Sunday, 30 December 2012

Time for walks and fires

We have enjoyed a lovely family Christmas. And sincerely hope that you have too.  We even had a barbecue on Christmas Day - Farmer cooked our dinner outside in the windblown moon light. Said he enjoyed doing it too.

It feels, in the middle of the short winter days, perfectly natural to want to hibernate and to have no school bus to rush out of the house in the dark for is a real treat. And as the cows are still outside there is no point in Farmer leaving the house to feed them before it is light enough that he can actually see them. Then by 4.00 it feels like fire lighting time again, and in by the fire with the wind raging around the chimneys.

We managed a day out in between the storms. We saw the wild goats at Kingairloch and some snow between Ardgour and Lochaline.

A wild winter walk this morning as the westerly gales were disrupting ferries across the Hebrides.  It was invigorating to say the least.  Watching squalls fly in from Coll and Tiree, obliterating the view as they moved swiftly over molten silvery grey seas. Sheltering like the sheep do behind a knoll until it passes and the sky brightens again and Coll reappears.  The surface of the sea changes colour constantly.  

Ragwort is a constant source of work for the Farmer. In the summer he spends hours at the back-breaking job of pulling it up and disposing of the flowers before they set seed.  It is important for the Cinnabar moth to allow it to flower.  At this time of year the ragworts shoots are lush and green in amongst the stationary grasses which don't grow at all.  The sheep do eat it when it is this small and survive the experience! I think the ill effects are accumulative so in sheep they aren't deadly, which is just as well as it would be impossible to keep them away from it.

This dump in an inaccessibly gully predates our arrival at Treshnish.  It is a relic from the Hebridean farming past and days before council dustcarts. Sheets of tin and old bits of machinery frozen in time tumbling down the slope.

And we walk along the raised beach edge and down onto the Ensay burn beach, with its finely smoothed pebbles and stones which echo under your feet as you walk. Farmer was interested to find a bag of Emergency Drinking Water. 


The kelp line.

Perhaps an unusual subject for a festive photograph but this is the proof that using the correct medicines helps improve bio-diversity.  We avoid medicines with certain ingredients which are known to harm wildlife.  Here you can see the healthy poo is attracting birds to pick amongst it for insects and bugs.

A huge log in the round carried up the beach and into the burn by the sea.
 Fantastically luminous green bottle catches my eye. Years ago, we scoured the beaches after a storm for wooden fishboxes which were treasured.  Now the finds are more contemporary.  As much as I would like to see clean beaches everywhere with no rubbish, no plastic pollution, I do find my eye is pulled to the gaudier bits of plastic that land on the shore. 

Shags sat, as if glued to the spot, as their rocky perch was blasted by the wind and occasionally by spume and froth from the waves below.  Searched for otters in the shallow waters and found rafts of kelp swaying on the surface instead.

Farmer thought this was the back of a chair. I was not so sure.

  Into the hazel wood at the edge of the graveyard field.  The lichens so fresh in contrast to the bare branches. 

These old stands of hazel are unfenced from the field and provide important shelter in some winds for the animals. It was great to see that they are managing to regenerate even though the stock can in theory get in here.

The cattle shed feels empty without the cows although it is full of machinery, feed bags and bags of drying logs for our woodburning stoves.

I haven't done a summary of the year as such on the blog, but sitting by the woodburning stove and looking back, it has been another good one for us.  We have enjoyed seeing all the familiar faces who arrive and depart each season, playing an important part in the calendar of our year - and we have equally enjoyed meeting the guests who stayed with us for the first time this year too! The cottages and farm are inextricably, holistically, linked and your visits help us to continue to look after the land and the bio-diversity dependent on farming in this way.  Thank you all.

We wish you all a very Happy New Year!

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