Wednesday, 18 January 2017

A bit of a disaster

Two weeks already since my last blog!

Last week the fields returned to the usual stocking density as finally all the ewes are back on the hill, the oldest ewes were kept back to get some extra food, and J's cows went to their winter grazing near Dervaig!  The hoggs are still in the shed, and the Cheviots and Zwartbles are out near the Point.

Our old and surplus tups went to market yesterday, which all ended well but got quite complicated.  We put a note on the farming page on Facebook saying we could take tups to the sale for other people, as typically you might not have more than one or two, or five (in our case).  Bear in mind that the livestock trailer can fit a lot more than that in, so it made sense to fill our trailer up rather than everyone take their trailers with only one or two each.  We had quite a few responses and were looking at a full trailer.

Then last Friday I drove to Craignure in the 4x4 we use for pulling the trailer, with terrible sounds coming from under the bonnet and getting louder and louder - so much so that I ended up calling the RAC!  It was 'recovered' to MacKays Garage in Tobermory and I got a lift home from a neighbour..

Farmer has an ostrich tendency when it comes to funny noises in cars and was clearly thinking that I had made it all up. However the next morning the garage confirmed we needed a new wheel bearing on the right side.  Phew!  However... it wasn't going to be ready until after the tup sale.   So Farmer had to call in a favour and borrow someone else's pickup!   I think he rather enjoyed it, very comfortable and no rattles or funny noises either.   He came home with feed blocks for the sheep and a mattress for a neighbour.  (Luckily it was very well wrapped up as it travelled home in the back of the trailer which a few hours before had been full of sheep).   By the time he had got home, emptied the trailer, fed the sheep, moved the mattress into the dry and finally returned the pickup, it was gone 10 o'clock... a long day!

Thousands of very worn By-the-Wind Sailors have washed up on Calgary Beach.  We went to look for them, and found very faded, nearly white (having lost all their blue) examples in the seaweed.

Goose neck barnacles clinging to a driftwood log. 

Whilst Farmer was in Oban, I was walking Nyje for the first time, with the four other dogs.   I kept him on a lead a lot of the time but he is very biddable, just very, very over enthusiastic!

I was really sorry to see a dead hare beside the track down below the house.  It had been killed by a raptor, the innards had been carefully removed and his eyes pecked out.  The rest of his body was untouched.  I hate to see a dead hare.   I know it is nature but they are one of my favourites, and since I started letting Coco out in to the garden without a lead on, I don't see them nearly so often - they know to keep away from dogs roaming free.

A disaster along the beautiful old track that takes you down to the shore beyond Haunn. A huge section of the cliff above has fallen and blocked the track.  We don't know how we will move some of them, and whilst being possible to clamber past on foot, at the moment it is not possible to get the quad bike past, so we will have to come up with a solution for moving the ones that have landed on the track itself. 

The view looking the other way was much more appealing..

It seems like we are in the middle of a battlefield with icy cold winds coming from the north one day blasting us with hail stones the size of golf balls and the next it is dank and warm, and the island is cloaked in a dreich mist.  It seems like ages since we had any Aurora to speak of, I forget most nights to check the forecast at the moment... hoping for some crystal clear skies soon though!!

We walked down by the Ensay Burn on Sunday.  It was misty but I decided I quite like the mist, as it alters what we can see in the landscape, so we notice things closer in, without being distracted by the larger view.  There were bones of a dead deer in the little burn that comes down from the farmhouse, I don't know how it died, and this huge tree trunk has washed up on the rocky beach.

In other news the hens are beginning to lay again, and it was noticeably lighter at 5pm today than it has been for months, so perhaps we will start to feel that spring is not too far away.  I think we need a bit more cold weather though before then.. but I am being careful what we wish for. 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Happy Christmas Happy New Year

I am not at sure what happened to December.  It just disappeared.  I am sorry I haven't posted a blog since the 6th December. No Christmas greeting, no looking back on the year, no well wishes for the coming new year.  I had good intentions but things just got in the way and I didn't get any written at all. I think I am finding it quite difficult to keep 2 blogs going and I am thinking of bringing the two blogs into the one place on the website but I haven't completely decided yet!  

I hope you have all had an enjoyable Christmas and that 2017 brings happiness, health and peace to you all.

We have had a busy Christmas and New Year in the cottages and in the farm house with lots of family and friends staying - the last of whom departed today.  Lots of socialising and cooking and all of that, as well as the usual farm chores!    Wind and gales affected some of the ferries before Christmas so guests arrived early to avoid the cancelled crossings.

