Thursday, 30 June 2011

Scores of wild flowers including the exotic Marsh Cinquefoil.

Evening sun, Beyond Haunn.

Fragrant orchids, Treshnish Islands.

On Tuesday the Mull and Iona Ranger Service held a wild flower walk here, funded by Scotland's Islands. It was a lovely sunny day, and great to be out in the Haunn field and Black Park again looking at the glorious changing carpet of colours at our feet. The huge specimen of Northern Marsh orchid was still flowering beautifully, and close it the exotic looking Marsh Cinquefoil which I had not seen before.

The evening before, we went to the beyond Haunn field to look at a large and dense patch of fragrant orchid near the cliffs at the southern end of the Point. They were stunning but alas, as is the way of things sometime, a pesky group of cheviots have managed to get into the field so the numbers of sweet smelling and (presumably) tasting fragrants are diminishing.

I make no apology for the number of photographs of these beautiful plants.

We are off at end of school today (lunchtime) to Edinburgh as tomorrow Farmer takes part in the Riding Procession as one of Argyll's Local Heros. Those of you who know him will know what a reluctant hero he is! I will try and blog about it before Daughter and I disappear off to Barra on Saturday at lunchtime but I may not have time.

And again.

This week we have five cottages filled with returning guests - four have all holidayed here at the same time previously, it is lovely to see everyone recognising, remembering, greeting each other again. The fifth guests were here last in 1971, and they brought some photographs of Shian and Duill from that visit. A few changes (improvements) since then!

Evening sunlight over the Point. Looking out at Tiree.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Highland Show

Farmer and family went off to the Highland Show this week. We had not been since Daughter was 4 years old and had got her hand caught in an Edinburgh taxi door.

We left after school and caught a calm 5.10pm ferry to Lochaline. There was very little traffic and Glen Coe looked completely stunning. Bright sunlight and high in the sky white clouds casting shadows on steep scree slopes, this landscape is more beautiful every time we pass through it. Stopped at the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum for something to eat - busy, friendly and a good way to produce food - good provenance of where it comes from, good attitude towards staff so everyone is responsible and responsive, and on top of all the right ethical noises the food is fast, fresh, real and tasty!

The Highland Show needs no words really and anyway I am embarrassed. So I will let the pictures tell the story and will write again soon.

Spink's from Arbroath smoking their fish in the open air at the Show. Smelt wonderful.

Behind the scenes in the Sheep pens.

Pure Zwartbles.

Border Leicesters with their rabbit like ears.

Balliemeanoch box of tricks.

A less posh box of tricks.

Receiving the RSPB Nature of Farming (Scottish) Award.


Aberdeen Angus and wheelbarrow.

Impressive beeswax cup cakes from the Bee Tent.

Dorset Downs (I think).

Red Bull (in the sheep pens).

In the Show Ring.

Daughter's new favourite. Hampshire Downs.


And the unpreened Tig stayed at home.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

School visits, shearing, sunshine and starlings

Nearly a week has gone by since the last post, and it is the longest day of the year tomorrow. Today we woke to sunshine and it has been one of those still blue sky days, with little to no wind, and birdsong the noisiest thing around. Daughter was excited because the school were coming to the farm today, no need to manically watch the clock as they weren't going to arrive until 10 am.

I cannot resist the sight of the fragrant orchid, milkwort and birds foot trefoil. Such a good colour combination.

Giant orchid specimen found by the 2 P6s at Haunn.

At Ulva School the subject of the current Personal Research Unit (the P.R.U.) is Renewables. Hence the visit. Each pupil chooses a different topic to research on their own. Daughter has chosen wind turbines. No excuse then not to get a good mark.

Trying to simplify biomass heating schemes and wind generation to 5 and 6 year olds level is hard enough, but I realised when trying to talk about the PV panels I really have little clue as to how they work. I just know they do. I think I managed to gloss over my ignorance! Anyway, surprisingly pertinent questions and we got 7 out of 8 of the children hugging the turbine. We respect differences of opinion here, and wind turbines certainly bring about polarity in opinion!

Whilst showing the pupils the turbine, Farmer was alarmed to find a spring poking out of the ground. It has come off the turbine. We have contacted the installers and were advised to put the brake on the turbine and await instructions. Proven will want photographs etc so that they can fix it under warranty. I am glad no one was standing underneath when it broke off. Guess it happened in the gales a month ago. You can see the earthy end of it where it had been thrust into the ground.

With the brake on, the blades are still.

