Islay blog: The Persabus Haggis Hunt

It was not a mission for the faint hearted. The Haggis hunting season is here. With Burns night upon us the Happy Farmer has been out on the seasonal Persabus Haggis hunt.

It began with ‘pre-hunt refreshments’ in the new Persabus stable for the Happy Farmer and his small cohort from the farming contingent, all eager to get their hands on a prized Persabus Haggis. Now no Persabus blog would be complete without an appearance from the Persabus Aga. Late last night trays of mini Highland beef pies came bubbling out from the top shelf to feed the assembled hunters, all washed down with a ‘wee snifter’ of the Happy Farmer’s bramble whisky, before the hunt began in earnest.

The first hurdle was the electric fence, which to circumnavigate in the darkness, with some ever so slightly ‘tippled’ farmers proved a bit of an obstacle. Not every farmer has been blessed with the mighty long legs of the Happy Farmer or indeed the Handsome Young Farmer. Some of the party are even beginning to get ever so slightly ‘clickety clackety’ in the gait, and with wee legs to boot, well a sharp tweak in the ‘oxters’ is not a happy thought and could have brought a swift halt to proceedings. Luckily the Handsome Farmer and the Happy Farmer stepped in and with good old fashioned ‘coalie backs’ hoisted the lesser legged members of the contingent over the fence and they were off. Stumbling across peatland and bog land hoping to get a glimpse of the evasive Persabus Haggis. The jaunt up the hill did not come without its trials. One farmer got bogged. Another tripped and slid into the burn. Luckily a bottle of the island’s ‘amber nectar’ provided a much-needed source of medicine to persuade the party to continue in their efforts. Out on the hill in the dead of night it can be an eerie place. Stumbling among the old ruins of days gone by. The farmers nearly jumped out of their skin, and almost spilt their bottle of whisky, when, low and behold, the milkman, who had been hiding behind the trig point, jumped out on them, just like the full moon, lighting their path.

In the distance they spied torch light. Poachers? It was distillery staff from Islay’s south island distilleries. They were also out and about searching for the prized Persabus Haggis. You see the haggis at Persabus are among Islay’s best. Known for their sweet, succulent flavour. Helped by the fact that, if rumours are to be believed, they are fed a daily dram from Caol ila Distillery. The Persabus Haggis are already rumoured to be more than excited by the prospect of the generosity of the new Ardnahoe Distillery.

The party returned in the wee small hours. Their bravery rewarded. Haggis in hand.

Much to the Happy Farmer’s dismay, with our daughters arriving home today, the Persabus Burns supper is going to be chicken pie. Reluctantly the Happy Farmer has had to let his haggis go. We watched as he ran gleefully squealing back up the hill, the Happy Farmer that is, not the Haggis.

At this point I must inform you that some of the characters in this blog and a ‘tad’ of the content is purely fictitious, mixed in with a wee dash of Persabus humour. This just leaves me to wish you and yours a hearty happy burns night from all of us at Persabus.

Until next time…

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Islay blog: The New Accommodation Wing

The new  suite at Persabus has gained the approval of our resident guests. The latest addition to the Happy Farmer’s portfolio of accommodation is already in high demand. He was made aware of its comfort when the residents almost missed their breakfast. They were so happy enjoying the new complex. It is proving quite difficult to coax them out and about in the mornings.

The other day the Happy Farmer could not spy them anywhere. He thought they must be out at the hill gate enjoying the spectacular sunrise. However there was no sign of them at the gate. When he went to collect the feed buckets, there they were. Hansel, the horse, had his head casually peeping out of the stable door. Muffin, eldest’s pony, was positively ‘grinning’ behind him. Having been at first ever so cautious of their new stable those horses are now happily enjoying having it at their disposal. Entering it as and when they please. The Happy Farmer was much relieved to see them there and quite chuffed that they so obviously approve of his latest handiwork.

It is not just the horses who have been enjoying the accommodation on offer at Persabus. Over the past couple of weeks we have welcomed several parties of guests to the farmhouse bed and breakfast suite. Couples taking ‘time out’. Enjoying exploring all that the island has to offer at this quieter time of year. The weather has been incredibly mild, with beautiful sunrises, huge skies and gorgeous cloud formations. The ever changing emotions of the winter skies lead to a spectacular colour show. Beautiful weather has allowed for plenty of long walks with the dogs. Through the fields and woods and along the beaches. Just the tonic after the busy festivities. At this time of year, on Islay, you really can have a whole beach to yourself. If you don’t count the seals, the oystercatchers, the gulls and otters, who are never far away, and much more likely to be out to ‘play’ at this quieter time of the year.

