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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