Monday, 29 September 2014

Busy days

We had our Visit Scotland inspection today, and it was nice to walk round with the inspector and see all the improvements to the cottages through their eyes.  Taking stock. 

Walking the dogs. Barely a breath of wind. Down on the shore looking out on to Caliach Point. 

Selecting ewe lambs for a private sale. Walter is hiding behind the gate watching every move.  The lambs huddle up into that corner. When they realise he is there, they scatter very quickly.

Farmer takes stock. The great thing about the private sale is that the lambs do not have to go through a market, so less travel and less stress for them, and we know what price we are getting before they leave the farm. 

The starlings last night were enjoying the still night airs on the transformer pole near the Studio.  I managed to sneak a photograph or two from between Studio and Shieling.  There were hundreds of them.  More than we have ever seen here.

The autumn colours are looking lovely, from Calgary looking at Treshnish Point, and as the oystercatchers take flight at the water's edge this morning.

The sun is now not quite over the hill behind Calgary as I start to walk the dog on the beach, but by the time we have finished it has fully risen.

Back home and the sun is casting wonderful light on the garden.

Another sale tomorrow, this time Oban.  The last load of lambs and one or two older ewes to go. Sorting and tagging and getting ready.

The livestock trailer is all ready to load lambs first thing in the morning tomorrow. 

 Jan. In the place she is happiest to be. At his side.

Having seen that huge flock of starlings last night, I went to see if I could get more photographs of them tonight, but they weren't as settled and flew off as soon as I got near.

We have some spaces in the cottages in October, with special offers on!

Friday, 26 September 2014

Market day in Fort William

We hadn't taken sheep to market in Fort William before but had decided last year when it began to dawn on us that we needed to take our own sheep to different sales, in order to spread the risk, that we should give Fort William a try.  Some Mull farmers only go to Fort William sales, others never go!  Last September Farmer went to this same sale to see what it was like.  We booked in for this year's sale.

In preparation, yesterday afternoon Farmer brought the wedder lambs up to the field next to the cattle building so that he could load them easily this morning as we had an early start.

As we drove towards the Sound of Mull we could see the beginnings of a beautiful sunrise.  It just got better and better.

The light over the Sound of Mull, and as we drove into Salen was wonderful.  The wrecks were in deep water as the tide was high.

I have wanted to photograph the timber piles at the Fishnish timber jetty since it opened last year.

Once on the ferry, we noticed there were a few other farmers with livestock trailers going to the same sale.

The light over Old Kinlochaline castle was amazing as we neared the other side.

We let all the faster traffic by, and followed 2 other Mull farmers along the dual lane road from Strontian to Ardgour.  Someone's sheep had escaped from a field and were headed in the same direction.

This photograph, looking over to the mountains of Glen Coe, beyond Kinlochleven, I took as we were driving and I just pointed the camera without being able to see what I was framing!

Having let the others past, they got on the ferry waiting at Ardgour and we had to wait for the next one! Never mind, it gave me the opportunity to discover the most colourful and exuberant garden in Ardgour.

Farmer and Daughter waited in the truck at the head of the ferry queue for the next ferry.

Once at the market Farmer reversed up to the stand and unloaded our lambs.  Unfortunately, as usually happens when he has to crawl into the trailer he had an attack of cramps!  He survived and soon the lambs were all in the pens.

We had tea and bacon rolls for a late breakfast in the tearoom and then Daughter and I went to wait for Farmer to go into the ring with his lambs.

We hadn't realised that we were cast so early in the sale. Farming world up here is a small world, so even though we hadn't sold at this sale before, we knew the farmer one pen ahead of us, whose lambs opened the sale, and the farmer who went through after us.

We were Lot 2.  Great - you get through quickly and can go home.  Not so great - as your lambs seem to set the price.  As a result we weren't overly pleased by the sale price, particularly watching following similar lambs going for a bit more, but what can you do? It is part of the annual lamb sales lottery we all take part in.

Fort William market is quite different to Oban. There are obviously the same sort of pens and loading bays outside the ring, but inside the market itself, the ring is far smaller.  I thought it created a feeling of closer contact between animals, Auctioneer and potential buyer, and the atmosphere was very friendly.

