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, 22 March 2011

'Gnasher the crocodile'

'Gnasher the crocodile', I mean Ruby the pup, is settling down well into life on the farm, judging by the way she licked and slurped all over Spog, one of the farm cats, as he made his way reluctantly past her and into the kitchen this morning. She is keen to befriend every thing that moves, and carries everything that doesn’t move around with her, that is if she can fit it between her tiny jaws. This morning saw her wobbling and tumbling her way down the stairs with an ever so large slipper clamped between those jaws, each time the slipper hit a step Ruby was blinded by fluff, thus making her journey precarious and challenging and ever so funny if you happened to be waiting at the bottom of the stairs to retrieve the slipper.

My days seem to be filled with endless feeding rounds just now. 'Gnasher', I mean Ruby has five small meals a day, and then there are the cats to feed, the other dogs, the hens and the children. The biggest task I face is convincing Ruby that all of the food on the farm is not for her stomach. She cannot understand why the cats are on hunger strike, the happy farmer has even replaced the sack of economy cat food with a sack he brought from the vet the other day; however those spoilt moggies are now turning their noses up at the non economical food too, whereas Ruby thinks the cat bowl belongs to her. I even caught her trying to get  up on the kitchen table yesterday, and am in no doubt she was intent on a plate clearing mission having spied the children’s leftovers . Ground rules need to be established quickly with the ‘walking stomach’ here. The farmhouse is suddenly going to become super tidy and efficient and all in the name of keeping Ruby’s ‘gnashers’ firmly away from anything but her bowl!

The walking stomach doesn't just stop at Ruby either, yesterday I discovered that Mist, the sheepdog, had taken it upon herself to empty Charlie the hen’s nest of a dozen or so eggs and eat them all up. I had left a puckle of eggs on the nest to see if Charlie would become broody, Mist must also have spied them and then stolen them, payment probably for the fact that Charlie and the chicks have been strutting into her kennel bold as brass and helping themselves to her  kitchen scraps. Poor Mist is ever so slightly wary of those hens, so she watches, drooling, as the hens tuck into her goodies. Today Mist helped her ever so greedy self to a whole nest of eggs.

The challenges of yesterday began early in the morning, when as I made my way out of the door armed with bin bags on the ‘joyful’ domestic duty of bin emptying, I was confronted by a large frolicking, bouncy Highland cow, bounding across the lawn towards me. I am not sure who got more of a fright, but I made a very hasty retreat into the farmhouse. Marmite, not content with the bale of silage the farmer had left out for her in the field, had taken it upon herself to mow the front garden again, guzzling away greedily. Safely indoors, I sent out an immediate mayday call to the happy farmer, one football was lobbed across the grass and one Highland cow took off at speed across the farmyard. Once the coast was clear I made my way out across the farm yard to the bins only to find one bemused and harassed happy farmer. Marmite had fled at speed but only as far as the tractor where she could be caught peeping out waiting for the coast to clear so the lawn munching could begin again in earnest. 

Until next time… 

Friday, 18 March 2011

The happy farmer has issues...

The happy farmer has issues.

Trouble arrived in the form of a flat coated retriever pup, a quite demanding little bundle; she strutted into the farmhouse on Monday night and instantly began to lay down her ground rules, which seem to differ ever so slightly from our ground rules so battle has begun. After several sleepless nights listening to her demanding company throughout the night, yes none of this whimpering and whining, more of a full on constant yap of a bark, her sleeping quarters have been moved, she now resides in the nearly completed farmhouse extension during the twilight hours. The sitting room rug has become a playground, coal and pieces of wood have been retrieved from the log pile at the fireside, to be chewed and strewn across the floor. Boots, shoes and slippers are no longer safe, and the pile of school bags that habitually get dumped at the front door are now in imminent danger, as are all of the pieces of clothing lying strewn across teenage bedroom floors, just as soon as she can manage to tackle climbing the ever so large  and challenging staircase.

 The cats’ noses are out of joint, they have made it quite clear that in no uncertain terms are they wishing to entertain a small puppy and now glower from high places as the pup wriggles around like a little eel, chomping and chewing at anything that crosses her path. Just when the feline members of the clan thought it couldn’t get any worse, the happy farmer took it upon himself to invest in a large sack of economy cat food. It really is proving economic as the cats hover around their dishes turning their noses up at the happy farmer’s offerings.

Several days on and the pup has made her presence known and she is a very welcome new addition to the family, everyone remembers our last flat coat, who sadly dies a few years back at a very good age. It took a few evenings to come up with a name for the pup, and after much discussion may I introduce Miss Ruby Maisie Milly Molly Irn Bru Cocoa cola Shadow Sparky Black Bottle Josie Marjorie, Jetta, Dusty, Vali Smuts….known for short as Ruby…

Until next time….

Thursday, 10 March 2011

My Meaty Beefy Big and Bouncy jogging partner...a Limousin Bull

Whenever the happy farmer exits to the mainland I seem to get flung in at the deep end on the farm and you can guarantee that is the time when everything seems to go a little bit pear-shaped.

