Sowing Wild Oats

With the sun splitting the skies it appears the Happy Farmer has been out and about sowing his wild oats. I was more than a little concerned. However, before you splutter on your porridge, do realise my apprehension came from the fact that parts of his barley field were looking ever so slightly on the green side. As the Happy Farmer rolled his eyes reassurance came in the knowledge that it is simply wild oats growing among the barley, apparently wild oats can lie dormant in the ground for years. So with our farmhouse bed and breakfast in mind, watch out for the Happy Farmer’s brand of Persabus porridge in the future, never mind the barley for the whisky, although whisky and porridge is a rather good combination on a cold winter’s morning.

Aside from his wild oats experience, the Happy Farmer has not been living quietly. He has been somewhat of a film star these last few weeks. In the Pottery we have even been treated to a Kilt clad Happy Farmer as he entertained our guests. We have had a couple of YouTube bloggers staying with us on the farm. They have travelled all the way from China and chose Persabus as they wanted to experience traditional life on Islay and look at what the island offers apart from whisky. I did forget to point out the Happy Farmer’s crop of porridge oats to them.

Our lovely guests appear to have over five million followers in China and everywhere we went a camera was filming us. When I was out for an evening stroll, I realised the buzzing overhead was a drone following me along the single-track road. The Happy Farmer duly took his new friends along with him on his farming duties. They were out feeding the Highland cows. They were then filming the Singing Shepherd, the Happy Chappies from down the road and the Happy Farmer all working with the Persabus sheep, as those girls were getting dosed and the lambs were being separated from their mothers.

Keepsakes were created in the pottery and their friends, big Instagram bloggers, joined us for a few days too. After two weeks we really were quite sorry to see them go, but with promises to stay in touch, guided tours of Beijing on offer, and then a beautiful Chinese watercolour painting they had brought over specially for us, we felt very privileged indeed to welcome such interesting people to spend time on the farm.

The summer busyness continues. Our little campsite has been buzzing, with the Happy Farmer even taking up football to entertain one of our younger guests, who, was crying when it came time to leave. He had been bent double laughing when he managed to kick the football right between the Happy Farmer’s legs and into goal.

Yesterday then we took time out. With huge blue skies and the sun shining down, the barley boys were busy in the fields, as the Happy Farmer and I headed to Killinallan beach for an afternoon spent paddling in the shallow waters of the sea collecting cockles for supper.

Until next time…

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Show Time and the Yodelling Happy Farmer

You know it has been a good show day when you catch the Happy Farmer stood alone, yodelling his heart out to the tents, in front of the pottery, in the darkness of the night skies. ‘Mull of Kintyre’ the famous Wings track took on a whole new tune. Apparently in the stillness of night, the view from our little campsite, across the Sound of Islay to the Mull of Kintyre, in the shimmering moonlight, inspired this hearty rendition. A fabulous view is not always a good thing then, and the same could be said of the Happy Farmer’s singing voice.

The nights begin to draw in once the show arrives. It marks a turning in the seasons on Islay. When our party of celebrating farmers had departed late in the evening on show night, I needed to head to the pottery to sort out baking for the next day. The Happy Farmer offered to accompany me across the road in the darkness. Worryingly I lost him somewhere between the farm and the pottery kitchen, not for long though, his yodelling could suddenly be heard filling those night skies. To my amazement the campers, in the assembled tents, suddenly began joining in the yodelling too, there was a whole chorus line singing into the darkness, with any peace and quiet being well and truly interrupted. Now the Happy Farmer prides himself on his good singing voice, if I had my phone I would have happily recorded the whole event for him, even the guests staying in our cottages and bed and breakfast accommodation had been treated to this moonlit serenade, as the camping contingent were led firmly astray by my singing Happy Farmer. Luckily everyone enjoyed the entertainment and it was the main source of conversation at breakfast the next morning.

On show day itself, the sun was splitting the skies. Eldest was up at the crack of dawn doing the final preparations to get Hansel the horse ready for his appearance in the ring. The Happy Farmer was busy cooking breakfasts. The ferry man and his wife had delivered their jeep to the farm the night before. With the horse box hitched up on the back, the Happy Farmer reversed into the yard, and the guests were able to enjoy watching Hansel getting his leg guards on, before walking calmly up the ramp and into the trailer, and then they were off.

