Thursday, 22 October 2009

Blue sky and fair wind, Calves weaned

The last few days have given us brilliant sunshine again, with clear blue skies.

This years calves have been weaned and they are now in the cow shed enjoying West Moss Side Farm organic hay and organic 'nuts'. Having spent a few days loitering around the cow shed calling for their calves, their mothers eventually drifted into the Black Park where they have been ever since.

The Black Park is one of our Herb Rich habitats, and we are not allowed to graze it until September 1st each year in order to allow the wild flowers to set seed. As it is not a field that we can mow for silage or hay, it means there is alot of autumn grass for the cattle and we need them to graze it intensely to take it down to a height whereby the sheep will want to graze it after them. It is great to see the cows spread out in the field grazing and cudding, and knowing that they are making an impact on the way the herb rich areas will flower next year.

This is part of the Black Park with Rum in the background, photographed June 2009. This photograph was taken close to the farm access track to the holiday cottages at Haunn.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Lanark Tup Sales, sun shines on the turbine

Lanark Mart: RING 1 in full swing.

An important part of the farming calendar is making sure you have the right number of tups (rams) and that they are fit and healthy for the tupping season (which starts in November).

Inevitably you may need to replace some of the older ones and it is always good to introduce some new blood to the flock, perhaps some improved breed characteristics too. So, to this end, this week we went to buy some new tups at the Blackface tup sales held annually at Lanark Market.

This is an all day event. Before the sale starts, everyone wanders around the Penning Areas - looking at what is on offer. Alot of time and effort goes into ensuring the stock look their best for the sale. Every animal has been shampooed, preened, brushed and shined, made to look its best. Dyed wools, neatly clipped, oiled horns, clean feet and legs, horns branded with their unique number, any blemishes carefully concealed. These guys have never looked so good.

Each pen of tups has the name of the farm on it - with all the mystique of a vineyard. Names well known in the Blackface Sheep Breeders world - Allanfauld, Dyke, Troloss, Midlock to name but a few. Reputations formed over years and generations.

To the uninitiated like me I am ashamed to say - a tup is a tup is a tup. I am not sure I can tell a prize winner from a loser but those in the know, will know - and can hazard a guess at who might sell a tup for the highest price.

There are 2 sale rings. To sell your tups through ring 1, you have to have reached a certain average price in ring 2 at previous sales. This is enough of a hint for us to know that we will stick in ring 2 for our selection.

Early on in the day there were not so many buyers around, but during the course of the day the market filled up, like a huge party slow to get going. By mid afternoon the whole place was buzzing - both rings busy, and great chatter in the bars and restaurant - deals being done, acquaintances being renewed, hands shaken, laughter shared and a great kindred atmosphere. Buyers come from all over Scotland and northern England - we weren't the only folk from the Isle of Mull there, and I heard the auctioneer calling out names from the Isle of Skye too.

So we spent most of the day in ring 2, except for recreational visits to ring 1 to see if any exciting prices were being reached (£17,000 was one we heard!). By mid afternoon we had bid considerably less for 6 average but healthy looking tups -including one from Chirmorrie - no. 533, whose 'pedigree' you can see here.

At the end of the day, the tups were loaded into a lorry bound for Mull and we made our own separate way home.

We got home to brilliant sunshine and clear skies - wonderful October holidays weather.

One or two neighbours have been over to look at the turbine already. We do enjoy showing people round the turbine, the woodchip boiler and where the conversations lead; and we are happy to show our holiday cottage guests round if they are interested. Here she is, looking towards Calgary beach.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Our turbine is turning

On Monday afternoon the long anticipated Proven 6kW turbine finally arrived! And it looked huge lying there in bits on the back of a heavily laden pickup. The pickup drove gingerly into the field, up a non existent track to the site above the cattle shed.

The installers, 2 from Turbine Services and 1 from On Site Generation, worked away from 8.30 this morning, with Farmer and tractor on hand to lift and move the heavy components as and when required.

