The winter so far has been remarkably mild : other than the morning when Jack Frost called in to see us, the temperature has been steady at around 10degC. Much below that and grass doesn’t grow ; much above it and it does ; so the grazing has lasted right through the autumn and into early winter. However, there’s been so much wind and rain, lately, that it’s now impracticable to give them supplemental feeding – hay and sheep ‘pencils’ (a compound feed shaped like short stubby pencils) – outdoors. There’s far too much wastage, and on a very wet day almost all the food I put out may be spoilt. One morning last week, as I was manouvering through a gate with a full bag of sheep pencils over my shoulder, an especially viscious squall of wind and rain struck me sideways ; and … well, words fail me – see photo !
It’s because of experience like this that, in late summer 2019, I converted the croft byre (previously the hen house) into winter quarters for the sheep. So, a few days ago, I swept out the dust and cobwebs accumulated since the sheep were turned out, back in Spring, and set up the feeding and watering equipment : a wooden manger – for hay ; a T-shaped wooden structure that supports big black plastic troughs – for the sheep pencils ; and a big plastic tub to hold two plastic buckets with fresh water. The water trough sits on the floor right by a floor drain, but the other two structures are suspended from the roof trusses by heavy duty fencing wire – to prevent rats making themselves at home. The shed has to be well ventilated, so it’s simply impossible to keep out rats entirely (and the byre is right by the shore, where there’s plentiful food amongst the rockpools and seaweeds), but with these measures the rats seem to come into the byre only for shelter from extreme weather.