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What defines "Crofting" in Shetland today?

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Well, I used to go to Yell for my holidays as a little boy/teenager and the family up above where we lived were crofters in the most true sense but a few years ago they gave it up and the man went into secular employment simply because crofting is such a hard job with horrendeous hours.


Infact, I remember the man telling us to "never become crofters" and trust me this was a true born and bred crofting family!.


I just question the reality of this "dream life, living off the land" thing"...... :?




Having lived in France for 5 years I'm surrounded by people that came here to live the "dream life, living of the land" only to discover that the reality is entirely different. So I'm more than aware that to be truly self-sufficient requires financial input at the beginning, A LOT of time, and also A LOT of luck re weather etc. I have a friend whom is entirely self-sufficient and has also built her own eco straw bale house but it has taken her over 10 years to become truly self-sufficient.


It really isn't my intention to become self-sufficient and we both want to work part-time in other trades on the island. I would just like to at least grow our own veggies, supply our own eggs and I am also looking into goats for milk and cheese although this in itself can require alot of hard work and commitment. If this all works out I would then look at a couple of sheep and pigs just to supply meat for ourselves.


Please don't think I have my head "in the clouds". Having worked with horses in studs and showjumping yards and a trekking centre in SW Ireland and kept my own horses for more years than I care to remember I am more than aware of the hard work, of being outside in all weathers, of trudging through mud at 2 o'clock in the morning to bring horses in to stables during a storm (!), of being constantly wet and constantly tired and of 5am starts to muck-out 16 horses! It's hard but I wouldn't have changed the strength of character it's given me!


I too have decided to make my life easier and now only have TWO of the critters!


I'm prepared to accept whatever the Shetland weather throws at me and also to put in hard work and effort to make the life we wish for but at the same time am very grounded and realise that this has to be mixed with "modern" life too.


I may be crazy but I love nothing more than coming in of an evening soaking wet and muddy from working outside with the horses and getting changed, showered and plonking myself down in front of the fire (with the obligatory glass of wine of course!) - to me that's what life is all about........

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why in shetland. have you been up here. the growing season is short. even if you were blessed with good weather to keep 2 horses sheep goats and pigs on 5 acres and to grow feed and hay is to big a task. good luck but i would start off small and see what the land will support. your going to need a poly tunnel for decent veg.

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Sounds like you've got the right idea about living off the land in Shetland, i.e. you won't be able to do it. However, a croft will provide you with plenty of eggs and mutton without huge amounts of effort. Better sticking to root vegetables, and polytunnels have a habit of disappearing over the horizon in winter gales (unless you can put a shelter bund around it with a digger). You will have to work in paid employment as well - even many of the 'super crofters' with hundreds of sheep do that. Also, nothing beats being out working in a nice Shetland environment - God knows, that must be the reason I croft!


It's not easy in Shetland, but it does have its rewards! My family have been on my croft since before Kirk records began in 1756, and I spend a lot of time there, but it doesn't pay me any money.

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It sounds like you are going into Crofting with your eyes reasonably open.


Having been in crofting for 25 years and helped elderly relatives a few years previous I can give a few gems of advice.


Be prepared work back breakingly hard, suffer tempest , storm and wind(!) then sunburn and midges. Have moments of joy followed by heartbreak. Work in a close knit community but put up with disputes and arguments. Reap the results of your work or have damn all to show for it.


Most important of all.... Make sure you have a good source of income out with your croft.


Good Luck.

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Be prepared for mud, mud and more mud!


Depending on the type of horses you have, 5 acres may well be mud for much of the year.


Some horses up here thrive, and a lot of them spend the majority of their lives stabled. It is up to you how you want your animals to live. Stables within a shed are better than stables just outside. The wind can take an open doored stable away in one gust or a 3 sided-shelter.


There is also no farrier on site - some come up on a regular basis but it is advisable to have your own horsebox so you can take the horse to the farrier rather than the other way around, especially if you are living on an outer island.

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we are not self sufficient,but we mange quite well.

my husband works,i am at home. we have a milking cow,sheep,pigs and beef cow...all for meat. chickens,just for eggs (when i can find them)

we are putting up a poly tunnel.

We buy in hay...paid for by horse grazing.

feel free to PM me if you need any other info


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  • 2 weeks later...



very similar to what I am planning.

But the size of land we need is more than a few acres - we need at least 10 ha.

We have 7 Welsh-Ponies, 1 heavy Austrian draughthorse, cow and ox and goats (all of the animals are used as draught animals, the goats only for light work).

