Farmer Exits to the Mainland….

The Happy Farmer exited to the mainland this week and I was left sailing ‘The Good Ship Persabus’. 

The animals always seem to know when the farmer’s away. I have come to realise this as things always seem to go a bit pear shaped in his absence. 

Yesterday I was getting along just fine. Breakfasts had been served and I had helped our lovely guests plan an exciting day of walks and tours. Laundry, change overs and ironing  had been sorted. Fires were lit, lunches and afternoon teas served in the pottery, pieces were glazed ready for firing. New guests were welcomed in. Lambs were checked. Horses were fed, the dogs had their long walk through the drive in the sunshine and just as I sat down at last to my own lovely tea I looked out of the French windows to see an ‘escapee’ in the garden. Muffin, the cheeky pony, had circumnavigated his way over a fence and through two gates, which he had knocked flat, and then skipped into the garden to call by for a visit and a tasty bite of fresh grass. Tea had to be abandoned into the Aga as I knew Muffin would not stay in the garden for long. He quite likes to venture across the road for a visit to the pottery and campsite if the opportunity arises. In fact the Distillery Manager from Ardnahoe knocked at the door bright and early the other day as Muffin and Hansel were happily standing as the Persabus welcoming committee happily munching their way through the grass at the roadside the other day. We are reaching the season where the Happy Farmer gets his ride on lawn mower out of hibernation and whiles away the hours driving in circles round the gardens and verges all in the name of work. It is of course an occupation saved for the warmest sunniest of days.  Luckily then the horses decided to step in as our temporary lawn mowers. 

Following several mayday calls for assistance and finding there was no one on hand to help I did finally manage to gingerly coax Muffin back to barracks with a rather large pink bucket and a scoop of sugar beet. An easy task for most but those horses are acutely aware of my fear of them. A struggle and tussle with two heavy gates, a bit baler twine and a wooden pallet to try and build a barricade the Happy Farmer would be proud of and tea was back on the menu. 

Thankfully morning came and Muffin and Hansel were happily in their field. Breakfasts were a delight and the Happy Farmer arrived home smiling off the first plane. 

Until next time… 

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Calm

It has reached that lovely time of year when the days are getting longer and longer, meal times are getting later and later, as beach time and extended dog walks are calling.

Once the pottery door closes Ruby and Bramble are poised at the back door waiting patiently for the dog leads to be lifted off the hook, and from that point on, the tails are wagging, the barking starts, as they begin to shout at me impatiently to hurry up. A short while later we are off. Across the field, over the road, and onto the track which leads to Lily Loch and up to the slate bench, where you can find yet more amazing views out over the headland. It is the perfect spot to watch the ferry cruising along up the Sound towards Port Askaig. To breathe in the sea air and take in the vast open skies and sea that surround the island.

Down along the track, past the dam, following the burn, we get ‘beachtime’. Here a pebble beach meets the Sound, and the gentle lapping of the waves calm the soul. I love it.

I have had a busy week. In the pottery I have been spinning plates, literally. My little workshop has been buzzing with creativity. We have welcomed so many lovely people, coffee has been brewing, cake, scones, sandwiches and afternoon teas have been served. There has been a buzz in the air, and so much painting. The kiln has been firing away, pottery has been turned into amazing reflections of creativity and memories. Even the Happy Farmer has been dancing around the pottery with one of our lovely Italian friends who calls by each year, and her dance with the Happy Farmer has become a tradition, and we all know the Happy Farmer loves traditions.

The ‘all singing all dancing’ new farm and pottery laptop then chose this moment to take a nose dive, and set new challenges for the farmer’s wife, kind of ‘beyond repair’ challenges. Four hours of ‘playing’ computers with an incredibly patient tech team, computer technology really is not my strong point, and it was decided that the best way forward was to provide the Happy Farmer’s wife with a brand new, shiny, all singing, all dancing replacement laptop. My head was buzzing. Hours on a phone listening to some beyond horrendous call centre background music, while I patiently held the phone to my ear, as they thought up yet more software hoops for me to jump through. I was sat in front of a computer screen that was just refusing to play ball.

I escaped to the beach then. The dogs, the sunshine of a calm spring evening, and the gentle lapping waves of the Sound just melted away the stress and I was reminded of how lucky we are to live on this beautiful island.

It is at this little beach then that I stumbled upon the glossy pink and brown seaweed, scattered across the pebbles, having been brought in by the tide. This seaweed inspired my ‘Seaweed from the Sound’ pottery range. Inspired by one of my many walks there, in the pottery workshop I dipped my brush into the coloured slip clay and painted the patterns and colours of the seaweed onto the bisque. People often comment on how relaxing and therapeutic pottery painting is. Hopefully all of the lovely visitors who brought pieces from this range over the Easter holidays enjoy their pottery as much as I enjoyed designing and painting it.  

