I had the full saga of the Moving of the Coows last night. Mr Crofter came over for a spot of Eve's famous Cullen Skink and a natter. Apparently, and its a pity I missed this, Hyacinth and her cohorts were eager to be moved down to their winter quarters. Ever since Mr Crofter and Mum & Dad crofter braved the elements [followed meakly and briefly by myself avec cameras] and sorted the fence post they had cruelly knocked down just as the weather closed in and merely a day after Mr Crofter had been triumphantly voted on to the Village grazings committee etc, all the fun of upsetting an easy life of The Crofter at a short distance had been taken away. And, since the air is a tad colder now, the wind stronger, the lure of a nice byre with some of the countless bales of hay that lay waiting outside for their delictation became too much of a draw. Only to get from the croft where the coows had wreaked havoc on the fence - just a day after the vote and the committee etc - to the warm byre, the cows were required to negociate the road for a hundred metres or so. Did I not tell you that Hyacinth and co are Shetlanders? No? Oh dear.
If you Googleup Shetland Cattle [its ok I'll wait here till you have read a bit] then you see they are small, environmentally friendly and calm. Not this lot I can tell you. I suggest this lot have been exiled because of their stroppyness. And size. I might even regail you of the lassoing saga one day.
Anyway, everytime Mr Crofter Sir ['Sir' because he is on the Grazing Committee. Voted on you know] tried to get Hyacinth to show her pretty little head - the one with sharp horns an all - every time she did show at the gate to the road the flippin Coop delivery van came then, no sooner had that gone the bus arrived. I mean, it only comes once an hour-ish. The buses are great I tell you. Eve left her purse on the bus the other night [for the second time. I might add] and duly next morning Mr Bus Driver produced the aforesaid lost purse. He would have brought it round to the house like last time it happened but he kept getting held up by the Cow Saga outside - all through the afternoon!
In between each visit of the bus Sir Crofter would be dancing round the croft trying to entice Hyacinth and Co to have a little look-see, perhaps a little tit-bit from the bucket and possbly, pretty please a walk gently and with great control down the road to the nice warm byre.
By now, the villagers were beginning to look out their windows since this was now Wednesday and if this saga continued till Sunday, there would be Trouble Looming. Sundays, we, the Tolsta villagers, go to church, relax, meditate or in some cases watch TV. So I'm told. We have have no TV here so we meditate or walk. Or something. We don't walk cows down the road that's for sure!
But eventually, the coows decided the coast was clear and obviously had spotted the long lush grass on the other side of the road that hadn't been eaten to a bowling-green length by the Hebridean Sheep that spooked me the other day and to whom I spoke to VERY HARSHLY. Hyacinth trotted off down the road with Sir trotting everso slightly faster in front. Then, like a flash, Tinga - one the tother-uns shot off at great pace down the lane causing an up-roar in the English Crofter-clan which got Sir Paul sprinting away out of harms way so quickly Mr Bolt would be proud of him. Then Tinga, recognising the bails of lovely hay and the byre came to a very abrupt halt, hooves skidding on the Tolsta Tarmac in true Road-Runner style.
Eventually, all the coows were safely housed in their warm-winter quarters again, sanity had reared its familiar head, Sir's heart had stopped beating at 300bpm and nice cup of tea was had by all.
As I said earlier, I wasn't there. I have no snaps of The Saga of the Coows. So you'll have to put up with these; Dad Crofter playing with the metal things to keep the beast from straying. And, Sir Crofter wondering what happened
Fashion; just because one is a crofter, it doesn't mean that the latest fashions pass you by. In fact, I can honestly say that Crofter and Dad crofter are fair setting the fashion. In the village. Well, down that end of the village anyway. As you can see here. Ah hem.
The Culprit [I think. Was one of them anyway. Huh!] Mum crofter keeps me out of the incident scene and traps me with those spooky little Hebridean Lambs.
The scene of The Fence Post Incident.
Ghreit loves me. I know she does. Arrived this morning to take her for a stroll on Garry beach and she barked with glee, span round three times before jumping into my car. That's how I know.
Hyacynth does not love me. She trashed a fence post yesterday knowing full well that there was a gale coming in and Paul the Crofter, newly elected onto the village grazing committee and all that, would have to come out and un-trash the fence post - with me, camera-laden following behind. That's how I know.
Paul the Crofter, newly elected.............. tolerates me. He lets me snap him up anytime while he, along with Dad crofter and Mum crofter do all the work. That's how I know.
I think Mum and Dad are rather ambivalent towards me. They smile at me. Me? Eh? So I snap them up, come home, develop my film and then sit in front of the fire and sip my green tea in a rather up-market way. I'm from Bath you see.