The days are short. Allowing for plenty of time to cosy down in front of the log fire. A fine dram and a  good book in hand. Time for reminiscing about a day well spent exploring the island. With the distilleries all open again and the local Hotels serving warming local winter produce, our guests have certainly been enjoying their ‘Islay time’.

In the pottery it is a time to ‘play’. New designs are starting to flow and there is time to dabble with painting not just with underglazes but with watercolours and acrylics too.

On the farm the animals have all been enjoying the milder climes. Feeding duties continue and the Happy Farmer’s ‘winter projects’ are beginning to formulate from plans into action as the buildings are ‘refreshed’ and ‘renewed’.

 It is good to see the horses enjoying their new shelter. A shelter which, when eldest daughter is involved, comes complete with colourful LED fairy lights. This leads me to think, as the weather gets warmer and the seasons change,  it will be doubling up as more than a stable.

Until next time…

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Islay blog: The Persabus Breakfast Kitchen

The ‘Persabus Breakfast Kitchen’ has been working overtime. It started last month. Having just finished clearing away the guests’ dishes, we were sat enjoying a morning coffee when a car rolled into the yard. Out stepped a couple and when the Happy Farmer went out to greet them he found they were from Germany and were calling by looking for ‘breakfast’. The Happy Farmer was quite entertained. In no time at all the Aga was reloaded with bacon, sausages and black pudding. Eggs and potato scones frying gently on top. A cafetière of freshly ground coffee and a hearty Persabus welcome was served up.

A few days later and another party of six people, this time all the way from Singapore, arrived at the farm and were also looking for a hearty ‘Happy Farmer breakfast’. The breakfast ritual is nothing new to Persabus. Cooked breakfasts in farmhouse kitchens are an important part of the morning and there’s always plenty for any visitors who happen to be passing by. When the Happy Farmer was a youngster the kitchen was often filled with farmers calling in. Tractors would be parked with trailers full of draff from the distillery.  An important source of feed for the livestock. Before they knew it , the farmers would be sat in the farmhouse kitchen with a cup of tea, and a cooked breakfast would appear in front of them, on the table.

The Happy Farmer would of course get the same welcome from many a farm. Esknish, Blackrock and Octomore Farms always had a hearty breakfast on the go. Old Hughie and Baldie at Ardnahoe Farm, along the road, had a huge frying pan at the ready. Calling by, in my early days at the farm, I would have to duck as I entered the Ardnahoe farmhouse kitchen. A line of mackerel would be hanging across the room drying, before being carefully stored away. The frying pan, thick with lard, had the bacon and eggs cooked in no time. We would sit at the kitchen table as Hughie chatted away, tea, toast and jam at the ready. It was a sociable time. A time for a ‘blether’, as Fraoch, the playful Jack Russell, ran around your ankles, looking for any crumbs or bits that might ‘happen’ upon the floor.

Hughie would often bring Fraoch on his visits to Persabus. On one such occasion I was busy serving up coleslaw with cheese and jacket potato. Hughie wasn’t impressed, but the Happy Farmer insisted he stay for lunch and try some of my coleslaw. All I can remember is Hughie gingerly placing the coleslaw in his mouth, pulling some very interesting faces, muttering about it having a ‘foreign name’, before placing the whole plate on the floor to get a second opinion and Fraoch’s seal of approval. Hughie was beyond delighted when Fraoch eagerly jumped at the plate, sniffed around and then pushed the plate away with his nose without even tasting a drop. This ‘galvanised’ Hughie’s opinion of coleslaw. It seems even Fraoch didn’t like coleslaw, or maybe it was just my cooking.

Until next time…

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Islay blog: The last of the Revellers.

