Sunday Morning Mayhem

It was self-service at Persabus on Sunday morning. With no guests requiring one of the Happy Farmer’s delicious cooked breakfasts he made the terrible mistake of opting for a lie in. Lie in and farming are not words that ever go together. It would have been seen as an absolute sin in bygone eras. Farmers are expected to be up bright and breezy at the crack of dawn, just as the cockerel is bursting into a Sunday morning ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’, at the very first glimmer of first light. Luckily after years of nagging on my part, and having come from a very long line of farmers throughout the generations, the Happy Farmer is wise enough to know that the farm will survive for many years longer than he ever will. He has always opted to try and get a healthy balance of work, rest and play, or maybe play, work and rest. With no guests on Sunday then and having celebrated his team’s exciting rugby performance on Saturday into the wee small hours, it was a good reason for a long lie in and a late breakfast. A time to really savour and enjoy sizzling bacon and eggs, potato scones, black pudding, sausages and hot buttery toast, and all served on a lovely hot plate. Just the breakfast to set you up for the day.

Lie ins and late breakfasts for the Happy Farmer do not however go down well with the rest of the residents on the farm. Muffin the pony was most disapproving.  I met him cheekily sashaying his way across the farm to the shed. Here he duly stuck his head into the bucket of sugar beet which had been soaked overnight. He was more than delighted to see that what was on offer was not just a scoop of sugar beet, his usual rations, but a whole huge tub of sugar beet. It was just waiting at the ready for his snout to muzzle into. He greedily guzzled away whilst I ran for help from the Happy Farmer. A bucket at the ready and Muffin was gently coaxed away from the shed and taken back to barracks. Hansel the horse could be heard neighing away impatiently from the other side of the fence, waiting for his friend to return with the farmer and his breakfast. Hansel is not as keen to go skipping away from his field, unlike Muffin who is far cheekier and more inquisitive. The horses fed and the rounds continued. The Happy Farmer could then be seen zooming across the fields with a whole flock of sheep in his wake, and tups racing in a line behind the quad bike. At the very end of the line was Markus the bull, who, despite his cumbersome size, was even managing to break into a trot, such was his delight that breakfast was finally being served.

Later as the dogs and I returned from our run across the farm we were met with eldest’s flock of Hebridean sheep gathered at the front of the farmhouse, happily munching their way through the garden. One glance at the dogs and they decided the grass wasn’t so tasty there after all. They took the option to make a run for it. By the time I had put the dogs in, those ladies had managed a complete disappearing act. The Happy Farmer and Hughie taxi meanwhile could be seen happily chatting away beside the bales of silage in the front field, all gates left open, oblivious to the whereabouts of the escapees. The Happy Farmer always has time for a blether and Hughie always has lots to blether about. Those sheep then were determined not to miss out on such an exciting opportunity. An open gate and they decided to take themselves off on a wee sightseeing tour of the farm. Hughie gone and the Happy Farmer eventually managed to track those sheep down. A little coaxing with the ‘magic bucket’  and a few shouts of ‘ladies’, eldest has trained them well, and the Happy Farmer was seen leading them skipping back in a neat little line along the single track road to their field once more.

There are so many characters and personalities on the farm at Persabus. Ruby the dog never misses an opportunity to form part of the Persabus ‘welcoming committee’ along with the three cats. The first sign of a new arrival and, given the chance Ruby, our black flatcoated retriever, will be seen wriggling and squirming her way across the yard, tail wagging away at speed. She then launches herself onto her belly at the feet of our unsuspecting guests, a huge smile on her face.

Over the years we have had the privilege of getting to know our lovely animals and they have had the pleasure of keeping us on our toes. From Marmite the highland cow, who used to pirouette over the cattle grid and take a wander down to help mow the grass outside the pottery, later teaching her calf to follow in her footsteps. Charlie chicken who was one of the family and thought of herself as anything other than a hen. Living to a ripe old age she used to sleep with the sheepdog, Mist, in her kennel. In the mornings, hen and dog could be seen sat patiently at the French windows, watching the entertainment of the Happy Farmer making breakfast. Charlie would often join us for morning coffee at the front of the farmhouse. She would perch next to the Happy Farmer on the arm of the bench, clucking merrily away and she would then sneak into the farmhouse at every and any opportunity. Which with young children at home was often. There have been several horses, numerous pet lambs, calves and not forgetting Sheba and Twinkle the pet goats. So many stories.

