Monday, 9 December 2013

Please make life a little easier?

I have not blogged for ages as I have been quite unwell so my apologies to those who have written to ask how things were going.

The family are just in - we have all been working at rebuilding the cattle court so the cattle can come in from the field. The cattle should have been in long before this but we were faced with a Catch 22 situation namely, we did not have water in either the sheds (nor in the cabin) so the cattle had to stay outside in order to drink from the burn.

The shooting tenant, however, decided to hold a shoot in the same field as the (pregnant) cattle. This stressed our herd and (on professional advice) increased the risk of 'spontaneous abortion'. They could lose their calves plus fall ill to infection, etc.
Our herd are very calm, usually. There is an unwritten rule among the farmers here that their cattle never see a raised stick nor hear a raised voice. I have never heard my husband shout at his cattle and if they need guiding then he holds out his arms as a means of directing them.
You can imagine how the herd reacted then, to several guns going off beside them. I see it as an act of cruelty.

We are desperate to take the cattle in and will tomorrow but there is a limited amount of water which we received from the estate. A herd of pregnant cattle will easily drink in one day, the contents of the cubes of water we have been given.

It has been five days since the supply ran and whilst we are aware of a 'problem' we would expect the problem to be resolved by now. We are fortunate to have help rebuild the cattle court and are accommodating someone in the cabin. Can you imagine how you would feel after working in a cattle shed for several days yet you could not wash your hands or body? Toilet flushed by a bucket from the cube of water outside?
I think someone from Medieval times could imagine such unsanitary conditions and that is what it feels like.

We have to double up the cattle shed as a grain store.
When the cattle go out in Spring (if the weather is good and the grass has grown). We are high up in the hills so have a relatively short growing season. Our grass comes in later that the pastures on farms a few miles away but who enjoy more sheltered areas.
Once the cattle are out then we clear the dung, wash the floors and walls then go over them again then a final wash with a steam cleaner to kill any bacteria. It is a huge task but we do not have anywhere to store our grain (as the grain shed was built in the 1800s and tiny due to carts and lower yields).

This task of cleaning out the cattle shed was hampered by a lack of water this year. I will not elaborate on how we finally managed to wash it out but I will admit it was backbreaking and laborious. Farms use a lot of water for these sort of jobs.

No, it has not been easy at all these past few weeks but I was heartened when the entire community of some 70 people came together to try to resolve the problem with an antiquated water system which has now come to the end of its life.

The landowner has exercised 'the landowner's right' and taken the grant which was available from the council (for water improvement) from the tenants. Several private homeowners also gave their grant to the estate and we await a plan plus time constraint from estate and council.
I worry that all 70 will be left without water if the weather becomes very cold or if we get snowed in. It happened to us a few years ago so it is possible.
I'm not aware of a contingency plan, bowser or anything in place for those in more remote areas.

There has been mention of connecting the farm to the pipe which runs through our land (to a big school). We are a bit wary of this option as the school appear to have issues with their supply and I believe it was off again at the weekend. It does not bode well that a former teacher has sought legal means due to having to ask for a bucket of water to flush her toilet. Neither bucket nor water were provided....

Contrary to blusterings on Twitter by Scottish Land and Estates, what I am saying is "A total misrepresentation of the situation". Why then don't some of us have a) a supply b) a clean supply c) a reliable supply? (I say 'some' as one or two have giant water storage tanks with filtration systems).
I Tweeted this yesterday-

Community (70 strong) working with council, estate, SEPA etc. Still think boreholes are the cheapest solution.
Please do clarify the situation, SL&E because an entire community would love clarification.
We are not working against the estate, to the contrary, residents are willing to explore any means possible of receiving clean, plentiful water. We are working with estate, council, SEPA, Scottish Water and anyone else who can help. It is just not acceptable to deny that there is a problem.

It is written in the title deeds of the private homeowners that the landowner owns the mineral rights. This prevents the sinking of boreholes (as favoured by several in the community).
Scottish Water mentioned circa £2,500,000 to connect the glen to public water. Who pays? Who is responsible?
Nobody really knows who owns the water pipe itself as the land is divided by trusts, etc. My guess is that if gold was found then the owners/trustees would soon pipe up. (Unintentional pun alert).

I have been threatened with an injunction to ban me from speaking on Blogger or Twitter about the situation here yet I can assure you what I write is true. I truly fear for the welfare of our community this coming winter especially the elderly and the very young.

I would say that our problems are exacerbated greatly by the shooting and selfishness of the shooting tenant yet they pale greatly when people are without water.
If our family are unable to provide our cattle and sheep with water whilst they are inside and dependent on us then we have no option than to sell all the livestock. My husband refuses to accept this but I can't see any other option when the welfare of the animals comes first. If they stay outside, they will not put on weight plus it is easier to feed them or carry out checks on their wellbeing when they are in. Plus they are protected from the stress that a shoot brings.

A neighbour summed things up recently when she was asked to renew her subscription to Water Aid. "Can we have some water aid here, in a glen, in Scotland, in 2013, please?"


  1. Threatened with an says it all.
    I'm so sorry you've been unwell....mark you with the state of the water, the unnecessary work and the stress it's a wonder you are on your feet at all.

  2. Thank you, the fly in the web.
    I have lots of help and support but know there are an awful lot of tenant farmers going through their own difficulties too.
    I hope next year is easier for them all.

  3. They want to shut you up because of the shame of keeping you in medieval times. If everything was fine, you wouldn't need to speak out. Maybe they would like to swap homes with you for a couple of weeks and then say there's no problem!

  4. See all the dung and bacteria and whatnot you wash out of the cattle shed, where does it get drained away to?

  5. It is scraped up and gathered up by the loader then added to the dung heaps (in whichever field needs extra fertilizer). Too valuable to waste.
    The heaps are given time to compost, applied and ploughed in to the ground.