Open Farm Sunday is a great national event, and (for some misguided reason) I thought it would be good for us to take part! Looking on their website there were not that many farms in Scotland involved, and none on the west coast when we registered! It would give us an opportunity to explain a bit more about our style of hill farming, the importance for wildlife of having both cattle and sheep, and how bio-diversity can be improved though grazing management. As the days grew closer we were getting more and more stressed at the idea of it, and I began to wonder why on earth I had thought it was a good idea.
We woke up to a beautiful morning. Over the last few days, Farmer had worked hard to clean up the farm yard and farm buildings. Every thing was looking very spick and span. The stack yard had seen the most cleansing - even the old caravan had disappeared while I was down south. A neighbour was going to use it as accommodation for a job off island, and it wasn't coming back to Treshnish!
Our idea was to do nothing fancy. We didn't have an army of staff standing by to help so needed to keep it simple. The bottle fed lambs were no longer on the bottle and so they couldn't be an attraction for younger visitors. The cows were off grazing at a distance from the track. We made signs to guide visitors to park in the field at Haunn if they didn't want to walk all the way down to the newly appointed 'Coronation Meadow'.
We printed off information sheets about the on-farm small scale renewables, about our farming practices, our grazing regimes and the different habitats to be seen on the farm.
As the season is so behind 'normal' years I printed some photographs to show what can be seen later on.
There are lots of regulations we needed to adhere to, and the need for many signs.
Finally at about 1.30pm we were ready to receive visitors!
John Clare from RSPB/Mull Ranger Service very kindly agreed to lead a wild flower walk, and his partner Sue came along to help. Thank you both very much.
The wild flower walk set off at about 2.40pm and they got as far as 'beyond Haunn' having found plenty to look at, including Wood Bitter Vetch, which is flowering beautifully now. They got back after 6pm! Wood Bitter-vetch is a rare plant, but seems to grow abundantly here. I love how it changes colour throughout its flowering.
I had silently thought that if we had 15 or 20 visitors I would be pleased. I think we had about 35 in all. There was only about 5 minutes in the day when there wasn't anyone for us to talk to. And hopefully, during the course of the afternoon, we managed to chat to everyone who had wanted to talk to us.
The last visitors left 2 and a half hours after the event officially closed - at 7.30pm!! And then, boy were we exhausted. But it had been a good day, and hopefully everyone enjoyed it as much as we did.
Thank you to everyone who made an effort to come, and again to John and Sue for coming to help.
After something to eat, we walked down to Haunn to look for the Wood Bitter-vetch and the fragrant, greater butterfly and small-white orchids John had found at Haunn. What rewards!