Until next time…

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Islay’s Farming Life

The Happy Farmer has had to have a very serious word with the ‘ladies’ on the farm. This morning on his daily feeding rounds they gave him great cause for concern.

We had been away for a weekend of mainland living. Shops, restaurants and rugby. As we left the city behind, the calm grey landscapes faded into the distance and we headed into sleet and snow storms. The journey up and over the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ was picturesque. Mountains were covered in a thick blanket of snow. Fortunately the roads remained clear. By the time we reached the ferry at Kennacraig the winds had dropped and it was a calm evening crossing home to Islay.

The morning brought huge blue skies and sunshine. The Paps of Jura were covered in a peppering of snow. On his morning feeding rounds then the Happy Farmer was met with a ‘surprise’. During the night the first Persabus spring lamb had made an appearance. It is an early appearance. A good two whole weeks early to be precise. With storms forecast and ferry sailings cancelled the Happy Farmer is hoping those sheep heed his ‘warning’ and one lamb does not escalate into a full blown explosion in the ‘Persabus maternity wing’ of the fields across the farm. You always know when lambing is imminent. The weather seems to take a nose dive. The teasing warmth of a few spring days gives way to hail storms and bitterly cold winds. The sheep have perfect timing, and the Happy Farmer has a huge job in front of him, as the lambing season commences.

The full lambing kit is packed at the ready on the back of the quad bike. Stomach tubes are all disinfected and available to provide necessary colostrum feeds to any weak lambs who haven’t managed to suckle. Glucose injections are in the kit for the fragile ones who are struggling on their legs. Lambing gloves and a spray can of keel are always handy as the Happy Farmer will be busy in the ‘delivery ward’ helping with the awkward births, which by the end of the lambing season can add up to quite a few. Keel is used to mark and number lambs and their mothers. This allows for easy identification in the ‘nursery wing’ when the Happy Farmer is faced with twenty or so lambs skipping at his heels. Most return to their mothers when the sheep call out but there are always one or two that appear ‘motherless’. A sheep with a lambing glove tied in a neat bow on her horn means she is requiring an extra watchful eye from the Happy Farmer on his rounds. The trailer will be attached to the back of the quad bike, so the Happy Farmer can play onsite paramedic with his  ‘ambulance’ at the ready, to quickly and safely transport any sheep and lambs to the ‘intensive nursing wards’ of the fank if necessary.

The Happy Farmer is keeping his fingers crossed and did pop into his ‘chat’ with the ladies that there are to be no orphaned or ‘pet’ lambs. Luckily the rest of the Persabus clan have always been more than happy to help raise young orphaned lambs. Over the years we have had some crackers, all fondly remembered. Rudolph was eldest’s first pet lamb. He survived to a ripe old age. In his latter years he could be seen, resembling a donkey, arthritic but happy, hobbling around the fields, not to be mistaken for the Happy Farmer. We had Frizzle and Lucy, who were raised by youngest into fine sheep. As mothers they always struggled at lambing time. They would chose the same bit of hill to give birth to their lambs and would then patiently wait, in labour, each year for the Happy Farmer to come by and give the necessary helping hand. They were very good mothers. Fondly remembered are Sir Roger, Meh Meh, Snowdrop and Mint, to name but a few. Some did not survive, but rest assured, in their short lives they were fought over, loved and cared for from dawn until dusk. They were taken in as one of the family by the younger members of the clan and given full funeral and burial rights at the end of their lives as each ‘passing’ always brought floods of tears, and that was just the Happy Farmer!

