The Old Farmhouse – Availability and Update

** In the Trossachs community the accommodation providers are carefully and respectfully reopening in line with guidance as restrictions are eased. Closures from March to June helped to limit impact on rural services and protect our local population. Many thanks to everyone who respected Brig o’ Turk and the National Park in this time. [Updated, March 2020 and July 2020]

We wrote about the Transformation of the Old Farmhouse in late 2018 and have welcomed visitors from Scotland, the UK, Europe, North America, South Africa, the Middle East and Australia (with even a short Scottish film made here and a French fashion shoot). We will welcome back our first return visitors in 2020. We often have slots or odd weekends available so please check online for availability or contact us directly.

In the last 2 years we have also progressed restoration and development work on the farm (more exciting news on the Bothy project before Easter) and the long-term landscape plan is in progress.

Eco Updates

We continually look at our suppliers and how we can lower our impact or make a difference in the way Achray Farm is run. In the Old Farmhouse we use refills for all our shower and hand-soap dispensers from Faith in Nature and source loo roll from Ecoleaf/Who Gives a Crap. We are trialling use of a Bokashi composting system to deal with food waste. All our laundry (Bio-D washing powder) is done on-site during the day to make use of our solar panel energy (where possible) and we are currently reviewing options for battery-storage to make better use of our on-site energy and off-peak renewable tariffs. All our bought-in energy supply is on a renewable product.

Reviews

We have had so many lovely reviews, it’s hard to find ones that summarise the experiences of everyone from friends reunions to family get-togethers and time away with children. Here are a sample from the last year.

‘The cottage was more than perfect for us with fabulous spacious and furnished bed rooms, plenty space for living downstairs for us all and great appliances for us to live day to day and enjoy our holiday. The cottage is perfectly located to enjoy all of the local attractions such as Loch side walks, cycling trails, hill walking and close to Callander and Aberfoyle. It was perfect in every way’

February, 2019

‘Very highly recommended. The scenery is wonderful. The goats are a real treat and walking with them is so calming. They and the chickens and ducks are wonderful to watch’

‘Breath taking location. Relaxed and very friendly hosts, nothing was too much trouble. The accommodation is stylish and clean, so much to do on your doorstep. Cycling, kayaking, walking – and of course chilling out with the goats!’

August, 2019

‘Achray farm is pure delight. It’s set in lovely surroundings close to the loch and nearby cycle tracks and walks. The animals are great for keeping children preoccupied and amused and we loved exploring nearby attractions, never having to drive’

September, 2019

‘It takes tranquillity to another level. At times Achray Farm and the Loch felt like being in your own private universe. We travelled with our children of 7, 8 and 11. The place gave them a safe place to explore outdoors during the day and games in the evening. Whilst having goats on their doorstep was fascinating, it was the chickens that stole the show’

December, 2019

‘there were lots of board games to keep us busy. Nicola was very welcoming and provided lots of information about the local walks, cafes and restaurants. We hope to visit again in the summer to make the most of the area, the loch and the chiminea in the garden’

February, 2020

Animal Farm

DSC01005We never intended to be quite so populous at Achray.  But one thing leads to another and we now have a small and mostly growing menagerie of producers and produce.

We have just had the first proper frost of the season, first-year autumn squash and veg are collected and tidy-up for winter continues, interrupted by a variety of beasts; the most recent arrivals have been the goats.

Goats

Pan and Ria – both dairy milkers and with the calmest of temperaments.  They arrived from Linlithgow last month and are consistently delivering 3+ liters a day each.

Milking started slowly, and at ground level, but with the collection of a milking stand from a handy Sheffield visit backs are less sore and goats more content. There is still some shenanigans but Nicola is becoming a champion milker. The white stuff is creating a small lake (or iceberg) in the freezer prior to new skills development (more later), medicinal use and feed.

Delightfully they are also fans of the rushes when out in the field, so after debilitating the apple trees we are getting some land strip grazed finally.