The weather is horrible. Hyacynth is a good forecaster - un-like the radio who even got the day wrong on the shipping forecast the other day. I'm still wet from venturing out onto the croft with PtC [+M&D] to sort the fence post. I stuck it out till the end. Well, till the end of the first bit when they had nearly got the stump of the old post out of the ground while Hyacynth looked smugly on.
I'd hate to be a crofter. I mean, I got spooked when the little flock of sweet Hebridean Lambs followed me down the croft today. I spoke to them Very Harshly I can tell you. And quickened my step and everything.
Its proper hard work and everything too. Once you have sorted the fence in the howling rain, the animals have been fed, get the amorous turkey extracted from your leg, you have to go and earn a living to pay for it all. Its not like this on The Archers is it?
ps. Yes, I lightened the pictures from reality so you could see them!
I was mooching around the croft yesterday exchanging pleasantries with Mr Crofter and fending off the amorous turkey when I noticed the light falling on this wonderful collection of tools in the feed shed. I love the look of old tools, they have so much texture and love ingrained in them - I was using a pile of old junk of a camera as it happens - so I snapped them up onto film. As you do. Well, as I do.
I hear one of the cows decided to go on walkabout yesterday - bashing down a croft fence and taking off towards the little village shop. Dad and Mr Crofter are out today mending the fences so, when I have walked Ghriet [an Afrikaan woofing dog] I shall be out snapping them up. By the way, congrats to Mr Paul Crofter on his election to the village grazing committee. The first English crofter, possibly the youngest and certainly the nicest english crofter called Paul around here :-)
Chickens again. Or is it ducks. Whatever! Here's Dad crofter doing things in the old terraced hen-houses soon to be demolished [probably by a winter storm] to make way for a new hen-related development. Progress eh?
Chaos. That's the only way to explain it. I troll down to the croft to do a spot of snapping up at the croft to find the turkeys in the feed room trying to snatch an early feed [ they were threatened with the freezer as a home!], the piggies ran round the 'lawn' dispersing the ducks and chickens everywhere as they tried to pinch the chickens food - and did before being moved on by Sir the Crofter. Dad crofter arrived and we went down to see the chickens - where I find that they have a chicken who thinks he is a duck. He lives happily with the ducks, he eats with the ducks, sleeps with the ducks. I wonder if he would eventually taste of duck! I wandered back to the house to have a sane chat with Mum Crofter then went home.
I had a metaphorical letter from a Mrs Trellis about the sheep who had tidy-up in the horn department. That was Rambo - a common name for a ram in these parts. Not sure if that's a reflection on the film viewing on the island, a lack of imagination or else I'm missing something in the Gaelic. Needless to say, he's fine. I say fine but what I really mean is that he is well and just as likely to butt you up the rear end as you stroll unconcerned down the croft, camera and lightmeter in hand, as he was before. As it happens I was on the tother side of the fence when I took this brave shot [?] and Rambo was looking for some chicken/duck food to supplement his morning toast Dad Crofter had already given him.
Paul the Crofter and Eve stroll down from The Croft towards the beach.
Its not all graft and hard work at the croft. Mum and Dad have just had a couple of days living it up on the mainland - and visiting the various retail outlets one can't access here on the seaward side. Paul gets into Stornoway one in a blue moon for a quiet IrnBru or to collect some more feed for the ever ravenous beasts he has. And then again my partner Eve and I drag him him down to the beach for a stroll from time to time - where Paul regails us with how wonderful life is etc. Always uplifting don't you know.
The Crofter gazes over the Minch to the mainland mountains some 30 miles away.
Well, I can tell you the sheep look very happy at the moment enjoying the late season sunshine. At least I think its still sunshine but my paid job kept me out till midnight and I'm yet to peek out the window. In true photographic style, that's mum crofter who'es head has been cut off in the image. Well, one has to stick to tradition!
Teeth! Who'ed ave em? Well, most of us would really given a downhill and a following wind. Only, some of us were given rather weaker natural teeth than others, some ate too many sweeties and others never looked after what they were given with the brush and floss. That's where the Dental Technical Artist comes in. Since it is they that make the crowns and bridges and dentures dentists decide we require.
Paul The Crofter, apart from chasing all over the croft trying to find that elusive Ewe, mend a chicken run, feed the cow or scratch the back of piggy gets to make his living as a dental technical artist. Of course, you all know the correct term for such a job is Technician, but since I know a little about the job and since I know the work Paul does, I shall henceforth call him a Dental Technical Artiste. This work provides an income so that Paul can run the croft which provides a lot of the food for him and his parents.
