Flock of Hebridean Sheep

Those Tartan Sheep

Behind the scenes it has been a crazy couple of weeks of online training

Zoom meetings and a pile of admin as we get everything ready, making sure we are ‘hot to trot’. Preparing for the time when we can safely begin to welcome you all back to stay with us on the farm at Persabus.

Courses have centred around website SEO, social media, brand development, the list goes on. Who knew there would be so many strands, so many exciting avenues, to venture down in the virtual world?

It has led to some incredibly funny moments in the pottery

Exploring video ‘production’, in between flicking away with paint brushes. Finding my mobile phone’s ‘hyperlapse’ and ‘super slow motion’ modes. I did manage to make several mini captures of myself drinking tea and smiling away. Completely oblivious to the fact that I was being filmed. That the camera had indeed, been turned ‘off’ for those moments I was intending to video. The arty, painting ones, where I was hoping to share a bit of my ‘production process’ in the pottery with you all. Only to find later, when I pressed ‘replay’ that instead I had captured all those moments of ‘no production’ and missed out the highly entertaining ones.

In between all of this, lambs and calves have begun to pop out everywhere. The fields at Persabus are filled with new life and those ‘oh so protective’ mothers. It is always an incredibly special time, watching the amazing wonders of nature on the farm.

The Persabus dogs are having to settle for a much-reduced exercise regime just now

Daily runs have turned into lambing rounds for me, minus Ruby dog and Bramble, whose heads appeared to be revolving in a 360% circle when they spied lambs being born close by. This was followed by their noses being firmly planted in the deep grass sniffing out the variety of aromas lingering from the lambing process.

At Persabus we go for outdoor lambing

Our native Hebridean sheep are incredibly hardy. They rarely need a helping hand and are particularly good mothers. Taking themselves off to a quiet, sheltered spot, they give birth naturally. The lambs are tiny, and the mothers are fiercely protective of their young.

The other sheep, our blackface ewes, tend to lamb well on their own, but the Happy Farmer still must keep a very close eye out, as the odd one may need a helping hand. Once in trouble if help does not come quickly a ‘stuck’ lamb can be born dead, and if there is a twin coming behind it, both will not survive. The ewe is also vulnerable to attacks from ravens and hooded crows, who will peck the eyes out of the sheep and lamb. This was a real problem in days gone by, when we had a much larger flock and used to do all the lambing out on the hills. These days, with all the lambing happening in the fields close to the farmhouse, and a much smaller flock, we do not have the same issues. The Happy Farmer can whip round the fields more often, and seems to disappear very regularly, especially if the ‘gin gate’ at the Magic Sheep Lady’s home is open. Her and her husband always offer lots of support during lambing times and beyond, and there is always a hearty welcome as you head over that hill.

Typically, just as spring arrives, and lambing begins, the northerly winds whip up, and we are treated to snow and hailstorms, in between the fleeting blue skies and sunshine. It is a time of four seasons in a day. It is important then, that there is plenty of shelter for the lambs and ewes. If a sheep is in trouble the challenge is to ‘catch’ her quickly, as invariably she will race off, mid-lambing. When the Persabus clan were young, the Happy Farmer would sometimes happen upon one of his young crew, wrestling on top of a heavily pregnant sheep, trying to hold her down whilst waiting for the quad bike to arrive on its lambing rounds. The kids grew up with lambing. It was one of their favourite times. They would be up at first light, woolly jumpers and waterproofs, pulled over PJs, as they accompanied the Happy Farmer through the fields before nursery and school. Their eyes were much sharper at spying any sheep needing help.

We are looking forward to sharing the growing clan at Persabus with you

Thankfully, this year, we have no pet lambs so far, which is a good thing as it means there are no orphaned lambs yet. No lambs rejected by their mother. Over the years our visitors to the farm and pottery have always been a huge help when it comes to bottle feeding any hungry pet lambs. The orphaned lambs love the care and attention of our younger guests. Being so little the lambs need round the clock attention. They are fed special powdered ‘ewe’s’ milk which the Happy Farmer gets from the local vet. The powder is then mixed with warm water before being placed in a sterilised bottle with a special teat on top.

You know spring has arrived when the lambing rounds begin and the days when you get to enjoy a seat on the bench at the front of the farmhouse.

