The cycle of life

This week provided us with a very thought-provoking experience. It has made us think a lot about the cycle of life and the role we are allowed to play in it. We think living ‘on and off’ the land is all to do with respect for life, as well as respect for death.

A few days ago I shot my first roe deer (see previous blog post for background). I had been out stalking a few times previous but came back empty handed. However this week I got myself into a position where I knew it was now or never. After watching it through the scope of my rifle for about a minute, I pulled the trigger.

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This little makeshift hut was here when we bought the croft. It provides good cover from which to stalk over the gully

 

What happened afterwards is now a haze. The whole thing was over in about 10 seconds. But what I do know is that from the point of committing to the shot, the focus centred on ensuring a quick, respectful death. When it was all over we quietly gralloched it on the hill, removed its head, buried the lot and carried it home.

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Our make shift larder – table, butchers saw and a gambrel on a pulley (to hang the carcass). Ignore the rest of the mess in there….

 

We have made a make shift larder in the croft house so on our return we skinned it, butchered it, bagged it and it all went into the freezer. It was really important for us to make sure that we used as much of the animal as we could and everything else would be returned to nature. After that we had a VERY large dram….

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Some of the larger cuts of meat we butchered

 

So in summary the whole ordeal was quite a new and humbling experience, and one that will happen again in the future. This is something we believe we have to do and is an integral part of our woodland establishment, croft management and land stewardship. The deer I killed lived a good life eating unimproved and untreated (pesticide or herbicide treated) grass, flowers and trees. Its meat will be full of natural goodness. If we can raise our livestock to have as good a life, eating vegetation rich in a mixture of flowers and grasses and a bit of rough grazing that is as good quality, well then our work here will be done.

 

So enough for now. Time to start preparing the venison for dinner tonight. Happy New Year one and all!

Happy Solstice

It’s been a few weeks since our last blog post but that’s not to say we’ve not been incredibly busy as usual. We did manage a little bit of a rest with a few days of holiday respite but apart from that it’s been full steam ahead as ever.

For those of you who follow us on Facebook, you’ll know that we’ve been working away on our shiny new deer fence that’s been going up. We’ve been attaching bamboo canes to the upper section of the fence which helps to deter birds from flying into it. We are in a hotspot for Capercaillie and Black Grouse, 2 birds which are in decline, so it’s important we do everything we can to avoid any casualties.

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The newly built and newly marked fence on the left snaking up the hill to protect the existing and new-to-be-planted trees

We’re starting to feel the challenge of living in a place where, at this time of the year, daylight kicks in at around 8.30 and starts to diminish by 3.30pm. It feels like such a short window of time to try and do so much in. So that’s why we are much relieved that today is Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year – when from that point on the days will start to slowly stretch out again.

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This is a picture of our view to the north. We get this amazing winter light that makes everything look yellow

Winter Solstice takes on a whole new dimension living in an area of practically no light pollution, away from street lamps and traffic. Out here in the country, darkness is VERY DARK. Which means that unless you have lighting set up outdoors, the early onset of night leaves no choice but to head inside (and that’s when we desperately invent as many reasons as possible to delay tackling that ever-growing stack of admin and grant applications!)

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A mixture of light and dark

However, Solstice seems to symbolise perfectly the meaning of living with the changing seasons. And with that come the vigorous, long days of summer and the short days of winter which allow things to slow down somewhat and regenerate. Nature’s rhythm at its best!

Now we need to take a deep breath, reflect on a very eventful 9 months on the croft and get ready to start lengthening our workdays again – we’ll take every minute we’re given. So this seems like a good time of the year to say thank you so much to all our family and friends (both old and new) for all the support and kindness you have shared with us. We have needed it and, heads up, we’re going to need some more. But for now, from us, a very heartfelt Happy Solstice.

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Happy Solstice!