Sunday, 31 July 2011

Farmhouse tour

The holidays sort of begin now.

I say 'sort of' as none of us seem to remember how to down tools and just do nothing at all.

The extreme heat helps; it slows our movements right down and we end up sashaying slowly in a treackly effort to get from A to B.

The garden has been very neglected and despite efforts to mow grass and find a non nettle patch to put up the swing and slide, nature appears fuelled on anabolic steroids and the wild plants grow to monster proportions.

We are slowly emptying the house. It is too dangerous to go into some of the rooms now and a thick green mould grows on some of the walls.
We are impotent to do much as the way the law lies is stacked against agricultural tenants. We cannot dry out the walls until the roof is fixed and the landowner refuses to fix it. He will not let us buy our own home nor will he mend it so we are left in a difficult situation.

If we were to put on a new roof, we could be sued by the landowner. I cannot get my head around that one.
We have tried every route possible to get him to fulfil his legal obligation, to no avail.

We open the doors and windows to air the house.

Here is the living room.

The little square bit in the wood is for keeping salt dry. The floors are stone slabs from the local quarry.

The hall upstairs. The bucket is to catch the rain as it pours in through the roof. The walls are very patchy with damp and mould.

The rain comes in and used to run through the electricity source. The landowner cut the power five years ago for 'safety reasons'. We were billed for the £300 it cost to do this.

The bothy.

Three men who worked on the farm lived here.
Bothies played a big part in Scottish rural life. Men and women would attend annual 'feein' markets' which determined the farm they would move onto and work at. There are many songs about the farms which were less than ideal or mean; 'The Barren Yards of Delgatty' captures the despair of being fee'd to a miserable farm.

The men who lived in our bothy were there for thirty years and thankfully our farm never had a mention in the top ten of the despairing bothy ballads.

Inside is a mess. It has been used as a store room since the men retired in the late seventies and has never been cleared out since then. The little table in the centre of the picture was used for butter making.

I am going in to clear it out today but the ceiling gives me The Fear.

There is an upstairs! The photo is shaky as it was taken very swiftly from up a ladder as the roof is held up by cobwebs and luck.

We have a dilemma.
If we do not repair the roofs then another hard winter will see irreparable damage to the inside of the house. If we do it, then the landowner could exercise his right to sue us as it is his remit, his duty.

Tenant farmers have to ask the landowner if they may repair their own houses, using their own money and are scuppered if the permission is withheld.

21st Century Scotland.

The greatest little feudal country in the world.

I think there may be a bit to do before tools are laid down and the holiday proper begins.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Danse Macabre in Blair Atholl

We managed to squash the children, PieDog, food, toys and us into the car and headed for Blair Atholl.

Now a word of warning.

Firstly, never buy anything which is preceded with the word 'Braveheart'.
I have it on good authority that the difference between a burger and a 'Braveheart' from the burger vans in remote beauty spots is £2.50. Just saying.

The Farmer decided to try the 'Braveheart Special' at the local hostelry. After a bit of a wait (agonising as the dining room was massive, full yet oddly silent) four pieces of meat arrived ON A SWORD, I kid you not.
We died a little.
I died a bit trying to stifle hysterical laughter, made worse as the place was so quiet. The Farmer died a bit when he burned his hand on the sword and said bugger. Loudly.

Secondly, don't try to find out what the time is in Blair Atholl. There are no clocks to be seen.
None of our family wear watches and although there is a clock in the kitchen, it is hidden behind mail To Be Dealt With or the motley collection of herbs and spices. It is either morning, afternoon or evening.
Anyhow, we knew the evening was about to start as people arrived in dribs and drabs then headed towards the bowling green.

Past the nest of watching haggis.

Everything seemed to be happening all at once; fire engines, pipe band, clowns, horses, stalls and a bouncy castle. There appeared to be nothing here an hour before apart from the watching haggis.

An elderly and very elegant gentleman had a collection of tools which were to be identified. A crowd huddled around the stall, held the objects up to the light and discussed what they were. Answers were put onto a proper postcard and a bottle of red wine for the best entry.

There was a stall selling tea - the best cup of tea ever plus a huge slab of home made fruit loaf.

There were tombolas and sales of work - all in aid of the Folk Museum.

