Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Fishbox garden

It came as a welcome diversion from 'heated debates' with certain men of arrogant and sexist nature. (Not The Farmer, I might add.)

I went to buy some fish for the family and the fish merchant offered me some of the boxes which the fish arrive in from Wester Ross.
They brought with them the faint whiff of fish and the strong scent of home.

Rosie had planted lots of pots of seeds in May which were now screaming to get out of their overcrowded pots and in to the ground. The fish boxes were ideal for all the salad plants, some herbs and more spring onions than were strictly necessary.

Pie Dog helped.
That was actually a complete lie. PieDog gazed adoringly and we all had to pat him with the bits of us which were not laden with plants. He had compost smudges over his ears and that bit of dog which would be where our cheeks are.

The Farmer sits on a chair just beside the new garden. He is watching all the activity through a fog of medication and we all fuss over him as if he were an elderly dowager in a bath chair.
"You need a crochet knees cover in neon acrylic to go with your Purple Haze"

"I'll give you crochet cover", he replies, Scottishly.

He is doing pretty well bar for the cocktail of tablets which leave him tired and a bit spaced out.

"Look Dad, tons of salad to keep you healthy". Rosie has been learning all about healthy eating at school and is keen for us all to try something good. She has sown dill and fennel ("good for digestion") and some chervil which tastes of cucumber.

Some of the lettuce plants look like they have been nibbled by four year olds but perhaps it is a trick of the light....

... or the partridge who has moved in to the garden and has been called 'Pie Trish' by the children.

It is lovely to have the sun back - what a difference it makes to feel warm and hopefully the stuck plants inside will finally begin to grow.

Monday, 27 June 2011

900 years

It has been one of those Wallow in the Depths of Woe weekends. Sort of Eeyore at Glastonbury without the bands or people.

Sunday was dire and it poured rain just to reinforce the gloom.

I lay in a crumpled heap and weighed up all the pros and cons about the way we live, work, our perception of those who 'trespass against us', the mud and any other issue which could be dredged up.

At one stage, there was dreamy staring out the window like having a crush without the passion. That was enough of that.
Stop mourning, get your wellies on and think of something.

Think of how Scottish feudalism was only reformed a few years ago after a tick-like hold of 900 years.
Think also of the wording of the law, the use of 'superiors' and 'vassals' of burdens and the dreadful 'clawback'.

Money becomes the God which is worshipped, morals and gentility are thrown to the wind.

I mooch about for a while, enjoying the wallow but realise it is only a passing guest.

"Thank you but off you go, Gloom and Despondency, you are starting to get on my nerves". I open the door to let them out and the fresh, rain soaked air in.

The Farmer is through in the other room with the children. They are doing a jigsaw and nobody is fighting, for a change.

"Would you ever consider a change of career or country" I ask him.


That reply is good enough for me. It is enough to unleash a rage against the injustice of the Unjust. It is fuelled with the energy of 900 years of oppression. The vassals and the inferiors blow a fierce gale from their long dead lungs.
The land which we look after is not only our legacy to our children but there for people who care.
It is not for those who wish to trample roughshod over the land and it's carers. Many of us have tolerated this feudalistic vandalism for far too long but have woken up to the 21st century and sniffed the inference on the wind.

What we have is worth fighting for.

Let the battle commence.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Once upon a time....

.....Once upon a time there was a pasture where no mechanical object had ever been.

The pasture had a small stream flowing through it and was a haven for many types of wildlife including otters, fish and lots of birds. There were yellow flags and rushes plus lots of wildflowers for the smaller creatures to enjoy.
The pasture had unimaginable peace and tranquility and it's beauty was breathtaking. Humans mixed quietly with the wildlife and found it helped heal the many wounds caused by fellow Man.

The family who cared for the pasture took great care to keep the pasture in it's natural state and managed to do this for one hundred and thirty years.

Then one day, a new neighbour moved in. He was very important as he had Shooting Rights.

He strimmed the pasture and held a corporate clay shoot. He invited many people yet did not let the family know.

