Monday, 23 November 2015

The weekend

Farmer did some painting on Friday and now the tups are all out with the ewes.   He was watched by the 'spare' tups who stood in a line by the wind turbine field fence looking down at the fank.   It is not their time yet, they have a further 17 days to wait, until they get painted and put into the fields with the ewes!

We needed one more tup, so went off on Saturday morning to Knock Farm to look at the tups they had for sale.  We selected one, and after a cup of tea with Donald we headed home via Loch na Keal and Ulva ferry. Torloisk were gathering the hill at Kilbrennan so we stopped a while to let their ewes get in to the right place, and watched the already gathered ewes who seemed to be watching this gather too! 

Sunday dawned bright and clear, and remained so all day, until a truly beautiful sunset sky.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A mixed week of weather and activity

I am not sure that naming a storm is a particularly good thing.  It imbues an impending storm with a sense of drama which it can well do without.  We know to batten down the hatches, we know to make sure there is nothing lying outside that might 'move', that windows are tightly shut and shed doors firmly closed.  All the name does is give it a sense of importance - and that creates fear and expectation which just wind us up.  As it happened, happily for us, Storm Abigail was not as strong as forecast.  It was windy, and ferries were disrupted, but we didn't suffer any damage.


Farmer went out to gather the Sitheans yesterday afternoon, as he is planning the main hill gather. They were going to go out tomorrow but the winds are forecast to be high again, and it would be too dangerous.  Yesterday the hail storms were so ferocious he had to lie down in the heather to shelter from the blows of the hailstones!  The dogs thought it was good fun, but he said it was absolutely freezing and very windy.

We still need one more tup to complete the team, and Farmer is going to get in touch with the farm we bought a couple from last year.   The cattle shed is home to the hoggs now.  They are learning to feed.  There is something quite peaceful about going in quietly and listening and watching.

We have had a trickle of visitors staying over the last few weeks, enjoying the cosiness of the cottages given how poor the weather has been!  One couple arrived this afternoon, a day late, as the ferries were cancelled. They had anticipated the possibility and booked into a hotel at Onich for the night, which they said was very nice.

The night skies have been dark.  Mainly cloudy and mostly wet, but every now and then a glimpse of stars and aurora.

This Croig pier shot was taken in the pouring rain!  Thank goodness for the umbrella.

Down at Haunn things have been moving on apace.   For the first time ever, a cement lorry, known as a jaeger, made it down to Haunn.  The bedroom and alcove floors are now insulated and set in concrete.  We have bought reclaimed beech flooring (uplifted from Hermitage Academy less than 2 weeks before) and this will be laid next week.  Then we can start redecorating!!  The bathroom needs a bit more time, but it will be so much warmer, with all the outside wall insulation.

Occasional bursts of sunshine have been much appreciated. 

The cattle shed hens are settling in fine, always keen to get into the cattle shed if they can. I wonder why!  The brown hen and cockerel are Cream Legbars - the darker one is a Cuckoo Maran.

Monday, 9 November 2015


Rare breeds and fancy fowl

I never expected to see the Northern Lights on our excursion to the Rare Breeds Sale at Dingwall market this weekend. That was an added bonus, thanks to Farmer and Daughter agreeing to go out hunting...  When I realised there was a good aurora forecast I asked a Scottish aurora Facebook page where we should go for a bit of dark skies, and within seconds we had been recommended to go to Arturlie Point, which is only a few miles out of the city.  It was also right next to the Inverness Sewage works!   Straw bales lay where they fell in the stubble fields next door. Aurora hunting cars came and went down the single track road, shadowy figures with tripods silhouetted as their headlights swung past.  It was interesting to be aurora hunting on the mainland, compared to standing in a field at Treshnish on my own!  The aurora was fading in front of our eyes, so we went off back to our bargain beds at the Premier Inn, for tomorrow was going to be a long day.

We arrived good and early at Dingwall Auction Mart, a new and impressive purpose built facility away from the town. 

The cages were filling up when we arrived - all sorts of fowl, all colours, shapes and sizes.   By the time the bidding started, the hall was mobbed with eager poultry fanciers and keepers.  We walked along the rows of cages looking at the breeds we were interested in, and finding lots more than we had bargained for. 

These ducks seemed very affectionate despite the strangeness of their surroundings.  Preening and almost cuddling up to each other. 

Farmer and Daughter kept sliding off to the Livestock section to look at the many different Rare Breed sheep and goats, not to mention the ponies and horses, and one Dexter cow with calf at foot.  

Our poultry bidding went well - we bought a trio of Cream Legbar (blue egg layers), a trio of Silver laced Wyandotte (purely because they look so pretty), two Cuckoo Maran (dark brown egg layers). I wanted to buy a couple of hens for some friends too, and was surprised, having won the bid, we went to collect them and find that they were not quite what I thought they should have been.  I thought we were buying Barred Plymouth Rocks - in fact we bought Buff Plymouth Rocks! 

There were lots of Herdwick sheep.

Quite a few Jacobs.

A pen of Kerry sheep - not Irish, but from England/Wales border country.  

Some gypsy ponies for sale.

And these pretty Toggenberg goat kids nearly came home with us... but my radar must have been working overtime as I sat down next to Farmer and Daughter, and caught Farmer in the middle of bidding for these two.  I am hugely relieved he didn't get them! I suspect though that it is only a matter of time before we do have some goats here.  Farmer is thinking that they would be good at eating down the vegetation in the graveyard - whilst I worry about what they would eat if they manage to escape! 

The huge area between the poultry and the main ring was packed with market goers, with a long queue  of people waiting to order their full breakfast or cream filled donut from the cafe whilst groups of folk stand catching up with friends.  Once we were loaded up we headed off to Beauly to have lunch at a fantastic Deli there, with friends who were also on a hen buying mission.

We did some errands in Inverness before heading back down the road to Oban for the late boat.  Along Loch Linnhe we caught glimpses through the clouds of the Northern Lights but the clouds took over by the time we reached Oban with time to spare.  

This morning we let the new hens out for the first time.  Here are the beautiful Wyandottes.
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