We waved goodbye to the last of the Hogmanay revellers this morning. Sailing away on the ferry following a fast paced, traditional Scottish Hogmanay at Persabus. There were 20 of us celebrating, with a kilt clad Happy Farmer. Roast venison and a gammon joint. We managed a short visit to Ballygrant Inn prior to midnight. A taxi home for the ‘bells’, we welcomed in the New Year with some fine Islay malt whiskies, glasses of fizz, Islay and Lussa gin cocktails and the Happy Farmer’s own sloe gin and Bramble whisky. What a choice the island provides for such ‘toasts’. Hogmanay fireworks followed. Rugs were rolled away to allow for dancing into the ‘wee small hours’. A traditional ceilidh and a huge Persabus welcome to the first footers that called by.

The Happy Farmer has been suffering somewhat since. He has a couple of cracked ribs. There seem to be two conflicting versions of events as to how this came to be. The Happy Farmer’s recollection of events seems to involve a heavy bag of feed, a fence and some animals. The other version, a far spicier tale, involves a rug, an accordion player, and a whisky glass. Whichever version of events is true it is fair to say a good time was had by all.

As each year draws to a close, I always find myself wanting to hold onto the very ‘scrapings’ of the last few days. As midnight approaches on Hogmanay and the bells chime another chapter closes and the past year slips into the archives of the history books. At the turn of the year, it always feels time has slipped by in the blink of an eye. Where did that last year go?

2018 at Persabus was a busy, lovely time. The cruel, cold harsh depths of the beast from the east gave way to a springtime of endless days of sunshine and warmth, allowing for lots of lovely beach walks, wild swims, horse riding along the farm tracks and up the hills and barbecues and picnics. As the geese migrated once again, we welcomed back a whole host of birds from the skylarks, swallows and goldfinches to the beautiful echoes of the cuckoo flexing muscles among the avian population and signalling the beginnings of new life on the farm as lambs and calves skipped about the fields.

We have been lucky enough to welcome some remarkable guests to the farm and made many new friends along the way.

As 2018 slipped away I can look back over a mountain of memories, captured in thoughts, photographs, paintings and words. As 2019 begins the weather has been beautiful, allowing for lots of walks in the fresh air, with big hearty family dinners lasting long into the evenings. The festivities really are a time to catch up. A time for friends, family and fun. As 2019 kicks off I am looking forward to the Happy Farmer continuing to guide me on his happy dance through the year ahead.

Until next time….

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Islay blog: An island Christmas

We have been immersed in the very best of everything Christmas brings. Family and friends, time to rest and indulge. Christmas day began with the customary smoked salmon sandwiches and a champagne breakfast as presents were opened.

At Christmas, following morning feeding rounds, I love how the Happy Farmer dances round the Aga, glass of fizz in hand, and somehow manages to cook up an amazing Christmas feast for whoever is at Persabus for the festivities. There were nine of us this year. Whilst dinner preparations were happening, eldest was out and about on the farm, sprinkling glitter and sparkle. Out in her silver wellies, complete with flashing disco lights, several animals soon appeared festooned with tinsel as they munched their way through their Christmas Day breakfast. Do remember not to try this on your own pet bull at home, unless he is particularly friendly, as in my experience these animals can sometimes be wild and unpredictable, just like the Happy Farmer.

After a couple of days immersed in movies and chocolate then I suggested to the Happy Farmer that we head to the beach with a flask of coffee, some bacon sandwiches and a rug to snuggle under. The Happy Farmer looked slightly bemused. It was a lost cause, especially when I suggested we enjoy the sound of the waves breaking gently on the shore. The Happy Farmer assured me the waves would be whispering ‘go home dafties before you get really cold like those bacon sandwices’.

Today then I took the Happy Farmer ‘overseas’ with the rest of the clan. We headed across to the neighbouring Isle of Jura. The ferry terminal is just five minutes by car from Persabus. There are regular ferries throughout the day. The crossing is a fifteen-minute sail across the Sound. In the winter sun the views were spectacular. A pub lunch, and we had a catch up with some of the locals, before a wander along Corran Sands. Seals lie close to the shore, ‘lolloping’ on the rocks. A stag was blocking the road on the way out of Craighouse and herds of deer were dotted around the hillsides and roadside. A buzzard was perched, watching us, poised comfortably on a gate post, as we drove past. It is a very magical island. It provided the perfect tonic, with wildlife, sea air and the ‘lovely sound of those waves lapping gently on the shore’.

