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

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

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Our fantastic school at the heart of our community....

We have been through a tough time as a community in recent months our treasured primary school appeared on the council’s proposed list of school closures and was put forward to go through a consultation process with the possible closure planned to happen in October this year.

As parents we were thrown into turmoil, to see little ones in tears at night about the thought of losing their school, wondering how the staff would manage to carry on with Christmas pantomimes and planned school trips, when the future lay ahead of them in an uncertain light, daring to imagine the worst scenario and how it would impact on our children’s education and on our community, which has seen a gradual erosion of facilities over the past few years.
At our primary school, the children, encouraged and led by the staff, have taken ownership of their school and its surroundings. Having set targets, they enlisted the help of parents, members of the local community and local businesses and we soon found ourselves involved in their planned days of action. The children worked with the community painting, digging, fencing, planting and of course enjoying refreshments, and the grounds were developed into a large, welcoming space for imaginary play, complete with a recycled Wendy house and a climbing wall. An active learning area was created, with raised beds, where the children now grow their own produce, developing and learning about the mini eco system surrounding their raised beds, a gardening club is run by a local couple, who have a fantastic horticultural knowledge. One poly tunnel got demolished by the strong gales; a sturdier model lies in the shed awaiting the go ahead to be constructed. A nature area encourages wildlife and many species of birds to visit our school. The children have made bird feeders, with the help of visiting specialists from the RSPB; nesting boxes have been erected with cameras inside so the children can watch, from their laptops, as nesting inhabitants nurture their young.
Kids show support!
Across the road from the school grounds there is a path leading to woodland and a nature trail leading past several Lochs. The children regularly go on nature walks. In the late summer they collect brambles, returning to school to weigh them, the pre fives bake scones, P1-4 bake bread and P5-7 make the bramble jelly, and then having completed their sums around this project, and having learnt about the related health and hygiene of food preparation, the whole school have a huge feast from their pickings and labours, leaving school with healthy happy smiling faces.
As parents we are regularly invited to workshops with our children, to participate in their learning, as they guide us through presentations and scenarios on topics such as first aid and healthy living. Many of the fathers are on the RNLI crew; one father is the coxswain. The close proximity of the school to the lifeboat station means these dads are able to participate fully in their children’s education, carrying their pagers with them, they attend assemblies and workshops, safe in the knowledge they can be at the life boat in a moment’s notice.

We are incredibly fortunate; we have a strong and committed leader, an enthusiastic and dedicated staff, our school building is in a very good condition. Our HMIe report was glowing; the Child Care Commission inspection led to the school gaining two excellent marks, Gaelic is taught to every year group. The school has exceeded targets set in reading, writing and maths. The smaller school roll means that our children get valued one to one time with their teachers, that they are part of a strong community where they mix freely across the age ranges, the older ones looking out for the younger members. Each child has their own learning log, in which they share their success and achievements, note the areas they wish to work on and list their next steps. The school is an achieving school, in so many ways.

Why then, when they have something so right could the council consider closing this school down?
Over the past few weeks we have had visits from various councillors and an MP.

On Thursday we got the wonderful news that Keills primary school has been removed from the list of proposed school closures….

Until next time….

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Treading on egg shells....ever so quietly

I was walking on egg shells this morning. The sun was splitting the skies and we woke to a field full of barnacle geese grazing away. The happy farmer was delighted, as in the winter months ‘goose counters’ travel around the island in a land rover counting the geese in the fields on the various farms.

Today the goose counters were coming our way, and the geese were actually present and correct for once, finally timing their visit to coincide with the goose counters’ visit. The counters call by most weeks. However the geese seem to have this well sussed and appear to take great delight in playing a game of hide and seek with those counters, much to the frustration of the happy farmer. They fly in, a huge black cloud of them, circling in the skies, before swooping down to land in the fields, and always when there are no counters to be seen. They seem to time their tasty bite to perfection, always flying away well before the counters’ land rover cruises up the single track road, or at times choosing not even to make an appearance on the day the goose count is due. In fact those geese seem to have a positive aversion to the goose counters, or so it seems on our farm, and yet those geese hardly bat a wing when I run past through the fields.

I was warned by the happy farmer not to make any noise that might disturb our welcome guests as I left to take youngest to school. I duly opened and closed the front door with great care and warned youngest to be really quiet as we made our way to the jeep. Door quietly closed we crept along the front of the house when suddenly the air was filled with loud squawking and cackling and the din of flapping wings as hundreds of geese flew up from the field and into the sky just as we got ever so quietly into the jeep. Youngest and I looked at one another, me in horror, her with a huge grin on her face. We need not have worried though, those geese were just teasing, merely stretching their wings, as they flew up into the sky, gabbling away, before sauntering ever so gracefully back down into the field once again. I quickly drove off to the school, and on my return the geese were still in place, thank goodness and not too much later the land rover made its way up the single track road and I could at last relax knowing those geese had been counted and were all present and correct, exactly where they were meant to be for the goose counters’ visit.

Until next time....

Saturday, 5 February 2011

A lodger at the back door...

We have had a very bedraggled lodger camped at the French windows throughout the day, looking extremely sorry for herself. Charlie hen is moulting. She is beginning to look positively bald. Her feathers are falling out everywhere. The dog kennel resembles a war zone. Feathers litter the floor there, but don’t be deceived, the bold hen took it upon herself, when the weather got wild, to take refuge in the dog kennel snuggling up behind Mist the pup. Often Mist can be seen, a scowl on those chops, tucked up outside in the pouring rain such is her disdain at her new kennel mate.

Charlie has stopped laying eggs just now, but why she chooses to come off the lay and lose all of her feathers when the weather is so harsh and cold is beyond me. Usually you would see her surrounded in her feather duvet, as she fluffs the feathers all up around herself to keep warm in the rain and gales. Just now though her feathers are scant and she has huge bare patches where new feathers are beginning to grow. She looks so uncomfortable and itchy as she continually pecks at the old feathers. She isn’t endearing herself to the happy farmer either, he is less than impressed with all of the ‘parcels’ she deposits at the back door as she refuses to go foraging just now, preferring to  wait for scraps from the children as she huddles into the door frame. I can’t say I blame her either and Mist seems to have joined her lately as well. The two of them sit, poised, with noses and beaks pressed firmly against the French windows, come rain hail or shine, as they watch the various comings and goings in the farm house kitchen.

Charlie did manage to keep laying an egg a day throughout December and for most of January. Even in the snow and ice we still found frozen eggs. Mist the pup has been enjoying Charlie’s eggs as well. I saw her carefully checking the nest when she thought we weren’t watching, pretending to have a pee nearby, before sneaking a quick peek into the roll of fencing wire Charlie was using as a nest. Mist only took an odd egg though, so we can cope with that, so long as she doesn’t get too greedy when Charlie comes back on the lay. No wonder Mist is so enthralled with her feathered pal.

Until next time….