Log ’em up, move ’em out

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After Tim brought down a trailer full of logs from one of our fallen trees, he asked for a hand in getting them into the wood shed. Nae bother, until it’s time for the mini crofter to be up from his nap. Discussion on who does what job, he takes the mini crofter, I take splitting wood (yes, really, I like my outdoors). Then the ‘shower’ started. Soon it turned to become sheets of rain and a sharp wind. Well, you get warmed twice by the wood at least.

But, it does take some skill. Skill? What skill? Ah, the skill of splitting them without causing an injury to yourself (jaw bone got it once and I can tell you it’s a tad painful and remarkable for not requiring medical treatment) or destruction to the things around you (considerable damage to the extension cable was my best target so far). OK, health and safety isn’t easy when you have no idea where the logs are going to split to. But hey, when it’s raining in sheets and your safety goggles keep steaming up you have to pay close attention to the splitter, keeps you on your toes and ready to dive in any direction. I’m sure it’s good for your core muscles, they really should incorporate log splitting into Pilates, always better to achieve two things at once…

Bales and buggies

As the cows have been munching quite quickly through their hay, I realised they would need a new bale before the Crofter came home. Come in ‘wee bales’. Aye, not the big, round bales where you feel like you are dislocating your shoulder, giving yourself a hernia and with all your might trying to negotiate rolling them between the 1958 tractor and the coal bunker of cow nuts (and that’s just to get the round bales out of the shed) so you can get the pregnant tractor with the front loader to come pick them up and drop them in the ring feeder. Yes, I call it the pregnant tractor. Why? Because last year while pregnant I was told to stop ‘heavy’ lifting. Although no one defined heavy I took that to mean anything more than 20 kilo (chicken food comes in 20kg bags – toss over shoulder and off you go; cow nuts come in 25 kilo sacks and are a bit of a pain for shifting so hence my definition). With that as a definition I generally did stop heaving large, round bales and lifting the ring feeders (most of the time..) so a new tractor was needed. Cue Dingwall implement sale and another tractor was added to the family. Both have got their uses but the pregnant tractor is too tall to fit inside the shed. Hence rolling bales out to the tractor. However, on this day we only had one large bale left and as the Crofter was due home soon, I reverted to the easier option…

However, the term wee or small is also deceptive. These are our own bales. That’s right, ones that we made ourselves. Not an easy task and probably cheaper to buy in hay but maybe not as satisfying and not always easy to come by. Not always made perfectly either. Some are really light, falling apart if you touch them; others decivingly heavy. On this occasion I was attempting the chain reaction by myself of shifting several with the mini crofter observing. Except he decided he really wanted to be a part of it which meant I did try and combine the two…And the answer is no. Or at least not with the current set up. A bit of adjustment would work I think. If the buggy makers could make two long planks to go above the shopping basket on the buggy to balance the bale would be good. Wee bales generally need to be kept with equal pressure on both lots of baler twine so that the bale does not split open on route to destination (that is depending on how well they were made). This means usually standing like I have a bad back and walking like a penguin. Moving and Handling policies to facilitate better lifting? Ha, aye right. I usually just want the quickest option. That and I’m not sure they would like my idea of lifting it over a fence and into the ring feeder to avoid a long trek to a gate and bog field. Particularly when I had decided to do it ‘on the way past’ and I didn’t have my wellies. I looked more like a scarecrow by the end with hay everywhere. Taking them in a wheel barrow would have been an easier option, I would just need a way to attach a wheelbarrow to the front of the buggy, or is that why people buy double buggies?