This weekend will be a busy one. With change overs all round, we wave goodbye to our guests and welcome the ‘troops’ heading to Persabus for a traditional Hogmanay with all of the ‘trimmings’. A family dinner, fireworks, a ceilidh and a gathering of first footers. It should be a good one. Which just leaves me to wish you and yours a very Happy 2019 from all of us at Persabus. Celebrate the end of the year in style and embrace all that 2019 has to offer, and if you have the time, we look forward to offering you all a very warm welcome to Persabus in the coming days, weeks and months.

 Until next time…

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The Persabus Nativity

Persabus is rocking and rolling with Christmas just around the corner. With youngest home for the festivities the baking has been flowing. Oranges, lemons and limes have been sliced, studded with cloves and dried in the Aga. We have been out collecting foliage for the mantle pieces and table decorations. The last of the pottery orders for Christmas have been posted away. A final kiln firing is being prepared for Saturday. Ardbeg Distillery staff called by for a ‘wee jolly’ in the pottery this morning on their way to Ardnahoe Distillery. The Happy Chappies from down the road popped in just in time for the party too and we had a special VIP guest in the form of a cardboard Mickey Heads Can Caning his way through the assembled throng. I missed the ‘gathering’ but with the Happy Farmer at ‘the helm’ he assures me a good time was had by all and with Persabus being the ‘gateway to the north Islay distilleries’ the happy throng will be calling by on their ‘charity walk’ back from Ardnahoe Distillery for another ‘wee jolly’ later. It is indeed the season to be ‘jolly’.

Archie bread will call at the farm today to deliver the turkey and trimmings in time for the festivities and the Happy Farmer’s ‘cousin’ from Portnahaven will be appearing with extra cake and feed for the animals. It has also been rumoured that a couple of lobsters will be finding their way up the hill courtesy of the Jura ferryman. Our son arrived home and is off to Bruichladdich Distillery for Laphroaig’s ‘wee jolly’. It is good to see the troops enjoying the festive spirit after all the hard work throughout the year.

The Happy Farmer is getting into the Christmas spirit and has been busy building a stable. Even the sheep are intrigued. With the animals all looking on and enjoying the entertainment of the Happy Farmer’s latest project it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas at Persabus. Whilst I am awaiting the full-blown nativity performance, the Happy Farmer assures me, he is just putting the finishing touches to a shelter for the horses. I was impressed to see the stable has its very own unique ‘Happy Farmer Turner Art’ piece attached. A heavy nautical winch from yesteryear, with chains attached to it as anchor points, lies neatly at the back of the stable to prevent storm damage when the gales hit. It seems we hopefully won’t be getting a Persabus ‘Wizard of Oz’ moment this Christmas either then. The winch weighs an absolute ton. It had at one point been modified to house its own engine, having been transported to Islay after the Wyre Majestic, a Fleetwood trawler, was shipwrecked near to Bunnahabhain Distillery. My late father in law and friends had the salvage rights to the trawler and the winch was brought over to transport heavy items from the trawler across to the shore. It has come out of the Happy Farmer’s treasured ‘shed possessions’ and is now serving its new purpose as a heavy weight to hold the stable firmly in place.

We are looking forward to welcoming family, friends and guests over the festive period. There is a gorgeous scent of pine throughout the house now the tree has gone up. The Christmas decorations are up and presents are getting wrapped as we celebrate and enjoy the mayhem and madness of the festive season.

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas from all of us at Persabus.

Until next time…

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The Christmas Tree Hunt

The festive season is here. I love the glitter and sparkle of all it brings. Getting shopping done, presents wrapped, Christmas cards posted, mince pies, cakes and puddings baked. Christmas parties and nights out are in order with visits to pantomimes and shows. Carols, concerts, Christmas fayres and festive lunches are hosted as the Islay community draw together to enjoy all that the festive season offers. Villages are lit up with Christmas lights and Christmas trees and there is an atmosphere of excitement in the air as the Christmas Spirit takes hold.

