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The farm & cottages blog

A collection of stories about life on Eastside hill sheep farm in Scotland. Short, frequent and hopefully engaging... we’ll try our best!

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Recent articles in — Spring

The (better late than never) 2013 Spring Lambing news

Spring 2013 will go down as one of the worst on record with day after day of relentless cold icy east winds and no grass growing. It’s my excuse for not blogging and a good one! We were lucky compared to our counterparts in the west where the Isle of Arran, Isle of Man and Wales had terrible snow storms with flocks buried under a couple of meters of snow, which must have been dreadful!

The benefits of having free range sheep shone through as the ewes got plenty to fill their bellies from the hill ground. Some weren’t that interested in rearing a lamb or had very little milk so the number of lambs I had to rear were rising daily and got to 30!...

Alice and Beth camped out by the lamb feeder

Alice and Beth camped out by the lamb feeder ↑

Photo Jenny Cowan

Self catering without the hassle, Cook now deliver to Eastside!

Eating in is the new eating out with Cook.  At Eastside we are relatively new converts to Cook, a British company that has been busily producing ‘remarkable food for the freezer’. Cook is all about getting great home made meals without the hassle using quality, seasonal British produce. Their food is homemade by real chefs and it all comes frozen and ready to bung in the oven.  What makes the difference between cook and other prepared meals is that most of the Cook process is done by hand in a kitchen and not by a machine in a factory.  The result is food that tastes genuinely home-made.

Cook Lasagne & Garlic bread

Cook Lasagne & Garlic bread ↑

Image with kind permission of Cook

Cottage for long term let in the Pentland Hills

Live in one of the most picturesque areas of the Pentland Hills Regional park, yet within easy commuting distance of Edinburgh. The Howe cottage is now available for long term let. The Howe is situated at the top of the Flotterstone Glen on the side of the Loganlea Reservoir. It is a traditional shepherd’s cottage with a large private garden and out-buildings - just perfect for country living with the odd chicken or two!

Howe cottage located at the end of the picturesque Flotterstone Glen

Howe cottage located at the end of the picturesque Flotterstone Glen ↑

Credit: Michael Rummey

2012 Lambing at Eastside

After a kind winter, we’ve had a bumper lambing with lots of twins. Although the winter was good and we had an unusually warm March, spring itself was quite callous with cold east winds and rain. Our lamb warming box (high tech wooden box with metal grill and electric blow heater positioned underneath) was in action most days!

With 1400 breeding ewes lambing from mid April, it’s a busy time. Most ewes manage all on their own but all have to be checked several times daily which in itself is time consuming with the problem ewes and lambs adding into this. Problems range from ewes with birthing difficulties to newborn lambs that haven’t found the milk supply- all needing urgent attention.

This post includes a video of a recovered lamb in the shed playing with the straw!

Lambing in the Pentland Hills Edinburgh

Lambing in the Pentland Hills Edinburgh ↑

Photography by Michael Rummey

Heather burning

The hills on Eastside are mainly heather hills and it is a good food supply both for sheep and wildlife and especially black and red grouse. When the heather gets old and woody, it is indigestible but the young shoots are very edible. For the sheep and wildlife, a good mix of old and new is most beneficial; the old heather plants are shrubby bushes about 2-3 feet high and provide good cover and shelter from the weather as well as ideal nesting sites for ground nesting birds such as the grouse and golden plover while the young heather shoots keep hunger at bay.
To ensure a plentiful supply of young shoots, between the 1st October and the 15th April, we aim to burn 10% of the heather cover each year (a process called muirburn) but in reality this is a hard goal to achieve. The conditions have to be just right for a good burn with the heather dry enough to ignite (impossible some years!) and the wind in the right direction. We try and burn an old area of the plants into a recovering area from the previous year so that you have a natural fire “break” and stop things from getting out of hand.

Harry Robertson dowsing the flames

Harry Robertson dowsing the flames ↑

Photograph copyright of Michael Rummey