Sunday, 25 November 2012

Winter feeding and energy planning.

It is always a bit daunting when winter feeding starts. It is not a job that you can not  stop once you have started - until the weather improves in the spring and the grass starts coming again. But the cows are in good condition and Farmer doesn't want them to lose condition as winter gets underway.  

So earlier in the week, the cows got their first feed of the winter - a bag of Hill Cow Cobs.  This means they can be fed on the ground, in a different place each day, no need for the troughs (better for Farmer's back) and with the ability to move the feeding spot each day there is less chance of poaching the ground when it is wet underfoot. 

They run for the bag!

Time to stand back and check how they all are.  

This cow was very ill as a heifer, and didn't go to the bull until she was a year older than the other heifers.  Since then though, she has had successful calvings every time. She is very calm and having been so ill, she is quite used to being at close quarters with humans.

Coming to have a look.

The weather has dried up after a week of fairly grim wet weather.  It has been lovely the last few days, and particularly good sunsets.  Calgary Tearoom was open this weekend for a Christmas sale, so we headed down there for tea and cake - and a walk at sunset on the beach.

This view of Treshnish Point is at the corner just beyond Calgary tearoom, before the road drops down to sea level.  When we first moved here, my stomach would turn over as we caught sight of it, in a sort of ' oh god what have we done?' way.  It still catches me now, 18 years later - no regrets at all - but still moved by the headland's powerful shape and drama.

The sunset. 

Calgary headland.

And Treshnish headland again.

The moon and the T LEC CAB sign.

Lichens at Haunn.

Another view we cannot tire of.

I went to a Visit Scotland energy saving event at the Tourist Office in Craignure earlier in the week.  I took leaflets from the Green Business Tourism Scheme to hand out to anyone who was interested in joining.  It was a horrendously wet day and not very many people ventured out, even though Brian from Energy Saving Trust was there with lots of information.  He and I know each other from the school closure threat days, so we chatted and he gave me some very useful advice about interest free loans for businesses (including farmers).  This was good to know as the last time we tried to get one we couldn't because we farmed.   More form filling though.  We are going to have one of their energy audits done. This will give us a chance to apply for the interest free loan. We will be especially looking at Toechtamhor which is a higher user of energy, being bigger and of a different construction than the other Haunn cottages.    We have plans to put better windows in, using the same airtight method as we used in the farmhouse - and possibly an air to air source heat pump to reduce electricity consumption.

Studio is already for the builders to arrive to do some eco-improvements in the living room and downstairs bedroom - we are increasing the wall insulation and putting in a wood burning stove as well as a window in the north wall of the bedroom.

We have had kindling supplied for the last 10 or more years by a sawmiller from Salen.  Unfortunately he has just told us that the next 10 bags (for our Christmas and New Year guests) will be his last delivery.  This is because of the difficulty he is having in sourcing dry wood.  So now we are looking into what we can do instead.  If the community woodland supplied them we could buy them from there, but I don't think they do them either.  So if we cannot source them on the island - what to do? Do we stop supplying kindling altogther, and get guests to bring their own? Do we supply firelighters instead? You can get eco ones, but we are having problems finding out where they are made and where they come from.  Do we provide an axe and allow guests to chop their own kindling?  

The hoggs are doing well on learning how to feed, and they will be able to go out again soon.  The field in this photograph is one of the fields Farmer is finding it difficult to put the hoggs in - because of the brambles. Hoggs will often get 'caught' in the brambles and whereas the stronger ewes can pull themselves out of them, hoggs tend to get stuck. This is a side effect of our environmental management agreement which prevents us from grazing cattle at certain times when the brambles are growing. In areas where the cows can graze during high summer, the brambles are kept in check.   So the Black Park is one of the fields where the brambles are spreading, so there is an increased risk if the hoggs are in there.  Even with daily checking. 

Farmer has been out checking the tups.  The blackface ewes and tups are on the Point - so he goes with Jan and walks quietly through them, spying through his binoculars to make sure every one of them is present and correct. 

Farmer used his new livestock trailer this week. He took some left over lambs and cast ewes to the sale in Oban.  We managed to get an all-time record price for one lamb - but not in a good way - £2.  This would not have even covered the cost of getting it to market. 

We had 3 nights this week when there was no one staying at Treshnish apart from us. This is the first time since early March.  It feels very different when there is no one here, but this weekend some regulars have come across from Edinburgh for a long weekend, having seen the weather forecast (good here for the next few days) and other regulars are staying in West Cottage for a week - they only ever come in the winter!  

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