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

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

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

We are now offering beauty treatments of a particular kind on the farm....

It appears we are now offering beauty treatments on the farm. Mist the sheepdog and Ruby the pup are both sporting beautifully shiny and glossy coats. After much pestering Mist finally gave in and decided to share her beauty secrets with Ruby....at least one egg a day apparently, but preferably more, and the fresher the better. Now I have been searching for Charlie's nest for a while, but could not locate those eggs anywhere. The other three 'ladies', Henrietta Eggberta, so beautifully named by youngest, and her pals, Joey and Frankie (yes youngest informed me when I questioned the origin of the names, that she loves the fact that you can use 'boys' names for girls) have all been laying away somewhere in the hedgerow.
Ruby the pup took the liberty of trying out her new found beauty treatment, and appeared the other day, not with a glossy shiny coat, but a sticky, gooey, egg covered coat, matted with the odd bit of egg shell here and there. Thankfully those eggs were fresh eggs, a must have tip from the sheep dog obviously, so we were at least not subjected to a week or so of rotten egg aromas in  the farmhouse. Ruby has obviously realised her mistake and has not come home covered in egg again, but is laying egg shells all over the place when she relieves herself, and has been known to add a very particular scent to the farmhouse with the odd bit of wind in the evenings.
She did kindly lead me to one of the hen's nests, but being a trifle greedy she helped herself to all of the eggs, so the hen has taken her nest off elsewhere.
Meanwhile Charlie is not put up nor down by all of the fuss, in fact I rather suspect she positively encouraged those dogs, as she has now deserted Eggbert Henrietta, Joey and Frankie in the hen coop, and has taken to roosting in the dog kennel with Mist the sheepdog at night. However do not be fooled Charlie does not think she is a sheepdog, no that nutty hen is in training to be the happy farmer methinks, as every time he leaves the door open to his building work, Charlie is in there strutting about, clucking away expressing her approval of the new extension, inspecting the building works.
Horror of horrors, you don't think she thinks he is building her a new hen house do you???

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Gobbled up by Sea Eagles....almost

The morning started with a cat fight, literally. Spog, the cowboy, I mean cat, was standing guard in the middle of the single track road, I was alerted to his presence as I made my way over to the pottery in the sunshine. It was the high pitched yowls that did it, Spog positively strutting, prowling back and forth, circling, and looking ready to draw his gun at any moment. Suddenly Henrik appeared from nowhere, and darted across the road. Spog was like lightening on his tail, the air filled with the hissing, spitting and shrieking as Henrik cowered into the hedgerow and Spog stood over him, tail wagging, menacing eyes fixated. Of course I completely ruined the moment, venturing in, easing a very angry Spog out of the way with my foot, as I rescued Henrik and lifted him up over the dry stone dyke and into the garden. Spog was not impressed and spent over an hour prowling around the entrance to the farm, before finally giving in and arriving at the back door for some breakfast.

Youngest and I have taken to walking Ruby pup in the early evenings. We head across the field to join the path that leads to the tree swing and then onto Lilly Loch, where Ruby gets to dive into the cool waters after sticks.
Ruby is trying ever so hard not to chase those sheep, and is being discouraged by Meh Meh, the pet lamb, who now lives in the field with the other sheep. The happy farmer moved her and her wooden kennel into the field a few weeks ago. Meh Meh, joins the rest of the flock to graze during the day, but at night, or if the storm clouds gather, she can be found happily chewing the cud in her little kennel. This causes some entertainment for the children as she has grown rather a lot, and her huge belly and legs, hang out over the edges of the kennel as she continues to squeeze herself into her living quarters, a privileged sheep indeed. Meh Meh always makes a bee line for Ruby when she spies her, and refuses to be chased away by her, instead gently head butting Ruby if she gets over excited.
The other evening as we made our way through the field, youngest drew my attention to what seemed to be a large animal in the burn field. I couldn’t quite make out if it was a small roe deer sitting on its hind quarters, or a large group of hares all boxing. We walked slowly across the field and quickly made the shape out to be two very large eagles, sea eagles in fact. We stopped in awe, they were absolutely huge, one, on spying us, gracefully flew off and up into the air, however the other sat for seconds longer, and having read how a sea eagle attacked someone in Perthshire the other day, I did begin to wonder whether I shouldn’t turn and head back for the safety of the farmhouse. I really did not want to get gobbled up by one of these majestic animals, and I do tend to have an over active imagination, but just as my worries were bubbling up to the surface, the second sea eagle took flight, and joined its partner, we watched in awe as it soared off, high up above the hill, where it swooped and soared with its partner for quite some time, looking more like buzzards in the distance. Sea eagles have gradually been reintroduced to Scotland over the past few years, and I knew they were in the vicinity, so felt very privileged that they had chosen to swoop in on the farm, especially as they decided not to gobble me up in the process.
Until next time…..

