The Happy Farmer goes incognito

Early January and the morning skies have been filled with vivid oranges, peaches and purples, as the sun has risen in all its splendour, providing the perfect backdrop to enjoy some gorgeous winter walks. I haven’t quite managed to peel the Happy Farmer away from the farm to join us on the jaunts but whilst he has been busy on feeding rounds, I have been enjoying hearty walks. The perfect tonic after the heady celebrations of an island Hogmanay.

Decorations have all been neatly packed and stored away for another year. So, as I made my way through the fields on the morning run, with dogs in tow, we were suddenly alerted to movement among the pine trees. Almost hidden from view, under a huge camouflage jacket, was a ‘lesser spotted’ Happy Farmer. Just maybe he was looking to get a bit of peace from the ‘ditching’ cars on our new ‘Hebridean motorway’, which leads, in a twisty, windy, single-track way, to the island’s distilleries. Hidden from sight, it wasn’t just the dogs barking that blew his cover, but the bellowing and roaring of the bull and cows coming from the neighbouring field and the loud bleating of the sheep as they rounded themselves up, all peering over the fence, looking on at the Happy Farmer in dismay. It seems everyone was wanting the Happy Farmer’s attention. I usually spy the tractor making its way across the fields with cows, bull and sheep in tow. A Happy Farmer at this time of year is a welcome sight for all the animals. Even Muffin and Hansel, our horses, can be seen with their noses hanging over the garden fence waiting to see what treats are going to be coming their way from the farmhouse kitchen. Anyhow, he was spotted, cover blown, busy planting the Persabus Christmas tree back into the ground, carefully securing it with a stake, to allow it to settle in once again, and continue growing, following its brief Christmas holiday in the farmhouse.

My hearty jaunts then have taken me over ‘the bridge’ to the Mull of Oa as youngest and I enjoyed rambling along the pathway to the American monument. A wild and blustery day, and the frothy sea spray was being blown from the crashing waves below right up and over the dramatic cliffs that surround this rugged and stunningly beautiful coastline. The monument providing quite a backdrop as the sun began to set across the Atlantic.

Out beyond  Bunnahabhain we were among otters and deer. The silhouette of a lone stag could be seen on the skyline, grazing away. Peated waterfalls were bubbling down the hillside with the sun lighting up the purple and golden hues of a Jura landscape, across the white capped Sound.

The Lochs in Dunlossit woods provided crystal clear reflections of the skies above as we made our way along the track and through the drive, dogs in tow, as the sunset through the trees and dusk began to fall.

In January, if the weather is kind, the range and depth of colour and light is both dramatic and beautiful. As the island quietens down nature comes out to play in all its glory.

Winter breaks on Islay can be just the tonic after the busy festivities.

At Persabus we offer a variety of accommodation, whether you are wanting to stay in our farmhouse bed and breakfast suite, where you can enjoy a dram in our whisky lounge and comfortable super king-size double beds in either of the two ensuite bedrooms. Or, cosy up in one of our self-catering cottages beside the fireside, and enjoy all the homely comforts on offer. Persabus Cottage was the original farmhouse at Persabus and offers traditon and comfort, whilst the Millhouse has a more modern finish and was renovated from the old steadings that once housed the mill that threshed the corn on the farm. For hardy campers there is the opportunity to pitch your tent in the beautiful surroundings at Persabus, just a short distance from the North Islay Distilleries. Best of all, a good hearty breakfast from the Happy Farmer is on offer with all these options.

We look forward to offering you a warm welcome at Persabus soon.

Until next time…

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The Happy Farmer’s Ditching Escapades