It was much later in the day when I finally made it along to the show field. With youngest’s uni pals over for a week’s camping, farmers arriving later in the day for dinner, together with guests and campers staying in our farm accommodation and then our son heading out on the evening plane for a lengthy spell in distant climes, I did get slightly delayed. I took some time out of the mayhem to take the dogs in the warm sunshine along the track to their favourite watering hole, Lily Loch. A gentle quiet walk through the shade of the trees with our son, away from the madness and busyness of the farm and the show field. The dogs love wallowing in the cool waters of the Loch and usually as Ruby bounces back out of the Loch, with a wag of her tail and a good shake and shimmy of her coat, I also get treated to a cool shower. No matter how fast I try to run away from her, that dog always manages to soak me.

By the time we reached the show Hansel had already headed for home. Eldest was chuffed, her horse won two seconds and a fourth in his classes, and considering his 27 years, he did very well indeed. He may be getting old, but that horse loves going to the show. The first inkling that he has an audience and he bows his head and daintily prances and parades around proudly.

The show field itself was buzzing with lots of happy people celebrating the very best of farming and produce on Islay. Cows, sheep and goats had been shampooed, clipped and trimmed. Dogs were walking beautifully to heel. Drinks were being poured. Burgers were sizzling away and there was a fabulous array of old tractors and cars waiting to join the parade in the show ring. It is always a lovely time to catch up with everyone and enjoy fantastic hospitality and good craic.

Much later in the farmhouse the trusty old Aga was being loaded with trays of roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, vegetables were on boiling and a huge joint of beef had been quietly roasting away in the simmering oven. A delayed departure of the plane at the airport meant I missed most of the celebrations back at the farm but arriving home to a huge crowd of farmers heartily tucking into a good roast dinner in the candlelight and I knew it had been a good one.

The Happy Farmer assures me his ‘Mull of Kintyre’ yodelling was just practice, tuning up his singing voice in preparation for his cousin’s stag party on the mainland…

Until next time…

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The Jura Chronicles

The Isle of Jura is an incredibly special place. A beautiful wilderness of stunning scenery. It has a close-knit community, and just one single track road, which twists and winds, revealing spectacular views of unspoilt loveliness, as a bounty of wildlife greet you on your way. It is where I met the Happy Farmer, and the place that first drew me to these magical islands.

A few weeks back eldest was invited to take part in an exciting Jura project. She arrived off the early morning plane from Glasgow and promptly went skipping off, guitar in hand, heading, over the sea, on the ferry to Jura.

A beautiful sunny day, she met the Camerons, distant cousins of her own. Kenneth and Gavin are working on a series of short films, The Jura Chronicles. Films providing short videos about the history of the island. Kenneth and Gavin are part of the fixtures and fittings of Jura having resided there for many generations. They are keen to record and share the history of this beautiful place, capturing stories of the clans of the island.

Gavin contacted eldest to invite her to do the vocals for a song about Jura written by the late Charles Fletcher, Laird of Ardlussa, and also a distant relation of the Persabus Fletchers. After the initial recording at The Jura Chronicles HQ it was a day of exploring beaches and hillsides as recordings were done and clips were filmed, ready for editing and producing, before the next film from The Jura Chronicles was ready for uploading.

Good old-fashioned island hospitality was served up in huge helpings and after being treated like a superstar, at the end of the day, in the family home Jessica May was treated to home baked scones with lashings of cream and jam. Eldest is at her happiest when she is on the islands with guitar in hand, or in the saddle of her favourite horse. After a day on Jura singing and filming, Hansel was saddled up, and she galloped off into the fields.

Island living at its very best.

Until next time…

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Doughball the Persabus Cat

When the ferryman arrived at the summer party with two of his home baked quiches, bursting with fresh lobster from his catch of the day, it encapsulated island living at its very best. It left a delicious lingering taste of fine seafood imprinted on our taste buds which, with a crowd of friends home for summer, led us to head over to Ian’s new Seafood Kitchen in Port Charlotte at the weekend. The meal did not disappoint as huge platters laden with lobster and clams arrived at the table, the menu proved a celebration of the very best of Islay’s ocean treasures.