This means that we would need a lot of hay, which we hopefully could harvest. We have our own hay baler and horse drawn hay turning machine.

There's a lot of work involved in haying but after having heard about the prices for hay on the islands I'd rather work hard for my hay.

Here in Southern Bavaria hay costs between 8 € and 18 €(!) per 100kg. When I had to buy extra hay I got it luckily for 8 € (which is 6.5 pounds).

Big round bales cost about 30 € (which is 24 pounds) including delivery.


We are also planning to grow barley and oats and some vegetables. Sort of self-sufficiency as far as possible...


Somebody mentioned that horses and ponies do not count as agricultural animals. Does this also apply to draught animals?

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your oats would. so would your goat/s. fetlar maybe worth a look for that sized croft. have you checked the rules on bringing livestock up here. you will have to have your goat vet checked at the port. have you thought about turning your future croft into a tourist attraction. like the previous poster please learn about the shetland isles. the weather and climate. but good luck to you both.

whats happening in europe that people are wanting to move up here. i hope its not for the oppertunity to sun bath.

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wheather and climate can't be worse than on Eilean Siar...

I spent about 4 years on the Isle of Lewis, splendid place for windsurfing!


As far as I know cows and goats would need to be vet checked. But this should not be a problem because here we have annual livestock monitoring and mine are checked regularly. With horses it is easier, I was told some paperwork will do.


What's happening down here?


GM technology, biogas plants everywhere, intense traffic which hinders using of draught animals... this is "agritechnic" and no more agriculture.

Traditional agriculture seems to be possible on the edge of Europe (if at all) but not here. People in the village almost have a heart attack if my cow drops accidentally something on the road on the way to her pasture.

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hi i am a hobby crofter that really is what i call myself cause it does not pay, you have to work another job to keep a small croft, i have about 50 sheep 10 shetland ponies and a 15.2 irish draft x horse, you can make your own hay here we have just made about 3 acres of beautiful hay, but you have to be comitted once you have cut hay watch the weather forecast like a hawk and have all your own machinery to work it, but it can be done, if you buy hay here £5.00 at least for 1 small bale. As for a big horse the ground is very soft, they need stabled from mid october if you are lucky out around end of feb, not much horsey activities, hacking out on roads or beaches, we dont have an indoor facility or outdoor, we do have a farrier that comes up from orkney about every 7 weeks winter time a little longer to wait, hope this has been a bit of a help good luck in your house hunting you would really need around 3 acres for 2 big horses at least depending on grass quality.

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As for a big horse the ground is very soft, they need stabled from mid october if you are lucky out around end of feb

we do have a farrier that comes up from orkney about every 7 weeks winter time a little longer to wait, hope this has been a bit of a help good luck in your house hunting you would really need around 3 acres for 2 big horses at least depending on grass quality.


I might have found something suitable already, a lot larger than we originally planned... we'll see... will be viewing the property soon.


Does one need planning permission if one was to convert a small area (about 600 or 800 m²) near the house or stable into a sand paddock (which could be used as a riding arena as well) to avoid full-time stabling? This is what we have done here... also in Bavaria the ground is mud in winter times if you let a heavy horse run around freely.


Farrier is not really the big problem because I was trained to trim hooves (just need to sit the exams now) . So I am not dependant.

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you may need to talk to the crofters commission. if they class it as a non crofting area you may need to decroft it. you may have problems also if there is an agreement on bird life. you will also need a decent solicitor to make sure everything is ok. don't assume everything will be straight forward. it took us two years to get our apportament transferred over as the previous tenant had never bothered. make sure everything is in good working order. don't trust the sellers word. or there estate agent.

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it is a crofting area and yes, there is an area with an agreement on birds nesting etc.

But this area is far away from the house and the other buildings. Allegedly it can also be mown for hay but not before mid of July and only once a year (need to find out whether this is true or not).


I won't trust the seller's or the estate agent's word anyway... I am that kind of person who likes to sort everything out myself. Don't like unpleasant surprises...


Is it unusual to ask the following people to come to the second viewing of the property: one of the crofters commission and some member of the local council who's in charge for permissions?


The croft is rather large, more than 100 hectares. I would want to use parts of it for growing barley and oats, others for vegetables, grazing and also one ha for a small plantation of woodlands. The derelict houses should be traditionally renovated and used for their original purposes as far as possible. I was told by local authorities they would appreciate those plans and they pointed out there were even grants if I was to cultivate the land according to my plans.

But words mean nothing, it's just the written statement which counts.


So is there any point in asking the persons in charge to discuss my plans on-site?

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