Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Summer Solstice comes and goes

Brownie waiting his turn.

Three hens. Eight chicks. Confusion as to who belongs to who! My hen management is pretty lax at the moment - thinking back to the days when I had Scots Dumpies, Scots Greys and lots of other pure breeds - now only the three Aracona are pure bred. The rest of the hens are Heinz 57s, but with the softly grey pure Aracona cockerel, it will be interesting to see what colouring the chicks take as they grow!

Farm work continued this week with the weather being kind. After the marking gather a couple of weeks ago, the hoggs, eild ewes, and the tups had been held in fields near by, knowing that the next activity would be shearing. The afternoon before shearing Jamie and Farmer put them through the fank, and brought them in overnight into the cattle shed. We had alot of very welcome rain (think water supplies) but they were safely dry.

Shearing used to feel like quite a stressful event in the farming calendar. But we are lucky now to have 2 very experienced shearers locally. As with alot of farming people, both of them do alot of other things to keep them busy throughout the year. Iain is a shepherd and a musician, and Jim does farm work and invents things. (He used to live in the Treshnish schoolhouse, and had a wee shop at the road end!) Iain and Jim work very calmly and steadily with the sheep, and the atmosphere is quiet and relaxed in the shearing shed. No blaring radios or dogs milling about - much better for both animal and human. Jamie rolled the fleeces, and Farmer managed the queues (he pushed the sheep through the pens and up onto the trailer)!

The hoggs (last years female lambs kept back for breeding) enter the shearing shed as hoggs but leave without their fleece as gimmers. Having had a mild week, it seemed really unfair that as soon as they were shorn the temperature took a dip.

This was the summer solstice sunset - at Treshnish, into the sun.

And out of the sun - over to Rum.

Wood Bitter-vetch in evening sun.

Sue (Mull and Iona Ranger Service) and Debby (RSPB) brought a group over one evening this week for an owl walk. Unfortunately the barn owls hid, but they saw lots of other birds and enjoyed the wild flowers.

Calgary Pier.

We were very thrilled to have Tom Prescott from Butterfly Conservation Scotland back on the farm this week. (It was his encouragement that pushed us to enter the Nature of Farming award last year). He brought 2 moth experts with him - Roy Leverton and Mark Young. With Prasad, they set moth traps two nights in a row, hoping to catch lots of moths but it was perhaps too cold, as they were not very successful. It was a great honour to have them here, and it was very encouraging to hear their enthusiasm about the farm, and how we manage it. Discussion around the kitchen table of the importance of cattle in grazing management for moths and butterflies. They didn't find any Slender Scotch Burnet Moths but they did find Six Spot and Translucent.

Coco is growing, and already doing quite a bit of 'meeting and greeting'. Most reactions to her are extremely favourable - except from Cap and Jan (the farm working dogs) who have completely ignored her thus far, correctly asserting their dominance and teaching her the fundamentals of pack hierarchy!

This last few weeks we have had lots of familiar faces staying in the cottages. It is always lovely seeing everyone again - the year seems to go so quickly between visits. As well as seeing the familiar faces, it is great to make new acquaintances as well, to watch them unwind and let the Treshnish and Mull magic take them over.

Our planned interpretation board is taking a bit of time to sort out. We want it to impart the flavour of Treshnish for walkers, to help them know what to look for as they walk. Some times people stride through the yard maps in hand, and may not know that there are 9 different orchids along the way, or that the field gentian are about to flower! So Prasad has done me a list of species to look out for and I now need to get the historical sites identified and explained.

The burn that runs beside East Cottage has been splendid this summer - so many flowers and with the lovely bee buzzing fuchsia hanging over it. Magical. Over the wall behind is a damp patch of ground which is equally lovely.

Solstice sunset from Haunn.

The Royal Highland Show is on this week, and we were amazed to have been invited to a reception, yesterday, by the Cabinet Minister of Rural Affairs and the Environment. Needless to say, we declined the invitation - but were very pleased to have been invited! I guess it was because we won the UK RSPB Nature of Farming Award last year, but the invitation didn't say.

Farmer and Daughter have gone to Oban today to take the now 6 week old baby rabbits back to the pet shop! Hopefully Fudge (mum) is not already pregnant again.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Approaching midsummer, the flowers are 'spectacular'.

Bees in the fuchsia.
Snipe drumming.
Evening light on Rum in the distance.
The Park burn is dry.
Scent of fragrant orchid.
Luminous butterfly orchids unfurl.
Bog cotton slowly softly creating seed.
Scruffy ragged robin.
Starlings gather on electricity wires.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A walk puncutated with foxgloves and other gems.

Foxgloves, Crackaig walls.

A ewe above Crackaig with Iona and Staffa in the distance.

Hot weather for sheep work last week, but good to get it done. The gathering was done either early or late in the day, and the fank work took place in small lots. Overall lamb numbers on the hill are a little down on last year, but the in-bye cheviots were up alot so in all we marked 2 less lambs this year than last. We have found one or two remains of lambs on the hill, and the frustrating thing is never really getting to the bottom of what happened to them. It was a wild and wet winter that cannot have been easy on any animal living out on the hill. Last year when Farmer's back prevented him from being in full charge of his flock, the lambs were not taken off the ewes until the beginning of September. This year he will try and do that earlier, get them to an earlier sale, so that the ewes have an extra month before tupping and the whole cycle starts again.

Our neighbour keeps bees. They are loving the foxgloves. As am I.


Three in a row.

A Crackaig doorway and the ash tree. It was very peaceful there. A few sheep and their lambs gathering themselves away from us as we walked through with Jan, Farmer's dog. We took the high sheep paths along the cliff tops to Ach na Coile. Lovely views from above, and looking down on the bays, grassy raised beaches and coves. Not many people walk along the tops, and all we met were ewes with lambs, and red deer hinds, who ran from sight as soon as they smelled or heard us. The hill was noticeably dry and brown. The burns are dry in lots of places. Cracked earth where usually boggy. Could almost say the wild flowers look stressed from lack of moisture.

Speedwell, near one of the ruins.

The view from above Crackaig over Ulva and beyond.

Midway between Crackaig and Ach na Coile.

Daughter thought I was swearing when I exclaimed "Bloody Cranesbill".

There they are. The Treshnish islands. The sea was so still and calm. Just one lonely tour boat heading back to Ulva Ferry.

Ach na Coile. (one lone dwelling, nestled on a south facing grassy slope)

Coming back down from the Cruachan.

Our neighbour's cattle with Treshnish Point beyond.

We have chicks! The broody who was living in the flower pot has produced some chicks. I haven't counted them yet, but will get some photos soon.
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