I hope you manage to find your calm.

Until next time….

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The Abominable Snowman and the Snow cat

Easter has arrived, and the farm is buzzing with guests and visitors.

The Happy Farmer has been busy delivering cooked breakfast to our campers. Those campers have a gorgeous tepee style tent. The kind of tent that makes me feel it should have a resident storyteller. The lovely couple staying in the tent know all about ‘glamping’, and the tent was even twinkling in the moonlight with fairy lights. This morning they were sitting at the picinc benches reading books and taking in the vista in the sunshine. Apparently, they had a lodger last night, a furry, four-legged lodger, who snuggled up and spent the night ‘glamping’ with them. However, this guest did not stay for breakfast, preferring to venture over to the farmhouse where she demanded five-star treatment as always. Archieina, our lovely kitty, is already getting into the spirit of welcoming our guests and checking whether they are cat or dog friendly, or whether they are happier without the company of resident pets. Doughall, our old cat has always been a professional at this service. She quickly makes her presence known if she happens upon ‘cat friendly’ guests, and it wouldn’t be the first time she has spent the week living in one or other of our holiday cottages. We, of course do go looking for her, but she does usually make an appearance at meal times, although at Hogmanay she got locked in the Cottage with our guests and no amount of miaowling could make them realise that she was hungry and needing home. Luckily when I asked if they had seen her, our lovely guest assured me she had moved in with them. They were mortified then when I asked if she had been fed. Doughball immediately got dispensed to the farmhouse had a much-needed bite of food, before returning to her visitors.

The pottery has been busy too. Youngest has been baking delicious treats, with almond and coconut sponge, brownies, scones and banana, carrot muffins. We have had some lovely painting workshops and there has been plenty of coffee and chat. One thing people are always fascinated by is how I came to live on the island. Yesterday there I was happily relaying the story of how I was swept off my feet, literally, by the Happy Farmer, when in he walks, looking like a mix between a jolly green giant and the Abominable Snowman. Anyone who has spent much time in the pottery will know I am forever chiding him for walking in looking like a jolly green giant, dressed head to toe in farming regalia. From the green wellies, to the thick waterproof trousers, to the green coat, with the overflowing pockets, a large green cap perched on top of his head. Yesterday though this green giant was covered in huge splats of snowcem and somehow the Abonimable Snowman look didn’t quite fit with the ‘being swept off my feet’ story.

Later Archieina also crept into the farmhouse looking remarkably like a snow cat, a large white streak down her back intermingled with several splodges along her coat, she too had been playing with the snowcem.

On a happy note, then, I now have a beautiful gleaming farmhouse, whitewashed from top to bottom with matching gleaming white farm cottages, also whitewashed from top to bottom. You’ve got to love a hard-working happy farmer.

Until next time……

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The Singing Shepherd

Spring has sprung into action on the farm. The sun is bursting in the sky and with the clocks going forward we were treated to another spectacular sunrise above the Paps of Jura this morning. Daffodils, crocus and of course snow drops are all in full bloom. The hedgerows have become alive with the chitter chatter of the birds, who have arrived safely from distant shores. I know because a ‘dawn chorus’ is awakening me early each day, that and the light streaming into the bedroom. We have had a long few months of darkness and short days and suddenly everything is brighter and lighter.

The island is transforming from the bitter cold temperatures a few weeks back when the ‘Beast from the East’ swept our shores, freezing everything hard and fast. One of the biggest challenges on the farm was making sure all of the animals had plenty of access to water. We faced further challenges when even the oil froze in the pipes, but of course that ‘Beast from the East’ was slayed by the actions of the ‘Best from the West’ and in the end everybody was well fed, had warmth and access to plenty of fresh water.

The arrival of spring then is a very welcome one. Cats, dogs, horses and Happy Farmers can be seen skipping, rolling and lazing in sunny spots.

It is team work on the farm. With visits from our hardy ‘singing shepherd’, who pops up to help with gathering the sheep when those ladies need some extra pampering in the form of manicures, pedicures, with a wee clip of their hooves, and a dose of medicine, before they go off to the maternity wards as lambing is just around the corner.

Our shepherd has the most amazing voice, as well as a great sheepdog. Happy at his work, his Gaelic renditions can be heard gleefully coming from the fields, only interrupted with the odd  roar and occasional growl of some foreign language when sheep and dogs appear to be going in completely the wrong direction. It doesn’t take long for singing to recommence when man and beast are in harmony once more. The Happy Farmer loves it. It is not the first time our guests have been treated to a Gaelic song or two from out the hill as our shepherd warms those vocal chords on route to rounding up the livestock. At this point I would like you all to note that it is not the Happy Farmer singing, but be warned, he does enjoy taking the credit for it when he pops in to visit our guests.

