Monday, 23 May 2011

Photographs of the Luss Finish Line Party

Preparations before he arrives.

The marquee. Balloons and bunting.

The Luss village school.

And here he is. Over the Finish Line.

Passing on the message from Toward Primary School.

The ARSN tee shirt and the party decoration.

More presentations and support for Luss School and Parent Council from Minard Primary School with SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie, Councillor George Freeman.

Farmer had cycled over 250 miles in mostly rain and unseasonably strong winds! But despite the weather he had a great time, and enjoyed meeting everyone along the way.

Thank you to Luss and to everyone who showed him support and hospitality in the other schools and communities he visited.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Farmer on holiday

If you look at the ForArgyll website you will be able to see the full story of Somerset's trip from Treshnish to Luss via 9 threatened primary schools in Argyll and Bute. I cannot post the photos I took today because I can't get them off my phone - will do so when I get home.

The last visit was today in Luss. A surprise Finish Line Party was arranged by the dedicated Parent Council and preparations involved anxiously watching the forecast and taking suitable action (involving a trip to B&Q to purchase a small marquee). Somerset was due to arrive between 12.30 and 1.

We got there before midday and were told he had been sighted in the village already, but he sensitively lurked around away from the school, and duly appeared sporting a North Bute Primary School tee shirt (slogan reading North Bute School - Family of Friends). Finish Line Ribbon was held across the road leading up to the school and over he rode to great cheers. Daughter and I were behind the ribbon and he was very surprised to see us there, but we wouldn't have missed it for the world. It had started to rain when we arrived and as I write, still it has not stopped for 11 hours.

A wet wedding taking place in the village, I hope the bride had an umbrella. High heels and bare legged guests look inappropriate in torrential rain trying to navigate deep puddles looking for the church. Luss village is extremely charming - attractive stone cottages with gardens bursting with Himalayan poppies, and overwhelming abundant greenery. Seems well ahead, compared to Treshnish - our trees around the house are still not fully in leaf. The Luss folk were lovely - welcoming and hospitable. 2 families of children had travelled down from Minard School which was great. Mike McGregor List MSP was there, as well as Councillor George Freeman, Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, and Alan Reid LibDem MP. What would this village be without a school? Lots of photographs were taken, and Somerset was interviewed by URTV. (not quite sure what that is but still!)

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Pinks, orchids, pony traps, adjustment and regeneration.

Carpets of pinks at Lagganulva on my way to an USCA meeting at the school yesterday. It was cold for May, but the flags are nearly out here too.

Azalea planted by the previous owners of Treshnish by the Ensay Burn. There are a few random rhododendrons on the way up the track too. In the photograph below you can see the young trees that have sown themselves on the verge of the track, where there is less competition from grass. Young trees are surviving on the open ground, but the grass does slow down the gradual movement out from the wood into the open space. At this time of year it is easy to notice the new trees appearing when their leaves are so fresh.

Common spotted orchids on the bank above Studio with bluebells, and frail white pignut flowers beginning to appear in places too.

This old pony trap was used on Mull before the Second World War by my family on the other side of the island. It is sadly riddled with woodworm, and needs loving care. Perhaps someone walking past will offer to restore it.

Farmer is on his way, through Argyll. The weather has been mainly horrendous. He has visited 6 of the 9 schools on the threatened list. He has done really well and met some great people at some fantastic remote rural schools! Tomorrow North Bute Primary, then Toward and lastly Luss. On Bute tomorrow he will meet Michael Russell, Argyll MSP (and Education Minister) and be interviewed by the Buteman newspaper! He will be taking small ferries across some of Argyll's peninsulas (Tarbert to Portavadie, Colintraive to Bute, Dunoon to Gourock. Gourock to Helensburgh, and getting a lift on a fast RIB. Planning this leg of the trip illustrates how diverse and spread out Argyll is.

Adjustment refers to the dogs. No puppies to look after and no Meg. Daughter has brought Tig into the house more, but she goes back to her kennel at night. In Farmer's absence, Cap and Jan are playing around again as if 7 puppies never happened, so alot of care being taken to ensure they don't happen again.

The Contractors come in daily to check the stock. Charlie the pet lamb is thriving.

The woodchip boiler alarm light went off today, and an error message I have never seen before came up on the Control Panel. Gulp. Where is the Farmer when I need him?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

End of an Era

Meg came to Treshnish in May 1996 (or 1997) as a fluffy bundle of Bearded Collie pup. She came from Strontian. She died on Friday 13th May 2011. Meg worked with Farmer - helping in her unique way on the hill, and using her invaluable skill in catching sheep - especially useful at lambing time. She barked on command during gatherings, and often without command at all. She put 110% into everything she did, whether it was caring for lambs or hiding in the long grass watching the sheep or Freddie the donkey who used to live here. An utterly irreplaceable family pet and friend.

Sunshine at times.

Shut out of Kilninian Churchyard.

Farmer cycles. In the rain. From school to school, carrying messages. Warm welcomes from everyone so far.

Evening sun on rock beside path to rocky beach below Treshnish farmhouse.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Thrills and spills.

I have been trying to blog since the 12th, but internet has been very patchy. So patchy I cannot get it to upload photographs, so I am going to give up and publish post without any this time.

Written on 12th May: The weather has been mixed. We had thunder one day but we needed the rain. Plenty of wind for the wind turbine (just over 20,000 units now in 19 months). Plenty of bright light for the PV. Windy sunny days obviously very productive!

