The daily dread at Treshnish is of the unannounced visit from 'the Dept'. Any strange car arriving in the yard strikes terror in the heart until we realise it is a new guest or a PV salesman. The man (or woman) from the Dept. can walk in at any time of year, and ask to see our records, to look at our animals or check that we are GEAC compliant. You never know when they might appear. You don't know what they will want to look at and check. It could be the environmental management agreement to make sure we haven't over or under grazed the different habitats we look after, or it might be that they want to count each individual animal and check its eartags. It makes for an exciting life, spontaneous even.
So today, about midday, a strange car comes up the track. And a minute or two later, a friend staying with us, says there is someone at the door looking for you....
Please let me explain. The people that work at the Dept. are all really nice and helpful human beings, but I don't know any farmer who doesn't dread a surprise at his/her door in this form. Today he wanted to see our sheep records. Our farm holding number had been pulled out of the bag for a 'sheep count'. We have to keep a running total of the sheep - and record births, deaths, movements on and off the farm, ear tag numbers, when you tag your lambs, what numbers you use, double tag this, single tag that, it can all seem so confusing.
Thankfully we produced everything we needed to. Part 1 was over. Part 2 the inspector goes to the advisors in Oban to make sure the paperwork they hold tallies up. Part 3 is the actual sheep count, where we have to produce the right number of sheep, in about 2 weeks time! They will have their ear tags checked and be counted through the fank.
After he had left, we felt quite shell shocked. We took the dogs for a walk and let Coco and Walter meet properly. We let them run wild in a field with no livestock anywhere around. The only times Walter got anywhere near Coco was when she let him. She is a considerably fast runner and could duck and dive out of his way.
And the night before Halloween... the northern lights again.