I am sure the kids will be all heading home over the next few weeks to lend a hand. Eldest will be making sure her flock of Hebridean sheep get the best possible care and attention as she welcomes more babies into the fold.

Until next time…

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Islay living at its very Best

Sometimes there is nothing better than curling up in front of a roaring fire whilst the wind whips up and whistles outside as a storm is brewing. The cats have all crawled into the snuggest little spots. The dogs are curled up and snoring gently in the background. Everyone is enjoying the warmth of the farmhouse as the flames flicker and dance in the fireplace.

Indoor painting projects are almost complete. Everything on the farm is positively gleaming, looking bright and refreshed. Even the Happy Farmer has had a spring in his step. I have been banned from the pottery as he has remained ‘holed up’ in there, working away. Interior walls have been sealed and recoated. The floor is bright and glossy with several layers of fresh paint. Slates have been fixed on the roof and guttering finally sorted. Sorry to disappoint. We unfortunately will no longer be offering cold showers, via a leaky gutter, as you exit the pottery this summer.

It really was a team effort at Persabus. Even Ruby dog, at one point, appeared ‘gleaming’, with a lovely shade of magnolia down the right side of her coat. Thankfully it was nothing a good roll in the wet grass couldn’t fix.

With family home everyone has made the most of the lovely sunshine. Eldest has been out riding along the farm tracks and through the fields. Reunited with her furry friends. Long walks out across the headland and strolls along the beaches have been the order of the day. The roar of the Atlantic, on a spring day, with the whole beach to yourselves is Islay living at its best. The dogs have enjoyed having the freedom to run and roll along the vast expanses of sand. At the rock pools there was time for a quick dip. The water, bitingly cold, but equally refreshing.

In the evenings hearty chicken pies, lasagnes and cheesy bakes have been flowing from the ovens. After a day out walking and exploring, the cold dark nights call for comfort food, candles and a seat at the fireside. In Persabus Cottage the oven of the oil fired Rayburn is perfect for leaving casseroles and joints bubbling away in, whilst you enjoy the freedom of a day’s adventure. The longer the soups, casseroles and joints simmer in that oven, the tastier and more succulent they seem to be.

The Happy Farmer is away to ‘play’ this weekend. When he heard eldest was heading back to the city via  Oban’s Royal Rumpus Music Festival he felt it was too good an opportunity to miss. A bit of persuasion and he somehow managed to wheedle his way into accompanying her on the journey to Oban for a weekend of ceilidhs, laughter and fun. With storms brewing and our son home for a few days the Persabus fireside and a good book was on the agenda for me. Cosy warmth, with the Persabus cats and dogs curled up beside me. Happy days.

Until next time…

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Islay Blog: 50 Shades of Magnolia

At Persabus Farm we pride ourselves on offering a warm Islay welcome. This week it has been a bit of a chaotic, haphazard kind of an ‘Islay welcome’.

I have had a career change. It’s that time of year again. A window between guests and I have been working away as painter and decorator. Painting walls, not pots, and so many walls. Windowsills, doorways, kitchens, bathrooms, nothing has evaded my paint brush, including myself.

If you were lucky enough to call by at the pottery this week you may have noticed my ‘camouflage’. My face, hands and clothes all blended into whatever wall I happened to be painting. What started as a ‘touch up job’ morphed into an epic painting project. I always plan to do less. Who knew there were 50 shades of Magnolia? I have spent the last week painting every inch of our cottages, as I seem to do each year.

I was on a ‘promise’ from the Happy Farmer too. It was to be a ‘joint’ effort. We were going to tackle redecorating the properties together. And then he appeared, like an apparition, through the mist (it wasn’t misty, but a bit of highland mist always adds to the atmosphere). At first you could hear him, warming up his vocal chords, and then there he was, out of the woodwork, at the farmhouse door. ‘The Singing Shepherd’ and his two faithful pups. His timing was perfect. Just as we were about to get down to the serious business of painting the Happy Farmer got called away on important farm duties. A planned ‘get out of painting quick’ scheme.

