Space and Time

It felt as if the world had stopped spinning when lockdown came

A mad race to get everyone safely home and suddenly everything seemed to stop. We disappeared into a bubble of family life on the farm and got a chance to really step back and appreciate everything around us.

From my very first trip to the farm,

when I had only just met the Happy Farmer, quite a number of years ago now, I was struck by the huge warmth of hospitality, the friendliness and kind hearted good humour that just encompassed me at Persabus.

The farm has such a long history in the Fletcher family and has always been a magnet for parties and gatherings. Memories of the huge pans of soup, pasta, casseroles, and stews on the go of yesteryear. Scones and home baking would flow from the oven as people came and went, family and friends, there was always a welcome, plenty of laughter and fun, and never a shortage of beds. That welcome, that hospitality, those happy times of friendship, and good craic, with food and drink flowing, making for very happy memories.

It has become a tradition that we have happily continued and prided ourselves on at Persabus.

It was just such a natural progression then, for the Happy Farmer and I to extend that welcome beyond family and friends as we began to welcome visitors and guests to our home.

Originally, we started out with self-catering lets in Persabus Cottage. Much building work later and we were soon welcoming the world, not only to the Cottage, but to enjoy Persabus Millhouse and then our Farmhouse accommodation suite. Our welcome spilling over into the pottery as more and more people called by, more and more lasting friendships were made, more happy days and evenings spent enjoying meeting so many people from so many varied backgrounds and lives, each with their own fascinating contributions and stories.

Back in the day my late father in law learnt so much of Islay’s history and his people from sitting as a young boy, at the fireplace with his old uncles who lived in Persabus Cottage.

Latterly with so many people travelling to spend time on Islay and holiday with us at Persabus, we have wined, dined, danced, and laughed our way through lots of happy gatherings and quiet evenings with some truly amazing people. People we have been lucky enough to share our island home with.

So, when the world seemed to stop, we missed the friendship, the buzz and energy of our lovely guests and visitors. We kept in touch, via social media, phone calls, zooms and emails. We kept our fingers and toes crossed and hoped so much that everyone would remain safe.

We also got a real chance to step back. To stop, and really appreciate what makes Persabus such a special place to stay.

The huge beautiful colours of the amazing sunrises of the early spring mornings. The pinks, reds, purples and oranges stretching across the sky line, just above the sea and the hills, as the huge ball of a yellow sun rises slowly up behind the Paps of Jura, spreading her rays across the turquoise waves below.

The dawn chorus and excited frenzy of the birds arriving home to the farm to build their nests, hatch their eggs and nurture their young.

We got to really appreciate the wide-open space of the farm. The views of the sea and hills. The peace and quiet, away from the hum drum of the busy world, a ‘quiet corner’, secluded among spectacular scenery, each day a myriad of different colours. Huge skies and those amazing cloud formations.

The beautiful walks from the farmhouse,

along the tracks through the woodland, past the Lochs. Up to slate bench, which sits high above the Sound of Islay, the perfect viewpoint to watch the ferry sailing down the Sound. The walks down to the pebble beaches. Watching the seals and swans.

Through the fields and down beyond the Distillery at Caol ila, to the remains of the beach houses and fisherman’s huts of bygone days.

The Happy Farmer’s good humour, craic and antics have kept us all going.

Flower beds have been tended to, and we have had time to grow a vegetable garden once again, which is now brimming with tasty treats for the kitchen.

The old barn has been cleared and the pottery workshop is getting a huge make over, which seems to be morphing into the Happy Farmer’s very own man cave, such is his excitement of moving forward in the ‘new normal’. He is already working out his safe distanced ‘socials’ as he looks forward to welcoming his friends back to Persabus once again.

Lockdown has had its highs, but also its lows, as we have had to move through these strange and uncertain times.

We now emerge into the ‘new normal’.

Keeping everyone safe is our absolute priority as we are already moving forward with excited caution, getting ready….to be able to offer you a warm and hearty welcome to come and stay on the farm at Persabus soon.

Stay safe.

Until next time…

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Easing of Lockdown

As we move forward there is supposed to be a gradual easing out of lockdown.

‘Supposed’ as the Islay whisky gods seem to be going against this latest guidance. We have been spoilt with weeks of beautiful sunshine. Just as the Scottish Government gave the go ahead for socially distanced get togethers outdoors at the weekend, the heavens opened and the rain ‘plooped’ down. The skies darkened and those midges came out to play…and the game was a ‘bogey’. Garden gatherings had to be postponed.

Distilleries need water to produce whisky and the flora and fauna need water to grow, so it would be selfish to deny those clouds a bit of a passing flutter on their way by. As blueness began to stretch across the horizon, thankfully the sunshine was on its way.

