces to get the tap off for a practical joke isn’t far from the imagination.

Crofting Life

Beautiful Noise

Neil Diamond sings about the beautiful noise:

“Goin’ on everywhere
Like the clickety-clack
Of a train on a track
It’s got rhythm to spare”

I have no idea when he wrote that but it could be adapted to the clickety-clack of zoom meetings in the current world situation. Maybe not what we had envisioned for 2020 but suddenly for those of us remote, we can attend meetings without having to clock up time and emission miles. One laptop, an ironing board (so I can sit on a comfy seat rather than a desk), and some internet connection. The clickity-clack of the train is substituted for a keyboard.

Does it fully compensate seeing and meeting up with people? No. But with zoom I was able to participate in the Scottish Crofting Federations’s (SCF) Young Crofter’s Virtual Gathering this week. I have no plans to go travelling at the moment but on that day I got to visit Lewis, Uist, Kishorn, and Glenelg to name a few. And with those video clips and virtual gathering came the beautiful noise. The sound of hearing what others are doing, the impact of Covid, and aspirations of other Crofters.

And on that note, here is my challenge. Covid has made people more aware of food supply chains, buying local and minimising their carbon footprint. There are plenty who have these aspiratations to use the land; but to buy land, you need money. Yes, to take up an expensive ‘hobby’ as some tell me; crofting for many of us is ‘on the side’. We have other occupations. But that gives us resilience. Nor does all our income go to one basket. A couple of pigs, some sheep, a few cows, bees and a veg garden mean that if one market flops for whatever reason (say a sudden influx of cheap beef from abroad), we have cover. We’re less likely to go out with a bang (we are probably also a fairly determined group that are use to battling everything from bulls to bairns, wedders to weather, so we don’t just take things lying down). Some pay huge amounts to go play golf, others croft. When pandemics hit, what would you prefer to have as your neighbour? A golfer or a crofter? A professional golfer may draw in crowds, but how much time and fuel goes in to trimming those immaculate lawns and how tasty is a golf ball? But here’s the issue. To want to use the land, to invest blood, sweat and tears, oddly enough you need money. Estate owners can have a huge area of land, not live in the area, not invest locally, burn patches of hillside, release thousands of birds to then shoot a few months later. Birds that often have little use in the food supply change. But they have the money so they have the land. Someone else may look at physically utilising 10 acres of land, live on site, but struggle to find anything. Or if they do have land, have the battle of their veg crop being decimated by deer or loosing their chicken flock to pneumonia passed on by the estate’s incoming pheasants.

So a call to politicians for land reform? The innovation of what business opportunities can be generated on poor ground is amazing. Major changes needed to help with this? Yes, but small changes can have big impacts. You will then get the ‘the sound of the kids’, future generations putting investment back into communities. But this is where everyone (not just those in crofting or want to be involved) need to make a beautiful noise. Anyone who values utilising the land and having food on their table can invest in it. Buy local when you can, find out what work went in to your food, support the SCF who fights for Crofters, and together we can make a beautiful noise.

NB, Ok, not all golfers and estate owners can be categorised together, I have generalised. I do not fully understand the full laws behind land but I am more than happy to invite any politician to come spend a day here to find out more. The work is outside and you can be sociably distanced (the cows aren’t as good with that but well, they have had the coronavirus immunisation). Ms Stugeon, you may not need such fancy clothes but don’t worry, we’re less likely to make comments about how you look and I’d more likely want to know what you can do with that law degree under your belt for the future Crofters.

Crofting Life, Livestock

The End of the Line

The Travelling Wilbury’s were probably not singing about electric fencing. Nor, guessing by their picture when I googled them, did they have the same problem as I do with predictive text. Both electric fencing and predictive text have the ability to cause a pent up feeling that you really are, at the end of the line. But its this song that came to mind (well, the one line, have no idea what the rest of the lyrics are or what the song is actually about) when dealing with both issue (fencing and predictive text; being able to memorise more than a line in a song is pushing it).

About 12 hours after the Crofter left for work, I had a pig on the run. Yep, after quite a drawn out bedtime (predictive text has tried to change ‘time’ to ‘line’; why does it think bedline is a word??). Try again, after the bedTIME battle with the mini crofters, I had finally broke free to fun, no, run (aghh, how do I switch it off??) and shut things up for the night. Dog let out, polytunnel shut, etc. Great. Get back to the house and whoa! There’s Harry, the not so wee finger (aghh, ginger!!) ninja pig on the wrong side. Thankfully, the pigs are now all bucket trained and will happily follow you at your heel (more so than the dog but we’re coming to that)

I should also now add that I have changed to a different device (yes, most of my blog posts are typed on my phone) to try and decrease the agitation of predictive text. It may also explain to some why there can be some really odd spelling mistakes and some random word selections recently, well, you now know why. A good writer will blame the annoyance of iPhone predictive text…

Harry soon joined Alan and Theo. This was after a quick sprint up and down the track to turn off (and then back on) the electric fencing. However, it soon became apparent that they were quite friendly with it. They are bright sparks, but we need them to stay within their means. Sorting fencing I figured would be a job for the morning. As I headed off to put the food bucket away, Gus, the dog, took off. I called him back. Great, he came. Turned round to shut a door and like that, he had disappeared.

And this is where I am also at the end of a line. His movement had been restricted back when the cows were near calving. It has been slowly reintroduced. Not always plain sailing but he has also been doing the job that we got him for. But over the past few days he has been doing the disappearing trick on us. All you have to do is turn for a second and he’s away. So what do I do? Answers on a postcard please, I’m away to look up some lyrics.