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, 25 September 2012

Farm diversification at its best.....

It is blowing an absolute ‘hoolie’ here today. The ferry boat has been diverted from one island port to another, and the library van just stopped by and reported seeing it sailing on past, heading off north, having failed to berth at any of the island’s ports….. But don’t let that put you off visiting our lovely little farm, in the middle of nowhere!
Today’s bed and breakfast guests were literally ‘blown’ here from Switzerland. They arrived looking mighty windswept, but nothing that a swift dram and a few distillery visits can’t put right, and so off they headed into the storms, Kilchoman bound.

The ‘roofers’ who are staying in one of our cottages have arrived home early for the day, no chance of being up on a roof in these gales, a roaring log fire beckons.
The happy farmer, complete with marigolds, is busy cleaning the other cottage, in preparation for more visitors tomorrow, farm diversification at its best, farmers in marigolds!! He is having his usual social time though as he side tracks another group of pottery visitors to do the grand tour of his sparkling cottage, booking sheet in hand!!persabus cottage
The pottery has been busy too, this week with little people painting various animals, while the big people tuck into pots of coffee and home baking. There is never a dull moment in the old byre that now houses the pottery, this summer we have had impromptu ceilidhs, with singing farmers, joining in the banter with our local jazz artist, and even songs in Japanese from our visiting guests….yes it is a pottery, an all singing and all dancing pottery!! This weekend we played host to the West of Scotland Highland cattle society, when about forty or so Highland cattle enthusiasts and breeders called by for refreshments and to visit our happy herd, Marmite, Toffee and the girls all providing the entertainment.
My lovely social butterfly fluttered home too, and it was so lovely to see her again, and she was so happy to see her horses again. Hansel galloped across the field to see her, and it wasn't long before his ever so long neck was nuzzling tightly round her. A little while later he was all tacked up and galloping round the fields with the butterfly safely on his back. The weekend then seemed to pass all too quickly, but  I got my ‘butterfly fix’, and she got to go to the party she was home for, and got her Hansel fix.
Until next time…..

Thursday, 13 September 2012

A rare and beautiful butterfly...

Adonis Blue - Photograph by Jim AsherWhere does the time go?? Eldest has flown the nest....already...it only seems like yesterday that she made her dramatic entrance into the world.
We have got through the teething and potty training, the sleepless nights and the anxieties of childhood illnesses. Watching full of pride as she babbled her first few words and took her very first steps. The 'terrible twos' and  the tantrums phase, where the world revolved totally around our precious little one. The glimmers of a lovely young girl emerging as she learnt to sing and dance and follow that incredible imagination of hers that led to wonderful adventures of fairies and unicorns and mermaids. The teenage years of horses and ponies, with a dollop of teenage attitude thrown in, where nothing we said or did was quite right..... and then she emerges....like a fabulous butterfly, full of colour and vitality, amusing and good company, into someone you really love and appreciate having around, and just as she emerges as this well balanced, well rounded, talented individual, full of rock star dreams, she flaps her wings and flies...without even so much as a backwards glance!!
You fly girl and have the time of your life!
Until next time.....

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

It's a dog's life

I have become a human tornado, racing around the farmhouse at incredible speed. My new super-efficient self has a body that is adapting to the speed of light, my brain however seems a little slow to catch up. A point that keeps getting illustrated to me on a very regular basis, like yesterday when I was hovering over the very whingey cat’s bowl about to empty the contents of my muesli box into it, no wonder the cat was whining. I did stop short of feeding myself a very large bowl of cat food for breakfast.
Even the farm animals are noticing this transformation into super woman and are doing their best to join in. Mist, the sheepdog, was very inventive in acquiring a super new luxury pad for herself. I looked out of the French windows to see her huddled in my white plastic washing basket under the washing line. She did look remarkably cute, and I obligingly took photos of her new sleeping quarters, as I got closer I realised she had also pulled several items of washing off the line and nuzzled them into the basket to make an exceptionally cosy bed, and all with her exceptionally muddy paws. Having met the bed and breakfast guests, and having vacated her kennel to Charlie hen, I think she is demanding an upgrade on her own accommodation to five star residency.
Luckily I did not have much time to fret about dirty laundry scattered around the garden with the dog lying in the middle of it, the pottery and another successful kiln load of goodies was beckoning me, adding to the madness and mayhem of life on this particular farm.
Until next time….. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Pottering Around......