On morning runs

the fields are a blaze with a carpet of vibrant yellow buttercups and the heavenly scent of clover. The hedgerows are alive with the noisy chatter of the birds, as they swoop in and out of their new shelter belt of leaves and blossoms.

The dogs and I have a daily companion too, in the form of a dive-bombing swallow. The field below the byre where I run has become a nursery for fledgling birds. Flying lessons seem to be the new outdoor activity on offer in the fields of Persabus. The swallow’s mission is to ‘shoo’ me out of the field as quickly as possible, but I simply cannot run any faster. Of course, at this point I must pop a plug in for our ‘Below the Byre’ pottery range, based on autumn runs through this fabulous wilderness, maybe a ‘Summer Below the Byre’ range will be following soon?

The cuckoos’ ‘goodbye echoes’ could be heard across the fields this week. Such is their happy holiday at Persabus they seem to be extending their stay on the farm each spring, arriving a little earlier each year and leaving it to the last possible minute before they head off for distant shores.

On the farm we have been busy carrying out risk assessments

on all our properties and going through the new cleaning guidelines with a ‘fine comb’. Cleaning protocols have been upgraded accordingly, and there is hand sanitiser springing up everywhere, to ensure the safety of all of our lovely future visitors, guests and staff.

Lots of exciting changes have been happening behind the scenes.

Our new online pottery shop is due to go live soon.

Here you will be able to browse your way through our ranges and shop to your heart’s content, with the option to get in touch with any additional orders or commissions as usual.

Do keep an eye on our social media posts for updates’

The pottery studio will be opening shortly, for pottery sales only, and initially we would ask customers to email or phone if they wish to call by and we can arrange a suitable time for a visit.

As we move forward with the ‘new normal’, in the short term we are going to be introducing pottery ‘take aways’, replacing in-house pottery painting workshops. Boxed pottery painting kits will be available to pre order online and collect safely from our showroom. Once painted pieces can be returned to the pottery for glazing and firing. They will then be posted out, or collected a day or so later.

On the farm we have revamped the accommodation options on offer.

Do visit the accommodation pages of our website for more information and get in touch if you have any questions. We are always happy to help and will work with you to tailor make a holiday at Persabus that suits your needs.

At present we are moving forwards with caution, keeping in touch with all our guests and look forward to hopefully welcoming them back later in the season.

At this time, we want to work closely alongside Calmac and Loganair, who have supported us so well during this crisis with their lifeline service. We will await their updates and Scot Gov guidance. We definitely do not want to leave Calmac, in the Happy Farmer’s words, ‘to be the island’s sheep shedder/buffer’. Do head to their website for the latest updates.

We are looking forward to Islay being able to gradually open. It feels such a long time since we began lockdown.

Going forward, based on Scot Gov advice, Calmac and our local community we will hopefully be able to offer you a warm hearty welcome to stay on our beautiful family farm at Persabus soon, in the meantime do get in touch with any questions.

Stay safe.

Until next time…

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The Fire Starter

Two beady eyes were watching us the whole time, jaw constantly chewing away, attitude coming from every angle. This sheep was a real character…maybe the one we evicted from Persabus the other week. The one who arrived with lambs at foot, as an unwelcome guest, and proceeded to head butt the glass door of the cottage, on a recent holiday. Who knows? She looked strangely familiar though and was more than happy peering out at us from the little craggy cave, like a nosey old fish wife, stood on her doorstep watching the goings on of life.

A hike out the north east coast

and it is one of my most favourite coastlines. Huge ragged cliffs full of caves and natural arches, pebble beaches and it is teeming with wildlife. As you enter their world the seals are lolloping about on the rocks; a pair of oystercatchers are wading in the shallow waters of the pebbled beach. Eider ducks bob in the waters. The swans who nest each year on the shoreline now proudly cruise in waves, their young fluffy cygnets in tow, keeping close in behind their mother who leads the way. The proud, protective father following at the back. A large seal bobbing in the water and then there are those cheeky sheep…

The island is gradually awakening from its lockdown

The distilleries along the road from the farm are back in production. Lorries once again cruise up the single-track road to collect the casks and deliver supplies. A passing tractor trundles along heading up for a trailer load of draff to use as animal feed. Today, once again, out on the Sound, there were fishing boats and steamers bobbing along in the seas.

Back at the farm

and the happy farmer is immersed in another of his ongoing projects. The pottery workshop is getting customised and overhauled with the banging and clattering of hammers and crow bars coming from the shed. Old plasterboard is appearing out of the door and across the road there is a ‘wee’ bonfire in an old drum. All the while, behind the scenes, work is quietly going on in the jewellery workshop.

