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

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

Monday, 27 August 2007

Drawing Sheep.....

Having finally taken off his Caribbean beach wear, and put those legs firmly undercover in thick leggings and welly boots, the happy farmer spent a day in the fank with his ladies. He was up early gathering them off the hill, sheep dog in tow. There were those of us who were lucky enough to benefit from his early morning escapades when he returned to the farm house clutching a few sprigs of white heather. The heather is out in full bloom just now, the hills are covered in beautiful purple hues, and to his delight the happy farmer came across a clump of wild white heather, very rare and considered to be very lucky.

A dry stone dyker was at the fank, repairing an old wall that has been reduced to a pile of stones over the past few years. Apparently the wall had been dismantled many years ago, when the happy farmer’s father was just a ‘wee bairn’. His pet rabbit had disappeared through a gap in the stones, and his uncle Hugh had pulled the stones apart to retrieve the rabbit. Yesterday saw that bit of wall getting a professional repair. Hopefully it will now remain standing for many more years to come.

The happy farmer was busy at the fank drawing the old ewes, so I carefully took the pen and paper from his fingers…only joking ‘drawing the ewes’ is apparently the term used when one checks the old ewes above and below, for broken mouths, ie no teeth, and to make sure their vessels are in tact. The ‘old crocs’, as the happy farmer so fondly refers to them, are then dosed and fattened on young grass ready for the market, having just left the heather clad hills. The lambs were also separated from the ewes, dosed, and will be fattened in the fields for market too, Back to the ‘authentic’ farm yard sounds at night then as those little darlings will be bleating for their mothers until they settle.

The happy farmer called in his ‘team’ to help chase the lambs and ewes to the fields. The ‘team’ consisting of the happy potter, myself, and the ‘laid back forester’s’ wife, we were all positioned at various points along the way, and instructed to chase those sheep away from the various ‘escape’ routes. Of course all was going to plan until a group of tourists came out of the pottery show room, on cue, just as the lambs were heading for the fields, the lambs stopped in their tracks, the tourists stopped in their tracks, the lambs scattered, the happy farmer, dog and team scattered, the tourists stood and stared…..Losing lambs left right and centre as they pushed their way through gates and so on to escape from the scary tourists, a harassed, happy farmer, raced around, re grouping and re gathering them,, ever so politely asking those lovely tourists if they could just move ever so slightly out of sight, one was obedient, three were not, and I am not talking lambs here. Three attempts later and a bit of good sign language, and the happy farmer had those tourists herded up, and those lambs in the field.

Until next time….

Friday, 24 August 2007

Things that go 'Woof' in the night......

We were at a fabulous Caribbean party last weekend, setting off, in the ‘mandatory’ beach wear attire, we worried that it would be dampened by the horrendous wet weather that had shrouded the island in mist and drizzly rain for the whole day. Not so. We all had an amazing time, with Caribbean cocktails, limbo dancing, hula hoops, palm tree canopies, spit roast pork and a huge BBQ, not to mention the good company, and the promise of more smoked mackerel from the skipper off the Jura ferry boat, a bag of frozen sloes from his wife, and with a bit more cajoling, the happy farmer thinks he may just be able to persuade him to spill the beans on the secret location, somewhere deep in the island’s woods, that he visits in September for a plentiful supply of sloes. The happy farmer will be washing out more flagons in preparation for his sloe gin making at this rate!

Arriving home much later, tired children sleeping in the back of the jeep, the happy farmer went over to welcome our holiday guests who had just arrived off a delayed evening ferry. He sloshed through the puddles and rain, in the darkness, still clad in his ‘beach wear’ attire, to give them a good island welcome…and those shorts did the trick, he managed to convince them that the weather here had been spectacular for the whole day. As the morning arrived, so did the sun, and it hasn’t stopped shining since.

Sunday greeted us with Mist the sheep dog coming into her first season though. We could recognise the signs, Roy, her male counterpart, was following her around the garden, nose firmly glued to her, sniffing away. We separated them, and Mist had to be confined to barracks for the day. Night time came and the happy farmer took Mist from her kennel and placed her on a long chain in the shed, with her bed and water bowl. Roy reluctantly went to the kennel alone.