I set off across the fields for a run with the sheepdog, having packed the children off to school at some unearthly hour. I was happily jogging along, lost in my thoughts, the rain very refreshing and the rich vibrant colours of the landscape good for the soul, when I was abruptly brought back into the moment as I was confronted by a very large jogging partner of ginormous proportions, just over the other side of a very small dry stone dyke from me. A stocky Limousin bull was travelling alongside on the single track road going at a fair pace, obviously enjoying his freedom, as he had an excited and threatening bounce to his jogging step. Panic took over, I quickly turned, and fled, the jog becoming a sprint any long distance runner would be proud of, back down the slope and out of sight. Fumbling wildly in my pockets I found my mobile phone and sent an instant distress signal to the happy farmer on the mainland. A few seconds later and my jogging partner was identified as one bull belonging to Farmer T.
The advice given in response to my SOS message was to run back to the farmhouse, whilst being careful to avoid said bull. I took off at some pace, scaling a barbed wire fence and heading into the bracken, a bit of a big diversion, but I did not want to draw attention to myself or the sheepdog, which for some reason was pinned to my heel. Trying to sprint through bracken is quite a skilful technique, one I haven’t quite mastered yet. I could no longer see my jogging partner but as my feet kept getting tangled in the roots of the bracken I suddenly realised that the field gate I would be heading for was open, and said bull could well be making his way into the field to confront me, or at the very least our paths could cross as I had to venture across the single track road he was bounding along, to access the farmhouse.

I sensibly decided to abandon the happy farmer’s advice, after all he really could not appreciate the extreme danger I was facing, indeed he did not seem to understand what all of the fuss was about, but had dutifully promised to contact Farmer T to get him to come and claim back his prized animal. I meanwhile abandoned the field of bracken and re traced my steps heading in the opposite direction to the bull, and raced through the fields to my parents’ cottage, darting across streams and hillocks, trying to keep my balance and maintain an athlete’s pace as I avoided the track, just in case my jogging partner had decided to follow suit, cursing the country way of life as I went, wishing I was back in the concrete jungle and safety of the city.
I arrived, a sweaty, heaving blob, having abandoned the sheepdog, somewhere in the fields, to fend alone against any impending dangers.
I was greeted with a cup of coffee and a chance to regain my composure, before I headed home, having borrowed my parents’ car. I cautiously drove back up the single track road to the farmhouse hoping I was not going to have a collision with my jogging partner.

All seemed quiet. There was no sign of the bull as I ran like lightening from car to house. I ran up the stairs to get an aerial view of the farm to see if I could spy either the missing sheepdog, or the trespassing bull. No sign of the sheepdog, but to my horror, beside the trampoline, in the back garden, at a happy standstill was the bull, grazing away contentedly. Another mercy call to the happy farmer, now in a mainland city away from the perils of the country, and I was reassured that Farmer T was in fact on his way to rescue the bull from the terrorised farmer’s wife so country life could return to some kind of peace and tranquillity.

 I gingerly made my way across to the cottages to warn our guests that there was a bull on the loose and that they should keep their youngsters indoors until Farmer T and his ‘pest control’ lorry had been. The cottage people informed me that they had had an entertaining morning. They relayed the joys of country living to me and remarked how lovely it had been to wake up to the sight of what they had considered to be a pet bull in our front garden first thing in the morning, munching away on the grass, and where else in the world would you wake up to such a sight. Good job I had been blissfully unaware of that as my teenagers made their way out across the farm yard to the school bus first thing then.

Sometime later, the rescue party arrived in the form of a big float, transportation for the enemy, and Farmer T with a bucket of food. The bull of course followed Farmer T into that float like a pet dog, far better behaved than missing sheepdog, and was duly transported away back to Farmer T’s pastures.

When the rain clouds gave way to sunshine later on, I was out and about again, in the happy farmers ever so big wellingtons, waterproof trousers held up by ‘hoicking’ the elastic over my shoulder, feeding hens and chasing the sheepdog back to barracks, and once again country life seemed more appealing. The happy farmer was not off the hook though, as the children and I made our way to the village store for sweets, there was a cow, on a neighbouring farm, lying at a funny angle with a calf half born, obviously in some discomfort. I stopped myself from clambering over the fence to give her a hand, as if I could, instead I sent another mayday signal to the happy farmer on the mainland who gave a call a farmer to go to the ‘poor cow’s’ rescue….you never do fully escape your work….

Luckily a mobile phone allows the happy farmer to jump regularly to his poor cow’s rescue!!

Until next time…

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


Spring is teasing, the daffodils are opening along the road, the crocus and snowdrops are in full bloom. It  is however raining and snow is forecast, just when you dare to dream of summer time.  Nothing can dampen our spirits though, or take away from the sense of relief and delight that our primary school is no longer on any closure lists.

The day after we received the notification youngest handed me a letter saying I was to attend the school the following afternoon as they had important information to share. When I asked what it was about she shrugged her shoulders and feigned ignorance. As she got out of the car the following morning a little smile spread across her face, "don’t forget you’ve to be in school this afternoon".

I duly turned up at the school after lunch and was met by two pupils who ushered me into a classroom along with a gathering of other parents. We sat intrigued before we were called into the hall. There, lots of smiling faces beamed up at us from behind tables neatly laid with juice and trays of home baking, and the words ‘Surprise’ sang out as we entered the room. Some of the pupils had been busy baking at their cookery club and a celebratory tea party had been arranged. Youngest had of course known all along. Two of the older pupils stood up,  welcomed us to the tea party and said very simply ‘we wanted to say a big thank you, we couldn’t have done it without you’, and do you know I don’t think there was a dry eye among the parents, because it was so heartfelt by everyone in the room. The teamwork of the last couple of months has served to strengthen us as a community and make us appreciate the most important things we have, our happy, healthy young people.

Until next time….