Sunday, 28 April 2013

A day of contrasts

We have seen it come and go today across the sea and onto the land.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Come on 'n.

Two full weeks of lambing have gone by. Rest assured Farmer has been busy. Early mornings, ups and downs, checking the hill, checking the in-bye fields, feeding the cattle, feeding the in-bye sheep, feeding the bottle fed lamb, twinning lambs onto new mums, dealing with casualties. Head down dealing with all of that, it can be difficult to see the bigger picture.

On Wednesday afternoon a group of countryside management students came to look around, from Aberdeen and Ayr SRUC. It was nice to have the opportunity of talking about what we do and why we do it; what works and what doesn't. A good way of taking stock.  It made me realise, again, that we are at the 'full of promise' stage of the year - everything is about to happen.  The days are getting longer but the flowers, which for me personally are the main crop, havent really started yet and we have all that ahead of us.  So exciting.  

We have a new quad bike - with the old fish box.  This is a back saving device. Our 'old' quad (7 years old, I was surprised to see, when we went to trade it in) really struggled to pull the wee trailer behind it on any bit of ground with a slight incline because it didnt have a very big engine. This meant that Farmer would take the buggy when going further out - and this usually ended up with a heavy toll on Farmer's back as the only way to get any animal home off the hill was by lifting it - quite high - in to the back. Not good for a bad back. So what we have done is trade in the old one for a new big one which can pull the trailer up hills, which results in less strain on the bad back as animals can be pulled gradually up the ramp of the trailer instead.  It has swanky extras on it like a mileage gauge, speedometer and gear information!  Frightening to see how many miles he does in one day.

But without a doubt, the sheep need checking.  These ewes are not sure whose lamb is whose.  One of them gave birth to a stillborn, and seems to think that the other lamb is hers too.  Farmer is keeping an eye on them to make sure there is a happy ending.

Farmer wants to check the cows over at the farm on Monday so he took advantage of them being close to the Haunn/hill gate near Toechtamhor, and called them through the Haunn field into the Black Park.  Hearing the bike or the buggy is enough for them to perk up their ears. With the cold weather there is still very little grass and they are always looking for new grazing, so Farmer makes his usual call, 'Come on N' and on they come. N is, I understand, short for Then.   The origin of his call goes back to where he learned to farm. It was the call they used there. Universal cow language.  In the same way as 'Tup-Tup-Tup' is the call for any sheep - whether female or male.  

Seeing the bigger picture.  Having not been out in amongst the Cheviots or Zwartbles for a few days, it was amazing to see how many have already lambed and a good number of them seemed to be twins.  They were spread out between 4 fields with all the gates open between them and this enables them to find the quiet corner. 

This ewe has just lambed in one of this quiet corners.

We have had 2 sets of triplets. One set are fine - I saw them this afternoon, they were running along close at their mother's heel. The other set suffered the loss of one lamb, very shortly after being born, attacked by hooded crows.  Farmer had seen the ewe first thing in the morning with all three, and decided to leave her be as they were so newly born. But by the time he went back to check on them an hour later, the lamb had been attacked.  He brought it home but it didn't survive its injuries despite feeding from a bottle with vigour.  One of the down moments.

This is the star pet lamb Alice, with this year's set of twins.

We came home along above the boathouse shore to check the tups. Out of the wind in sheltered bits of woodland, there is blossom. It was wondrous to behold.  

A bit of a reunion with Brownie who seems always so pleased to see us, particularly Daughter. He just isn't afraid.  We went round the whole field to make sure all the tups were present and correct and Farmer spotted one stuck in brambles.   I am sure I have written about the brambles before, but they are one very big and sometimes deadly down side of our conservation measures - as when areas arent grazed by the cows the brambles can get out of control.

Below, is the tup who was rescued from the brambles. Whilst we were watching him scamper off past the fenced off corncrake cover area, another story unfolded before our eyes, which changed our perception of Brownie's place within the tup group.  Sadly it took place too far off for my 24-70 lens so no pictures.

As a neutered male I have always assumed Brownie occupied a fairly low position in the pecking order of the tups.  After he had said hello to Daughter he went back to the others, and it looked slightly as they were jostling with him.

But, while we were looking and admiring the view (again) a hogg (female, 1 year old) appeared over a knoll and walked into the group. You could tell she was a hogg as she jumped in the air a lot, like they do when they have come through the winter well. We think she might have come over the Ensay burn from our neighbour. Farmer will go and see tomorrow. 

Brownie showed a bit of interest in her.  It then looked as if they were playing.  Slowly running after each other. Both jumping.  It looked quite innocent. She would not have been in season as it was not the right time of year.  Suddenly it looked as if Brownie was chasing her. Faster and more determinedly. Through the tups. Through the thorn trees.   Back through the tups. And then we realised that he was seeing her off.  She took the hint and disappeared from sight.  It definitely looked as if he was protecting his mates from an intruder. 

Hens roosting.

In the cattle shed.

Last nights sunset offering. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Nearly there, the spring.

The foster lamb and his new mother.

The day brightened after a wet start.

This magnolia tree is flowering a month later than usual.  Not nearly as many flowers as last year, and not as intense a colour either.

This is the same tree in March last year.  Quite a difference.

The field of daffodils are out though, and looking beautiful in the military lines running down towards the sea.

This rhododendron is sheltered from the wind and flowering profusely.

And this one. So much wind damage in other bits of the wood. The exotics are in a minority now, and the natural woodland is taking over again, as fallen trees decay, and young seedlings emerge.

Loving the moss.

And the currant bush.

And these nosey ewes who seemed to think Coco was something very odd.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

The rise and fall of the farmer's frame of mind

Farmer's 'trum' was pretty low earlier in the week with the torrential rain and cold, the loss of 2 hypothermic lambs one after the other, worrying about what he might find out on the hill the next day and imagining the worst. Thankfully things were not as bad as the imagination pictured over night. 

A new day. New lambs.  And it all seems manageable again.

This ewe needed assistance and it is great to see her so proud of the lambs.  She brought them to me for the photograph.

This lamb was a breach. The ewe was a bit freaked out and legged it as soon as Farmer let her out into the field. Jan stood her ground. So did the ewe. The lamb ran to Farmer at every opportunity initially. Finally they were re-united. Postscript to this story is that the ewe has no milk, so the lamb came into the house this morning for bottle feeding. (Daughter very excited at prospect of rearing him).  He is now being twinned on to a ewe with lots of milk who lost her own lamb.

Quick trip to Tobermory.  The Mishnish cried out for a photograph of its new colour.

The water level in the lochan beside Duill is recharged.  Too late for the frog spawn though.



Replacing a lost slate from the gale earlier in the week.  Farmer has no head for heights. But there was no one else he could ask to do it before the next guests arrived.

Willow - in the Black Park.

Primroses thriving in the protection of brambles and willow.

The lamb (mentioned above) waiting for fostering.

Brilliant blue skies and young birches thriving.

Toechtamhor's new windows and the daffodils. Never the prettiest cottage, but with a beautiful view!

And last night's set of triplets.  This ewe is a wonderful mother.  In the photograph below, two are drinking and she is licking the third so tenderly..

Zwartble mum with her twin lambs.

Understandably Farmer feels more positive at the end of a day like today.  (The word 'trum' comes from Para Handy.)

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