From the cottage where I was toiling, the Happy Farmer could be seen doing his ‘happy sheep dance’ in the fank.  Those Persabus girls all gathered in for some ‘pampering’. Dosed and ‘heels manicured and clipped’ the Happy Farmer could then be seen doing the Highland Fling with the Highland cows. They had handily been gathered at the fence, in the ‘spectator gallery’, with their noses bothering them. They were enjoying the entertainment, watching proceedings in the fank, as the sheep got dosed. I can see where the phrase ‘nosey cow’ comes from. The Highland cows then got their seasonal ‘dosing’ too.

When the animals were happily back in their fields, I went to see what the Happy Farmer was up to. He was busy in the pottery. I was met with a scene of utter chaos. My lovely studio had been turned upside down. Pots were precariously balanced on over turned tables. Shelves lay on the floor. Stood in the middle of all the chaos was the Happy Farmer. He was smiling and chatting away to a group of people, who were stood clasping boxes of pottery between their hands. The walls may have been wet with paint, but a studio ‘make over’ did not get in the way of the Happy Farmer offering a warm welcome to visitors from the States. Pottery sales have continued throughout the week regardless of the Happy Farmer’s precarious displays, as shelves have been emptied and furniture and pottery rearranged into an obstacle course, in order to paint floors and walls.

On a happy note the daffodils the Happy Farmer planted along the roadside have come into bloom. Lighting up the single-track road to Persabus. He planted them for me over fifteen years ago. He might tell you otherwise but luckily it is me who writes the blog. They are the first signs of spring. Their bright colour offering a warm welcome to anyone driving up to the farm and beyond.

At Persabus there is always a warm welcome on offer. We look forward to your visit soon.

Until next time…

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Islay Blog: Valentine’s Day

The Hebrides have a certain ‘pull’. A uniqueness and energy that is both powerful and special. The wild and rugged landscape coupled with the friendly hospitality of the people and strong community spirit make these islands very special indeed.  

Our guests on the farm and visitors to the pottery are always intrigued as to how I came to live on Islay. Hold tight, it’s Valentine’s Day. Today’s blog is a happy, romantic tale.

It begins at the north tip of the Isle of Jura, where the force of the tides meet in the narrow strait between Jura and Scarba. Here is the dramatic Corryvreckan whirlpool. It is the world’s third largest whirlpool.

A visit to the Corryvreckan whirlpool was on my bucket list since I first heard of it as a young seven-year-old. My opportunity came when years later, whilst studying in London, I heard my brother and a group of friends were planning a ‘backpacking’ holiday, walking from Feolin to the north of Jura. I suddenly found myself with walking boots and a very heavy backpack up in Scotland and on the ferry heading for Jura.

After a few days of walking we reached the gulf of the Corryvreckan on a calm, sunny, evening. I sat on a bed of heather, looking out across the eddies of the whirlpool, with an army of deer ticks making their way up my walking socks. After the ‘concrete jungle’ of London, having sat on Hampstead Heath only a week before, looking at the chimney pots stretching for miles across the horizon, the views out across the sea to Scarba and the Garvellach islands were breath taking. It was such a sharp contrast, coming from a crowded city to such a huge open expanse. The wild, natural and rugged openess of the landscape of Jura is something I will never forget. The sheer beauty of this unspoilt land pulled me back for several more walking and camping adventures. Memories of sitting watching the Corryvreckan from my ‘heather bed’ later inspired my ‘Corryvreckan range’ of Persabus pottery.

Over the next couple of years, I spent several holidays backpacking around the Isle of Jura. The nearest croft was often a good couple of days walk away. The north west coastline is both remote and wild. The ground is so rough it can be quite a challenge to even find a spot to pitch a tent. It is a magical land though, with huge caves, ideal for an open fire and a dram before crawling into your sleeping bag for a night’s sleep. Sleep comes easily as every muscle in your body is aching with exhaustion from carrying a heavy backpack through the rough terrain. A group of seals would accompany us on our expeditions, curiously following our every move from the sea. The deer kept a watchful eye from a far, tracking each day’s progress. Mountain goats roamed freely on the hills. We had to pick our way carefully along the raised beaches, treading with caution, as the birds nest freely in the wild, boggy ground around the shoreline.

