Jonathan: I started re-routing a long line of electric fencing a couple of mornings ago, and finished it this morning. The weather has been grey and windy, but even with light rain I was warm enough working in my boiler suit of thick, tightly-woven cotton and a couple of layers of jumpers. Before heading home I let the sheep through to the lower half of the ‘pairc’ (or ‘park’ in Scottish English) by the sea, where there’s a good few weeks yet of grazing. Befor lunch – the weather now being so much milder – I took the lids off the beehives to check if they needed any sugar, but both hives seemed to have plenty of honey in reserve, and hadn’t touched the fondant I’d provided previously. After lunch I went along to the beach at Smercleit Taobh a Deas and filled the trailer up with 18 wheel-barrow loads of seaweed: back at the house Denise and I worked together to off load it all to the compost heap. It’s five or six weeks since we last got seaweed like this, and we really need to do it at least once a week, but the cold spell is because of calm weather, and that means no seaweed cast up on the beach. But now the weather is back to ‘normal’ (ie stormy!) and I shall have to make the most of it. Yet somehow I’ve also got to find time to design changes to a large roundabout on the A414 in Harlow, Essex!
Jonathan: Denise and I drove down north to Taigh Chearsabhagh in Lochmaddy today for a cup of tea and a cake in the cafe. 45 miles for a snack? Well of course we did other things along the way: buy a new bin for the kitchen (we’ve had the old one 24 yrs!) and some Xmas cards; bought a big bag of dog food at Lovett’s in Iochdar. Oh, and we collected the sheep from the abattoir – the real purpose of the journey. A sheep in a polythene bag. Five poly bags on the cold room floor. Quite heavy: encouragingly heavy! Iain commented that they were very good sheep – which was even more encouraging. I paid up – £20 each for killing and butchering; a £100 cheque on the office desk; and then I loaded them into the back of the car. An hour and a half later we were home – and the first thing I wanted to do was weigh the bags! And the result: 5 bags, very similar weights; totalling 75kg or slightly more. It’s difficult to put a value on this, as we are keeping it for ourselves, but wouldn’t ordinarily afford this quality of meat – and Hebridean is very highly regarded. But our non-meat equivalent would certainly be a moderately priced cheese, at around £8/kg. But even at that measure we’ve brought home £600 worth of meat from the five sheep. Bagging up the joints and cuts into individual freezer bags, seeing and feeling the wonderful quality of the meat, I felt for the first time in my life really pleased – proud, in fact – of the results of my own vision, commitment and hard work. Yes I’ve felt some measure of pride in my civil engineering work, but never anything like this!
Jonathan: A beatifully bright and cheerful day today, if a cold breeze. More work on the electric fencing in the sheep field. I’m trying to make it so that the sheep can’t just quickly slip under it. There’s three strands already and that ought to be enough – it’s a great deal of work to add yet another, so instead I’ve been dismantling a line of fence leading to the fank, and using the posts to reinforce the main boundaries. The idea is to have fewer lines, but less easy to get through without getting a very unpleasant electric shock. However not enough fittings to complete the job! So that means buying more stuff. I’m concerned about the accumulating expense on what is just a borrowed field, and on sheep that don’t yield much of a profit! This time next year I want to have a proper field on my own croft with new permanent fencing. I’ll have to see if I can get a grant towards it. At least that would add to the value of the croft, whereas electric fencing does not.