At some unearthly hour we were woken by Mist barking outside the bedroom window. ‘Houdini’ had managed to escape from the chain, escape out of the locked shed, and had decided to take herself off to play with the pigs, in the middle of the night. Of course the pigs were not for waking up and joining in with her shenanigans at such a late hour, hence all the barking, as they lay lifeless, sound asleep, refusing to budge.

One weary happy farmer, dragged himself out of bed, got dressed and collected his dog and took her back to the shed, securely shutting her in this time, and returning with legs covered in flea bites, to a robin, flying around son’s bedroom. Much later, ‘de flea ed’ and robin rescued, he returned to his slumbers.

Next night, 2.00am we were woken by one howling, barking sheep dog. We couldn’t sleep for the noise, and despite the happy farmer’s quips that we could charge our lovely guests extra for the authentic farm yard sounds in the middle of the night, one weary happy farmer had to get up and go and rescue his dog from the shed. A lady needs her bed, so Roy, the sheep dog got ousted from the kennel, and Mist duly went to her own familiar bed and fell fast asleep. She hasn’t bothered us since. Roy now has a ‘camp’ bed in the garden, so far so good….and hopefully no puppies!!

Until next time…

Thursday, 23 August 2007

White Washed Over....

Picture this…if you can, farmer’s wife, paint brush in hand white washing cottages. Farmer, coffee in hand, chatting to farrier, and as the minutes ticked into hours, disgruntled farmer’s wife just telling happy farmer to get a move on out of the farmhouse kitchen when happy farmer’s friend from the deep south arrives at the farm, having not been on the island for over seven years. So, farmer’s wife, paint brush in hand, painting cottages, happy farmer, farrier, and friend with beers in hands chatting.
‘It’s a conspiracy!’ I yelled.

Farmer’s wife finishes painting all of the bits on both cottages that she can reach.

Farmer’s friend has collected his wife and brought her up to join the happy gathering. BT boys drive into the farm yard, having finished work, to come and help the happy farmer with his painting. Happy farmer, farrier, friend, friend’s wife, BT boys, all sat in the sunshine, beers in hand.

BT boys decide painting must be done before anymore beer is consumed, happy farmer is just about to join them when farm dealer, happy potter and stone dyker turn up. Being a sociable sort of a chap, happy farmer has to leave BT boys to get on with the painting while he welcomes the further guests into the fold, especially when cottage dwellers join the party too, and beer is replaced with whisky.

BT boys return job done. Farmer T arrives.

Huge pot of chilli on the stove, and one hugely happy farmer.

Until next time….

PS Picture is of happy farmer adding his final contribution….proving the point it isn’t all play and no work!!

Monday, 20 August 2007


We must have the most photographed cows on the island. There has been a steady stream of tourists stopping to take pictures of our girls on the hill. At this point I would like to take the opportunity to apologise to any of those ‘happy snappers’ who may be reading this and have had the misfortune to have got ever so slightly too close to those ladies and ended up getting a shock off the happy farmer’s electric fence.

I was sat having a coffee on the bench with the happy farmer when yet another car load of tourists stopped to take pictures and from the body language one had got a ‘bang’ off the fence. As the happy farmer chuckled away I remarked that we really must get some more signs put up to warn people. The happy farmer gave an ever so slightly unenthusiastic nod. You see I think the truth of the matter is he enjoys the daily entertainment as he sits sniggering into his coffee as yet another tourist gets a shock.

Of course our tourist business will be completely blown now I have let the cat out of the bag. The happy farmer on the other hand is keen to point out that if the tourists are guests of ours he always makes sure he warns them about his electric fence, pointing out the signs as he goes.

As I came off the hill last week, I was confronted with a backside sticking up in the air, head firmly under the tractor, swearing away. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera at this point and decided against asking the said farmer if he would pose with his bottom sticking out of the tractor for a ‘pic’ for this blog, lest he began swearing at me too. The backside did not belong to the happy farmer you see, but as I recognised it I couldn’t resist giving it a good whack with the walking stick! It was another well known farmer, painting the air a very bright blue with his explosion of expletives. The problem…. his tractor had broken down, however very conveniently it happened beside the happy farmer’s reliable old lady, and I am talking tractors here and not farmer’s wives!!