The Pipe Band made a circle and played 'Highland Cathedral'. I stood and wept as it was such a beautiful rendition of a beautiful tune. I thought of my dad.

A clown held the attention of the children in the palm of his hand.

A wonderful group of ladies sang waulking songs as they worked a length of Harris tweed.

Young lads tossing the caber, trying to throw it into a 12 o'clock position.

A sheep shearer gave a demonstration of shearing a very reluctant ewe. He had probably shorn hundreds of them and this was the last one. Shearer and sheep scowled at each other.The shearer's bunnet fell off.
It took him about a minute and a half and anyone watching the pipe band or dog show missed the shearing.
The sheep was led into a little trailer. It looked very miffed after it's moment in the limelight had gone so quickly.

The bairns all clambered up onto a trailer and went for a hurl around the grounds (the only concession to Health & Safety was the big bloke saying "I've got my eye on you" to some of the more 'spirited' children. Everyone waved to them as they went past.

All too soon it was time for the raffle and the answers to 'guess the tools' which were all done simultaneously.

"Number one tool was a detonator crimper and green number forty two, green forty two for a nice tin of talc'.

We had guessed wrongly at the leather workers being castrators but did get the loaf sugar cutters correct. The Farmer won a bottle of T Cut.
No one was sure what tool number six was, including the owner but Mrs McKenzie waved her raffle ticket and was given a small box wrapped in pink paper. Everyone clapped and cheered.

Then it happened.

A twitch or two in the crowd then a slap. People started to do their own personal Highland Fling. They were slapping their own heads and arms, bunnets were flapped and slapped back on the head with force. Dogs scratched and bairns howled.
It ended up like a colourful Danse Macabre, everyone twitching and flailing and loupin' about.
The culprit being the dreaded Highland midge or thousands of them.

The raffle came to a swift end, stalls put away in record time and all too soon the park was empty again. The whole evening had been very Highland and magical, like Brigadoon; the home made fruit loaf now a lingering taste and a hankering for more.

They are a lovely community in Blair Atholl and the Glens, welcoming and kind.

But beware the Blair Atholl midge.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Hay ho!

We began to harvest the hay early yesterday and worked right through until the last (the maiden bale) was made at shortly before 10pm.

It was a gloriously hot day and after a final couple of wuffles, we managed to make excellent hay.

Above is the small, rather old wuffler. We use it on the Davy Brown but the heat was so strong and the clegs so bad that open air work on the cabless tractor was out of the question.

The bigger, more modern wuffler was repaired and the hay turned a final time before 'rowing'. (Gathering the hay into lines for bailing).

Then hours and hours of driving up and down the field collecting hay into the bailer.

Inevitably, something goes wrong with the bailer, this time the mechanism which goes from cab to bailer so the machine stopped wrapping. In an ideal world, you press a button, deftly, and all goes to plan. In the real world, I had to push the damn thing with both thumbs and all my weight only to watch the wrapping mechanism sulk.
The Farmer managed ok as he has thumbs the size of mushrooms but he got it going again with a scoosh of WD40 and a bash with a hammer.

The last field was the scary one, the one on a steep hill. This photo does not do the steepness of the slope any justice but the horizon line is the angle which is true.

Prayers and swears were made in profusion.
Even worse was a monster mole heap right on the bad bit which meant an unexpected jolt just to give you even More Fear, if that was possible.

By 10pm and the last bale, the Maiden (a tradition which is dying out but one we keep) was bailed with care and placed to the side of the field entrance. Time to go home, hot baths, painkillers (I was starting to feel every mole hill and bump), filthy clothes to gather and wash.

The children had played on the bales all day under the watchful eye of their big brother. PieDog had chased rabbits and found all sorts of things to roll in.

We tidied up the toys and I thought this was so sweet:

Our youngest son had been 'practicing' wuffling and said that he would do it next year....

We had an unsettled sleep; it was so hot that we switched the fan on and threw off the covers (very daring during a Scottish summer). My body felt as if I had stepped off a boat then fallen on to concrete with clegs on it.

It rained heavily early this morning.

The Farmer is delighted that we managed to gather the hay when we did and he shyly gave me some roses and lilies as a thank you.