Until next time……

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A Prickly Issue…

I am thinking of selling the Happy Farmer in the pottery. He appears to draw the crowds. Every time I post a photo of him on our facebook pages he gets over 100 likes in just a few hours, drawing more attention than some of the pottery ranges online, such is his ‘online popularity’.

I do love social media and the contact it gives with the world beyond. The internet for me has been the icing on the cake to island living. That is when you have a good internet connection, which thankfully we do have at Persabus. Could it be down to all those cups of coffee the Happy Farmer shares with the Openreach boys?

We have been busy working behind the scenes on the farm with all the ‘buzz terms’ that now come with running a business, ‘marketing, listings, promotions’ and so on.  ‘Buzz terms’ that we never thought about before, have arrived in our lives over the past few years. This year we have a new website and glossy new signs for Persabus bearing our new logo thanks to my amazing nephew, who as a graphic designer, was able to email a design to me before I had even processed what a logo was.

Last week then the Happy Farmer was busy putting up new signs outside the pottery and at the road end. It was meant to be a quick hour or so but seemed to take the morning. The Happy Farmer got half ’mauled’ trimming the hedge to improve the sign’s visibility. Hawthorn, Blackthorn and generally anything ending with a ‘thorn’, battled with the Happy Farmer and held up proceedings, that and the fact that he stopped for several ‘blethers’. He arrived back for lunch then with more news than our local Ileach newspaper prints in a fortnight. It seems putting up a road sign is quite a social event where the Happy Farmer is concerned. Community spirit runs strong at Persabus and the Happy Farmer took it upon himself to have a hearty wee chat with all the passing vehicles and owners that he could manage to stop. For those of you who know the Happy Farmer the battle with the thorns and the battle with the chat and patter will hardly be surprising.

Whilst I am busy on social media then catching up with friends and family, I mean, promoting the pottery and accommodation pages, the Happy Farmer does not really do computers, he much prefers the old-style face to face ‘hearty crack’. Persabus signs all erected and looking good, he is forgiven for taking a little longer….I hope you like the new signs.

Until next time….

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The Happy Farmer’s ‘Turner Art Piece’

The two bags of cement that have been beside the pottery door are annoying me. Each time I suggest we move them the Happy Farmer assures me that they are there to serve a purpose. Very soon they will be put to ‘good use’.
The Happy Farmer is a busy man, with many jobs on the go at once, from running the accommodation alongside me, glazing and firing the pottery, looking after the animals, and not forgetting nurturing his ‘building-itus’ condition. In the time I have known the Happy Farmer he has renovated and built two cottages out of ruins, stripped a large farmhouse back to its bare four walls and completely re roofed and renovated it, developed the old stables into a bed and breakfast wing, and an old byre into a pottery. Building plans continue to evolve each year. At present he is working away at developing a new laundry room, with lots of other plans continually circulating in his mind.
Today then, when I met him on his feed duties, having arrived back at the farmyard with the dogs, I noticed ‘those’ two bags of cement outside the pottery, glaring at me. The two bags of cement stacked neatly on top of a wooden toadstool have become part of the fixtures and fittings of the pottery, as they have lain there for the past two years, too heavy for me to move myself. Having cleared the pottery border the other day and pruned all the dead branches from the bushes those cement bags are in full view. I couldn’t resist asking then…. the Happy Farmer doesn’t heed my nagging though. He just gave me a huge grin
‘That is my award-winning Turner Prize’….

Next time, my friends, you see a piece of old plough, or a discarded peat cutter lying around, know that it was indeed loving placed there. It is not just farming ‘guddle’ or West Highland Clutter’. Living on our ‘creative’ farm….that piece is historical, a piece of Art, ‘Farming Art’ and you’ve got to love the Happy Farmer’s ‘artistry’… Is it a good thing that suburban ways are gradually transforming the island into neat gleaming buildings, with neat manicured lawns and flower beds, mono blocked drive ways with perfect lighting? Persabus has the luxury of ‘West Highland mono blocking’ full of West Highland character and charm. It is a working hill farm.
A warm welcome is awaiting you from all of us at Persabus.
Until next time….

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Welcome Home…

It is the welcome you get when you arrive home to Persabus. Today the sun was shining.

The flight was beautiful treating us to a bird’s eye view of snow-capped mountains, turquoise seas, with fishing boats and then the ferry boat below. Passing the Isle of Jura and those majestic Paps, and then following along Islay’s south coast. The cabin crew preparing for landing. We were treated to an approach from the west. Flying first along the south coast of Islay, with commanding views of Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig Distilleries unfolding, then the bay of Port Ellen,  and around the rugged, wild cliffs of the Oa, the plane headed out across towards the Rhinns of Islay, before swooping low over the Big Strand to land at Islay’s Airport.

