Thursday, 30 August 2012

A satellite broadband blog

Tiny burnet rose hips.

We have been having issues with the broadband this month, so this is a very short blog with hardly any images! We can only get satellite broadband here and as part of a Scottish Government broadband for all initiative, we had a dish installed about 3 years ago. It was a huge step up from dial up, and if it was slow to regular broadband users, it felt super fast to us. It is expensive though - we pay £57 a month for 25GB data download and a speed of between half and one MBps (when lucky). It meant we could install wifi in the Phone Room for our guests which we were really happy about, and didn't intend to charge for it.

The last couple of months have been touch and go as to whether we had enough download capacity, as we received emails warning us that we had almost reached our limit and therefore were about to be 'throttled'. (charming!). They usually come around the 26th-28th of the month so we would just manage to eek the supply out til the next month's quota began. However this month we had almost exceeded the limit half way through the month! Eventually I had to remove the router from the Phone Room in order to ensure the office could still get connected when it needed to. Daughter has been banned from Facebook (says its killing her social life) and Farmer was no longer allowed to use his iPad!

I am hoping that with the end of the school holidays and moving into the autumn months that internet usage will go down a bit, and we can stay as we are for the time being. But we will have to investigate alternative suppliers to see if we can increase our download package. Wifi in the Phone Room will be switched on again on Saturday!!

Farmer has been monitoring the grass and flower situation in line with our SRDP grazing regime, and it was time yesterday to move the cows into the New Field. They calmly waited for him to open the gate. It was interesting to see that they had not eaten the Devil's Bit Scabious as there was still lots in the field they had been in. They would be allowed into the Black Park but, like this time last year, it is still looking spectacular and we feel reluctant to let them in there just yet.


Grass of Parnassus singly so elegant (above) and stunning in quantity (below). You could hardly move for them in the field near the Point.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Autumn is creeping into August

Sheep work was top of the agenda this week in advance of the lamb sales in Oban yesterday.

The first task was gathering. The weather in the last week has been mixed - watching the forecast and trying to avoid low mists and at times heavy rain! The sheep were held in the hill park over the weekend, and Farmer, helped by John and Jamie, sorted them through on Monday.

In between the showers it has been lovely, but you want dry lambs the night before the sale, and like the sale ring experience that too is a lottery. We were lucky, it rained at times, but we put dry lambs in to the shed that night, to be loaded into the lorry at 5.45 am next morning.

Jamie and Farmer in the fank sorting lambs.

Farmer took samples of faeces while the different groups of ewes and lambs were in the fank, and sent them off to SAC Auchencruive to be tested - to see if there were any signs of fluke or worms. The results from the cheviots came back yesterday - clear of any sign of either parasite, and we are hopeful the others will be clear too. This means there is no need to treat them for worms or fluke at this point in time. They will tested again in November.

Almost as big as its mother, this ewe lamb will be kept for future breeding. We have kept about 100 back this year. We dont have our own livestock trailer so we rely on filling a whole lorry with lambs, about 240 lambs. It costs over £1 per lamb to get them to market. Once they are loaded on the lorry, you cross your fingers and hope that you get a good price, because there is no way you can bring them home if you don't like the price you are being offered.

There is a sense of relief once the lambs have gone, and Farmer came home saying that the prices seemed okay. (Not much we can do about it now except accept it anyway - decision made, so you have to look on the positive side!)

Now the ewes can rest and recover before they meet the tup again in November. Last year because Farmer was laid low with the back problem and pending operation, we were dependant on others to help as and when, so the lambs were sold a month later last year.

Heather thriving along the side of the track. Once the lambs have gone, the sense of autumn really begins to creep in through the back door without one realising it. With the prospect of winter ahead, and the memory of the wet and wild storms we had last winter, I tend to want to hold onto summer for as long as I can, but walking with Farmer and the dogs this afternoon, the colours of the walk definitely felt like autumn. And actually I realised I had begun to celebrate it despite not wanting to lose the summer feeling either. Trees with branches dripping in rowan berries. Brambles beginning to ripen. Hazel nuts.

Farmer has been spending hours cutting bracken and above is a bit he cut near the farmhouse.

Coco is growing in size, and strangely Jan, who mothered her when she was smaller, tries to ignore her now. Cap has never paid her any attention at all, despite her subservient approaches.

The trees are heavy with rowans this year. We have some picked and frozen for jelly making later on in the year.