We are hoping to go to a wool evening tonight, in Blair Atholl. There will be shearing demonstrations as well as spinning and 'waulking' - the practice of curing spun tweed by women who sing special Gaelic waulking songs. I want the children to see how wool is processed and how wool had such a strong place in the community.

Anyway, it will be good to have a night off.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Making hay while the sun shines.

Hay making continues today; more wuffling.

I refuse to wuffle, due to the fact that the wuffler is attached to the Davy Brown tractor (circa 19 oatcake) and has no cab, just a cast iron seat with a folded feedbag for comfort. Industrial strength insect repellant and sun block are a must.

There is a knack to driving and operating it plus the requirement of leg muscles like fully grown marrows. Green stripes optional.
Oh and arms like a Russian wrestler are imperative for the gear changes.

The chances of a complete novice falling off after an abrupt acceleration and thus falling into the wuffler are high so, no, I will not wuffle.

It is nice to watch The Farmer and eldest son fly at the hay and throw it high into the air, the air smells sweet with a faint afterwhiff of diesel. Seagulls appear from nowhere to catch mice which have hidden in the long grass. The buzzards and kite wheel overhead.

There are lots of other things to do while the wuffling is happening but I would like to go for a walk with the children and PieDog. Pie has to be kept well away from the fields just now as he runs after rabbits or chases the tractor and cannot be trusted to run under the wheels. He cannot hear my whistle over the noise of the engines so he is safer staying near us.

Bailing tomorrow :)

Monday, 25 July 2011

Hit the ground running.

The past fortnight can only be described as being difficult and I am glad to see the back of it.

The sun came out on Saturday and the long term forecast looks promising so the decision was made to get the hay gathered.

The hay fields were all cut on Saturday, my son and I took turns to keep going until the cutting was finished. We stopped at around 11 pm and fell out of the cab sideways, legs trying to find their equilibrium. We appear to have upset the horsefly community (they are called clegs in Scotland) and they angrily land on any bare skin available then depart silently, leaving angry large bites as a calling card.

I had been reluctant to cut the horrible field - the one where the slope is so steep that you end up perched on one buttock in the extreme right of the cab with eyes closed. Eldest son 'mysteriously' found another job to do at that point so muggins did it With The Fear for company.

Sunday was devoted to wuffling. You fly at the rows of cut grass and a machine throws the grass into the air and turns the damp side to the sun. Wuffling has to be done several times until the grass is absolutely dry.

Tuesday will be the day that the bailing begins, if all goes well.

We have managed a partial shearing at the same time but have the rest of the flock to do. We have taken the sheep into the big shed so their fleece does not become contaminated with thistles and dockens plus they like being out of the hot sun. It also gives us a chance to inspect hooves, mouths, eyes, ears and bits, to worm and dose them against anything they may catch plus a good look at their overall condition and weight.

The springborn lambs are sturdy and seem to be thriving.

This blog entry is a bit rushed. I have an hour or so until The Farmer returns from town. The wuffler broke and needs to be fixed. It is nice just to enjoy the sun.

There is a strong smell of myrtle oil in the air; everyone is slathered in sun block and myrtle oil (which is supposed to deter midges and clegs but the jury is out on that one).

The dust from the ground sticks to our begreased bodies and we quickly become filthy.

Hopefully, a thick enough barrier to deter the clegs but not so bad as we terrify the postie.

Must go.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Oh, that was random.

Yesterday afternoon turned out to be random. Unusual things happened for No Reason At All.

Late afternoon, we took the children to the park at Aberfeldy. As usual, we took the long way round and as usual we were stopped by the police as the road was closed while the wind turbines were moved.
Except the policeman moonwalked to the car to tell us. Expertly.

"Are you Robocop?" I asked then felt instantly uncool as I probably got the wrong character.
"No Ma'am, I am Daffy Duck".

The children were agog but laughed at Daffy Duck the policeman.

We were allowed through as the turbines had not yet arrived so Daffy Duck waved us off with a little dance. We instantly loved him.
His fellow officer drove ahead on his bike so we had a police escort and felt Terribly Important like princesses.

The park was lovely, and quite busy. A little girl had brought an army of teddies and had placed some of them on the grass. They waited patiently while the other teddies had a go on the swings. She was singing softly to them. I noticed that one of her pandas had a biscuit in it's paw.

