Wednesday, 30 March 2011


The lambing has not started well at all.

My beautiful first sheep, Bonnie, was lying asleep in her little pen when we checked her today. We thought she was asleep and I am so upset because she had died through the night. Her unborn twin lambs had died as well.

We had tried all we could to help her and the vet said that we had to hope that she would pick up....

Many, many farmers know how we feel right now as they have been there too. You go out in all weathers, offer the best feed, lug fresh water, sit half the night with a poorly animal and always hope for the best but expect the worst.

I have seen the look on my husband's face when he has stayed up all night in the cow shed then admitted defeat and called for the vet to come and help.
Both Farmer and vet emerging exhausted hours later, having tried their best with a struggling cow. Sometimes the effort is worthwhile and a tiny calf lies protected by it's mother. Sometimes the travail is futile and an air of silence befalls the farm and the men.
We understand but feel sad and respect the silence.

I have worked at many different jobs in my life, have studied medicine and horticulture, trained as an illustrator and welder but my dream job was to be a shepherd. My father would not allow it - he felt it was a man's job.....

Dad and I often spent a day or evening discussing the various merits of such and such a breed of sheep and he would launch into all the things which could (and do) happen to sheep. He knew his stuff having spent almost all of his life working with domestic animals.
He never saw my tiny flock - Bonnie was my husband's present to me for producing our son....

I tried to remember all that Dad had taught me and with The Farmer's help, managed to increase the flock and rear lovely, healthy sheep.

Bonnie was a character, a little spoiled, very spirited but an excellent mother.

I just feel so sad today but know that we gave her the best care we could.

The other sheep are due to lamb very soon - they are the third generation from Bonnie and may well have her characteristics and good nature.

Life goes on but what passes is not forgotten.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Spring has sprung.

It has been very busy on the farm.

Spring has sprung, the grass has riz, sort of.

My Precious First Sheep, Bonnie prolapsed and I have been alternating between fretting and pushing the entire mass back in.
We tried stitching it but that did not seem to work so we have placed a prolapse harness on her and hope that this works. She is back in the little shed in a pen of her own.

They are such a worry, sheep.

The others are out in the small field and due to lamb any day. Thankfully, the weather has been warm and dry and we hope it stays like that before the cattle are turned out soon.

The grass grows very slowly here, probably because we are quite high up and very exposed. It is also a relatively short growing season.

The toads are back. I wonder where they go in winter?
We rescued a few which were on the main road and put them in the bog/stream next to the house. There were several there already, each ignoring their neighbour.

The hares have been boxing each other in the fields and they are fascinating to watch. They circle and ignore one another then let rip with a right hook.

There are newly hatched chickens in the hay shed. It really does feel as if that long winter was a dreadful nightmare which has now passed.

The fields have been ploughed and will soon be ready for the crops. Barley, probably plus some potatoes.
The willow have taken very well so that will make a sturdy hedge in a few years time.

Our little boy has taken to not sleeping very well through the night. He was up at 3.30 am this morning, singing and fancying a chat. Sadly, his parents were less communicative, bordering on zombie and did not join in. We are finding these nocturnal concerts rather soul destroying and have resorted to bribery to encourage more sleep.

Everything is bursting full of energy and vitality.

Everything except the Farmer and I.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


When I think of grouse, three definitions spring to mind.

The first is the wild bird, the second, the verb to grouse and the third is a brand of whisky.

These past few days have drawn me to the verb version after the snow returned and the cold wind slapped at your face like a cold, dead fish.
Back to being wrapped up in anything which would keep the cold out and mutterations under breath (which became visible to all.)

The words of Robert Burns rang in my ear -

"We don't think of the long Scots miles,
The marshes, waters, steps and stiles,
That lie between us and our home,
Where sits our sulky, sullen dame (wife),
Gathering her brows like a gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath, to keep it warm."

This winter was now a joke. It had long outstayed it's welcome and there were Things to Do, for heavens sake. It was turning me into a hag from a Brothers' Grimm tale.

Then a strange thing happened.
Not the end of winter, unfortunately.


We were crossing the moor in a mini blizzard and came across an entire flock of black grouse. It was such an extraordinary sight as they are fairly rare. It is unusual to see one or two, yet I counted roughly twenty three. They were just mooching about and quite unperturbed at our stopping to stare.
They are much larger than I imagined - about the size of a big, sturdy hen but fatter. (I think they had puffed up their feathers to keep warm).

"It's a sign, isn't it?" I asked The Farmer.
"It's a sign that I am seeing what I am turning into - a grouse collective".

Diplomatically, he said nothing but I knew he smiled wryly without my having to look at him.

We were only a couple of miles from home and I took a photo of the road and all our neighbours.

Except, there are no neighbours. Only the grouse.

I will invite them over and we can all grouse about the winter together.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

A chill in the wind.

There has been a lot of fresh snow - enough to stop the postman coming near the farm.

A chill wind blows and so much needs done yet I cannot concentrate on our work just now given the awful disasters in Japan.

The scale of the disaster is incomprehensible, the scenes are surreal, the suffering is palpable.

We sit here on the other side of the world, inconvenienced a little by some snow but safe.

I hope that those affected find healing and security.

Words are futile and difficult yet the emotion is raw and real.

God help them.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The bright lights

I felt that there was very little to write about in the last few days.

The Spring work has begun and there has been a flurry of maintenance. The annual hope that a thick layer of paint will keep things from falling completely to bits.

Potholes have been filled, burst tyres patched up, horizontal fences made vertical, ditches reopened, rhones cleaned out. That sort of thing.

Evenings which see you incapable of coherent speech through tiredness and even the 10,000 yard stare becomes an effort.

Tonight, we had to go to the wild metropolis which is Cupar Angus. It is in the bottom right corner of Perthshire and a bit of a hike. We were going to collect some willow in order to plant in a very marshy part of the farm road. It would solve lots of problems, namely, cope with the perpetual wet bit, offer shelter, wood for the fire and everything.

I sort of misheard the length and when the rendezvous was made, there were 100 pieces of willow almost three metres long.
We wove them around the car as best as then went for something to eat.

After we had all eaten more food in an hour than was necessary, we came outside to a weird site - town lights. Ok, so it was Cupar Angus and not New York but after being so used to pitch darkness and silence, the traffic and neon were quite disorientating.
The Christmas fairy lights were still up and the New Moon lay idly on it's back surveying the world below with a laconic eye. Perhaps the Cupar Angussians were still celebrating.

We left Cupar Angus and travelled through places offering exotic names - Strelitz and Wolfhill, Burrelton and Balbeggie.

Perth looked magical at night with the tiny lights of the town reflected in the Tay.

We hit the A9 north and eventually arrived home. It was dark and quiet.

There is an energy and buzz from travelling through towns at night. I had seen into other people's lives as we sped past houses with undrawn curtains and a microscopic snapshot of what people did in their homes.
One family had lots of streamers and balloons decorating their living room.
One chap was lying on a brown leather sofa and was raised on one elbow trying to change the channel with a remote control.
A group of students sat round a table in the new college accommodation buildings. They sat ramrod straight - my Granny would have approved.

Actually, Granny would have totally disapproved of my peeping into other people's living rooms but it could not be avoided.

Just a glimpse of people who I would never know nor would they know that I had seen them. Ships in the night.

We are back here in our groove. Things that needed fed and settled have been.

I feel quite invigorated by our trip and God knows, will need the extra energy for

planting all that willow tomorrow.

City energy.
Rural pace.