Friday, 10 September 2010

3 hogs, a dog and some veg

Our first litter of 3 African Pygmy Hedgehogs is now 3 weeks old so there is no risk of mum eating the litter if we handle them. They are so cute and soft to hold. See our blog Hebhogs for more pics.

Harris with one of the hoglets

Shiela and JF from Scalpay Linen paid us a visit to catch up and also collect this years' Hebridean wool. As a thank you they kindly gifted us with a cute little dog made out of their own Hebridean Harris Tweed which actually contains some wool from our own flock.

Today we popped along to our local farmers' market and picked up some much needed fresh produce so we have no excuses for not getting our 5-a-day. Everything is grown locally by neighbouring crofters, even the grapes! Bet you didn't know you could grow grapes in the Western Isles.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Back to School

Well, the summer holidays are over now and it’s back to the usual routine of getting the kids (and Anne) ready for school and nursery. This is actually welcome news for me as it gives me a little more time during the day where I can work on something with out interruption from the kids (or Anne!). Anne has only been given 2 days a week in school this year but over the summer has successfully managed to secure consultancy work delivering teacher training to schools in Scotland. She spent weeks developing her presentation and delivered it for the first time last week to 50 teachers at a school in Edinburgh. She already has about a dozen more dates booked before xmas so its looking very promising. Although this means she will be away a few nights a month it will mean she has less workload and more time at home than before.

Because of the wet summer we were quite late in getting our sheep sheared however we finally got there at the beginning of August. With all the lambs ear tagged and more independent from their mothers we sold 5 ewes and 10 lambs as a starter flock to a couple down near Carloway. This brings our numbers back down to a more manageable flock size of 25.

In our last blog we mentioned our new enterprise - breeding African Pygmy Hedgehogs. We had a mixed week last week with one of the older hogs dying. We agreed to take her on along with the breeding hogs as she was kept as a pet by the previous owner as she had cataracts in both eyes and was barely able to see. It’s a real shame as she was so easy to handle. However on a brighter point we heard our first squeaks coming from the nest of one of the hogs we have mated so we should have a few baby hogs for sale if all goes well over the next month or so. We’re itching to check in the nest but to disturb them at this stage may result in the mum eating her babies. Here’s a photo of my DIY hog house.... more photos to follow when the hoglets are out and about in a couple of weeks.

Not much news on the alpaca front although we bumped into a couple of distant relatives up at Eoropie the other week. Peter and his 2 lovely llamas have moved to the Ness area and now run a llama trekking business - We had a long natter about everything camelid and wish Peter every success with the trekking.

The girls coming for their evening feed
After many weeks spent stacking, bagging and collecting this year’s peat I finally brought down the last load today and this time I didn’t sink the 4x4 in the moor like last year! ( Here is what 500 bags of peat looks like. I just need to clear out the garage to get it all in now!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Hedgehogs of Lewis

We've now returned from our holidays on the mainland and brought back with us new additions to our ever expanding croft family. These are the much sought after exotic pet..... African Pygmy Hedgehogs.

Sonic (Named by our 4yr old son)

Anne has had her eyes on these for a couple of years now and (after much persuading) we are now proud owners of 14! They're settling well into their new surroundings and are providing hours of amusement (and cleaning out duties!). See our sister blog site - for more information and photos of the rest of our herd.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Alpaca Shearing

This week we had "Mr Clipper" from the US visit us to shear all our alpacas. He has been touring round Europe and is finishing his season in Scotland. When we bought our alpacas a year ago they were already shorn so this event was a first for us. Luckily the rain held off till we were packing up. Thanks to our neighbour Roddy, we managed to get a few pictures of the process.

Putting a noose around each leg, then pull!

She's going no-where!

All our alpacas made this noise throughout except our stud who simply relaxed and closed his eyes. I think he enjoyed it!

Nearly done, anything for the weekend?

Nice work Mr Clipper

It was back to peat stacking the next day!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Here come the girls

BBKing giving the girls the eye! Follow the leader

Our focus shifted back to breeding the alpacas last week and it seems BBKing has the hang of it now - he has covered all of our adult girls. We will repeat the process in the next week or 2 to check for spitt off's. (Female alpacas are good at knowing if they are pregnant and will be quick to tell the stud!)

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

final tally

Our 16 ewes have now all lambed so lamb watch is finally over! We have had 24 lambs in total, (17 girls and 7 boys). Everything was going so well until ewe number 13 lambed and showed no interest in her wee boy. After keeping her in the barn for a week with her lamb and holding her to allow the lamb to feed there was still no signs of them bonding so, "Oliver" is now on the bottle 4 times a day. He follows me everywhere even when I feed the alpacas in another field - he is really attached to my black wellies. 14 and 15 lambed no problem and this morning our last, number 16, had twins - a big boy and a tiny girl. The girl is too weak to feed, even from a bottle so we tube fed her colostrum and will feed her until she is strong enough to fed from her mum.

