Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sunshine and flowers

The garden ground surrounding the Haunn Cottages is mostly mown grass, but we leave some corners of wild grasses and flowers for the birds and the bees. Fuchsia seems to thrive down here, still flowering profusely, dangling ruby red flowers successfully attracting lots of bees.

With the major job of shearing the ewes done, next on Farmer's never-ending list of farm work are the fields. He has been on his tractor. Alot. Cutting rushes. Cutting bracken. Pasture topping. If he didn't do this, the grass would not be as good next year, and the flowers might not be either. The grazing is as important though, and makes a huge difference to what we all enjoy through the summer.

Lamb sales are the next big event on the calendar. It is important to get the lambs away from the ewes so that they have a good break before tupping starts again at the end of November. Last summer, because Farmer was out of action with his back problems, we were not able to get the lambs sold until the end of September. So this year we were eager to sell the lambs earlier and to that end, Farmer has already booked his lambs into Oban Market for the sale on August 21st, and crucially, he booked the lorry to take them. There is only one island livestock lorry now - and he is in high demand as everyone tends to want to go to the same sales. Sometimes if you don't book him early enough, your lambs may have to go over to the Market the day before, and put on the Markets fields for the night before the sale. Alot of farmers on the island use their own small livestock trailers these days, and take small batches to different sales, but we sold our trailer and dispensed with the need for the ubiquitous farm 4x4 about 10 years ago. With the relatively small number of sheep we have, compared to other farms, it just isn't worth it.

It is August and familiar families are back once more staying in the cottages. One family has been coming here annually for 37 years! In 1995, our first summer, they arrived with a toolbox in the back of the car, and explained that they always bought it since there always seemed to be something in the cottage that needed fixing - but I am glad to say they haven't brought the tool box with them since then! We can almost set a seasonal clock by the progress of our regular guests coming and going. This weekend, it suddenly feels as if we are looking towards the end of the season, compounded by the realisation that Daughter starts High School in just over a week. And I hate to say it, but the days are getting shorter.

This beautiful vetch was growing in the burn at the edge of Toechtamhor garden. Bees drunkenly lurching from meadowsweet to vetch and back again.

The Haunn field, where most of these photographs were taken, is being cut for silage this year. We don't cut it until September which gives ground nesting birds longer to enjoy safe haven and the abundant seed heads.

The colourful tableau of wild flowers is changing. It has gone from mid summer flower to late summer flower, no less beautiful than earlier in the season - but slightly more poignant as we sense the move into autumn. The Black Park is now knee deep in creamy meadowsweet, delicate harebells and brilliant clumps of knapweed, as the earlier profusion of delicate orchids and birds foot trefoil are visible only in the memory. Devil's bit scabious are emerging with their perfectly blue heads, one by one, as the harebells slowly die off.

The young chicks are growing. If I am honest I am slightly disappointed that they are so dark in colour. With a grey cockerel, and alot of light mottled hens I was expecting more variety! But they are great to watch scurrying across the yard and through the long grass following their mothers.

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