Rock Chick of the Century

I really don’t think Amy MacDonald was thinking about agriculture when she wrote the lyrics of the ‘Mr Rock and Roll’ song. But, when you spend two mornings picking up stones to clear a field, you do feel like the title. Not in an egotistical sense, but more that you have just shifted more than a 100 stones and that you have a step count higher than a cricketer getting a century.

Maybe it’s time Rock Chick got a new image? Not a jumping up and down at a festival or singing along in a studio, but a ‘dancing in a boiler suit, on her own and no, she doesn’t care’ image.

A field of stones can be daunting. The field is not massive, but in terms of stone picking, it’s only slightly up from finding a needle in a haystack.

How to deal with the task? Focus on the road we’re building, not the field we’re clearing. This is not the first (or sixth) time I have been over clearing stones since it got ploughed last summer. Several trailer loads have been shifted. But there is still more. Shifting stones gives you time to think. It’s a good time to process events. Have epiphanies. Keep forgetting the lines to the third verse of a catchy song. And become an expert out standing in your field (sorry, but you must have known that was coming!).

I can now tell you the current terroir and climate are perfect for the job. The ground isn’t frozen, the soil isn’t too muddy, the ground isn’t rock hard. The grass/weeds haven’t swamped the stones, there are no midgies. So what better way to spend my time. It will help improve the soil. The cows (and tractor implements) will be thankful (well, we’ll be thankful they haven’t been damaged by stones). It will help access all the trees we have planted. It makes you appreciative of things such as the Romans, muscle rub and hot baths.

The elephant in the room

My comment last week about dreaming of being in the Crofter’s shoes in Norway was not made up. It is thought through with awareness of all implications. The view out the window of the industrial builder’s yard. The twice weekly knock, drop and run food delivery. The scandi decor of minimal decorating. Nope, it does not sound dismal to me. I really would think that ideal for completing several things.

At home, on the croft, cows, the polytunnel, the laundry, all speak loudly. In comparison, I have two boxes of knitting wool that silently whisper to me every time I walk past. The knitting needles themselves need a bit of organising (another project) but stand in their container silently watching the world go by. There are three books that are my priority reads (2020 goals). Their covers cast their longing looks from their neglected pile. Another five are ‘one day I may learn to speed read and polish off the lot so keep them handy”. But they too join the room, in a soft, muted tone; being more akin to decorative wallpaper. They affect the ambiance of the room but having no demanding presence (particularly when you stand at a window looking out at the outside seeing what work to do).

However, the most silent, is the elephant in the room. No, not the “who did you vote for in the last election, how much money have you got in your piggy bank, or will you be watching church online?” elephant-in-the-room. But an actual elephant (well two, if you count the wee one). See, they are small in size, they have been evolving for more than 10 years, making appearances on holidays (in the past) and so have not been worked on since the Mini Crofter arrived. Yes, it’s cross stitch. Another of those ‘why do I like doing so many different things hobbies?’. It doesn’t matter if you are stuck in solitary confinement, you can take it with you and just slowly (and yes, think of Mr Slow in the Mister Men books) work through it. One day, I dream of completing it. One day, it too can join the room to watch the world go by (from the wall, rather than a box so not that exciting). But while two boys can disassemble chairs in 10 minutes flat, misplace keys and turn on water hoses, it remains in its box.

Cinderelly, Cinderwelly

While many others are able to share about converting egg boxes into Art Deco, recreating famous artwork, or learning Japanese with their children; I am more akin to recreating Cinderella.

The Fairy Godmother is called Gin, the lost slipper was put in the loo by the 14 month old and 8pm is the new midnight. We have a chariot, but a Thule Chariot for the bike, not a horse drawn carriage. I’m waiting for my pumpkin seeds to grow. The mice never read the blurb on social distancing, and Gus Gus is a dog (our dog) rather than a mouse who was well before his time in showing evidence of stockpiling.

For the boys, I could say I am letting them expand their imagination and creativity. In reality, it looks like they are more feral than the last cat. But hey, Cinderella let the mice run riot on her watch.

When jobs need done, you do walk round in literal circles to achieve them (but that’s circles with the buggy/Chariot you understand; I’m not wandering round the driveway with the hoover just to ward off any potential visitors, I’m just trying to get someone asleep). For some jobs need at least one child (the Micro) asleep to ensure safety. But when the older falls asleep by accident and the younger is content to watch the world go by unless you take two steps away, you might as well have the two Ugly Stepsisters demanding your time.

