Since late October, almost two months ago, our posts have been few and far between. A flurry of photos on our return from Navarra. One post each about croft and craft – and that’s been about it. We’ve neglected our WordPress acquaintances, too.
The editor and principal author of this blog * has been – how shall I put it? – ‘preoccupied’.
* ICYWW – That’s me
For me, the past six weeks have been a day-and-night struggle getting to grips with legal requirements and official procedures spanning three countries, three legal systems, and two languages, concerning two quite separate affairs. [No, not that sort of affair!]
One has dragged on for almost a year, with the legal professionals locked in a petty tussle over the precise form of words that will express in proper legal form – to the satisfaction of all concerned – a simple matter of fact which no-one, absolutely no-one, disputes. (Nor is there, for that matter, anyone with a legal interest in the matter to dispute the fact.) None of them would give ground : it’s been a battle of wills! In the end – with Denise in tears of frustration yet again, I set about my own research, and then made a short phone call – to the Clerk of the very Court that will decide the issue, and within less than an hour got a definitive answer on what would be acceptable. So much for the bloody professionals!
For the other business – which kicked-off on our return from Navarra, it’s been a combination of complexity, difficulty, unfamiliarity, and simple bad luck. Bad luck as in important documents going missing in the post – and not a chance – especially in the ‘run up to Christmas’ – to get new documents made and delivered in time. Not once, but twice! And as to complexity and difficulty : every requirement met seemed to beget yet another even more devilishly difficult to satisfy, and ever less time left to do it. After six weeks of day-and-night effort and anxiety – and there’s still lingering doubts as to whether it will all work out as planned, I’m profoundly tired. Exhausted!
All very cryptic and mysterious, you’re thinking? Well, it will have to remain so for now. Certainly until these things have run their course and we have definite outcomes. Perhaps just a few weeks more.
But, for now, there’s nothing more I can do.
I’d just like to empty my mind, enjoy simple things, like a walk on the beach, try and capture on camera the beauty of Uist in winter. Or something useful, like finishing the new fencing at the croft, or the annual decorating at Carrick. There’s plenty of practical things to do! They’ve all been neglected, too!
Heaven only knows how I ever used to design and manage complex, innovative engineering works! I couldn’t do it now. I wouldn’t want to. That’s probably largely due to the neurological conditions which first became apparent two years ago – and which were then the primary reason for retiring from professional work. And the other reason? Because I wanted to spend more time doing the simple things we came here to do – like grow food, fix fences, feed animals, take photos, and – well, to write this blog.
Normal service on which returns tomorrow!
Jonathan & Denise >
The principal natural product of these islands is grass. Grazed by deer, cattle and sheep, the grass is converted into meat and other animal products. But, as Autumn turns to winter, the daylight hours become shorter than the list of things to do, the skies are more often darkened by cloud, and sunlight is as low in energy as it is in the sky. The grass stops growing, and what is left standing will soon be gone unless most of the livestock is sent elsewhere, after the late autumn gathering.
For most crofters, their lambs and calves of this year are sold at the marts, going to the mainland to be finished off on lowland farms until they are ready for the butcher’s hook. We follow an older, traditional practice of keeping most our lambs over the winter (providing supplementary feed as necessary), and through a second summer and autumn, to produce a slower-grown, leaner, and richly-flavoured ‘hogget lamb’. (A hog or hogget is a sheep more than twelve months old, but not yet two years old.) So, for us, this is the time of year to say goodbye to our lambs born last year.
But we’re not selling them on for others to profit from. No, we have them professionally killed and butchered and packed for us to sell direct to personal customers who come to the walled garden, here in South Uist. Most of our customers are visitors to the islands, and many of them are ‘frequent returners’. These days, most find us first on the internet.
The 2017 growing season was blessed with plentiful warm sunshine, a good measure of rain, and winds rarely more than a stiff breeze, and every living thing felt better for such a year. And that certainly goes for our Hebridean Hogget Lamb! This has proved to be our best year for numbers of lambs born (from the same number of breeding ewes as in previous years), their survival and growth, their finished weight, and the quality of the meat.
The only downside is that we’ve had to buy even more freezers : and even then they are packed full to the point that we have to be very careful in positioning the topmost layer of packed meat so as to ensure the lid goes down properly or the drawers can be opened and closed without jamming!
This year, we’ve widened the choice of joints and cuts, to cater for requirements varying from campsite barbeques to big friends-and-family dinners.
We’ve had to lend one of our own domestic freezers to help out with the glut, so to help us recover this freezer space for our own needs, we’re offering a 10% discount on sales between now and 3rd January 2018. This is, obviously, for customers calling in at the walled garden, as alas postal sales are impracticable. Just one thing: you need to say you read this post online!
For full details or products and prices, see Hebridean Sheep.