Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Off and On Treshnish. Home and Away Mull.

It was a week of movements on and off Mull, Treshnish, trains, ferries...

Moon rise on the Sound of Iona.

Treshnish headland as seen from the Sound of Iona, with the distinctive mountains of Rum to the left.

Bumble bee making the most of September fuschia pollen.

Grey skies over Iona post office buildings.

Grey skies over an Anish Kapoor in Hyde Park London. Unbelievably lovely to look at.

Cast ewes are the older ewes who would prefer not to spend another winter on the wild west coast of Mull. So traditionally they are sold to farms with gentler winter climates. 50 such ewes went off to market yesterday at Oban.

But Farmer came home with a little surprise.....10 Zwartble/Shetland/Cheviot ewe lambs came to Treshnish from Oban market yesterday. They will be great company for Brownie. (in fact they are all related, as they originated from our neighbouring farm)

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Lamb sales

The lambs were sold in Oban market on Tuesday. One small 'draw' of cheviots and a good 'draw' of blackface did really well, (first time in 16 years of selling that we made that much for a pen of lambs!) and interestingly at the end of the day, the blackface lambs made a higher average than the cheviot cross lambs.

In previous years, we sold our lorry full of lambs by the kilo on an organic price per kilo agreed BEFORE they left the farm, which meant we always knew what we were getting across the flock. Some of the younger or smaller lambs will only fetch a few pounds through the ring and that drops the average.

The ewes are still noisily calling for the lambs and tomorrow Farmer will put them through the fank and then they will go back to the hill until Tupping starts in November.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Cruising, gathering sheep and brambles

You will be happy to know that the Farmer and his family had a lovely time being feted by Visit Scotland last week at the Reception they held for Scottish Thistle Awards 2010 Finalists. It was good fun - generous amounts of champagne and delicious canapes, meeting other Finalists, seeing Castle Urquhart all lit up as darkness fell....and Daughter enjoyed being mentioned by her own name during one of the speeches and getting to wear an official name badge.

That morning we had left the house at 7.15am in order to catch the 8.10am Lochaline Fishnish ferry. We were stopped, by someone we knew, just before the village and warned that there were trees down blocking the Glen Road. The diversion over the hill to Torloisk and round to Salen that way, was a beautiful drive, but we arrived at Fishnish 5 minutes after the ferry should have left. As it turned out that ferry had not run at all, and we had to wait for a couple of hours for the wind to die down, before the first successful ferry that day arrived. That is what can happen sometimes when travelling in the autumn.

The next day we took a walk around Inverness before heading home. Looked at Matt Baker's Three Virtues, some graffiti in a back street and enjoyed again the River Ness and the Canal as we drove back home.

The birds have started to enjoy the plump hips on the Rosa Rugosa in Shieling and Studio garden hedges while we have enjoyed the sunshine and clear light.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sales and sails, chicks and cruises

At the weekend the village hall (Dervaig) hosted its 9th Seafood Extravaganza. Two long tables and one small one. Huge sails hang and successfully drop the height of the ceiling. All day the hall has been filled with busy people preparing, laying tables, opening bottles, prepping in the kitchen, shucking oysters by the hundred, plating up the amazing Platters and plates. And over at Croig shellfish was cooked in huge quantities. Towers of plates. Hundreds of plates. Countless glasses - actually I did count them - vaguely. 80 settings, with wine glass, water glass, whisky glass and I think even a second wine glass - makes for alot of washing up.

80 guests ate canapes, oysters, crab and Mull cheese tart and salad (above), tomato fish soup,

the Platter (above - lobster, crab claws, prawns, salmon) followed by meringues and cream with Treshnish blackcurrant coulis, followed by coffee or tea with Island Bakery shortbread and Michelle's tablet, accompanied by Isle of Mull whisky.

Iain Thomson Band played on and off during the evening and they were great. All in all it was a fantastic evening, whether as guest or volunteer waitress like me. And a really good advert for delicious local food.

Farmer has been out gathering in the sheep today. Thunder and lightning was forecast and did perform along with high winds. It didn't rain on them, and the new dog Jan was out on a hill gather for the first time. The lambs will be taken off their mothers on Monday and given their EID tag with its unique number - and off to market on Tuesday. The end of another lambing season.

And the one that got away. This little hen appeared yesterday with 6 pretty little chicks. Now you don't see them.

Now you do see them.

Tomorrow Farmer and family are off to The Scottish Thistle Awards 2010 Finalists celebratory 'champagne and canape' Reception on board a boat for an evening cruise on Loch Ness. This is not the night they announce the winners but a chance to meet the other finalists and celebrate the achievement of getting this far. Will report all about it once we get home.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

10,000 units, 3 finalists and lots of potatoes

Great excitement in the farmhouse just now, at the news that we have been shortlisted for the Sustainable Tourism category of the Scottish Thistle Awards 2010. We are so delighted to have got this far. The overall winners are announced in each category on 29th October.

We had to harvest our potatoes earlier in the week as the shaws suddenly turned and we were afraid of getting blight. The wall of the vegetable patch marks the edge of Shian and Duill's garden and looks over Caliach Point to Rum and Canna.

The birds have not yet started on the rose hips from the Rosa rugosa in Studio and Shieling gardens.

Self seeded pot marigold in amongst the spinach and onions waiting to be harvested.

And the flowering cardoons are almost artificial in their luminous colour. I haven't been blogging this last week or so, because the weather has been so good, it has been difficult to stay in doors. The sun has had real warmth to it, and the light that autumnal clarity.

Farmer has been catching up with a few jobs, including repairing the track out onto the hill where he will feed the cows in the early part of the winter. He has also had lots of animal work to do this week - sheep to check as usual, different lots of sheep and the cows to move from and to various places, and an important 10th birthday party to prepare for.

Jan, our lovely friendly keen new dog, got a workout with the Cheviot gimmers (who are looking really big now compared to the blackface ones!) and did really well. She works more closely in at hand than Cap, (who has a huge outrun - often disappearing completely out of sight in order to take in a huge sweep of ground) but all of a sudden he seemed more reluctant to go out as far as he usually does....a little bit of competition??

Egg production has slowed right down, but the hens are still hungry all the time, and in the early afternoon they follow anyone who walks past the feed shed, hoping they will open the door and throw some wheat out for them on the grass. I assume the tactic is successful or they would stop doing it. Lots of our younger guests (and some of the more mature) come past with scraps of bread for them too. There is one hen who appears from the broody coop every now and then, and I suspect any day now we will find she has a brood of autumn chicks.

This ruined black-house is at Haunn just beyond West Cottage.

Devil's bit scabious. Food for Marsh Fritillary butterflies. Looks amazing just now, that wonderful blue colour amongst all the grasses and other late summer flowers in the Black Park. The cows are grazing this field now, without the bull. In a few weeks time the calves will be weaned and sold. They are all looking really healthy and happy - their coats glowing and some of the cows look quite fat on the abundance of grass around.

It is 4 a.m and an autumn wind is howling round the thick stone farmhouse kitchen walls, and rattling the windows. I can't hear the turbine but I can hear the rustling of leaves, and wonder how many will be blowing across the garden and the farmyard when daylight comes.

The wind turbine has made more than 10,000 units of electricity in less than a year, so we have exceeded our goal before the end of the first year! So now I am hoping that we can get to 11,000 by the time the turbine is a year old!

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