The children belonging to the family went to play in the pasture but they had not been seen by the people having Fun at the clay shoot.....

The children and farm animals, who were also in the pasture, ran terrified and came to find their mother. The cattle and their brand new calves stampeded with fear and ran to the furthest part of the pasture.

The mother of the children had to walk through shots as the shooters could not see nor hear her. She was very scared.

She discovered that the pasture had been given to the Important Man who assured her that he could shoot any where he wanted because he was Important and had rights.

This was news to the family and made them feel awful.

Once upon a time there was a beautiful, untouched pasture which was a haven for wildlife. It was quite unique.

Now it has gone.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


It has been a week of birthday celebrations.

Our little boy turned four and I am now 51.

Our son is proudly running around with a bright red badge with '4' pinned to his jumper and I sport the invisible '51' badge on my invisible wrap-around 1950's pinny.

We have feasted on the Victoria sponge from hell - the one where I followed Delia to the letter but it turned out to have ideas of it's own and turned into a Victoria biscuit. No amount of cream and raspberry jam could transform this pig's ear into a silk purse.
We ate it anyway.

I love the way our son has thrown himself fully into turning everything into a birthday celebration - pots of yoghurt have been wrapped in paper, the legs of the kitchen table transformed into a Christo like sculpture with the aid of wrapping paper and an entire roll of sellotape, birthday cards and bills hung together on the string of fishing line which is nailed on the living room wall; my only safesure method of office management which is an improvement on The Farmer's previous filing system which looked suspiciously like a burst Tesco bag and a sofa stuffed with receipts 'down the back'.
So red reminders and 'You are four' hang as a novel bunting along with the rosettes won at the ploughing competition and the odd advert for grass seed and the latest wonder drench (for later perusal).
When the window is opened, they flutter like Nepalese prayer flags wafting celebration, desperation and inspiration into the living room.

The Farmer sloped off to town and returned with a (badly needed) haircut and a screaming pink wheelbarrow. He had also bought me some chocolates which he had hidden in the car but alas "The dog ate them".
Now, PieDog looked remarkably healthy and chocolate binge free given that chocolate is poisonous to dogs plus there was a distinct absence of a chewed box or, indeed, any box so remains an Unsolved Mystery.

Amid all the festivities were muttering reminders that there was work to be done.
"Perhaps we should cut the end rigs and turn them into silage"...we meaning me because I love this job.
Except, it is too wet to cut anything (except another slice of birthday biscuit). It has rained and rained, poured, chucked it down, lamped it and then rained a bit more just in case it missed a bit.

The farmyard is back to being an ocean of thick mud, the fields too wet to drive on and The Farmer is beginning to fret.

"We still have a couple of months left of summer and surely we will have three dry days in a row". I try to be optimistic but apart from a short spell of lovely weather back in May, it has rained ever since.

Today, the birthday celebrations continue as it is Midsummer Day and feels like the pinnacle of the year so must be celebrated for the want of something to celebrate. I refuse to think about the days slowly turning shorter between now and Eldest Son's birthday....

I am bracing myself for the most glamorous job on the farm which Must Be Done, namely collecting dangleberries from the sheep before they are shorn.
This deceptively fruitsome description is another name for clipping any lumps of poo from the sheep bottoms so they are nice and fresh for clipping and not attracting the unwelcome attention of any passing blowfly.

Chucking rain or not, I ask you to spare a thought for a lonesome creature wearing a slap of lipstick in a lonely glen, in a sheep pen, with clippers and without Marigolds, bedecked in a dung- brown dufflecoat with the hood up, collecting dangleberries.
I may even go crazy and collect said dangleberries in my new, screaming pink wheelbarrow. Man, I can't wait.

I feel Older at the thought.

Monday, 13 June 2011

All grown

The beginning of this week has been one of those times in your life when time itself stops for a moment while the world continues around you.

Rosie has left for her school trip - it is so far away this year - yet we managed to get her case packed, money organised and everything.
The time stopping moment happened once we had returned from town with a few new clothes and a dress; she was flitting around like a butterfly, wrists all adorned with jangly bangles and she had a large blue flower in her hair.

