Thursday, 27 February 2014

Part of a world tour

The last time we scanned our ewes (to see how many were in lamb, to single or twins, or not at all) the Farmer was flat on the floor with a chronic back problem and Daughter was a baby.  Amazingly though, the New Zealander who came along to scan for us this week did our last scan on his first visit to Mull all those years ago.  Scanning sheep in Scotland is part of his annual world scanning tour, and he has been doing it for 13 years.   

We couldn't manage it without help. It means another gather, and then the sort out in the fank before and after.   

This is D, mid scan.  The system is fast and furious.  He calls out Twin or Empty.  Anything else is a single.  Farmer had to quickly dob the right colour paint on the ewe depending on the call or lack of call.  The results were good, and it was an important opportunity to condition score the ewes, and hold back any of the poorer ones for extra sustenance.  This constant damp and wet weather is taking its toll.

But we have had a little bit of sunshine.  R has been busy in the woodland cutting up trees that have been blown down in the storms. Farmer was keen to leave some nice messy piles of timber to rot for the wildlife!

The hens are enjoying the sun.

So are the older ewes, now in the Black Park for extra food.

We still have puddles and pothole filling is on the agenda to be completed before the beginning of April!

The fallen escallonia outside Toechtamhor is beginning to re-sprout.

Sunlight just hitting the Point this morning on the way home from the school run.

One of our winter regular visitors was arriving today to stay in West,  it was lovely, as always, being down there getting the cottage ready.  I always want to stay there myself.

The sun began to shine, which was blissful.

We did have hailstones the size of golfballs (well, perhaps just a little bit smaller) in between times though.  Our wood chip arrived.

Coco and I walked on the beach. It was cold but exhilarating in the sun.  Just us, a pair of hooded crows and some oystercatchers. Bliss.

We came home and the sun was catching the hens in a lovely gentle touch in front of the renovated trough.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Green glows and wellington boots

I can't say I was initially absolutely delighted when Farmer woke me at 2am to say he could see a green glow in the north sky.  I spent the next 2 hours wandering around the garden with the camera and the tripod, until the final colours of the aurora borealis faded.

The local office of the Scottish Agricultural College (in Oban) put in a bid to take part in a Scottish Soil Nutrient Network, with Treshnish as the monitored farm.    The first of two meetings was held here on Thursday afternoon.  Farmer had carefully cleared up the cattle shed thinking that the meeting would be held in the shed, but in the end everyone came into the house, hence the boots in the porch!

We had to take soil samples of different areas of the grassland, the silage fields and parts of the hill, in order to see what minerals we may be lacking.

We haven't put artificial fertiliser on the fields for about 17 years, we were organic for 10 years, and have noticed the wild flowers increase hugely across the fields we use for silage - and we know wild flowers thrive when soil fertility is poor.

Nutrient budgeting is a more holistic look at soil health, because it looks at both sides of the story - what you take off and what you put back.  You assess what nutrients you remove from the soil (whether through grazing or cutting for silage or hay) and then what nutrients you add back (through applying farmyard manure as we do, or by grazing). So Farmers do sums, and calculate what the balance or deficiency is in the course of a year.  This will alter what you might need to put on a field, and it will almost certainly differ from previous practice.  In our case, we only use FYM, and we use a silage rotation.   Our only worry about being the guinea pig farm was that we might be asked to apply artificial fertiliser that we may not want to use.  However that was not the case thankfully!

Farmer was pleased that our 'worst' soil sample was an area of the hill, which we cannot improve even if we wanted to.  The fields we cut regularly were no worse than other Mull fields our results were compared with.   

Phew the wild flowers are safe then...

The 8 new external spec doors are safe too... they were carefully unloaded in a gale on Friday.  The sliding doors have been installed and look great in Shian sun room.  So exciting! Taping and filling starts on Monday! 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Aurora alert!

There is currently a lot of solar activity going on above our heads and we cannot see it! Last night the north of Scotland was under cloud and rain, and so we missed the sights of a lifetime, but that is just the way it goes. It just further fuels my obsession with seeing the northern lights...

Down on the ground, with his feet very much connected to the earth, Farmer has been busy with the cows and the daily feeding/chores routine.  Some times a newborn calf doesn't immediately start looking for milk, so Farmer is careful to watch to make sure that each one has drunk within an hour of so of being born.  If they are slow to get up, he will spend time observing and assessing whether or not the calf needs help especially if they have a first time mother, as sometimes the bonding process can be a little weak initially.

Daughter and I deserted the Farmer for the half term weekend and took off in search of the northern lights further north on the planet.  It was all a huge adventure and we had a fantastic trip but the 'merrie dancers' (as they are called on Orkney) alluded us due to thick cloud.  We did briefly glimpse some intense colour through the cloud, but it made me realise that when the conditions are right, we are so lucky to be able to look out and see them from our own garden gate, without having to drive round like dervishes in minibuses which is what goes on in northern Norway!

 I am not sure what you call this sort of rainbow, if indeed that is what it is.

The view from our fjord-side bonfire where we sat on reindeer skins (very warm) listening to stories and waiting.. and waiting..

It was a great trip, but as always so good to get back to this. And there was a noticeable improvement in the cottages..

...albeit with some extra holes in the walls....  This is Duill kitchen, where a window is being moved to the end wall so that you can now see the sea while you cook!  Knocking the hole through solid concrete was a long and laborious, dusty job.

There is always 'bedding up' to be done.

Igor, the Zetor tractor, who got us through the ice and snow in 2009/10 has been sold, and is waiting to go to his new home, just along the road.

This calf is 2 weeks old, and there is no problem with the bonding here.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Some Aurora activity

Some lovely (hen) news from guests who stayed in Shieling last summer:

Dear All at the farm,
Last June/July M and I stayed in the Sheiling for a truly wonderful week with you on Mull.
At the end of our week you kindly let us return with 6 eggs, which we duly placed under one of our broody chickens.
Out of the six 4 hatched out and to our amazement they were all girls !!!
We are happy to report that they have now started laying..
We keep up to date with all your wonderful web sites and hope to return again in the coming years
Kind regards
M and G ( S the dog and the Treshish 4...)

Isn't that lovely?!

We have been lucky with the weather compared to other areas of the UK.  It does keep raining and the fields are saturated but it runs off and hasn't flooded us out of house or home.  

Farmer sets off to feed on Sunday morning, with Walter helping navigate. 

Farmer woke me just after 5am this morning as he thought he could see a slight green in the north sky.  

Test shots through the glass of the office door revealed some Aurora Borealis activity.  Unfortunately there was a lot of cloud.  But fortunately there were a lot of stars to look at. 

I spent about an hour in the garden in my dressing gown and wellies.  The photograph above was amongst the first I took, with a green tinge, an hour later I took these below, with a purple tinge.  The pinky orange glow is the light from Tobermory.  You can't see it with the naked eye but with long exposures it seems to show through. 

The guests we have staying in Shieling this week swear they want me to wake them up next time...

Friday, 7 February 2014

The day went well

Moments from the day.

Oil drip from delivery van
Tearing out Duill walls
Sunlight on Loch Tuath
Neighbours Highlanders
Neighbouring farm cat
Twin calves born at Treshnish today, and a single
Twin rainbows at Treshnish today, and two singles
Glorious changing sky before sunset
Hens in the yard

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