Just before those heavens opened, and bathed the island in monsoon style rain, an Indian summer swept across the land. As temperatures soared, there were plenty of last-minute dips in the warm September seas, as beach life crept in once again. As the waves were boiling with shoals of mackerel, whitebait positively threw themselves onto the shoreline, and dolphins circled and cruised in pods feeding on nature’s bounty.

On the farms, the combines were rolling up and down the golden fields of barley. This year there was no last-minute ‘keeping those fingers crossed’, hoping for a break in the weather for the harvest. No watching impatiently as crops peaked and then drooped in damp wet weather. This year, everything seemed to go smoothly as across the island the barley peaked, and the crops were harvested in plenty of time.

It is always a fine line, squeezing in all the farms before the rain makes an appearance again. With only a limited number of combines available on the island it can at times prove quite challenging. The only hiccough this year was when the Handsome Young Farmer and his crew had stopped to enjoy a mid-morning break as tasty bacon butties and coffee at Debbie’s were calling. With the combine’s engine drawing to a graceful halt, post-coffee, no amount of coaxing or teasing could convince it to start again.

Only minutes before, it had been working its way through the fields, but, in true farming style, this was the moment it chose to ‘die’. Suddenly, the game was a bogey, as the harvest drew to an abrupt halt. In the blistering sunshine, the team could only look on longingly at the fields baked and golden, ripe for the cutting. Luckily as word got around, community spirit kicked in. Much later in the day, another contractor’s combine hurtled to the rescue, alongside the neighbour’s combine, and together they worked long hours, making up for lost time. Squeezing in an emergency harvest for the Handsome Young Farmer and crew, and allowing for much hearty banter, and more delicious bacon butties and coffees at Debbie’s the next day.

With our neighbour recovering from surgery, I popped by with a bag filled with goodies from the vegetable patch. Days of heavy rain, and my kitchen sink was awash with mud, as I scrubbed away the grit and dirt that clung in clumps to the carrots and spring onions. As the first fires of the season were lit, it felt good to sit, reminiscing about the harvests, as the peat smoke gently curled its way up the chimney. The bygone days of corn stooks, when the sheaves of cut grain would be carefully stacked in neat mounds, ensuring the heads were upright and off the ground, as they dried and ripened in the sunshine and breeze.

The old traditions, and those early lessons, as the last sheath of corn would be taken into the farmhouse kitchen and gently woven to form a corn dolly. It would hang in the farmhouse for the year. A little flash of red from a ribbon or piece of cloth tied around it serves to ward away any evil spirits. Days when the whole village would assemble in the sunshine to lift and gather the cut corn arranging it into stooks. Corn is no longer a feature on the farm, and for the barley harvest, huge machinery now dwarfs the single-track road, as a giant combine, huge tractor, and trailer appear, transporting the grain, and round bales of straw, from the field.

Late summer and the island welcomed a burst of visitors. The kilns in the shed have been firing away. The colours of the season’s skies, the orange glow of sunrises, the deep purples and pinks of heather-clad hills, and the subtle changes in the landscape, as autumn’s yellows and golds gradually creep in, have all inspired new ranges of ceramics to flow.

With busy starts to the days, as the Happy Farmer’s breakfasts flow from the farmhouse kitchen to the guests, along with his stories, his unique island character and charm, it’s a time of connecting with guests from across the country and globe. Tourism has added another layer to island life, allowing for exciting diversification opportunities and projects. Bringing a fresh perspective, as the farm evolves, the animals add their own character, stepping up to their roles as ambassadors in the ‘Persabus marketing team’. Capturing the beauty and uniqueness of island and farming life and sharing the journey.

Our small team working away, to keep the Persabus ship sailing, with cottage and farmhouse changeovers, as a continuous wheel of laundry, makes its way through the cycles. Huge lines of fresh white sheets and pillowcases billowing in the breeze. The steady whirring of the roller iron, as Mairi works her magic. A hive of activity and industry, that keep the wheels of farm diversification ticking on. Then the contrast of the peace and quiet, to sit beside the roaring wood-burning stove in the old stone pottery.

To while away the afternoons, dipping brushes, and sponges, into the thick, deep pots of colour. Teasing and working the paint to capture and translate the passing of the days and the seasons of island life onto ceramics, ready for the glazing and the firing processes.

Customers come and go, painting workshops flow, and then as the light still allows, a hike up the hill with the dog, in the blustery, showers of early evening. Later, as darkness creeps in, time finally allows for the television to go on, and who hasn’t been inspired by the latest series of ‘This Farming Life’? The youngsters, their ideas, and projects. Their knowledge and stamina, their passion and determination, as the wheels and cycles of farming life continue to evolve and grow.