Team Building Projects

Yesterday the Happy Farmer felt the need to include our lovely jeweller in some team building strategies. This particular ‘exercise’ involved his wee bonfire that had somehow managed to involve the dry grass and the surrounding area in its own little team building project. The Happy Farmer was alerted to this bigger bonfire by a passing motorist who skilfully managed to drive through the yard with his head skewed at a 180-degree angle. The Happy Farmer was curious as to what was making for such interesting viewing on the farm. As he looked around the corner of his shed there seemed to be a surprising amount of smoke from his wee bonfire, so much smoke in fact, that he quickly realised his ‘wee bonfire’ was not social distancing as it should have been, and had indeed leapt out of the drum to party with full on flames in the long grass. Buckets of water ten to the dozen, our lovely jeweller as team member, at the water source replenishing the buckets and running a relay, as she handed those buckets over the fence to the Happy Farmer who could be seen performing his stomping fire dance whilst trying ever so hard not to set himself on fire.

I returned from my beach trip to calm

Only later did I discover my omission from the day’s team building exercise at Persabus when I enquired about the scent of smoke surrounding the Happy Farmer.
As lockdown begins to move towards easing the Happy Farmer has been ‘in training’ to grow the fabulous Persabus experience for our future guests and would like to reassure you all that thankfully his latest team building project had excellent results and all of the accommodation at Persabus is still standing.
Please stay home and stay safe as we await further guidance from the Scottish government and Calmac to a time when we can once again welcome you all back to this lovely island.
Until next time….

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Visitors that Bite

The visitors to the farm this week came in their droves. At a time when we are all meant to be following social distance rules. A time when your own personal space is something to be closely guarded and valued.

Our visitors this week took a shining to our very own Happy Farmer, they followed him around, crowding him, and then their fangs came out…

May is a month of bluebells carpeting the woodland, hedgehogs, otters, and deer are out to play interspersed with the echoes of the cuckoo. This May we have enjoyed woodpeckers arriving, the exited chatter and buzz as the birds’ nest, sunny skies, and the promise of summer to come.

As we transition into the month of June, the bluebells fade. The swans can be seen gliding across the loch with their newly hatched young family, and fledgling birds make their first clumsy steps into the world of flying. The very watchful eyes of those farm cats, following their every move, as they skulk about in the long grass. Hunting away quietly. Pouncing on their prey made up of butterflies, lizards, mice, and those baby birds.

On my morning runs our nesting pairs of swallows’ swoop and glide across my path, as the dogs bound through our very own wildflower wilderness. We have counted at least six swallows nests this year in the byre next to the pottery workshop.

Heading into June and the days seem endless, with the sun still casting its shadows across the farm long after we climb into bed. Hours of endless daylight, with spectacular pink skies late into the evenings.

The Happy Farmer continues to enjoy his new role. He seems to be getting quite adept at videoing and recording his way through life on the farm. The videos of last week proved a huge success as we celebrated lockdown birthdays. Afternoon tea of profiteroles, macaroons, salad and sandwiches, all served up on Persabus Pottery, with glasses of fizz in the hot sunshine, and for a moment we can close our eyes to the horrors of the world and escape into the bubble of island life.

So, our visitors to the farm were most unwelcome. Those visitors burst the Happy Farmer’s ‘bubble’. There he was, working diligently on one of his amazing video podcasts. Take ‘52’ I think, as this video was needed by eldest and was to involve farm animals, a quad bike, complete with singer and guitar, all to be filmed out in the open.

Take 1 and the wind played havoc with the hair. Those long blonde tresses, flying up like octopus tendrils, flying high above the head, before curling and spiralling, gathering in a huge blanket across the face, muffling the fine tunes.

Take 2 and the assembled animals, gathered with a bit of coaxing from a bucket of feed, and no amorous bull today, but Hansel horse took a liking to the guitar. With his favourite lady in tune, he could not resist vying for a place in the video. Getting ever so close, he began muzzling the guitar. The instrument seemed to be getting a bit too much attention from his favourite lady, muzzling and then threatening to bite the guitar, and the game was a bogey. Another location minus the animals led to a few more takes.

These takes were interrupted with the additional hum of a grass strimmer, being carried in the wind from the local village, and the odd lorry, passing along the road to the distilleries.

