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.

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