'War started today 28/07/1914 ... Duncan Fletcher'.

Stark words that were carved unevenly with a heated poker, inscribed into the wooden mantle of our fireplace, capturing a moment in history.

Thick walls built from heavy stone slabs and covered in the colourful patterns of lichen and moss, standing firm among the rubble. Decaying old frames, which once held glass panes in place. Slates clinging precariously to the remnants of a bowing roof, most of which had already collapsed into the abyss.

The centre piece, a tree, reaching skywards, sprouting from the stony debris, making a feature of these dilapidated ruins.

We gingerly crept through the nettles and wreckage, over the heaps of stones and rotting wood. Pockets of lath and plaster still clung to the old, damp stone walls. A butter churn stood, lopsided on the uneven floor.

Old musty cupboards revealed a box bedroom. At the heart, of what was once a kitchen, the now ‘antique’, cast-iron fireplace, swee, still suspended across it, an old black pot hanging.

We stood in the ruins of the farm’s original house. The presence of the Happy Farmer’s great uncles still very much to the fore, long after the home was vacated and left to crumble.

Those early ventures were at the beginning of our journey, as we stepped into the role of ‘keeper of the keys’, following in a long line of succession in the family’s history of farming on the island.

It’s the colours of the landscape that get you at this time of year.

Drawn into the rhythm and flow of the seasons, each one unfolding, with its own unique charm and character. The rich browns, reds and golds as autumn takes hold. The purples, pinks and yellows of vibrant sunrises and sunsets, in between the mizzle and drizzle of passing storms.

October skies are filled with the shrill cackle of excited geese. After a long journey over the oceans, they have made it back to these island shores, to enjoy their winter home.

Gliding high above, in neat formations, they can be seen scanning the land below, then as wings are lowered, legs and webbed feet splayed out, they ‘parachute’ gently down, in tandem. Landing gracefully in fields of stubble, a huge feast awaiting, left from the recent harvest of barley.

Barnacle geese, Greylags, White-fronted geese, and Whooper swans can be seen tucking into the juicy pickings left behind from the farmers’ labours.

Autumn envelopes you in a great big nourishing hug as ripe plump berries fall into your hands ready for preserving and pickling. Soups, pies, and casseroles flow from the harvest, as the kitchen garden delivers a plentiful supply of fresh vegetables.

Read more: Rosemary Fletcher's blog – a Hebridean farmer's wife prepares for autumn

Hours of labour in the springtime, nurturing and protecting plants, and seedlings, digging and weeding, squeezed in between the lambing rounds, are now rewarded. Just in time, as the days really begin to shorten, with open fires roaring, as indoor living takes over.

Even the Happy Farmer can be seen out scouring the blackthorn bushes, gathering bags of ‘sloes’. The berries ready to be added to gin, along with a few of his ‘secret’ ingredients. Ingredients that will make up his own ‘special blend’.

It's a recipe that remains a closely guarded secret due to the impending ‘sloe gin competition’ that takes place annually between the ferryman, gamekeepers, and farmers. Getting the sloe gin to ‘maturity’ is a fine balancing act and apparently ‘regular’ tastings are an imperative part of the process of getting those flavourings ‘just right’.

Several flagons are, therefore, a necessity, as perfecting the flavour seems to require the opinion of a cohort of farmers that seems to grow in numbers as the days pass and the sloe gin ‘develops’ into a smooth, velvety, deep red liquid ready to be savoured in the depths of the winter months when the celebrations of the season begin.

That is, if it makes it to the festivities, and doesn’t get devoured completely in the process of thirsty farmers perfecting those flavours!

Gathering, preserving, recycling and upcycling are inherent to the way of life on the farm. Trail blazers in sustainable living.

From the days when ferry sailings were less frequent, and a stronger dependence on the surrounding land, and items of machinery and equipment to hand, were greatly valued, as it was not so easy to instantly access produce from the mainland.

My early memories of life on the farm are of my late father-in-law’s sheds bursting with ‘treasures’. To my untrained eye, I could not see beyond the guddle and clutter of old pieces of machinery, furniture, and farming implements.

Nothing was neatly ordered, but my late father-in-law knew the exact whereabouts of every nail and bolt, joist, and wheel. Those old farm sheds were packed sky high with every possible conceivable ‘essential’, ready to be adapted.

From mechanical pieces, to plumbing and building essentials, to everyday items. Practical skills honed and developed across the generations. There was always a way to recycle and reinvent, nothing a bit of hammering, welding and an old piece of rope couldn’t solve.

These old farmers were masters of creation, at a time when city living threatened to get swallowed up in a ‘throw away’ world. Implements could always be adapted and converted to solve any issue that arose.

These skills proved a life saver when we embarked on our journey. A journey which started out of the sheer necessity to build a home for our young family, one that was no longer miserably damp and cold, even in the summer months, with its rotten timbers, leaking roof, and rising damp. Years of patched repair jobs, ‘painting over dead rats’ was the old saying.

Ownership finally gave us that opportunity to embark on a project of preserving, renovating, and developing the ruins and dilapidated farm steadings into a successful programme of diversification on the farm.

Our financial resources were limited. We sold the cows when BSE hit farming. The funds were used to help finance the materials needed.

For me, it was unchartered territory, years before ‘project’ builds, and renovations had become an entertaining fixture on TV channels. We were in it for the long haul.

Undaunted, the Happy Farmer took the lion’s share of the diversification project on, with a shoestring budget, he was involved in every part of the build. Those practical skills, that ability to adapt, upcycle and invent, proved invaluable.

The project began with rebuilding the original farmhouse. Clearing out the rubble and the nettles and the debris. Stripping it back to the shell of four thick stone walls, at the heart of which, were the roots of that tree, growing skywards.

A tree, which, transplanted to the garden of the main farmhouse, has over the years thrived and grown, along with those diversification projects on the farm.