Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Silage, seals, sharks and sheep on a Sunday

Silage has been baled, thanks to a helpful nearby farmer with a huge tractor and baler, and here in this photograph being wrapped by Farmer and his brace of (much smaller) tractors.

This year we made silage in a far smaller field than last year so the number of bales is half the amount. This is an expected outcome, as we manage our fields in a traditional system, using the old fallow method to rest the fields one year in four, and hopefully create a more natural balance. The fields are not all the same size - so the yields will always be different! We don't use artificial fertiliser so rely on FYM from in-wintering our cows to feed the soil fertilitiy. From a flowers point of view though, the yield is huge, as the bio-diversity of these fields seem to improve year on year.

The silage is now wrapped and safe from the weather. The ends of the plastic wrap are tucked in to keep it airtight so that it can start to do the heating up and fermenting necessary to pickle the cut forage. At the end of every winter we have piles of silage wrap and farm plastic waiting for collection, to go off to Solway Recycling (who turn them into picnic benches).

Next task for Farmer is to take each bale back up to the stack yard before the bale starts softening. The Cheviots gimmers are let into this field to nibble the 'aftermath' - the sweet grass that comes after the silage is cut. Lamb sales in other parts of the country bring our attention to our own lambs and when to gather. The lorry is booked to take our lambs on the 21st September to Oban.

The heather has been vivid again this summer. Across the burn from the Treshnish farm steading is this pretty bank of heather. We fenced the sheep out of this area about 8 years ago, and it has taken all this time for the heather to recover, and for this young rowan to take seed.

A Sunday morning walk along through the Black Park and down to the shore on the northern side of the Point. Heather, late flowering birds foot trefoil, devils bit scabious and harebell in one of our in bye fields.

In the Black Park, huge clumps of knapweed.

...and colourful devils bit scabious with the yellow of hawksbit.

Walking along the northern shore, we can hear seals calling. There are 5 lying in the sun at low tide on the rocks - we don't see them here that often. A basking shark slowly cruises past a few metres off shore, and gannets drop like missiles into the water. Rocky outcrops with ungrazed wild flowers. Bees buzzing in the sunshine. One of those magical walks.

And a bowl of salad leaves from the garden with edible flowers to accompany a sunny Sunday lunch out of doors when we get home!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

We love the Salen Show

Thursday the 12th, and it is Salen Show day. It was a perfect day, bright, slightly breezy and not too hot for the animals. As usual alot of work had gone in to getting everything organised. It is such a picturesque location near Aros Bridge, where the river comes into a sandy bay, overlooked by the ruined Aros Castle on its cliff.

Hands handled.

Preened, dyed, brushed, judged and awarded.

The Mull and Iona Pipe Band piped. Ewen and Allan Stewart (Comrie) lent their lorry as a stage for the sound system for the Show Dance.

The Produce Tent produced.

Vegetables transformed.

The Young handler handled. In the end Alice did not go to the Show. We chose Brownie (the Zwartble) instead as he is easier to handle. Pet lambs are always noisy, and the journey from the farm to the show ground was hilariously loud. Farmer doesn't have a 4x4 or the usual farmer's pickup, so Brownie travelled with us in the van, well within earshot. Daughter (the Young Handler) had ensured a thick bed of paper and straw in a large pet crate made him comfortable, but he baa-ed at the top of his voice ALL the way and ALL the way home (having come second last in his class).

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Jan settles in

It doesn't take long for a bond to form between Farmer and Dog. Jan has a sweet willing nature and in the fortnight she has been with us, she has learned the importance of close contact. And Cap has learned to share.

The Black Park is one of our species rich fields. It is closed off from grazing from April until end of August, to allow the wonderful variety of flowers to set seed. The yellow rattle seed heads have changed colour now and rattle loudly as you walk through them. When we started farming organically we had a little yellow rattle in the silage fields, and it spread very successfully over the years. depleting the grass as it went along. At one time we were quite worried about yields and so I started researching into organic methods of controlling yellow rattle, but the only references to it that I could find were about how to encourage it as it was so beneficial to enhancing wild flower meadows! At that point, we gave in to the notion of letting nature take its course. And the result all these years later is this incredibly colourful grassland, abundant with many many different wild flowers.


Black Park August colour. The Black Park is one of the fields you drive through to get to the 4 Haunn Cottages, site of one of the nesting pairs of corn crake that we have enjoyed here this summer. For details of what they are doing just now look at TreshnishBirdlog.

One man and his new dog, walking obediently behind him.

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