Soaking up the views in the sunshine

On Saturday, as we drank our hot coffee on such a day, we could hear bellowing and roaring coming from across the fields. When the Happy Farmer raced over on his quad bike, one of our new Highland ladies had given birth to the fluffiest little bull calf. Cow and calf were doing well. The mother giving her new-born a good lick all over and gently coaxing him onto his four ever so wobbly legs.

If you do happen to meet the Happy Farmer between his lambing duties

as he stops for a friendly chat from the seat of his quad bike,

Please remember to listen to his stories with a ‘pinch of salt’

He is sure to recount the tales of the difficult births of his Highland cows and then of his colourful lambing experiences. Please be reassured, contrary to what he may have told you, with that twinkle in his eyes, Highland calves are indeed born without their horns. They grow much later. As for the lambs, know they are never born with a ‘tartan’ coat, well not at Persabus anyway.

Happy Lambing.

Until next time…

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The Happy Farmer on his lambing rounds at Persabus, Islay

The Happy Farmer’s Commute

The sun has been rising earlier in the mornings

and spring is well and truly here, as those beautiful yellow daffodils are out in bloom lining the single-track road to Persabus.

It is an exciting time on the farm with the birth of new calves

and the fields filled with heavily pregnant sheep. The Happy Farmer is hoping those ladies keep their legs firmly crossed for a few more weeks as the temperature has taken another dip, and we are getting all four seasons in a day. Heavy hailstorms give way to bright sunshine and then, even the Paps of Jura were covered in a peppering of snow this morning.

The Happy Farmer was away on business last week

Of course, such business trips and commutes to work come with a whole different set of values and meanings when your home is in the Hebrides. This trip involved a bit of an ‘island-hopping adventure’ seeing the Happy Farmer returning later in the day with a huge grin on that happy face and the promise of two Highland girls to follow.

The commute involved a fifteen-minute ferry journey

across the rolling blue seas of the Sound of Islay onboard the sturdy ‘Eilean Dhiura’. With the hearty craic of the ferry crew to keep him entertained on the short crossing, not to mention their fabulous Tunnock’s teacakes, which the Happy Farmer was soon munching his way through, and, before he knew it, the ropes were being tied at Feolin and it was time to disembark.

A landrover, and one Happy Jura man at the ready, and the Happy Farmer was soon trundling along a peat clad gravel road, down a very steep incline, across a rickety bridge, which brought him to the foot of the Paps of Jura. His colleagues in attendance at the meeting happened to be a large group of hairy Highland girls who were more than a little delighted to see one Happy Farmer and one Happy Jura man arriving with a large bag of cake especially for them. Having walked round the assembled group, studying those girls from head to toe with a careful eye, the Happy Farmer selected his favourite two, who would be following him back to Persabus in a few days.

Those two lovely Highland ladies have yet to be named but are settling in well. Markus the bull is their best friend as they all gather around the silage feeding ring. Happily, they are in calf already, and with Markus being a White Bred Bull, ‘friends’ is all he will hopefully ever get to be. The Happy Farmer will be mating these girls with a pure Highland bull later in the year. He opted to buy black highland cows as they are the original native breed of the Hebrides. The ginger highland cows evolved at a later stage when breeding programmes were introduced to make for a slightly larger highland cow which would provide more meat.

Each morning then the Happy Farmer pops by to check on the girls

along with a shake of their favourite bag of cake. Please note this is not the traditional sponge kind of a cake, so if you do happen to be along visiting our lovely Highland girls, know they will not thank you for a Mary Berry ‘classic’. At the farmhouse on the other hand, sponge cake is always very welcome indeed, especially if the Happy Farmer just happens to be on his coffee or tea break. The cake for these cows is a compound of barley, minerals, treacle and so on. Through feeding them the Happy Farmer can get to know them and is already aware that one of these ladies appears to have a very ‘mischievous twinkle’ in her eyes. He is already having to be on his guard around her, as on seeing him arrive, she duly skips and dances the highland fling around him. She is a character, and a half, I think the Happy Farmer has met his match. It is going to be fun watching this character settle into her new home on the farm.

Hopefully soon we will be able to offer you all a warm welcome back to Persabus where you can meet our new ladies in person.