On one such trip from London to Jura we had booked the local bus to drop us at the end of the road so we could begin our walking expedition. However, there was a last-minute change of plan. We had learnt on the ferry over that there was to be a ceilidh that evening in the village hall to celebrate the Jura Fells race. The Jura Fells Race is an annual event; people arrive on the island from all over to run up the Paps of Jura. We didn’t really make plans to go to the ceilidh, but the islanders ferried us there and would not take no for an answer. With our tent pitched, we headed to the Jura Hotel and found ourselves in the middle of a huge gathering. The island was buzzing. Runners were arriving back from the race. There were campers everywhere. The bar spilled out onto the single-track road with a carnival atmosphere. The yachts moored in the bay, had their tenders filled, ferrying people across to the village. We popped to get food, and then the Happy Farmer made his appearance in true ‘Happy Farmer style’. Without an introduction, one minute I was stood waiting on a drink, the next my feet were swept from under me when, within no time at all, the Happy Farmer had grabbed me by the knees, ‘wheeked’ me over his shoulder and made for a quick getaway.

That was my introduction to the man I have spent the last thirty years of my life with. I did of course take a lot more convincing, but an evening of being swirled around the dance floor at a traditional ceilidh was a very good start.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Until next time…

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Islay Blog: Old Sandy Wilson

A huge winter sun has been beaming in the sky over the past week. A snowy landscape. The most colourful of sunrises. Such a welcome start to each day. Then at sunset, pink and purple hues tinge the hills as the sun fades away into the winter skies. Dusk quickly gives way to darkness and the ethereal dancing light shows begin. The night skies are lit up and we are treated to the amazing delights of the Aurora Borealis. We have been truly spoilt. Our American guests were not disappointed and have left with promises to return again to our island shores very soon.

It has been bitterly cold. Calling for lots of extra layers. Wrapped up with cosy scarves, hats and gloves we have been out and about enjoying exploring the hills and deserted beaches. Walking along the coastline from Bunnahabhain towards Rhuvaal was incredibly boggy. We got caught in the heaviest downpour, but those colours and views made it all worthwhile. Home to a hearty casserole and the warmth of the farmhouse envelopes you. Rosy cheeks and tingling toes are what an island winter is all about.

My winter ‘adventures’ have been inspiring my work in the pottery. New ranges have been emerging as the colourful landscape feeds creativity. The ‘Winter Sound’ and ‘Ocean Swirls’ ranges are based on the colours and energy of Islay’s winter seascape. Flowers have been blooming in the pottery too. With the promise of spring just around the corner, the ‘Persabus Fuchsia’ and the ‘Jessie May Bluebells’ ranges have evolved, inspired by the beautiful blooms we will be treated to as the winter months give way to an island spring. The farmland and woodland will soon be carpeted in a sea of blue when the bluebells come into bloom. The hardy fuchsia bushes that line the hedgerows of the farm were planted by the Happy Farmer’s late grandmother and provide colourful blooms all spring and summer long.

On the farm the animals have all needed extra supplies in the cold weather. The Happy Farmer has been out and about leaving extra helpings of cake, sugar beet and silage to make sure they all have plenty of feed to keep them strong in the harsh wintry conditions. Troughs of fresh water have been delivered to the various fields as the burn had frozen over in the icy weather. Horses hooves have been picked and coated with Vaseline to help prevent them becoming impacted with snow.

With daylight hours stretching I have had time to enjoy extra dog walks out the hill, along the farm track, after the pottery has closed for the day.