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Constantly tripping up.....

We arrived home from the mainland to the usual chaos, children and luggage literally fell out of the jeep as we pulled into the farm yard. The race was on to release Ruby from the confines of her kennel, a squirming, wriggling black mass, wiggled her way among us panting happily, jumping up and clawing, her huge tongue hanging out as she attempted to leave slopperty kisses on one and all. Charlie hen came running, waddle running that is, across the yard from the flower beds which she had been helpfully 'grubbing' in. 

Mist the sheepdog bounded across to join the welcome party and then as word got out that we were back those sleepy cats stretched and yawned before clambering from the tractor cab to find their way into the farmhouse kitchen for a saucer of milk and a bowl of food. 
I struggled with the luggage from car to house, aware of an ever constant panting companion at my heel, a companion of the four legged variety, as Mist did the outside leg of the marathon and Ruby waited at the bottom of the stairs to take on the inside leg of the relay race. Charlie hen did her best to participate, and if the door was left open for a minute she could be found clucking around the farmhouse giving out those orders. It wasn't long before 'Meh Meh' the pet lamb had left the wooden home son has erected for her in a nearby field and joined in the welcome party, as we found ourselves constantly tripping over one animal or another.
The children of course abandoned the race fairly early on, in fact some did not compete at all, as televisions and computers were switched on and connections were resumed with cyberspace once more.
I have yet to decide which is more exhausting, or indeed more fun, leaving the farm for a few days, or arriving back home again. We were very fortunate as the happy chappy and the forester took charge of all of the animals in our absence, or vice versa, I haven't quite worked out which yet, and the holiday people duly arrived and got settled into their holidays in our absence.

The trip had been a difficult one, saying our goodbyes to a very dear and special friend, a friend who has on so many happy occasions smiled as she too was enveloped in love as the whole clan gathered to welcome her on her arrival at the farm.
Until next time......

Friday, 26 August 2011

Unattended baggage and the chain saw massacre...

Life has been doing the unthinkable and getting badly in the way of blogging.....maybe that is a positive thing, but I am back. The summer months are flying by and the children are back at school already. Daily routines are being re-established, as we wave goodbye to all of the visitors and  the sun shine dares to disappear behind the cloud and the evenings begin to once more draw in again.

The happy farmer continues his building project and is so near to completion now. Living in the farmhouse resembles a dentist's waiting room, not because it is neat, clean and tidy, far from it, but because my nerves are constantly on edge with the regular grinding of circular saws and drop saw. It reminds me of the chain saw massacre. I wince every time the drill roars to life, listening to the clanging of tools, the shouts of despair when things are not going accordingly, the deep sighs and the general reminder that it is no easy task. The saw has already claimed one finger, luckily not the happy farmer's, and certainly not a recent claim, but the memory of the happy potter feeding his finger to the jaws of that saw remain emblazoned on my mind.
As I drove youngest out of the farmyard and onto the single track road today to make the journey to school I could hardly miss the flattened tin of silver paint that had spewed its contents out across the road, and the discarded rucksack lying abandoned at the side of the road. I tried to get my head round the clues that had been left challenging me on the road ahead as we continued our journey. A walker, leaving the rucksack while he stops to get a perfect photo of the Paps, or to relieve himself behind the hedge. The walker then became a protester, rucksack on back, large can of silver paint in hand, ready to join the march, the words never leave baggage unattended rang out in my ears, as youngest left me at the school gates. On the journey home then my head was filled with thoughts of terrorism, bombs and protesters as I gingerly drove over the paint and past the abandoned ruck sack once more.
Of course the happy farmer had a much simpler explanation, work men heading to the morning ferry, in a rush, back door of van not closed properly and rucksack and paint fell out onto road. A five minute drive to catch the mainland ferry before it left our shores and the happy farmer's suspicions were confirmed. One happy workman grinned as he made his way along the ramp off the ferry boat to retrieve his rucksack out of our jeep, safe in the knowledge that his dirty linen would not be laid out in public but would accompany him home to the mainland.
Until next time.....