The Happy Farmer’s services have been in demand over the festive season, and not just his fantastic turkey roasting service. With Persabus now situated as the gateway to the north Islay Distilleries, there has been a lot of ‘ditching’ going on recently, compliments of cars misbehaving. In their enthusiasm to access the Distilleries, they can often be seen veering ever so slightly off course. This in turn lands their drivers and passengers in a tipsy, sometimes vertically challenged situation, wedged firmly in a ditch. Hire cars seem to be the main culprits. There is always a sigh of relief when it is a mainland hire car and not one of the local Islay car hires.
On the plus side the Happy Farmer is getting to meet some really lovely people from all corners of the world and thankfully although his tractor might be creeping up in years, she can still pull a motor or two out of a ditch.
The farmhouse has been busy with passing revellers. ‘First footing’ is the order of the day across the island at this time of year. Following Hogmanay, it is a part of the island tradition to call by friends and family, with a small offering of food or a dram. It is an incredibly sociable time of the year, when post partying, following the firework displays, and the ceilidhs in the village halls and houses, ‘visiting’ continues into the New Year. It was really appreciated then when families called by the pottery today to collect their pieces from the kiln and arrived laden with home-made black bun and bottles of wine.
In the run up to Christmas the farmhouse kitchen was filled with Christmas Angels when the Handsome Farmer called by to collect his turkey delivery from Archie Bread. Coffees were poured and halos were shining brightly as even the farmers were too busy to stop for long.
We celebrated the festivities, enjoying all of the usual traditions, alongside windswept beach walks on the beautiful island shores and meanders along the woodland paths, before settling in and enjoying nights at the fireside. It has been a lovely family time. A time to recharge and refresh as we move happily into the new decade.
Wishing you and yours a very happy new year from all of us at Persabus.
Until next time…

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‘Tis the Season

It has reached that heady time of year again as Christmas comes hurtling around the corner, firing on all cylinders.
The younger clan get the job of designing the Persabus Christmas card each year. A journey our friends have followed over the past twenty years from the innocent and beautiful child art of giraffes hanging over the crib in a scene from the nativity when eldest was in P1. Artwork which has morphed, from capturing all the farm animals in Christmas scenes, into fine art depicting livestock and treasured pets. There are youngest’s cartoon images of life on the farm, always promising ‘to be continued’, which have now grown into designer pieces ready for the catwalk, depicting her journey into the world of fashion and beyond.
Every year the Ileach office has overseen the printing in what is always a last-minute request. Those designs are returned to us captured on cards to send out across the world. I am always in a rush to meet the final posting day, no time for sherry and mince pies, as we get caught up in the Christmas madness.
The Happy Farmer has the Christmas tree in pride of place. Another beauty selected from his small plantation of pine trees. The scent emanates throughout the home as the whole place is glittering with fairy lights and candles. Pine branches and greenery wait to be hung around the fireplaces and throughout the kitchen. Dried rosehips are threaded on wire to make decorations , the Happy Farmer’s clootie dumping is simmering away on the Aga, and with a huge roaring fire, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Persabus and beyond.
Over the past few weekends the island has been in danger of sinking, and not just in whisky, or because of the wild and stormy weather. There has been a mass exodus of people heading over to Glasgow first for the Vatersay Boys Christmas Ceilidh and then for a magical concert by Skipinnish, with maybe just a bit of snatched time for the city lights and Christmas shopping.
The Happy Farmer whisked me away to the Skipinnish concert and what a fabulous performance. A weekend of Christmas dinners and gatherings followed, as we caught up with family and friends on the mainland to celebrate. I am now in the race to get to the finishing line. To get the last of the pottery orders boxed and posted, the final workshop treasures handed out and those presents wrapped, our own decorations finished, the baking done….and then, relax …it’s time to enjoy all the trimmings of an Islay Christmas.
At this point can we offer you and yours a very merry Christmas from all of us at Persabus. To all the new friends we have met this past year, and our old treasured friends who have helped us to make wonderful memories as we enjoy the ride. We will be raising a hearty glass to you all during the festivities and look forward to offering you a warm Persabus welcome soon.
Slainte.
Until next time…

