March 11, 2008 § Leave a Comment
Good housing for chickens is very important for their health, well-being and security. This guidance is for large fowl; bantams require about half as much.
1. Size: birds need an absolute minimum of 1 square foot each, preferably more. A 4′ x 3′ house is the absolute minimum for 12 birds but they will be playing sardines. Birds will also want somewhere to be when the weather is nasty, so more room will be wanted. When deciding about house size, think seriously about the maximum size you want your flock to be and buy a house with that number in mind. It will save you a lot of money, time and effort in the long run. Birds will roost closer in cold weather.
2. Ventilation: the more ventilation without draughts the better. Insufficient ventilation can lead to infections and a sickly flock. Ideally the ventilation should be higher than the perching birds.
3. Perches: allow at least 8″ per bird. Square timber should have the top edges rounded so that the birds are comfortable. Height is also important – too high and the birds can bruise their feet when jumping down and get an infection called Bumble Foot. Guides suggest a maximum height of 2′, but this will need to be less for heavier birds. To reduce the chances of birds roosting in and fouling nest boxes, the perches should be higher than the nest boxes. Obviously this is only for chickens as Ducks do not perch.
4. Access: do think of yourself as the chickens won’t clean their own mess! How easy is it to get at the inside either to clean, reach sick, injured or dead birds or collect eggs that are not in the boxes?
5. The Site: houses might benefit from being on a solid base such as concrete or slabs. Open bottom types can be put on bricks or concrete blocks. This can protect the floor from being in permanent contact with wet ground and also discourage vermin. Which way does the prevailing wind come from? The birds won’t appreciate it blowing in through the open pop hole.
So there ya go.
March 10, 2008 § 9 Comments
Angus Og was a comic strip which ran in the Daily Record and The Sunday Mail drawn by Ewen Bain. Set on the fictional island of Drambeg, fairest island in the Utter Hebrides, it featured the eponymous Angus Og, and a whole host of other characters, including his mother Mrs Og, Rosie the Highland cow, Lachie Mhor, Granny McBrochan and the ever suffering Mairileen.
The artwork is fantastic and the tales even more so, hilarious, imaginative, surreal, wry and just the right side of parochial. Always scheming, our protagonist’s adventures take in miraculous hangover cures, “Instant Thrift” potions, “The Peat Reek” enterprise, speaking cats, Council Hypnotism, Kelpies, “Flattermatic” cameras, enchanted chanters and much much more. Inevitably Angus’ get rich quick schemes collapsed around his ears but not before throwing a thousand laughs our way.
Collections of his work seem to be hard to get hold of, appearing on Amazon and Ebay from £75.00 upwards. I’d like to set up a dedicated website and reproduce the strips online (with permission of course) eventually. Meantime I’ll have a go at posting a few strips to build up the stories on here each week.
( Òg is Scottish Gaelic for “young”, my Granddad was called Willie Òg in the way Lewis folk call people by their first name and an applicable characteristic or trade eg Donnie The Post etc. Guess that explains my babyfaced youth then…)
March 10, 2008 § 1 Comment
Kippers via Oppo Hash
Two things I remember about Kippers from when I was young: 1. The smell and 2. The bones. This fatal combo meant I wasn’t particularly partial to them as a boy. I love them now.
On Lewis you can get them from Stornoway Fish Smokers on Shell Street. Famous for 150 years their herring are split, salted and smoked hanging from tenterhooks as tradition demands (not flat on their backs). Excess moisture and oil drains off the kippers allowing the oak and beech smoke to permeate the herring flavouring and adding colour naturally. The result is mouth watering and exceptional.
I’m not too keen on them for breakfast unless I’m back home and they’re getting cooked for me but for supper they can’t be beat. Here’s a recipe for the Hot Kipper Toasts I had tonight:
2 thick slices of hot brown toast
2 kipper fillets cooked* and mashed
Handful of grated mature cheese
Slug of double cream
Spread the hot toast quite generously with butter and shake over a few drops of worcestershire sauce. Stir the kipper fillets with the cheese and cream in a bowl, spread liberally on the toast and grill till bubbling.
* To cook the kippers I like to “jug” them first, placing them head down in a jug cover with boiling water for a couple of minutes and then grill for a couple of minutes either side.
March 10, 2008 § 2 Comments
The Stornoway Way is a novel by Kevin MacNeil one of the island’s finest poets and writers.
