Kenny Rogers and The Baler

If Kenny Roger’s had been from the Highlands, his song ‘The Gambler’ would have been tweaked to be ‘The Baler’. The tone of the music matching the atmosphere when hay making. Having a clear one week sunny, light wind and no dew window would be desirable. Nearly a fantasy and seems more attune to the term ‘clutching at straws’; except it should be straw (and hay). In fact, there seems to be a strong similarity between gambling and hay making. When do we cut? Is the grass too short? Too long? Has it dried enough? Can we spread it? Rain is forecast, what do we do? When can we start baling? How long into the night will this go? And so on. Now, to add to the pressure, this was not our hayfield, but the neighbours. And you really don’t want to wreak their winter feed. Oh, and the Crofter had just left to go off shore but I still had relatives hanging about to help with watching a Mini and a Micro Crofter but not ones that could operate machinery and were supposed to be on holiday. not helping me work.

With haymaking though, unlike poker, there is no face to give any clues, just four different websites with weather forecasts and none of them agree.

And with that, this week has been sky watching, grass drying assessing and getting hay turners and balers ready (auto correct seems to think I should have been baking rather than baling; I haven’t, unless you count spreading the grass to ‘bake’ in the field. The Mini Crofter would probably have been very disappointed with that type of baking though).

So Kenny, you may have retired from your country singing, but how about a new recording of ‘The Gambler’, but called ‘The Baler’, and along the lines of:

You’ve gotta know when to mow them,

Know when to spread them

Know when to leave them

Know when to row

You never count your bales

When you’re sitting in the tractor

They’ll be time enough for countin’

When the baling’s done

Braw banter.

With relatives (exotic ones, all the way from the US) coming for a flying visit in their whirlwind journey through Europe, I decided we better beef up their itinerary while they are here (I’ve seen pictures on Facebook of their stay in France). So…

A personal chauffeur (autocorrect is pants, that should have read Crofter) will pick you, your family and your belongings up from the train station (in a Suzuki Swift, one of the UK’s smaller cars to ensure full cultural experience; I’m borrowing it solely for this). The scenic drive home will allow you to fully take in the single track road without needing to drive at snail pace like most tourist drivers do to the annoyance of locals). It will give you a chance to enjoy the heart racing adventure like you’re in a Formula One car when in actual fact, I’ll be going a whole lot slower than you really think (part of this is due to road variations in width and do expect potholes).

Once at our destination, a tour of the estate (the terminology is used loosely, but it means help round up the sheep) will be followed by a hands on experience of crofting (you can help shear, I still have six to do). Dinner will be a ribeye roast from one of our very own huggable, horned beasts (it’s actually one of the steers that broke my electric fence, I don’t hold grudges, it was sent off with the ‘Steer’s blessing, see previous post for the full blessing).

Friday will be started off with a continental breakfast (while we can still offer it before we become fully Brexitised). The excursion for the day will be to the local national park (our place is more like Jurassic park so figure it’s better to go somewhere to chill). Tea will be provided by the local chippy and a selection of fish, black pudding, white pudding and haggis suppers will be bought for all to sample to ensure we help provide customers for vascular surgeons in the future, always plans ahead).

Saturday will commence with porridge to compensate for the previous night’s tea. A short trip will give the back drop of the setting of a crofting version of ‘Landmark’. Our version includes games such as ‘Pick up stones’ (rules: each person has a bucket, the count down timer will be set and the winner will have the most stones in their bucket). This will be done on the newly ploughed section. The top three winners will then have a chance to compete in the advanced championship (the rough bit with bigger stones; throwing the stone put or tossing chabers doesn’t help get work done; this though, helps keep our plough intact). Refreshing drinks will be provided during this time under the canopy of sunshine with cloud and possible showers; or showers, cloud and a chance of sun (depends which forecast you’ve looked at). The afternoon will be completed with enjoying a hogget on the Argentinian spit roast so that the full smoke aroma is attached to everyone, but will help keep away the midgies (we’ll keep that hidden until you arrive as I feel they need little introduction). Evening will commence with a quick trip to the local hall for a ceilidh (if they allow us in).

Sunday’s full cooked breakfast will be provided to ensure you cope till safely on the train to enjoy the extortionate food prices of whatever train company you are with that day.

We like to offer a high quality experience that encompasses all senses. Smidge, Deep Heat, and plasters are all included in this trip. May the banter be braw.

Everywhere you go…

Think the song is supposed to continue with ‘always take the weather’. Thinking crofting-wise, I always take baler twine everywhere I go (or at least that’s what it feels like). Although, the penknife follows suit at a close second, and then third place is ear plugs (tractors, brush cutters, lawnmowers can all be fairly noisy, although if you do wear ear plugs, the local postie can sneak up behind you without you knowing).

However, a recent excursion was to go to Edinburgh for two ‘treats’. Treats that did not require baler twine or ear plugs.

First, an all day trip to the Royal Highland Show (including going along to the Women in Agriculture Breakfast). The second, a trip to Cheyenne’s York Place to get a hair cut from Joe. Yes, Joe. Yes, the guy who was cutting my hair when I left the big sticks eight years ago. But if you want not just a cut, but someone who can look at your hair and take in your lifestyle: ‘I have two kids under 3, 12 cows and 11 sheep; I want stylish but I don’t spend much time sorting hair’ without going, ‘this woman doesn’t need a hair cut, she needs a psychiatrists’, is a good find! This is the guy who just seems to understand hair. Now, I’m sure there are other hair stylists at the same place who equally cut hair well. But, well, when you have a pro do a job well, you really don’t want to go anywhere else. So you go back. And don’t deviate (although I was introduced to Joe by a hairdresser called Kipps, a man who headed off to London after finally convincing me that hairdressers do not have to be on par with the dentist. A dentist usually means you come out worse than going in, which was my understanding of hairdressers).

