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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