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Islay Beach Time

One of Islay’s treasures is its spectacular coastline. The rugged cliffs, where dramatic waterfalls froth and bubble to the seas below. The colourful pebbles worn smooth by the tidal currents. The natural arches and caves in rock faces and then the vast expanses of sand and dunes where seals lull happily on banks and rocks. Otters, herons, oyster catchers, gulls and wild goats roam the shoreline, as fishing boats, tugboats, ferries and yachts bob about in the seas beyond.
The beautiful coastline is a constant source of inspiration, flowing through my designs in the pottery. From the deep blues and turquoises of the Lucy Sea Breeze range. Port Ban inspired by a refreshing dip in Lochindaal on a spring day, the rocks glittering with the pinks of sea thrift and the reds of the anemones, waiting for the tide to wash over them once again. The wild purples and greens of the seas in the Winter Sound range from the heart of a storm. The Ocean Swirls range capturing the sheer force and energy of white horses riding huge waves across the Sound. My favourite Corryvreckan range where tidal currents meet off the north tip of the neighbouring Isle of Jura. The new Alice’s Killinallan range. A beautiful wild expanse of coastline along the shores of Loch Gruinart, where boggy ground and dunes lead down to golden sands and shallow waters, where oysters are farmed and the seals breed.
Sheena’s Islay Beach Time is the latest range from Persabus Pottery. This new range is a tribute to Sheena and her big birthday, which we celebrated at the weekend. Sheena is a bundle of positive and creative energy, with an infectious smile. She is a fantastic singer, performing across the island over the years, and many times at the Islay Jazz Festival, a keen quilter and sewer, but most of all she is a good friend. The weekend celebrations involved lots of parties, gatherings and fizz, and the all-important birthday beach trip. Sheena always heads to the beach in December with her family to celebrate her birthday. Laden with flasks of hot soup and coffee to warm the heart, as the weather can often be blustery and cold. Barbeques are at the ready, and a picnic basket of goodies. Sheena’s Islay Beach Time is about capturing those special memories onto pottery to bring the island’s beaches home. I hope you get to enjoy some Islay beach time soon.
Until next time…

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Time for Play

It has been a week of falling soundly asleep beneath twinkling stars as the milky way shone brightly across the night skies. In the mornings waking up to the pinks, violets and oranges of a rising sun beaming down across the Sound of Islay.

The farmhouse has been treated to a much-needed overhaul. Having spent time and money renovating the old steadings, and then building a new bed and breakfast wing into what was once the old stables, the windows in the main house, where we live, have gradually deteriorated. They were never ideal. Leaks would appear when stormy weather brought torrential rain, and latterly, when those bitter cold south easterly gales blew up the Sound, they would blow straight through those windows and right across our bedroom. Whilst our guests were enjoying being toasty cosy in the farmhouse bed and breakfast suite, a hot water bottle and bobble hat were necessary attire at bedtime in wild weather at this end of the house. When the storms struck, I was reminded of my camping days in the wilds of Scotland, as bitter cold draughts crept through the broken seals and we were more than a little exposed to the elements.

All of that changed last week. We were hugely appreciative and thoroughly spoilt then when the fabulous ‘A’ team arrived. After a day of hard work, those old windows were history. Replaced with crystal clear gleaming new ones. Curtains have yet to be rehung at the windows, and a spot of decorating is on the cards. We have been treated to beautiful night skies, and then watching as dawn breaks across the Sound. A trail of bright lights making their way over the hills in the distance, as the Isle of Jura awakens once more, and the small single file of cars head down to Feolin to catch the early ferry across to Islay. The colourful frosty mornings, watching pheasants feeding in the fields, and eagles swooping overhead.

It has been a social week. The Happy Farmer has been visiting his cask at Bruichladdich Distillery with his ‘gang’. They headed off like naughty schoolboys and after a morning of ‘serious business’ in the distillery, followed by lunch at Port Charlotte, they collapsed around a roaring fire at Persabus for a late afternoon of ‘sampling’ and ‘nosing’. Dinner followed in Bowmore and then Hughie’s taxi home. It has been about inhaling the peaty gorgeousness of an Islay winter. A time for catching up and reconnecting with friends, relaxing and enjoying. The seasons quieten and the whole community gathers closer to enjoy the cheer of an Islay winter as Christmas preparations get underway. When the holiday makers are away the locals get to play!

Christmas lights have been switched on in Bowmore and were celebrated with a fantastic street party. A Christmas fayre, there were highland dancers, and then the magical arrival of Santa as he made it over to our island shores. Christmas markets are on, dinner dances, parties and pantomimes.

At the weekend we were treated to a fabulous night at Iain’s Seafood Kitchen as family and friends celebrated a MacLellan 60th and 21st birthday in true Islay style as the community partied the night away. Canopies were served alongside a feast of fish pie, casserole, curry and chilli. I think the Happy Farmer managed to sample them all. Spectacular fireworks lit up the night sky, waking pyjama clad party animals from their slumbers, as they too arrived to join in the fun. Even Floss the sheepdog was at the door. A huge candle lit lobster birthday cake and another Bruichladdich whisky bottle cake were the icing on the evening.

