Saturday 25 July 2015

Something not nearly so nasty

Much better!
For those of you who were concerned about "Charlie" the charollais tup, he is much better. The Vet's prescription of antibiotics and the application of "Camrosa ointment" have dried up his nasty facial lesions, they are healing and he is a lot friskier although he doesn't have to go to work until November. Not here of course of he would e mating with his daughters. So if you want the tup that fathered Alistair's lambs that topped the sale in Fort William last year get in touch.

Albert Einstein and the bees : Ignore the science and give in to the chemical industry

Native black bees in Kilchoan far from oilseed rape and neonicotinoids 
Bees and bee colonies are dying at an alarming rate and this has lead to journalists (even in the Daily Telegraph) quoting Einstein; "If bees disappeared man would only have four years to live". Its doubtful if Albert ever did say this but there is some truth to it. About one third of global agricultural output depends on pollination by bees, these crops supply about 35% of our calories and many of our minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.

The UK government has just lifted the EU wide ban on neonicotinoid seed dressings to control flea beetle in  oilseed rape crops, despite  overwhelming scientific evidence that this stuff does affect bees. Its a political decision ignoring the science. Perhaps that's why they haven't published the minutes of the latest UK Pesticide Safety Committee meeting. Could be that the discussion didn't suit the chemical industry and the NFU.

Our bees here in Lochaber are safe enough its when they are foraging in oilseed rape crops that the bees are poisoned. It seems that any species that ingests oilseed rape tissue, pollen or nectar is susceptible. According to one credible scientific source it only takes 5 maize seeds treated with neonics  to kill a partridge.

Lab experiments  have shown that the bee's ability to navigate and find its way back to the hive is damaged by these chemicals. There is an important principle at stake here; The "Precautionary Approach" it means we should assume that there will be damaging side effects of new technology and it should therefore be thoroughly screened, tested and evaluated for environmental safety.

It seems that the pursuit of profit at any environmental cost is compromising the UK Government's obligation to keep us safe and the environment healthy.   Members of the Pesticide Safety Committee might consider resignation en masse in protest.  But of course they won't!

Without the Pesticide Safety Committee's work we would still be using dieldrin and DDT ,nerve gas derivatives, to control parasites of sheep while poisoning wildlife and Shepherds.

Friday 24 July 2015

Little Grey Fergie splits the firewood.

My neighbour  Alan offered to split the logs I sawed yesterday. What an offer! The alternative meant a whole day with a maul and splitting wedge, the wood is unseasoned and very tough to split. In an hour and a quarter we processed a tonne of logs with Alan's tractor driven splitter which he buiolt from bits of scrap metal and an old hydraulic ram.

Linked to the Fergie hydraulics it exerts about 12 tonnes pressure at the splitter blade and goes through the toughest wood smoothly, quietly and quickly. Its a pleasure to use. I did suggest that people would pay for the experience of operating it at today's Sports Day but of course you have to consider "Elfin safety!".

Harry Ferguson probably did more to revolutionise post-war British farming than any other person. He provided a vast range of tools to fit his tractors including a saw-bench but it seems that he never thought of a log splitter.

The tractor was built in the 50 s and then renovated by Alan, it putters away driving the hydraulics sounding and smelling as a tractor should.......... smells almost as good as a hot chainsaw cutting pine on a cold winter morning. 

Monday 13 July 2015

Something really nasty

Our Charollais tup has had really nasty skin lesions on his muzzle. At first I thought,  "Orf" ( Contagious dermatitis) but it obviously wasn't contagious, non of the other sheep have developed the symptoms. I tried an antibiotic spray without much success and then it just got worse. Then just as you do before you go to a Doctor's appointment I looked it up on the web.

Dermatophilus congolensis sounded nasty enough; crusty skin rubbed off when it itches followed by a secondary infection. Its caused by a bacterium but it is spread by direct contact like orf

His companion the Cheviot tup hasn't been affected
Today we got him penned up and the Vet had a look. She decided that it is probably an allergy to midge bites, the bites set up the reaction, the skin itches, the animal rubs and a secondary infection makes the exposed tissue red and ulcerated. So we are trying a heavy duty antibiotic by injection every two days for a week. It won't shift the allergy but it should deal with the deep seated infection. A dose of systemic insecticide might help to keep the midges away but I'm not optimistic.