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

What's in a language......

Exams over, and I have decided it is far more stressful to be the parent of a child sitting exams, than the candidate, especially when said offspring have thankfully inherited the completely laid back attitude to life their father the happy farmer has. This year my stress levels doubled as I had two teenagers putting me through my paces with their exams. I appeared to be the only one who suffered from exam stress in this house, which is a good thing, except when one teenager gets exam times totally wrong and is on the bus instead of in the actual exam. Lots of motherly flapping and the issue was soon sorted and said child was thankfully unfazed and sat the exam quite confidently, unlike mother who was a quivering heap of jelly on the floor at home. Other teenager then announces they have just realised they copied their candidate number down incorrectly on all exam papers and only realised their mistake when they could not log into their details on SQA website…more jelly wobbles and panicking, until I am reassured this is not going to affect the paper or mark. So finally the exams are over and I can pack my bag of nerves away for another year having endured lots of teasing from my laid back eldest two, who really could not work out what all of my fussing was about.

The laid back attitude continues when eldest daughter drops into the conversation as an aside remark that she has won the school’s award for Gaelic this session and will be presented with a £50.00 book token at the forthcoming awards ceremony. Truly proud mum is immediately texting nearest and dearest to spread the happy news, while eldest daughter is completely unfazed. It is a real asset that when success knocks at her door, she takes it in her stride.  Her real sense of pleasure and success is not awarded by other people or how others perceive her; it comes from deep within, from a journey through her own talents and ability.

Eldest was only 7 when she decided she wanted to learn more Gaelic, having been immersed in the Gaelic culture by her Seanmhair and Seanair ( the happy farmer’s parents) who conversed in their mother tongue to my youngsters. For years she sat in the evenings with a local Gaelic tutor learning to converse in a language which inspired her. This year, not having studied Gaelic at school for a number of years, she opted to study Gaelic and sat her Higher Gaelic exam. In April I was invited to a conference at the local Gaelic college where there were children from across the island showcasing their Gaelic studies, youngsters of all ages, singing, performing and giving speeches in Gaelic. I watched with huge pride as my eldest daughter took to the stage with her peers, in front of the large assembled crowd, and gave a fluent presentation in Gaelic. It is quite something to see your own child converse comfortably in a language you know only a few garbled phrases in, and for me it was especially poignant as both her Seanair and Seanmhair have now passed on, but their mother tongue is living on through the future generations. They would have been so proud to see their granddaughter take to the platform, to know that their Gaelic heritage is being nurtured, preserved and is passing on to the younger generations. A language that is so vitally important, because locked up in the language is the humour, dialect, idioms and culture of generations of islanders, it is a language that for many years was persecuted, has struggled at times to survive and in recent years it has strengthened, and is today embedded in the present and the future of the island. My daughter now holds the key to her own island roots and heritage and for that I incredibly grateful and extremely proud.
Gle math agus slainte! (Well done and good luck).

Until next time…

Friday, 17 June 2011

Flying away in a hammock.....