Finally, out on the hill, and the song commenced. The video began. One minute everything was going smoothly, the next our visitors arrived, quite unannounced and the Happy Farmer ‘spat his dummy out of the pram’ as the cloud descended. The almighty Scottish Midges. Fangs poised, they showed no mercy, as they tickled and bit at the Farmer’s flesh as he turned on his heels and fled for cover, a gabble of unrepeatable expletives, flowing forth and all captured perfectly on video. It has led to much guffawing, and brightened up the days no end, as it has been mercilessly played, forwarded, replayed and played again.

I am often questioned by our guests about midges. They tend not to reside at Persabus, just swooping in for the occasional ‘invasion’ when the wind drops, and the weather is damp and sultry. The farm’s  location, uphill from Port Askaig, and out in the open, away from woods, usually there is a gentle breeze which thankfully keeps those midges at bay.

During the island’s whisky festival, these midges make the most of their opportunity and have a plentiful selection of ‘prey’ to get their ‘fangs’ into with so many visitors dotting around the island. This May, those midges must have missed having their bellies filled with whisky. A few bites at the festival and they positively roll off, intoxicated by the alcohol.

Those midges must have been hunting for days until there he was, a prime target, the Happy Farmer, face, arms, and legs all fresh for the picking. Apart from the ankles of course well protected and hidden from view under those notorious socks as he works on his ‘farmer’s tan. A tan which is coming along well, whiter than snow white ankles and feet, a good, clear, ‘tan ring’ marking the sock spot. Not the tastiest target for the midges, but nonetheless, the promise of a good feed and they were on him, tickling and biting away as he fled for the shelter of the farmhouse.

You may be missing our island shores. The beautiful sandy beaches. The woodland filled with wildlife and flowers. The heather clad hills. The roaming deer, otters, and eagles. Rest assured then, our very own wee midges, with just the odd local to feast on, are certainly missing you right now.

Stay safe and we look forward to offering you a warm welcome, minus the midges, when it is safe to travel once more.

Until next time…

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The Persabus Whisky Ambassadors

With the Islay Whisky Festival happening last week, and Persabus being the gateway to the north Islay Distilleries, our very own Brand Ambassadors, were out in force, forming the welcoming party for the north Islay Distilleries. It appears no one thought to tell them that the whisky festival was only happening in a virtual world, online, this year. Completely oblivious to such a world, even though they appear regularly on it, our Highland cows stood patiently, gathered by the gate. Their hair especially coiffed for the occasion, awaiting the arrival of the VIPs from around the world to celebrate Islay’s Festival of Music and Malt.

They missed you all. We missed you all. The only camera clicking away this year came in the form of the Happy Farmer and family clicking away for a special Persabus edition lockdown birthday video. It was a week of sneakily taking snapshot clips and stalking everyone online to participate in the lead up to eldest’s birthday extravaganza. Trying to make the special occasion as exciting and special as you possibly can with lockdown restrictions in place.

The final piece was a fabulous celebration of contributions from her childhood pals, Uni friends, Winnie and Nina from the infamous The Park Bar. Uilly from Peat and Diesel, the boys from Trail West, Martin, from Skerryore, playing a few tunes on his accordion. Big Kenny on Mull, and big Angus from Skippinish, all sending their very best birthday wishes. The film featured clips with some hilarious takes on those ‘lockdown looks’, who knew your hair could resemble matted fleece that even the best sheep would be proud of? And then of course, the ‘Sponge Bob Square Pants’ cartoon spoof featuring the whole Fletcher family, completed with clips from the Handsome Farmer, with his dram of Octomore, and Archie Bread, in between his deliveries. Finally,…there was the Happy Farmer’s contribution….

The Happy Farmer decided that for his part he would like to feature alongside the Persabus Ambassadors, who were still gathered at the roadside. Still waiting for the festival taxis, cyclists, and walkers, still oblivious to the fact that there would be no visitors this year.

The Happy Farmer took along some feed for the assembled throng as they stood, putting on their absolute best pouts. Locks all blow dried and curled loosely from the warm sea breeze, waiting patiently. He clambered ever so carefully over the electric fence. I stood patiently, poised with camera in hand. All was going well. Even Hansel horse trotted up to make an appearance in the birthday video. Just as the Happy Farmer called for ‘action’, and the camera began to roll, it appears the bull, who, in the sunshine must have been feeling ever so slightly amorous in amongst those beautiful ladies, took the Farmer’s words quite literally. That rampant youngster began putting on his best performance too. At this point I could not speak for laughing, as amidst all the excitement, chaos broke out as those highland girls positively danced and sashayed around the Happy Farmer. He skilfully managed to dodge those huge horns and avoid the passionate advances of one Happy bull, managing to climb back over the fence without injury.

