Monday, 9 April 2012

Skies and seas, eggs and sheep

The Easter holidays bring a welcome release from rigid time-keeping, especially with friends staying with us, and the cottages full of families on holiday. Last week, we had a full pre-Easter week - the true start to the season - and it was lovely to have some of our seasonal regulars around the place, as well as some new faces who have fallen in love with the place too. One 'new' couple to Treshnish came from Edinburgh on public transport and 'survived' (loved.... thrived....?) in this isolated place without a car. Sometimes I am asked whether it is possible to be here without a car, and it is always difficult to know how to answer - because it so depends on what people want from their holiday and how they view remoteness. It was great to see that these two had made the right choice as they had a fantastic time apparently - AND saw sea eagles, golden eagles, short eared owls..

Feedback from guests is important to us - good or bad. We never assume we will always get it right. It was wonderful to open up the Twitter feed at the weekend, and find these great tweets! Hearing how much our guests enjoy the place is a sincerely good feeling for us. So thank you all - you know who you are - it made my Easter!

I'd tell you to check out @treshnish but I'd rather have a chance of getting a booking every year for the rest of my life. #bestkeptsecrets
@Treshnish 140 characters could never do justice to the farm and Haunn in particular. Most perfect place I've ever spent time on all fronts!
@treshnish Thank you so much for a fab week; so many kind, wonderful folks. I can't put into words how good the place felt. So sad to leave.

Lovely to find this threesome. Wood anemone, Celandine and Violet. Lots more violets now and celandine littering the fields below the house, they seem to enjoy the same ground as the bluebells come to later on, sheltered by the dead bracken - it is good for something then?

A bit of colour for an Easter weekend. We have windswept hyacinths in the garden and the daffodils all too quickly are going over, not helped by the cold wind or the damp weather.

An Easter egg hunt in the garden, for the 2 girls almost, but not quite, too old for such childish things. Or perhaps they kidded on to keep the aging parents happy. It has been a few years since Farmer was spotted wearing 'bunny ears'!! The kitchen filled with too much chocolate! Some egg decorating and rolling too. Above is 'Dad', and below some beach rubbish, down at the boathouse.

I saw my first kingcup about 3 - 4 weeks ago - there are lots more of them around now. And we saw our first sea-thrift today too, just coming into flower. I did take some photographs to prove it and will upload them with the next blog.

West Cottage guests had a great otter sighting near the cattle shed. They were walking along the track with Badger (one of Jan's puppies from last year), and an otter trotted across the road in front of them, went across the field above Shian and Duill, over the stone wall, and towards the lochan. We restored the lochan about 6 years ago, and has had increasing variety of wildlife on it, but this is the first time anyone has mentioned an otter being seen anywhere near it.

Sheep have been in this field quite recently so the primroses are just beginning to recover a bit. Particularly where sheltered by brambles or bracken, or out of reach.

The beginning of a flush of new grass coming now. The cattle are ranging on the hill, still being fed a bit of silage but they are finding some roughage on the hill now too. We are looking at the grazing regime plan to make sure we keep the right fields locked up for the right time. It will be interesting to see how the flowers are this year compared to last year.

We are not sure what this white marking in some of the rock pools is, but it was present down by the boathouse this afternoon. It almost looks like salt marks but it was below the tide mark. In 2008, when we had a very hot May, we collected sea salt from the pools further up the tideline.

The pre-lambing gathers were completed earlier in the week. Farmer went to see John in Dervaig to see if he would be able to give us a hand with the gathering as it is easier with 3 people. John knows his way around our hill, and it was really nice to have him back giving us a hand. The gather went fine, it was cold and the ewes were slow, but then they are heavily in lamb - and it is a good few miles for those furthest away. The last time Farmer handled these ewes was after tupping, before they went back to the hill at the beginning of January. Putting them through the fank now was a good chance to sift out any who looked as if they needed a bit of extra nutrition. Condition scoring is a useful method of assessing their condition throughout the year, so you can adapt treatments/feed et cetera if you need to. Farmer was worried to see that some of our ewes have not come out of the wet and relentless winter as well as they usually do. He kept those ones back for extra feeding. This is where the training they get as hoggs helps, as sheep do not naturally know to eat the delicious ewe nut or 'cake' that comes in a shiny sack - they dont naturally know about hay either. These ewes are 6 or 7 years old now and will not have needed supplementary feeding until now. So to begin with, they look puzzled as Farmer pours out the feed into the troughs, but slowly they start to eat it. The rest of the flock are back on the hill again having received their annual wormer (still following the system we used when organically certified) and the next time they come in through the fank will be with their lambs at foot.

Skies were changeable today as they have been all week. Blue skies in the morning, and then threatening rains and hail, and then sun again. By the time we got back to the house, we had been soaked by yet another downpour though.

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