Posie's Blog. Tales of island life on a hebridean hill farm

Posie's Blog. Tales of island life on a hebridean hill farm

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

They say show day marks a change in the seasons, with the passing of the show the nights gradually draw in and there is a noticeable chill in the early evening sun. The children go back and the long days of summer become distant memories.

Our hens have been settling in well. The happy farmer sent for a variety of breeds and we have temporarily placed them in the chicken run in the field behind the garden.

Last week we loaded Charlie’s chicks into a cage on the back of the quad bike and took them to their new home in the happy farmer’s newly established hedgerow beside the burn. They will not come into lay until next spring, so for the time being we have placed them in grub rich pastures where hopefully they will claw away to their hearts content, digging at the ground, weeding the happy farmer’s hedge as they go. The hedgerow is fenced on both sides to stop the livestock having a hearty chew, a week with the sheep having access to it and the hedge row would be no more. We placed a trough for the chicks and one of the happy farmer’s wigwam style shelters for them to roost in at night.

Charlie mean while has long since abandoned the chicks and is back to her happy hunting grounds of the farmer’s wife’s flower beds. She struts around the farmyard during the day, and roosts in the fuschia bush at night. She is a regular visitor to the cottages and has become increasingly tame, taking it upon herself to venture into the farmhouse if the door is left open for too long. This morning the happy farmer was greeted by the dog sleeping on her chair in the kitchen with Charlie perched up beside her. If it is a sunny day Charlie will roost on the bench at the front of the farmhouse, even being brave enough to venture onto the happy farmer’s lap if he has stopped for a coffee break. The happy farmer grins and bears it with little choice, Charlie’s popularity is growing by the day, as is his patience.

Until next time…..

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Tieger the goldfish

‘Tieger is lying on his side in the fish bowl, but it is okay because he is not floating, so he must be all right. He will just be having a wee rest.’

Youngest daughter has nagged us for another pet goldfish for the past year or so, ever since her beloved Raisin, also a goldfish, died.

So her face was a delightful picture when one of the stall holders at the local show charged a hefty sum to throw three balls into a bucket to win a goldfish. Several attempts later and with more than a little apprehension I agreed to take the goldfish that she had won home. The stall holder assured me that her fish were all very healthy, as I handed over the cash for two goldfish bowls and parted with extra money for a goldfish for my son.
Youngest of course was desperate to go straight home after the purchases, never mind that eldest daughter still had several classes to compete in with her horse then. Luckily Grandma stepped in and gave her a lift back, as I stood anxiously watching eldest jump a clear round in the gymkhana events, at least I could get a break from doing the rounds of the bouncy castles and trampolines though, and when we did eventually load Hansel the horse into the trailer everyone left the show field exhausted but happy.

Youngest and son were at home busy collecting pebbles and getting water to room temperature to acclimatise the latest additions to our ever growing menagerie. The last week has seen Tieger becoming one of the most photographed goldfish around. Her bowl has been carefully decorated with colourful felt tip pen designs and a collection of carefully selected toys has been placed around the bowl to provide stimulation and amusement. Youngest has even been hassling the happy potters to let her go into the pottery to make a castle out of clay for Tieger to play in, so when she announced Tieger was lying sideways up in the fish bowl today alarm bells began to ring in my head. On closer inspection my worst fears were confirmed, Tieger was dead. Youngest was completely devastated. We tried all we could to muster some comfort by pointing out very positively that in  fact  Tieger had lived for nearly two weeks, Raisin only lasted two days, that was when youngest looked at us and said
Duncan said Raisin died because I took her out of the water to stroke her. I only stroked her because I wanted to know what she felt like…’

Luckily we still have Orangina, son’s ‘show’ fish, for another day at least….

Until next time….

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

A gorgeous hot day, my brother was up visiting with my sister in law for the weekend. My brother being a bit of an action man somehow managed to convince us that an overnight camping trip to Bholsa would be a great idea. Bholsa is situated on the north west coast of the island. It is a remote and wild piece of unspoilt coastline that can only be accessed by boat or on foot. That is one of the amazing things about this beautiful island you can access remote, unspoilt terrains in an afternoon.

So, backpacks filled at the ready we headed off, getting a lift to Bunnahabhain, and then heading out across to the North West coast, through the hills and past the lochs, across an unforgiving terrain of hillocky grasslands and thick high ferns. Although the walking was tough the unfolding views made it all worth while in the late afternoon sun. As we carefully picked our way across the land, what looked like a roe deer in the grass turned out to be a golden eagle, we watched in awe as it took flight, its huge wing span spread out majestically as it soared away from us into the distance. We saw deer and mountain goats and had to watch our footing as we came across several adders basking in the sun. An army of ticks made their way up our long walking socks, looking for a route to flesh. Wild bilberries grew intermittently in the grass, staining our fingers purple as we gathered them along the way. Eventually the hills gave way and spectacular sea views unfolded once more as we looked out across to Oronsay and Colonsay, the islands lit up in the warm glow of the late afternoon sun.
Finally several hours later we had arrived at Bholsa. The beaches covered in smooth white pebbles, caves and natural arches carved into the jagged rocks that surround the coastline, waterfalls gushing down off the hills and the gentle ebb and flow of breaking waves.