This alder must be nearly 12 feet tall, natural generation is working. And the woodland beginning to really expand up the hill to the fence line. It seems lush and verdant even as it turns the corner into autumn.

The birches are spreading too, and gaining height.

We enjoyed a family day with uncles and cousins on Kilninian Beach on Sunday. We had the beach pretty much to ourselves most of the time we were there, and it was nice to see that the beach still looked clean after the Ulva School beach clean in June (sponsored by Treshnish and Haunn Cottages). Our children running wild on the low tide black sands and returning after dam building, to scoff bonfire cooked Barge Specials (recipe stolen from Jean's cafe in Lochaline, of black pudding, bacon and tomato in a white roll), before heading off into the waves (how to ruin a bicycle in one easy but very enjoyable move). Farmers Daughter kept on finding luck pennies on the grass (and sharing the luck), and her final find before we left for home was an HTC phone.

We sent more to the recycling this week than we have done before. So thank you to all the guests who carefully separated their rubbish! And thank you to Craig who collected waste plastic off the beach at Port Haunn and carried it back to the Haunn cottages, and brought it up to the farm, and the recycling shed, by car.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Coco on Calgary Beach - wish you were here.

The beach is within a few metres of our 'school run' to Calgary bus stop. It will be great to have a reason to come here every school day! School goes back on Thursday, when Daughter starts at High School.

Apologies for quality - all of these taken on my phone.

Monday, 13 August 2012

180 years old.

Another Salen Show. This one was the 180th. In one of the tents was a great selection of photographs from previous shows.

It must be one of the prettiest show fields, right beside Aros Bridge, with the river flowing out into a sandy sheltered bay, and Aros Castle ruins sitting on the skyline, the single track road winding along the side of the field, the tide going in and out. The scene feels timeless though obviously it has changed in 180 years, it is lovely that it is still in the same place.

I was helping on the USCA produce stall at the show this year, so was there at 9am. Dropped Daughter and her friends' entries in at the produce tent. Unloaded the gazebo and local produce at our stand and drove the car out of the show field. Farmer gave a neighbour a lift on the condition that he would hold the Garden on A Plate entry to keep it safe on the twisty roads between Treshnish Farm and the Show Field at Aros Bridge.

At that time in the morning, the field was bustling with preparation with an air of excitement in the showing rings. The cattle pens were filling up with shining horned Highlanders being unloaded from livestock floats, the sheep pens filled with different classes and breeds, their keepers working away at final tweaks - polishing horns, brushing coats and cleaning toes.

Giant cabbages and neat rows of potatoes waiting to be judged.

The showing goes on all day. First prize winners then compete for the best in show prize at the end of the day.

It seemed to take hours for the judges to finish, before the doors were open and we could see if our party had won anything. Staying with us were twin 16 year old girls and a French exchange boy of the same age. They had all entered the cupcake class and Theo, from Chamonix, won a Third - he seemed more bemused than delighted, and the girls pride slightly dented. Daughter's pal got a second in the Nursery Rhyme drawing class, and a second in the Garden on A Plate as well!

Great music from Winifred Moir and her band. The sound system is provided by Sam and Rob who make our wood chip.

There were lots of pony and horse classes in the upper show field, plenty of stalls to look at, tugs of war (no accidents this time), demonstrations from Andy Fellows, a talented blacksmith who lives in Dervaig, a prize draw in aid of the Mull Slaughterhouse (I won £50!), and so much more than my photographs illustrate.

Plants were on sale from friends Norrie and Anna at Ard-dariach Hill Garden and Nursery, near Ardgour on Morvern, pictured above, and also from Lucy's wonderful garden, Lip Na Cloiche, at Ulva Ferry. Norrie helped Farmer a few winters ago do some work in the garden at Treshnish, but nature has won the battle over the last few years, and it is gracefully returning to the wild.

Daughter and friend entered Coco for the small dogs class in the Dog Show. We were all gutted that she didn't get a look in. The MC even questioned whether she was a small dog! Anyway Coco was blissfully unaware of it all, and we got over the disappointment - eventually. A dachshund from Dervaig won the overall Champion trophy.

The Show Committee work really hard to make the show happen, and this years Show was no exception - a great day!

Farmer helped put the USCA stall together in the morning, and then disappeared off home to catch up on some solitary farm work. He hates shows, which is a huge shame as Daughter and I love them.
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