Saturday, 26 November 2011

Windfalls, wind and rolling seas.

Another week has raced by, with the usual ups and downs and tribulations! Heavy rain over last weekend morphed into wind and rain this weekend, with a lot of deep red showing on the wind forecast! The turbine has been spinning away on the hill, and the numbers on the generation meter tumbling up to nearly 27,000 last time I looked. It cannot nearly be Christmas? We received our first card this week, and I have not even thought of cards to send.. another pre-Christmas panic coming up. We have one or two bookings for Christmas and several for New Year, plus a few short breaks in between now and then!

On Tuesday I went to Oban in order to go to a Renewable Heat Incentive talk, which was interesting. It took place in an atmospheric village hall in Benderloch, called the Victory Hall. The original building had a large modern hall on the side, but we were in the older room and its tongue and groove walls looked as if they could tell a tale or two - of dances and ceilidhs and Christmas plays. The Renewable Heat Incentive will be a good scheme for anyone thinking of using wood to heat their homes, and may help us further reduce the carbon footprint of the Haunn cottages - I have my eye on a pellet stove/boiler for Toechtamhor one day...

Off to East Cottage to light the stove for new guests coming in this afternoon from Edinburgh. It was lovely sitting there with the sun pouring in the window, as the stove warmed up. Peaceful and quiet. All part of the days work. (How lucky am I.) The pretty painted stone and cork boat are little momentos left by guests.

Before going out to Benderloch I went up to the market to retrieve our sheep and goat 'movement book' which was under the counter in Caledonian Marts office. We had a batch of lambs, our last ones, going through the ring too - Charlie this years pet lamb was one of them. Daughter and her friends at school had written him a good bye card, and I was instructed to give it to Charlie before he went 'away'. Our animals had already been sold by the time I got there, as I was on a later ferry, and so I brought the card home with me. I don't quite know what I would have done with the card had I found Charlie, as it actually gave me a lump in my throat to read the card - thinking of Daughter's 'humanised' lamb going off in to the 'real' world, having been petted by friends and guests all its young life so far. Once your animals are sold, you can go to the office and pick up your money then and there. In an old fashioned way you are offered cash or a cheque. I opted for the cheque! There is always a buzz when a sale is on. Lots of people catching up on the news, exchanging information, doing deals, coming and going. It reminds me of trips to Forfar Mart with my father when I was a child, that same echoey sound of the auctioneer's voice and farmers talking in the background, stock gates opening and closing, the smells, the temperature even, slightly chilled. Outside in the car park, pickups, 4X4s, landrovers, trailers and lorries fill the car parks to overflowing.

Last post I mentioned the poorly hoggs. Jamie helped Farmer vaccinate them the other day, as well as giving them a mineral and vitamin boost. They are in the cattle shed still, on a diet of hay and nuts. I went to get some logs the other morning, and there was a real calm in the building - sun streaming in through the spaced boarding, and very little sound. The general feeling now is that they are recovering which is a big relief, as they look a bit better now. Thank goodness.

The next task was to paint the tups. Jamie was doing the heavy work and Farmer did the painting. Separated groups of ewes and gimmers are put with different tups, to avoid fathers onto daughters. The colour combinations the tups are painted helps identify them at a distance! This is the time of year when the in-bye fields really get their clean up, in terms of the longer grassy tufts being eaten down - preparation for next summers wild flower crop! This is the end of the first year of our SRDP management regime, and we are not sure it has been as effective as previously, but we will know more by the end of the winter, in how well we can get rid, through grazing, of any matted grasses. Part of the agreement is that we will monitor it, and we are doing that.

I had to go down to the school on Friday morning. Sitting in the office with the Head Teacher, looking out at Ben More with its first dusting of snow this winter, a pair of sea eagles soaring around and around. The flying barn doors. This stormy weather has not been a total washout. Changes in light are stunning, as tempests of hail scud across the sky one minute followed by intense sunlight the next and a double rainbow. The sea takes on a deep greeny blue, as the sky darkens with the next downpour and the whites of the waves, huge waves, roll over and over, and afterwards again - there is Coll, having been hidden by the wall of low fast moving shower. Watching a kestrel hang on the wind, quartering the ground below it. Watching rock doves flutter past, and fieldfare disappear over the stone wall in the Haunn field.

The storm this weekend peaked last night between midnight and 3am. We live in a house with solid stone walls and slate rooves, but you can still feel vulnerable when the blasts of wind echo round the gables of the house, and blast noisely across the chimneys. Even though you know you are safe, the din can be terrifying, and the feeling of insignificance in the presence of the power of the wind.

Comforting spell in the kitchen making chilli jelly, escaping relentless rain on Saturday, using windfall apples given to us by friends in Angus. Very satisfying task for a very wet rainy afternoon. But today, the sun is strong between the showers. The wind died down almost instantly, and the sea is back to its more usual winter state.

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