Friends arrived this week all the way from Switzerland. When asked what they would like to do while visiting the Highlands they responded with: “Pick up stones, as we’ve read your blog and want to help”! Err, that’s great but not really the response we were looking for (so no pressure on all future guests arriving, other than you will now be compared in how many wheelbarrow trips you have successfully moved rather than have you seen Loch Ness or visited Tomatin distillery!).
I can say though, that I really appreciate the help. Spending even just 10 minutes a day picking up stones is not my favourite task. Doing it with one other person helps to pass the time (and maybe overdo it a wee bit but we’ll ignore that). Having three other pairs of hands made a huge difference. OK, it will not be getting reseeded before winter for the cows and sheep but the area isn’t far off needing to get levelled ready for spring planting. And never fear, the bigger stones have been left for the digger and trailer…
So Friday night was the awards dinner for the Spirit of Crofting held by the Scottish Crofting Federation. Best Newcomer Crofter and Young Crofter of the Year were awarded. Being a nominee meant going and needing to get dressed up. No excuses for getting cold feet, even if I couldn’t wear my insulated wellies.
Now, the Young Crofter of the Year award was the David and Goliath of the ‘young’ crofters (yes, we are classified as young if we are under 41). The shortlist was between Donald Macsween and myself. Having seen Donald on TV (yes, he’s got his own programme of ‘Air an Lot’ on BBC Alba), his mass following on Twitter, and a blog that points out he is from a crofting family who have been on the land for 200 years you would think, aye right. Why? In comparison, up until I met my husband, I had never heard of crofting. The one we ended up with had not been worked in donkey years and there was absolutely nothing other than spreading rushes and some old trees. Hence it felt like a David and Goliath competition. Like biblical David, I even have a sling, in fact, three. Although mine are for carrying a Mini Crofter, not for throwing stones at giants. And so too ends the comparison. Because in this event, the giant got the trophy. So huge congratulations to Donald.
Now, I have since been given commiserations by friends; I have been told I was ‘robbed’, why was it down to a panel of judges with no public vote, what system was used? But, that’s not the point. In every award you have a winner and therefore, a loser. I was fortunate to be shortlisted and become the runner up. It will hopefully provide inspiration to others to enter agriculture (because, as you saw I had no background in it). Being a theatre nurse may help with gralloching a deer but doesn’t help with learning to be a jack of all trades. I am also a woman in agriculture, something that is not always promoted among women and one of the reasons I wanted to help show others, it is possible.
So to end, what caused me to be the most gutted? Donald Macsween having no signed copy of Air an Lot!!! Thought the man had friends in high places? Surely the BBC can get archive copies? Anyone got friends in BBC archives? For all those trying to promote learning Gaelic, here’s a chance!
And my advice from the night? You can ceilidh dance all you want when you’re 6 months pregnant. You’ll just feel like you’ve competed in Olympic gymnastics for the next two days!
Sometimes life can be hard going (more for some than others). Having friends about can really make a difference. And some go over the odds so are given special titles; such as The Green Fairies. Well, of these Green Fairies (there are two), one happens to have a gluten and lactose intolerance. This can make adaptations to cooking a bit more experimental. Such as cheese making. Yes, that’s right, I quite like making cheese and having made a soft cheese (goes really well with smoked salmon), I started to wonder if it was possible to do a lactose free cheese (don’t like leaving anyone out).
Yes, I know you can buy them in the shop. The challenge was making it at home. It is very useful having someone you can get to taste test your experiments. And with that I discovered it is possible. There has been no failures yet with the lactose free cheese (more than I can say about the regular cheese).
So, with the Green Fairies pulling out the stops to help me get to the Spirit of Crofting Awards dinner, the least I can do is prepare some lactose free pot cheese to be had by one special lady. It wouldn’t make up for the lack of sleep as she works late on Thursday to ensure an early start Friday, but cheese will have to be the substitute. So let’s raise a toast (of cheese) to the Green Fairies.
This coming weekend the Scottish Crofting Federation is having a two day event titled ‘ Spirit of Crofting’. This includes an award ceremony for two awards, one being the Young Crofter of the Year. No big deal really, unless you’re one of two who has been shortlisted! And the other nominee being none other than Donald MacSween (Air an Lot, BBC Alba). I don’t think I can just wash my boiler suit and scrub up my wellies. Besides, the current stage of the soon to be Micro-Crofter means boiler suits are now off limits. Hint to all agricultural clothing companies, yes women wear insulated boiler suits (they only make them for men), and secondly, even women who only use non insulated boiler suits become pregnant.
The event itself has meant strategic planning is now in overdrive. The Crofter has been away for the past two weeks and is due home the day of the awards. Cue helicopters, temperamental weather, trains and taxis, one shattered Crofter Wifie who has started having to pack several days before to ensure nothing is forgotten. The Mini -Crofter’s grandparents (aka babysitter’s for the do) are due to arrive in time as long as no accidents happen on the A9. The Green Fairies (friends of ours who are lovingly going with me/us to watch the Mini Crofter during the day/provide support in the evening) are working late Thursday to ensure prompt arrival for registration on the Friday. Starting to sound more like Cinderella going to a ball…if only I had a fairy to sort a full outfit of glam for the night.
Och well, not the normal planning of the croft’s activities. And besides, regardless of what happens, the full cooked breakfast is planned for the day after.