” A disaffected resident of the Hebridean Isle of Lewis, the occasional busker, drunk and drug addict R Stornoway describes himself as “a loner, the kind who pretty much can’t stand his own fucking company”. Yet he’s quick to stand up for his clansfolk, stating: “We do not live in the back of beyond, we live in the very heart of beyond … the kind of place where the birds wake up to the sound of drunks singing.” Kevin MacNeil (who really did grow up in Lewis) has first-hand knowledge of the frustrations of living somewhere most people couldn’t place on a map, and underlines the point by prefacing the book with a sketch that shows Scotland inverted so that Edinburgh appears somewhere near the top. Very little actually happens, but the thumbnail portraits of misfit Hebrideans contain numerous gems, such as the depiction of a girl who “many slept with on account of her laugh, a tinkling waterfall of diamond-etched invitations cascading through the heart’s letterbox”. And it’s hard not to warm to a book which finds room for such daft jokes as this: “What did the 0 say to the 8? I like your belt.” ” (AH – The Guardian)
Another review via the Independent here
Kevin manages to capture a side of island life that many never see, that of Lewis without the rose-tinted spectacles on. Rather, he takes a dead on look at the place through a pair of beer goggles and in doing so captures the real beauty of the place, the people, especially the young who are torn between their spiritual ties to the place and their desire to escape the mundanity and claustrophobia of small town living.
Much of the book reads like a Hebridean Trainspotting, replacing smack with Special and Princes for Point Street although that’s probably a tired comparison by now. The dialogue is hilarious, full of characters riddled with beauty and humour throughout. I’d heard the book was criticised somewhat by a few locals, perhaps the Stornoway Way was just a little too close to home in it’s portrayal of the town. Certainly much of it rings true of a Saturday night’s tour of The Lewis, The Royal, The Heb, The Caley, The Crown and The Clachan (have I missed any??) and parties in the Cearns.
Meantime MacNeil’s poetry can be found in Love & Zen In The Outer Hebrides to keep you going.
March 10, 2008 § 2 Comments
Image via adb41
Who makes the best black pudding in the land? Well, a Leosach obviously, but with many mainland restaurants taking pride in their menu’s and product’s provenance the Stornoway Black pudding is practically the international standard. Well almost.
The two heavyweight contenders on the island are Stornoway butchers Charles MacLeod a.k.a. Charley Barley (on account of his be-sheafed business logo) of Matheson Road and W.J. MacDonald’s a.k.a. Willie John’s on Francis Street with the latter laying claim to be “The original and best” having concocted the bloody things since 1931. Charley Barley’s 50 year old recipe, however, doesn’t give up that easily and claims “Only black pudding made in our Stornoway premises to our award winning recipe can rightfully claim to be Stornoway Black Pudding”.
So who to believe? Well this blogger likes them both but tends to stock up on Willie John’s puddings when in town. My local Glasgow deli’s and restaurants tell another tale though. But the real winner in my experience is the light-welter weight underdog offered by Cross Stores, way out on the road to Ness. A long way to go for some Marag to be sure but worth it when you finally get it to plate.
March 10, 2008 § Leave a Comment
Image via John Maclean Photography
The islands geographical characteristics ensures the methods of agricultural production, shaped and inspired through centuries of community use, leave it far removed from intensive farming systems found in many mainland areas. Much of the island is covered in a coat of purple heather and moorland, with patches of green, sandy soil found adjacent to the sea, known by their Gaelic name of Machair. Fewer numbers of stock mean they are often left to roam large expanses, giving you a final meat product shaped by a combination of heather, open environment and fresh, sea air.
Heather Isles Meats is the trading company for Lewis and Harris Sheep Producers Association. The scheme involves consumers ordering either a lamb or a whole sheep online from the team of crofters who have banded together under the name Heather Isle Meats. The animal is then delivered in ready-to-cook pieces which can either go straight into the oven or grill or be stored in the fridge or freezer. The crofters aim to have the animal delivered anywhere in the UK in 48 hours. Heather Isle Meats Ltd state they will only source products from local crofters who have signed up to the Quality Meat Scotland farm assurance scheme. A QMS certificate is well known in the industry, and means that farmers / crofters are duty-bound to adhere to the highest standards of animal husbandry and production. You can therefore be rest assured that Heather Isles Meats products only come from the best of backgrounds. All their animals are processed locally in Stornoway at a small, fully approved, EU-licensed facility. All individual cuts will be vacuum-packed on the premises and packaged ready for despatch to your doorstep.