At the pottery we have been busy with after school and evening workshops. There have been Christmas shopping nights in C.Hannett’s Jewellery workshop and in the pottery showroom, with coffee and mince pies being served up. Charlotte and I have had a field day with those fairy lights. The Happy Farmer has contributed bundles of pine cuttings and holly, as candles have been lit and it is all beginning to look very festive at Persabus, especially with all the beautiful twinkling jewellery delights on offer in Charlotte’s workshop. I feel a Christmas shopping trip coming on for the Happy Farmer. At least he will only have to venture across the single track road.

Until next time…

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Strike a Pose

It’s been a busy week for photo shoots on the farm. Quite by accident in conversation with a couple of customers in the pottery and I find those Highland ladies have been striking a pose for the lens of a passing camera again. With the small single-track road meandering through the farm on its way to Ardnahoe and Bunnahabhain Distilleries those ladies are becoming something of a tourist feature in the area. They can be seen modelling away on a regular basis, with a quick flick of their horns, their windswept wiry thick curls, and huge eyes shaded with long thick lashes, they make for quite a picture, attracting admiring glances from all walks of life the world over.
Not wanting to miss out, the other animals on the farm have been queuing to get in on the act too. Muffin was spied posing away all weekend at the edge of the garden. A milky grin on his face, from the grey hairs framing those lips, he is always happy to be in front of the camera, and knows that a camera is often accompanied by goodies from the farmhouse kitchen of fresh peelings, together with a pat or a rub from his favourite lady. Muffin, our cheeky pony, arrived when eldest was just seven years old. He is now 33 and has been a member of the clan at Persabus for nearly twenty years and eldest loves him to bits, travelling home frequently to get her ‘horse fix’. He arrived on the farm as an ILPH rescue pony and it was love at first sight when eldest clapped eyes on him. He came complete with saddle and bridle but from very early on it became blatantly clear that he had absolutely no intention of ever being ridden. Muffin’s answer to a rider on his back would be to trot along smartly, fixed grin on face, and then without warning, a flick of his hind quarters, a sharp buck of the back legs, and the rider would be flung unceremoniously into the air and onto the ground, as Muffin made a quick bolt for it. Even the Happy Farmer has somersaulted off Muffin’s back. Muffin you see had the most terrible sweet itch in the early days and who knows what awful treatment he had endured before coming to live at Persabus. Eldest wouldn’t have dreamed of forcing the issue, she was far more interested in the happiness and contentment of her horse companions. Instead as a youngster she spent most evenings and weekends grooming him, patiently chatting away to him and playing alongside him whilst she saved her riding skills for Rosie, her Highland pony and latterly Hansel. These horses are also keen to model around the farm and can often be seen posing away on the hill just beside the cottages, being sure to attract admiring glances from guests staying in our farm accommodation.
Not to be left out the sheep are always happy to be photographed too At lambing time there is often an enclosure on the farm with a pet lamb or two bleating away looking for a bottle of milk and a fuss. Just now, with’ tupping season’ upon us, the sheep barely move when I make tracks though the field, minus the dogs of course, that would be just a little unsettling for the flock. The tups happily ‘nose’ their way around the field choosing which of the ladies is ‘available’. The sheep laze, happily chewing the cud. In the neighbouring field Markus the bull is munching on a bale of silage dropped in by tractor earlier in the morning. Those animals happily pose away daily for my passing camera.
Back at the farmhouse the dogs can be found, lazing on the patio, whilst the cats make their own cosy nests in various corners of the home, sprawled out across chairs and sofas, tucked up on rugs and throws.
There’s no shortage of pets at Persabus and then of course we also have the Happy Farmer….
Until next time…

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Hamish is in the Naughty Books

Waking up to a crisp clear morning in Glasgow then hopping on the plane for the short cruise through the skies back to Islay and we are met with snow-capped mountains as the winter wonderland unfolds below us, golden landscapes and turquoise seas and then the bird’s eye views of Ardbeg, Laphroaig and Lagavulin Distilleries, nestled into the rugged coastline of Islay’s shores. Handy locations for bygone days when the puffer boats would steam in to transport barrels full of whisky across to the mainland.

A smooth landing, the friendly and welcoming familiar faces of the Loganair staff meeting us off the plane and then the ‘chat’ and smiles once inside the hub as the warmth of the Islay community encompasses you once again.

The animals have missed us. Ruby and Brambles’ happy barks and yowls echo around the yard as they hear the car approaching. A few minutes later and we are met with wagging tails and bouncy happy dogs, reaching up for cuddles. As the farmhouse door opens the cats scurry in past. They have all been well looked after though, with my parents on hand and visits from the Happy chappies down the road.

