Jonathan & Denise >
It’s nearly three months since we sold the last of our flock of Welsumer chickens. The geese, enjoying the abundance of summer are ranging far and wide. Home Park – the field between Carrick and the sea – has fallen silent. The grasses and wild flowers have grown taller than ever they have in many a year : the grasses have grown ears, the flowers have set seed.
A recent visitor to the Hebridean Woolshed said she’d read in this blog that we were giving up crofting. It’s unfortunate if that’s the impression our posts have given. But maybe it’s not surprising : perhaps we should have followed the example of the marketing and PR sector, with only new ventures announced with a flourish, the ending of existing activities being relegated to a mere footnote.
In fact we’re continuing to work our croft, but with a change in emphasis. Our crofting efforts are being redirected towards a purposeful re-wilding of the land, planting thousands of native trees and working to widen bio-diversity. Production of lambs – especially hogget lamb (which has to be fed through winter) – has a high impact on the land, so that will come to a final end this autumn when the last of the 2018 lambs are taken ‘to Lochmaddy’. We are keeping all of our Hebridean ewes – for low-impact conservation grazing, and for continued production of our Hebridean wool, for the time being continuing to produce mill-spun yarn, but eventually we’ll focus solely on hand-spinning, for which we’ll still have a sufficiency of good quality wool.
And the Welsumers? Well, they may have moved on to pastures new, but we still have our flock of big and fluffy Buff Orpingtons : they’re here in the walled garden. Collecting eggs, cleaning out, spending time with them – all these things are woven into our everyday lives, in the minutes and moments between other tasks. The eggs we get now are sufficient for our own needs, with only rarely a surplus to offer to customers of the Hebridean Woolshed.
Crofting is, historically, a form of subsistance farming. First and foremost, it’s about feeding the family. And it’s just that – what we came into crofting for in the first place – that we are continuing with. Not least because we cannot face a life without eggs that have the unique colour and flavour that’s characteristic of this place.