At Persabus the Happy Farmer has been out on his annual Christmas tree’ hunt’. A ‘hunt’ which the Happy Farmer takes very seriously. Getting just the right tree is quite a mission. It must be the right height. It is preferably a Lodge Pole, so will survive the Persabus festivities without casting its needles across the wooden floors and rugs. It needs to have plenty of branches on which to hang all the treasured ‘heirloom’ decorations that we have collected over the years. Beautiful handmade angels from the children’s primary school and nursery eras still hang with pride on the Persabus tree intermingled with sparkly bits from the yesteryear of my grandparents’ tree. Lots of baubles from previous generations of the Happy Farmer’s family along with shiny new additions. The tree’s branches need to form a gradual pyramid shape rising to the pinnacle of the tree for the Angel to look down from. There needs to be no bare bits and no gaps. The Persabus Christmas tree is serious business.

Sometimes the Christmas tree ‘hunt’ has taken the Happy Farmer many long nights. There are lovely stories of him falling knee deep in peaty bog land, lost in the depths of a forest long after bedtime as that traditionally is when the tree ‘hunt’ happens. The danger of such a late hunt of course was that in all of the excitement and merriment the ‘tree hunters’ could get led astray and completely forget the focus of their ‘mission’, only to arrive home ‘treeless’. On such occasions it could take several long nights of ‘tree hunting’ until that successful moment when the ‘perfect’ tree would be transported home to the farm. The perils of such a ‘hunt’ could mean that what appeared in the glistening moonlight of the ‘wee small hours’ to be the ‘perfect’  tree could in the harsh light of day be a spindly, short, half bare bit of a tree that may just have been grabbed in haste in a last ditch attempt not to arrive back empty handed again.

These days the Happy Farmer has his own plantation of several varieties of pine trees on the farm. He loves trees and actively plants more each year. These trees must be well fertilised. Planted in rich soil. Their young trunks protected with plastic tubes, away from livestock. For a good Christmas tree to grow they also need some protection from the harsh winter gales that sweep our island shores. This comes in time as shelter belts are formed over the years by older more mature trees.

This December the Happy Farmer and I walked across the fields to see the perfect tree. One he has nurtured carefully over the years. This tree will be the centre piece of all the Persabus parties of Christmas and Hogmanay. It is indeed a beautiful tree and in the New Year the Happy Farmer will plant another batch of trees.

Until next time….

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Persabus Passion and Stile

Back in May a team from Wild About Argyll arrived at the farm to shoot photos for their new ‘Heart and Soul’ campaign. They needed a ‘stile’ and wanted to take some photos in the Pottery and Ceramic Café at Persabus.

I immediately set about photographing every stile I could find in the local area so they would have a selection of stiles to choose from. There are the wooden stiles which allow easy access over the old stone walls into the fields beyond. At Bunnahabhain there are the large ‘step ladder’ stiles, allowing access over the high fences which were erected to try and stop the deer population of the northern shores of the island making their way south. What a difference those deer fences have made. Gone are the days when the Happy Farmer and I were up in the ‘wee small hours’ driving around the fields chasing herds of deer away. Whole gangs of them used to make their way along the road to Persabus. They would happily dine away in the early dawn, eating all available grass crops, which the Happy Farmer was cultivating to make hay and silage from. On one occasion  I even narrowly missed being trampled by stampeding deer when walking the dogs up to the trig point on the farm. Ahead of me racing round the hill the dogs disturbed the herd grazing. They took fright and came charging round the hill racing towards me at a rate of knots.

The trig point on Persabus is at the top of Cnoc Abhail. It is well worth the climb. It can be reached on foot in half an hour or so, or in ten minutes in the Happy Farmer’s case. At this point it must be noted that the Happy Farmer has the distinct advantage of rarely venturing up the hill without his trusty quad bike, which has been known to get bogged on the odd occasion, allowing the Happy Farmer to at least walk down the hill every once in a while. From the top, at the trig point, you can see all the way across the farmland and beyond out towards the coastline of the Rhinns of Islay. Ahead are the Paps of Jura and on clear days, the mountains on Mull reveal themselves out across the sea in the distance. You can watch the ferry, fishing boats and yachts sailing up the Sound of Islay. There is a fantastic bird’s eye view of Persabus farm and steadings. This is the 360 panorama of course. Do remember to turn your head, or for the wildly enthusiastic a pirouette on top of the trig point is always an option.