It has been a sociable time. The island is bursting with life and we have found ourselves being swept into a whirlwind of work and play. Lots of fizz in the sunshine with spectacular ocean views from various homes, summer buffets and good craic. With all of the family home and the extended ‘family of friends’, a large tent is camped in the front garden, to accommodate the overflow from the farmhouse.

 It has been a bittersweet time though as at the weekend we said a final farewell to Doughball our Persabus cat.

Doughball was a cat among cats. She was part of the fixtures and fittings of Persabus life, choosing to join our family when the children were all ‘knee high to a grasshopper’.

The new tortoiseshell kitten was fondly named ‘Snowball’ which the Happy Potters quickly changed to ‘Doughball’, as she enjoyed spending a large part of her day sprawled out sleeping in front of the warmth of the kilns in the pottery workshop after several good feeds. Doughball was a very loved kitten. She got hours of attention from our young clan. They dressed her up and cuddled her until she was demented. She was one of the most photographed cats and made regular appearances in the ‘Persabus feature films’ being videoed by the youngsters. She was a trampolining, garden sliding cat, not always through choice.

Doughball liked to make her presence felt. She was an important part of the ‘Persabus welcoming committee’ on the farm and would always pay a visit to guests during their stay with us. If she found the guests to be extra special ‘cat people’ Doughball would often move into their holiday cottage and share in their holiday experience for the whole week. As a demanding cat she would of course not only expect breakfast, dinner and tea to be provided, but also a plentiful supply of cat treats.

Her trips around the island in the various cars she happened to climb into led to the childrens’ stern notices pinned on the pottery walls asking people to ‘check for cats in their car’ before leaving the premises. Once she even went for a spin on the back of the coal lorry.

In recent weeks Doughball was failing. She chose to spend those last weeks in the farmhouse, snuggled up in the chair or beside the heat of the Aga.

When we returned from our night out on Saturday she was missing. We looked high and low but there was no sign of Doughball. We spent the next day searching under every bush and hedge. It was a fruitless search, and after a night of heavy rain we feared Doughball had chosen to leave us and go quietly in her own space.

On Sunday afternoon eldest was in the shed when she heard a familiar meowling. Doughball was crying out to her from the bed she had made on top of the wool bales. Eldest, ever so gently, lifted her frail body and carried a purring Doughball back to the comfort and safety of the farmhouse, where after a lot of fuss and a small meal, she curled up on a cushion to sleep.

Late on that evening Doughball breathed her last breath with her favourite young clan stroking her gently. We love that Doughball, the Persabus cat, chose to spend the last twenty or so years of her life with us on the farm. She was the last of three musketeers, Spog (Tripod), Henrick and Doughball.

We have new musketeers though and last night Archieina managed to crawl into the tent and snuggle up among the friends and their sleeping bags, it seems she is enjoying the ‘Persabus camping experience’ on the farm.

Until next time…

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Cooking with Gas

It’s been a week of ‘cooking with gas’ at Persabus, which in Happy Farmer speak roughly translates as a week of happy, productivity as we fire on, ‘full steam ahead’. It has been a heady mix of work and play. The accommodation and camping pitches at Persabus have been a hive of activity, whilst in the fields, silage bales were popping out of the back of a baler. Beach walks have been squeezed in. Family and friends were collected from ferries and planes, whilst the pottery continued to burst with creativity. Back in the farmhouse kitchen baking has been flowing. Breakfasts have been served, and lots of delicious tasty delights have been appearing. We absolutely love this time of year at Persabus. It is a culmination of lots hard work coming together. A time of gatherings and plenty of fun and laughter as the Happy Farmer goes about with a huge smile on his face.