I left the children with The Farmer and went up to the Water Mill to see the latest exhibition - this month it was a photographic exhibition by David Peat. There were lots of photos of couples kissing in Parisian alleyways, reminiscent of Robert Doisneau.
They get off with it in Paris, I thought. If I went and snogged The Farmer in Aberfeldy Square, it would raise an eyebrow or purse a lip.

There was a photograph of a person, possibly a man, who had covered his head with two knitted gloves. He had lost a shoe and was sitting in a puddle. The photograph reeked of despair.

A jolly party of Glaswegians bounced in at that point and joked loudly to one another about their afternoon and the intimacy of the moment was changed. I went back to join my family.

We went back across the bridge for something to eat. We sat outside in the sun and ignored the fog of midges then a helicopter landed in the field beside the hotel.

A fat red squirrel lurked in a birch tree.

I cut my lip on my pudding.
It was a heavenly creme brulee with a thick shell of browned sugar. A large shard sliced my top lip open just as Mine Host came to see if everything was ok.

"Shall I bring you a plaster ?" he asked, helpfully.
"Moomph", I replied from under a tissue.
"Duct tape?"
He was warming to the theme.
"Duct tape and a bin bag for your head?"
"Naw, you are fine thanks, son. I am trying to give all that up"

Ever the optimist, The Farmer pointed out that it was not everywhere that you got a pudding and free Paris Pout. "You have an Angelina Jolie lip now".
"I look like a bloody budgie and well you know it".

Lip, children, dog, Farmer and I headed home. It really had been a good afternoon.

We were almost a mile from home and came across two elderly ladies sitting at the side of the road. Their car driven up the bank.

We stopped to ask if they were ok.

"We have a flask and were watching the sun on the hills. It is lovely. We were visiting Betty's sister. She is in hospital, you know, but she is fine. We came the long road back, you know, by the back roads and if we had broken down we would be terribly pleased to see you as there is nothing here. Nobody."
This is an abridged copy of her conversation.

She said all this in about thirty seconds. I felt that I had full knowledge of her entire life, cat's name, shoe size and the contents of her bathroom cabinet.

Our new Best Friend, Betty, merely did a 'chin chin' gesture with her flask cup.

I loved them instantly.

I loved the dancing policeman, the helicopter, the fat squirrel, fat lip, the sun, the Farmer, Betty and her picnic, our exhausted children and our afternoon in Aberfeldy.

It was Random.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Despite all the wet weather we have had, I managed to find a flower of almost every colour of the rainbow.

The solitary tomato. I bring to tomato growing what Buckingham Palace brings to small garden sheds.
Every year I try and every year it is the same - one pathetically small tomato.
Oh they get fed, pampered, brushed with fake rabbit tails, everything.
The Farmer spied the tomato and said that he knew the secret. He even tapped his nose.
"Sheepie purlies in a sock"

I may covertly venture out to the field with a shovel, so desperate am I to grow a second tomato but it will be one of The Farmer's socks. I can never find mine.

Solitary, sulky courgette. It may get the sheep poo treatment with the other sock.

The fawn coloured squish round the greens are where our son 'helpfully' fed them with layers pellets for the hens.

The sun is half thinking about coming out today and I have fanciful notions of wafting with a trug whilst wearing a Panama hat. Alas, I own neither so will just have to waft.

A dung filled shed is staring me squarely in the eye as I write but I will ignore. Today's quest is for an infinitely finer class of poo.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Starry eyed Trek

Captain's log: Star date 2011.

Captain James T. Kirk was lucky.

He was off on a voyage of discovery where "To boldly go where no man had ever gone before". Well, today, I want to be that man.

James T. Kirk avoided the deluge which passes as a Scottish summer, dodged bored children who pulled each other's ears, never had to do a supermarket shop with ear pulling, kicking at each other, bairns. There was no evidence of any Dog which had rolled in something 'organic' on the S.S. Enterprise.
He may even have had time to care for his appearance....

In a moment of madness, the television was switched off and the children were ordered outside to play. In the rain.
They did not play, they skulked. For all of, ooh, two minutes then came in again.