The weekend saw a gathering of teenagers and slightly older teenagers, invariably in their 50s, although Farmer T possibly 60s, as they gathered in the old byre to celebrate eldest daughter’s 16th birthday.
Preparations for the day had been conducted in top secret as I had been warned that under no circumstances were there to be any balloons, decorations and fuss, just a small gathering of her friends. As she sat her final exam I enlisted the help of the younger two to help transform the byre, complete with streamers, and of course balloons.
As I traipsed between byre and farmhouse with goodies the line of helpers seemed to be ever increasing. First it was just me and the children, and then the dogs began to follow our steady stream back and forth, between farmhouse and byre. Charlie hen then joined the line, waddling closely behind her pal Mist the sheepdog, much to Mist’s annoyance. Finally it all got a bit too taxing when I found myself tripping over Sherbet the pet lamb too, constantly under my feet, bleating away, faithfully following backwards and forwards, until I could persuade youngest to go and mix a bottle of lamb’s milk and put her back in her pen.
The BBQ and party went well, teenagers tripping back and forth, happy farmer and Farmer T in charge of cooking and drinks, girlies sat in sunshine giggling away, and as the evening wore on, and the sun disappeared, fading below the horizon, we retired into the byre, to the disco lights and music. At some unearthly hour I made it back to the farmhouse where various bodies were sleeping in various corners, movies playing in one room with popcorn, lights out and snoring from another. The following day they all headed off to the beach for an afternoon of sunbathing and swimming. Oh to be 16 again.
Finally in the early hours of Sunday evening the happy farmer and I got to relax in the garden hammocks. We were joined a while later by the happy chappy and his brother. As I went to get drinks I suggested the happy chappy relaxed in a hammock, slightly cautious he remarked that he had not ventured into a hammock before, and would not know how to position himself without toppling off. Full of the joys of the hammocks I carefully advised him to place his bottom in the middle of the hammock and swing his legs across. Being ever so over zealous in following my good advice his backside missed the middle as he flung himself right over the edge of the hammock, flying backwards through the air, and landing upside down, legs splayed and hammock landing on top of him, and hardly a drop of his cider spilt, I was most impressed.

Until next time….

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Nourishment comes from ripped carpets and body cream.....

The blog, like my flower beds, has been suffering from serious neglect. Weeds have taken over, as the flowers have been burnt and battered by the May gales. The weather has been challenging and not what you would expect for the time of year. The island’s whisky festival was wild and windy and the whisky club that took over our holiday accommodation took over the farmhouse kitchen as well, as we all mucked in together to cook by candle light on the oil fired Rayburn as the harsh weather led to lengthy periods without power.

The farm house has been neglected too. The building project has taken over. It has been something of a mammoth undertaking, borne out of the necessity to diversify, to survive.  The happy farmer decided several years ago to renovate the old farm steadings and transform what were ruins into comfortable living spaces once more. The old Millhouse and the original farmhouse into holiday homes which we let, and now, where the horses were once stabled, we will have more living space and further holiday accommodation. The old boiler house and what was once the stable for the Clydesdale, now houses a ceramic cafĂ©. It is an undertaking which brings the farmer a lot of satisfaction as he rebuilds and renovates the old buildings where his great uncles and grandparents lived before him. He has worked his fingers to the bone, taking on all the elements of the building project himself, in between farming, from the brick work and slating, through to the plastering and plumbing, no mean feat when you are one man building alone. The latest part of his project is very nearly there.

 Meantime the animals that share our living space are adding suggestions to the building and housing projects themselves. Ruby, the pup, has decided to helpfully join the farmer's wife in her quest, after several years of nagging, to convince the happy farmer that new carpet is required not just in the extension but in the existing farmhouse too.The pup has taken it upon herself to rip out the old worn dining room carpet,a project which has taken her a few weeks, but  which is gaining momentum, with victory in sight when the happy farmer was overheard quipping that once the pup has got through her chewing phase new carpets are a must…yes yes yes smiled the farmer's wife, at last!! The happy farmer’s wife was most impressed to see  the resident cats have now joined in her 'build a conservatory' campaign. The happy farmer gave an amused groan when he saw that his tractor cab has been invaded by cats sprawling out in the glass cab, three at once, all lounging around waiting for the day they have a conservatory to laze about in.