Huge powerful agricultural machinery moved in to cut the fields. Grass was spun into neat lines and then baled and wrapped before being stacked neatly, to be stored as feed for the livestock during the winter months. This made two dogs incredibly happy on their morning runs. They could be seen positively rolling down the field closely followed by the Happy Farmer. Gone were the long thick grasses and wildflowers they have spent the last few weeks wading and snuffling through, suddenly the whole field had opened up and with the grass cut to stubbly bristles rolling on ones back seemed to be the order of the day.

Then there were the long blustery, sunshiny beach walks, with plenty of time to paddle in the deep warm pools created by the sheer force of tide and wind.

The week ended with the annual Persabus summer party. A time for lots of singing, dancing and merriment. The Happy Farmer had his unique little ‘man cave’ all set up in the garden. Having towed the horse box into place, at the end of the decking, with his trusty old tractor, the day before. His home-made barbeque, an old singer sewing machine base, with a halved old gas bottle and grill on top, took pride of place. Archie bread delivered the rolls and the kitchen became a hive of activity as lamb burgers and beef burgers were made to the Happy Farmer’s own secret recipe. Playlists were sorted, rugs were rolled out over the wooden floors. As family and friends piled into the farmhouse armed with baking and goodies, drinks were poured, food was served, and we were indeed ‘cooking with gas’ as we partied into the wee small hours and beyond…celebrating island life at this lovely time of year…happy days

Until next time…

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The Happy Sheep Dance at Persabus

The Happy Farmer has been doing his happy sheep dance at Persabus. With the sun splitting the skies and plenty of the troops around it was a good day to get the sheep sheared.

We had one absentee with a ‘no show’ from the Singing Shepherd and more importantly his fabulous collie dogs, but luckily the Happy Farmer had a plan B when he discovered his cousins were not leaving Islay until the evening ferry. Bad planning on their part, but as the Happy Farmer pointed out, their holiday would not have been complete without a day working with the sheep on the farm. Their plans for a relaxing last day on Islay were scuppered. On their final evening the Happy Farmer happily plied them with fine dining and plenty of drink before announcing that to complete the ‘Persabus experience’ their services would be required on the last morning, just a few hours or maybe more to help gather and dose the sheep before the arrival of the sheep shearers. The cousins were positively delighted at the extra hospitality on offer, honestly.

In the late afternoon you could hear the gentle hum of the sheep and the buzz of the shearers’ clippers across the farm. With the crew assembled at the sheep fank it was all ‘hands on deck’ as the sheep were duly held in pens before being loaded onto the mobile clipping trailer where those ‘ladies’ got a neat trim. Skipping their height in the air they positively danced off the platform, all shorn, and free from their heavy fleeces, ready to enjoy the heat of the afternoon sun. Eldest even got to shear her first sheep under the gentle guidance of the more experienced shearers.

A huge trough of chilli was bubbling away in the farmhouse kitchen to feed the troops. In the garden, beer, chilli, reclining deck chairs and relax.

Today with a gentle drizzle in the air the little Hebridean sheep were nowhere to be seen. They appeared to be absent without leave. Feeling it ever so slightly cooler and damper they had voted with their hooves and upgraded to the new accommodation suite at Persabus. When eldest went looking for them they were found all huddled happily in the horses’ stable enjoying the nibbles that had been carefully laid on for them. Persabus hay is apparently delicious.

The Happy Farmer was not so delighted to hear those ladies were happily settled in the stable chomping on the hay. He could later be seen flying out the field at a rate of knots with hurdle and string to hand before serving a strict eviction notice. Those ladies are now barred from the horses’ suite at Persabus but escaped with a good mouthful of hay.

Until next time…

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Hot Weather on Toast

Last week when I woke to overcast skies the Happy Farmer informed me that the sun was just running a bit behind schedule. It appeared to have faced a bit of a delay and made room for a few heavy showers to keep the thirsty plants watered and more importantly the island’s whisky source flowing. Too much sunshine and dry weather can be detrimental to the whisky supplies. I was looking for some ‘hot weather on toast’ myself.