Until next time…

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Washing Creatively

We appear to be running a professional laundry service at Persabus

and are ever so gently and quietly being ‘evicted’ from our ‘space’.

Our roles might have changed quite a bit over the past year, but the farmhouse continues to be a busy hub of creativity in these strange times.

Washing baskets are constantly filled.

Soups, casseroles, home-made breads and baking flow on a seamless production line. Gliding from Aga to table, to feed the hungry ‘army’.

For our part,

the Happy Farmer and I can frequently be seen tip-toeing around the farmhouse

Careful not to disturb the flow of creative energy that seems to have engulfed life on the farm. A flow that comes with the whole clan continuing their work from home.

The dining room has transformed into an art studio and sewing room. Machines can be heard whirring away.

A mannequin at the window frequently changes style

Sometimes pinned with swatches, other times draped in fabrics, before being transformed with the most gorgeous designs and shapes as creations come to fruition.

Mood boards feed my curiosity

Threads and needles are everywhere.

For me it is a privilege to have the chance to watch this young designer at work as the huge expanse of her island home provides an endless source of inspiration for her designs. Her work a tribute to the background of the community and island landscape she grew up in.

It does not end in the dining room

The larger kitchen has morphed into a pattern cutting room

Paper is neatly laid out. Patterns designed. Calico lies across an ironing board. Jackets, bags, hats, dresses, trousers in the grass roots of the design process. As ideas are carefully sketched and illustrated. Drawn and cut. From paper, to calico, from calico to fabric. It is a fascinating process. With the art studios and university closed, online learning has turned the farmhouse into a creative hub of busyness.

The small guests’ kitchen is now a ‘temporary office’

as eldest continues her important and valuable NHS work from an online environment.

Paints and brushes nearby. Away from her ‘office’ huge canvases capture her artistic flare. The blues of the seas and skies of island living, translated through oils, acrylics, pastels, and watercolours. Animals and pets coming to life on paper, ready to be posted out to their new homes. Wooden floors have become the artist’s studio with the large glass doors providing the perfect light.

Then there is the ‘transportable’ office

Our son, safely home from Hong Kong as the first lockdown came, continued his work from his laptop. Throughout the week teaching videos were uploaded to children in a faraway land. Videos capturing farming life, teaching his young students English with a large dash of ‘Hebridean culture’. There were cameo roles for the whole family. 

As his work continues with new projects, his ‘office’ space seems to vary throughout the course of a day. Different spots and spaces are taken over to accommodate whichever ‘role’ he is working on.

Those Persabus dogs are of course taking full advantage

They have never enjoyed so many walks and so much fuss. They too seem to have moved into the farmhouse on a more permanent basis. Making their peace with the cats, they spend far less time in the barracks of their kennel. Far more time curled up in the comfort of the farmhouse. They see their roles as reminding everyone to eat as they seem to demand more food. Reminding everyone to de-stress as they demand more fuss, more belly rubs and lots of attention.

As we continue to adapt to these changing times

I am entertained then that the Happy Farmer, for his part, has installed a comfy leather sofa and several heaters into his ‘office’ in his agricultural shed.

Happy days.

As we begin to look forward, it is exciting to be open for bookings once again

When restrictions are eased and the guidelines allow, and if the Happy Farmer and I haven’t been completely ‘turfed out’ of the farmhouse, we very much look forward to offering you all a warm welcome back to Persabus to join in the creative flow of this beautiful island.

Until next time….

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The Return of the Happy Farmer

Everyone has been asking what I have done with the Happy Farmer?

He has disappeared off the blog posts. Slid off the platform of social media. There have been no updates. No cheeky wee mentions. His last sighting was reportedly on ‘The Mighty Persabus Haggis Hunt’. Did he really in fact end up enjoying copious amounts of that ‘amber nectar’ leaving him ‘face down and feet up in a peaty bog’ never to be seen again, I have you all wondering?

The rest of the Persabus clan have been making their appearances, taking advantage of exploring the stunningly beautiful Islay coastline. Clambering over the boggy headlands to the beaches, with not a sighting of that Happy Farmer.