The child had gone and a beautiful young woman had taken her place.

Just for a moment, I saw little pictures of her toddling beside me, her plump tiny hand in mine, her first day at school when her eyes filled with tears, the day she won a race on Sports Day....
Time had hit fast forward.

"Mum, come ON", she laughed as I fretted over anything we had forgotten.

We bundled all her luggage, small brother and PieDog into the car and left for school. Once we arrived, she carried her little brother around so everyone could see him and he clung to her like a koala.
Her best friend was waiting while Rosie put her brother in his carseat and after a quick hug, the pair of them strolled off arm in arm, heads together as they confabbed about the latest gossip.

I left feeling really happy for her yet I think every parent will understand when I say I felt slightly bereft too. Time had moved and that thump of understanding that the child was there no longer.....

Today was the little one's last day of being three. He is wide eyed with excitement and questions.
"Where does three go, Mummy?"
"It changes into four, magically" I reply wistfully.

I cuddled his tiny pyjama clad figure and, despite the tantrums, wilfulness and strops, realised that being three was a really special age and this moment would never return. I wished that cuddle could have frozen in time.

Tomorrow, there will be birthday cake and fuss, presents and fun - four will come in like a lion just like three left like a lamb.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Crack, coughs and combines.

I am writing this in a dark cupboard with only the light of a candle for illumination.

We don't have a power cut or anything but there is an almighty electric storm outside and I am afraid.
It comes as the icing on the cake for my Day of Gloom; dentist, rain, 'flu and now lightning.

We have all had/ are having 'seasonal flu' which is great sounding for fresh produce but rather debilitating for the producer.

The Farmer is over the worst of his bout and was being furtive yesterday then vanished for a few hours. He returned looking terribly pleased with himself and was carrying two large bags.

"Did you bring Lemsip?" I feebly managed to ask from the nest of duvets and blankets that I hade made on the sofa. I was the Symphony of Pathos after my dip into the Ocean of the Unwell.

"No. Even better, I bought a sports outfit. Trainers and everything. I am going to rehab".

"Rehab? I had no idea you were taking crack cocaine or have you overdosed on whisky toddies?". I noticed that the 'nice bottle' which I won at the Ploughing Society raffle had evaporated.

"Noooo. It is heart rehab and we do excercises. I am looking forward to going".

The whitest pair of trainers stared at me from the open box and I muttered a silent prayer of thanks that he had not gone completely mental and bought shorts.
Farmers of a certain age and shorts do not a bonny picture make.

He is pretty much back to good health again and his return to work was the turning point. I swear it was making him ill not working.
Almost all the cows have now given birth and there are only two left in the barn. The herd and their calves are outside on the hill.
The sheep will soon be ready for clipping and this year we will have to ask professional shearers in to clip. The Maori team can clip an entire sheep in almost one minute and are incredible to watch plus they can party like it's 1999.

The Farmer has been under the old combine, checking all the complicated bits, oiling things and in his element.

We still have a few weeks to go before any harvest and it has been so wet and cold here - the very opposite of the weather in England. I feel so heart sorry for the farmers and growers there and wish the weather would swap places. They need the rain, we need the sun.

The farmhouse has really cracked under the strain of the wet weather and another piece of plasterboard from the kitchen ceiling succumbed to gravity and smashed on the ground.

"Oh look! now we have a mezzanine bedroom/ kitchen with dangly plumbing pipe effect".....

Outside is thriving with the rain and the garden is a refuge. I decided on vegetables over flowers this year but the hardy old perennials have burst into flower and there is a harmony which smells good.
I stumble outside in a fever induced state, beduffled up, carrying a hot water bottle and coughing wildly at the petunias or the cabbages. It would be even better with a hot mug of whisky toddy, for medicinal reasons of course, alas it has evaporated and I don't trust myself to drive to the Co-op for more.

Perhaps The Farmer could jog there .....