Pigs

Three new troublemakers arrived at the end of last month as 8-week old weaners.  Way more boisterous than our first two Oxford Sandy & Black they have also been rather thrown in at the deep end.  No cosy barn or dry sunny days for these hardy types, and hence goats milk supplement to feed is very, very popular.  I think they have learned to suck it up without breathing to ensure competitive consumption.

After several days of finding the wee guys trotting round the farm, we have also managed to block small holes and reinforce electric fencing, though it’s only a matter of time before they are big enough to create the next problem.

3Pigs

Ducks

The tiny runner-duckling we hatched and highland friends imported from Ardersier have all grown into beautiful birds.  Autumn has brought a close to open season on the pond and Bianca has been seriously ill – probably with Gape Worm (don’t Google Image search if you are squeamish!).  Panacur (for rabbits) along with 1:1 overnight vigils, warm baths and a fortnight in the house in front of the woodburning stove has brought her back from the brink a couple of times (image below from earlier in the summer).

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Hens

Our new point-of-lay hens have taken an age to actually lay but in the last couple of weeks our egg ratio has increased from 8-a-day to almost a full-house from 26.  We lost one to the awful Gape Worm before diagnosis and treatment could be effective and so have now invested in treated feed.DSC00995

Vulpes Vulpes has been spotted trotting across the track and we have found two piles of tail feathers in the grass – amazingly the hen count is complete, but we know it’s a dangerous time of year.

Duck Buddies

Life and death in the Big Brooder House.

Our Indian Runner Duck eggs hatched last week and we had two chicks survive the difficult and traumatic hatching process. Of the other four eggs in the batch, two did not survive hatching and two appeared infertile.  Sadly, after the enormous effort of emerging to a living & breathing world one of the living chicks also passed away after 24 hours so we needed to get a pal for our wee survivor.

Smallholding isn’t all blue skies and fluffy ducklings, it’s an emotional coaster too. Here is the first few days of Sharoo:

So this week, thanks to Google we identified another solo Indian Runner duck of the same age and headed off to glorious Ardersier to bring the buddy back.

The new duck on the block is nicknamed ‘Duckzilla’ as she is a monster compared to Saroo, but they get on amazingly well and are fun to watch racing around their room together.

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We also came home with two slightly older birds – more on them in another post.  I will end with the sad news that a few of our beautiful hens from the last blog were snatched by foxes this week, literally from under our noses outside the study window before being chased away.

Loose Ends

 

The mornings are getting busier on the farm now with the arrival of another 8 mixed hens to join our 7 Isa Browns.   The new girls have just started to lay pullet eggs after two weeks.  Though it seems a bit cosy in the Solway hen house, everyone seems to get on OK now.

Breeds include Speckledy, Blacktail, Silver Sussex, Sussex, Bluebell and Rhode Rock.

They all currently enjoy a run with the shelter of the Bothy on one side and a fenceline on the other, providing shelter and security, but without the possibility to create variations on the chicken run. The plan is to move the run adjacent to the new vegetable beds as the birds show little interest in the greens but love the seeds of invasive grasses, as well as the slugs.  Within the new field we can also alter the fence to make rotating “teardrop” shapes and fertilise new beds whilst also permitting free roaming when we are around.

Of course the daily result of feed and water (those girls drink a lot!) are beautiful fresh eggs, prefect for poaching.  Local human-powered food mile supplies by bike from eggs@achrayfarm.co.uk

Finally, in egg-related news, we now have six duck eggs in the incubator and expecting new arrivals this week…

Busy week -for some!

This week we planted 30 squash plants into their new beds, along with French bean, lettuce, chard and kale. Time will tell whether the new raised beds will work! Chickens attempted to help whilst the pigs bathed in the warmth of the day. The new hens are starting to settle in, (a lovely mix of hybrids; Bluebell, Speckledy, Rhode Rock, Sussex, Blacktail and Silver Sussex) although are still being rather hen pecked  by their longer standing “sisters”.

First blog post

The first blog post!  Nicola and I have been at Achray Farm since December 2016 – six months and a lot of planning, planting, painting and now poultry and pigs.

As we grow our ideas and vision, stock and crops we plan to share the journey here.  Next up will be our current farmyard of pigs, chickens and duck eggs in the incubator.