The Happy Farmer has been AWOL

He is not really into ‘beach time’. It does not involve herding cows or dosing sheep or building projects and adventures. On the occasions he has been known to make his way to the sand, it usually involves his cousin’s beachy BBQ, with the promise of burgers and steaks sizzling away at the shoreline, and

beers cooling in the Atlantic waves

On such occasions the Happy Farmer will positively skip to the beach. He will happily spend an hour or two basking in the heat of the sun. A cool beer to hand, munching on whatever tasty treats flow from the BBQ.

We are dreaming then of the summer to come. Open for bookings and hoping the restrictions ease. The BBQ king and cousins have their ‘spaces’ reserved. The holiday cottages at Persabus are at the ready. Newly decorated, pristine, and ‘available’ once we get the Scot Gov ‘go-ahead’. We are really hoping things continue to go well and everyone gets to enjoy a break this summer.

The Happy Farmer for his part is even getting excited planning the possibility of his ‘socially distanced’ summer party. Which at this stage may well entail one table being placed in each field, with megaphones to hand and a stash of drink, burgers, and a throw away BBQ at each setting. We might have to warn the neighbours about the particularly loud music, or maybe headphones and a playlist for each mobile phone would suffice? Ahead of the times then with

a socially distanced ‘silent disco’, in the fields, as the sun sets

So, in between his feeding rounds about the farm the Happy Farmer has been doing a lot of ‘dreaming’. The sort of ‘dreaming’ that I promise you does not involve a ‘sneaky wee snore’ behind a bale of hay. No, he has been dreaming of summer adventures and a time when he can be more sociable once again. Maintenance jobs have been calling him, as have essential workers. ‘Meet ups’ have had to be outdoors and within tier 3 restrictions, so

if you thought you saw another silage bale or two in the fields, rest assured it was in fact the Happy Farmer

and his ‘essential workers’, having important socially distanced ‘discussions’. They may well resemble silage bales, but in fact on closer inspection you will see it is layers and layers of woolly jumpers (farmers not sheep), thermals, hats, coats, waterproofs, waistcoats, fleeces, gloves and neckerchiefs. Neckerchiefs are a new addition. They double up as handy face coverings. Providing the perfect solution as the Happy Farmer would be in danger of suffering from something far worse than a virus if he took a face mask from the depths of his jacket pockets and dared to place it over his face. Those farmer’s jacket pockets carry a hazardous health warning at the best of times and should be avoided at all costs.

Today the Happy Farmer has headed off, a spring in his step, ready for a ‘party’

He is quite excited by the possibility of the social gathering he is attending. Of the people he will see and chat to. A meet up with his old school chums. And just before you worry at the possibility of him breaking ‘the rules’ know it is as exciting as it gets. He will be with his school chums. They will sit socially distanced in a waiting room ready to be called in for their Covid-19 vaccinations at the local hospital. The best of party the year.

We all look forward to a time when we can offer you a hearty welcome back to the farm. When we can prise the Happy Farmer to the beach for some ‘sunshine fun’ and party hard and long into the wee small hours and beyond in true Persabus style.

Until next time…

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‘Staycation’ Islay

The storms died down

The hedgerows were suddenly filled with the excited chirruping of birds. The sun came out and the daylight hours stretched on into the early evening. The tease of the spring to come as even the air feels fresher and everything just looks so much brighter.

Islay is a place of spectacular beauty

The ‘sparkle’ of those seasons reflected in the colourful landscape. Rugged, wild beaches with Atlantic waves crashing onto sandy shores.

A wilderness providing the perfect backdrop for breath taking hikes and sunshine swims

Cycling, running, kayaking, golfing, fishing, and boating expeditions. It is a place to be enjoyed from land, sea, or from high above in the air. A place for adventuring and exploring.

I am one of the incredibly lucky ones

I get to live and ‘grow’ in this beautiful part of the world. During these times we are waiting and preparing for when we can once again share our beautiful farm at Persabus with you. Welcoming you back to these island shores.

We are committed to providing safer stays for our guests

and working hard to ensure we keep everyone as safe as possible. Vaccinations are rolling out to protect our community. We are continuously taking guidance from the Government, the ASSC and VisitScotland.

At Persabus there are new policies and procedures in place, involving deeper cleaning and disinfecting of all our properties. All linen, duvets, pillows, each pillow and mattress protector, are changed between guests. We are working very hard so you can be assured of a ‘Safer Stay’ when you choose to stay at Persabus. Here you really can have the freedom to enjoy a thoroughly relaxing break in one of Islay’s most scenic destinations.

