Thursday, 29 April 2010

A bit of sunshine

A mother has been found for Little Bill.  When Farmer was out on the hill this morning he found a gimmer whose lamb had just died and brought her back to the farm so that she could take on Bill instead.  So they are together now in a pen in the cattle shed, whilst he remembers his true instinctive behaviour - and learning that humans are not the principle food source any more.  Farmer will keep an eye on them to make sure a bond is formed before they go out to join the rest of the flock.

We found a huge patch of wood anemone in the Haunn field, lifting their delicate faces to the sun this afternoon.   Celandine and violets in good number too but not as many this.  This field is not grazed again until later in the summer so the summer flowers can go to seed in peace.

Tig on the beach at Calgary.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Sad news

Sadly Blackster lost the battle with survival yesterday.  He seemed to have such a strong will to live but with a damaged tongue he could not win really.  He is now buried in the garden.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Lambs and snakes

Below are Blackster and Brian with their surrogate mum.  Brian is growing well, but Blackster is not thriving.  Cause for concern there.  Our neighbour has since given Daughter a lamb to rear of her own.  This lamb is a bit special.  He is brown.  (so he is named Brownie).  He is a son of Bill the Zwartble tup who lives in the field on the other side of the Ensay burn, and grunts and grumbles at you as you pass - in a friendly sort of a way.  His mother is a Cheviot.  (pic of Brownie to follow).

Lambing is busy.  Farmer is still out long hours, tramping the hill with his lambing bag.  One or two losses inevitably and some satisfying successes.  

And there are some exotic birds at Calgary Bay - I didn't see them but did enjoy a walk on the sands and admiring Treshnish Headland (left) from afar.  It does you good to walk the beach.  There was no one else on it.  Very low tides, and faint ripples on water as blue skies tried hard to open up the clouds, like heavy curtains allowing a promise of light through their folds.  

Farmer came across an adder whilst doing the school run.  He spied it dead on the main road at the top of Burg.  He brought it home and it looked surprisingly alive, its colours were so fresh.   He said he did do a double take before he picked it up in case it wasn't really dead.  Look away now if you dont like snakes.  It is now safely pickling away in a jar.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Birth, death, rarity and regeneration

Good news.  Lambing is well underway now.  With all its associated thrills and spills.  Farmer is out of doors from early dawn until dark, checking his stock.   Walking the hill, and along the coast where a large number of the ewes live, between the Haunn gate and the bottom of the zig zag path below Crackaig.   And regularly at other times, through the fields for the older ewes, more likely to have twins.

Lamb news.  Last night a hungry newborn lamb was brought in to the fireside; only one eye, swelling round the mouth, bleating and with further wounds around its stumpy horns. Attacked by ravens or black-backed gulls most likely.  It is so cruel.  The poor lamb.  Anyway Daughter came to rescue and took on role of foster mother aided and abetted by Meg, the old Beardie.  Bottle feeds and warm cosy box for the night.  Given the name Blackster.   By afternoon he was following Daughter like a shadow.

This morning Farmer brought in another lamb - a twin he found, whose mother had walked away from it.  They do do this - they wander off in search of grass and leave lambs in sheltered places but this one took one lamb with her and, later on, Farmer returned to check up, but the ewe and the one lamb had disappeared for good.  Named Brian.  He was given colostrum and latched on to his surrogate mother pretty quickly, though Brian will be fostered onto another ewe if we find one soon that has lots of milk but no lamb.   Take it from me, these lambs are being well loved by Meg - see above!  Tonight both lambs have been tucked up in the warmth of the heating container, next to the woodchip boiler.

Bad news.  With every day that passes gradually more births, mostly happy ones - simple and natural, perfectly bonded lambs to attentive protective mothers.  But sadly one or two deaths and not such happy conclusions.  On Friday Farmer found two ewes dead, in the same spot, at the bottom of a cliff - one of them with nasty wounds around its throat.  As if attacked by something.    A horrible scary death for both of them, and a loss to the Farmer of the unborn lambs inside them as well as the ewes themselves.  We can't know for certain what happened, but sheep will run at the sight of a dog at any time of year and even more so when they are heavily in lamb or with their young.   With a very popular path (Treshnish Headland walk) following several miles of stunning coastline through our best 'rough' grazing, dogs and their walkers inevitably come into contact with the sheep.  Quite often Farmer sees dogs off at some distance from their owners and the tell tale signs of ewes running at speed in the other direction towards the dramatic cliffs of the grassy raised beaches. 