The tractor lifted. The pole sections were fitted into its 15m length. Internal workings were assembled. The generator was attached. More components were added. It was winched up using a Turfer. We watch with interest - we will be doing this the next time when it needs a service. By midday it was vertical!

It was bolted down.

By 4pm it was spinning. Electrics were installed. Controls were adjusted. It was ready to generate.

By 6pm we were using our own electricity and exporting to the grid.

So there it is - one Proven WT6000 wind turbine, on a 15m pole, standing elegantly above the farm steading poised to help reduce our carbon footprint. Using our own Renewable Energy will make the office and laundry for the Treshnish and Haunn Cottages more eco friendly, it will provide electricity for the Studio holiday cottage and the rest of the steading building. We had wanted to supply the woodchip boiler (pictured above with the turbine) as well, but it wasn't possible to wire everything into the same supply so its requirement is provided by the national grid.

It is going to take a while for all this to sink in, but finally we have turned the wind resource here into something positive and empowering!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Ferries, cows and sunshine. And the ducks.

And after yesterdays storm.... Calm skies. Full warm glorious October sunshine. Fresh clean air.

The cows wait to move fields, near the Treshnish Cottages, and the Calmac ferry out to Coll has a flat calm crossing.

Call ducks sunbathe on the doorstep.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Alice, the sea eagle and the storm

This is Alice.

This years favourite pet lamb, Alice, grew up yesterday.

We had found her on Treshnish Point, at lambing time, abandoned by her mother and very chilled, nearly dead. After a spell in front of the Aga and bottled colostrum she revived, and once she had recovered sufficiently she left the kitchen and joined the other orphan lambs for a diet of bottled milk and special attention from everyone around. What will we use instead now we have got rid of the oil fired Aga we used for lamb warming before?!

Over the summer she enjoyed her elite status as family pet - her ears would prick up at the sound of her name and (latterly) if she could be bothered she would come over to say hello.

This is one of Alice's "I cant be bothered to come over to say hello' moments.

Yesterday however, it was deemed time for her to join the other hoggs, so she was given her ear tag, identifying her as one of the 2009 lambs from this farm holding, and sent off to the Haunn field, where the others are grazing, in front of the Haunn Cottages. A Sea Eagle flew overhead as Farmer returned home.

Possibly one of the poorest photographs of a sea eagle ever taken - yesterday afternoon, as the storm (see below) began to build up at sea.

As I write there is a Severe Storm Force 10 wind blowing. Not surprisingly, we did not have the usual Saturday morning sighting of the Tiree ferry heading west across our view this morning, as it and many others have been disrupted today.

The storm is very dramatic, very exciting! Somehow you expect a storm to be dark and threatening but the light is bright today and clouds scud across the sky - every now and then giving us a blast of brilliant sunshine and sharp blue sky! The sea is a deep deep turquoise. Molten metallic turquoise with whiter than white waves cutting across the rolling tops of the swell. This will take the last of the leaves from the brave bendy sycamore trees around the farmhouse. The four lots of guests who arrived yesterday will be able to watch the storm from the cosy warmth and shelter of the Treshnish Cottages, as the centralised woodchip boiler belts out the heat despite the wind and sends it effortlessly underground to the holiday cottages and the farmhouse.

The sunshine and the storm, looking towards Calgary.

October is a great month to visit the isle of Mull. The island is beginning to quieten down, and prepare for winter. The weather can be stormy, like today, but it can be fantastic too! It will probably be calm and still and bright tomorrow!

The hills are changing colour as the bracken turns to reds and oranges, and the Red Deer stags are roaring. Out walking on the hill at Treshnish, you may well encounter a group of deer - and if the wind is in the right direction you can come across them at closer range. (During the stalking season it is good to check in the Access on Mull leaflet before you go walking as to where stalking might be taking place to avoid conflict of interest! We have a copy for our guests in the Phone Room.) We have been hearing the powerful primal roar of the stags over on Ensay for a while now, it is an exciting reminder of the wild - right on our doorstep.

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