Never fear, the cows eventually got their straw and hay. The boys were fed, and the Fairy Gin-mother disappeared…

Folsom Prison Blues and The Crofter

No, he didn’t commit murder (for those who know the lyrics, this will be clear as day). He’s just been put in quarantine before going off shore. Yes, that’s right. Some think it’s lockdown when they can stay at home getting things done and still go shopping. Compare that to your food getting delivered to your door (ready made, picture a dogs dinner rather than a dinner for the gods). You are in a self contained unit but one that isn’t yours. No books, no projects, no garden, no paperwork, no receipts to file, no nothing. Yes, to him I’m sure he would see it akin to a prison service. I, on the other hand, think of what I could achieve, such as a full nights sleep…

However, while he muses the day along, croft and life on it keeps plodding. It doesn’t grind to a halt and pause to contemplate the global stock markets. And crofting with two mini crofters is like an iTunes playlist stuck on repeat. You hear the same things for oh, 26 times in one day. Mum, why and no are the three words topping the word chart. The top sentences are trumped with: just leave the manure pile alone, stop licking the windows, stop putting sand into the raised bed, and no, I can’t swing you in the house, there isn’t room to swing a cat!

This means I get to look round at about 6 major projects, 14 semi major, and 32 minor projects but can’t do any. Or if I do manage them, I feel I should be shortlisted for some award from the Queen. Which is hard (seeing projects to work on, not getting awards from royalty, although I’ve never attempted it to compare). My step count has no problems. I don’t have to work on it. As soon as one child goes silent, you start searching. Usually once you find that one face down licking the concrete mix, the other starts bawling. And back you go.

Now, it is an unknown as to when the Crofter will return. News, restrictions, and all sorts seem to change daily. Will there be any flights to get him home? Or do we need to start saving bog roll to pay his fare on whatever seafaring boat is going?

Until then, the cows still get fed, seeds are getting planted, electric fencing getting unknotted, and manure returned to the raised beds for the sixth time.

Johnny Cash and the Ode to the laundry basket

If Jonny Cash had been in charge of the washing machine, the lyrics may well have been slightly different…

I keep a close watch on these clothes of mine.

I wish for all the weather to be fine.

I bring the washing in after every dine

Because of grime, I walk that line.

I find it very, very easy to slip behind.

I find myself pegging out socks of every kind.

Yes, I’ll admit, it’s one of life’s daily grinds

Because of grime, I walk that line.

You’re got a way to keep me on my toes

Some times, I need to pre wash with the hose

For you I know we hope the wind does blow

Because of you, I walk that line.

Blood, sweat and steers

The past few months have been bizarre. As we watched major lockdowns in China, we got firsthand info about what it was like. Yes, my sister-in-law is a teacher in China. The #teachfromabeach was used as she did online teaching while still at her holiday hotel when the clampdown happened.

The effect on manufacturing, stock markets and whatever else soon became apparent. For when the stock markets crashed, so too did the oil prices. And that is where we fit in. See, as the Crofter works off shore (yes, the stock broker joke has an element of truth). He works off shore as the croft is not able to fund itself. We can’t be completely self sufficient and sit about a campfire strumming a guitar; it’s hard work and as is traditional with crofts, it’s a supplement, not a full paying job. As the coronavirus started reaching out its long tentacles, we were looking at the prospect of him being laid off. That then changed to being told he would be going to work but for no idea how long. Next, they were giving them unpaid leave. Great, we thought. We held a committee meeting between the two of us as to what major projects we could take on and therefore what supplies we needed before lockdown occurred. The two of us then sat and held a working group on breaking down those projects over two months.

Those plans then got shelved when he received an email calling him back to work ASAP and with a likelihood of being away for a length of time.

Now, the likelihood of having snow and ice issues are a lot slimmer. But the cows do still need hay. Seed plantings have begun and will need to continue for the polytunnel. The veg garden can be ignored. Often we can’t plant anything out until end of May anyway. The only other thing that needs ‘done’ and I have the least control over, is calving. Ear tagging and castrations are two things I can do, but lack confidence in. Yes, simple tasks but both that, if they go wrong, are really not pleasant. So hence I baulk from it. All I need is someone to show me and a couple of practices.

But hey, they are on my list of things that I would like to do once this is over. Yes, while others sit dreaming of holidays or sixty ways to use bog roll, I scheme on ear tagging, castrations, and bolousing. I don’t #teachfromabeach, I #battlewiththecattle.

At least the battle with the cattle is one less steer as IMac went to his final abode. The send off smooth, the road less traveled. He was born on the croft and he will come back to the croft. Albeit, in steaks, mince, and other forms. Although we had issues with the abottoirsin the current climate, may he smoothly get to the butchers and there be no issue until I collect him.

This was one of the many tasks we frantically got through this week. The project list from the committee meeting was revised and prioritied. My muscles are making their presence know. I’m ready to sit.

Motherhood and the Sound of Music

If the people behind the lyrics of The Sound of Music had been mothers…

Tablets on counters and matches in reach,
Bright highlighter pens and cupboards with bleach.
Baler twine knotted to make up some swings,
These are just a few of my toddler’s things.
Cream coloured carpets and crisp packets upended,
Shampoo and bath gels,
And Radox cartels,
All emptied down pipes along with some rings,
These are just a few of my toddler’s things.
Sharp blades on scissors and blood gushing hither,
Nursery to rush for and no time to dither.
Missing in action and thinks he has wings,
These are a few of my toddler’s things.
When I sit back
When the gin’s out
When bedtime’s done.
I simply remember my toddler’s favourite things
And know I’m not the only one.