STINKY BAY, BENBECULA.
When the wind blows in a particular direction, the Sulphurous smell of decaying seaweed blows all round this bay, hence the name. Apart from the stench, which I don't mind, this is a very beautiful place with lots of wading birds and tremendous views of the hills of South Uist.
Now that the house is renovated, I need to turn my attention to improving the croft. Having had no maintenance for many years, the fencing is in poor condition, with a number of posts rotted at ground level, making it easier for sheep and cattle to force their way on to my land from the adjacent common grazings. Although some running repairs have been done this year, hundreds of yards of fencing needs to be replaced soon, but to avoid bankruptcy, it will have to be done a section at a time. I'm going to look for a local fencing contractor, with the intention of having all the fencing replaced during the next couple of years, as I can afford to pay for the work. No amount of sheep will justify the expense of replacing the fencing, but it can't stay as it is and I don't want my neighbours complaining about my insecure boundaries.
On the positive side though, the fence posts are only rotten at the base and along with the peat, will provide free fuel for the stove for a long time.
While I was away on holiday recently, I missed an important local news story. Some months ago, the Ministry of Defence and the Government Defence contractor, QinetiQ - what a silly name - announced that it planned to operate the Hebrides Missile Range remotely, from Aberporth in Wales. This plan would have resulted in the loss of about 125 jobs in the Uists and would have had a catastrophic effect on the local economy. Fortunately, common sense has prevailed and after some persuasive lobbying by local community leaders, the Government has thrown out the scheme to transfer to Wales. How long the jobs in South Uist and St Kilda will be safe for, is yet to be seen.
Salmon farming has provided a lot of employment here in the Outer Hebrides for a good many years, but has been in decline for some time. Large International companies have progressively bought out the smaller operators and jobs have been lost recently through amalgamations, closure of fish factories and economies of scale. Interesting to hear this week then that one of the biggest Salmon producers has announced plans to develop supersized offshore fish farms in the Minch, which will potentially create up to 40 jobs here in the islands. At present, most fish farms are small, quite close to the shore and the workers go out to them each day. The proposed new fish farms would be much bigger, further offshore and would be staffed by a crew of up to six workers who would live on site, in purpose built residential accommodation . Presumably, they would work 2-3 weeks on the farm, followed by onshore leave, just like oil rig workers do.
There was a curious occurrence this week at Coll beach here on Lewis when a woman out walking came across hundreds of washed up Starfish on the sand and rocks. They were apparently of different sizes and some were alive and some dead. The finder said that most of the Starfish had disappeared by the following morning and she thought they might have been eaten by gulls. Why were the Starfish stranded on the beach?
It's that time of year again when the lambs are sent off to the abattoir and I get a carcass or two as payment for letting my neighbour graze his sheep on my croft. He arrived yesterday with a very large plastic sack containing enough meat to keep me going for many months and it's now in the freezer. The lamb was raised on this croft, on land never contaminated by herbicides or pesticides, but did have to be taken to Stornoway, fifteen miles away, for slaughter.
I do have a problem with rushes, especially at the front of the croft and will have to decide whether to spray or not, next Spring.
There was a Fred Karno moment here yesterday when I was doing some cooking. I got distracted by a phone call, the kitchen got smoky and the mains operated fire alarms went off like the Bells of Hades. Rushing to open windows all over the place, I managed to catch my hand accidentally on a piece of pottery I have had for a long time and smashed it to the ground, where it lay in dozens of pieces. The pot had a value, so I rang the insurance company, who confirmed that I was fully insured for accidental damage and said they would be delighted to pay for a replacement. Before we got any further though, the nice lady on the phone asked me if I realised that the sum total of my insurance excess and the loss of no claims bonus if I made a claim, would come to almost exactly the value of my broken pot. In these circumstances, the nice lady observed, I might not want to make a claim after all.