I have been AWOL for a good few weeks, not from the farm, but from the blog, life has suddenly upped a gear and got incredibly hectic, something I am sure most of you can relate to. The holiday cottages are full, and we have started to venture into the world of bed and breakfast, as the Happy Farmer's building work is all now completed, what a star he is! Although he is incredibly busy these days making sure all of our guests are given a true island welcome, which does involve lots of whisky and entertaining tales. 
I have been getting incredibly creative in the pottery and it has been paying off, with lots of lovely visitors calling by, lots of afternoon teas being served and lots of pottery flying off the shelves, the latter has been very reassuring as I have been dipping my toe in the water of creativity and experimenting with designs, waiting to see if people what people would like. They appear to like it all, so all my worries of shelves lying laden with pottery that visitors look at but don't buy has evaporated. 
Last Saturday we turned the pottery and tea room into a 'Blooming Great Tea Party' and donated all the proceeds from  afternoon teas to Marie Curie Cancer Care, raising £295.48 in a few hours.
The pottery cats have been endearing themselves to all of the visitors, waiting patiently for them in the car park and  lying out in the sun with them as they have alfresco lunches. The photo is of Doughball, posing on top of one of the smaller kilns...after a busy day in the pottery. 
Thankfully Charlie and Joey, the hens have remained in the garden, and not ventured over the road to the pottery, now that would be a disaster. They are still laying beautifully in the nesting boxes, and Mist, the sheepdog, is still giving up her sleeping quarters in the kennel to Charlie hen, even though she is no longer getting her dietary supplement of an egg a day, so all remains calm on the animal front. Sugar Lump, the pet lamb is growing bigger by the day and we have plenty of volunteers to give her a bottle now we have a lot of  younger visitors at the pottery.
Now all I need is to get the Happy Farmer and the rest of the crew to behave so well....
Until next time....

Thursday, 17 May 2012

'Handbags' over sleeping quarters....

Two sets of googly eyes have been following my every move. Nose and beak pressed firmly against the window, one waiting for me to feed her and the other waiting for me to stop dawdling around, tidying up last little bits, and get outdoors and into the lovely sunshine, to take her for a run through the fields. Charlie our resident hen, and Ruby dog, have been waiting very impatiently on the patio. In the hedge, Mist the sheep dog lazes, keeping a watchful eye on events.
Charlie has always absolutely, firmly and resolutely refused, with a huge capital ‘R’, to use the nesting box and hen coup the happy farmer built for her several years ago. The gate to the enclosure lies ajar, the door to the hen hut swinging gently, long since deserted, or so I thought…..

There was a huge kerfuffle coming from Mist’s kennel the other evening. When I investigated, I found the hen and the sheepdog having a ‘set to’. Prompt action was called for on my behalf, as it appeared that Mist was positively attacking Charlie. She appeared to have her cornered in the kennel, a quick ‘bark’ from me, and Charlie came strutting out, clucking away loudly, as she shook her flustered feathers down. Mist looked on submissively, ears bent firmly down, a guilty look spread across her face, as she sprawled across the length of her kennel. I looked across a few minutes later only to see the bold Charlie back in the kennel, and Mist, gently but firmly head-butting the old girl around the kennel, trying to nudge her back out, the way she had arrived in. Charlie was having none of it, and kept jumping back behind the dog, further into the kennel, and so it went on.
Each night since Mist has refused to share her kennel, but Charlie is a very determined hen, and so the sleeping arrangements now consist of Mist sleeping in the hedge and Charlie roosting happily in the kennel.
Imagine my delight the other day then, when I went over to the old hen coup and found it is being used once again, maybe not as sleeping quarters, but was laden with a nest of eggs. We have not had a ‘Charlie’ egg since last year, as Mist has been merrily guzzling her way through the nests Charlie had been making for herself around the various corners of the farm. Possibly Mist views it as rent for lodging in the dog kennel, maybe as a necessity to keep her coat all glossy and shiny, or perhaps more likely because she thinks only of her stomach! Charlie, however, refusing to be out done by that clever dog, has simply taken to laying fresh eggs on a daily basis in the hen coup….clever chick that she is!!
Until next time….

