Sunday, 9 September 2018

Changes afoot

Summer has definitely lost out to Autumn, which to my mind started early.  And today, there are only 2 Swallows left in the barn.  The others have already flown.   It feels very quiet around the farm yard without their graceful flight and calls.

So the lambs are all sold.  They went on a lorry last week to Oban with Farmer taking the extras along in the livestock trailer.   Some fetched a good price, others an abysmal one.  However, overall, we sold more lambs than last year, and brought home a larger cheque even though our average was down.  

What is slowly dawning on us is that we would be better off moving the hill flock towards Cheviot, rather than clinging on to Blackface, which none of the finishers seem to want.

We can both remember the farm advisor Donald saying to us when we were first at Treshnish (24 years ago!) that the hill would be too hard for Cheviots.  That has always been in the back of our minds whenever we have discussed the idea of changing - because it was the first advice we had had on the matter.  Since then several other people have assured us that Cheviots would do fine at Treshnish and indeed there were Cheviots here before there were Blackface.    Our neighbour on the Torloisk side has moved over to Cheviot and they seem to be fine!

So we will be buying additional Cheviot tups to put to 150 Blackface ewes.  That should give us about 50 cross ewe lambs to put on the hill in 2 years time!   You have to think ahead.

Heather on the Sitheans.

From Lainne Sgier rocks across Calgary Bay.

You get a good view of the road towards Treshnish from 100m up!

This is the forest near Langamull.  After felling, before replanting.

And a stunning view over the devastated land to Croig, Quinish and beyond.

Meadowsweets before they seed.

Silverweed turning.

Every few years we cut this Fuchsia back as it is growing into Middle Cottage walls!  It grows back very quickly.

An inquisitive calf.

There has been great excitement around the bird feeders.  A young Sparrowhawk has been practising his hunting.  He still has a long way to go.   We haven't seen him catch anything yet, and he has been attacked by a Buzzard in the trees round the house, and mobbed by Swallows.  Today, while we were standing talking to a guest by the washing line, he swooped several times, clumsily, into the bird feeders but failed to take anything.

The final change is that Daughter is now away at college. The farmhouse is very quiet, and funnily enough the internet seems to be a bit faster...!


Thursday, 23 August 2018

An August autumn

All of a sudden it is late summer.   Early autumn.  The rowans are dripping with red berries and the heather has been flowering for weeks.

Farmer is busy getting ready to gather for lamb sales.

The Salen Show has been and gone.  A lovely day was had, and a second place and a third place (yellow and blue) were brought home.

A few years ago there were one or two Goldenrod in the Black Park, now the bank is covered in them.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Bracken control

The fields have had a late summer coat on for a couple of weeks now.  A canopy of flowing grass seedheads of golden above the tiny Eyebright, Red Bartsia and Hawkweeds below.   Breaking up the grasses are the piercing blues of Devils bit scabious.

It was such a huge relief to get the water supplies sorted out.  And now our tanks are brimming full again.   Crystal clear water!

This has freed Farmer up to get bracken cutting whenever he can.   He has been cutting in the fields below the house and along the sea.   There are areas which he just cannot reach with the tractor - such as along the coast to the Whisky cave and up the steep hillsides.  Sadly the track to Port Haunn is too narrow for the quad and the bracken cutter.  He used to use a thing called a Tracmaster along the coast, which he walked behind.   It's cutter blades sliced through the bracken, but unfortunately it has given up the ghost and a new one would cost thousands.   In the current climate of farming uncertainty we cannot justify getting a new one.

It is the Salen Show on Thursday so Farmer and Daughter are beginning to prepare the Herdwicks for the Show!

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Slipping by

I have had a bit of a blog break, as we (Farmer and family) had a holiday at the beginning of the month.   As always we headed off to Barra, leaving Treshnish hot, sunny and basking in the sunshine.