The track leads you out to Laoigan. Out to the ruins of old Sandy’s ‘but and ben’. Sandy and his ‘wee dug’ Queenie, were part of the Happy Farmer’s childhood. Sandy was born on Persabus and spent his life on Persabus, apart from when he was away fighting in the war, having joined the Royal Navy at fourteen. I am always in awe of the story of Sandys’ mother giving birth to him behind a corn stack in the front field on the farm. She had been out helping as they were ‘stooking’ the corn. Having given birth she headed home over the hill, with her new born baby, and was out at Finlaggan peat moss later that afternoon filling her basket of peat for the fire. How times have changed.

The small but and ben out at Laoigan was built for Sandy’s family after one of Sandy’s forebears had saved the life of dignitary in the Battle of Corunna. A small house was built years later for Sandy’s family as a thank you gift. The house was called Corunna Cottage, after the battle of Corunna. Today all that remains are the four walls and the old fireplace. The Happy Farmer’s brother and friend picked and pointed the walls of the ‘but and ben’ with cement to preserve them. A burn trickles past, which would have been their water source, and the old road, now overgrown, runs past at the front.

A little further away and we come to the old ruins of what was once a school on the farm. Heaps of rock and stone, you can still make out the rooms, but as old walls gradually collapse into the ground, nature is reclaiming the landscape once more. In the stillness and quiet of dusk it is hard to believe a whole community of people lived and worked out on these hills in days gone by. Just mounds of old slabs of stone and rock remain, as with the passing of time, the walls have crumbled.

Until next time….

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Islay blog: The Persabus Haggis Hunt

It was not a mission for the faint hearted. The Haggis hunting season is here. With Burns night upon us the Happy Farmer has been out on the seasonal Persabus Haggis hunt.

It began with ‘pre-hunt refreshments’ in the new Persabus stable for the Happy Farmer and his small cohort from the farming contingent, all eager to get their hands on a prized Persabus Haggis. Now no Persabus blog would be complete without an appearance from the Persabus Aga. Late last night trays of mini Highland beef pies came bubbling out from the top shelf to feed the assembled hunters, all washed down with a ‘wee snifter’ of the Happy Farmer’s bramble whisky, before the hunt began in earnest.

The first hurdle was the electric fence, which to circumnavigate in the darkness, with some ever so slightly ‘tippled’ farmers proved a bit of an obstacle. Not every farmer has been blessed with the mighty long legs of the Happy Farmer or indeed the Handsome Young Farmer. Some of the party are even beginning to get ever so slightly ‘clickety clackety’ in the gait, and with wee legs to boot, well a sharp tweak in the ‘oxters’ is not a happy thought and could have brought a swift halt to proceedings. Luckily the Handsome Farmer and the Happy Farmer stepped in and with good old fashioned ‘coalie backs’ hoisted the lesser legged members of the contingent over the fence and they were off. Stumbling across peatland and bog land hoping to get a glimpse of the evasive Persabus Haggis. The jaunt up the hill did not come without its trials. One farmer got bogged. Another tripped and slid into the burn. Luckily a bottle of the island’s ‘amber nectar’ provided a much-needed source of medicine to persuade the party to continue in their efforts. Out on the hill in the dead of night it can be an eerie place. Stumbling among the old ruins of days gone by. The farmers nearly jumped out of their skin, and almost spilt their bottle of whisky, when, low and behold, the milkman, who had been hiding behind the trig point, jumped out on them, just like the full moon, lighting their path.

In the distance they spied torch light. Poachers? It was distillery staff from Islay’s south island distilleries. They were also out and about searching for the prized Persabus Haggis. You see the haggis at Persabus are among Islay’s best. Known for their sweet, succulent flavour. Helped by the fact that, if rumours are to be believed, they are fed a daily dram from Caol ila Distillery. The Persabus Haggis are already rumoured to be more than excited by the prospect of the generosity of the new Ardnahoe Distillery.

The party returned in the wee small hours. Their bravery rewarded. Haggis in hand.

Much to the Happy Farmer’s dismay, with our daughters arriving home today, the Persabus Burns supper is going to be chicken pie. Reluctantly the Happy Farmer has had to let his haggis go. We watched as he ran gleefully squealing back up the hill, the Happy Farmer that is, not the Haggis.