Hamish the tup however is in the Happy Farmer’s naughty books again. When the Happy Farmer’s away, the animals get to play, and Hamish has been caught ‘playing’.

In the weeks leading up to the Persabus tupping season these ‘boys’ get extra special treatment on the farm. Pampered, with hooves being clipped well in advance, they have a whole field to themselves, full of rich pickings, so they can munch away to their hearts’ content. The Happy Farmer calls by with extra rations each morning, feeding them a trough full of tasty treats, which they seem to really enjoy, given the sprint they break into, as they greet the Happy Farmer at the gate. The grunting and snuffling that goes on, as they tuck into this hearty breakfast.

Hamish however was not content with this luxury lifestyle. He was eager to get to the ladies in the neighbouring fields, to get the ‘job’ done. He proceeded to spend his days finding ways to escape from the ‘boys’ and make an early entry into the sheep field. On several occasions he managed, and several times he was led grudgingly back to his field, by the Happy Farmer. In the end the Happy Farmer had no option but to place Hamish in barracks, in the confines of the sheep pens at the Persabus Fank. The barracks do come with their own little luxuries though. Hamish got a complete accommodation upgrade to an ‘executive suite’ as the Happy Farmer wanted to make sure when the storms came Hamish would have adequate shelter. A warm base, the suite boasts insulated flooring with a sustainable natural carpet of hay. The steel walls of the ‘up turned trailer of the Happy Farmer’s quad bike’ are draught free. It is minimalist in style and with a wide doorway Hamish is offered panoramic views out across the sheep fields and beyond. You have to love the practicality of an ever-inventive Happy Farmer. In the wet days leading up to the tupping season Hamish could be seen happily chewing the cud enjoying the vantage point of his lodgings, with just a nose popping out to enjoy the vista.

Last week then Hamish had a skip in his step as the Happy Farmer led him from his suite and out to the fields to at last meet up with the ladies, he had been watching eagerly from his pen.

Hamish is a fine Hebridean tup. When the Happy Farmer went away for a few days he left Hamish happily working away in the field with eldest’s flock of Hebridean sheep. A phone call from the Happy chappies and it appears in the Happy Farmer’s absence, Hamish was not content with just the field of Hebridean sheep. It would appear Hamish has lost none of his Bear Grylls style adventure skills, a few fences, a hop, skip and another jump and Hamish was quickly spotted in the neighbouring field getting acquainted with the ladies of the cross bred varieties. A bit of quad bike action, a few belly flop misses, some swerves and revs of the engine, some words not repeatable on a blog post, and soon Hamish was captured and sent back to barracks, awaiting the Happy Farmer’s return.

Tomorrow’s plans then will involve a Happy Farmer ‘happily’ rounding up and relocating a whole field of Hebridean ladies, chasing them along to pastures new before re-introducing Hamish to his own flock, away from the temptations and eager glances of his ‘new girlfriends’ on the farm.

Have you booked your Persabus break yet?

Until next time….