We cut the holiday short by a few days to get home so Farmer could get organised for the shearers coming to clip all the ewes.   It takes about 4 days of sorting, gathering in the ewes and lambs from different fields and the hill; putting them all through the fank so that the lambs get their vaccinations and anti tick treatments; and then watching the forecast as the ewes need to be dry to be sheared.   If it is forecast for rain they go in the shed for the night.

It was forecast to rain slightly and because we can, the ewes went in to the shed, and the lambs were left in the field.   It can be a noisy time whilst the ewes and lambs are temporarily parted, and then when they find each other again.

R and E arrived and set up the shearing trailer at 7am.  All in all they sheared 433 ewes and were finished by mid afternoon.  It is so impressive watching them do it.  Calming and gently handling each animal but with strength too to counter any wriggling.

The warm/dry/hot weather has affected the fields too.  The grasses have all gone to seed and the fields look quite brown.  Underneath the sea of seedbeds though there are colours to be discovered.  There is plenty of Eyebright, Red clover, Red bartsia and Black medick.   The Knapweed, Meadowsweet and Devils bit scabious are just beginning to come out.

The Common spotted orchids are still out, but interestingly when you look up close they are not as lush this year.  There is usually almost a shine to them but they look slightly dry this summer!

Last weekend we did another plant count on the Machair at Calgary.  It is looking amazing and it was great to find more species in abundance than last year.  I have never seen so many Harebells.

At the beginning of the week we had a professional photographer from London here who was photographing the Coronation Meadow.  For a book about the Coronation Meadows Project.  It is very exciting to be part of it and I look forward to seeing his photographs!

It is great to have the support of the RSPB in helping keep the message about walking dogs on leads during ground nesting bird season!  Our local RSPB officer dropped off these signs for us while we were on holiday and Prasad kindly put them up.

Cap, our oldest dog and head of the team.  He has retired now and is slightly confused sometimes, but otherwise in good health, loving nothing better than riding in the buggy.

The field below the house is being grazed by the Herdies, Cheviots and Zwartbles.  It can be quite difficult to find them.

The plan once the shearing was finished was to start mowing the bracken.  However the fine weather over the last few months and some historical plumbing seem to have put paid to that.   Beware - a long story coming up!

The day after our holiday Farmer noticed the alarm light was on at the borehole.  This meant that the tanks were not full to the brim.  Yikes!  First off, we thought that the pump wasn't working, and I frantically started searching the internet for an alternative.  We had deliberately calculated the size of the tanks to ensure we had at least a week's worth of water, in case the pump stopped working.

But hmm.. it wasn't the pump.   The borehole itself was taking longer to refill itself between pumping, than earlier in the spring so the dry weather has affected it too.  (You learn something every day, I didn't think it would be affected by the weather, but apparently they can be!)   We changed the settings on the pump timer and gave it longer to refill.  We cut down the time the pump ran so as not to damage the pump.  

The levels in the tank keep dropping.   Even at night when most folk are asleep in their beds and not using water.   We realised we must have a leak.  And that it was a big one, as each day the levels in the borehole tanks continued to drop.

To cut a long story short.. we realised that we have 2 leaks, one on each system.   One system does Shian Duill and our house.  The other does the laundry, Shieling and Studio.  It was not leaking from the borehole down to the filtration system, and it was not leaking from the filters to the water storage.

For 3 days Farmer dug and dug. Each night getting more despondent.  

Understanding guests tolerated the water being cut off between midnight and 5am.  We have all cut back on how much water we used.  In our house, baths are certainly more infrequent and a lot shallower - and deligently shared!  Today I took the cottage laundry to Tobermory to have it done there to save water.   So far we have not run out!

This afternoon Farmer is looking a bit more relaxed as he thinks he has found the main leak, the one losing the most water.  Tonight he will test the system again and see what happens.  Hopefully the level in the tanks will not go down over night.

And tomorrow he will try and locate the leak on the other system.

In between all that stress we have had moments of calm.  JL came rushing in one evening to say he had spotted dolphins below the house and so we all went down to the edge of the raised beach to see them.

Unfortunately they had gone by the time we got there, but we spent some time sea-watching and admiring JL's beautiful cows.

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