Our secluded location, close to the hills and the sea, really does

offer socially distanced holidays in a beautiful part of the island

With the Happy Farmer and I living in the main farmhouse and working on the farm we are usually around for any questions you may have during your stay with us, or to help you plan your perfect day of ‘Islay adventuring’.

If you are planning your ‘staycation’,

looking forward to escaping to island living, do get in touch and we will hopefully be welcoming you to Persabus in the not too distant future.

Until next time…

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The Draw of the Hebrides

The Hebrides have that certain ‘pull’

even when the full force of nature’s elements are raging across the landscape. As gales lash against the farmhouse, rattling the slates on the roof. Blizzards bringing powdery snowflakes that ‘sting the eyes’ as they swirl ferociously in the storms.

It is both dramatic and spectacularly beautiful.

Taking full advantage of the weather, huge fires are roaring in the living rooms of the farmhouse and a warm cosy heat spreads from the Aga at the heart of kitchen as we hunker down. Able to enjoy the force of nature from the cosy comfort of ‘home’.

The magical ‘draw’ as Island life immerses you in the raw beauty of living on the edge of the land.

So, before I ‘plunge’ myself into those gales

as dogs need walked and the animals need to be checked and fed, as it’s Valentine’s Day, I invite you to sit back and revisit the story of my journey to these beautiful lands.

The Hebrides for me have a uniqueness and energy that is both powerful and special.

The colourful and harsh 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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When the Wind Gobbles You Up

We have been flying by the seat of our pants at Persabus

quite literally.

Living on the edge of the land.

Winter storms have raged across the landscape. Wild seas lashing against the coastline. Ferries battling huge waves to keep our lifeline service running.

Sometimes when you look out of the window on a grey day as the wind howls around you it is a ‘thought’.

To muster up that ‘get up and go’

To ‘climb’ out of the warmth and comfort of ‘home’ and face the elements in their full ferocity.

The daily run with the Persabus dogs is a challenge in many ways when those storms set in. The sheer wall of energy from the raging gales means an extra ‘push’ to make any headway. The icy cold wind biting. Forcing its way through my many layers, sharp teeth on my cheeks and nose.

A change of direction and I am suddenly thrust forwards as the gales literally threaten to whip me off my feet and carry me along in their wake. My little legs madly trying to keep up. Adding an extra workout to what started off as a gentle ‘jog’.

Why then would I be so bonkers?

What on earth am I thinking of? Everyone asks.

A run fully immersed in those elements, in the very depths of a freezing cold winter, leaves you invigorated, tingling and just ready to flow. Total immersion is as good as those wild swims in calmer weather. The refreshing glow of the freezing temperatures and then the heat of a hot shower back at the farmhouse, and it just sets me up for the day.

In the pottery

colourful hearts and flowers have been emerging as I revisit the Helen Happy Heart range. Escapism from any grey wet day outside this range is all about bright, bold colour.

At Persabus the farmhouse is always filled with flowers. Often big and blousy wild bouquets gathered from the hillside and mixed with beautiful flowers from my Happy Farmer.

In the summer months the flowerbeds and old stone troughs are alive with the vibrant colour and scent of floral displays. The Helen Happy Heart range is all about happy colourful hearts and flowers. Capturing my love for my island home. It is a range that makes me smile. I hope it makes you smile too.

Sending you a big bit of Islay love from Persabus.

Until next time….

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The Mighty Persabus Haggis Hunt

It was to be a sombre affair this year

With all the current restrictions in place, even the Persabus haggi seem to have been hiding away from this dreadful virus.

On the farm, whilst those sheep and cows seem oblivious to current guidelines, not adhering to social distancing rules at all, a little haggis told me that the haggi population of the Inner Hebrides are taking the guidelines very seriously indeed.

The Happy Farmer cut a lonely figure striding out across the hillside in search of his favourite haggis.

Gone were the usual pre-hunt antics and high jinks of the annual Persabus haggis hunt

There were no customary pies flowing from the infamous Aga. No pre-hunt drams of Islay’s finest malts. Such was the Happy Farmer’s sorrow at contemplating the thought of a haggis hunt without his usual farming contingent, he had no appetite for pies or whisky.