He duly borrowed the happy farmer’s tractor, driving off down the road in a slightly better mood, having agreed to borrow it for a couple of days.

A week later he returned it, with a very sad story, his tractor was in need of major surgery. The happy farmer quickly ushered him in, handed him a beer, and has recommended the Samaritans phone number and an extra long stint at Sunday paper time in the local hostelry as a tried and tested cure.

Watch this space.

Until next time…

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Show Day

Oh dear, it is really over a week since I last blogged, it feels a lot longer, such a lot happens in a week when the children are off school, and now I feel completely rusty as I attempt to put all of the events into ‘blog land’.

Show day has been and gone, with eldest daughter already looking forward to next year’s event. She had a fantastic time with Hansel, the pair of them coming home laden with rosettes, a first, a third, a fourth, and a clear round in the jumping at the gymkhana.

The happy farmer set off early to the show field with horse, daughter and trailer, leaving a trail of jackets, welly boots, and lead ropes in their wake. At 5.30am we had heard eldest daughter trying ever so hard no to waken everyone as she gathered her things together and went off to catch Hansel and begin grooming him in preparation for the big day. The rest of us arrived at the show field a little later, after my son’s chanter lesson, armed with flasks of hot coffee which we washed down with crusty rolls filled with ‘island-reared’ pork and beef being served from one of the many stalls. The younger two disappeared off to the bouncy castles and various side shows, only reappearing periodically to get more change out of the happy farmer.

Meg won best Clydesdale in show and was done up to the nines with flowers and tack gleaming.

The happy farmer met an old friend, Robert, over visiting the island specially to visit the show. Robert is an old hand when it comes to horses. He appeared over and gave eldest daughter a hand with the horse, and some fantastic tips between her various classes. In the end nothing would do but he had to jump on and have a quick ride, funnily enough the naughty horse took him straight in the direction of the beer tent, or was it the naughty rider leading the horse a stray? At the beer tent surprisingly Hansel met many old pals, the farrier, who had spent a few hours the day before the show doing the horse’s feet and offering advice, the game keepers, the editor of ‘The Scottish Farmer’, and a few more besides. What does that tell you about the happy farmer and his daughter’s horse?! As Hansel returned he was hotly pursued by the local game keeper, who couldn’t resist having another shot on Hansel, having ridden him bare back in a previous blog. This time Hansel, bless him, cantered off around the back of the show field, going in the opposite direction to the beer tent.

Until next time…

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Horsing Around

We have had days of driving wind and rain, it felt like winter had arrived a little too early, but today the rain clouds have given way to bright hot sunshine, adding to the spirit of excitement around the place as everyone gets ready for the annual agricultural show. Yesterday the kitchen was filled with happy chatter as dealers arrived off the ferry, towing shiny new machinery, stopping in for a quick cup, before heading to set up their stands at the show field.

It is going to be a strange show this year, what with no cattle, sheep and pigs, due to the restrictions on animal movement, which affect even this small hebridean island. At one point we didn’t even know if there would be a show, but after a meeting it was decided that it should go ahead as always. There will be a great deal of diappointment among the farming community though. Hours of preparation go into rearing show beasts. Show lambs will have been born as early as December, and carefully nurtured and reared over the months. The big show sale which happens the following day at the auction market will be a none event this year unless the restrictions are lifted.

There is big excitement on the farm today though among the children as the horses are still able to go to the show. Meg the Clydesdale spent yesterday evening getting her tail clipped by her owner, as my daughter so fondly put it

‘She really was not at all happy mum, that is until she saw me, then she put her ears forward and gave me a great big smile.’

My daughter loves the horses and has been putting her horse, Hansel, through his paces over the past few weeks, getting more excited with each passing day. Shampoo has been bought and today armed with buckets of water and brushes there have been an army of children tenderly grooming the horse ready for tomorrow’s show. I admire my daughter’s passion and confidence. I pointed out that there may be a few more spectators at the horses ring this year in the absence of the other beasts. Totally unfazed she remarked

‘Oh Hansel will be so pleased, he adores people and loves showing off. He is really going to enjoy himself’....... and I know she will too…

Until next time…..