Friday, 4 May 2012

An eviction notice has been served....

The latest addition to the farmhouse kitchen has been playing up and involved the Happy Farmer serving an eviction order.
The Happy Farmer's attention was drawn to our new lodgers when the kitchen began to have the faint smell of oil fumes. The game was a bogey when we overheard the lodgers merrily chirruping and tweeting away, the happy sounds echoing down the flu of the Aga and into the kitchen. Prompt action was called for as the Happy Farmer diagnosed the problem as uninvited lodgers 'nest building' in the chimney.
He immediately got to work, sweeping out the chimney with rods from behind the oven upwards. Much to his frustration those brushes and rods would not go right through. The lodgers departed, and the Happy Farmer had no choice but to scale the farmhouse walls and go up onto the roof, a past time which has become second nature to him with all of his various building projects.
The Happy Farmer removed one huge nest made of sheep's wool, twigs, plastic and all sorts of other odds and ends. These fantastic 'eco' birds had done a fabulous recycling job, the nest consisted of various bits of debris. Thankfully the birds were still at the 'construction phase' of nesting so there were no eggs inside.
Satisfied the eviction had been successfully carried out the Happy Farmer once again lit the Aga and was a tad disgruntled when fumes began bellowing out of the ovens like never before.  The whole house was 'gassed' out. More roof top clambering and chimney sweeping, and another huge nest was dislodged from further down the pipe.
Finally the Aga was re- lit, and going like a dream once more. 
Next morning the lodgers had returned, merrily chirruping away as they commenced the re- build. A very disgruntled and frustrated farmer went back on the roof with chicken wire in hand only to find those birds had been extremely busy and there was another completed nest in situ.
Nesting has now resumed, but not in the chimney....the Cuckoo has arrived and appears to have moved onto the farm too....
Until next time.... 

Monday, 23 April 2012

'What's new Pussy Cat...'

The weekend was spent overseas; we had been invited to three days of celebrations for a good friend’s birthday. The events were to take place on the neighbouring Isle, and as usual it was no mean feat getting ourselves organised and onto that ferry boat, although we did have to succumb to a slightly reduced ‘party time table’, missing out on a clay pigeon shoot and cask visit.
The mad dash there involved getting everything in place, from lambers, to cottage changeovers, meals for hungry children, hens and dogs and feeding/walking routines, and a last minute visit from the local farrier to shoe the horses’ feet, and Muffin just was refusing to be shod, playfully galloping off around the fields as eldest tried in vain to catch him, and all as our ferry awaited to take us away to our ‘other island’ destination. So, we left in our usual melee of madness, not in the least bit organised, despite our best efforts, but realising that things would take care of themselves, especially as we were leaving teenage children at home to hold the fort for the first time (no sweat there then as eldest was madly texting near and far to announce she had an ‘empty’).
Naturally once you step off the little ferry boat all of your troubles and worries melt away aided of course by a large glass of something very tasty, with or without bubbles.
The celebrations took place in the village hall, tables were all laid beautifully, and guests from all over the world had made the journey to this remote location to celebrate with their friend. Of course the obligatory power cut happened right at the crucial moment when the food needed to be heated and just as everyone was taking their seats. Visiting guests were concerned as we sat in candlelight, but the hosts and locals were not in the least bit ‘phased’ – this is island life, power cuts happen on a regular basis, and reassuringly, after a few drams or so, the power flicked back on and the most wonderful food was served. This was followed by a ceilidh that went on well into the wee small hours as everyone hurled and burled around the hall, dancing the traditional Scottish reels, a true Highland celebration. When the band retired, they were replaced by another guitarist, who took to the stage and sang and played to his heart’s content, as the dancing continued. He apparently, honestly, did not hurt himself when he fell flat to the floor with an almighty bang, as he vacated the stage. The partying did not stop there, ipod located and partying went on. We rolled up the hill to our beds around 4.00am, the dancing still going strong, but the party goers gradually dwindling in numbers.
The following day, beach events were cancelled due to the inclement weather, but the partying continued with a BBQ and house party, with lashings of food and drink, more music and more hilarity. The happy farmer excelled with his performances of Tom Jones and Freddie Mercury, yet again the farmer’s wife finally had to sweep him up and prise him away mid performance as she made a mad dash to catch the final ferry home.
Lambs and children intact, normality resumed.
Until next  time…..

