Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The double twin bluff

Yesterday was a winter blast - snow, hail, wind and rain - grim weather for newborn lambs. The sunrise was not red but full of warning anyway.  Farmer cannot remember ever having to lamb a ewe in a swirl of snowflakes before. He did the usual rounds of the fields and when the skies cleared in the afternoon he got to the hill.

Last night, Farmer had a couple of ewes and lambs he wanted to check on in the Emergency Ward before bed so I walked up with him.  Walter waited patiently outside.

Today did not start much warmer.  I drove to Tobermory first thing and the temperature was 1.5 degrees.  The hill tops were white and the roadside along the Mishnish lochs was covered in patchy light snow too. Thankfully the sun did come out at times, between the showers.

Lambing is about half way through now, and today was, for various reasons, the first time I had been out with Farmer when he was checking the older ewes and the Cheviots.

One of last year's bottle fed Zwarties was lambing for the first time this year (a gimmer), and when we reached her, she showed no signs of having had her lamb and yet she had two lambs running around her - to complicate things further, they were of different ages!  This tiny one was clearly newborn, and most probably she had given birth to it, despite there not being any signs of her having lambed.

As Farmer investigated, the Zwartie bunted the little lamb and walked off with the larger lamb, who was trying to suckle from her.  Leaving this wee one on its own and bleating frantically.  He popped her in the back of the buggy and we continued on our way.

This ewe was in the middle of lambing but the lamb had a 'leg back'.  Intervention was necessary to save the lamb and possibly the ewe as well.  He and Jan leapt out of the buggy and with some successful non verbal communication between the two of them,  Jan stood her ground the other side of the ewe whilst Farmer jumped towards her and caught hold tight.  It was amazing to watch him gently lamb the ewe, clearing the nose and mouth of any blockages, massaging its body to get the blood going, and out it slips onto the ground.    Within a minute it was trying to get up onto its feet, and he moved the lamb round to the ewe's head so she could start to mother it.

Farmer decided to try something he had never done before, that he had heard of other shepherds doing.  He was going to try and trick the ewe into thinking she had given birth to a pair of twins.   I fetched the lamb from the buggy, and Farmer rubbed it in the afterbirth, so that it would smell the same as her own lamb.   He then placed the lamb next to her own one. It appeared to work as she started to sniff and lick the second lamb as well as her own.  

We brought them back to the farm, set her up with her new twins in one of the Emergency Ward pens, and left them to it.   Farmer is never smug about his successes but was quietly pleased, and justifiably so, that this had worked and that she had taken to the foreign lamb.  

However... imagine his surprise when he went back an hour later to see how they all were, to discover the ewe now had THREE lambs in the pen.  She had been marked at scanning time as carrying a single lamb but had in fact been carrying twins!   So today she had the last laugh. And we were back to square one with the unwanted wee lamb.  

Friday, 24 April 2015

Crab claws and polytunnels

The new cover is on the polytunnel which is a great job done, now we can get gardening again.

Yesterday's dew showed up all the cobwebs along the track through the woodland. 

Farmer had some tractor work to do, in between checking the sheep.  We have a TINY slightly premature lamb keeping warm in the airing cupboard at the moment, he is very frail but in the best place.  The twins in the stock shelter are growing fast.

Wood anemone.

The Hebridean Bulb venture daffodils beside the Kilmaluaig graveyard.  A lovely walk along the shore.  Our visitors from London braved the bathing pool and swam.  I tactfully left them to it!

Cracking crab claws.  Local produce at its best. Prepared within sight of where it came from!  Our Mull & Iona Food trail gathers apace, and may even get a mention on the radio this weekend. (Of more in a future blog post!)

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

To Iona via Tobermory, Glengorm and Ulva Ferry

School meeting at 9am. Cousins and coffee at Glengorm Coffee Shop at 10.30am.  Quad bike tyre to MacKay's Garage for repair, pick up another one at the same time in Tobermory at 11.30pm.

Back to Dervaig to pick up C for drive down to Fionnphort.  By this time it is 12.30pm. We decide we have time to drive the coast, and stop to eat sandwiches by Eas Fors.  The light looking across to Gribun is wonderful, sparkling waters and deep shadows.

From Balmeanach looking back to Inch Kenneth, and Gometra.

From Bunessan fishermen's pier looking over to the Burg.

The Calmac boat is tied up and we cross in a Staffa Tours foot passenger boat.

 Iona is quiet. And as beautiful as ever.

A 1960's view.  It was total bliss to sit and look and listen, in the sun. Away from home, but not away.

Even the birds are friendly on Iona. We had a blackbird sit on the table beside our teapot, disappointed we had not chosen to eat cake with our tea outside in the Argyll hotel garden.  A sparrow came and checked for crumbs, and as I sat on the rocks a jackdaw came to say hello. 

We are on Iona for a Community Trust board meeting. We all eat at the Argyll Hotel before the meeting.  The food was delicious as was the view before sunset.

Our return journey began just after 10pm.  We were taken back across to Fionnphort in the Birthe Marie belonging to Alternative Boat Hire.   The sea was calm and silky blue, under clear skies and as Iona disappeared into the dark, an orange crescent moon rose above the silhouettes of rooftops and chimneys standing out against the astral twilight sky.

I finally got home at 1am, but having taken a detour to Croig to see if the clear skies would yield some auroral light which it did.  But that is another story.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Oh no, not another aurora

Any aurora activity after the end of March is, in my amateur book, a complete bonus, as the days start to get longer, and so the window of opportunity (i.e fully dark sky) gets shorter with every day that passes.   So it is pretty wonderful to be in the middle of April and still enjoying the surprises the Aurora can bring. 

I could post hundreds of photographs of last night's very best Aurora Borealis, but I won't! If you would like to see some of them, please look at the website blog.  I have posted more there.

If you would like to see the time lapse, please have a look at our Facebook page.

Day time activity on the farm is in Lambing mode.  We have 2 pet lambs in the stock shelter, who have healthy appetites and loud voices, bleating at every opportunity.  Daughter, on school holiday routine, is chief lamb feeder.

These are the twin pet lambs.  Fae and Feya.

This week feels as if spring is here. The swallows are back.  People have been hearing a cuckoo - not here though..

The last cows to calve are in the field by the house.  This dun cow is a very protective mother, whose dun colour must be a very strong gene, as each calf she has had, is always a wonderful light dun colour.  This calf, born a day or so ago, is a bull calf.

Yesterday evening, Farmer watched a gimmer (first time mum) who had just given birth before he arrived, along the coast.  She sniffed at the lamb tentatively but when the wobbly young lamb tried to get up and go to her, she walked away.  Sometimes this happens with gimmers, their instinct takes time to kick in, and all you know is that you find a lamb on its own.  So it was great timing that Farmer was there, and he could catch her and bring her and the lamb back for a bit of close bonding in one of the pens in the lambing ward.

You can never have too many sunsets, and tonights was another cracker.

I have been enjoying the finches on the bird feeders.  I hadn't realised how aggressive they can be!

Greylag geese are enjoying the lochan beside Duill.  We had a visit from the RSPB Farmland Bird expert earlier this week too, I wasn't around but Farmer spent an interesting morning walking round with him.  He had been involved in the Nature of Farming Awards and was interested to see the farm for himself.. I can't believe it is nearly 4 years now since we won that award.  (how time flies!)

These new calves are so sweet!

And the evening light is so warm.

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