The boys are back in town.

The Micro Crofter’s arrival coincided with the byre getting mucked out. Aromatic whaffs slowly drifted down the glen as the cooler, winter air inhibited some of the more pungent smells that have been laying dormant under a blanket of fresh straw. Never mind, as the muck matures, the heap soon flattens out to provide well rotted manure; a high value substance for the polytunnel, raised beds, orchard and veg garden.

It was soon after this that we hit a hiatus with croft work. A typical Friday but the Micro Crofter at two weeks old was doing a good impersonation of a grunting pig. And as evening fell, his breathing appeared to be making him work. And that doesn’t look good to a nurse. We may believe in working hard but we do give exceptions to some, such as newborns. So, the Crofter rang NHS 24. Lo and behold, they wanted to check on a two week old with breathing difficulties. And with that it was deemed that the Micro would go in to town with the Crofter and leave me at home with the Mini Crofter.

Their trip to town didn’t just become a late night. After being seen by an out of hours GP, they were admitted to the children’s ward to monitor the Micro overnight. And this is when you realise how much difference there is between animal health and the NHS. While payment is made just to call a vet out, pound coins magically slip from your grasp the longer the vet is on your turf. Then add the cost of medication if required. The NHS shows the other side and it was a weekend like this that make you want to ensure all involved get the thanks. The staff and service at Raigmore Hospital was top notch.

From being a nurse, it can often seem that all you hear about regarding your place of work is what’s wrong, failures and inadequacy. However, the media may like to pull out the muck and spread it around. But the understanding of it is rarely touched upon. Sometimes issues raised can be useful, but other times it seems it does more damage than what the journalists and complainers realise. The background to the issue is rarely raised. It is as if people complain about our muck heap without having any understanding as to why it smells and how it came about. It may stink but we ensure the cows have fresh bedding by regularly putting in a bale of straw. Yes, they may be inside in a byre but I’m tucked up in our house more in winter.

So, to NHS Highland, thank you to all the staff and the service you provided the Micro. To all walkers passing by, take a good, deep breath of the the muck heap, and as you smell the ‘fresh air’ remember the NHS, for all its issues, we can still be thankful.

We’re going to…America?

No, we’re not. But Neil Diamond’s song is a corker for belting out if you change ‘America’ to ‘abattoir’. Yep, have three sheep in your trailer, a two week old in the back, driving along, singing along. Music is apparently good for babies. You then can go to your next song from the Lion King that also is a great abattoir song. Yes son, let me introduce to you the Circle of Life thing from an early age (which, may I remind some of you is Disney/Elton John, the land of princesses and less of the real life).

Due to a Micro Crofter affecting our Crofting team management system, the sheep have been getting more of a ‘re-wilding’ approach. More being left to their own devices rather than me sitting with them for their daily time of mediation. However, our freezer was slowly indicating a need. In they came for an inspection; two older ones were specifically chosen. You want to make sure they have had the good life, but you get them before they have age related problems so that both you and them can enjoy each other.

And if I can pelt out ‘We’re going to the abattoir…today!’, what other songs can I change?

Get the party started.

The last post up was a wee while ago. Not much has really happened, other than the Micro Crofter finally joined the party last month, several days after the last post. So there’s my excuse for a pregnant pause in posts.

Lousy if you want excuses, no ‘the dog hit the control/alt/delete buttons on my computer and forced WordPress to quit’ or ‘the gale force winds caused a power surge so lost 16 unpublished posts that I had spent hours composing’. No, just an arrival of an 3kg plus bundle and suddenly I become a ‘sit on bum wifie powered by coffee’. Before I get uproar that I am implying I am being lazy, I am (being lazy). But when you’re not getting your full sleep quote, you can tell me what you like, I’m not superwoman, but even she needs her sleeping . I also learned the last time. Don’t chase cows, stack wood, or do normal jobs for several months. The baby may be out, the mind may be eager but the body has had some slight adjustments that need realigned. So, this time, I am taking it easier. Honest.

So the Mirco’s arrival may just be small change on the croft, one major change for his parents. It was late by medical standards, really late by his mother’s requests and therefore, with that lateness, caused numerous telephone exchanges between the Crofter and his colleagues (who, I am indebted to, they gave him a couple more weeks at home!). So if any of you are reading this, thanks guys. Appreciate that. The idea of sole managing a Mini, a Micro, a bunch of cattle and some sheep was a wee bit overwhelming (less the cattle and sheep, more the Mini and the Micro).

It has now been four weeks since then and the Micro can tell you what he’s done (well, tagged along for). We’ll maybe just leave that confession until after tomorrow once the Health Visitor has slowly crept down the road.