"It is wet and we heard thunder"

"Right, we will get the paint and crayons out and do potato prints". I completely lack imagination when it comes to either children's activities on a wet day or what to cook for tea each evening.
If it does not involve pasta or potato prints, then I'm scuppered.

The phone and broadband have been acting up too. Infuriating as I had several calls to make plus needed my daily fix of the news and Mumsnet.

It is raining again this morning, The Farmer is away checking the sheep and cattle, children are still asleep but will soon be up.

The fantasy for today does not include anything agricultural. The reality is that the big shed needs emptied of dung, power washed then the sheep pens set up for the shearing.

Beam me up, Scotty.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Leaks, fumes and the Co-op.

The Tranquility of Deer vibe lasted, ooh, about three minutes. Then reality kicked in. And a bit of carbon monoxide.

The Farmer and I are working on drainage just now so set off with the children, the big trailer and some sandwiches to pick up some pipe.

We got about a mile down the road as the car began to fill with a blue smoke and acrid smell. Burst exhaust.

"How long has this been burst?" I asked The Farmer.
"A while".

We are in his (battered) pick up. The one where the bumper has been bumped and is held on with bailer twine. The one where the rat chewed through the gear stick cover and ate the crumbs from the child seat and half the child seat. And a Twix.
The pick up which looks and smells like it belongs to a farmer and half the farm.

The Farmer has been knocked sideways with the heart medicines he has been taking since April and I worried that they were making him confused.
A burst exhaust and fumes pouring into his cab would not be helping.

We reversed (badly) and returned to the farm with our heads out of the windows like PieDog does.

Pick up has been booked in to be fixed and The Farmer (rather huffily) has taken to getting about with the tractor to the extent of going to the Co-op for bread and milk in it.

Transport issues aside, we now have to try and dry out the farmhouse which is a tricky one given that a large chunk of roof is missing. I empathise with Prometheus and his liver problem but have a new wide brush to sweep the water outside. Each sweep is powered by mutterings of Anglo Saxon aimed at the landowner and his shirking of repairing the fabric of the building.
I will note your envy at our wonderful kitchen ceiling - Sistine Chapel it is not.

The good part is the emergence of arms like a farmhouse cured ham. I make a mental note to take up arm wrestling after all this.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Milk, two sugars and a lump of arsenic.

The team with the gizmo turned up this morning.

The farmhouse kitchen was under its usual inch of water due to the torrential rain and I tried to sweep the water outside but it is like picking up mercury.

There was the man with the machine, the woman I had spoken to on the phone and another man who had no discernible role other than he had a nice tie.

This is one of the walls and the cream paint is from Homebase.

Mr Gizmo applied the probe to the cream paint.

"That is from Homebase" I said.

He ignored me.

After a short while the gizmo flashed and beeped. "It's fine" he said.
"Yes, that is the Homebase paint, could you test the green paint please?"

He sighed a little and poked the gizmo into the green paint - more flashing and a beep.
"Oh" he said.

"Is it arsenic?" I asked him (through slightly gritted teeth)
"No, it is reading a high on lead and chromium"

Apparently, this was seen as a safer alternative to the 'Paris green'. It was mixed with copper, lead and iron.

"Is that ok then?" I asked with a feeling it was not ok. Chromium used to be used when dying wool and it was not ok at all.
"Oh yes, just don't breathe the dust'

I looked at the floor swimming in water and the missing ceiling then said that our house may have faults but dust was not one of them. The water streaming down the wall saw off the dust.

"So what do I do now?". God, it was like getting blood from a stone.
"Dry the wall out, don't breathe in the dust (smirk) and repaint."

I was too gobsmacked to ask him if he would allow his children to live there and touch the lead/cadmium paint.

"May I offer you tea and nice scones, almond and cherry?" (faint taste of Bitter almond, sir)

They all looked quickly at each other.

"No thank you".

I felt a bit hurt. I felt a bit murderous, actually.

They left and I looked at the wet wall with the iffy paint. It was everywhere.

Later, despite my lurking all afternoon with said scones, the plumber never turned up.

I stomped off in a huff for a quiet puff, well away from dodgy paint and the evil plumber. The children had found a large pile of mud and were sliding down it. Happily.

As I puffed and muttered to myself, I felt as if I was being watched.