Yesterday with my brightly coloured toes peeping out from the hot sand below, a driftwood fire nestled in among the rocks, with a grill on top, sizzling away as burgers cooked, there was no place I would rather have been than Saligo bay. Huge blue skies spread across the horizon as the bright sun shone down onto golden sands. The sea could not have been a more brilliant turquoise as the Atlantic rollers crashed and frothed before breaking on to the shoreline. That warm sand between the toes. The calm of the sea. The salty air. Bags laden with snacks and a flask of hot tea. ‘Team beach’ has arrived on Islay. I love it when the gang arrive home for summer and love that Islay is the only place they want to be in the summer. I had intended to just drop a few of them at the beach. I hadn’t intended to stay for a while, especially not for the whole day, but once there, how could I resist? Time stands still at the beach and yesterday was a time for standing still and enjoying.

As we trundled back to the farm in the early evening, tired and happy, dinner was already on cooking. The Happy Farmer busy at the Aga cooking up a feast just as the ice cream van pulled into the yard. 99 ice creams dripping with raspberry sauce were served as starters.

The clan might be growing up in years, but an Islay summer beautifully captures the child within. The race is on to make the most of the hot weather and free time. A house filled with sand, discarded swimsuits and wet towels are a sign that everyone is enjoying their Islay time.

As the days end it is also a time for beautiful moonlit walks with evenings spent outdoors as summer skies descend into a warm twilight when the moon rises in the skies.

The pottery has become a riot of crazy vibrant ‘all singing, all dancing’ creativity. Even the Happy Farmer has a spring in his step as he bounces past the door on his lawn mower, singing away to himself as the grass is neatly cut. It has been lovely welcoming so many ‘regulars’ back to the pottery. Everyone is growing tall as young children have suddenly morphed into happy teenagers. I was struck down with a summer cold last week but as I croaked  my way through the days with a whisper of a voice, an absolute ‘godsend’ said the Happy Farmer, everyone’s visits and beautiful colourful creations lifted my spirits and the cold has thankfully dispersed, just in time for the weather heating up to allow for a few more dips in those turquoise seas.

Here’s hoping you are all enjoying summer and that child within.

Until next time…

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The Old Priest Stone at Persabus

The Happy Farmer has been busy planting up troughs and pots around the farmhouse, cottages and pottery. Armed with a wheelbarrow full of mixed varieties of colourful flowers every corner of the farm has been getting a makeover. The Happy Farmer has had company in his labours. Ruby, my lovely flat coated retriever, has become ‘affectionately’ known as ‘Dumbo ears’ by the Happy Farmer. She has taken to lending a helping paw, a wagging tail and the odd flick of her soft dangly ears. Each time he turns around to admire the results of his labours, ‘old Dumbo ears’ appears, stepping clumsily through the floral displays, knocking the heads off flowers. When the Happy Farmer’s back is turned, she and Bramble have found the soft soil of the troughs are simply perfect for burying the odd bone. The newly planted troughs also make the softest, comfiest bed to snooze on when enjoying a spot of sunbathing in the garden.

The display of cut flowers in the farmhouse kitchen has been growing beautifully then, and dog and farmer are very close to falling out. The beauty of Ruby is that she doesn’t care. She ambles away, turning a deaf ear to the Happy Farmer as she happily continues to plod through the flowers wagging her tail and shaking her head, oblivious to the flower heads she is knocking off on her travels.

The entrance to the farmhouse has become a vibrant froth of whites, blues, pinks and purples. We sat among the flowers enjoying a morning coffee in the gorgeous sunshine on Sunday. The old clay troughs came to the farm originally to hold water and feed for the animals. At the corner of the gable end of the farmhouse sits a huge heavy stone trough. The Happy Farmer’s father rescued the old stone trough when the main road was being built years ago. This large trough originally sat at the end of the front field, fed by a natural spring, it provided fresh drinking water for the passing horses before the island’s roads were upgraded from cart tracks.

A few ‘metal lasts’ lie at the base of the trough, once used by the farmers to pop their boots onto as they hammered tacks into their soles, as tackety boots were the order of the day.

Stone querns once used for grinding the corn now sit among the floral displays. New earthenware pots sit beside the old milk churns of yesteryear. The treacle churn, used to keep the treacle for the animal feed in, and our lovely old ‘pickling jar’, a huge ceramic barrel, once used to pickle and preserve meat for the larder, now upside down, it is the perfect stand for pots and drinks at the Happy Farmer’s barbeques.