If only I could offer our flock the same standards. I have no qualification in sheep shearing, my experience is fairly limited, and I have never been shown blade shearing. I think if any hair stylist looked at Chunky and Skyver, they would be horrified. Chunky is a Cheviot; Skyver is a Blackface. Two different types of wool (and different personalities too as Skyver tried to skyve the shearing, Chunky placidly lies there for you). Working on them and with them was very different. I still have all the Jacob and Shetland sheep to do. Hopefully I’ll improve as I want to try and use the Jacob wool in spinning. And because of that, am looking for ways to improve. Not to learn how to have a one way conversation with a sheep; ‘have you any holidays coming up, what are you going at the weekend, and the usual haircut questions. But, in the handling of them, so I get less bruises on my legs and I don’t feel like I’m trying to give the sheep a Mohican.

So along comes networking. One contact has led to another and I am hoping to go meet another woman who can show me a different way of shearing. I’m leaving the rest of the sheep until I get back. Will then need a ‘Croft got talent’ show and a panel of judges to give card marks.

P.S. Just like I need a hair cut, so too do the sheep. I have seen comments by people thinking we kill sheep to get wool! No one has yet told me I should stop going to the hairdressers because I won’t come out alive. And its better for my health to get my hair cut. Same for sheep. So if anyone wants to know more about what we do and why, feel free to get in touch (about sheep, if you want hair advise, go see Joe).

P.P.S. Joe, if you’re reading this, apologies for the photo. I appear to be much better at taking farming pictures than inside pictures.

Sunshine on Leith

The Proclaimers were in Inverness this past weekend. No, I didn’t go, I’m not really a concert goer. Besides, it’s the holidays. So while everyone else (in Scotland mind you) is putting up pictures of their holidays, I too thought I should post a picture of the Italian skiing holiday eating up the Mediterranean cruise holiday.

But, going back to The Proclaimers, their songs still sing away in my head. And as usual, they get applied to the workplace. ‘Sunshine beneath’ Works quite aptly while shearing Chunky. And man, that boy is big.

Now, the shearing isn’t perfect. But he got only one small nick. I am now struggling to stand upright. So two done, nine to go.

Now if anyone wants to make comments about my shearing, you’ll be signing yourself up as the instructor for blade shearing next year. I have four other people interested so just need a pro.

Mary had a little lamb

Well, in this instance, I’m not Mary. Nor is the sheep a lamb, although it is wee-er than other breeds. And it’s brown, not white. But, every where I go, these lot are sure to go.

These boys were not getting offered a bucket for no apparent reason. The after dinner chat with the Mini Crofter (fifth time of reading Posie and Pip), a sheep was spotted to be caught in some wire. Now, the electric wire is set up to allow sheep through a gate but not the cows. Somehow one of the Jacobs decided to use the electric post as a back scratcher and pulled up a post. This in turn dropped the wire, which the muppet then got a leg caught.

Micro Crofter was placed in a bouncy chair, Mini Crofter told to watch Mummy through the window. And with that, on went the waterproofs, for having watched the sheep in question, I was going to be wrestling the muppet to untangle. I decided to take a bucket as comfort food, as that works for most of us in certain situations. However, the site of the bucket got the sheep to walk with a determined mind and just pull himself clear. And join the other five wanting a treat too. And I hadn’t even whistled to get their attention. Having just watched sheep dog trials, we still have no need for a sheep dog. And the nursery rhyme needs to be adapted.

Bye bye Lugs, hello luscious meat

That’s right, my soppy, sentimental part was back as we sent Lugs off. Hmm, that is, if you count the phrase, ‘You big baffon, stop messing around’ as I shed a virtual tear as sentimental. In reality I think I have spent more time crying due to my severe lack of sleep in recent months due to motherhood and insomnia. But that’s a different story.

So, soon, we can say hello to beef on the menu board (very end of May is the forecast). So if you want your meat fresh, speak to one of us (as in the Crofter or I, not the little person in my head that I often have conversations with and myself), send a message via the contact page, phone or text. And I’ll admit, phone is the worst option. Shouldn’t admit it as surely every good business needs to be good at phone conversations. However, I may be good at the conversations with the wee dude in my head but I feel the phone may break out in the plague. But, if you feel you have to phone, I’ll prep to ensure I answer all phone calls over the next wee while.

I will upload all the cuts and prices soon but there should be the usual of:

Steaks: Ribeye, fillet, rump, sirloin

Roasts: Forerib, topside, silverside

Dices, mince, sausages, burgers and beef olives.

Now I need to put a disclaimer on, we’re using a new butcher so packaging will be different and the sausages and burgers will be too. Now, I know quite a few really liked the last butcher’s burgers but these ones have come recommended to us as well so why not give them a try and let us know how they compared?

I’ll now just go and start practicing ‘phone chat’.

The bare necessities.

The bees are back and they are buzzing in the trees (although, not making honey for me if we continue down the Disney’s sing-a-long to The Jungle Book).

Which is good. The bees that is; not the singing along with Baloo. For it was not that long ago we got hit with a cold snap, just after several of our orchard trees had blossomed. And yes, they can stand a little bit of cold but not massive amounts. So it was a bit of grit teeth and hope for the best.

However, not all the trees had burst forth in full colour as this week, the temperature has been hot. Which in turn has brought out a lot more flowers in our orchard. And some that had flowers before have got more.

So I’ll go back to dreaming of making apple pies from the bees pollinating the flowers, not honey. And on that theme I’m not having to search under rocks and plants to find fancy ants. There are more exotic looking insects then normal at the moment. But there is no chance I’ll be trying a few.

P.S. Hopefully no legal representative at Disney Limited is reading this to notice how much of their lyrics I borrowed.