Sunday, 23 September 2012

Good, bad and sad - notes from the week at Treshnish.


Good to see the sanderlings on the beach yesterday morning. The sunlight creeping over the hill behind Calgary House threw soft pastel colours onto the watery sands. The elegant sanderling ran along the almost metallic water's edge, occasionally taking off for a short flight showing their beautiful wings before landing to start feeding again. 

The tide was high this morning, barely any sand for a puppy to play on, dotted with clumps of fresh seaweed, random fishing boat plastic and an occasional victim of the storm (guillemot). 

Light changing as the stormy weather blows in and blows past, bringing fantastic stair rod rain in sharp bursts between high scudding clouds and moments of brilliant sunshine.  My grandfather was a soldier in the Gordon Highlanders but he loved to paint watercolours as a record of where he had been and where he lived.  The changeable weather recently reminds me of something I was told that he always said about the light in Mull (he died long before I was born) - which was how difficult it could be to paint, because the light was always changing.  That certainly is the case just now.  His watercolour paintings are in some of the cottages. 

Farmer is busy with the sheep today. The in-bye cheviots have not been through the fank recently and so he is just quietly on his own (with Cap the dog) carefully work through them.  His back is never good after a day working with the sheep, or sitting on the tractor bracken cutting or making silage for that matter.  Not quite a year since his operation, and whilst it is so much better than this time last year, unfortunately the physical nature of farm work doesn't do it much good and help for the future needs to be found! 

Sad to see the minke whale washed up on the rocks between here and Calgary Beach.  Something undignified about this magnificent beast being reduced to a floating mass at the mercy of the autumn weather, picked up and dropped back with each tide.


Good news that yesterday afternoon Farmer and Jamie were able to finish wrapping the last bales of silage in the sunshine!  The prescription within our  environmental agreement for September late cut silage allows birds to safely rear their young, and most wild flowers to set seed.  It is a risk though because of the unsettled weather!  Silage made when the grass has first grown enough and the sun has been on it (!) will be nutritionally richer than the silage made later in the summer, so additional supplementary feeding is necessary to make sure the cows have all they need to maintain them over the winter and nurture their unborn calves.  We will get the silage tested so that we know what feed value it has - this helps get the balance right within unintentional over or under feeding.

One of the blue egg laying Aracona hens has hopefully reared our last brood of chicks.  3 hatched but only 1 survives now, and she is well attended by her mother who becomes completely ferocious if you go anywhere near.  

Bad news in a small way that James our livestock haulier is not taking a lorry to next Tuesday's breeding sheep and lamb sale in Oban.  We have about 30 ewes to go, and cannot find anyone to take them for us.  We only have a tiny livestock trailer for a few sheep, not for 30!   We sold our old livestock trailer in 2001 and have had no need of one since then, because a farmer near Dervaig used to take small and large numbers of stock for everyone around and about in either his lorry or his livestock trailer.  However the legislation and regulation got the better of him and he sold his lorry.  That leaves James as the only island based lorry haulier on the island. Most farmers have invested in a livestock trailer of their own now, and move their lambs to market in smaller numbers.  But that makes it more difficult to fill a lorry with the odds and sods.  If we end up needing to get our own livestock trailer again, we would have to buy a pickup in order to be able to pull it, and for alot of different reasons we are loathe to do that.

The veg garden has thrived on neglect this summer. Inside the polytunnel the fennel is flowering, attracting little hoverflies.  The wild rocket which we have not replanted for years is sharp and peppery, and one whole bed is overtaken by strawberry runners.  I should put a notice up for our guests asking if they want to take some home!  

Outside kale and brassicas galore.  The overall look of the garden is so healthy, without bugs, and I thought, without cabbage root - but yesterday a cavelo nero plant had fallen over with the tell tale perhaps we have not escaped without it this year. Serve us right for buying in brassica plants.   I made a huge pot of fiery kale and garlic pesto with the fallen plant, so fresh and green.  Apparently kale has more iron than beef and more calcium than milk.  Just as well we have grown lots of it then.

Peacock butterfly in warm September sun, down by the Boathouse (below). (yet again I wish I had a longer lens.)


Good news that our 'neighbour', over the hill at Torloisk, thinks he will be able to fit our ewes in his livestock trailer for Tuesday's sale.  Farmer very relieved. And very grateful!

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