Back to the stile hunt, on the farm we have a few stiles of our own. The stiles on Persabus have been here for generations. They are traditional stone stiles. Built into the old drystone walls. Huge slab stones jutting out, forming small neat steps. I was convinced the team would be looking for a more obvious stile. The Happy Farmer was highly amused at my enthusiasm, smiling at me  heading off on a ‘stile’ hunt. In his usual laid back manner he assured me it would be the old stile leading up to the old stackyard, which is now the garden at the front of the farmhouse, that the team would choose. As usual then the Happy Farmer was completely right. The views from the top of that particular stile are breath-taking. If you follow Persabus on our Instagram or facebook pages you will see those ‘views’ on a regular basis. It is something I don’t think I will ever take for granted. I am forever photographing the views out across to Jura and down the Sound of Islay from the farmhouse.  The colours change constantly throughout the day depending on the light, clouds drift in and out of focus. Each season bringing its own unique colour palette to the landscape, from the purple, golden and deep blue hues of the winter months, to the myriad of softer shades of greens, blues and pinks of Islay in the summertime.

The Wild About Argyll team arrived on the island and our local marketing manager was enlisted as ‘model’ for the day. At Port Askaig she got to feast on seafood fresh from the sea as the ferry came in. At Peatzeria she was treated to seafood pizza. At Glenegedale House she dined on amazing whisky barrel platters loaded with the finest of Scottish produce, smoked salmon,  chutneys, delicious pies,  and cheeses as the sunset. She got to race across the vast expanse of the Big Strand on the Fat Bikes. Drive in the golf buggies at the Machrie. See the eagles soaring across Loch Finlaggan with Wild Islay Birding. At Persabus then, she got to step up and down the old stile, several times, as the camera clicked away. Coffee was on offer but such was their busy day there was no time. A few clicks of the cameras and lights capturing the now infamous old stone stile, a quick visit to the pottery and they were on their way. Of course they did get to sample some of Islay’s finest whiskies, all in the name of work. Whilst Glasgow makes for the ‘Heart’ of Scotland, Argyll  feeds the ‘soul’. Look out for Wild About Argyll’s Heart and Soul campaign, if you happen upon it you might just spot the Persabus stile….oh and a smiling Happy Potter.

Until next time…

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Two for the Pot

I always refer to the Happy Farmer as part of the fixtures and fittings of Islay. He is from one of the oldest families on the island. The Fletchers have been farming on Islay close on 500 years. If you have ever had the pleasure of meeting him, you will know what a character he is. Full of charm, highland humour, with a twinkle in the eye. There is always a warm welcome at Persabus.

Family traditions are part and parcel of daily life on the farm here.

One such tradition that has been passed down through the generations is the making of the iconic clootie dumpling. A traditional Scottish pudding. It is something I had never heard of before I came to live at Persabus. In those days my lovely mother in law seemed to always have clootie dumplings simmering away in the farmhouse kitchen. They were whipped up and brought out whenever there was a celebration or occasion. A clootie dumpling is a spicy pudding, studded with dried fruits, and when my mother in law made one, it was also full of trinkets and five pences. Each one carefully wrapped in grease proof paper and folded into the mix. Hidden treasures to find on your plate at Hogmanay. The pudding mix is then wrapped in the clootie. The clootie being a strip of cloth. It is then tied with string before being placed in a pan of boiling water and left to simmer for four or so hours.

My late mother in law was insistent in her latter years that we watched and learnt how to make clootie dumplings. Following on the tradition that had been passed down through the generations. When she passed away, within hours, I found myself in the farmhouse kitchen fumbling through her clootie dumpling recipe. Trying to do my best by her. Trying to remember all of the intricacies to make the perfect whisky laced clootie dumpling for all of the family and friends that would be coming over. Four hours is a long time to wait to see if the clootie dumpling is a success. Only when the clootie is peeled back from the dumpling do you get to see if it has cooked properly, and if the golden skin has formed over it. The final proof of the pudding as always is then in the tasting of it. Thankfully it was a success.

Last week then the Happy Farmer had his sleeves rolled up as he took to the farmhouse kitchen to make a clootie dumpling for his sister. We were heading to Glasgow for a weekend of celebrations for his sister’s ‘big’ birthday. It would be breaking with tradition not to have a clootie dumpling at the party. Several hours later and two clootie dumplings emerged from the Aga and one very Happy Farmer sported a very happy grin. You might wonder as to why there were two clootie dumpings. The party was overseas, in Glasgow. When the younger clan heard a clootie dumpling was heading to their aunt’s, further requests for clootie dumpling were placed immediately. Luckily we discovered clootie dumpling can travel as hand luggage on the Loganair flight. It passed through the xray scanning machine at the airport security gate without the blink of an eye and managed to survive the flight without being eaten.

