I tap away these bletherings fairly nursing my wounds.
Hill farming is a tough gig and sometimes we should just “heed the omens”
As August fades and September heralds an air of autumn that hints to the swallows its time to flit, we here turn our thoughts to the gathering and speaning of the hill ewes.
On Wednesday past we set ourselves to head to Glen Mhor at the back of Schiehallion.
It’s a tough one. Steep scree and cunning ewes makes a challenging combination.
Morning saw me rise early to check on the mist situation. In my haste to see what the fates delivered on the meteorological front I mis-stepped at the top of the stairs and came down them at a rapid pace, mainly on my head and erse, leaving a cranial shaped hole in the plasterboard.
That should have been enough to call the whole thing off, but maybe I’m thrawn whiles.
Later in the day, with the gather going well, around 20 ewes whom I’m sure are fully paid up members of the local satanist club broke out through the scree between myself and the hardy man from Calvine above me and got away (or so they thought).
A plan was hatched over the radios with the man from Calvine taking off through the scree like a stag at the rut while the canny man from Glen Fender struck away well below. I got the easy ambush job.
Between us we smashed their ambitions of escape but it took time, guile and dedicated dogs.
During that time in the scree I heard a good deal of commotion from the ptarmigan.It must have been loud as it was clear over the roars and swears directed at the ewes.
High above the summit of Schiehallion a Hen-harrier spied for quarry. It descended towards the scree face with commitment and courage that was simply outstanding; to come to a dead stop maybe a foot or so above its destination and away it started its hunt again. If only I’d had that kind of grace alighting the stairs that morning!
It is satisfying for any hill farmer to get the lambs off mum, get her sorted for winter and away back to the hill and the lambs onto foggage. Ewes and lambs are in good fettle and grass growth has been good despite the drought.
In the last week I also attended the scattering of an auld worthy’s ashes up in the Braes of Rannoch.
It was a very Highland affair with Argos and pick-ups ferrying the elderly and not so able (the keen folk walked) to a dilapidated hill fank looking down on Loch Rannoch.
Kind words were fondly spoken and happy memories recounted, all under the cover of greatest cathedral ever made.
The departed sister spoke of the family being in Rannoch for 160 years and now the connection with the area was over.
The deed was done and liberal drams were poured and we took the road for home. On the way back I reflected on the old fank, the families that had worked it like many others in the area and their sad abandonment, and a wee sorrow filled my heart for lost opportunity.
However just at that I spied the neighbour’s fields, all of them fairly new to farming and all of them throwing lime and clover and fodder crops at their inbyes like there’s no tomorrow.
The glen is looking well for it. Indeed there’s not been so many neeps here (of the brassica type) since many years.
For our own part our thistle field has a puckle neeps that look well and the fodder crop is looking like it will feed the baby heifers at weaning well.
The enjoyable rodeo of the high health blood test is at the end of the month and my thoughts turn to tup sales and scanning cows.
Ach, stuff the omens – there’s a few good days in the fank yet before we’re done.