Arriving at the farm, the familiar welcome of ‘that view’ in the sunshine. The sweeping vista of the Sound of Islay and the Isle of Jura, the mainland ferry just making its way towards Port Askaig. The sheep grazing along with the geese in the front field, and then the kitties and Doughball the cat, miaow-ling at your heels as you walk along to the farmhouse door. The dogs came lolloping and bounding round from the garden, tails wagging profusely. My animals have missed me.

Later to sit at an open fire, feet up with an Islay dram, you cannot beat the warmth of an Islay welcome….

Until next time…

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Cityscape….Island Dreams…..

I have been city living for a short break, which has grown into a longer break as college interviews call for youngest.

A skyline of concrete, traffic hurtling along, smoke rising from tall chimneys, the hustle, bustle and energy of city living. So many people, so much noise, so few smiles.

I am missing my island home.

I miss the vast open space of Islay. Running freely through the fields each day with my four legged companions.

I miss the fresh air, and the breathing space this brings into my daily life.

I miss the silence and then I miss Islay’s ‘noise’, the waves crashing on the shore, the ‘roar’ of the sea in the Sound of Islay, as the tides change. The cackle of the Barnacle and White Fronted Geese as they circle overhead, displaced from their feeding grounds by a sudden noise. The birds’ chattering away in the hedgerow the Happy Farmer planted a few years back.

I miss my animals. The nosey Highland cows watching me run mindlessly through the fields. Hansel and Muffin, my daughter’s horses standing at the farm gate, waiting patiently for a scone from the farmhouse kitchen. The scent of home baking flowing from the Aga each morning. I miss Ruby and Bramble the farm dogs, and our farm tigers, Archieina, Hamishina and Doughball, the pottery cats.

I miss those huge, vibrant skies that turn my world into a creative panorama, feeding my art work. The spectacular sunrises that unfold each morning, if the weather allows and then the peaceful, calming sunsets when the day is done.

I miss my lovely little pottery studio. How passing strangers turn into friendly faces, creativity is nurtured and explored, fresh coffee is poured, and home baking devoured. I miss sharing stories, meeting people from other lands, and welcoming old friends. I miss the creative buzz and vibe that the pottery feeds into my life.

I miss those stunning Paps of Jura, as you step outside the pottery and the panorama that unfolds as you head to the farmhouse and look out across the Sound….

Islay…. what is there not to miss? See you there very shortly 😊

Until next time….

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Falling head over heels

We are reaching that lovely time of year, when after cold rain and wind, the skies suddenly clear, the sun shines across the fields and we get a glimpse of the beginnings of the spring to come as the snowdrops come into flower and the daffodils begin to bud.

The Happy Farmer has been out with paint brush and rollers, white washing the walls of the buildings. Taking advantage of a window in the weather and in our busy season, the cottages and farmhouse have been undergoing their annual re-decoration programme. It’s all hands to the pump to make sure everything is spring cleaned, polished, painted and refreshed. ‘Out with the old and in with the new’ as the saying goes. There is something very satisfying about dipping a paint brush into a new pot of chalky paint, and although hard work, the end results are worth every ounce of effort.

The animals are needing more attention too. Markus, our short horn bull, has been getting extra rations. Each morning he is at the fence. His greeting begins with a large guttural bellow as the Happy Farmer approaches on his quad bike with a daily portion of cattle cake. Hansel and Muffin, the horses, are next in the queue, waiting patiently. Then the sheep are treated to a new round bale of silage.

The only casualty on the farm is the farmer himself. His back much improved, his gait is beginning to look less like Frankenstein, but he is now limping and hopping along with a sore knee. I’ve come to the decision the walking stick he marches off with each morning is just for ornamental purposes, all show, as he still manages to fall head over heels…..but just acquires a swollen knee for his efforts these days.

Until next time…..

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Camping with Breakfast

The huge skies of an island winter, provide an ever-changing canvas of colour, deep cerulean blues with giant white clouds give way to dark purple storm clouds. The beaches become wild and windswept from the lashing winter storms. Islay is at its most beautiful when the sun shines on a winter’s day.

Flocks of Barnacle and White Fronted geese gather in the fields to graze on the shoots of grass, having made the long and precarious journey from Greenland in the Autumn, to spend the winter months on Islay.

The warmth of the Rayburn in the kitchen of Persabus Cottage and the roaring log fire in the sitting room provide a welcome warmth for our winter guests, after a day spent exploring Islay in the crisp, biting cold weather.

Last night we welcomed our first campers of the year to Persabus. Hardy people.

This morning the island is covered in a beautiful white blanket of snow, as a winter wonderland is unveiled, and the snow continues to fall outside. The Happy Farmer is busy in the kitchen. The bacon is crisping. The sausages and black pudding cooking away in the Aga. Potato scones, eggs and a pot of freshy ground coffee, toast and marmalade, are all at the ready, to give our campers a very warm Persabus welcome to the start of their winter camping adventure on Islay.

Until next time…

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