Outside the pottery stands the old priest stone. Once used for baptisms and blessings it was also rescued by my late father in law in the 1970s. A company from the mainland were on the island building a new main road, the spoil and rubble was being tipped on Persabus. The Happy Farmer’s father had heard from his forefathers of an old priest stone that had long gone missing and was thought to be buried in the land being dug out by the contractors. My father in law went raking through the tonnes of rubble. Against the odds, in among hundreds of tonnes of waste, he found a large stone and with his pocketknife clearing the mud, he discovered the ‘cup’ of the stone. He had found the priest stone. He always maintained this special stone saved itself and that he was led to it. Without heavy lifting gear the stone had to be dragged from the rubble heap by rope all the way from Caol ila to Persabus. The white mark lay engraved in the road for many years and the priest stone was saved for generations to come.

It is fitting that ‘the old boy’ as he is affectionately remembered found the priest stone. Persabus gets its name from the Norse invasions, Persa meaning priest and bus meaning abode. Persabus translates to home of the priest and now has its priest’s stone back.

Persabus is a celebration of years of farming tradition on Islay, as we marry the old with the new, pieces have been lovingly gathered and handed down through the generations and here we are, with the Happy Farmer’s beautiful flowers, at the forefront of upcycling and recycling.

Until next time…

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To Bholsa and Beyond

It has reached that time of year when life has been getting firmly in the way of blogging. Days seem to be flying by and with so much sunshine it has been a time for happy island adventures. The ‘sun bursting out of the skies’ weather, has led to opportunities for hikes across the wilderness of north Islay, with my brother, who has been visiting Islay with his partner in their lovely ‘gin palace’. They decided to enjoy the ‘Persabus camping experience’ in their motorhome, which led to lots of late nights and happy times, as well as some great walking. The Happy Farmer declined to join us on our hikes, thinking we were quite mad wanting to walk from Killinallan through the Doodlemore Valley and back to Persabus. It was quite a hike, through the farmland and into the hills, and into a wilderness of splendid isolation, with only the herds of deer watching on from a far as they track your route, keeping a beady eye on your movements.

I have at last been able to really dip my toes in the water again and enjoy wild swims in the sea. I first learnt to swim in a loch at the tender age of four, and just love swimming in the open waters, be it loch, river or sea. Before the MacTaggart Leisure Centre was built in Bowmore all of the island’s children used to have their swimming lessons in the sea. Now the island has its own beautiful swimming pool, but when temperatures climb I still think you can’t beat a refreshing dip in the ocean, the sand beneath your toes and the salty spray of the waves carrying you back to shore.

The Happy Farmer is not a swimmer, or a fan of going for long hikes into the hills, so I have also been enjoying returning home to the Happy Farmer’s delicious home made lamb burgers from his bespoke ‘singer sewing machine’ barbeque. Islay living at its very best!

In between all this the Happy Farmer and I also managed to squeeze in a ‘wee jolly’ across to the mainland. With Loganair now operating flights between Edinburgh and Islay, as well as Glasgow, we took advantage of the fantastic new service. Hopping on the plane we headed to ‘The Royal Highland Show’ at Ingliston, where we had a fabulous time catching up with friends and family and enjoying the hospitality of this magnificent show. The Royal Highland Show is a huge celebration of all things agricultural and rural, with livestock shows, food halls, craft tents, agricultural machinery and of course the great craic of ‘The Scottish Farmer’ tent. The Happy Farmer had an absolute party to himself, and a well-earned break.

We returned to Islay to meet our fabulous guests. A large group of friends and family, they were staying in both of the cottages at Persabus, having travelled all the way from Malaysia to visit our island shores. They were such a happy group. The kitchen of Persabus Cottage was a hive of activity as the party set about chopping masses of vegetables and cooking up a feast, before we knew it bowls of the most delicious Thai curry were making their way across to the farmhouse kitchen. The flavours and spices were quite something and the Happy Farmer even got given his own bag of spices and a recipe sheet so he can recreate what he said was the tastiest curry he has had in a while. In the mornings the lovely hum of their sing song chat radiated across the yard. We were truly sorry to say our goodbyes when it came time for them to leave, but it is what we are about at Persabus, offering a unique and friendly stay, and when our guests leave as friends we know we have offered a true Persabus welcome.