We looked at one another for ages and she exuded a tranquility which was missing from life at that moment.
Poison walls and leaky roof was forgotten. Even my cigarette was ignored.

She eventually decided that a tempting patch of grass was infinitely more interesting than the angst ridden woman sitting in a huff.
She gracefully moved on without a backward glance.

I have taken this as a Sign.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Arsenic, old lead and a ceilidh.

Today is going to be one of those days, I can feel it in my waters, as my Grannie would have said.

A team of people are coming up to the farmhouse as there is something strange happening to the walls.
The (unmended) roof has leaked so much that the water is pouring inside the house, causing the paint to fall off in the kichen/ hall/ pantry areas. This has exposed the original paint which has gone fluffy and smells so disgusting that it is actually productively nauseating. Sorry if that is too much information.

The original paint is a dull green and was a popular choice in the early 1900s. It is exotically called 'Paris Green', invoking images of gentile Parisians in parks or 'Dejeuner sur la herbe' (Yes, French was never a strong point at school).

In truth, this popular paint contains lead and arsenic. Harmless, I am told, unless it becomes damp and then it releases a gas which is not harmless, I am told.

The smell can only be described as a mixture of damp mouse nest and ransomes; a form of wild garlic, with a thump of an aftersmell which is so acrid that it causes instant gagging.
The children and Pie are forbidden to go into the house.

We have moved into a caravan, a lovely caravan which had wooden floors. Had being the operative word. The Farmer did the plumbing and one pipe came off- of course, of all the pipes to come off, it had to be the one which brought water in so the entire place was under inches of water.

An industrial vacuum was brought in and the water was sucked away as best as. Oh well, at least it is not dusty any more.

A *proper* plumber is coming up this afternoon to put a *proper* pipe in. Not a piece of hosepipe held on with a jubilee clip......

The Farmer will miss all the action today as he will be at cardiac rehabilitation.

Today, it will just be the children, Piedog and I, a Health and Safety team, a contamination person, a plumber and a damp caravan so a ceilidh as they say in the Highlands. A ceilidh in its truest sense; a meeting of people, a strupach of tea, maybe even a scone.

It will be nice to have folk in but something tells me the tea and scones will be tactfully declined.

Sunday, 3 July 2011


I pulled an enormous pair of cord trousers out of the machine this morning. They were unfamiliar, very heavy and had button bits for braces.

The Farmer found them in the loft and had no idea who they belonged to but he thought they had been in the loft since the early sixties. The style suggests the 1860's.

I have no earthly idea what to do with them but they have come up like new. No doubt they will be dried and put back into the loft for another 50 years until a grandchild finds them and thinks that his predecessors were large of bum.

I wonder if this large wearer of said cords had a hand in making the fertilizer spreader which sits where it was left many decades ago.

It is a real stroke of ingenuity and an object of rusty beauty, I think.

The axle has come from a Model T Ford and I have no idea what the hopper once was but the entire thing was put together for the ease of spreading fertilizer over the top (and least fertile) field.

It is quite large and very heavy, just like the owner of the mystery cords. I wonder if he had a hand in drawing the fertilizer up the steep hill and how it got up there? Was it pulled by horses or an early tractor?

The trousers have a faint line at the calf which suggests that twine was wrapped around them to stop rats running up the leg. Touchingly, there is a little handful of oat seed in the pocket.

Today, I will think about the big man who worked here.

Charlie, me and Bobby McGee.

The Farmer woke just as I was getting to bed, it would seem.

I never heard him go out but he returned early morning, covered with diesel and a big grin on his face.

"Morning, what have you been doing"?

"Oh, I have fixed the cutter and it's a nice day and everything".

He was not looking at me directly but speaking to the fridge (which was a lot more awake than I was).

"What are you saying?" He had a Plan and I think he had volunteered myself without my knowledge.

"Well, maybe the end rigs could do with a cut and made into silage?" "Everything is ready" he said with hope.

Of course, everything was not ready. There were pieces to make, bottles of juice to be filled, sunglasses, midge repellant, cigarettes and lighter for after lunch, lip balm and a tractor to be washed as nobody could see out of the windows.