In the heat of the afternoon sun, just as the whisky festival is about weaving magic, creating camaraderie and happy memories, know that in your absence, our Persabus Ambassadors partied hard, and next spring will be delighting you with more happy calves to join their committee to welcome you all back.

We hope you enjoyed the virtual festival. You can capture it here. The usual frenetic buzz of energy that fizzes and bubbles across the island at festival time was replaced with a quiet calm as lockdown continues.

Wild storms had ravaged the island in the early part of the week. At the beach, huge waves uprooted a whole jungle of seaweed, transporting and depositing giant sculptures, resembling our very own Persabus Ambassadors, along the shoreline. It appears even the oceans were getting in on the ‘Persabus’ act, before the sun shone brightly again.

We missed you all last week, but know that once this has passed, and it is safe to travel again, a warm welcome will be waiting for you all at Persabus.

Until then stay safe and take care.

Until next time…

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Egg Nomination

Pressure is mounting. The latest lockdown craze for NHS donations involves nominated people filming themselves swallowing a raw egg, a spoonful of sugar and a large dram. The short video clips are then uploaded onto social media with more nominees being presented with the challenge.
On the island the challenge is spreading like wildfire, appealing to the hardy farmers, fishermen and distillery workers. Even the youngsters are participating, with apple juice instead of whisky. I take my hat off to them. Each evening there are more and more videos.
The Handsome Farmer completed his challenge with ease. His egg slipped down quickly and easily. He loves runny eggs, and Bruichladdich whisky. His son struggled terribly, causing much hilarity. He made the grave mistake of opting for a ‘macho’ duck egg. Duck eggs are particularly strong in flavour, with a much larger yolk. This particular duck egg just refused to go down, and, if like me you have an aversion to the very thought of raw egg, it makes for painful viewing.
Some of the clips are just too excruciating to watch. ‘Hardy people’ are reduced to quivering wrecks as they try so very hard to ‘stomach’ a gloopy raw egg.
There are also the ‘confident’ ones. The ones who actually like raw eggs. They have done this before. They delight in causing stomach churning entertainment. These contestants go for the whole egg. Mouths open wide, and in it goes, shell and all, as they wickedly crunch their way through the challenge, a cheesy grin across their face. They relish the challenge, knowing viewers, like me, will be suffering, just watching the proceedings.
I had until now sat comfortable, safe in the knowledge that there was no threat. The Happy Farmer does not ‘do’ social media. He has no Facebook account to his name. However, this week that safety net has been whipped away. Nominations have come flooding in. His friends have ‘ways and means’, and the lack of a Facebook account has not got in the way of a nomination. The Singing Shepherd, Archie Bread and our lovely best man all seem to think that the Happy Farmer would make an excellent contestant.
Pressure is mounting. The Happy Farmer however struggles to eat any kind of runny egg, be it poached, or fried, let alone raw. His eggs must be turned several times in that frying pan until they are completely hard. The very thought of munching through a whole, raw, egg causes much toe curling, stomach churning anxiety. To make matters worse, it would appear even the promise of a hearty dram to wash away the ‘pain’ of the egg is not all it seems. Our best man in his video clip, managed the egg, tried the sugar, but when it got to downing a good dram of Laphroaig, he had to make a sharp exit, as ‘everything ‘threatened to make a ‘come back’. It would appear his Laphroaig whisky was certainly giving him a very ‘peaty slap in the face’.
Today then, those eggs, the ones that were lying comfortably in the basket at the window of the farmhouse, have all chosen this moment to go into hiding. I honestly had nothing to do with it and thank goodness we do not have any breakfast guests just now as there is not an egg to be found. All gone.
The Happy Farmer is now in the ‘eggs-tra’ special position today of the possibility of an Easter egg hunt at Persabus in May, if he is indeed to participate in this challenge. Of course, the reward of such a challenge is the nominations that will follow.
A hearty donation has already been made to the NHS on his behalf. Those teams of nurses, doctors and allied health professionals do so much good work, daily, all year round. In these difficult times we cannot have enough gratitude for all that they are doing across the country to save and protect lives.
Stay safe and take care until our island is once again open for visitors. In the meantime, this week do take the opportunity to visit our online virtual Festival of Music and Malt on Facebook, as the committee, the distilleries and community come together digitally to provide entertainment to help get you through these difficult times.
Until next time….

