Sunday, 24 April 2011

No miracle pulled out of hat for rural schools in Argyll.

Clachan School take a good look inside the Council Chamber.

On Tuesday Argyll and Bute Council met to decide on whether to send any, each or all the 12 threatened schools to Public Consultation. For these schools it will have been a charged, tense and harrowing day but outside the Council Offices at Kilmory (Lochgilphead) the sun was shining and the atmosphere was strong and defiant. A&B MSP candidate Mike Russell (SNP) was there as was Jamie McGrigor (Con). Jackie Baillie (Lab) and Mike Russell sat in on proceedings in the Chamber, as did some school children from North Bute. There was some inventive demonstrating and some great chanting, singing and even members of a pipe band. Ashfield School, similar in many ways to Ulva School, was given a reprieve but the 11 others were voted to go to Consultation. And if nothing is done to stop the process they will have to endure a further 6 months of tension, stress and uncertainty before they know whether the schools will stay open or not. This will mean the school children, teachers, parents and local communities will experienced a rotten, uncertain and extremely stressful 12 months.

Easter Saturday. Glorious sunshine. Bright blue sky reflected on bright blue sea. Hazy horizon views from Toechtamhor windows disappearing into faint clouds over Rum, Skye, Muck and Eigg. Lambing continues, perhaps a third of the way through. Farmer out at any time during daylight hours, checking the two flocks. Alice, Agatha (in photo below with her first lamb) and the gimmer Cheviots are in Scoma (the field with Medieval ruined settlements near the Point). This is a good field for lambing with plenty of grass and good shelter should we get those drying cold north winds. Luckily too, there is a route round it suitable for the quad bike.

For the first time (appallingly) since lambing began I accompanied Farmer and Jan (who is gently returning from nursing mother to working dog role) on an evening patrol of the field. Agatha came jogging up to the buggy thinking she was going to be fed - she has a fine young lamb now of her own. Alice is yet to lamb and Daughter is anxiously waiting for that event. Everything seemed fine, ewes and lambs mothering up, and those waiting to lamb grazing normally. One sitting on her own over a slight hillock, cause for concern. Binoculars out. Can't see anything untoward but move in closer to double check. She doesn't get up when we approach. Farmer gets down from buggy, and walks steadily towards her. Tail raised, you can see a head poking out. Farmer leaps as she begins to run. Farmer grabs her hind quarters and hangs on, slides over turf dyke on his belly, she can't get away. These Cheviots are alot bigger than Blackies, and more difficult to catch. In a trice Farmer has safely lambed her (in photo below). The head is larger than normal from the pressure of being a hung lamb, but it will return to normal in a few days. Heaving the mother into the back of the buggy, and placing the lamb in the recycled mineral bucket for safety on the journey back to the farm. Good job done. Back to the farm. Penned off so they can mother up.

Missing lambs in the inbye fields. Twice in the last few days Farmer has seen a ewe with twins in the evening and gone back the next morning to find there is a lamb missing.

In the 1970's there was a scheme called the Hebridean Bulb Venture which was set up to encourage farmers and crofters on islands like the Isle of Mull to try other crops. These daffodils in the Kilmaluag field are all that remains here of a failed attempt at early 'diversification' - in order to get a good show of blooms we have to keep the sheep out of this field!

Before going back out to check the sheep on the hill Farmer put 2 bat boxes up on the north wall of the Recycling Shed today.

Huge amounts of wood-fibre insulation arrived this week for our roof. It is being stored in every available shed. (thank goodness the cows are out on the hill now). I am shocked by the quantities of building materials this project is using, however you try to minimise the impact on the environment. We have become big time consumers, and I don't like it! Even if it will make the farmhouse far more energy efficient in the longer term.
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