Sunday, 23 November 2014

Choosing the last two

In order to ensure that every ewe has more than a good chance of being 'served' by a tup (ram), it is important to make sure you have the right number of tups to ewe.  Every January we have one or two to 'cast', and they are either sold to neighbours or go to market - and every October we need to buy a few more.  This year we seem to have bought 7!  The last 2 we bought from the MacLeans at Knock Farm.

Yesterday we went to choose them, collect them and put them out (with the ewes). We passed our neighbour who was feeding his cattle.

There were about 10 tups to choose from.  They were indoors in the stone steadings, where the shearing is done.

Having selected our two, D and Farmer manhandled them into our wee trailer.  They were both very energetic and fit, and one of them had jumped out of the pen in the middle of the selection process - so manhandling them was the only way to make sure they reached the trailer without legging it out of the farmyard!

The light on the way home was wonderful. Knock farms most of the land on the other side of Loch na Keal.

At Ulva Ferry we met this family.

We drove straight down to the field beyond Haunn.  Farmer opened out the trailer gates and they shot out of the trailer so fast I failed to capture the sight of them leaping into the field..

They stood for a minute surveying the field and then got down to business.

I missed the northern lights last night as we were out for the evening.  By the time we got home there was not much happening.  Oh well, there will be another time.

Friday, 21 November 2014

A new season begins

Our neighbours cow walk to breakfast at Ensay.

Loch Cuin.

Slow sun rising on a November morning.

The new farming season is beginning.  This week Farmer has been sorting the sheep out prior to putting the tups out.  J from Dervaig came to help him put the hill sheep through the fank.  He has to condition score them at this time of year and take a faeces sample to test for liver fluke.  The oldest age group of ewes left the fank with a bright red blob of 'mark' to show at a glance how old they are, and they headed off to their tupping field with the new Lleyn tup.

Sunrise over the Ben, taken at the top of the Burg hill before it drops down into Loch Tuath.

This is taken looking down towards Treshnish with the Isle of Coll lying on the horizon.

Waiting to go out, the Ensay tups. Or possibly waiting for their breakfast?

We had a visit from N today, from the Scottish Agricultural College in Oban.  Earlier in the year a Soil Nutrient Network Monitoring meeting had taken place at Treshnish, in order to look at soil fertility and how best to understand the methods of using nutrients correctly.  Farmer had acted on recommendations made at the first meeting during the course of the summer, even going as far, on one tiny bit of our in-by fields to applying a bit of nitrogen.  As ex organic farmers, we were quite pleased to see that the nitrogen had not really made any discernible difference to the amount of silage produced on the one small patch.  

Today we looked at our land categories too, as all farmers in Scotland have had their farmland classified - and need to check that it reflects the land type you consider it to be.  Ours didn't.  So N will be helping us communicate with the Scottish Govt. about it.

Tobermory was glowing in the strong afternoon sun.

2 nights ago I went to Croig and the house beside the jetty had kindly left their outside light on.  It illuminated the jetty beautifully under the stars.  It was so still and so quiet.

I will take some photographs of the tups and ewes soon.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

The end of another era

Thimphu was born at Calgary in the spring of 1998 and came to live here in the autumn of that year.  She died this weekend, aged 16+, while we were away in London.

When she first came to live here, we kept her in for a few days in the front porch.  She escaped after 2 nights and we were worried we would never see her again.  Then a few days later she returned.  And never left again, though she did often disappear for days at a time.

Thimphu was the farm cat who would sit on the window sill and meow for food, as if she was never fed.  Cheekily, she took to sitting on the cottage window sills, doing her own version of Six Dinner Sid - begging for scraps and titbits.

Most of the time, she and Pebble, the marmalade cat, (who died in the spring aged 18) lived in the farm steading, sleeping on the removable sits from the blue van (very comfy).  They jumped in and out through one of the slit vents in the steading wall, coming and going as they pleased.  In the summer we worried about the survival of the swallow chicks but whatever defences we put up to protect the nests and keep the cats away failed and, regretfully, there were always feathers on the floor.

Probably one of Thimphu's most famous escapades was when she climbed in the Studio kitchen window and started eating the roast beef from a wedding feast last July whilst the wedding was taking place on Calgary beach... the bride and groom thankfully took it all in their stride!

Thimphu was a wonderful farm cat. We will all miss her.  Except perhaps the swallows.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The definition of 'hen-pecked'

Lomond Brown hen, Aracona cockerel.
This afternoon.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Getting ready for tupping

Farmer is beginning to get ready for the start of the new sheep farming year.   The tups will go out in 10 days time but before then, he needs to get all the sheep gathered off the hill.  Yesterday he went off to do the 'back gather'.  I don't know if this is his phrase or whether all hill farmers use it too, but it means he takes the dogs and goes out towards the old schoolhouse at Reudle and brings in the ewes that live on that part of the hill.  This makes for a much easier 'main gather' the following day.  He was slightly disappointed, today, then, to see 4 ewes still out on the bit of hill he had back gathered yesterday.  This means he will need to go and see if he can get them in tomorrow.   As we 'tup in' (as opposed to out on the hill), if he doesn't bring those ewes in they won't get in lamb!

Visitors in Shian and Duill this week are certainly enjoying the weather - whatever it is like, from the shelter of their sunrooms.  Leena and I went round the cottages last week to see what work we needed to do over the winter.  It was lovely sitting in Shian sunroom in a gale watching the storm.

Amazing to think this little birch tree was almost dead a few years ago.  Its central trunk and branches were bare, browsed heavily by sheep and deer.  Since we fenced this little area off, it has started regenerating again from the bottom.

I went to Tobermory on Sunday afternoon to the launch of Carla Lamont's book 'Ninth Wave: love and food on the Isle of Mull'.

It was a glorious day and whilst I was sad not to be out walking on Treshnish, it was quite a treat to drive to Tobermory in the lovely November light.

Tobermory bay was still and creamy.  Hardly any movement anywhere. By the time I started to go home the mist was rising over the Mishnish lochs in a beautifully moody way.  Swans dipped their bodies in the water like upturned boats at the far side of the loch, and ravens croaked on the silence.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A walk in the dark, a walk in the light.

A walk in the dark. Faint Northern Lights and a strong moon.  Suffice to say I was in heaven. Everyone else was in bed.

Sunrise over Ben More.  For 7 years we drove Daughter over this hill to get the school car to Ulva primary. For 7 years I have framed the sign, the cairn and the top of Ben More in my minds eye. This sunrise is a start!

Coco and 16 year old Thimphu the farm cat. (and we need to paint our house..)

The corner of Haunn, Scoma and Black Park fields looking north.

Stonechats aplenty in the Haunn wetlands.

The buzzard territory dispute.  So disappointed I couldn't hold the lens steady.

Some of the strange almost mystical fungi around just now.

It was so very calm.  The sun was warm.  A gale is forecast for tomorrow.

Usually the cow pats are picked over by the birds.  It is unusual that this one hasn't been, and that grasses are beginning to grow.

This tell tale bit of fur tells the tale of the dismise of a young rabbit.  I thought I would photograph the top of the post, which the bird of prey had been using as a dining table, but it was too gruesome.

More fungi..

Behind the man...

One of many Thrushes we saw today.

And this just has to be deadly poisonous.  I am deeply suspicious of them all.

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