Comfort arrived in the shape of the most luxurious package last week, a gift from Ila spa, via Jane’s blog. A jar of the most silky soft, nourishing body cream, it is truly the most gorgeous cream I have ever come across and it arrived at a time when the weather was dismal and I felt as if the house was falling down around me with all of the building work. The cream has a soft, velvety texture with the  light scent of fresh roses, which nurtures the skin long after application. It is a very soothing, relaxing cream, made from natural ingredients and has been a huge boost, "Central to Ila's healing potential is the higher energy or vibration present in its products. Each ingredient is chosen for its spiritual attributes as well as its physical and emotional benefit: ",
 thank you so much to both  Ila and Jane, it was very much appreciated.


Until next time.....

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Ruby the Tiger leaps into action.....

I have found the perfect solution to getting teenage son up and out of bed in the morning. ‘Ruby the Tiger springs into action’.

Ruby gets up bright and early and ventures out of her kennel and into the farmhouse for an hour or so each morning where she takes delight in winding up youngest before school. Her antics involve a predictable routine of running off with the school shoes and hiding them, trying desperately to share breakfast with her, and if all else fails, pulling the pony tail out of youngest’s hair with those ever snapping little jaws of hers.

The girls packed off to school, the happy farmer and I went in search of Charlie hen’s nest. Feathers all rumpled Charlie flew onto the arm of the bench this morning and proceeded to squawk at high volume to announce to all and sundry the arrival of a new egg. I still am at a loss as to why hens like to alert everyone to the fact that they have just laid an egg; surely it cannot be a good thing when predators, such as Mist the sheep dog, are lurking close by. Anyhow her distress signals were a most welcome sound to us as sure enough we found, neatly stored in a snug nest of long grass behind the vegetable propagator, a nest of twenty or so eggs all waiting to be mixed into the next batch of fresh baking for the pottery tea room.

Not wanting to advertise Charlie’s nest to the pup, Ruby was left in the farmhouse to her own devices whilst we were retrieving our ‘treasures’. Teenage son, who is on study leave just now, was deep in the land of slumber when he was awoken by the howling and yowling of an anxious pup, who thought she had been left home alone. Now teenagers can be pretty grumpy when awoken abruptly like this and a quick bark of ‘RUBY’, hailed from the depths of his ‘pit’, I mean bedroom, alerted one excited pup to the fact that she was not  alone at all. She bounded up those stairs like a tornado, sprang at a rate of knots through the door, leapt several feet through the air, and landed with a clumsy splat on top of teenage son. Here she proceeded to cover his face in huge ‘slurpy’ big licks. Son was up, out of bed, and downstairs in an instant, with one smiling pair of jaws, belonging to a certain pup, clamped firmly to the leg of his jeans .

Luckily Ruby hadn’t been for her walk through sheep poo field this morning.

Until next time….

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

'Sheep Poo Field'

Ruby is settling in well to life on the farm.

She seemed to have read the puppy manual from cover to cover before her arrival and until yesterday she had been the ‘almost’ perfect pup. Of course I may be ever so slightly biased here and have had my rose tinted specs firmly pegged on the end of my nose, naturally, but she has been doing really well.

I decided the other day to introduce Ruby to her lead and take her on the short walk to school, doing my ‘bag lady’ duty, as I carried all the school paraphernalia for youngest as she cycled off into the distance.

Ruby was the picture of perfection. She walked beautifully to heel, head proud and tail in the air. No pulling, no hindering, she kept perfect pace, and just snuggled in tightly to my heel as the ferry traffic hurtled past. School bag and packed lunch delivered I decided to walk Ruby back through the happy farmer’s field to introduce her to the sheep and lambs and let her have a run off the lead.

As she scrabbled through the gate you could actually see a huge grin spread across her chops, so excited was she by the contents of that field. She did not however even blink at the sheep, appeared not even to have noticed them. No, from the moment she entered that field her nose was glued firmly to the grass as she ‘hoovered’ up every piece of sheep poo she could manage to get between her jaws. It was a case of so much poo and so little time, as I shouted, she shovelled and rolled, delighting in the smelly fragrance, covering herself as thickly as possible in the gooey poo. So engrossed was she, that when she came nose to nose with a sleeping lamb it took her completely by surprise and she bolted in the opposite direction. The lamb jumped up and joined in the game, chasing after Ruby, bleating away. The lamb’s mother was not too impressed and began stamping the ground in a threatening manner, calling to the lamb, and the next thing I knew Ruby and I were both being chased by one lamb and a very angry sheep.

