Crackan the troughs

A neebor said tae me a couple o year ago, ‘I mind when I war young gaan oot tae brak the ice on the troughs so the kye could drink. Ye cheust don’t get cowld waathir like that any more.’ Me faither-in-law minds the postie walkan right across the ice on the Boardhoose Loch wan winter in the forties tae cut short his route deliveran the mail.

Climate change is deeply demoralisan. Winters o notheen but relentless, weet, windy, soothwesterly waathir. Ye waaken up in the night and think aboot the poor sheep oot in that endless, drivan rain and wind, wind and rain. The worst thing for me aboot keepan animals in winter is the sea o gutter – every job ye go tae dae on the ferm ye get bogged doon in the weet and ye canna pull yer feet oot. Climate change maks the sheep miserable, teu.

These are the reasons why this current spell o deep cowld is profoundly reassuran and welcome; a return tae the fermers’ memories o owld. For the first time in me life, I hiv brokken the ice on troughs – for eight days in succession. While this waathir maks certain birds more apparent – snipe, in particular, struggle wae the frozen grunnd, and appear in unlikely places, visible and vulnerable close tae buildings or in patches o scrub, or on the salty shore – it is aisier on the sheep. Sheep can stand any amount o cowld, as long as they are dry. Weel fed on silage and barley, they sit content on the snow and in the February sun, relaxing in the later stages o thur pregnancies.

On the road home fae brakkan the ice and feedan the rams in the picture, twa Lapland Buntings accompanied me in flight for a hunder metres or so, keepan up wae the tractor at twenty mile an hour, and no at aal oot o place in crisp, georgeous Durkadale this eftirnoon.

Pulling Ragwort in Bonny Birsay

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Nobody’s favourite job in high summer is pulling ragwort. But it’s weel kent that this vibrant plant, if it finds it’s way intae silage or hay, can be deadly poisonous tae sheep, kye, or horses. So we have spent the last two days clearing it fae a field that is soon tae be mown for silage.

It’s satisfying tae load the pickup up wae the wilting stalks and tae luk back owre the clear, clean acres ahint ye. Stealthy clegs, and the repetitive stretching movement as ye try tae get each plant up by the roots, mean that this can be a tedious job. But the views o bonny Birsay and the distant Atlantic tae the west more than mak up for hid.

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