Other news.  A cold north wind today chilled the brilliant sunshine, but in sheltered spots it was lovely and warm.  As I walked along the farm track through the (natural regeneration) wood this afternoon I noticed lots of young birch trees coming into leaf.  Fresh luminous leaves unfurl, standing out from last year's yellowed dead grasses, around thin perfectly formed tree outlines.  Stock has been excluded and deer fenced out of this wood for about 4 years now, and the perfect self seeded hazels and birches are encouraging to see creeping out slowly from the wood into the open spaces.  And Prasad is finding lots of traces of Hazel Gloves fungus in several different places on the farm too which is very exciting.     

Monday, 12 April 2010

Our lambing starts today, and hardly a lamb to be seen - yet.

I guess it will take them a few days to realise but our ewes are due to lamb any time after today.  So the increased exercise begins as Dog and Farmer go out to the hill to see if there is anything happening.  The new log and recycling shed will release a shed to turn back into lambing pens, in the farm steading at Treshnish, which will be handy for bottle fed lambs, assuming we have a few - as usual.

The wind turbine has produced 6760 units to date.  And is still producing ahead of consumption on the site local to the turbine - so far anyway.  The wind has dropped totally so the turbine is still today and the air warm and truly spring like.

Alice, the star of last year's home reared lambs, is now eating out of Farmer and Daughter hands on a regular basis, and is planning to attend the Salen Show ring.  It is a long way off and a lot can happen, but watch this space I will keep you posted.  She and the other Cheviot hoggs have been through the fank today, had a blue stripe of anti tick colour painted on their backs and are now off down into a new field.  Their blackface peers are back on the hill having had the same treatment.

First swallow seen at Treshnish yesterday too, by Prasad.  So that is it.  Lambing has started and so has summer.

And when the chief working sheep dog is not working, he has discovered the joy of Dog frisbee.

Tadpoles are on the wiggle, on the little lochan near Duill garden.  The huge static black blob of frogspawn has dispersed and the shallow waters are now writhing with tiny hypnotic swaying tadpoles close to the surface.

This magnolia is showing the most wonderful colour - the best we have ever seen it.  

Out beyond Port Haunn yesterday, Farmer did see a golden eagle carrying food towards a well known eerie.  It is too early for feeding chicks so may have been feeding the egg-sitter eagle.  Exciting though and quite a sight.  And unfortunately no photographs. 

Saturday, 3 April 2010

A week of contrast

Farmer had the camera with him on Good Friday morning.  So here is the rainbow in front of Toechtamhor at cattle feeding time.  The kind of day when you can see the weather coming, and watch it going away again. 

 And this is the view from the tractor on the way home from Haunn.

Good Friday.  It feels like the season has really begun now.  Warmth in the air and the great sunset we had reminded me of showing in the guests at Haunn one Easter 10 or so years ago, when those cottages were still off grid, powered by LPG.  The pre-season rush of getting everything ready, finished just in time (phew), bit of a panic.  Everyone had arrived.  We welcomed them in as their children were playing in the gardens near the cottages, letting off steam from long car journeys in Easter traffic.  Walking home to Treshnish afterwards, warm sun, evening light, when a skein of snow geese flew overhead, and landed in the grassy field beyond us.  It was a magical moment. The snow geese (see Prasad's blog) stayed and nested that year but gradually the numbers became fewer until they stopped coming.  

We received an order of food for the sheep yesterday.  Ewen Stewart delivered it to Ensay, the neighbouring farm, as he was going there anyway.  Farmer decided to cover it to avoid any 'self service' before he could store it in the feed store.

I had the camera with me later on.  A trip to Tobermory on Good Friday afternoon, having first visited the  new craft shop at Glenfgrom - Castle Crafts - full of lots of locally produced crafts.   The main street was busy with shoppers and visitors and the sky was blue.  The paint on this boat has seen better days, but the seaweed was enjoying it. 

The light on Shieling door often reflects the light over the sea at sunset.  For another photo of sunsets on Shieling, look at the Almost Daily Photo.

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