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Crabbit Tourists

Lockdown did not stop our latest visitors in their mission to enjoy a holiday sampling ‘The Persabus Experience’. Despite the government restrictions tourists arrived at our door looking for suitable accommodation for their brief holiday on the farm.
At Persabus we remain closed for bookings just now, apart from key workers. We will not be accepting new bookings for this season until the Government restrictions have been lifted. Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries are only operating an essential lifeline service. Tourists and visitors are strictly prohibited from travelling on the ferries just now. The Islay whisky Festival is only happening in a virtual world this year and with the Distillery shops closed, Festival Bottles of whisky can only be purchased online.
However, our latest holiday makers managed to evade all lockdown measures. They did not come by ferry. This family travelled over to Persabus from another part of the island.
I was horrified, when the Happy Farmer announced that the ‘holiday makers from hell’ had arrived, referring to our new guests as one ‘Crabbit Family’. I have never known the Happy Farmer to give guests a nickname in the past, but I must admit at this point, that the nickname given was very apt as it turns out. This family elevated the words ‘ungrateful and rude’ to a whole new level. No amount of discussion, compromise or good will on our part could temper their stubborn attitude.
For starters, Mrs Crabbit and her two children arrived at Persabus at a most inappropriate time. A time when the whole world has come near enough to a standstill to try and stop the spread of Covid-19. A time when our lovely island has had to ‘close its doors’ to protect our vulnerable community and potential visitors from this dangerous virus.
Mrs Crabbit however had other ideas. She evaded all government advice and proved to be the most awkward guest we have dealt with at Persabus. Unhappy at every turn, I first met her, and her children stood outside the pottery in the sunshine. She was incredibly disgruntled that the pottery appeared to be closed. She was not for moving on, or out of the way, and no amount of gentle persuasion could ease her irritable mood, even with the beautiful views and sunshine. Nothing seemed to please her. I think because she had managed to evade lockdown restrictions, she was expecting the red-carpet treatment. I am sure I heard her mutter under her breath that for her next visit she may well bring the helicopter to see if that would make a difference.
She made it quite clear that she was planning on staying at Persabus for the foreseeable future, and with her here onsite already, we had quite a tricky situation on our hands. At this rate she would be heading for an appearance on the Islay Community Noticeboard on Facebook. Whilst the Happy Farmer got to work making contingency plans Mrs Crabbit disappeared off and took her family for a walk about the farm.
After much deliberation and appreciating she had endured a long journey to make it to Persabus, albeit from another part of Islay, the Happy Farmer took the decision that he would allow her to ‘camp’ in the field overnight. Please if you are reading this do note that we have taken the decision to keep our campsite closed at Persabus for the whole of this season and will not be open for camping for the foreseeable future.
Mrs Crabbit was simply not happy with the camping offer. She had no tent and was certainly not pleased with the Happy Farmer’s suggestion that she share the field with a flock of Hebridean sheep. Under the difficult circumstances she flatly refused to accept this exceedingly generous offer. No discussion, she took to her heels and stormed out of the field, children in tow. Not wanting to see her without accommodation for the night, the Happy Farmer did at this point try and chase after her and see if a compromise could be made, kindly offering her alternative camping arrangements. At Persabus it is important that our guests are happy and enjoy their Islay holiday. Mrs Crabbit had made up her mind though. She was not going to accept any camping offer.
That crabbit lady had other ideas and with her truly ‘crabbit’ nature she was not going to let the Happy Farmer dictate how she spent her holiday. It became clearly apparent that she had her heart set firmly on staying in Persabus Millhouse on a bed and breakfast basis. She was told that this was simply not an option at this time. We thought she had taken to the hills, but later in the evening that cheeky sheep, horns poised, two lambs at foot, was caught ramming and head butting the back door of Persabus Millhouse.
Thank goodness for toughened glass.
Until next time…

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Bruichladdich Paparazzi

There is a bite to the wind, but the beautiful blue skies and billowing clouds continue as spring blossoms away on the island. The sound of birdsong filling the air, with the early morning dawn chorus, waking me from my slumbers ever so early. The mellow, throaty bleating of the sheep calling to their offspring. Even the cuckoo seems more animated this year, as its shrill call echoes across the farm, morning, noon and into the late sunlit evenings. With only the very odd passing car on the road, no planes overhead, no cyclists or happy chatter from passing walkers, and suddenly you become far more aware that everything is playing in a different key this spring. Thankfully at this stage those midges have yet to make their presence felt. The weeks of endless sunshine and the lochs are all incredibly low. The burn, once a bubbling, cascading torrent, has all but dried up. Just a few shallow pools remain. The air is filled with the sweet, heady scent of bluebells and wild garlic.

As lockdown continues rest assured Islay’s whisky adventure is happening quietly in the background. Over the past month the field in front of the farmhouse has been ploughed, rolled, and spread with lime, before the barley seed was planted and fertiliser spread. Already we have a sea of young barley sprouting up, as everything begins to look a lot greener once more.