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The Happy Farmer’s Project

We had a very welcome visitor at Persabus this week. With gorgeous sunshine and crisp autumn mornings, the ‘telehandler’ came trundling across from the Rhinns of Islay, courtesy of the Handsome Farmer, and Dolly the driver. The Happy Farmer proceeded to spend his day hoicked up in the air on the safety platform, reaching the high points on the farmhouse, brush and pot of whitewash in hand. Long gone are the days of the Happy Farmer’s improvised telehandlers, when ladders would be precariously balanced and tied, tractor buckets doubling as a paint platform. Thankfully these days the chimney heads, dormas and window facings are all painted from the safety of a proper, shiny telehandler platform. It was a tad chilly but with the seasons quietening down there was time to get this fine piece of equipment on site and get these last few bits painted and looking pristine. Of course, a return visit to the Rhinns is already on the cards, as the Happy Farmer is excitedly planning a trip to this quiet corner of the island to thank the Handsome Farmer in person. He is already hoping his visit will involve a wee sweetie or two with the possibility that Mr Peaty might be involved in the social jolly for good measure. Unfortunately for the Happy Farmer though, with the driver being the Happy Farmer’s wife, there will quite possibly be conditions attached to the visit, namely not as many sweeties as he had hoped for.
After a whole day spent out in the elements painting away with a bitter, sharp wind biting at his neck and hands by the time the Happy Farmer’s feet touched down to ground he was more than a little frozen. Luckily the thawing out process involved a large helping of tasty fish pie, that had been bubbling away on the top shelf of the Aga, and a seat beside a roaring fire.
It seems ages ago that wee Ben called up at the farm one sunny evening last summer with a bag of large pollack. Ben is a keen fisherman and spends summer evenings fishing from his dad’s boat in the Sound of Islay. It was a lovely surprise when he arrived at our door then, laden with the freshest of fish, straight from the sea. The Happy Farmer saved some of the fish for the deep freeze ready for tasty pies in the autumn and winter months. With a Wednesday visit from Jean’s Fish van and a good helping of fresh crab meat from Boo’s Seafood Shack, some salmon fillets, smoked haddock and prawns, the most delicious fish pie was soon being served up, finished off with a delicious helping of Campbeltown cheese melting to form a crust across the potato topping. Sadly, this beautiful mature cheddar cheese will not be available for much longer as this creamery is due to close, leaving yet more dairy farmers in a difficult predicament. When I first came to Islay an important port of call was a visit to the Islay creamery. The Happy Farmer would purchase a large slab of the tasty mature cheddar cheese for the farmhouse, together with a block of the creamery’s butter for baking. Mary, from Bruichladdich, would serve us, cutting away huge hunks of various cheeses so we could sample the various cheddars stacked on the shelves. When the creamery closed it marked the gradual decline of dairy farming on the island. I miss the Islay cheese and am sorry to see another Argyll creamery closing.
Today the island is being lashed by storms. What a difference a day makes, after a week of sunshine and cold crisp mornings, the winter weather has arrived just as the tupping season gets underway at Persabus. Hamish the tup is at last out with his girls, a huge grin on his face. He is no longer trying to escape from barracks but can be seen in the fields being ever so attentive to his lady friends, as he happily follows them round carrying out his necessary duties with a wink and a smile.
Until next time…

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Autumn in the Pottery

With cold, crisp mornings and the first signs of frost in the ground, the wood burning stove has been roaring back to life in the pottery studio. The Happy Farmer heads over each morning after the feeding rounds to get the fire burning and top up supplies of coal and logs, ensuring the workshop is toasty cosy for an afternoon of creativity.
The turquoise seas of the Sound of Islay, the sun lying low in the sky, and then the few cheeky ‘visitors’ at the pottery door, who happen to be munching their way through the grass outside, all add to the creative mix going on inside my little studio. Designs begin to evolve and the creative spirit flows. The workshop table is a maze of bottles with a wide range of vivid colours on offer. Baskets overflow with sponges of varying textures, shapes and sizes and then there are mugs bursting with paint brushes. I really do feel like a child in a sweet shop at this quieter time of year as my brush flicks paint across the ceramic surface, with the cosy glow of the fire burning away slowly and warming my back.
The ‘visitors’ outside are gathered at the pottery door, eyeing me up. They didn’t waste much time when they spied an open gate. They took their chance, and came skipping down the track and across the road, for a ‘wee’ visit. Eldest’s’ Hebridean flock popping by for a tasty bite. When they see me they know the ‘game’s a bogey’, a quick clap of hands sees them meandering into an orderly line and trotting happily back to their field across the road. If only the Happy Farmer could be gathered in so easily!
It has been a week of enjoying the last glints of daylight in the late afternoon, hiking out the hill with the dogs, as the gorgeous panorama unfolds and shadows spread across the land with the setting of the sun in those beautiful autumn skies. The dogs and I just love our ‘hill time’ at Persabus. Soon it will be far too dark for after work rambles, hibernation will take over with early suppers in front of glowing log fires in the farmhouse. A chance to recharge and rest as the pace of life slows with the shorter days of winter.
The cottages are still busy with visitors making the most of the beauty of an Islay autumn. It’s a time for brisk walks on deserted beaches, the sunset skies reflecting on the wet sands as huge waves wash across the shoreline. A time for woodland walks and mugs of hot chocolate. Fireside drams as you toast your toes after a day hiking out on the hill or on a windswept beach.
This month the pottery will be open on Wednesday evenings for pottery painting workshops from 7pm for an hour. A chance to enjoy playing with brushes and sponges, experimenting with a variety of colours and techniques. A chance to explore creativity. Capturing the autumn colours on pottery and creating unique and lasting keepsakes. There will be earlier workshops for the younger members of the community to come along and create Santa plates, Christmas baubles, bowls and trinkets as they play with handprints, footprints and colour creating beautiful pieces to be shared and treasured for years to come. (Tuesday 12th November and Tuesday 19th November, 4pm to 5.30pm).
Christmas shopping nights are on the cards, with coffees and mince pies at the ready and lots of twinkling fairy lights as the Christmas Spirit draws nearer.
A warm welcome is waiting for all who manage along to join us
Until next time…