We set off together as I always have a Fear moment when I forget how the tractor works, how big and powerful it is, where is the PTO switch and which one lifts the cutter.
He did the first cut and the long grass fell into neat strips, releasing the most wonderful smell into the cab.

The second round of the field was with me at the wheel but The Farmer sitting behind me keeping me right. I felt nervous at first then slowly remembered the sequence and settled into cutting for a good part of the day.

As the settings were at 'slow rabbit' and I was to sit at 4.3mph, it seemed to take an age doing each circuit of the field so despite wearing an ear muff (singular as PieDog had chewed the other earpiece), I decided to listen to the one cassette tape which had stuck in the tape recorder years ago and nobody bothered to remove.

The Best of Charlie Pride.

It takes me right back to my teenage years when the local boys would show off in their Minis, four tracks blaring Charlie Pride. And only Charlie Pride.

Fifth cut in, Charlie and I were like peas and carrots again.... "Where did she drag you, Charlie?"...."Well she dragged me through the streets of Baltimore".

I sang 'Me and Bobby McGee' at the top of my voice and fancied that it had a touch of Janice Joplin but maybe that was the fags.

The work went quickly and did not feel like work at all. The Farmer did the steep sloping field which gives me The Fear and there is just one left to do.

Hopefully, the weather will hold and the cattle will have good, sweet silage for winter.

Me and Bobby McGee helped make it.

Seventeen rounds with Mike Tyson

It has been glorious weather here, finally.

When the sun shines, it illuminates all the shady corners of the farm, the ones which harbour waist high thistles and creatures which scuttle.

We are waiting for the penultimate calf; Mothercow has been pregnant for all of Eternity, it seems but in truth, the bull started the season energetically then flagged a bit picking up again much later so the calving has stretched far longer than usual.

The cowshed is so quiet now, just the two cattle plus a posse of hens who have moved in and scold when you intrude on their patch.

I told the cows that I did know how they feel; that heavily pregnant feeling whereby you just want to lie in a heap and support the weight of your swollen belly with light industrial scaffolding whilst sipping Mint Juleps without the Julep bit.

There was no sign of an imminent calving so I had a look around to see what else to do. Tackle the forest of weeds which were waist high in places. The seed heads of the dockens and thistles would soon burst forth so needed cutting.

Some of the thistle stalks were unbelievably thick and the strimmer just nudged against them before snapping the line and it was quicker using a tree lopper to hack them down.
Quicker, yes, jaggier and midgier, yes.

Great fat plumes of midges rose up from thorny nests and swarmed onto my eyelids. I suppose it is the thinnest part of my body (make that absolutely the thinnest part of my body, the brats) so easiest access to the blood they need.

The tree loppers got heavier and the midges got fatter.

"Do we not have a machine to do this?" I asked the Farmer, irately.

"Yes, but the chain is broken."

Now this seems to happen every year. The machine which gets trundled out on The Day always has something wrong with it and needs complicated mending. Complicated mending to me is when the mendee is lying on a sheet of cardboard under the machine only to emerge covered in diesel and gleefully brandishing an indeterminable lump of metal. It is birthlike in its ritual.

This is then followed with Going For The Part and a lengthy journey round the agricultural parts departments dotted around Perthshire.

We take sandwiches and everything and I am always tempted to hang streamers out the car window as it is an Annual Event like the Sunday School picnic where you went in a big bus to somewhere exotic like Strathpeffer and spilled your bottle of Pola Cola on the grass.

I digress.

The war between weed and woman continued for hours. I was sustained by the mantra 'bingo wings' and hacked savagely at the thistles. They hacked back.

The children were happy playing on a huge sand pile just beside the jungle bit I was in and the Farmer mended the chain from the safety and sunny area of the one Nice Bit of the farm.

I stopped about half past eight at night as I could no longer think but had made a difference. The thistles would not blow their fairylike seedheads all over our barley.

We were all filthy, sandy muddy filthy, diesel filthy and seventeen rounds with Mike Tyson and midges filthy. There was even blood.

I never made it upstairs until 3am as I fell asleep on the sofa. I hate doing that. You wake up feeling bewildered and sore and as if you have had a monumental night out imbibing whisky and cocktails and laughing.....

I am going for round two today. The Sequel; Bits I Missed.

I hope it is not Bites that Missed me.