Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Rocks and rolls.

Today was one of those days when you try something for the very first time, succeed and fall in love with it. Today was my first time ploughing a field alone.

The Farmer's leg is still firmly out of action so I am trying my best to carry his workload; it seemed a good day to swallow any fears about hitching the plough and turning over the little field which has seen no chemicals or artificial fertilizers for many years.
The Farmer muttered a few instructions, pointed to some levers, dials and switches in the tractor then, rather wisely, hobbled off to a safe distance to observe.

The feeling of turning over tired looking old pasture into rich, brown fat dumplings of earth is indescribable. It is a sensory experience, the musky scent of the soil, the hidden crumbly brown earth lying neatly in a row, birds appearing from nowhere to pull rudely disturbed worms and insects, the human contortion of driving forward whilst looking backwards..... a blissful delight of a task.
I'll admit to having The Extreme Fear a couple of times when the tractor hit a hidden dip or two, the wheels lifted clean off the ground and the steering suited itself, sliding worryingly towards the fence or the plough steadfastly refusing to budge an unseen boulder thus grinding everything to a halt despite the screaming complaints of the tractor's huge engine.
 The ploughwoman rocking and rolling, whooping with sheer delight and terror, whilst the earth herself became exposed to the crisp, winter air with a sleepy reluctance.

The ground will rest a while and be broken up by frost, rain and sun. When the time is right, it will be harrowed to a fine tilth then planted with a meadow mix of grasses and wild flowers which will hopefully encourage insects and birds to the little field. It will be cut for hay and provide the sheep with feed in the winter months.
The sleepy field will soon transform into a riot of colour and a haven for wildlife.

On days like these, this isn't work, although sweat was broken.
This is sheer, unbridled joy.

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Year of Change. Bring it on.

Happy New Year!

I have not written for such a long time, my apologies as there is no excuse but the New Year always begins with fresh hopes and ideas.

The Old Year is one I've been glad to see the back of. It started off well, no complaints about weather, etc but as the year progressed, we were hit by a series of misfortunes which added to the workload considerably.

The Farmer had an accident in the Big Shed, he fell over a piece of machinery and ruptured his Achilles tendon so was rendered immobile with a large knee to ankle plaster cast. I think it happened in October, the months have morphed into a blurry frenzy of farm activity; we moved back to the farm, where I tried to look after all in Chez Otter - Rosie, who has now left school and needs full time care, Young Otter who is 7 and full of energy plus The Farmer... vexed at his inability to do physical farm work during a hectic season or two .......also a herd of cattle, small flock of sheep, farm collies, farm cats, a million hens, the guinea pig and Bob the duck. All are well and thriving.

We managed to get into some sort of routine, a bourachy guddle of a routine but with an eventual  semblance of order, things were ticking over until a fire in the mains electricity box saw zero power to the entire farm. This was compounded with an intermittent water supply and things just got A Bit Much so we had to leave again and return to the temporary house.
The power is still off and it is going to be a big task to have it replaced and reconnected. I've taken to lighting little fires outside to boil a kettle and warm frozen fingers which hurt like mad from being bashed on all the things you can bash your hands on in a dark cow shed.

On the positive front, we were very fortunate to have good new neighbours move into the farm next door and we look forward to working with them over the forthcoming years. Young Otter is delighted as they have children his age so he has a new pair of best friends and we have a huge amount of respect for this very hard working, honest family. The New Farmer has a wealth of knowledge and experience with sheep and it has been an education to pick up snippets of advice or general chat about breed types, etc and we wish them every good luck on their new venture.

We have also been helped by a cheerful bunch of Fifers - hard workers, grafters to be honest, who carried out some of the very heavy work with great humour, excellent swears, music,  flasks of steaming hot coffee and cigarette breaks. They shifted grain, plumbed in a new trough, built the rickety, antique bull pen, plus many of the wee footery jobs which needed doing - all with enormous energy and good nature. It brought a lungful of fresh air and joy to the almost depressed, Cold Comfort Farmesque scenario we lived/live in.

This year is the year of Land Reform.
There are so many of us eager to see positive change in Scotland, change which will bring a fairer distribution of land, opportunities for many, hopefully. There is an energy brewing and swirling from a cauldron of frustration but the time is ripe for radical change. The old 'system' dying a death as it has become untenable and unfair.
I would love to see an improvement in rural housing, rural water supplies, investment in ramshackle farms, opportunities to diversify and expand without having to pay the 'laird's share', better rights for Crofters and much of the stagnant, redundant grouse moors utilised for the benefit of the majority rather than the plaything for the few, the countryside opened to the people from towns and cities. I also want to see our unique culture respected and acknowledged.

We shall see. It is an exciting year and here on The Farm At The Back Of Beyond, we have managed to cope with pretty grim conditions so things can only move up locally and further afield.

I wish you all good health, happiness, fairness and positive change.