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The Happy Farmer’s expedition

It’s not always easy to coax the Happy Farmer out on a walk, unless there happens to be a cow, sheep or horse needing rescued or fed at the end of it. Walking to the Happy Farmer usually involves working. I was taken by surprise then, when last Sunday, with a spring in his step, it was he who suggested we head out for a Sunday walk. Worrying the moment might pass it took me no time at all to race for those wellingtons, jacket and hat, making sure I didn’t forget to grab that Happy Farmer on my way out, before he had chance to change his mind.
It was a gorgeous day. Huge blue seas and skies. The landscape stretching ahead, crisp and clear in the autumn sunshine. The gentle walk became quite a long hike by Happy Farmer standards. Apparently, it soon became clear he had gained some insider information of an area of blackthorn bushes laden with berries. The sloes have been in short supply this autumn. Usually locations of sloes are a strictly guarded secret among farmers, gamekeepers and ferrymen, all worried someone might get to their supply before them and strip the blackthorn bushes bare. It’s a time of year when they are all busy behind the scenes preparing their flagons of sloe gin, adding a variety of secret ingredients to make sure their sloe gin tastes the very best. With the Happy Farmer’s usual haunts appearing ‘fruitless’, he was desperate to get those walking boots on and get going when he got the ‘tip off’ of a plentiful supply of sloes.
After a lovely brisk walk, we were getting ‘hotter’ in terms of the location of the berries. Before us was a jungle of rhododendrons then, and at this point our walk turned into something of a ‘bear hunt’ kind of an adventure. There were banks of tall bracken and ferns to contend with, a fast-flowing bubbling burn, with slippery rocks to clamber over, followed by bogs and thick hedges. The Happy Farmer’s worried face was giving quick backward glances every so often. Checking I was still upright and indeed following his every step, and that those beautiful earrings he bought me in Venice were still sparkling in my ears, intact, as yet another tree branch came slapping into my face. A bit of warning and I might have come along better prepared. It was an assault course to test even the Happy Farmer’s agility and stamina and my friends, when we finally reached those blackthorn bushes let me tell you, they were bare, not one sloe berry in sight.
At this point I hear you chortling and sniggering, let me assure you the Happy Farmer was not ‘chortling’. In true Happy Farmer style, he put on his bravest ‘I am so not disappointed’ face as he tried to convince me that this expedition had been purely about the walk, the lovely relaxing Sunday walk, forgetting the physical effort it had taken to reach this secluded, secret location. What a location we had arrived in, well worth the trek then, as we fought our way back through the undergrowth carefully mapping our route via tall trees we used as markers to reach the path again else we would have got horribly lost.
There may have been a distinct lack of sloes however all around the bramble bushes were laden with fruit. I couldn’t resist. The glistening black berries were so ripe that as I reached out a hand and touched them, they just fell into my palm and they were so mouth wateringly sweet to taste. Melting fruitiness in the mouth. Just as I was thinking ‘stomach’ and guzzling my way through my little harvest the Happy Farmer’s thoughts turned to dreams of bramble whisky, crumbles and puddings. Bags were handed to me, followed with a grunt that more of those berries appeared to be slipping into my mouth than into the bag. This morning my bowl of porridge was laden with the freshest of brambles at breakfast.
Rest assured, just as you imagine a farmhouse kitchen bereft of sloe gin brewing away, know that the Happy Farmer has a backup, a plan B up his sleeve for years such as these. A stash of sloes hidden in the deep freezer. Each year when the Stickman and his lovely wife are over on holiday they call by with lovely jars of home-made jams, chutneys and of course bag or two of sloes.

This week the gin will be out with flagons at the ready as the Happy Farmer rolls up his sleeves and the sloe gin tradition continues at Persabus. Flagons ready to ‘warm the cockles’ as the Happy Farmer’s entertaining continues into autumn and beyond. There is always a hearty welcome waiting at Persabus.
Until next time…

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