So much has been happening on the croft in the last few weeks - good things - so it is time to step off the wheel take stock, and share some of the goings on
Fencing and drainage are the biggest priorities, and we have accepted quotes for this work from local men - a father and son. Some jobs are best left to the men with the proper machinery. Good stockproof fencing is certainly required - especially since we will be growing crops. New gates and improved access to the fields will also make a big difference.
We have two fields - the top field and (surprise) the bottom field. Although this year we will grow on the top field, and keep the sheep on the bottom (until they go back up the hill) - we do intend to rotate. Our predecessor, who regularly used to win the award for best kept croft at the local show, when he was 'at himself'', grew on both fields.
Both fields are arranged in a pattern of rigs, or - feannags, which are formed by drainage ditches. The land is a mildly acid soil - lots of peat, but on a clay base. Both fields slope downwards, so as you near the bottom, there are a great many rushes, and the ground is marshy.
We have had no shortage of advice, and everyone assures us that good ditching should bring the land back into production, and we will be able to deal with the rushes easily. Watch this space to see how that works out!
And we are getting some help with the cultivation! These chaps are happy to come along, and for free board and lodging, they will plough, dig, root up, and fertilise enough ground for us to grow some vegetables and oats this year. They belong to one of the neighbouring crofters, but they will be living with us for now.
Talking of growing oats, I have been in touch with a lovely lady from the Machair Life project - based mostly on the Uists. She has very kindly put me in contact with one of the crofters there, who will supply me with some native oat seed. Although this is not likely to keep us going in porridge, it will be interesting to see how it does. It also ties in nicely with another project that we are planning for this year.
Bees! Oh yes. Not the bumble bee as pictured, but honey bees. I have ordered two nuclei from a wonderful beekeeper near Inverness, who assures me that bees should do well enough here. I will get my bees in the Summer. Indeed there are already several beekeepers on the island, and a couple of week ago, I went to my first meeting of the Lewis Beekeeping Association - lots happening there.
Ciamar a tha sibh? Tha mi ag ionnsachadh gaidhlig. (How are you? I am learning Gaelic) Yes, I have gone to my first Gaelic class in a nearby community centre. Along with eleven other beginners I managed to get my head and tongue around some easy conversational phrases, among lots of fun and laughter. My husband has been learning for over ten years and is fluent enough to attempt speaking to some of our neighbours in the 'language of heaven.' James (or Seumas as he is known here) has been enjoying going along to a Gaelic playgroup. At lunch today he told us off for asking if he wanted milk. "At the croilligean we say bainne!" I will have to run to keep up with the conversation methinks.
And all that spinning around? Well - here is a tangible result. My very first ball of handspun yarn. The lovely and very kind Dawn, who writes the beautiful blog - Raising Seedlings, sent me a fat parcel full of zwartbles fleece, some ready carded for spinning. I had been struggling with my wheel and frustration was setting in, when I discovered a spinning and woolcraft group meeting not far from where we live. I went along, and was warmly welcomed by everyone: there are some extremely talented and creative ladies there. At the meeting, one of the members gave a demonstration of felting, and showed some amazing creations - slippers, hats, wall hangings. So inspirational. And they helped me with my spinning technique! Just to have someone sit with me and give a few pointers, and I was away. So - my first wool - not bad. I am assured I will get better - and I will.
So - what next? Well, trying to tame these two wild sheep is next on the agenda. We have to give them their fluke and worm dose, and check their feet. At the moment, all we have seen is their feet disappearing away over the park at a very fast pace, so.... Well - plenty photos of distant white dots on green coming up soon.