On the farm, the Happy Farmer continues to make the headlines. The paparazzi caught up with him last week. The Bruichladdich paparazzi to be precise. Camera poised from across the wall, and our lovely neighbour, freelance marketer, photographer, forager and international traveller, Kate, was snapping away at one posing Happy Farmer, who just happened to be at the gate of our barley field. Much later and Hansel horse came trotting up to the mark too. He appears to have stepped into the role of our Persabus barley ambassador. Happily marketing the fact that the barley at Persabus is grown for Bruichladdich Distillery, as with his head hanging over the gate, he could be seen smiling and nuzzling the new signage ‘Growing for Bruichladdich’, and giving the all important Hansel seal of approval.

In the farmhouse the ‘guddle and clutter’ of family life continues. The hopes of using this time to get everything re-organised, re-ordered, re-decorated, ‘re-decluttered’ are fading fast. The vision of how much more time would be on offer and the reality are quite different. Those action plans have been firmly shelved for a later date. Zoom meetings seem to have taken over. Initially these consisted of online seminars and training sessions, filled with marketing advice and strategies. Rest assured these meetings have now morphed into ‘zooming’ great parties. Regular meet ups online with those ‘Persabus hippies’ from across Scotland tuning in for a hilarious get together. There have been hen parties and a couple of ‘not quite the wedding’ celebrations. Saturday nights are becoming incredibly sociable events. Thankfully, with all of this zooming, we are suddenly aware of what an absolutely fantastic wifi signal we enjoy throughout the buildings at Persabus, and how incredibly important this is to us just now. It also means any future ‘business minded’ guests choosing accommodation at Persabus will have the opportunity to connect remotely with their colleagues and teams. Zoom meetings at the touch of a button.

Alternatively, of course, there is the far more appealing option of just heading off to Machir Bay. A Persabus Pottery dram measure in your pocket, along with a nip of your favourite malt. Relaxing in the armchair of those rocks, at the far end of the sandy bay. Lighting a barbeque, and as those steaks sizzle away, just enjoying listening to the roar of the Atlantic, as the waves break across the golden sands, and the sun sets in the sky. Embracing the solitude, with not even a hope of any wifi, or any bars of signal from any pesky mobile phones, to disturb the peace.

Until next time…

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Lockdown at the Sheep Fank

With the lockdown continuing I was abruptly pulled out of my self-imposed happy ‘farming retirement’ at the weekend. Years ago, I had sensibly managed to ease my way out, as quickly as humanly possible, from most tasks that had any inkling of being associated with the word ‘farming’. Lambing duties and feeding pet lambs their bottles were the only farm jobs I had managed to retain. That and the odd farming duty of standing beside various gates, or acting as a ‘roadblock’, as and when required, at times of gatherings, to encourage and make sure the sheep were heading in the right direction. My fear of cows (the ones that inquisitively eye you up and down before getting ever so much closer), bulls (after one decided to join me on a jog one day), tups (the ones that think you are about to feed them and follow at your heel head butting your knees), cockerels (that chase you up the road), pigs (yes they have chased me too), quad bikes on rough ground and of course, over friendly horses may well have had some influence in convincing the Happy Farmer that I was, next to useless, when it came to participating in any farming adventures at Persabus.

On Saturday however, with social distancing in place the Happy Farmer had no option but to invite me back to the sheep fank to continue my initiation into the world of farming. An initiation spanning the last thirty years or so. Luckily for me the rest of the clan just happen to be at home too, so when several pairs of hands were needed to help at the sheep fank to mark this year’s spring lambs I was able for the most part to stand and ‘observe’, and only had to lift the lightest and youngest of lambs onto the upturned barrel for their ‘pampering’ session from the farmer. Only youngest managed to slip out of the farming duties with a ‘no show’ at the sheep fank. She was too busy working on a bee design as part of the #mcqueencreators project, which excitedly got shared onto the Alexander McQueen’s Instagram page, but that is another story. For the rest of us we had lots of laughs and fun in the hot sunshine helping the Happy Farmer as he worked with the flock dosing, counting and sorting the lambs, before we all led them happily back to the fields with their mothers.

Now thirsty work on a hot day calls for thirsty measures. Thankfully, Islay Ales stepped in with fabulous refreshments. On Friday afternoon I had been completely taken a back when a masked man, complete with dark shades, and gloves, walked into the farmyard carrying a large flagon of Ale and left it at our doorstep. It was like something straight out of the Man from Milk Tray chocolate adverts. A sign of the times during lockdown, as masks and gloves are necessary armour in the fight against the spread of Covid -19, but it is still quite a bizarre sight to see in our tiny corner of the world, especially when the Happy Farmer had not breathed a word of his little arrangement. The Ferryman’s daughter had given him the tip that, never mind deliveries of milk, the way forward is weekly deliveries of great beer to your doorstep here on Islay. Later then, one incredibly Happy Farmer proudly pulled his chilled flagon from the fridge to enjoy in the sunshine after a busy afternoon marking lambs.