With Burn’s night almost upon us it was to be an incredibly lonely mission.

He set off in the dead of night, with just the moonlight for company

The first hurdle was the electric fence, which to circumnavigate in the darkness, with some ever so slightly ‘tippled’ farmers would usually prove to be something of an obstacle. Not every farmer has been blessed with the mighty long legs of the Happy Farmer or indeed the Handsome Young Farmer. It was probably a huge relief to the Happy Farmer at this point that his usual cohort were not present. With some proving to be terribly ‘clickety clackety’ in the gait these days. Some with wee chunky legs that are simply not quite long enough to straddle an electric fence, with bog and ditch on either side.

The thought of a sharp tweak in the ‘oxters’ and the game would have definitely been a bogey

On previous haggis hunts the Happy Farmer, at this point, together with the help of the Handsome Farmer, would usually lead proceedings with old fashioned ‘coalie backs’. This allowed the ‘lesser legged’ members of the contingent to be hoisted safely over the treacherous wire.

The memory of that particular hunt brought a smile to the Happy Farmer’s face.

He recalled the time when the shortest farmer in the party could not quite manage to hoist himself up on to the Handsome Farmer’s back. Several attempts, and then a run and a jump, and the said farmer had positively leap frogged high into the air, somersaulting straight over the Handsome Farmer’s back, across the fence, before landing face down and feet up in a peaty bog.

Thankfully, the night was saved by the copious amounts of ‘amber nectar’ brought along for such emergencies.

Before they knew it, all the farmers could be found face down in whisky and feet up in the peaty bog

Their chortling as they became even more stuck could be heard far and wide. The farmers, completely oblivious to the attention they were drawing, had by this point, due to the huge quantity of medicinal drams, quite forgotten the mission and purpose of their evening. Hearty stories were recounted from the depths of that bog. Their luck was in however, as on hearing the antics of those farmers, and being ever so nosy little creatures, the haggi began to creep from their burrows. Scurrying closer, they could just smell that whisky. A twitch of the whiskers and they could tell it was a good, aged Islay malt. After a long winter spent in the depths of a burrow, the temptation proved to be just too much. Before those farmers knew it, haggi were positively bounding and leaping into the peaty bog to join in the party.

That particular year proved to be one of the most successful hunts to date.

This year however, it was just the Happy Farmer heaving himself up the hillside. Well, he heaved himself to the base of the hill at any rate. I am not so sure he would have gone as far as quite making it up the hillside such was his sombre mood.

All alone in the moonlight. Nothing seemed to be doing

Defeated, the Happy Farmer turned and began to make his way back to the farmhouse. He was completely oblivious to the curious whiskers that were beginning to pop out of the burrows, watching his every move. Saddened that there was no whisky bath to leap into this year. Saddened there had not been so much as a drop of ‘amber nectar’ to enjoy.

That is until one of those brave little haggis could bear it no longer

Taking a flying leap, he jumped high into the air before skilfully landing snuggly in the pocket of the Happy Farmer’s jacket. He was swiftly followed by a second, landing in another pocket, and a third. By the time the Happy Farmer reached the farmhouse and came to take off his jacket his pockets were full of haggi.

If you have ever wondered why there are so many pockets to a farmer’s jacket now you know the answer. In the current climate you will be pleased to hear those haggi were all happily socially distanced, one to each pocket.

The Happy Farmer’s annual haggis hunt has yet again provided another plentiful supply of this gorgeous delicacy to be enjoyed on Burn’s night and beyond.

Which just leaves me to wish you a Happy Burn’s night from all of us at Persabus. Slainte.

Until next time…

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Winter on Islay

We woke up to a hard frost

A peppering of snow on the Paps and brilliant sunshine. Days like these. It is good for the soul, especially in these strange times.

Running through hard frosty fields, dogs in tow, and the Hebridean sheep do not blink an eye as we pass. They are used to our daily rounds. The sweet scent of silage fills the air as the Happy Farmer works away on his tractor delivering bales to the animals in the fields. The summer crops preserved for feed during this harsh season.

