AWOL: Happy Farmers, Happy Holidays

It has been about farming at Persabus this week.

It started when an alarmed Happy Farmer informed me that one of the breakfast guests had gone AWOL and was nowhere to be seen. It has reached that time of year when the Happy Farmer invites the boys on the farm, namely the tups, to have a tasty bite of breakfast. Each morning when I go for my run I can see them queuing up at the gate waiting on the Happy Farmer. They bellow their greetings and nudge their weight against the gate in the hope that I might be on breakfast duty. When I head back they are usually lined up at the breakfast trough, snuffling away, chomping their way noisily through the coarse breakfast ration.

When Hamish took it upon himself to go AWOL then, the search party was sent out, with a bucket of feed to locate this naughty tup. It didn’t take too long to find him. It was a process of deduction, a question of which field of ‘ladies’ was he choosing to visit? In a fence jumping, gate hopping kind of a way, being a Hebridean tup he was soon found among the Hebridean ladies. When the Happy Farmer found him he had the interest of at least one of those girls and courting relations were being established. Unfortunately for Hamish the Happy Farmer was having none of it. At Persabus we go for an April lambing and so tupping time is not due to start for at least another couple of weeks. It causes tensions to rise as those boys spend their days working out how to escape from barracks and get across to those girls, who likewise can be seen fluttering their eyelashes and rubbing their ‘booties’ against the gates, looking for ways to attract the tups to their fields.

This morning Hamish was safely back in barracks. Next it was time to go off in search of Markus the bull. Markus has also been having some fun and was seen frolicking away with the ladies on the neighbouring farm. So if you saw a disgruntled Happy Farmer this week, bucket in hand, it was all in the name of coaxing everyone home and into their own beds at night.

In the farmhouse accommodation the Happy Farmer was very excited then when a fellow Happy Farmer from the mainland chose to book a couple of nights at Persabus, bringing his wife away for a well-earned break. It is always a challenge for farmers to find a break in the farming calendar to take time out. Animals need to be fed and looked after, crops need to be sown and then harvested, fields need to be dressed and reseeded and then there is the calving and the lambing. It requires quite a bit of planning to step away from a farm.

At breakfast, farming talk took over, followed by more farming talk at morning coffee in the farmhouse kitchen. Two Happy Farmers together made for a lot of happy farming talk. However, they were on Islay to have a break away from farming, to explore all that Islay and Jura have to offer. We duly sent the couple off for a day of adventuring. I guided them through some exciting plans for their day involving coffee and cake stops, fabulous beach walks, visits to the art gallery and craft shops with the option of a distillery visit or two.

By the next morning the visiting Happy Farmer was in his absolute element. He had enjoyed a fantastic day on Islay and was already looking to extend his stay with us at Persabus. Apparently as they drove to Bridgend and took a right for Port Charlotte the visiting Happy Farmer spied the Auction Mart and lo and behold it was market day. A wee shopping trip was the order of the day and before his wife knew it the Happy Farmer was bidding on a couple of cows and meeting the local farming contingent. After a successful ‘shopping’ trip, the Happy Farmer and his wife spent the afternoon on a farm visit and then were invited for some great highland hospitality in Farmer C’s farmhouse for ‘sweeties’ in the evening.

The following morning at breakfast the Happy Farmer was busy changing ferry bookings with Calmac to allow his new friends to extend their stay at Persabus. The holiday had become even more exciting when it became clear that Caledonian Marts, the livestock auctioneers, were holding livestock auctions at farms around the island too. At breakfast our visiting Happy Farmer did promise his wife they would just do a couple of the farms in the morning, knowing that she was probably not wanting to spend a whole day looking at cows as they were on holiday. By the evening they had enjoyed an exciting day’s shopping on the island. It appears cows to Happy Farmers are like handbags and shoes to ladies.The Caledonian Livestock sales had led them right across the island into the far south and beyond, as they got to visit every farm sale along the way.

Our visiting Happy Farmer headed home with a spring in his step. Having sampled the local whisky he left happily dreaming of buying 10 acres or so of land on Islay devoted purely to supplying the distilleries with barley, all in the name of a cask. Happy Farmers, happy holidays, that is what we are about at Persabus.

Until next time…