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Farming Feasts

The happy farmer had promised a BBQ lunch for our friends before they headed off on the ferry in the late afternoon. Not one to be beaten by the continuous rain that greeted us this morning, I met the happy farmer perched on an upturned bucket, in his shed, busy barbecuing sausages and other delights, as he chatted away to holiday people, handing out the odd sausage here and there as the food gradually cooked. It was really quite a sight, in among all of the farm machinery, animal feed, and his ‘junk’ yard treasures, accumulated over the generations, the charcoal smoke combining with the heavy scent of tractor oil.

Later the kitchen was buzzing, our friends and their children arrived, as the farrier and the happy farmer tucked into mugs of coffee, a pan filled with clams, which had been handed in by a local fisherman, were frying away in garlic and butter on the stove, a pan of warm, newly dug potatoes sat on the table, together with a dish of home grown salad leaves. Burgers and sausages were put into buns for the assembled children. A hearty feast was had by all.

Our friends headed off for the ferry. The happy farmer and the farrier had graduated onto Irish coffees and spent a wet afternoon putting the world to rights. By the time they started on the drams all was well in the world…that is until sometime later we put on the evening news and learnt of the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in England….

Until next time…..

Friday, 3 August 2007

Island Treasures

I was sat on the bench in the sunshine, enjoying a morning cup of coffee with the happy farmer, when ‘sploosh’, a beaker full of icy cold water came hurtling through the air, and soaked me, followed by giggles from a certain little monkey grinning out of the window, and some guffawing from a certain happy farmer,
‘It was meant to get dad,’ was the apology! I haven’t got my own back…yet!!

There were no takers for the beach today; the happy farmer was busy in his shed, the children quite happy pottering about, the eldest saddled up her horse and away she went.

I took the dogs, then went to check on the vegetable patch, and got totally carried away. I dug up a shaw of potatoes and found to my delight some absolute beauties; they were well and truly ready. Feeling like I had struck gold, several shaws later, and I was up to my ankles in mud, and finally decided these croc ‘shoes’ are fantastic on the beach but I must stop wearing them in the vegetable patch, the mud falls through all of the little holes. The horde of vegetables hanging proudly from my arms, in two baskets I squidged my way back across the garden to the house. The downside to the home grown produce is of course all of the cleaning up after, there was more mud on me than on the potatoes, so a shower full of grit and mud later, I was sorted. An organised gardener would of course wear wellies and thick gardening gloves, of which I have both!

The happy farmer came in delighted, armed with fresh fillets of home smoked mackerel courtesy of the skipper on the Jura ferry boat. Tonight we will have a true ‘island’ feast.

Until next time…

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Island Life

Yesterday I watched the children and their friends clambering over the remaining few bales of hay, sitting in a row in the front field, as the eldest took full advantage of the short grass, cantering across the skyline in the late evening sun.

Today I am faced with the farmhouse filled with hay from one end to the other, strewn across the carpets, it is even in the children’s’ beds, I think there is more hay in the house than in the hay shed! So the morning was spent having a good tidy up.

The farmer was away at a funeral in the local village; it would be a very busy funeral, as the island bids farewell to a much loved and respected character. As the librarian pointed out, island funerals can be dangerous places. They say a good island funeral is like a good island wedding; just the ties are a different colour. It is meant in the best possible way, and for special characters, although their passing is a sad occasion for the whole community, ones who have had a colourful, long and happy life, they certainly believe in celebrating that life and giving them a good send off.

The library van had trundled up the single track road and parked in the lay-by, as it does once a fortnight, so I could go and choose some new books, and have a ‘blether’, as the islanders call it. Where else would you get such a fantastic service?

Eldest daughter went on a pony trek along the shore with her friends so I spent the afternoon at the beach, clambering among the rocks as the rain clouds gathered. The farmer was happy again, having found a piece of salvage to take home to his shed, smiling away as he walked his yellow box back across the beach.

Until next time…