Farmer's enthusiasm was a little over the top when setting light to the Christmas pudding this year - thankfully no damage done to anyone or anything! 

My last blog post mentioned the tups were out and that the weather had been kind so far!  The weather continued to be quite kind until we were hit by Storm Barbara and Storm Conor.  I think Conor was worse than Barbara for us but we were lucky not to have any damage (that we have noticed yet...!)   The ewes were all gathered before tupping from the hill and along the coast so this ewe on the top of Dun Haunn is not likely to have a lamb as she will not have seen the tup! 

We had some great walks with friends and family - always reminds us of how lucky we are to live here!  

It is now time to separate the tups from the ewes as they should all have mated by now.  We will find out how many are in lamb in February when the scanner comes to scan the ewes.  There is always a concern that the new tups are all working and that we won't find a large number of ewes not carrying a lamb, which would indicate there might be a fertility problem in one of the tups.  It hasn't happened yet, and long may it stay that way!

We haven't really been very far off Treshnish but we did venture to Tobermory for the Bells on Hogmanay - it is a friendly gathering to exchange good wishes for the New Year with everyone around you - and to watch the Fireworks which were wonderful.  

We are doing a bit of work in Toechtamhor this winter so it is blocked out from the end of January.   West is changing around as we make the bedroom an ensuite kingsize bedroom rather than a twin and reduce the number the cottage sleeps from 2 + 2 to 2 + 1.   The living area will be more spacious and still enjoy those wonderful views of the sea.   Middle is also getting a kingsize bed as is the Studio mezzanine bedroom!  

We have already got a lot of bookings for the year ahead which is wonderful.  A large percentage of our bookings are repeats, and it means a lot to us that so many people want to come back - time and time again too!  We really love sharing the beauty of this extraordinary piece of land, and it is great to know that lots of people appreciate the place as much as we do. 

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Days of calm

This autumn into winter spell of weather really has been very calm and relatively dry.  It is now the 6th of December and we are expecting the first storm to hit any time.  Today was astonishingly clear and they do say that when it is very clear it means it is going to rain!

What has been happening on the farm? Well, the tups have been out for nearly 17 days, so it is time to move them around a bit.  The Lleyn tup has been out for the first ovine cycle and as Farmer wants to put the Cheviots into one large flock now he needs to take him out so he is not onto his daughters.  This means catching him somehow in a large open space and manhandling him into the back of the quad bike trailer.   The other additional tups will be put out with the Blackface ewes on the Point. Sometimes tupping time can be very wet so this good spell of weather will have been a great start. Hopefully!

Then of course there is the arrival of Nyje.  (pronounced like Nigel but with out the L).  Nyje is the latest addition to the sheep dog team.  He is 15 months old and we bought him from the same farmer where Cap came from. We had a lovely day out up Glen Lyon, JUST doable on a Sunday from here if you leave home early and catch the 9am ferry and come back on the 6pm.   As the crow flies it is not far from the Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy/Glen Coe road but to get there by road involves quite a lengthy detour.   It was a very beautiful day for a drive though, with snow on the mountains and much sunshine so we had a good day out.   Nyje is younger than any other dog we have bought and needs a bit more training.  There are one or two traits he needs to learn not to do, and one or two things he needs to learn to do..  however he is keen and has a good friendly nature which are two important traits.  We think he is pretty cute too! (I will post a photograph of him soon)

Studio and Shieling are a bit of a mess at the moment!  Intentionally that is.  We have been replacing the old shower units and are now waiting for the shower for Studio to arrive this week. On track to be finished for Christmas visitors!

Night skies have been clear and starry but no really strong visible auroras for a while now.  I have been catching them on camera but only seeing the glow (rather than the colours) by naked eye.

Duill Cottage sits beautifully under the stars with guests cosy by the fire, whilst I wander around in the frost! 

The winter feeding regime sets the scene for winter days, up and out before breakfast, though sometimes breakfast is delayed by a bit of chatting.  Well, it was the weekend and Jamie had come up to feed his heifers who are in our shed.

It is easy to assume that sunsets are all about summer, but actually the winter ones can be so dramatic.  This was taken over Shian's chimney.  We were waiting on the man from the NFU to turn up for a late afternoon meeting so I couldn't go down to Haunn which would have been amazing!! 

The mid afternoon sky was rich with these wonderful wavy clouds, and then an hour later it went cosmic! 

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