Monday, 28 December 2009

What a Christmas!

This unusually prolonged cold spell has brought with it long hours of beautiful bright sunlight on icy cold crisp days but at a price!! Extra duties have included monitoring our water supplies, gritting the track, bagging up logs, watching that the animals outside had enough grazing where the snow still lay on the ground, and making sure everything kept ticking over as it should. In the cattle shed, where the water has frozen, hauling water in buckets is the order of the day to ensure the stock indoors have enough.

Luckily, having had a load of road dust delivered before the cold started meant we could use that to keep the road open as far as possible for the Christmas guests. The main road from Calgary to Ulva Ferry is ungritted and totally lethal. But thankfully every one who needed to get away after Christmas got away safely - the last of them today.

Some of the New Year guests wisely postponed their holidays here at Treshnish, deciding not to risk that stretch of road with its dramatic drops to the sea on many turns in this subzero ungritted state. A spirit of adventure for those who decided they would come - they came in on foot from Calgary, leaving their cars safely at the beach.

Our neighbour says there has not been a winter like this on Mull since 1978 - and despite the incredible beauty of this weather, I think I have to say thankfully.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Winter jobs

We are enjoying some winter weather - nothing like the chaos everywhere else, but enough for the last day of school to be cancelled (didn't hear any complaints about that) and the postponement of the Christmas play.

Our Christmas guests came from as far afield as Plymouth - but all arrived safely to warm and cosy cottages. We took extra bags of logs down to Haunn this morning so that everyone can keep their stoves going in the cold weather.

Now that the hoggs are well trained 'to the bag', and the cows are enjoying their hill cobs, the winter feeding routine is well established. And the dogs are always keen to check for missed food as the troughs are turned over when the feeding is finished. Alice, the ex pet lamb, is a bit of a ringleader so the gates into the cattle shed have to be kept shut at all times otherwise she is in there like a shot looking for a bit of extra feed or hay, and bringing her mates with her.

The Farmer has been putting up a new fence on the Point, which will give him another field to lamb in. He came back at dusk earlier in the week, disappointed that he had not had a camera with him as he had a very close sighting of the Sea Eagle, which flew very low over him and the dogs while he was working out on the Point. A pair of Golden Eagles seem to hang around near the Treshnish Old Schoolhouse. It is amazing how often we come past and they are up floating above the wood on the thermals.

There hasn't been enough snow to think about bringing the cows in yet. They have been grazing from the herb rich Black Park into the Haunn field and there is still plenty of roughage for them even with the light snow lying on the ground today. Without calves to protect, they barely notice us as we walk past them on the way down to Haunn.

We have had some amazing skies - and some breathtaking sunsets. Here are two taken about a week ago - one taken from the Calgary direction of the sunset over Treshnish Point and the other taken near Duill looking towards the track disappearing into the field where the Haunn Cottages are.


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Winter sun on wetland habitat

In the foreground of the above photograph is the wetland area bordering the Haunn field where the remote holiday cottages are. In the hazy late afternoon light the island of Rum seemed almost etheric.

The Cheviot and Blackface (ewe) hoggs are all now trained to the food. Their stint in the cattle shed over, both flocks are now grazing together in the Park - coming each morning to a long line of troughs for their food. You only have to linger a moment when walking through at other times of day, on the track to Haunn, before they start gathering themselves around you expectantly - waiting for a little more. Below is a photograph taken of some of them, late afternoon yesterday (hence the camera shake).

Some farmers on the island choose to 'winter' their hoggs 'away' instead of doing what we do here. Away wintering involves taking the hoggs off the island to a farm on the mainland - perhaps in Aberdeenshire or Perthshire. They might leave in November and return before lambing. This traditional arrangement helps both farmers - the island farms rest their ground with less mouths to feed over the leaner months, and the host farms may have grown turnips for this purpose or may have surplus grass to use up before the spring. Our overall flock size seems to fit our ground - there is enough forage for them all and the grassland benefits from the hoggs and the cast ewes living on the in bye in the winter.

Animals and humans alike benefiting from a cold spell. Dry and clear weather, and frosty ground in the mornings. Approaching the shortest day, the bright sunlight gives valued extra daylight.

Duill Cottage is having tiles laid in the kitchen and bathroom - nearly finished thankfully as the Christmas guests arrive soon.

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