Sunday, 20 September 2015

Cliff gardening

Friday was the most beautiful day. Possibly of the whole summer!  Farmer accompanied Coco and myself on the school run beach walk, before the sun hit the hills around the bay.

It was blissfully peaceful, and we had the beach to ourselves. 

There is an amazing Rowan tree beside the Ensay Bridge, and I wanted to photograph it before the berries disappear.  Last year it happened almost overnight!

Growing on the bridge itself are clumps of Harebell (now very much over), but the pretty Herb robert was still flowering and there were fairy parasol mushrooms in the shade.

The sun takes quite a while to reach the tree now its mid September, so I got there too early to start with, and had to go back later on.

That night we had a fantastic clear sky, with a faint glow discernible to the naked eye on the horizon, but the camera captured some good colour in it! 

The stars were literally awesome,  I have never really dared to photograph the Milky Way but I couldn't ignore it this time.

The light on the right of this photograph is a fishing boat.  It has been dredging up and down just off Treshnish for days.

Butterfly Conservation Scotland (BCS) and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust (BCT) organised a Burnets and Bees Mini Festival this week with several different events happening.  Glengorm Estate hosted the BCT Seed Collection Workshop on Thursday, and yesterday morning at Dervaig village hall there was a bumblebee ID workshop. Sadly we couldn't get to either of these events - but we did get to the Burnet Moth Extreme Gardening at Kilninian yesterday - Farmer cycled over in the morning and Daughter and I went along later with his lunch.  He is back there this morning.

Now that there is a hydro scheme down at Traigh na Cille, the precarious old bridge has gone, replaced by this huge very slippery pipe.  I am glad no one recorded my crossing it, as I edged along on all fours, most undignified.

It takes about 15 minutes to walk to the site.  Cotoneaster is the main problem, though it looks like bracken will also be an issue.  The Slender Scotch burnet moth loves the steep (almost vertical) south facing face of this cliff, but the garden escaped Cotoneaster would take over the entire site if left to its own devices.  BCS organises work parties every year to help cut it back and paint the stumps with chemical.  You can see it works, as there are lots of dead stumps on the hillside.

I wasn't that much help as I kept being distracted by the wildlife and the flora.

I love Carline thistles.

A family of intrepid volunteers further up hill than we were, and a very windswept oak.

On the way back later in the afternoon we walked through a damper area with big clumps of this lovely plant which we dont see often, and I still need to look up.

Farmer pointed out a beautiful Aspen growing out of the rock face. It is quite a rare tree, and very pretty.

Ferns growing in rocks and spiders webs caught our attention and some high level cows grazing on the cliff top above us as we walked back to the car.

It is good to get out, and there is always something to learn too, and especially so, when in Tom Prescott's company!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Selling the cows

This has not been an easy decision to make.  One that we have put off for quite some time.  But now we have finally made the decision, and within the next month we will have sold the cows.   We love the cows, Farmer especially, as he has been the one who has nurtured and looked after every single one, most of whom were born here. He knows their individual character and their temperament and they know him.

It is not easy to pinpoint one single reason. Or two or even three. It is an accumulation of reasons, narrowing it down to money and health.  Finally, this year it became obvious that this was the time to do it. Last summer the baler broke down and replacing it is hard to justify, and this summer we knew we needed to replace the bull.  Major costs to put against not very many cows.

One of the main concerns about not having cows was how we would be able to keep up the important grazing management to ensure the biodiversity isn't compromised, but the answer to that has slowly emerged over the last year.

We have found a farmer who will make the silage we need to make as part of our Rural Priorities agreement, and he is going to bring his cows here to graze next summer.   This means that we will have one less group of mouths to feed in the early spring when grass can be short, and that when the weather deteriorates we won't have cattle making a mess on the fields. But they will be here when we really need them.

So we will be able to fulfil our responsibilities in looking after the wonderful flowering fields, and Farmer won't have to handle 8 or 9 tonnes of straw by hand over the winter, bedding up the cows.

But it is going to be sad to see them go.

The vet came on Monday to test J's young heifers who have been grazing here all summer, and so she checked the cows to make sure they were pregnant.  Of the 13 cows, all but one were given an internal examination, and all but one were well enough on in their pregnancy of the vet to feel the foetus.  The one who wasn't well enough on has been blood tested and we will have the result of that in a week's time.

The first step of our herd dispersal was to sell the bull. He had been with the cows all summer and it was time to separate him.  So the bull went to market on Tuesday, and I felt emotionally wobbly all day.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Another sale, another aurora

Already a week since the last blogpost and 2 weeks since the Mull schools went back.  Time flies! 

Farmer got his lambs to market last week. Prices were back on the year before, and given the extra costs (due to the weather) last winter, it wasn't a very rosy picture. But we cannot do much about it.  You cannot bring the lambs home without incurring a 21 day standstill, which means you cannot sell any other livestock. It costs to bring them home, and the next sale you go to would be just as much of a lottery as the last one.  

Farmer also took a load of lambs to market yesterday, and the prices were better. They are still back on what he got for his best blackface lambs last year, but better than last week. 

This year we are not selling the spare ewe lambs, as the way we receive our subsidy has changed and we now need to keep our own home bred ewe lambs in order to show we are not slipper farmers! 

In the veg garden, the garlic is harvested and drying nicely in the window.  

On the Sitheans the heather is slow to come out. I suppose it just hasnt been as warm this year, but it is finally appearing and it is a welcome sight. 

September has come and with it some wonderful cloudy skies.  This is looking down the Sound of Mull towards Lochaline from near Aros Bridge. 

And this morning the sun was shining on the Argyll mountains beyond the Isle of Lismore from Craignure.

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