Thursday 25 February 2010

January and February can be rather damp and dreary in Argyll but this year we have had exceptionally calm, cold, clear and sunny days. The days are getting noticeably longer and it feels as though we are through the worst of the winter. Perhaps that is wishful thinking. Keeping up with firewood consumption has been a challenge but it is worth it to keep ourselves and our visitors warm and cosy.

The willow soaking tank was frozen solid for weeks but eventually it thawed sufficiently to release the willow that had been put in to soak before Christmas. It was none the worse for it’s freezing and extra long soaking and could be fashioned into useful baskets.

There is a plan to put two beavers into the Lily Loch during March. This delightful lochan is fifteen minutes walk from the house and is a lovely place to sit and watch trout rising during warmer weather. The fringe of broadleaf woodland will not last long if they settle on the loch and start tree felling activities. Dam building will soon flood the walkway and seat.

The clear sunny days have made the views breathtaking. The snow capped mountains to the north appearing to tower over Kilmartin Glen. There have been spectacular sunsets over Loch Sween towards Jura.

The camera lens wasn’t good enough to get a good photo of the otter swimming past the heron and emerging on to the rocks. If you look carefully, you will see a brown, otter shape to the right of the heron. The otter swam, dived and emerged onto the shore of a tiny island just south of Achnamara. It was more impressive in real life than on the photo.

Seven or eight deer appeared along the edge of the wood one morning as we ate breakfast. They were well camouflaged and only the movement alerted me to their presence. Deer are fairly commonplace around Seafield but it is still good to see a group of them so close to the house.

The snowdrops and winter crocus were held back by the cold weather but they are now in full bloom and a welcome splash of brightness on winter days.

The hens started laying in earnest in January despite freezing temperatures. The new Speckled Sussex cockerel is a fine looking bird and very attentive to his flock but we are not convinced he knows what he is doing. We will soon find out when we incubate some eggs in the spring.

The willow harvest is nearly finished and as usual there are far too many large rods. The finer varieties have produced a reasonable crop and I look forward to using them when they have dried a little. It is time to consider removing some of the more vigorous plants which shade the polytunnel and have limited use. Some will be kept for plant supports and handle bows but the rest can go and be replaced with smaller varieties.