Today’s delivery to our doorstep…. a lobster and crab claws, straight from the sea, courtesy of the Ferryman.

It might be quiet on the farm during the lockdown, but the island has a way of making you feel very cared for and certainly not forgotten.

Stay safe.

Until next time…

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Sprouting Times

Tarzan style cries have been yodelling across the yard as the Happy Farmer has taken on the last remaining wilderness at Persabus. This week has seen him wrestling his way through a thick jungle of undergrowth within the four walls of the original old stone barn. Sky high fuchsia bushes, with thick, woody, broad roots anchored around old stone slabs and concrete troughs. Nettles of monumental proportions, their tendrils wrapped firmly around discarded ‘treasures’ of bygone times.
Tractor and ropes at the ready, it has not been a job for the faint-hearted, but the transformation has been the start of another exciting journey for us at Persabus. The last of the old stone byres in the yard and the atmosphere in those stone walls just grabs you. Already we can feel the energy of the dances and partying to come in our whisky barn, as we look to celebrate in true Persabus style, once the hard work has cleared the way and new life is breathed back into this gorgeous space.
As the Happy Farmer toiled away all week, his hat was glued firmly on his head. Just as plants began to sprout in his vegetable patch, there was apparently a lot of ‘sprouting’ going on under that cap of his too. Please do not try putting ‘miracle grow’ under your own cap, but please do scroll down for a bit of the Happy Farmer’s wonderful sense of humour and enjoy his sporty new lockdown hairstyle. It will not just be the Persabus sheep getting sheared this summer if this new growth continues. As one jungle is cut down another appears from under his cap.
At the farmhouse door, manoeuvring my way through the assault course of wellies lying idly discarded in an unkempt pile and the family are all well and truly home, managing to all get here safely just before the lockdown came. Whilst they may have grown up in years old habits die hard, and for once it is an absolute pleasure to have their trail of boots and various debris scattered around the hall, spilling over the doorstep. It is a sign of happy times amidst the madness. It is not often we are all together at home these days and whilst everyone is working in their own little ‘zone’ online during the day, it is also a time for gathering around the farmhouse kitchen table and enjoying hearty meals and good craic as everyone mucks in. Delicious food arriving on the table each night as there is no shortage of cooks, and in youngest’s case, fantastic baking has been flowing from the Aga, with peanut butter brownies that simply melt in the mouth, then there’s the Happy Farmer’s contribution of pancakes at morning coffee time. Suddenly food is indeed incredibly comforting.
For my part it has also been a week of madly battling with the weeds under blue skies as I’ve sweated it out in scorching hot sunshine. A mad, frantic tussle, discovering muscles I never knew existed as I have wrestled to get the flower beds tweaked, tidied and into some form of order before the rain comes. Happy childhood memories springing to mind as I remember travelling home through the welsh valleys on a scorching hot day in my grandparents’ car. My glamorous grandmother sat in the front seat, with her beautiful jewellery and manicured nails, in a lovely frock, lamenting. My grandfather sat behind the steering wheel, a huge satisfied grin on his face. Every window open wide as the strong smell of horse manure filled the car. Holidays in Wales gave my grandfather the perfect opportunity to fill his car boot. In his eyes it was worth a scalding from my gran, knowing his roses would thrive beautifully all summer long. This week I too was gathering the horse manure from the fields in the gorgeously hot sunshine to feed the Persabus roses. I am finding gardening is my way of trying to live with all that is happening in the world around me. Something I have slight control over when I find myself in a world that feels out of control. As we face uncertainty everywhere and live in a strange, isolated bubble.

Lengthy walks along the coast as the sun sets. The Sound of Islay like a mill pond. Seals bobbing up to the surface to play. Eider ducks dancing along the shoreline. A graceful swan sleeping on her nest. The male swan keeping a watchful caring eye over his sleeping beauty as she nurtures their eggs. Life goes on.
Social distancing continues. Archie bread delivered supplies to the farm. A much-needed link between the mainland and our tiny island. We are grateful to the people who continue to operate essential services bringing supplies as safely as possible to our vulnerable community. The Happy Farmer seated on a large rock on one side of the road, whilst Archie perched on a rock on the other side, and the two were able to catch up on all that is happening in this crazy world.
We miss you all. Stay safe.
Until next time…

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