Much later as I walk down to the sea

I pass the sheep herded around munching away. One stood greedily guzzling on top of a bale. Even the bull, who is usually ever so nosy, can barely take his head away from the feed ring today. At this late hour I can see he has made a hearty attempt to munch his way through a good quarter of his bale already.

Out on the hill, the Highland cows enjoy the unspoilt wilderness

of bog, heather and a variety of grasses allowing for good foraging and plenty of shelter among the rocky crags. They are in their natural habitat and so only need feed blocks just now, which they lick their way through heartily. Rich in minerals and salts the feed block encourages them to eat more grass whilst also improving the nutrient value of their diet.

It is amazing the facts you learn from a quick chat with the Happy Farmer. He can be spotted a mile away from any vantage point just now, dressed from head to toe in his fluorescent ‘garb’. A series of warm layers keep the winter chills at bay.

Down at the shore and a seal lies lazing on a rock

seemingly drifting off to sleep, then waking with a start and a stretch, before drifting off again.

In the pottery

the tartan theme continues, which will be ideal for our Burn’s Night celebrations on Monday when ‘team Persabus’ will be toasting the haggis with great gusto.

There has also been a bit of a heart theme going on as I focus on St Valentine’s and spreading a little love from Persabus during these crazy times. I am hoping to have the online shop flowing with hearts for February.

Yesterday though as a storm was brewing outside it seemed appropriate to be working on Duncan’s Bunnahabhain range. Capturing a beautiful walk out along Islay’s north east coastline on a stormy day and translating it into art. There is something very relaxing about spending an afternoon painting. Enjoying mixing the colours, working with shading and light. Flicks of the brush creating movement and texture and suddenly the scene comes to life and another piece is created. Ready for glazing and firing.

Capturing the tones and seasons of island life onto ceramics, do be sure to call by and visit our online shop soon.

Until next time…

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All things Tartan

It has been a time of the most beautiful strawberry lemony skies

Capturing the final hours of daylight with the last rays of the setting sun painting the landscape with golden, pink hues. Underfoot the rugged peaty ground frozen solid. The wild grasses coated in frost. In the distance the pink and lilac snow-clad mountains of Mull, against the sea, framing the horizon.

I have watched in awe as so many people seem to have taken to the sea for a refreshing new year dip. After a scramble down the hillside the gentle lapping waves look so inviting but with the biting cold, crisp air, it is a firm ‘no’ from me. For now, it is enough to just sit at the edge of the shore amongst the rocks, watching as the pebbles get drawn back and forth with the tide.

The rush that swept us along

as the madness of Christmas took over in the final weeks of the last year, has calmed.

The festivities were a quieter affair with all the restrictions in place.

It was just our small clan, but we still danced, and sang.

Ate far too much and made merriment. It was a time for slowing down. Lazy mornings, followed by long walks along deserted coastlines. In the evenings, bonfires on the beach and at the farm, huddled under the star lit skies. The warmth of the crackling flames against your face and the Happy Farmer’s sloe gin to warm the cockles.

In the Pottery as I steadily pick up where I left off, before the turn of the year, a tartan theme is emerging. I have found myself captivated by threading the muted shades of Islay’s winter, weaving the colours into a tartan pattern. A collaboration of mossy, peaty, earthy colours lifted with the reds and bronzes of those beautiful golden rays the sun seems to be casting across the island. All celebrated in Valinda’s Hogmanay Tartan range.

Valinda was my late mother-in-law

A vibrant, colourful lady who loved all things tartan

It is not a new theme to my ranges but to begin the year I am going to be exploring new colour palettes within the tartans. A celebration of this fabulous lady and her proud Scots heritage and the ideas are suddenly endless.

Emerging also then is the new Valinda’s Rainbow Tartan design, equally quirky. This range is an explosion of colour, capturing the vibrant rainbow shades of the crisp winter landscapes, seas and skies in the Hebrides. As pieces emerge from the kiln I will be sharing them with you in my little online emporium.

Finally then I would like to wish ‘you and yours’ a happy, healthy new year from all of us at Persabus. It is a strange start to the year, but know that we are thinking of you all, friends old and new, your messages and cards over the festivities were fabulous.

We look forward to a time when we can catch up once again

and offer you a hearty welcome back to the farm to enjoy these beautiful island shores.

Until next time…

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