The party was a good one. It was a real gathering of the clans, with family and friends young and old. Lots of good food, a clootie dumpling, birthday cake, drinks, dancing, singing, and a performance from the Can Can dancers. It went on way beyond the wee small hours. The birthday girl had a fabulous weekend, as we all did. The Happy Farmer’s only complaint? He did not get to try one slice of clootie dumpling. It’s back to the kitchen stove at Persabus this week.

Until next time…

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Persabus: the Gateway to the North Islay Distilleries

The Happy Farmer has been ‘heuching and cheuching’. We’ve been away for a short break of mainland living. Shops, restaurants, trains, mountains, museums, galleries, Christmas lights, fireworks and rugby. It was lovely to get away and lovely to return home.

When you step off the plane the crisp cold air envelopes you. You can breathe again. On the journey home from the airport we pass gulls and oyster catchers ‘breakfasting’ on the shoreline. At Persabus the front field is a hive of activity as the Barnacle Geese feed on the remaining barley and grass. Their chatter filling the air as they waddle about the field.

We have had a hectic fun filled time. It is customary when ‘overseas’ to meet a fellow Ileach or two. A trip to the cities wouldn’t feel complete without it. What a welcome we got when in the bustling, tourist filled streets of Edinburgh we happened upon Angus. What a party Angus and the Happy Farmer had, as Angus led the Happy Farmer astray. Visiting his favourite haunts they met Dave the Ghost and were entertained by amazing music from Accostic Dave. These Ileachs do indeed get everywhere.

At the airport we met one of ‘Islay’s youngsters’ heading away to distant climes. A week of filming. Marketing work for one of the island’s distilleries. Japan, Singapore, Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand to name but a few, Islay’s young ambassadors travel the globe sharing their culture and heritage on the worldwide stage of the whisky industry. The Happy Farmer likes to think he offers the same warm island welcome when the globe travels to our Islay farm accommodation at Persabus. Persabus is the new gateway to the north Islay distilleries. The Happy Farmer hasn’t introduced a toll yet, but a warm welcome awaits you at Persabus both in our Pottery and Ceramic Cafe and in our farm accommodation.

The younger Persabus generation have all enjoyed their seasons as tour guides in the Islay distilleries. Providing a much needed boost to support their studies, it gave them a unique introduction to working life. Learning more about their island heritage and its whisky journey. Meeting visitors. They confidently took pride in their island and enjoyed sharing it with the wider community of the world.

Eldest worked for several seasons at Bruichladdich Distillery. There is even a Valinch dedicated to her. Valinch no:22. Bruichladdich Distillery celebrates and embraces its staff choosing different employees for each Valinch. What a fantastic experience. Latterly Hunter Laing employed her to work for Ardnahoe Distillery, at the beginning of its Islay journey going from a dream to the reality of being Islay’s ninth distillery. It is nestled in the farmland in one of the island’s most stunning locations, close to the shoreline, with the panorama of the Sound of Islay, the Paps of Jura, Mull and Colonsay unfolding.

Our son worked at both Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich Distilleries. He then went on to work for Beam Suntory at Laphroaig Distillery. Guiding groups on water to whisky tours. Teaching people the skills of peat cutting. Leading them on the whisky journey from its water source through to the distillation process. The Persabus peat spades still lie beside the wood burning stove in the pottery workshop. We burn coal and logs these days, but the tools of yesteryear are still dotted all around the farm and steadings.

Youngest stepped into her distillery journey as a tour guide at Bunnahabhain last summer.

Young islanders have always travelled the globe. Today the youngsters travel in their role as ambassadors for the island and its whisky. Young people are at the heart of the community. It is lovely to see so many travelling so far. It is also lovely to see so many choosing to return, to settle here. Raising young families, making it their island home. Choice exits today thanks to generations of Ileachs who have kept the whisky journey alive. Careers are growing as Islay’s whisky story continues to unfold.

Until next time…

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