Many people don't even realise that this job exists. So I shall endeavour to try and remember the processes to make a denture that Paul carries out. The dentist makes the impression and Paul makes a plaster mould from this. Then bite blocks are made. This enables the dentist to register the relationship between the upper and lower arch of the gums. From these bite blocks Paul then sets up the teeth onto a wax base and makes it look real pretty. I might add here that Lichtenstein is the false teeth king of the world – where the little white[ish] teeth are mainly made. You following his?? The wax based teeth are then tried in the mouth to see if you can get them in and stay in, look like Simon Cowell [if that’s what you like !!!!!] or Sheryl Crow and not like one of Paul’s cows! Now the really clever bit – the wax is then changed into acrylic and this is done using the loss wax process. Eh? The wax and teeth are put into plaster which is in two parts. When set, the wax is melted out and putty like acrylic paste is put in and then, under great pressure is cooked. The mould is then carefully cracked open, the dentures trimmed and lovingly polished and there you have it. A potted version of a long and involved job that I am so pleased to have left behind some 20 years ago!
Here's Nigel White II. He's a guinea pig - although I'm not sure he realises. Spends the day eating and sleeping it seems. Nigel is in his winter quarters and has a fine view of Paul making teeth through the window. Nigel shares his quarters with another GP whose name I'm rather unsure of.
I like to have porridge for breakfast. I was recently informed that my 'bad' cholesterol was a little high so I've taken out all the fatty foods from my diet and eat porridge most mornings. It's doing me good, I like it - especially with dried fruit and my sister's honey. And it feels like I'm doing Scottish. A bit. Having said that, I didn't manage to get up as early as I should have this morning so all I had was bread with pear and apple spread washed down with black coffee.
I popped down to The Crofters and find Paul The Crofter mooching round the kitchen like a turkey some weeks before Christmas. He's been out at a fireworks party the night before, has a cold, got up late and has to make some teeth before the post goes. Paul is a dental technical artist don't you know. Not wanting to disturb Paul's breakfast [milky coffee and cereal since you ask], I wandered outside to find Crofter Dad happily feeding the old ram [sorry, can't remember his name] and a few ewes . Feeding them TOAST !!!!!!!! I mean, these are sheeps aren't they?? Apparently, Dad has always fed one of the sheep toast for breakfast "and it wouldn't be fair not to feed the others" I'm told. I spend a few moments scratching Piggy's back and traipse back home bewildered. Oh, and a very Happy Birthday Mum Crofter.
It might have been Rambo - or it might not. I have not quite got my eye in as it happens. I could have been Querty - if that's how one spells his name. Anyway, whoever it twas was having an issue with his curly horn - which look so lovely on the postcards that sell like hot cakes in the Big City of Stornoway and passes for ART - whatever that is. The curly horn was a day of two away from pressing hard on the ram's cheek near his eye rendering his sight of the lovely ladies nearby impaired somewhat. So now we have the the second act of the day - the first being the penning of the rams - the second being The Sawing of the horn. Eh??
We don't do this sort of thing in Bath Spa where I'm from but I'm assured by Susan, The Crofters Mum, that you get used to it and anyway, it needs to be done. So out comes The Saw! At which point I barely stop myself from fainting and hold on discretely to the fence. The ram is held securely by Crofters Mum and Dad, cloth protecting Rambo's [or whoever it happens to be] eye and sawing off the edge of the horn commences. I'm reliably informed one can't just hack the whole thing off as it bleeds, but like a tooth - that both Mr Crofter and I know a little about having both been in that flippin trade and Mr Crofter Sir is still in - like a tooth, it doesn't always hurt if you saw a bit off. I just hope my very nice and adept dentist in Stornoway isn't reading this......
These aren't not the best pictures of this act but I was getting glare from something in the sunshine. Just wish David would put his hat back on... :-)
It the time of year in this village when the boy meet girl scenario happens. Sheep that is. The humans get their chance later. There is a lot at stake here. You chose a nice ram who might like a few of the ladies and then you pop them together for a while and later you get some lovely little sheep-lets. Only the boys have another idea and they've been fighting it out between themselves for the right to have the girls for themselves. Its a bit like what the deer do only you only have to look your window to see the rams rutting in the field. Actually, you can hear their heads crashing together while your supping a nice cup of green tea over breakfast sometimes. Its like Saturday night in Stornoway! [I'm told] You can see it in the rams too - with scars all over the shop. Pity really, because they all get a girl in the end anyway. Here we see Mr Crofter and dad Crofter gazing lovingly at the girls before rounding them up to await their suitors.
Wow! Today was a lovely day so Pig and Piggy decided to go off to their holiday home on the veg patch for a little pleasurable rooting and wallowing. So, once Paul was alerted to their wishes, a small procession occurred. But not before the ducks and chickens had scarpered out of the way! A Tolsta seagull looks on regally. Meanwhile, hanging on the line are the working gloves. Drying in the warm sunshine of today
On the Isle of Lewis off the west coast of mainland Scotland lies a croft inhabited by an English off-comer. His Mum and Dad live nearby and help him run the croft. This is a photographic record of their lives as it unfolds.