Sunday, 26 February 2017

Looking for a short break?


Whats been happening on the farm? Nearly at the end of February already.. the days are getting longer and it is great to be doing the school run at both ends of the day in daylight!  


We have had mixed weather all month - but no great storms to speak of.  In fact this winter has not been as windy as usual!  I haven't checked the wind turbine generation readings for a while, but I know they will be down on last year.


Farmer has been gathering the hill to bring the ewes in for scanning tomorrow.  We have just gone up to Larach mhor on the main road above Treshnish to retrieve the truck, as they left it there at the start of the gather yesterday.  On the way up there we could see across to the Sitheans, and could see a puckle of ewes that got away from them yesterday. Hence Farmer off with the dogs to get them in now.



Scanning the ewes is useful to us as it means we know which ewes are expecting twins and can keep them in for supplementary feeding nearer the time.  Lambing is about 6 weeks away!



Toechtamhor has been the centre of attention this month - with an upgraded shower and new bathroom windows all round, plus one improvement I will leave as a surprise for regular visitors!  The twin bedroom has a new insulated wooden floor and both bedrooms have new easy to control electric heaters - finally, the days of storage heaters are over I am glad to say! 



There has been work going on in other cottages too...!  Shieling has had lighting improvements, and a new shower before Christmas.  Studio had an upgraded shower before Christmas too.    West has its new layout which feels really good, and feedback from guests so far is very positive.






We are offering short breaks between now and the end of April, and are considering doing the same in September and October.  Please get in touch if you want to book a short break or a week between now and then.  There is a 10% discount available on a week booking until the 28th April!


Thursday, 2 February 2017

The curious tale of the bogus blogsite


I have held off writing a blogpost over the last week because someone decided to 'content scrape' the Haunnblackhouse blog, and create a bogus site with the same name (spelt with an extra n).. whats more it was sending a 20 fold increase in traffic to our blog from this fake site (mostly from Spain..).  Goodness knows what dodgy things were going on behind the scenes, and it wasn't a very nice feeling.

Thankfully the bogus site has been taken down now. I had submitted a copyright breach complaint to Google and emailed both the site registrar and hosting company (both in Panama).. I don't know who did what but it's gone... but hopefully there will be no further repercussions!


We continue to have mixed weather, with a weekly or so storm which threatens to cancel the ferries.. and sometimes does!   The generally milder weather has brought the snowdrops out in their hundreds and they seem to have grown taller this year too.


Last week Farmer decided to tackle the rocks on the track down to Port Haunn.  I was quite nervous about him driving the digger down that steep slope, and I think judging by the fact he took his phone with him, I think Farmer was quite nervous about it too.   To cut a long story short, he made it down there, and he made it back!  AND he managed to move the rocks so that now he can drive the quad past it and put feed blocks out along the flats for the sheep.  Phew.  When that rockfall happened we thought the worst...


It was a beautifully sunny day, and the coastline was looking fresh!



Every now and then over the last few weeks there has been an Aurora Borealis.  I haven't been out to Croig or anywhere further afield this winter because it has either not been clear enough (too much cloud) or not a strong enough forecast.  The colours picked up on camera are still pretty lovely though! 


I couldn't remember if I had posted a photograph of Nyje yet.  It is amazing to think he has been with us for 2 months already.  He is still very energetic, almost hyper at times, but I was pleased I got him to stand still.


And another day I managed to get the working team to sit still.  It was asking too much to get Coco to sit as well.

Farmer manages it a lot better!  Lit by the surprise of afternoon sun on a cloudy day. 


There have been moments of wonderful sun and rich winter light. 


Moments of ferocious squalls and dramatic light.


West Cottage has had a change around.   The lovely oak bed has been widened so it is now a kingsize (so has Middle Cottage) and we have moved it into the bedroom.  In its place in the alcove is a single day bed - a perfect spot for reading your book and gazing out of the window by day, and comfortable adult sized single bed by night.   The whole feel of the cottage is of spaciousness and light whilst also being cosy and romantic.  I know some of our family guests are disappointed that we no longer sleep 4, and we hope that they might find one of the other larger cottages works for them instead.  





Duill Cottage certainly does get a great view of the sunset! 


Over the last couple of nights I have caught the aurora on camera. Not much to see visually with the naked eye, but the camera picks up the colours.


On Monday we went to a farming meeting to discuss the future of farming post-Brexit.  A 5 point plan to help us prepare (for the largely unknown). All about Resilience and diversification and farming for the public good - which I hope we do already.  It was good to be part of a discussion and to listen to people who know more about the politics of the possible deals with Europe and scenarios than I do.




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. 











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