The catchment area for Fort William includes crofters and farmers from as far afield as Barra and Skye.  In the programme I recognised various addresses from townships on Skye and lots of exciting Highland names I couldn't place.  The buyers and 'spectator' around the ring increased in number gradually as we watched the lots following ours go through.

After a brief look round the glittering shops of Fort William with Daughter investigating the different ones to those in Oban (we are talking clothes and clutter here) we headed up to the Corran Ferry again, and started our journey home. Stopped in for coffee with friends on the other side, which was lovely and continued upon our way.

It did feel like we were going a long way to sell something we could sell more easily in Oban. But as we drove we counted the timing and realised that it took us 15 minutes longer overall to get to the Fort William market as it takes to get to Oban market, but had we not missed the first Corran ferry (by one vehicle in front of us) we would have got there in the same time.  That is good as far as animal welfare goes, keeping journey times to a minimum is important, but it was also good for us humans as we had a stunningly beautiful drive and Fort William makes a good change.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

More sunshine than showers in September

Earlier in the week Farmer came tearing into the house to get me to bring my camera to photograph something quite special. For the full story click here. It was a really exciting start to the week. 

Down below the house there are the ewe lambs, 93 of them at the last count. This time last week there were 43 cast ewes too, but yesterday they went to market in Oban.  On Friday 60 wedder (male, castrated) lambs, in another field altogether until tomorrow night, will go to Fort William, for we are going to go and see how we get on there. 

This beautiful lily is one we inherited from the previous owner of Treshnish. We have always called it 'Lady Jean's nerine'! There are only 3 flowers this autumn, the others have been suffocated by the ever flourishing comfrey.

Some plants are flowering for the second time, others still developing. The blue heads of the Devils bit scabious are beginning to turn now, some have been almost peeled by the flocks of small birds that seem to flit from patch to patch of seed heads.  We walked the dogs yesterday afternoon and heard them before we could see them but neither Farmer nor I had binoculars and without them couldn't identify them.

Oxford Ragwort (I think), below, flowering freshly in the natural regeneration next to the Haunn field.

The landscape is really changing colour now, the bracken has turned.  Some of the fields are still quite green and in some the grass is really quite long. It is different every year but the same thing will happen as soon as the first real gale comes along, the salt laden winds will burn off the green grass, leaving not as palatable grass behind it.

Farmer has finished off mowing the bracken.  It just keeps the field better, and means the grass grows a bit more before the end of the growing season.

This is an area too rocky and steep to be mown. It cannot be treated chemically because it is too close to a water course.  The only option left is to swipe it with a scythe, but no one has had time this summer.  

Looking down onto the shore, you can see the rushes growing in the damper parts of the ground beside the rocks.

Walter helps himself to the many sweet brambles we pass on the way round.

We have hardly had any rowan berries this autumn, despite them flowering abundantly in the spring.  There is a strong rowan tree beside the Ensay Burn where you cross the humpback bridge going towards Torloisk and it is usually dripping with berries, but not this year.  It is our benchmark for how the rowans are doing, I suppose because we watched it for 7 years driving Daughter over the hill to get the school car to Ulva primary school.  There is hardly a berry on it.

The night before last (23/24 September) we had a cloudy sighting of the Aurora Borealis.. the Milky Way was so clear before the cloud obscured it.  More photos here.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The wonder of webs, and sheep work.

On Tuesday Farmer is going to market in Oban, this time with the old ewes.  Then on Friday we are going to try Fort William market as we haven't sold there before, and hope it might be a good sale.  It is always a lottery though, and we won't know until we have the cheque in our hand.  J came over to help sort the different lots out.

Here Farmer is checking to see whether this wedder lamb is still 'entire' or not. If he is then he will have a yellow dot put on his head to mark him separately from the others.  He was.

The rose hips round the Studio and Shieling gardens are being enjoyed by all the garden birds at the moment.

Across Loch na Keal, looking at Ben More.

Evening light at Ulva Ferry.

I enjoyed another foray into spider world this morning.   There was a heavy dew so the webs were looking wonderful.

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