Welcome to the new Colonsay Crofting Blog. Here you can find out what it's really like crofting on a small remote island, through the seasons and ever the changing weather. I (Tanya) will mostly be writing about my own crofting experience at Drumclach, in Lower Kichattan. Myself and my partner Colm rent the croftland at Drumclach where we keep a mixed of Hebridean and Suffolk cross sheep as well as a small market garden. I will also be visiting some of the community owned crofts to give an update on how the crofts have been used and developed.
Fair warning...if you are not into photos of sheep then you may find spring a bit boring as it is all about lambing. There are things happening in the garden but since we lost our polytunnel to storm Freya in March, things are not photo worthy at the moment.
Spring has arrived in true Scottish style with a slight dusting of snow (truthfully more like sleet) this afternoon. Today marked the first official day of lambing at Drumclach so regular checks are taking place day and night for any ewes going into labour. So far, we can see lots of udders but they are all just content chewing the cud for now. We have 18 Hebridean ewes and 22 Suffolk cross ewes that we hope will all have lambs very soon. The weather was a bit dreich for photos today so I have included some from the glorious sun we had at the weekend below.
The photo above shows our ewes coming for their daily feed of ewe nuts. They are all looking a good size, hopefully they will all be in lamb.
Introducing, Tommy (left) and Cooper (right), our tups for this season. Tommy was kindly donated to us by Rhona and Lez at Homefield croft and Cooper was born at Drumclach last spring. They are both pretty laid back however they have been banging heads recently, probably because Cooper has now reached his full size.
Oisìn (my eighteen-month old son) and I head out to check the sheep. We feed them ewe nuts and hay and top up their water containers every day from December through to the end of lambing (late April).
When the weather is nice, after feeding, we head down to Port Mor for a play in the rock pools.
After three days of watching and waiting, the first lamb of the season was born today at 6 a.m. One of our Hebridean ewes had a single white lamb shortly followed by a set of Suffolk cross Texel twins. We keep an eye on our sheep with regular checks throughout the day, from first to last light. The sheep move about the field depending on the wind direction so sometimes we are lucky and can observe a ewe in labour from the comfort of the living room with a pair of binoculars. Most of the time we are heading out for regular walks around the field. When a lamb is born, we keep a close eye to make sure it gets up on its feet and gets a feed from mum. Sometimes if the labour has been long or a lamb is weak, they can become hypothermic and we need to intervene and heat the lamb up with a special box with a blow heater underneath. We give the lamb some colostrum from mum and check its temperature until it gets back to normal and is strong enough to go outside again.
Eight lambs born today! Three sets of twins and two single lambs with a couple of difficult deliveries. No time for photos today. When a ewe goes into labour we usually wait three to four hours for here to lamb on her own. If a lamb does not appear after this time, we usually have a look to see if any part of the lamb is presenting. This gives us an indication of the problem and we can decide how to intervene. We don't like to leave the ewe struggaling for two long as both here and the lamb will become tired.
Woody End croft is situated at Uragaig, on the north west coast of the island, overlooking Kiloran Bay. The croft has been run by Carrie Seymour and Phil Jones since 2012. This is one of two crofts bought by Colonsay Community Development Company in Uragaig in 2008 as part of the Community Crofting project, aiming to attract new residents to the island. The majority of the croft is managed native woodland, which gives shelter to Carrie’s garden and pig, known affectionately (and not very imaginatively) as “Pig”, a beautiful big black saddleback cross, and the island’s only pig. Phil and Carrie have been busy clearing Rhododendron ponticum (an invasive species of Rhododendron present throughout much of the central and northern parts of Colonsay, and throughout Scotland), making way for more trees. With help from the Woodland Trust, plans are in place to plant a further 1200 native trees on the croft to create further pockets of woodland and to create hedgerows.
Here's Carrie cutting and burning the Rhododendron brash.