We set up camp on the shore on a patch of well grazed grass. My sister in law and I pitched our small tent, my brother and nephew were opting to sleep out under the stars in their survival bags. We then scoured the beaches for driftwood to make a fire. Bholsa is a very atmospheric place, the coastline carved out by the unforgiving storms that batter it during the winter months, debris from old ships and boats litter the shore, wood well weathered and worn by the sea, old creels, buoys, rope and an odd battered shoe lie abandoned brought in by the incoming tide. My brother fancies himself as the next Bear Gryllis and lighting a fire without matches was the order of the day. Steaks were laid our on flat stones, near to the flames, and potatoes wrapped in foil were placed in the fire, wine and whisky were poured and we sat for hours just listening to the sea, enjoying the last of the day’s sun, in the warm glow of the fire.

We awoke next morning to swarms of midges after a damp wet night. With midge nets on, we hurriedly packed away the tent, making sure to cover up the remains of our fire; we left the beach as we had found it on arrival. Packs on backs we headed up a gorge and back onto the hillside. A billy goat stood on a rocky crag watching us, waiting for us to depart his domain.

The sun broke through and the clouds cleared to another scorcher of a day and more adders. The hill loch provided a refreshing stop to replenish our water supplies, dehydrated from the previous night and the growing heat of the midday sun it was a slow hard slog back up through the hills and across to Bunnahabhain. The views remained breath taking, as we took one last look out across the sea before heading into the hills.

As our lift arrived, tired and footsore, we clambered in, just as the heavens opened and the rain lashed down in torrents for the rest of the day….

Until next time….

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Patience is a virtue

Work on the extension continues. After final adjustments and much huffing and puffing the roof trusses are finally ready to erect on the farmhouse, and the extension will have a roof at last.

The trusses arrived a few weeks back causing a major traffic jam into the bargain. The lorry delivering them had to reverse all the way up the single track road to the farm in the late afternoon, holding up the school bus and a land rover. It was the closest we get to traffic jams and road rage on the island. The bus driver didn’t mind at all, neither did the landrover driver, but the landrover passenger…well he was getting a bit hot under the collar, being new to the island and not completely in tune with the West Highland rhythms of life. The happy farmer couldn’t resist going over, tongue in cheek, to apologise and enquire if the passenger would like to assist with unloading the trusses. He was highly entertained at the gruff response of
‘If there’s a traffic jam here I’ll soon sort it out’,
Said passenger sat firmly on his bottom, stress levels rising, only adding to the happy farmer’s huge grin. Patience is a virtue.

A wee while later and those trusses had all been unloaded, as in true island style everyone around suddenly appeared from nowhere and mucked in together to unload the lorry, drivers from waiting cars included, which only seemed to add to a certain passenger’s frustrations. The happy farmer did give him a hearty wave, as road cleared again, he proceeded on his way.

The plan was that the trusses would be on the roof within the week but as is often the case in life, all does not go completely according to plan. The trusses were ever so slightly angled too high; due to our island location transporting them away back to the mainland for resizing was out of the question. Each individual truss had to therefore be adjusted by hand, a time consuming process for the frustrated happy farmer, luckily he is a skilled, patient character.

Having spent a time consuming and frustrating week readjusting each truss by hand, finally he is ready to tackle the roof, a project he wants finished before the winter storms come lashing down.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Duck Pond Invitation

I awake and look out of the bedroom window to see one abandoned tractor blocking all views of the flowerbeds I have spent months weeding and planting, waiting for that burst of colour that, if I could see beyond the happy farmer’s machinery, is there.

Happy potter apparently burst a pipe on the loader of the tractor in our absence, and the farmer’s old lady spewed black oil all over our yard before the happy potter managed to drag her and abandon her in front of the flowerbeds – welcome home then!

The tractor sat for the first day, the happy farmer was too busy checking the animals and getting things back on track.

The second day came and after much ear chewing from the happy farmer's wife the morning was spent tackling the old lady’s machinery, getting those tractor parts back in working order. Of course it doesn't go according to plan, and a lot of huffing and puffing from the old lady and the disgruntled happy farmer and much oil later, and eventually a  smile was put back on that happy farmer’s wife’s face.  The old lady chugged gracefully  away from the flower bed and back across the farm yard well out of the happy farmer's wife's sight. Flowers back in full bloom and insight. Two smiling ladies then!

Word must have got out that she was once again in fine form, and I am talking the tractor here, as a little while later, just when the happy farmer was about to get on with some of the other much needed tasks around the farm, he got an invitation. The pleasure of his company and that of his old lady tractor was requested immediately to go and spend an afternoon towing a tractor and topper out of a local duck pond, courtesy of the local gamekeepers. 

One happy frustrated farmer arrived home much later with one muddy tractor and two happy game keepers each with big smiles and huge thirsts. The rescue operation had been a success!

Until next time….