Made of Stone.

Some people collect stamps, or cards, or fousty things in their veg drawer. Me? I collect stones. All sizes. But I’m picky. These aren’t just any stones, these are hand picked. Each one specially eye catching to the beholder. No, I don’t work for M and S. But I’m not lying. Each one is picked, pulled, or prised from a specific area (the space the pigs ploughed last year, the section of the chicken area that got ploughed). Each one has caught my eye saying, ‘Pick me, pick me’ in the stone variety version of Donkey from Shrek.

Little and often works best. And not focusing on the task itself of picking stones. But on what you’re planning on making with them gives the satisfaction (because really, picking stones is a lifetime job and fruitless, unlike the hobby of collecting fousty veg. No wait, that would be fungus, rather than fruitless if Ibtook that up…). Stone shifting is the daytime TV programme task on its 758th repeat. So where am I rolling my stones to? First space, the polytunnel. Yes, a bit odd but I’m doing a mini Calum (I am never going to hand make a road like him, but great book) and making a mini path (rather than a road) around the raised bed.

I have a wee ways to go. But Rome wasn’t built in a day. But I’m running out of stones.

Ride ‘em Cowboy.

With the bonnie weather, we’ve had a few days off. A wee trip to Urquhart Castle (man at the desk: “Where you from?” Me (with the Micro Crofter), “Other side of the loch”. Crofter follows about 20 mins later with the Mini Crofter. Man at desk: “Where you from?” Crofter, “Other side of the loch”. Man at desk, “You got someone else already here?” Hmm, yes. But that wasn’t premeditated as not all visitors have to travel far, we just don’t tend to get out much.

Latest ‘day off’: Ohh, let’s just ‘nip’ down to our local pub for lunch. Aye, on our bikes and our ‘local’ is 14 miles away. Maybe not the best way to build up gradually but best to always have a purpose (aka lunch) when doing these things. Which is fine, until you reach said local, and find it was an error on the website and they are closed for lunch. Thankfully one of the ladies who runs it was outside and offered us drinks. Yep, half pint of ale and I’ll be back on my bike pedalling home. Now, getting off the bike at the other end wasn’t easy but I always wanted to be a cowboy and I guess walking like one is the closest I’ll ever get to riding out cattle in the Midwest.

We’re going on a bear hunt.

Well Micro Crofter, your Mum recited this to your brother when he was your age. She thankfully had the sense (which, with so lacking in sleep at the time, was pretty good common sense), to sell off all breeding sheep stock for a few years.

Ode to the Shepherdess:

We’re going on a sheep hunt, we’re going to chase the wee ‘un’. We’re going on a ewe hunt, before she has her lamb.

Bear? What bear? This is Scotland the brave Crofting boy (think The Corries; land of t’ purple heather, land where the midgies gather), there’s nae bears. And besides, your mum has no time for the library at the moment so we’ll just enact the scenes if your pram could just detour the ewe from that gate and try not to roll into the electric fence…

Watching me, watching you.

So the cows decided it was pay back time. In and out of the house getting work done. Glance up from the kitchen sink to see our herd looking over the fence to the decking. Not in a row that they do to watch the neighbours’ TV through the kitchen window, but still all having a look.

See, during calving time they have to put up with me watching them post partum to ensure both mother and calf are well. Today, the Micro Crofter for parked outside for his morning nap. Sun shining (but covered I hasten to add), birds cheeping in the trees. So they all wanted to have a look; a good gawk at the Micro on the decking.

I wonder if they stood there, chewing the cud, thinking: that thing is tiny for three months old, has it eaten enough? How come it’s not on its feet yet? And all the other questions I ponder about calves.

And with that note, calf three is doing fine. It’ll be punted out with its mother tomorrow to join the rest. Although, I’m needing to start working on halter training (another great thing about having a QMS inspection, I got a tip on training cattle from a lady who does it with limousin bulls!). In all my spare time, that is. Now, if only I could gawk over the fence at her cows to watch…

The Inspection

Today we had an inspection. And one that we paid to have done. Yes, that’s right. As a Senior Charge Nurse, I have had to deal with lots of inspections in the past. And you would think I would avoid them at all costs out with the NHS. For even when you know you have high standards and you are always looking to improve; inspections never fill me with that warm, fuzzy feeling (dust on the other hand, generally does give a warm, fuzzy feeling but any health professional will know that health inspectors are on such a par with dust, they will identify the age of the dust from the colour!). So let’s just leave the dust on the proverbial shelf and walk away as today’s inspection was not a hospital one, but a Quality Meat Scotland (aka QMS) inspection. A system we have in Scotland that “provides reassurance to consumers of provenance, highest standards of production, animal welfare and wellbeing, to deliver a quality eating experience.”

Yep, important enough that I give a direct quote from the website. And to pass means fulfilling a long list of requirements with someone else to cast their eyes over everything (well, farm related, yes). And this is where the NHS background came in useful. I am use to checklists, sign offs and folders full of information. Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t see anything about today as being useless paperwork. A lot of the work going into it helped increase our knowledge and therefore improve our practice (I’m not saying we were pants before, but always looking to improve is good). And with the increase in knowledge comes a lot of practical aspects (which, since the cows aren’t up to speed on what risks incoming livestock may have, it helps for us to know to help them).

The inspector didn’t bite, she was friendly and helpful, and it occurred without any major flaws (imagine if a cow has decided to play ‘dead’ on us or a sheep going belly up would not have been helpful). It was a family affair though. Thankfully theMini Crofter wasn’t balancing precariously on tractors or showing his ability to open gates. The Micro Crofter didn’t bawl his head off or require feeding half way through. And so, it was a big sign of relief to find there is just one minor bit of paperwork I need to sort. I’m not saying anything though with the word ‘pass’ until I get confirmation.

If you do want to find out more about QMS, just go to: www.qmscotland.co.uk

Brexit and the Coo

Yes, we have a cow that I think could stand for a political seat (and who came up with the terms; should they not sit for a seat or stand for a place? If they could sort out the terminology it might help some from being so confused).

Dryope is our oldest cow and she wasn’t making up her mind yesterday. Should she have the calf or not. Back and forth across the field she trundled, just humming and hawing as the sun shone softly and the smell of spring was back. But no, she would have sat on the fence is she could (she was eying it up too at one point). And so, I decided she would make a good politician in the current age. Shall she stand or shall she sit? Negotiations with the calf seemed to be hitting a brick wall. Did they want to be joined together or separated but needing to create a new trade deal? So with her tail half hung (didn’t realise Westminster thad so much in common with our cows), the sun slowly set and out came the stars. And we entered the murky era of nightfall and the forecast was bleak.

First thing this morning (hmm, a Micro Crofter may have been up four times in the night so first thing is the one nearest to dawn); and lo and behold, one bull calf next to Dryope at the gate. A decision to break all ties but remain together was decided upon. If only it hadn’t taken her so long to figure out a solution as today was driech to say the least. Another boy to join the current two. Now, their new trade deal is not going as well as it could be. Let’s just hope it’s the teething and the calf gets his act together.

N.B. Although mention of the current political situation has occurred in this post, Dryope will not run for any seat. Or if she did, it would be independent (she’s the matriarch of our herd and gets top of the pecking order). I also think she’s already eyeing up some grass and would prefer that to London.