Public holidays and creativity

Over the festive period, it appears people often use the time to do more arts and craft projects. So when the three calves showed their true potential for jumping championships, the Crofter decided to join in. Having discovered we had no more electric wire connectors, he used some innovation for getting an electric wire up ASAP. One of the problems with public holidays, limited open times and living a wee bit away from town does help with creative thinking.

May not be the usual connectors, but they will work and gives a lovely hue in colour along the fence. In the mean time, the three amigos are still over in the far field until their current hay runs out and they’ll be moved back.

Three ‘wise’ calves…

New Years celebrations on a croft meant waking up to find three calves not in the same field as the sheep, but on the other side. No need for a show jumping horse here, the calves have a pretty good clearance. So, while the Crofter worked on putting up more electric fencing, out came the rattle bucket and off we went to put them in the far field while whistling…

We three calves, 2 Shetland, a saler

Jumped a fence having had a confer.

Field and fountain, moor or mountain

The byre we do prefer.

O, jump like thunder, what a height.

Par our flight on a dark night

Bawling cattle, shake and rattle

Guide buckets to end the plight.

A time of giving…

A few days ago I posted a picture on the Birchwood Croft’s Facebook page about putting up our ‘Christmas tree’. It was very similar to the one above. However, being a theatre nurse by trade does mean I have OCD and as said on the post, my shweng-fee had noticed that the original was not symmetrical (reality had been that it started off getting stacked to see if I could keep the driving rain out of the buckets and nothing to do with having seasonal cheer).

Today, I decided we needed a more ornamental tree. This was after I tufted the cows out to spread the remains of the latest straw bale. At the start of the week I had placed the bale into the byre and it was one of the Green Fairies who unrolled half the bale and placed the rest in the corner. It’s then been slowly forked out to give fresh bedding for the cows throughout the week. The plan is that only one more bale of straw will need to be organised before the Crofter returns home. The big count down has started (always helps when you get to the single digits).

Yes, the next flight off the rig will be his. Which means if this baby decides it’s time for a labour party at the local hospital, the Crofter will just have to wait until his scheduled flight (and I’m sure a few in the office have just breathed a sigh of relief that they haven’t had to deal with getting him home in an emergency). I’m not sure how many others have birth plans that include names and numbers of who can feed/deal/drive various livestock and machinery in case of an emergency (I’m pretty sure I have spoken to everyone listed but just in case any friends/neighbours/acquaintances get a random telephone call; don’t have a heart attack, you obviously told me to call if I needed anything so I have taken you up on your offer…).

So often in agriculture we have to deal with sudden changes (a calf arrives overnight, an animal becomes unwell), seasonal issues (power cuts), and weather conditions (gale force winds/ice). With awareness of these potentials, we try and have plans in place with contingency back up. However, life does have quirks and even out-with the ‘norm’, life goes on regardless. From public holidays to life events, in agriculture, you don’t suddenly have a day you can just put your feet up.

Which works well for me. A lot of events are not specific day related to me. I do not feel that I need to eat certain foods on specific days. It’s more who I am with. Friends, such as the Green Fairies, really are the angels on the top of my ‘tree’. They turn up and give a hand; they seem to be the opposite of what often gets portrayed at this time of year. They aren’t dressed in red, looking overweight, sitting about asking my son if he has been good (apologies for coming across as a Scrooge but I want the Mini Crofter to know where his gifts have come from, to be thankful, and that not all gifts are material, let alone expensive). I have no issue with using our imagination; I just do not see why I need someone to dress up and pretend all presents come from him. One of the best gifts I am given, is people’s time. Just as I can work/labour/give time to look after our livestock, I look forward to the time of the Crofter being home (and sharing the work). I want the Mini and Micro Crofter to understand money can’t buy everything. In a similar light, I wish to help people understand why we spend time looking after livestock and how we can also enjoy the meat. So, this year I may be with friends and family on a certain day. Or I may not. Time will tell.

The straw that brought the community folk back

Yes, straw is light. Put it in a bale and you need a wee bit of ‘umph’ behide it. The kind of umph I’m missing while counting down to a labour party with a midwife. So with that came help last weekend to give the cows a bale. Community spirits are alive and well around here and I am thankful for the help I’m being offered. With the help means I can usually avoid all strenuous, heavy and hard tasks. It just means someone else ends up doing it thought. So with that at the weekend, half of the straw bale was unrolled in the byre and the rest stacked in a corner for another spreading mid week. Hence my job today.

A fairly easy job really but I seem to be more in tune to camels. Thus I needed a wee lie down, although not for a broken back, just because it felt that I had forked hard core for an hour. But while doing the task, I was thinking about labour. Not the political or midwifery type, but just how much ‘work’ goes into the croft. This came about after a conversation with a researcher for Newbie at the James Hutton Institute. We never found a concrete answer. Looks like I’ll be doing one of those hour by hour charts for a week to see. Slight problem at the moment is a 15 min task takes about an hour. Never mind, tractors were made with lots of space…