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Spring has sprung, a leak in the whisky barrel....

Yikes spring has sprung and we are halfway through April, and not a blog to show for it…
The cyclical nature of farming life continues here on the ‘croft’, lambing is well underway and just as the Happy Farmer thought that he was getting an easy time of it, a dab hand at the old ‘lambing’ job now, and the weather turned. The heavens opened. The wild winds blew, and a whole load of lambs fought in vain to survive the night. Each year the happy farmer toys with the idea of lambing indoors….on the plus side; youngest has a new friend to care for. Sugar lump, checked into the five star lambing suite in the byre, just as the weather turned particularly horrible, and has now left the confines of her cosy cardboard pen and is bleating happily outside, awaiting youngest’s return from school, so she can get another feed of milk.
The farm has been very busy with visitors, Easter really heralds the beginning of a new season and ‘team Balerno’ arrived en masse, all 39 of them, for a week of island life. Tractor rides out the hill to feed the Highland cows, and daily quad bike hurls around through the sheep, interspersed with trips to the beaches, and lashings of food and drink, together with the ultimate pottery party (of course), and a good time was had by all.
More family and friends followed, with of course the necessary cask visit to Bruichladdich distillery, which always comes at this time of year, as wee Hughie gathers the farming fraternity to sample his cask and see how the amber nectar is maturing. This year it seems to be maturing particularly well going on the state of the Happy Farmer and his cousin upon their return to farmland. The cousin went for a short nap and did not surface again until the next day. Stories are gradually pouring forth as the days unfold and the blurry haze is becoming one of clarity with fine tales of balancing garden fences crashing, and the case of the missing spectacles, which incidentally still have not turned up, in fact if you do happen to be visiting a butcher’s shop in Tiree be sure not to mention glasses, whisky or otherwise. I am actually beginning to wonder if there will indeed be any whisky left in that cask for next year’s gleeful reunion.
Thankfully the Happy Chappy from nearby had taken over the necessary lambing routines for the day, ably assisted by youngest, as his little helper.   
Until next time.....

Monday, 12 March 2012

A squirt in the eye....