He has produced some first class lambs and he has to go this year or he will be mating with his daughters. He'll be difficult to sell for breeding with his scarred face so will probably end up in pork pies and pet food.

Pony baggage : Fat, teeth and new shoes

Jenny Wren getting fat
I've always been on the periphery of horses and horse ownership as I am now. Paying a fortune for riding lessons for children was my way of avoiding all the baggage and even more expense that comes with ponies. Spectators see more of the game than the players so here's what I've seen over the years.

Ponies get fat on fresh air and weeds, even in what seems to be a bare paddock and pony owners are for ever thinking; " does my pony look  fat in this". This being a horse rug. They have very efficient digestive systems; the ponies not the owners, so unless they are working really hard like Black Beauty or my Grandfather's Clydesdales did ..... don't feed them anything at all when they are at grass, especially in the Spring when the green stuff is full of soluble carbs.  Manage them so you can still see their ribs.

A horse's teeth grow continuously otherwise they would soon wear away to stumps, they are not just there so that horse people and every Irishman can tell how old your pony is, they also contribute to making Vets wealthy because they need regular home visits for tooth maintenance with a file.

Finally but most importantly; they need new shoes and pedicure more often than their owners. This means that you need a Farrier. Farriers have arcane and mysterious skills acquired over many years at college, in the Army and the gym. Never forget that they are doing you a favour by attending to your pony entirely at their convenience and by taking all major credit cards for the eye watering fee.

I am still avoiding the baggage because Sue Cameron, Connie and Rosie deal with it.

Monday 6 July 2015

Jenny Wren : Arab x Highland pony arrives

 A big surprise for Rosie and Connie, Sue Cameron's grand daughters this morning; a pony arrived for them.

Jenny Wren is an Arab x Highland pony, good looking but sturdy, the good looks from the Arab genes and the toughness from the Highland genes.
She must be tough and hardy she has been out wintered on wind swept Hebridean island for three years without a shelter.

Formerly a trekking pony on Mull she seems quiet and well mannered but hungry. As soon as the head collar came off her head was down and she was eating. We'll have to keep an eye on her she could get fat very quickly up there.

The plan is for the girls to ride her under their Grandmother's supervision while they are here in the school holidays and as Gracie is now two and a half its time that she can get started.

Up to the hill
Tough, hardy and good looking

Saturday 4 July 2015

The N. Atlantic coast : unfit for human habitation?

Somewhere out there in the murk fifty boats are competing in the Tobermory regatta, battling  a wind driven downpour and white capped waves. Indoors I have just lit the Rayburn , Mimi has given up hunting for a sleep in my chair, its July 4th. The last prolonged spell of good weather was in November 2014. Ten years ago we looked at moving to S.W. France where a farm could be bought for the price of a house in the UK.

We took the train to Tarbes, hired a car and went house / smallholding hunting.

The estate agent explained that there were basically three types available. Houses built or renovated by the French were beside a main road with stylish  d├ęcor, lots of stainless steel and impressive vegetable plots. Houses renovated by Brits had terracotta tiled floors, oak beams, wood burners and a skip load of empty wine bottles. The third category was described as, " habitable" , this meant that the former farmer occupant had recently expired and the corpse had been removed,  lots of scope for "remont" !.

Despite there being many suitable nice places we decided against moving to southern France its benign climate and promise of a rural idyll. Much of it is as remote as Kilchoan and where ever you go you need social capital, friends and neighbours you can rely on. This is difficult to acquire unless you are moving to a job, have children in school and are willing to join the village cycling club.

Language isn't a problem, Dormouse has read Proust in French, mine largely acquired in Quebec, is passable and  mildly amusing to the natives. I do admire the place. France is the most civilised country in the world; its almost worth enlisting in the Foreign Legion to get French citizenship after five years service.

So here I am, in waterproofs most of the time on the edge of the N. Atlantic wondering sometimes, "is this fit for human habitation" after all, as a species,  we evolved in the tropics and sub-tropics, perhaps it was a mistake to move too quickly and too far from the sun.