At this point I must inform you that some of the characters in this blog and a ‘tad’ of the content is purely fictitious, mixed in with a wee dash of Persabus humour. This just leaves me to wish you and yours a hearty happy burns night from all of us at Persabus.

Until next time…

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Islay blog: The New Accommodation Wing

The new  suite at Persabus has gained the approval of our resident guests. The latest addition to the Happy Farmer’s portfolio of accommodation is already in high demand. He was made aware of its comfort when the residents almost missed their breakfast. They were so happy enjoying the new complex. It is proving quite difficult to coax them out and about in the mornings.

The other day the Happy Farmer could not spy them anywhere. He thought they must be out at the hill gate enjoying the spectacular sunrise. However there was no sign of them at the gate. When he went to collect the feed buckets, there they were. Hansel, the horse, had his head casually peeping out of the stable door. Muffin, eldest’s pony, was positively ‘grinning’ behind him. Having been at first ever so cautious of their new stable those horses are now happily enjoying having it at their disposal. Entering it as and when they please. The Happy Farmer was much relieved to see them there and quite chuffed that they so obviously approve of his latest handiwork.

It is not just the horses who have been enjoying the accommodation on offer at Persabus. Over the past couple of weeks we have welcomed several parties of guests to the farmhouse bed and breakfast suite. Couples taking ‘time out’. Enjoying exploring all that the island has to offer at this quieter time of year. The weather has been incredibly mild, with beautiful sunrises, huge skies and gorgeous cloud formations. The ever changing emotions of the winter skies lead to a spectacular colour show. Beautiful weather has allowed for plenty of long walks with the dogs. Through the fields and woods and along the beaches. Just the tonic after the busy festivities. At this time of year, on Islay, you really can have a whole beach to yourself. If you don’t count the seals, the oystercatchers, the gulls and otters, who are never far away, and much more likely to be out to ‘play’ at this quieter time of the year.

The days are short. Allowing for plenty of time to cosy down in front of the log fire. A fine dram and a  good book in hand. Time for reminiscing about a day well spent exploring the island. With the distilleries all open again and the local Hotels serving warming local winter produce, our guests have certainly been enjoying their ‘Islay time’.

In the pottery it is a time to ‘play’. New designs are starting to flow and there is time to dabble with painting not just with underglazes but with watercolours and acrylics too.

On the farm the animals have all been enjoying the milder climes. Feeding duties continue and the Happy Farmer’s ‘winter projects’ are beginning to formulate from plans into action as the buildings are ‘refreshed’ and ‘renewed’.

 It is good to see the horses enjoying their new shelter. A shelter which, when eldest daughter is involved, comes complete with colourful LED fairy lights. This leads me to think, as the weather gets warmer and the seasons change,  it will be doubling up as more than a stable.

Until next time…

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Islay blog: The Persabus Breakfast Kitchen

The ‘Persabus Breakfast Kitchen’ has been working overtime. It started last month. Having just finished clearing away the guests’ dishes, we were sat enjoying a morning coffee when a car rolled into the yard. Out stepped a couple and when the Happy Farmer went out to greet them he found they were from Germany and were calling by looking for ‘breakfast’. The Happy Farmer was quite entertained. In no time at all the Aga was reloaded with bacon, sausages and black pudding. Eggs and potato scones frying gently on top. A cafetière of freshly ground coffee and a hearty Persabus welcome was served up.

A few days later and another party of six people, this time all the way from Singapore, arrived at the farm and were also looking for a hearty ‘Happy Farmer breakfast’. The breakfast ritual is nothing new to Persabus. Cooked breakfasts in farmhouse kitchens are an important part of the morning and there’s always plenty for any visitors who happen to be passing by. When the Happy Farmer was a youngster the kitchen was often filled with farmers calling in. Tractors would be parked with trailers full of draff from the distillery.  An important source of feed for the livestock. Before they knew it , the farmers would be sat in the farmhouse kitchen with a cup of tea, and a cooked breakfast would appear in front of them, on the table.