Until next time…

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Living the Dream

People are always intrigued and want to know what it was like for me moving from the city to live on Islay.

When I first arrived here to be with my Happy Farmer I honestly didn’t know if island life was for me. It was very different to city living. We had a ‘plan B’ tucked up our sleeves in case,  but that would have involved the Happy Farmer leaving his beautiful island home and way of life behind.

It was quite an upheaval and a very big change, moving from the city of London to live on a farm in the Hebrides. The internet and mobile phones had not become everyday accessories. Links to life beyond the island consisted of crackly landline phone calls and the Royal Mail, but the community here is such a friendly one and everyone offered a warm welcome. The spectacular scenery, the ocean views, the dramatic sunrises and sunsets, the fresh air and space to breathe, and the local characters. It is the people and their attitude to life that really make a place. Traffic jams consisted of a herd of cows making their way back from the milking parlour to the fields as I passed the dairy farm on my way to work. Eagles soared overhead and oystercatchers, herons and gulls fished away on the shoreline.

The rambling old farmhouse at Persabus needed serious renovation. Several generations of the family had frequented it before us. It had a warm heart, but no central heating. We relied on huge open fires and a solid fuel Rayburn. Windows needed replaced as the old wooden frames were rotting. In wild weather it wasn’t just a gentle draught breezing its way through the farmhouse, but a full on gale blowing a ‘hoolie’ through our living space.

In those early days on stormy nights in the midst of winter we would huddle in front of a roaring fire. Rosie, our flat coated retriever, would amble into the room to join us, and promptly position herself in prime location, right in the hearth, shielding us from the heat. She would then proceed to singe the fur on her nose, as she too cosied up. Curtains would be flapping horizontally around us. The power would be intermittent with frequent blackouts during lengthy power cuts. It could be damp and cold, but the Happy Farmer’s sense of humour and positive attitude buoyed us along.

I can look back with rose tinted glasses now, but at the time it was quite an adjustment from the shelter of city living.

When I wasn’t at work I would be out and about helping the Happy Farmer. I set about making friends with each and everyone of the animals on the farm, lovingly naming them after members of the family, with Rosie proving to be the most popular name. Before I knew it we had a Rosie dog, Rosie cow and then along came Rosie the horse. The cows were particular favourites. Donalda cow, was named after the Happy Farmer, as she was his favourite in the herd. We had Arraina, after the Happy Potter, and Valinda cow, after my lovely mother in law, to name a few.

When it came to calving then, it was Valinda who aptly chose a nearby ditch as her birthing pool and promptly got stuck right up to her ‘oxters’ in it. Luckily the calf survived, but Valinda lay helpless, sinking deeper into the bog. No amount of pushing or pulling could remove her. In the end it took an old heavy net, a JCB and a lot of brute force to ease her safely free. In the interim I gained a pet calf as Valinda took time to recover from her ‘ditching’ experience, having lost the power in her legs. Jeremy, my new baby, was bottle fed and followed me around the farm like a pet dog, suckling away on my hand. Each day as I drove into the farmyard after work, he would come bounding across to the car to greet me.

It was a difficult lesson, as with Jeremy growing larger, he had to eventually be sold, a pet bull bounding to meet me would be far from safe, but we did have a lot of fun during his time at Persabus.

The Happy Farmer would take me away to the bright lights of Glasgow at least once a month in those early days. We would party hard and feast on fabulous Indian meals, Glasgow curries are amazing. The frequent city visits meant I had the best of both worlds.

Thirty years on, a lot of building and renovating, and we are living our island dream, sharing it with so many lovely visitors and guests from all over the world, who come to stay with us on the farm.

We look forward to offering you all a huge ‘Persabus’ welcome whether you are visiting our Pottery and Ceramic Café or choose to stay with us on the farm for your Islay adventure.

Until next time…

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