Thursday, 21 March 2019

Storms and landslides


We had a storm last week. The media called it Storm Gareth.   We called it windy, and battened down the hatches.  In fact, as is often the case, it was perhaps not as windy as forecast it would be.  But that is a good thing!    We had a quick power cut but the great team from the Hydro got us back on within a couple of hours. 

There didn't seem to be any damage to buildings, rooves or poly tunnels so we were relieved about that.  



Farmer had just put the hoggs out. They have been in the big shed all winter, and were getting through a lot of hay which we want to save for the gimmers (first time lambers) who will be in the shed at lambing time.  It must have been a bit of a shock for the hoggs, but they enjoyed running about the field in a big group! 



The storm came in. 



And once it had blown through Farmer headed off towards Port Haunn to put out some feed blocks.  If you have walked along the coast, from the Haunn cottages you will know the track is quite steep in places.  

Unfortunately there had been some storm damage after all.  A night of heavy rain following days of wet weather encouraged a landslide to slip.  

This is a nightmare for us.  It is a vital route for getting out to the ewes at lambing time, with a trailer, so Farmer can bring back anything that needs attention.   We don't know how we can fix this, or prevent any more of it from sliding. 


After a few days the hoggs are settling down.  They are still very much the excitable teenagers though and huddle in a big gang at the slightest suggestion of anyone walking past.  They have slowed down though and don't run at full speed like they did to begin with. 



Signs of spring are beginning to show.  The Magnolia is coming out in the woodland by the Ensay Burn.   Daffodils are flowering everywhere. 






We have had one notable clear night combined with aurora activity recently!  



Greylag geese are making their presence known.  Their numbers are increasing each year, and whilst they are lovely to see, I wish they didn't eat so much.  4 geese eat the equivalent of 1 sheep.




The Herdwicks are in the field below the house. They have Alice with them, who was the first pet lamb I wrote about when I started this blog in 2009.  She was found half dead at lambing time and rescued by Farmer and 9 year old Daughter.  She is too old to have any more lambs so has retired from the Cheviot flock and is closer at hand for extra rations with the Herdies.  She will be 10 next month. 


As well as feeding the Herdwicks Farmer seems to be feeding a large flock of Common gulls.  They have started to hang around on the hill above the farmhouse, their usual breeding ground.  

We are also hearing Curlew so we hope that is them back to breed too. 





We had a great close sighting of a Raven down at Killiechronan. We don't normally see them as close up as this. 




Another day, another bag of food....



Saturday, 23 February 2019

Scanning the ewes

We had friends staying last night so this morning we all walked down to the Boathouse before a bowl of soup lunch.  It was magical to see a female Hen harrier flying low along the raised beach. I enjoyed hearing the call of a pair of Oystercatchers, as they flew along the waterline.     We didn't see any Otters this time.






It was one of those murky days, we could barely see the Isle of Coll, but there were beautiful colours underfoot in the mosses and lichens.


Farmer gathered the ewes in this week, in order to be ready for the arrival of Dan the Scanner who had messaged us all on Facebook with a tight timetable of where he was aiming to be and at what time.  Incredibly he is always on time!  This morning he started in the Ross of Mull, at Fidden Farm at 7.30 am and by the time he got here he had scanned 1700 ewes.  He did another 585 here before heading off to Croig to do the last lot before dark.  It was 4pm when he arrived here!




This is the time of year when Farmer can stop worrying whether or not the tups were 'working' or not, whether or not they were fertile.  From our scanning results, we know that they were all working and that lots of lambs are expected.  Typically the highest scanning percentage was from Daughter's Herdwicks! (I wonder if that has got anything to do with their fondness for the feed bag!)  We can look forward to lots of those gorgeous black lambs in the spring.



Now we will sort the in-by ewes into different lots.  The Cheviots carrying twins will need a bit more supplementary feed than the ones carrying singles.   The ewes who are 'empty' (not in lamb) will be sold.   We will also sell some of the Cheviots carrying singles as we are able to sign a new environmental contract which is going to restrict our sheep numbers on the herb rich fields.   




Saturday, 16 February 2019

Murmurations over Brighton Pier 14th February 2019












Middle of February already





We had a spell of clear skies coinciding with some solar activity. One display was bright enough to see with the naked eye, as we did driving down the Sound of Mull taking a friend home to Salen after Film Club.  I had left my camera running at home, so I did get some photographs of it, which were sadly out of focus - above!


Clear skies in the day time too, and some cold frosty weather followed the snow at the end of January.  Ice on the puddles and slippery roads when out.

We always enjoy the appearance of the Starlings.  They are not here every day but they do appear regularly and it is lovely to see.   They roost in the big shed and quite often fly into the trees around the house, so noisy.  They even murmurate - even though there aren't clouds of them. It is lovely to watch them fly off the wires and out over the fields before coming back to land on the wires again.


Daughter is mid interview process for university so this week Farmer and I have been driving her around the UK for interviews.  One was at Brighton on Wednesday so we all headed to the beach after she had finished, in the hope that we might see a few more Starlings doing a murmuration near Brighton Pier.   We were lucky! And watched them build in number and watched their flight shimmy and flow in different shapes up and down and around the pier.  It was absolutely stunning.   I will do a separate blog post with some of the photographs from there. 


On the farm, there is lots of fencing going on - repairing old fences, taking out rotten posts and replacing them, hoping to increase the life expectancy of the fences for a few more years yet.   An increasing awareness of the effects of chemical poisoning has meant that some of the treatments to protect the wood from rot or pests are now banned - which means that fencing posts don't last as long as they might have done 30 years ago.   It is great for the environment and for us humans, but means we have to replace fence posts a bit more regularly.  We have had RM fencing for us.  She lives locally and works her own croft as well as helping on other farms, shepherding, fencing and shearing.   The handsome tup (ram) in the photograph further down the blog is hers, she has lent him to us for the last 2 tupping seasons!


The Herdwicks are down in the field below the house.  Lachlan the Herdwick tup stands each morning by the gate into their field, as if saying he would far rather be with them than with the other tups.


Sea Bone by Matt Baker.



RM's tup.


One of the advantages of the showery days are the beautiful rainbows we see.  This one photographed on my phone shows the Alexander's Belt really well, the dark light between the 2 arcs. 


At this time of year the tups associate humans with food and are far braver than usual.


I am not for a minute saying that Farmer feeds them by hand or anything like that.






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