Saturday, 22 September 2012


  • Am testing      the new layout of blogger and all the things on the top line

i don't think I like the new layout lurid colours might come in handy. michty.

The tattie bogle

This morning saw the ground crisp with frost and the air carries a faint scent of snow.

It is a typical 'tattie' morning.

The tattie man has been round to spray off the potato shaws hoping that the energy will now go into the potato and make it grow, ready for harvesting in a few weeks time.

The potato is such an integral part of my upbringing; we ate them, gathered them, roasted them on a fire on bonfire night, used them as small pocket heaters on cold days and they were used as an object of fear to coax reluctant children to go off to their beds and sleep. More of this later.

In the early 1960s, I had just started primary school and we lived on a cotter house on a farm in Angus. Mum was at home with my younger sibling but got roped in to the tattie picking on the farm.
There were two ways of doing this, one was to physically pick up potatoes which were unearthed by the tractor and the other method was to sit on a large machine which fed the potatoes over a big belt then stones and rotten tatties were removed by hand. the latter was a bit 'fancy' and only a select few (or good workers) were promoted to the machine.

I remember my mum, hair tied back with a scarf, oldest clothes carrying a pail to take a boiling home, my sibling in a pushchair with the other young bairns.
We lived off stovies and thick potato soups then and you could smell what was for tea as you walked down the farm track.

Jumping forward to the 70's, the Tattie Holidays were a long break in October where almost all the children had to go tattie picking to earn money for winter boots and coats.
You started early, the bogie would come at 6.30 am so you had to be ready with your 'piecey', usually a sandwich and a wee tartan flask of kia-ora or the like. We all waited for the farmer, pretending to smoke as the chill morning froze breath. It was frowned upon to be too grandly dressed and we all wore hideous nylon anoraks with wafer thin lining and diamond stitching.
Our bloody cat had attacked mine with her back feet so I had lumps of white nylon fluff hanging out of the pocket.

The farmer would chuck us all into a bogie with an occasional square bale of straw for comfort then we would be ferried to the field.

Your dreel would be marked out with sticks and you picked within your dreel as fast as you could, throwing the potatoes into an oval plastic basket. Fully grown men would collect the baskets and tip the contents into a trailer.

If the farmer speeded things up, there were howls of 'being hashed' and the odd ripe tattie would be thrown with deadly accuracy at the cab.

Piecey time was great and we would sit with our friends whilst munching our sandwiches and throwing a silent thanks that the thermos flask had survived the journey.

The second day at the tatties was murder as you had seized up by then and come the morning, every muscle ached but the pain went after a while once you started picking again.

The money was quite good, the crack even better and once the picking was finished, people seemed to evaporate into their homes for the winter only to reappear in Spring.

The tatties here are all mechanised now. Massive machines do the work of the squads of old, the plastic tattie baskets are now used by myself for the washing or to hurl the wee one round the garden in a makeshift sledge.

This year, the tatties are much smaller, the yields are down and the ground is wet. Blight has been a problem for some and the tatties themselves need watching while they cook or they turn to soup.

The Farmer and I had been working at something but needed to go into town for a part. We dress for practicality and warmth and if you are in a rush to go into town, we are often halfway there when the howl goes up..."We look like we are dressed for the tatties!"

"Well, you look like the tattie bogle but I'm fine" quoth the Farmer.

"Oh, I wondered when the tattie bogle would make an appearance" I replied, miffed.

The tattie bogle was one of those mythical creatures created by generations of Scots who thought it was wise to 'fleg' or scare children into going off to their beds or staying out of sheds. If children had been told the truth eg "Don't go into the shed as that is where the paraffin and creosote are kept and you might blow the place up" but no.

"There's a tattie bogle in the shed/ under your bed" was designed to both keep the child out of forbidden sheds and make sure their feet were not on the ground as the tattie bogle would get them.

No wonder we are a nation that would fight it's own shadow! All these tattie bogles lurking in sheds/ under beds and other dark places!

Bogles aside, I'm making a big pan of stovies for tea. Siverside and thick slices of onion for the meat eaters, vegetable ones for me. Cooked slowly all day in a low oven so the smell hits you as you come in the door and your teeth start to slaver then you get big shiney eyes.

Just like the tattie bogle.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The nights are fair drawing in...

The year is passing so quickly and it would appear that Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter all merged into one amorphous season.

It has been an utterly disappointing year, yields down, little produce in the garden, fields to wet to go and gather the harvest...I will leave it at that as it makes for such a demoralising read. So many farms have been affected and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. You just have to take it on the chin, tighten belts and hope for the change in the weather which never seems to come.

The wild rasps were picked before the birds took them all, the apples are in the process of being bottled or frozen, the potatoes are tiny this year, no plums at all and one solitary tomato which remains resolutely green despite my futile attempts to ripen it up with a banana nearby.

The little one and I have settled into a good routine for home education and I feel so pleased that he is learning how to read and write, bake and count, paint and garden, sing and play with happiness and confidence. We visited the school that we hoped he would attend but it really is too far to travel to, there and back, twice a day especially in winter.
He attends an 'after school' club and meets his friends.

I am not quite so hands on at the farm now and miss some of the work but it does seem the time of year for stocking up for the long months of winter, trying (and failing) to draughtproof this draughty barn of a house and mentally preparing for whatever Winter throws at us.
There is still plenty of work to be done but the bulk of our son's education has been my responsibility. That said, it is a joy to get out and throw myself into something where you can switch your mind off yet achieve a repair or maintenance and feel happily tired at the finish of the day.

One setback was when the farm water was turned off; no warning or explanation, five days with no water...coincidentally, it came back on today after I asked the nearby school what was going on.
Luckily we coped with ensuring the animals had water but these 'well educated' folk never seem to think about that.
It would have been mannerly to have written or phoned and even more mannerly not to be so rude and obtuse to people when they enquire.
Speaking of rude and obtuse, I spare a thought too for the poor landowner's agent who is worked so hard, he not only forgot to tell us the water was going off for five days but every time we phone, he is in a meeting. For seven years, always in a meeting. It must be great being Mr. Popular. Imagine!

Our hopes of clean water have been dashed. We hoped to have a water filter system in before the winter but have had an awful job getting plumbers to actually turn up to do the quote. We need two quotes for the council grant but they just will not come. One lady (a plumber's wife) who I spoke to told me that it was a waste of time, no plumber would turn up as it was petrol, time etc which could be used working rather than gathering quotes.
I'm terribly scunnered by this attitude but it seems to be the way in this part of Perthshire.

The plumbers have no idea what they are missing here as I would have offered them endless supplies of e coli tea or cryptosporidium squash. The offer is there, Perthshire plumbers...You filter the water and I will keep you fed and watered.

Our son is asleep now, lulled into an earlier bedtime routine by the turn of the Earth, itself. He sees it is darker earlier and falls asleep sooner. It is good to use the extra hours (ironically!) to catch up on my blog or cocoon under a woolly blanket and read.

These are the early days of the long winter months.

I think I will study "How to become a Brain Surgeon in six months" this winter.

Then I can offer homers to plumbers and land agents, of an evening.