There’s been a bit of a ‘love fest’ going on at Persabus recently, and that’s not even including the humans on the farm. From the tups and the sheep in the fields to the deep-rooted companionship between dogs, horses, and cats, friendship and love abound. It is indeed the ‘Season of Goodwill’.

Tiggy, the dog, and her feline companions, Hamishina and Archieina, have been spending their evenings softly nuzzling and grooming one another on the kitchen rug. They snuggle up cosily together. Tiggy has even been seen sharing her treats and scraps with those happy cats. I’m still not quite sure who is the boss among the three, but those cats appear to have that dog firmly wrapped around their little paws.

Out at the stable more love abounds. Spider, our 'characterful’ Hebridean sheep, can be seen gently grooming the horse’s legs. Nibbling, and nuzzling away, as Hansel stands there, all gooey eyed and dopey looking.

Who knew a Hebridean sheep could be so adept at trotting? Our latest entertainment from the farmhouse window is watching horses and sheep go flying by at a rate of knots. A small bundle of black fluff happily put through her paces, as her trot breaks into a canter before she can be seen happily galloping her way around the field. Those little legs go like fury, mimicking her newfound muse, Hansel, as she faithfully follows his every move.

It’s been a bit of a topsy turvy time. Early autumn we said a very sad farewell to Muffin, our eldest daughter’s childhood pony. Muffin was a good age and had enjoyed a good life in the fields at Persabus, having arrived as a rescue pony some 22 years ago. A temperamental little character, full of gusto and attitude, it wasn’t long before he warmed all our hearts.

With Muffin gone, Spider immediately glued herself to Hansel’s side. Following him everywhere, stepping up to the role as his constant companion. Even accompanying him out on hacks. She will wait patiently, position herself underneath his girth, as he is tacked up, before breaking into one of those bouncy jogs as she follows behind horse and rider in single file, off through the fields.

Spider was an abandoned lamb. Arriving on the farm as a total surprise, out of the blue, in late August, over a year ago. Her tiny body was not much bigger than a bag of sugar. Her chances of life looked very slim. Luckily, she had an unusually steely determination to survive. Scooped up and ‘cooried’ into a jacket she was promptly taken over the hill and put into the care of Islay’s amazing ‘sheep whisperer’, Mairi.

Mairi has an absolute knack, an ability to raise a lamb from near death, into a healthy, hardy, and sturdy sheep. Spider was left in her care, while Mairi worked her amazing ‘magic’. She has a big heart. Caring for abandoned, sick lambs, welcoming them into the heart of her menagerie, as her two playful pups step up to the roles of surrogate parents.

The pups can be seen racing and skipping with the lambs, guiding them in the ways of hierarchies, and friendships. The cat impatiently watching, perched in the clutches of a comfy armchair, before it too will eventually clamber down for a quick nuzzle with any lambs. The animals love all the attention, they bond, they play, they fall out, they rest, and then the cycles begin over again.

Visiting Mairi in the summer months and on the patio, between an array of colourful flowers and plants, a dozen or so lambs will come jumping and skipping, along with the dogs, ducks, and hens, ready to play.

At Show Time Mairi appears, dressed in her own unique dazzling style. Glamorously flowing in a bright dress with petticoats. Accessorised with a hat brimming with netting and ribbons. Two sturdy spring lambs at her heels, with their fleeces brightly dyed to match their owner’s attire. Happily, they’ll follow alongside Mairi, on leads, taking in the fun and festivities of the day.

It is the care, love and sheer devotion Mairi gives to her brood. From the round the clock feeding routines, to the heat lamps and cosy nests she creates for them. Each one a character, and each one is welcomed by her staple menagerie.

At ceilidhs and gatherings, you will always find Mairi, dressed in a beautiful shimmering gown, dazzling with bling, with a lamb, or two, carefully tucked up, sleeping soundly under her arm.

So, a few months after delivering little Spider to Mairi’s, she was soon thriving and growing. Her weak back leg had been carefully encased and strengthened with the help of an empty cardboard kitchen roll, neatly cut to size, and taped in place, allowing Spider to follow her new pals everywhere.

By late November, Mairi’s little emporium at the bottom of the road becomes a glitzy affair. Bright Christmas lights, twinkling, among beautiful greenery and foliage. An open hearth roaring away, and a paved patio lit up with fairy lights, leads on into her beautiful shop. A shop filled with colour and sparkle. The sweet scent of candles and soaps, alongside cosy comfy sofas, and chairs, with those old favourites, as Christmas tunes are crooning out.

There’s always a huge and cheery welcome, with pancakes galore. Hot chocolate melting with cream and marshmallows, and good hearty banter. Those animals are at the very centre of Mairi’s beautiful chaotic, festive, fizz and buzz. Dancing among the tinsel and garlands of Bealach Ruadh.

The menagerie of cats, dogs, ducks, hens, and rabbits, along with a festive lamb or two, in among the shiny baubles, sparkling tinsel, and garlands, twinkling away bringing warmth, cheer, and a huge welcome in the dark, damp, mizzle of a winter night. It is such a beautiful quirky mix, oozing with charm, as the playful characters entertain and delight.

Last spring, when Spider was strong enough, and the weather had calmed, she was released back to the fields of Persabus, to the Hebridean flock to resume her ‘sheep’ life. Spider, however, had other plans, and chose not to mingle with her fellow Hebs, making the horse her firm favourite.

As the festivities start to creep in, and the days shorten and darken, beneath the glitz, the hustle and bustle of the season, it is those little moments, that warm glow of small gestures of kindness, and friendship that count the most.

‘Happy Christmas to one and all’.