Sunday, August 24, 2008


Saw a most curious piece of animal behaviour this week. Driving along the Westside on Friday, I could see a single sheep charging something stationary on the road in front of me. When I got closer, the sheep, a blackface ewe, ran off and the object on the road turned out to be a dead Grey Lag goose. It was fresh and almost certainly a recent road kill. There are a lot of Grey Lags about and they fairly regularly throw themselves in front of passing cars. The unusual feature of all this is that the ewe was headbutting the dead goose and moving it around the road. I did wonder at one point if the sheep was trying to eat the bird, but that seems unlikely. Lambing time is long past so I dont think the ewe was protecting its offspring. There were no other sheep anywhere close by and I have no idea what this was all about. Any animal behaviourists out there with an explanation?. When I drove away, I had only gone about 50 yards when I looked through the rear view mirror and saw that the ewe had returned and continued to attack the goose .

Work here continues apace. The contractor is busy repairing the access road, which will be a great improvement when it's finished. Tons of stone have been dug out and moved so far and the road is much flatter and wider already. Much of the stone removed is dressed and probably came from the walls of the original blackhouse, which lies as a ruin behind this house.
An unforeseen benefit of having the road done is that a lot of peat, dug out in the digger bucket while creating drainage ditches, is usable as fuel. During this weekend, I've been busy cutting up suitably sized lumps of peat and have laid them out to dry behind the house. There won't be enough to last throughout the Winter and as it's so late in the year, I'm not sure it will be dry in time to burn in the stove at Christmas, unless we have a really warm and windy autumn. The newly cut peat has the consistency and colour of wet dark chocolate and is very heavy until it dries out.
The man on the JCB digging out the road and ditches tells me that he has never seen so many frogs on one croft before and confirmed my own observation that the frogs here come in a huge range of colours from yellow, through to green and almost black.

The new tiler has almost finished the bathroom, which is smart and one more tick off the list. There is now loads of decorating to do when I've got the time and the only major job left on the renovation is to have the wooden floors fitted in a month or two. Having the floors fitted will make a tremendous difference because the current concrete floors downstairs create huge amounts of dust and the lounge and kitchen are impossible to keep clean.

My long suffering brother in law has decided he needs more punishment and is coming back for a week in about a month's time to help with the remaining jobs that need two to tango. Having another soul to talk to is a great boost to morale and motivation.

About eight miles South of Barra, there are two uninhabited islands called Sandray and Fuday. Two years ago, the government disclosed that those islands were on a list of twelve sites that are considered suitable for storing thousands of tonnes of unwanted nuclear waste. The local council have told the Defence Secretary, Des Browne, 'we really don't want nuclear waste here' and he has announced this week that no dump will be built if local opinion is against it. That's sorted then. We can all rest safely in our beds now knowing that the state is listening to people and won't do anything we don't want them to do.

Many years ago, Compton Mackenzie wrote a satirical comedy novel called 'Rockets Galore', which told of islanders opposition to the building of a rocket range on the islands. The protestors captured and painted two white gulls pink and because they were feted and accepted by the establishment as a previously unknown species, the government gave in and took their rocket range elsewhere.
In reality, the rocket range on South Uist was built in 1957 in the face of a great deal of opposition and has remained there ever since, providing much needed local employment. It initially tested Corporal missiles, which were Britain's first nuclear guided weapons and now tests Rapier surface to air missiles and unmanned air vehicles.

It will be a couple of weeks until the next blog because I will be working away and visiting friends and family until then.

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