Tough mudder

This morning while having finished giving the mini crofter his breakfast and I was about to try and polish off the rest of my cold toast I noticed, beyond the byre, something was different…Binoculars out and behold, the ring feeder was up ended. Having just put a new bale out less than 24 hours earlier I was desperate to save as much hay as possible before the cows embarked on using it for exfoliating their hooves. Cue: bundle mini crofter into buggy, pull on wellies, and off we go. What greeted us was a set up by the organisers of ‘Tough Mudder’. A tightrope walk between the mud/slurry bath on one side and electric fence on the other with a very delicate line of solid earth in between to get to the feeder. It had then be placed (deliberately I’m sure, by one or more of the cows) into the mud bath. The type of mud that causes you to sink into a vacuum forcing yoga moves to be performed. The ring feeder then needed to be manoeuvred through the mud to align before heaving it back up and over the remaining hay without hitting the fence. Hay that has now been spread by ravenous cows. The electric line needed braved once again to finally cross to the finish line (field gate).

Or so I thought. Except I’d given the cows several buckets of cow nuts to keep them away from the hay while attempting the rescue mission. Not a bucket each, but a few. The hierarchy of the cow herd had obviously been put to the test and the buckets were now scattered at various points by cows adamant that any other bucket must have food. Our bull and matriarch were sniffing out any nuts that may have been spilt while the rest looked like they were playing musical chairs, desperate to end up with a bucket. Since it was very windy, no one will have overheard my conversation with the cows to explain that their buckets really were empty, shaking them upside down as I tried to redeem them and avoid a stampede. All to be completed within the time frame of a contented mini crofter.

Not all jobs on the croft are the equivalent to Tough Mudder, I’ll be honest. However, we don’t tend to have to set the place up as an obstacle course, the livestock/weather lead the way. It can be a bit more expensive for us than just entering a race, but, if anyone wants a shot (aka help out), I wouldn’t charge you.

Medal for completion: Wellies that give off a fragrant ‘farmyard’ aroma for the next 8 hours…

The croft must go on.

Knowing that I have to manage the croft on my own while Tim is at work means we have slowly set it up to be as manageable as possible for one pair of hands (albeit, a pair of hands and a mini crofter now in tow). This is fine until the sickness bug hits! When you want the bed to drop anchor as you feel the rough seas tossing you about. When you wish the grass was as green as you. And you realise the mini crofter will be awake in only a few hours.  The impending doom of dawn awaits…

This is when you phone a friend (alright, whatsApp, I hate phones), lots of friends, and a distress signal gets aired on Facebook. The chicken coop was something I really struggled with while pregnant and the thought of the smell of it is the same when feeling positively ill. I had no plans to even venture near. Ha, stuff them (not literally, they are on flubevet), I thought. At least the cows and sheep will manage for a day. My main concern was the mini crofter. I have no idea how other single parents manage to be sick while still looking after a dependent. Me? I brought in the cavalry. Mini crofter was shipped off for the weekend and today, neighbours came up to feed the animals.

So, maybe not the most interesting of news but it does show us our friends who volunteer themselves and are willing to help (Marion, Niall, Ali, Catriona, David, Lesley, the names could go on). For them, and their families, Tim and I are much indebted to, for without them, the circus (sorry, croft), wouldn’t function. The ‘community’ is still alive and well and willing to help.

Tonight, the sea is calm, the waves have stopped, and the mini crofter seems to be having the time of his life with the MacDonald family in Banff. Just remember son, don’t get too use to that way of life, if you want to go swimming when you get home, there’s a wee loch just down the road…

‘All terrain’? What’s in a name?

If Polaris could make buggies, as in baby buggies, not golfing buggies, I would be more than willing to test it for them. It may be a niche market but I think there are enough babies in agriculture who would benefit.

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And yes, I nicked the picture from a family photo. Why? It has cows, that’s why. And, they’re a good quality bunch down there (the relatives with the business that is, I have no idea about the cows). So, want a Polaris? Just go visit them at Facebook: Wm WM Rose & Sons Ltd or www.wmrose.co.uk

Lasting hay

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After the crofter gave the cows a bale before going to work I was pleasantly surprised at how long it was lasting. Upon closer inspection  I discovered the ring feeder had been pushed up against the fence…and the electric wire. Nothing like electrical currents putting you off your dinner. However, it didn’t take them long to head back to the feeder once I managed to push it back.