Each week the old byre door has burst open and another group of excited children have gathered together to celebrate another birthday. We have had Barbie, Justin Bieber and SpongeBob, with all of the traditional fayre of sandwiches, cakes, sausage rolls and crisps, together with pottery painting and party games. I often wonder what the farmers of yester year would make of it all as balloons and streamers are hung from the rafters of the old byre, and the island’s children gather to celebrate another birthday. At the weekend we had a cat themed party, complete with storytelling, before the youngsters each got to paint a pottery cat in their own individual creative style.
Last month the happy farmer’s sister was over visiting. The two of us sat in the pottery showroom eating our way through the various cakes on offer; we justified it as quality control. Over tea she entertained the visitors with stories of bygone days, recalling how her father used to keep a Jersey cow. He would milk the cow daily in the byre, where we now sat eating cakes; any unsuspecting visitors would get a squirt of milk, right in the eye, if his aim was on target, as he sat chuckling away to himself on the milking stool.
Years later when I first came to the farm, my father in law could often be seen pretending to busy himself at the farmhouse door, before squirting unsuspecting visitors with the hose at the standpipe, my father in law chuckling away. He graduated from the hose pipe onto water pistols, allowing him a greater aim from any part of the farm. A good sense of humour was an absolute must; any sign of anger would ensure a good old soaking every time, as this was the reaction he savoured the most. My poor brother in law’s wife got regularly drenched, as she failed to see the funny side, and my father in law would be bent double with laughter as she got more and more angry. I am sure that if my father in law were still around today he would be highly entertained by the parties in his old byre, and I am also know that he would be poised by the door, a huge grin on his face, with water pistol in hand!!
By far the most important birthdays on the farm happened the other week, when my youngest celebrated her third birthday and turned twelve, and on the same day, her Grandpa, my dad, celebrated his eighteenth birthday, wishing both of them a belated happy birthday from my blog, I was too busy celebrating by eating birthday cake with them to write that week.
Until next time….

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The happy farmer's away....so the animals come out to play....

It’s a sure sign the happy farmer is away on the mainland, word must have got out, and so those cheeky animals have all taken it upon themselves to play up, again!
It started with a phone call in the ‘wee small’ hours, a message to inform me that Muffin, the cheeky pony, was out of ‘barracks’, and patrolling the farm, munching away on the grass beside the single track road. The thought of going our into the very wet, pitch dark night armed with a torch for a search light and a bucket as incentive, did not appeal, that coupled with the fact that I am scared of horses, and Muffin, who refuses to abide by the pony club manual, would almost certainly refuse to play ball and be caught by me, so I opted for the easier option of ‘phone a friend. The sleepy happy farmer’s reassurance put my mind at rest, he reminded me that there would be no traffic on the little single track road at that time of night, that Muffin would not stray too far, and that most importantly I hadn’t a hell’s chance of catching the little ‘B’, coupled with the fact that if I did, he was sure to stray once more. So a fitful night of half sleep and pony nightmares ensued, as I was woken by every tiny sound that echoed round the farmhouse.
This morning Muffin was highly visible. He was stood at the shed doors, chomping his way through the soaking sugar beet, looking as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. He will stay around there until teenage daughter arrives home off the afternoon ferry. He will happily do anything for her, and will immediately go home to barracks ‘without passing go’ once she gets hold of him.
Poor Muffin, his troubles started yesterday, I could hear him frantically neighing and galloping around the fields, all alone, and quite bothered. Initially I worried something must be up with Hansel, his companion, as the two are inseparable usually. Kitted out in ‘all weather gear’, I braved the lashing wind and rain, and made my way out the hill to check on the other horse. With the Happy farmer away on the mainland, somewhat unwillingly, my ‘farming duties’ had commenced. I was very relieved then to see Hansel in the far corner, by the burn, happily grazing away at the grass, and could see why Muffin was also making such a scene. It was pure, ‘unbridled’ jealousy. In the neighbouring field was another pony, stood next to Hansel, with only a fence between them. Muffin was galloping and neighing at the other end of the field, trying desperately to catch Hansel’s attention and coax him away from his new playmate, but to no avail. Today, Muffin was teaching Hansel a lesson, Hansel stood by the gate watching longingly as his ‘pal’ Muffin filled his belly full of hay and sugar beet.
Later on as I drove son to the bus stop, we saw one lone, ‘protesting’ sheep. Well, at least we decided she must be on a protest of sorts; probably about the speed the traffic races at  along the main road. That feisty old girl was insistent on toddling along the white lines up the middle of the road, stopping every now and again, and flatly refusing to budge for any passing traffic. I couldn’t see her markings at such a distance, so am unsure if she was one of our clan. Luckily the drivers here are very used to meandering livestock on the roads; it is part of island life.
Until next time…..