Islay’s Farming Life

The Happy Farmer has had to have a very serious word with the ‘ladies’ on the farm. This morning on his daily feeding rounds they gave him great cause for concern.

We had been away for a weekend of mainland living. Shops, restaurants and rugby. As we left the city behind, the calm grey landscapes faded into the distance and we headed into sleet and snow storms. The journey up and over the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ was picturesque. Mountains were covered in a thick blanket of snow. Fortunately the roads remained clear. By the time we reached the ferry at Kennacraig the winds had dropped and it was a calm evening crossing home to Islay.

The morning brought huge blue skies and sunshine. The Paps of Jura were covered in a peppering of snow. On his morning feeding rounds then the Happy Farmer was met with a ‘surprise’. During the night the first Persabus spring lamb had made an appearance. It is an early appearance. A good two whole weeks early to be precise. With storms forecast and ferry sailings cancelled the Happy Farmer is hoping those sheep heed his ‘warning’ and one lamb does not escalate into a full blown explosion in the ‘Persabus maternity wing’ of the fields across the farm. You always know when lambing is imminent. The weather seems to take a nose dive. The teasing warmth of a few spring days gives way to hail storms and bitterly cold winds. The sheep have perfect timing, and the Happy Farmer has a huge job in front of him, as the lambing season commences.

The full lambing kit is packed at the ready on the back of the quad bike. Stomach tubes are all disinfected and available to provide necessary colostrum feeds to any weak lambs who haven’t managed to suckle. Glucose injections are in the kit for the fragile ones who are struggling on their legs. Lambing gloves and a spray can of keel are always handy as the Happy Farmer will be busy in the ‘delivery ward’ helping with the awkward births, which by the end of the lambing season can add up to quite a few. Keel is used to mark and number lambs and their mothers. This allows for easy identification in the ‘nursery wing’ when the Happy Farmer is faced with twenty or so lambs skipping at his heels. Most return to their mothers when the sheep call out but there are always one or two that appear ‘motherless’. A sheep with a lambing glove tied in a neat bow on her horn means she is requiring an extra watchful eye from the Happy Farmer on his rounds. The trailer will be attached to the back of the quad bike, so the Happy Farmer can play onsite paramedic with his  ‘ambulance’ at the ready, to quickly and safely transport any sheep and lambs to the ‘intensive nursing wards’ of the fank if necessary.

The Happy Farmer is keeping his fingers crossed and did pop into his ‘chat’ with the ladies that there are to be no orphaned or ‘pet’ lambs. Luckily the rest of the Persabus clan have always been more than happy to help raise young orphaned lambs. Over the years we have had some crackers, all fondly remembered. Rudolph was eldest’s first pet lamb. He survived to a ripe old age. In his latter years he could be seen, resembling a donkey, arthritic but happy, hobbling around the fields, not to be mistaken for the Happy Farmer. We had Frizzle and Lucy, who were raised by youngest into fine sheep. As mothers they always struggled at lambing time. They would chose the same bit of hill to give birth to their lambs and would then patiently wait, in labour, each year for the Happy Farmer to come by and give the necessary helping hand. They were very good mothers. Fondly remembered are Sir Roger, Meh Meh, Snowdrop and Mint, to name but a few. Some did not survive, but rest assured, in their short lives they were fought over, loved and cared for from dawn until dusk. They were taken in as one of the family by the younger members of the clan and given full funeral and burial rights at the end of their lives as each ‘passing’ always brought floods of tears, and that was just the Happy Farmer!

I am sure the kids will be all heading home over the next few weeks to lend a hand. Eldest will be making sure her flock of Hebridean sheep get the best possible care and attention as she welcomes more babies into the fold.

Until next time…

20190310_154658[1]
20180405_173121[1]
april07 040
may07 042
101_1008
20180401_153225[1]
20171227_142656[1]
20180421_102750[1]