The happy farmer was highly entertained to see his wife and her dog getting chased across the field by a sheep and a lamb. Being a farmer's wife, I get it wrong every time when it comes to anything to do with farm animals, from bulls, cows, piglets, sheep and now lambs, I have been chased by them all. One of these days I will learn not to run, and one of these days Ruby will learn not to roll in and eat sheep poo….maybe.

Until next time…

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The happy farmer's wife turned into an egg....

The blog has been getting neglected.
Ruby has sprouted.

The extension is now complete upstairs and the final hurdles downstairs are being ‘jumped’. The happy farmer has spent many hours loosening and easing huge boulders from their resting place of several hundred years, in order to make an opening between our existing kitchen and the extension into the old stables. It is heavy duty, hard manual labour and he has succeeded in making a right mess of my kitchen in the process and I have succeeded in biting my tongue (not an easy task when everything has been covered in thick dust and my nest has become completely unsettled).
Visitors have come and gone during the process, easing the pain, with plenty of giggles and sociable evenings along the way, and adding to the guddle and the muddle that goes with the chaos of a nearly finished building project and a kitchen full of endless mouths to feed. The cooking was taken out of my hands and I was thoroughly spoilt.

 Lambs popped out on an hourly basis in the fields and the happy farmer managed to squeeze in the lambing rounds in between building houses. The lambing team grew on a daily basis, and the trailer behind the quad bike was soon squashed full of children. The happy farmer was highly entertained at the youngsters’ attitude when the trailer was needed on an SOS mission to transport a sheep and her newly born offspring home to the barn and the young clan were told they would need to use an alternative method of transport to get themselves home, i.e. their legs. They were not a happy bunch, but a few fields later and they were all smiles by the time they reached the farmhouse kitchen.
The new pottery shop and tea room opened in the old byre and the happy farmer’s wife got caught up in loading kilns and serving cake stands oozing with home baking and freshly cut sandwiches to the visitors.
Marmite, the Highland heifer, continues her frequent visits to the local distillery village touting for business, and has even made special roadside appearances for the passing tourists’ cameras. She is hoping to attract more customers for the happy farmer’s wife.
Meantime the happy farmer’s wife turned into an egg….for Easter.
Until next time....

Friday, 1 April 2011

Marmite the Highland cow and her love of a good whisky.....

Marmite, our cheeky Highland cow, has taken it upon herself to be a very sociable lady of late.

The other morning we got woken from our slumbers by the telephone ringing. To the happy farmer‘s delight Marmite was in the middle of the roundabout at Caol ila. Now before you get too concerned Caol ila’s roundabout, is not a busy roundabout, there really is not any traffic to speak of, it was built a few years back for the tankers, which carry waste from the distilleries, to park and then turn, as they dispose of the waste which gets piped from there out to sea. Marmite was trimming the roundabout when the happy farmer found her and sweet talked her into going back to her field.

Last night Marmite took it upon herself to once again hoppity skippety jump over the fence before skippety skipping over the cattle grid which leads into the village of Caol ila. I rather suspect she was on a visit to the distillery there. Word must have got out that they were interviewing tour guides for the summer season at the distillery yesterday; either that or she was after a nip of malt whisky for a night cap. She did not however quite make it as far as the distillery this time; she got distracted, spying the juicy grass on the village green. Caol ila is such a picturesque village, and Marmite took it upon herself to trim the village green for the happy residents, hoping to impress the distillery manager, who was looking for seasonal workers. Luckily for the happy farmer his outlaws, I mean in laws, reside in Caol ila, so a quick phone call, to inform him that Marmite was visiting the relations, and the happy farmer sped off to gather her up and take her home again.

Marmite was a bit perturbed to see the happy farmer, and flatly refused to be chased back up the hill, no the bold girl, chased round and round in a circle, before taking off through the woods and hoppety skipping back over a nearer fence, she does like to help the happy farmer with his keep fit regime!

Until next time…..