Jonathan: At the meeting of Comann Each nan Eilean (breed society for the pure Eriskay Pony) we were discussing what mares were in foal from this year and what might be expected next year. Shealagh turned to Eòghann, who has more Eriskay ponies than anyone else anywhere, and asked ‘So Eòghann, are you going to tell us what your breeding intentions are?’ As quick as a shot, Eòghann replied “Well, at 74 years old now, I suppose it’s time I made room for some of the younger lads”. I really think that needs to be recorded in the minutes, but as the Secretary I shall probably in get into trouble if I do!
Jonathan: Gale to Severe Gale force winds during the night and this morning – looks like it will continue for a few days. Thankfully not raining when I went to the croft to check the livestock, and so I went on to Princes Beach for an exilerating walk with Tilly. A storm of sharp shell sand swirled and scoured along the beach, making it painful to walk back into the wind to the car. After a coffee back at the house, I went round to Eòghann’s to help move two Eriskay ponies with their foals from about a mile along the road to behind his house. For the first time I myself caught a pony (actually she just stood still!) and put a halter on her and then led her back along the road with her foal tagging along behind. They are very hardy creatures and happily stay outdoors all year round, even in the harshest weather. But they do not like walking into the wind – perhaps simply because it is hard going, and they would really rather just munch their way along the grass verge, taking all day to get there! Quite soon I will be getting a long-term loan of an Eriskay pony with a view to putting it to work with me collecting and hauling seaweed from the shore: more on that in good time.
Jonathan: Last evening I took five of our Hebridean wedders [castrated males] on a long drive north to Lochmaddy. I came back without them. By now, this morning, they are probably already in the cold store. This is the first time I’ve done this. All yesterday morning was made making final preparations to round them up without mishap. Just before lunch – with the help of a bucket of feed and some encouragement, I managed to get most of the sheep into the holding pen, but not six sheep led by the most difficult of the wedders. Mid afternoon my neighbour Seonaidh came over with his son and the two dogs and within 5 minutes the rest were in the pen too. Seonaidh helped me hoist the five wedders into the trailer. Since the rest were all in the pen, I checked their feet for condition and trimmed as required, and then let them out. And then the 45 mile drive north. It was dark when I got to the abbatoir, and difficult to see as I reversed the trailer up to the lairage [pens for holding animals prior to slaughter]. With the help of Ruaraidh I cajoled the sheep out of the trailer. Black sheep in a black night. I never even saw their dark eyes large with fear – I never had time to really think about what I was doing. But now it is done; and I don’t feel what I expected – neither the sadness nor the guilt. Only the wondering whether the meat we’ll get back will be worth all the expense and work over the past year. Hoggett lamb [slow-maturing naturally-fed animals killed at over a year old] fetches very good prices – certainly the best cuts. But how much of it will there be? And – ironically – we could never ordinarily afford to buy it from the butcher or supermarket. There you are, you see: where’s the sadness for a life taken, the guilt at taking life? All I have is the calculations!