Sunday, 1 April 2012

Farmer gets to drive something other than a tractor

The hoggs have been eating down the Black Park and Haunn fields. The primroses are flowering beautifully in sheltered spots away from the sheep. They will go back to the hill soon, so we can start keeping stock out of the in bye fields according to our conservation management plan.

These 2 are the pet lambs from 2009 - Alice and Agatha. They have today had their routine pre-lambing treatments. They, the other cheviots and the brown ones are all now in the New Field to the north east of the Point. It hasn't had stock in there for a few months so they are going onto relatively clean grazing.

Farmer has been busy this week. The tractor has been busy too. But Farmer also took up the chance of a lifetime to drive something a little bit different this week - but more of that later.

I apologise for yet more photographs for the magnolia but one blissfully still and sunny morning we walked the dogs down to the Ensay Burn in order to catch the blossom in different light. It was quite magical enjoying the woodland with that dappled light, clear air, hazel branches in places dripping with grey green lichens, and the scent of wild garlic drifting up from the gully in the rising warm air.

The dogs were frantically running through the field on our way down to the burn, following the scent of something - all 3 of them coursing the field noses to the ground. Could have been mink. Or an otter. In the middle of that dog doing what comes natural to them moment a hare appeared and crossed the field. For one awful and prolonged moment I thought the worst - that all 3 dogs would sniff him at the same time - and go for it and I would be unable to control them. Thankfully after stopping to look at us for a moment, the hare took off across the field again unnoticed by the dogs. His hind legs were still white. Farmer, a day later, watched 2 Mad March Hares boxing and jumping about, near the farm buildings. It was a great privilege to see them.

Farmer had quite a big list of things to do this week. Fields to harrow, fields upon which to spread the well rotted FYM. Trailer of FYM to deliver to Dervaig. Harrowing brings the dead grasses and mosses to the surface so is good for the grass growth when spring comes. We have had a false spring for most of the last 10 days or so. It has been mild, and dry and wonderful - and hot at times too.

After the wet windy winter I have enjoyed every moment of this weather, but then that nagging concern about unnatural weather surfaces - signs of spring appearing too early and where will it end? Farmer and Daughter went off one evening to look for tadpoles and frog spawn to rescue. When out feeding Farmer had noticed that there was frog spawn in some of the puddles formed in tractor wheel ruts, and with the warm weather, the puddles were drying up. So they collected and moved as many as they could find, and re-homed them in the lochan above the house.

On Friday Farmer was up before dawn, feeding the animals as the light lifted. He was away down to Bunessan to pick up a minibus.

You may just notice a flower on the seat cover behind Farmer? Farmer volunteered to drive down and collect the Balamory Bus (which was awarded to the Ross of Mull for their community transport and can be hired out on the island) in order to drive guests from the Oban ferry up to the Ulva Ferry area for a meeting USCA were holding with stakeholders, chaired by Jim Mather. Guests included our MSP and Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning Michael Russell, MSP Mike MacKenzie, MP Alan Reid, and lots of other agencies and third sector organisations who all made the journey across to meet us. Torloisk House hosted a delicious lunch made by local caterers and bakers. It was a very successful day in all - and we were delighted by the input and support from those who came to meet with us. I found it very moving that so many people had turned out to talk and to see if they could help us, and the behind the scenes effort was huge. What a day! Farmer got to drive his party back to Craignure afterwards, and Daughter was thrilled (ish - she is about 8 years too old for Balamory these days) to go too.

The last photo is of Farmer joined by Michael Russell MSP and Councillor Devon who have both been a huge support to Ulva School and USCA.

This week is back to normal, and the week for gathering and working and I will be posting something again soon. Sun is shining, the sea is surreally blue and there is a raven floating on the wind outside the window.
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