Having got the technical stuff out of the way, Farmer drove us down to the Haunn field on the tractor and trailer so that we could show the children the abundant wild flowers there. The sun was still shining and felt warm on our faces. Buttercup, pignut, northern marsh orchid, butterfly orchid, fragrant orchid, ragged robin, eyebright, speedwell, mint, forget me not, heath bedstraw..and more that I have forgotten already. Wonderful scene, children dashing from find to find, hopefully stepping carefully and avoiding crushing the stems of hidden orchids.

Farmer is suffering. Whether it was due to months of fetching and carrying for the builders or the rigours of doing the cycle for the schools, but Farmer's back is playing up and has been for weeks and weeks. Not one who is happy idle, and not one who can let others do his work easily, he is a difficult patient. (I can say this because he doesn't ever read the blog). But with the school holidays looming (two weeks left of term) we are hoping to lure him away from the temptation of physical work and remove him to Barra. We are hoping for a calmer crossing this year as neither Daughter or I have forgotten the northward journey of last year.

Yesterday I went to a poetry reading at Ardtornish on Morvern, part of an event hosted by the Andrew Raven Memorial Trust. The poet was Thomas A Clark. It was a fantastic experience. The 'theme' was Paths, and he read from several books, some long and others short. The memorable one for me was as if walking on a Hebridean island, on the machair; beautifully crafted words painting evocative images of walks across the machair, of the wild flowers, of movement of light and water.

Weeding the polytunnel unearthed a rare sight. A mother hedgehog suckling her young. Her nest of grasses and weeds was so well hidden.

Starlings gathering in the Park last night. They seem to like following the gimmers.

The tups (above) and the hoggs (now gimmers) were shorn on Saturday. The zwartble cross shetlands look like goats without their wool.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

For the love of flowers

This photograph was taken out of Daughters bedroom window. Look at the dead leafed trees - difficult to believe it is June. I love the way the tups sit with 'Seabone' (by Matt Baker) as if it were one of them.

Watching the woodchip. At this time of year we use very little, so deliveries are few and far between. The fuel store has to be levelled to ensure that all the chip is used before new is tipped in on top.

Fragrant orchid, bird's foot trefoil and common milkwort.


It is a dreich day today, cloud is low and air is damp (and at times wet!). Water drops cling to grasses, gently blowing in the wind. Walking the dogs to Haunn this morning was an absolute delight.

Fragrant orchids

Birdsfoot trefoil

Not sure if this is early purple or northern marsh - think it is the latter.

Tiny white star shaped petals

Yellow rattle
Greater Butterfly orchid

These photographs were either taken in the Black Park or in the Haunn Field. The latter is not being cut for silage this year, but we are keeping the stock out of here to allow all these flowers to safely set their seed.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Best laid plans.... surprising results.

We had it all arranged - sheep were all gathered in, the Contractors were coming in to put lambs through the fank, the plumber had arrived and the sun was shining.

But for reasons (strong but dull in the telling!) I won't go into, instead of going to London we ended up in Cromarty, and very nice (eventually) it was too. We found a cheap deal on a cottage attached to a hotel outside Inverness and that evening as I crawled exhausted, into a comfy bed, I thanked my lucky stars that I was not on a train.

By next afternoon, sufficiently recovered to make a day trip, we headed across the green and leafy Black Isle to Cromarty so we could visit Hugh Miller's Cottage. Run by the National Trust for Scotland it is a delightful museum, and we enjoyed looking at the fossils and his birthplace, under the thatch. Cromarty charmed us, so we wandered and looked over garden walls at beautiful sandstone houses with lovely gardens, and walked in between rows of fishermen's cottages in warm sun, and exploring the difference in east to west coastal villages.

While we were wandering in Cromarty that sunny afternoon, the Green Tourism Week Awards were being announced in London, and as we did not hear anything from GTBS, we realised that to have been selected by GTBS as a Finalist for the Goldstar and on the shortlist for the Carbon Footprint Award was enough of a 'win' for us!

We ate at Rocpool in Inverness on Thursday night which was delicious, and the evening sun on Loch Ness was golden and summer seemed to be in the air at last. Refreshed we headed for home early Friday morning for School Sports day at Garmony.

Imagine our intense surprise when we got home to an email from Andrea at GTBS (Green Tourism Business Scheme) telling us that we had won not only a Goldstar but a Carbon Footprint Award as well! Back down to earth with a bang though, as the Haunn water supply had airlocked and Farmer spent the next 24 hours on and off digging holes and sorting it out.

The fragrant orchids are beginning to flower. I am surprised every time by the strength of their scent. So exotic for Mull.

The hens hide from the sun.

The sea pinks are nearly over now, but still en masse this beach near Ulva Ferry is softly pink, on a bright and sunny day.

View from the airlocked water supply.

Shieling Cottage, in evening sun.

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