Tuesday 13 December 2016

More night visitors - Young red deer stags

The red deer rut is tailing off but there are still gangs of adolescent stags wandering around. This morning at about 3.30 am they were in the hay park in front of Cruachan 150 m up the road.

I was walking over this field yesterday on my way down to the seashore and realised there had been a number of deer grazing and resting. They had probably come down from the woodland below the common grazing, down to the shore and along to the lowest fence and best grass.

The older stags are still in charge of their mating harems on the hill and these younger ones have to wait until their elders are too tired towards the end of the season or until they are older and big enough to assert themselves.

It's interesting that we now have these deer in the township because if I am going to plant trees I will need more than plastic tubbes to protect them, I'll need deer fencing and this is hugely expensive.

Thursday 8 December 2016

Avian flu... bio-security measures ... oops!..two days late. I should watch more TV.

"Nice out today"
Two regular blog readers asked me this morning, " what are you doing about avian flu? are you keeping the hens indoors? At the time I wasn't doing anything at all. So I had a quick look at the  Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspection Directorate" website. It was so much easier to write when it was the plain"Department of Agriculture" but that's progress. I discovered that I am required to keep my free-range hens indoors for 30 days as from 6th December.

Without consulting the hens I organised their incarceration for this evening, two days late. I was aware that the flu had arrived in the South of France and thousands of geese destined for Christmas pate de foie gras  were slaughtered last week. Now it's in the Netherlands so our government feels it necessary to be seen to act.

Strangely there is no housing requirement in N. Ireland. If infected migratory birds can get to mainland Britain from Asia you would think they could make across the Irish Sea..

Even if you only have two hens in the back garden they must be banged up too.

Ricky and Scott turned up at four thirty to help. You have to wait until dark because then the hens become very sleepy and docile. I was able to lift them off their perches, pop them in the cat basket, then they were whisked off to their new pen in the old byre. The pen that we fortunately built and pine marten proofed in the summer.

We will probably find out if it's pine marten proof, they are more likely to be killed by a pine marten than avian flu.

The politician's do have to be seen to be doing something and covering their backs at the same time you might think.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Night time serial killer pine marten caught on camera

A bantam, a hen and two chickens were missing yesterday morning. They had been persistently roosting in the shrubbery and I had tried to get them back into their house but they wouldn't cooperate. They paid the price. If poultry aren't safely locked up at dusk a pine marten is sure to get them.

The pine marten will then return the next night looking for an easy meal so I set up the trail camera behind the house where the massacre took place. The first image was a pine marten sniffing around the hen house.

Mimi, my hybrid wild cat, was on the other images also sniffing around but I'm pretty sure that she would give a pine marten a wide berth.

Friday 2 December 2016

Craigard woodland croft

When the Highland feudal landowners turfed their tenants out of their homes and off their land in the 19 th century they stopped just short of genocide by providing the dispossessed with strips of poor quality land above high water mark.

Remnant of  wildwood, Glen
These holdings or "crofts" were not large enough to support self-sufficiency so the Crofters had to work for the landowner at starvation wages.

Towards the end of the century Crofters acquired some rights to their holdings. These rights brought obligations; mainly to use the land productively.

We are required to carry out agricultural, horticultural or other productive activities which can also include forestry. Most of us keep sheep which only show a profit when you add the Single Farm Payment or subsidy from the European Union.

People in England voted in June to leave the EU. Here in Scotland we voted 72 % in favour of remaining. but when we do eventually leave we will no longer get the EU farm payment ergo if we keep sheep it will be a loss making enterprise. Sheep will largely disappear from the crofting counties. So what are the alternatives.

Providing tourist facilities is a possibility but we already have three campsites in the village and people looking for B&B want en-suite bathrooms (croft houses are too small and bathrooms are expensive to install). Equestrian enterprises and golf courses are acceptable but both require large amounts of land , management expertise and capital.

Forestry is an alternative as long as you are not looking for a cash income in the next forty years. Of course the best time to plant trees is twenty years ago. Second best is now so I think that the sheep will have to go with their lambs in the Spring and I'll start planting trees this winter.

I'll need a new title for the blog, "Craigard Woodland Croft" perhaps.