Great excitement: Prasad heard the corncrake yesterday. Not too far from Haunn. Farmer saw 2 Snow geese yesterday. When we first moved here in 1994 the snow geese came in every April to nest here. They diminished in number and finally about 10 years ago they stopped coming.

Lambing is nearly over. This afternoon, some walkers called in to report that they had seen a dead ewe near the Whisky Cave with bleating lambs near it. It is always appreciated when people come across something like this, that they tell us. It is difficult for a farmer to be in every corner of the farm all of the time at lambing time, so walkers' eyes are useful extra pairs of eyes at this time of year.

Farmer went off to bury the ewe and try and catch the lamb. It was quite clear when he got there that this ewe had not died from any illness but that she had fallen off the cliff. I won't go in to detail on the blog, but poor thing. The lambs had joined up with other ewes and lambs and he would have endangered them all if he had tried to catch them - high risk of mis-mothering at that time of day, and high risk of cliff-falls too. So not a good day in that aspect, but he will go back tomorrow and try again.

Charlie the pet lamb is still not a very good feeder. He is about to move into the Shelter so he can have access to fresh grass.

Farmhouse is busy with preparations for Farmer leaving on his annual walkabout. Have a look at the ForArgyll website for details. The Contractor came over this afternoon to talk to him and see where the cows and in bye sheep are, and to get last minute instructions. We are very lucky to have folk relatively close by who can come and look after everything and it is much appreciated.

I will write again soon.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Sunshine and no showers - yet

Marsh Marigolds down by the boathouse.

The 60 Cheviot Gimmers, lambing for the first time, are nearly finished lambing. Early evening sees teams of 'little angels' playing together, jumping down rock faces and kicking up their hind legs.

Rockpools reflections in evening light, looking back into Calgary Bay and towards the Beach.

We are getting to grips with the new management programme for Conservation. It is quite complicated having done things for 15 years in a certain way, to suddenly have different dates and grazing rhythms with complicated stocking densities to remember. When we walked round the farm last summer with Dr Tom Prescott from Butterfly Conservation Scotland, he was keen to help us get the right system in place to continue to improve the quality of the bio-diversity on our fields. And it all seemed quite flexible whilst we walked through fields knee deep in flowers. But as soon as you sign on the dotted line it becomes inflexible and we have to hope, at this stage, that we have got it right! Time will tell, and a review is built into the 5 year scheme anyway.

Water Avens, by the old boathouse.

Beltane is the day each year when the bull goes out. This means that the separation is ended and he runs with the cows for the next few months. On Tuesday our older cows go to Market in Oban. We are selling 4 cows, 2 of them with this year's calves. One of the cows is one of our first home bred cows - No 7. The others are Highland Shorthorn crosses we bought from one of our neighbours. It will be sad to see them go, and the dynamic of the herd will change without them. It will take a while for the new order to establish.

Loading the cows into the lorry Tuesday morning.

In March, in Berlin, at the inaugural VESTAs European Sustainable Tourism Awards, we were chosen as one of 6 'Outstanding Examples' of European Sustainable Tourism in the Accommodation Category! We are chuffed to bits with this recognition - we were nominated by Visit Scotland after the Thistle Awards last year, but never thought a small business such as ours would have a chance on a European level - still can't quite believe we have! We did not travel to the Reception in Berlin - too far to go for just one evening we felt.

I have just bought sleeper tickets for our trip to London Green Tourism Week in June though! We were told in February that we had been shortlisted for the GTBS Gold Star Awards, and a couple of weeks ago, we were told that we are now one of the Finalists! The email informing us of this great bit of news said that we are "now officially one of the top 2% of Green Tourism Businesses in UK and Ireland" - so that feels pretty good too. No pressure then... The winners are announced at a Reception at the Royal Thames Yacht Club, and we decided this time to go - as we can do the whole journey effortlessly by train. Quite excited about being in London for a day.

Tractor in garden - again. Thank Goodness it is dry.

Work continues apace on the office extension. The bulk of the woodfibre insulation arrived before Easter, and the roof pitches were fully insulated and covered in 2 very long days. The second of which our builder was on his own, so ably assisted later in the day by Farmer.

Today has been one of those incredible days, when I feel more than lucky to live here. We sat having a mug of tea in the sunshine outside the back door this afternoon, looking at the bluest of blue skies, clear air, fresh luminous green leaves on young trees we planted a few years ago, birds singing, swallows diving, breeze blowing. The weather today so very different from one of those dark winter days when the sky barely lights up at all, with wind howling, and rain pouring. So very different as to feel like a parallel world. Perhaps we wouldn't appreciate days like today so much if we didn't have the wild wet wintery days to remember.

The number of lambs is increasing and we are slowly finding homes for the puppies. Daughter, Friend and I delivered one to Lochgilphead on Friday, thinking we would avoid the traffic, but forgetting about the Mull Music Festival and ending up having to drive a very long way as the Oban boats were all full for the way back! Stopped at Kilmartin House Museum which is a great little museum and the girls enjoyed re-visiting the museum and we had lunch. Daughter has made a very mature decision (with no arm twisting) not to keep a puppy so we still have that one (girl) and one other (boy) to find homes for... do get in touch via the website if you can give either a home. A working home would be preferred but a good family home will also do!

Thrift, below the Treshnish Cottages.

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