Harris with Oliver

16 with her twins - you can't really tell but the lamb in front is so small, hopefully she will gain her strength to feed for herself.

Although we've been busy with the sheep we have managed to try and start breeding the alpacas. A couple of times I had put our stud (BBKing) in a small paddock with the girls with out much success and then one day when moving some of our early lambers to another field BBking sneaked through an open gate and got amongst the girls and did his thing. Just shows you can lead a horse... Anyway, we will continue to give him opportunities over the coming weeks so hopefully he will have worked his way round the girls otherwise we will start penning him in and playing our "orgling" cd to get them the mood. (Orgle - the noise the male makes while mating -

Friday, 7 May 2010

more twins.....

7 of our 16 ewes have now lambed - all but one has been twins so far! The girls are winning 9 to 4 boys.

It's a hard life

Enjoying the sun

The alpacas are fascinated by the new arrivals

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Who's the Daddy?

Congratulations Mr Four Horned Ram from Scalpay Linen - you're a daddy!!

Our first lambs were born today around midday - twins - a boy and a girl! So now Lamb Watch begins in earnest as the rest of the flock look ready to follow suit at any time. By the looks of the bellies...the twins are going to have plenty of company!

And the proud foster parents...Farmer Iain....

...and Croft Wife Anne!

Even BB King dropped by to see the new arrivals and pass on his warmest congratulations to Mum!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Spring at last

It's been a while since our last post and although we've been very busy there has been no real news on the alpaca front.

A few weeks ago we decided to return Karl to the original breeder on the mainland as the 2 boys were constantly fighting. They had been kept in a field out of sight of any females prior to arriving here so I guess their hormones went a bit crazy once there were girls on the scene.

Anne has had some prototype garments knitted.....I'll let her blog on that when she gets a chance.

Now that spring has arrived we will soon be starting to breed the alpacas. We decided to give the girls a winter break… it seems such a long time ago since Rose was born. It will be another year before any new cria arrive but I know the wait will be worth it.

Our hebrideans are due their lambs in the next couple of weeks and as we haven’t scanned them it will be interesting to see how many there will be. We have 16 ewes so I expect we will average 1 per ewe with some not producing and some with twins. Cute photos to follow soon.

I’m afraid the batteries have been flat in my camera for a while, I’ll get them charged and promise some new photos in the next blog. Here are a couple I took back in February (click to enlarge).

Sunday, 21 February 2010

We have SNOW!

Well we know most of you have been suffering the snow for a while now - but here at Black Sheep Croft we have been missing out! Apart from the occasional dusting there has been hardly any snow to speak of - not even enough for a snowball.

However, on Saturday the children were delighted to wake up to a snow covered garden! Cue sledging, snowballs and a snowman...

And even a snow-alpaca...!

The alpacas however, don't seem as enthusiastic about the change...

I have had a long weekend off school and have been catching up with all things alpaca. We have recruited an enthusiastic, talented and dedicated local knitter who is going to produce our first proper knitted items from Jasmine's wool!!! We can't wait to see the results!

Also, we have been contacted by The Heb which is a glossy, annual magazine and pictorial as they want to do a small feature about us and the alpacas.

I have eventually got round to felting with some of Jasmine's left over bits. The bag is wonderfully soft and such a lovely mixture of colours...BUT although it looks ok in the picture there isn't actually a proper handle and it didn't felt as well on the inside - so it's back to the drawing board!

Finally, I have been chained to the computer developing our new website, complete with shopping cart, however in keeping up with the current is a secret and you'll have to wait for the grand unveiling!

Monday, 1 February 2010

The boys are in town

After a 600 mile round trip and 2 ferries at the weekend I arrived back with our stud, BBKing, and his pal Karl. Alpacas don’t like to be on their own so we thought it only fair to bring Karl along for the journey and to be his field buddy. They are best pals and have worked together in the past on fox duty for other sheep farmers.

BBKing admiring the girls!

BBking (left) and Karl

Friday, 29 January 2010

To a Mouse...

Belated Happy New Year!

Sorry I’ve not posted for a while, we’ve been very busy over the holidays with visitors and then getting back to the usual routine with school, nursery etc.

We’ve been very fortunate with the weather compared to the rest of the UK although our kids don’t think so. This [pic above] is the worst we had of any snow and it was gone within a day. Stornoway and other parts of Lewis did get it quite a bit more but I think since we are a few hundred yards from the shore then the sea air has an effect.

Anne did get a chance to experiment with felting, not sure if we will put this into production just yet! Neddle Felted Guinea Pig and Needle Felted Mouse (using merino wool and glass eyes)

Felted Rose Necklace (wet felted and needle felted with sewn on seed beads)

I’ve been working hard on the fencing so that this weekend I can pop over and pick up BB King, our stud from Campsie Camelids.