The Happy Farmer would of course get the same welcome from many a farm. Esknish, Blackrock and Octomore Farms always had a hearty breakfast on the go. Old Hughie and Baldie at Ardnahoe Farm, along the road, had a huge frying pan at the ready. Calling by, in my early days at the farm, I would have to duck as I entered the Ardnahoe farmhouse kitchen. A line of mackerel would be hanging across the room drying, before being carefully stored away. The frying pan, thick with lard, had the bacon and eggs cooked in no time. We would sit at the kitchen table as Hughie chatted away, tea, toast and jam at the ready. It was a sociable time. A time for a ‘blether’, as Fraoch, the playful Jack Russell, ran around your ankles, looking for any crumbs or bits that might ‘happen’ upon the floor.

Hughie would often bring Fraoch on his visits to Persabus. On one such occasion I was busy serving up coleslaw with cheese and jacket potato. Hughie wasn’t impressed, but the Happy Farmer insisted he stay for lunch and try some of my coleslaw. All I can remember is Hughie gingerly placing the coleslaw in his mouth, pulling some very interesting faces, muttering about it having a ‘foreign name’, before placing the whole plate on the floor to get a second opinion and Fraoch’s seal of approval. Hughie was beyond delighted when Fraoch eagerly jumped at the plate, sniffed around and then pushed the plate away with his nose without even tasting a drop. This ‘galvanised’ Hughie’s opinion of coleslaw. It seems even Fraoch didn’t like coleslaw, or maybe it was just my cooking.

Until next time…

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Islay blog: The last of the Revellers.

We waved goodbye to the last of the Hogmanay revellers this morning. Sailing away on the ferry following a fast paced, traditional Scottish Hogmanay at Persabus. There were 20 of us celebrating, with a kilt clad Happy Farmer. Roast venison and a gammon joint. We managed a short visit to Ballygrant Inn prior to midnight. A taxi home for the ‘bells’, we welcomed in the New Year with some fine Islay malt whiskies, glasses of fizz, Islay and Lussa gin cocktails and the Happy Farmer’s own sloe gin and Bramble whisky. What a choice the island provides for such ‘toasts’. Hogmanay fireworks followed. Rugs were rolled away to allow for dancing into the ‘wee small hours’. A traditional ceilidh and a huge Persabus welcome to the first footers that called by.

The Happy Farmer has been suffering somewhat since. He has a couple of cracked ribs. There seem to be two conflicting versions of events as to how this came to be. The Happy Farmer’s recollection of events seems to involve a heavy bag of feed, a fence and some animals. The other version, a far spicier tale, involves a rug, an accordion player, and a whisky glass. Whichever version of events is true it is fair to say a good time was had by all.

As each year draws to a close, I always find myself wanting to hold onto the very ‘scrapings’ of the last few days. As midnight approaches on Hogmanay and the bells chime another chapter closes and the past year slips into the archives of the history books. At the turn of the year, it always feels time has slipped by in the blink of an eye. Where did that last year go?

2018 at Persabus was a busy, lovely time. The cruel, cold harsh depths of the beast from the east gave way to a springtime of endless days of sunshine and warmth, allowing for lots of lovely beach walks, wild swims, horse riding along the farm tracks and up the hills and barbecues and picnics. As the geese migrated once again, we welcomed back a whole host of birds from the skylarks, swallows and goldfinches to the beautiful echoes of the cuckoo flexing muscles among the avian population and signalling the beginnings of new life on the farm as lambs and calves skipped about the fields.

We have been lucky enough to welcome some remarkable guests to the farm and made many new friends along the way.

As 2018 slipped away I can look back over a mountain of memories, captured in thoughts, photographs, paintings and words. As 2019 begins the weather has been beautiful, allowing for lots of walks in the fresh air, with big hearty family dinners lasting long into the evenings. The festivities really are a time to catch up. A time for friends, family and fun. As 2019 kicks off I am looking forward to the Happy Farmer continuing to guide me on his happy dance through the year ahead.

Until next time….

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