Time to cull some geese for the freezer. I need to cut numbers from 24 down to about 9 – 3 ganders each with two females. First priority for culling were the couple of noisy chinese geese and the youngster they’d raised this year (not actually there’s – I put a fertile egg under the goose!). Also an infertile older grey-back goos, and a young chinese gander raised in an incubator and on the grass at home. I managed all of these except the chinese goose: generally I walked them until the one I wanted was isolated from the others and then walked them up to and along a sheep-netting fence where they are much easier to catch without resorting to chasing and all the stress that results in. However I never got the chinese goose: by the time I got to her she and all the others were wise to my game, and they were keeping well clear of me!
As it happens, I only just had time to process the four I’d could get hold of. Lacking any plucking aids, I stuck to simply extracting the best meat – breast and thighs. And very good too! For the first time I saved curled feather and down for making pillows: though we’ll need to collect up a lot more before we’ve enough to make something worthwhile!
I really do not like killing the geese: they are gentle intelligent (if a bit silly) creatures, with personalities. They are also difficult to kill cleanly. However they do make good sense on my croft, as they are grazing animals which I can manage on my own without dogs or expensive equipment or for that matter endless paperwork and regulations. In fact geese are very easy to keep and scarcely cost a thing.
A huge crop of black-currants this year, so no difficulty justifying making lots into wine! That was some weeks ago, and in the last couple of days I’d noticed the fermentation had ground to a virtual halt and the demijohn was clearing. Time to rack off. 2 full size and 1 half-size, and as Jonathan at home, it goes all the more smoothly with two pairs of hands – and two glasses. We used the half-size demijohn to top up the big ones, and of course what was left just wasn’t worth keeping.
The black-currants make up for no blackberries (the king of home-made wines) this year. Turned to mush by a wet late summer and autumn, and with Jonathan away from home neither the time nor the desire to go off on my own for hours amongst the brambles. But next year … !
Bee inspection day today. Lovely and sunny and warm and only the lightest of breeze, so ideal. Both hives were kitted out with queen excluder and a single super. Loads of honey in the supers (almost full) and a good amount in the brood chamber too.
It was clear that the original hive (which I’d removed the queen from) was the stronger of the two, and though I couldn’t find a new queen or any grubs (but a worrying number of drones) it could just be that it is late in the year and after a spell of bad weather the queen (if indeed there is one) is simply not laying just now.
At the new hive, into which I moved queen AGM2 (who has been very productive all summer) back in late August, I also could not find either queen or grub or any larvae. And there certainly were a lot of drones. Again, it could well be that the queen has simply stopped laying eggs for now – perhaps for the winter?
I’ve been noticing over the past few days two or three workers grab hold of a drone and push and push it out of the hive, often falling with the drone to the ground. This is I think the annual eviction of the drones, who have now outlived their usefulness. They must have to do this again and again until the drones give up and go elsewhere – or die.
I couldn’t afford to keep searching for the queens, as the afternoon warmth would soon fade and I would chill the bees and cause losses. Whatever the situation now, the only thing I can do is keep them safe and warm, and ensure there is enough food to keep whatever I have alive through to the spring, and then we’ll see where we are.
Next year, with me at home and – hopefully – two new nucs from Colonsay, and at least reasonable weather, we should at last see some progress. If not: I would then really have to accept that the conditions here are not good enough for honey bees. But for now I’ve got to give it my best shot!
Last night I went to a follow-up public meeting regarding proposed coastal defence works between Poll a Chara and Ludag. Council’s drawings revised – but still not good. They just don’t seem to have the sensitivity or even the will, and I doubt also the skills, to come up with a design of the quality that we should we be able to expect in this day and age, not least in an area designated of natural beauty, ecological importance and socio-economic vulnerability.
The council officers present – one very senior – showed themselves to be arrogant and ignorant, giving out as bald fact justifications and excuses which showed either an extraordinary lack of technical knowledge, or a brazen expectation that we would swallow as truth whatever falsehood they chose to utter. My input, clearly that of a civil engineer, did appear to result in some hasty backtracking and indeed some concessions, but the arrogance was unabated.
The protection will be revetment – ramparts might be beter – of 4 tonne boulders, as found along causeways throughout the Outer Hebrides -constructed wherever the road runs close to the shore, which in effect means along the nice bits of beach around each of the bays, including ours outside the walled garden. There will rise to about half a metre to a metre above the road. They will be ugly enough from the land, but far worse from the shore, appearing almost as a military defensive installation. Not exactly a draw for tourists, and indeed our complaint is that there was no means provided for safe access, whether for pedestrians or for tractors etc collecting seaweed. Both are important to the economy of our community, the tourism likely to become increasingly important in the future.
The concessions were grudging: modification to provide this access would be considered, also reinstatement of sand and marram in front of completed revetment; but council not obliged to implement them. We need to keep up the pressure!
Denise: A complaint today from a neighbour about the mess the geese leave. The sillies get it in to their head to have favourite places to camp. For a few days – or even weeks – it will be on a certain hillock. And then it will be down in a little gully by the sea. And then for a while it might be right outside someone’s gate. Now they are perfectly within their rights to graze wherever they want on croft land, and I’m within my rights to let them: but let’s face it who wants to have to pick their way across a carpet of goose mess (it’s little more than pulped grass, but for all that the brain still registers Ughh!) between car and front door. But the problem in the end is not actually the geese themselves, but the creeping ‘urbanisation’ of rural life.