Thursday, 3 February 2022

The Polycrub

Great excitement in the farmhouse this week as the long dreamed of Polycrub is put up.   

Back in early December we sold some Herdwick ewe lambs to some crofters from Sanna, Ardnamurchan who have a Polycrub, and during the course of our chat over a cup of celebratory tea they advised us to use an installer (GB) to put it up.  I am so glad we did! 

At New Year on a family walk we found a long length of fish farm cage pipe on the shore beyond Haunn and brought it up to the wooden gate to retrieve later.  Little did we know we would need it a few weeks later.  

The Polycrub kit was delivered on the back of a lorry in November and has been sitting in the yard waiting.  When GB arrived and settled down to start building, he noticed that we were a hoop short.  A quick call to the Polycrub HQ later, and yes we should have had 10 and we only had 9.   

Then Farmer remembered the length of fish farm pipe we had found at New Year.   Maree at Polycrub HQ explained how to create the fixing holes and at what lengths on our reclaimed fish farm pipe hoop and by the end of the day, progress was made.  

Purlins were screwed into place. 

Soon it was ready for the polycarbonate cover. 

It takes 3 people to carry the 14' sheets.  Luckily it wasn't too windy.

The joint strips were quite a palaver to fit, and again needed 3 pairs of hands. 

Most of the week, the weather was pretty grim but there were occasional moments of brightness.

The sheets were all secured. Then we had 2 storms, with 2 bouts 70+ MPH gusts.   No damage! 

When the wind dropped work on the ends was about to begin. 

GB beefed up the strength of the ends with extra timber supports. 

Then the ends could be clad.  And doors and windows made.   The end nearest the track has a stable door and the far end has 3 opening windows. 

Pleased Farmer. Bemused Coco. 

All that is left now is for us to order the timber and make the raised beds.  

So many thanks to GB for his hard work, accuracy and guidance - and to AS for all his hard work.  I think it has to have been one of the least stressful projects we have ever done. 

The Polycrub marks the beginning of a new venture, to extend our growing season and our under cover growing area.  Plus we have an exciting project up our sleeve! 

Friday, 7 January 2022

The Grazing School

In mid December we went back to Cumbria to attend the rescheduled Grazing School workshop.   

Caroline Grindrod from Roots of Nature/Wilderculture runs the Grazing School and works with James and Helen Rebanks who hosted this workshop on their farm.   There were about 30 attendees - farmers, smallholders, vets, RSPB staff, accountants, land agents - all interested to learn more about the benefits and methods of regenerative grazing.  

Caroline is an excellent and articulate teacher of the theory of Regenerative Grazing as well as having a lot of hands on experience, and coupled with James' practical experiences from his farm, it was an interesting and informative couple of days.  

What was unexpected was the almost tangible and inspiring enthusiasm from everyone there, most of them a couple of decades younger than us (!) and we came away feeling that there was hope in the air -that farming can change and in doing so can help mitigate climate change.  

We were wonderfully looked after by Helen, hers and James's daughters and both their mothers, who provided delicious lunches and an evening meal on the Monday evening - after which we listened to Alex Brewster from near Dunkeld who was talked about his experience of converting a Highland farm to a regenerative system.  

The two days gave us plenty of food for thought as to what we could do here to improve our soil structure through grazing and how that would benefit carbon capture, whilst still allowing us to grow nutritious and healthy food.  

Racy Ghyll Farm has similarities to here, as there are traditional hay meadows which are florally diverse  as most of our in-bye ground is, as well as less diverse areas which James has already adopted in to regenerative grazing blocks. 


Saturday, 1 January 2022

Happy New Year!

 Wishing you a Happy New Year and a healthy and fulfilling year ahead. 

Thursday, 30 December 2021

The last month or so..

November was a bit of a write off as we both had Covid, and I was under the weather for most of the month.  Farmer managed to feed the sheep for all but 3 days, even if it meant getting up to do the feeding and let the dogs and hens out, and going back to bed.   He wasn't well enough to do the pre-tupping gather and we were really grateful to D, W and J who came over and did for us.  A few days later Farmer managed to sort the ewes out and get them out into the fields with the right number and breed of tup.   

But onwards and upwards, life goes on, we have recovered and all is well.  In the scheme of things I feel we have been very lucky and we cannot complain. 

December saw us take a trip to Cumbria to James and Helen Rebanks's farm to learn about Regenerative grazing.  I will write a separate blog about that!  

Christmas was quiet - family and relaxing. 

In between Christmas and New Year Farmer and D took the tups off and put the new Combi clamp into action in the fank.  Manoeuvring it into position was not easy, it weighs 130kg, and using it will take a bit of getting used to.  A Combi clamp basically clamps the sheep with foot operated 'sides' which close together as the ewe stands and holds her in place so that you can administer treatments without having to wrestle with her.  It is better for animal welfare and also supposed to be better for the humans.  

Walter likes to sit on the quad bike waiting for Farmer to finish feeding.

We have bought a Polycrub so we can expand our growing season and the variety of things we grow.  There are some serious foundations being dug and the hen house has been moved.   We hope to have it up and ready to grow in within the next month or so. 

Saturday, 16 October 2021

Sheep shopping

Farmer and I were booked on a Grazing School workshop in Cumbria last week. Unfortunately it was cancelled 2 days before it started as 2 of the key people involved had both contracted Covid. (Thankfully they are both recovering). 

We weren’t entitled to a refund from our accommodation at such short notice and as we’d already arranged to buy some Herdwick ewe lambs from the farm where the workshop was being held we decided just to go anyway. 

Our Airbnb was perfect. On a farm. Near Askham, not far from Penrith. Very quiet. Lovely walks.  Simple but comfortable accommodation.  Everything we needed and lovely hosts.  

We spent Monday visiting friends near Coniston, which was about 90 minutes drive away and on Tuesday we went to look at the ewe lambs. 


It was great to meet James and Helen Rebanks in person having read both James’s books and following them both on Instagram!  We had a cup of tea in their garden and then went to look at the lambs.

Our knowledge of good Herdwick breeding is pretty uneducated, so it was very useful to talk to James and pick up a few tips!   And we now have 5 ewe lambs from Racy Ghyll born in April/May.  

The other farming excitement was a trip to the farmer’s emporium Relphs, which our Airbnb host told us about. It is such a novelty for us to be able to walk into a shop and find that everything we need is stocked and that there is even a selection! 

On Wednesday morning we picked up the lambs and drove home via Lochaline. The 5 ewe lambs are isolating in the stack yard shelter, they seem to have settled down quickly! 

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