It’s a far cry from boil-in-the-bag.
Over the past century, the population of the Outer Hebrides has halved as young people looked for work elsewhere. Margins between the prices which farmers and crofters receive for their produce and the prices charged in shops are a major source of frustration. A typical lamb may fetch just £25 a head and the Office of Fair Trading is investigating claims that major supermarkets are using their buying power to force producers into accepting rock bottom prices for their wares.
More info via links above or contact George Graham at email@example.com or phone 07786-020-241 for more details.
March 9, 2008 § Leave a Comment
Known primarily as a cottager’s fowl, the Scots Grey is revered for its hardiness and ability to thrive in any climatic conditions. They lay a large egg for the size of bird and the chicks grow well and mature quickly – a distinct advantage in the short northern summers. Most poultry books class the Scots Grey as a non sitter; being a light breed. But they occasionally do. When so, they will make a good mother if left relatively undisturbed, and will look after the chicks assiduously, teaching them all the free and far ranging habits of their ancestors, their long legs no doubt benefiting their passage through the tussocky grass or heather around the homestead.
About the only fact the Victorian poultry books agree on is that the Scots Grey is a very old breed, going back to the sixteenth century. Over a long period of time the Scots Grey has been known by many names in different districts including: Chick Marley, Shepherds Plaid, Chickmalins, Mauds, Greylings, and Greylocks and were mostly kept by Cottagers and farmer’s wives. This variety of naming made for great difficulties in the tracing of its precise history. The Scots Grey is of great antiquity and little is know of its exact origins, although leading poultry historians are inclined to support the idea that the breed is a refinement from the Scottish native fowl, which was to be found on farms. A book published in 1862, dealing with poultry on the farm makes it clear that the breed was quite popular (The Henwife by Mrs Fergussson Blair).Harrison Weir traveled to Dumfriesshire regularly between 1862 – 1864 and studied in depth the local poultry. The fowl kept in the area he traveled were the old sort, square and plump, and short in thigh and medium in shank. They had single combs, relatively large heads, ear lobes white to light pink, shanks and beak white, and an upright carriage.The overall colour was a cuckoo grey, with a large and full tail of the cocks a dark or mottled black and white. Sometimes there other colours mixed in such as straw and, occasionally, red. The hens had a brown colour on the body, or a grey- brown, with darker hackles.
These birds, he noted almost 50 years on, are what became known as ” Scotch Greys” – now known as Scots Greys. They were modified and looked more Gamey. Possibly there had been a cross with Old English Game or an Asian breed. He felt quite positive from his knowledge and experience of the Dorking with its five toes, that they had never been crossed with the Scots Grey.In 1902 Lewis Wright commented on the utility value of this breed in his book ‘ The New Book of Poultry’, saying”…we have often wondered it has not been more popular in England. “He describes its appearance as ‘sprightly’ and having something of the Old English Game style about it. At that time he reported the breed was making good progress both on the Continent and in the USA.
March 9, 2008 § Leave a Comment
Hebridean Contemporary Homes appear to be different from other self-build kit-house companies. Conceived by award-winning architects Dualchas whose houses combine the best of rural tradition, modern living and the latest construction technology.
Based on the traditional Blackhouse or Tigh Dubh these traditional homes are in character similarly narrow and long, which gives them many advantages. The walls can be easily spanned, they are low-lying so sit down from the wind, and they fit relatively easily in to awkward topography.
Since the old long houses were designed to keep the weather out and the warmth in, they had few or no windows. Local materials were used; stone for the walls and thatch for the roof. But more modern materials, such as tin, would be used when it could be afforded.
But this form of building largely stopped. In Scotland it was initially replaced with the “whitehouse” which in turn was replaced by the modern kit house. These are adapted from an American suburban model, and can be seen scattered across much of rural Scotland and Ireland. These buildings have lost all links with the traditional building type of the countryside.
The Dualchas designs are picking up the architectural thread. The simple form contrasts dramatically with the oversized and ill-considered proportions of many kit houses. The limited palette of materials prevents the houses from being too fussy. The narrow plan permits easy siting in the landscape.
And the biggest advantage? The one-room deep plan allows us to draw light in from both sides of the house, so that from the same chair you can watch the sun both rise and fall.
I love ‘em.