Wednesday, March 06, 2013

                                                    HOODED CROW IN GARDEN

We don't ever see the all black carrion crow over here, but have large numbers of these handsome hoodies, which I rather like. They are sociable busy birds, but many people loathe them because of their bullying, opportunistic behaviour and reputation for attacking lambs and other vulnerable stock. For reasons unknown to me, hoodies only seem to occur in Scotland and I have never seen one South of the border in England. Anybody know why?

Now, in general, I see society as slowly pushing forward positively, but recently, national and local decisions brought about by financial cuts lead me to conclude that we might all be going to hell in a handcart.
Many people in our communities are dependent on state benefits for income, often as a consequence of unemployment, medical conditions or other difficult circumstances. Current benefit levels provide a basic low level of financial support that I don't think I could live on and do not provide enough money to cope with emergencies or unexpected expenditure. The Social Fund has, until now, provided a safety net to claimants in the form of Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans, both of which are to be abolished from next month.
A new replacement system, administered by local authorities, will be discretionary. I have little doubt that these changes, along with Housing Benefit reductions brought about by the new 'Bedroom Tax' will create great hardship and increased poverty.

At a local level, the council have announced that they are going to abolish the Barra to Benbecula lifeline air service and reduce the Benbecula to Stornoway flights to three days a week. Schools are still being closed around the islands and pupils are having to travel further each day to alternatives.

In spite of all this, there are good things happening around the islands. Our new ferry has been ordered from a shipyard in Germany and should come into service about June of next year. It's going to be a diesel/electric hybrid ship and will be able to sail round the clock, with servicing and repairs being undertaken at sea. It will be a bigger, more powerful vessel than our current ferry, the 'Isle of Lewis' and will reduce the Stornoway - Ullapool journey time by fifteen minutes, to two and a half hours.

The line up for this years Hebridean Celtic Festival in July has been announced and will be headlined by Van Morrison, with Capercaillie, Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Dougie Maclean, Karine Polwart and the Battlefield Band also appearing. I'm hoping to be a volunteer at the festival and as soon as it ends, am travelling to Leeds with number one son, to see Bruce Springsteen in concert there. Very much looking forward to that weekend. I was born in Leeds and this will be the first time I've returned to the city in about forty years.

Here on the croft, improvements are taking place slowly. Retirement last year gave me the impetus I needed to organise the replacement of the stock fencing, which was last replaced thirty or forty years ago and as the majority of fence posts had rotted at ground level, was completely ineffective in keeping out wandering sheep and cattle.
Well, I managed to obtain the services of a fencing contractor who hailed from Shetland, but was working here and he has now replaced almost seven acres of fencing and it's now looking very smart and secure. New gates have been put in and the croft is now split into three distinct parks, all interconnected to enable rotational grazing throughout the year.
I have long had an ambition to keep Boreray sheep, the majority of which still live as feral animals on Boreray Island, St Kilda, with a few being kept in flocks spread around the UK. During the last few weeks, I managed to locate a breeder who can supply me with a starter flock, but the regulations on the transportation of livestock are creating difficulties in getting them delivered here by trailer, but I hope those problems can be solved before long.

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