At the end of my last blog on Lower Guddon preparation was underway for the lambing season. Due to Covid 19 I have been unable to travel to the croft. Our daughter and grandson Aidan have very kindly provided me with images and information on how the season has gone. I wish to thank them for putting up with my requests.
As explained in the first blog there is a mixture of sheep to be found on Guddon croft. Mostly the ewes are cross bred sheep that is off spring from a Shetland ewe and a larger mainland breed such as Cheviot, or Romney. There are of course my Katmogit ewes which are pure bred Shetland from the island of Yell.
The reason why the flock consists mainly of the larger cross bred sheep are down to economics. In recent years the returns to the crofter on the small Shetland lamb is practically worthless. Crofters therefor have to produce a larger lamb to satisfy the market place and generate much needed income to the croft.
The heather clad hills and peat moors of Yell are unable to provide sustenance for the larger cross sheep; the harsh winter climate would also takes its toll on these sheep, they simply would not survive. Travelling through Yell you are surrounded by peat moor and heathery hills, now and then there are patches of green grass to be found which over the decades the result of hard work is by the crofter to improve their land.
Lower Guddon croft is a prime example of this improved land, its proximity close to the sea as enabled the crofter to enrich the soil by harvesting seaweed driven ashore by the winter gales. The down side of these larger sheep is that they require extra feeding in the winter months, hay, silage, and of course ewe mixed feed which in turn is quite expensive. Unlike the smaller Shetland sheep these bigger sheep often require assistance at lambing, hence the need for around the clock husbandry. Predation is quite a problem throughout our islands and this year the Guddon flock have lost new born lambs to hungry Artic Skuas, Ravens and Black Back gulls.
Crofting life is not only about lambing at this time of year, after a long bleak wet winter essential projects have to be undertaken, building repairs, drainage, fertiliser has to be applied to the ground in o0rder to grow hay and silage. The arduous job of cutting peat has to be undertaken in order to supply winter fuel for the croft house.
Hopefully my next blog on croft life in the summer months will see me able to travel to the islands, at present we can only travel five miles and entry into our islands is only allowed for essential travel.