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.


Social media distancing

On Facebook at the moment, there are a variety of posts with no photo, but that makes me take note. Ooh, what’s this? They want to engage with others. Sounds great. They want a comment of something that connects the two of you. Interesting, I’ll think on this. I keep reading. They then have the line of ‘comment, copy and paste on your timeline’. Fat chance. It’s not their words, it’s just copied. So to all of my friends on Facebook: I do read your posts, would love to join in but as soon as I see ‘copy and paste’, I practice social media distancing. Copying and coughing are two things I am happy to stay clear of. Even if it was slightly adapted to hold your own words, it would change it from being someone else’s work, to being yours.

If you are really bored, and had enough of the copy and pasted post on seeing photos number 17, 33 and 61; why not learn a new skill or craft? You do not have to sit on your sofa as many posts seem to suggest. There is a lot more to life than Netflix. Knit a hat, make cheese, plant some herbs, learn a language, make cards, write letters, put up a bird feeder. I could go on. The current situation is a craft hoarders paradise; for once buying the equipment and supplies can match the art of doing something with it. It’s not just a introvert book reader’s heaven. Spring clean, declutter, fold the past six months laundry…

If I’m honest, I do like the sound of being confined to the house for several weeks. But, we have a croft and children and with the time of year, our main projects at the moment are outside (log shed, polytunnel, veg garden). Getting the spinning wheel out with two wee boys who are more akin to Road Runner, is not a good idea.

So my craft area has stayed untouched. By the time the mini crofters are in bed at night, I am doing well to manage a row or two of knitting before wanting to hit the sack. But I am persistent (aka stubborn, who would have guessed) and I think even doing one row is better than nothing.

So for those of us who don’t have the luxury of complete self isolation inside, on our own and have the time to take up a new skill, finish the fifteen projects we have on the go. why not show us what you have made, learned, done, attempted. From ‘Covid-19’ to ‘I did 19’, use the time to do something new while we get a handle on the coughing (and copying) issues.


Being a stock broker

A literal stock broker though. And with the more stock a farmer has, the broker they are. Although, things just swung a little differently this past week with suddenly meat coming back on people’s menus and being in high demand. Not as high as bog roll or plain flour, but hey, what a change in people’s spending habits.

The situation is this. We currently have no beef at the moment, we sold out about a week before the panic buying habits took off.

About a month ago we had started making plans for the next steer going to his byre in the sky. Chatted to the butcher to ensure the timings gave enough hanging time. We were asked to keep him back until the end of March due to all the Easter preparations. All fine and dandy; a date that matched when the Crofter would be home was picked. Then, last week we rang to book the steer into the abottoir and all private sales have been stopped! Yes, thanks to all the people who for some reason are now raiding butcher shops, the abottoir is trying to keep up with their own demand. So hence no time for those of us who are independent.

The ‘zip-a-dee’ is missing from my do-da’ to say the least. It’s not an emergency, we have food for ourselves, we have food for the cows. We do not have bog roll stuffed sheds. The issue is our customers having to wait. As much as we like to be self suffiecient and sell excess on to others, the supply chain is reliant on others due to the law.

This is also an interesting time to see people’s spending and eating habits. We often promote eating local food even if it costs more; the benefit always seems to outweigh the cost. When the country starts talk of a lock down, where are people going to source their food? Interestingly enough, Scotland has a lot of landscape that can feed livestock and produce meat. It is a struggle to feed and produce a lot of fruit and veg (kale and turnips are grand, but I often buy bananas and other foods that come from a far as we have no hope of being self sufficient in things such as sweet potato). So why the sudden mass buying of meat? We have the supply on our doorstep, we don’t need to fly it in, so why put so much pressure on the shops and butchers (and therefore the abottoir)?

After the dust settles, will people be more aware of where their food comes from? How it can end up in a shop, packaged and ready for them? Will lockdown give people time to start growing their own fruit, veg and herbs? Dairy farmers still milk their cattle, will many try making their own cheese?

Now, a lot can change in a day in the current climate. We, unlike so many other small scale producers, have an alternative option for sending the steer. And with that, he is booked in on Thursday. Let’s hope we can be singing Ode to the Steer before the week is out.


Keep calm and carry on

There may be Coronavirus out there, but on the croft, the seasons continue and we carry on. And one of these events is, the farewell of a steer. Yes, all of the last beast has now sold out. But, that does not mean an end; the first part of the process has been started for the next, the butcher is booked.

So, watch here or on Facebook for further news (and hopefully, the Covid-19 will not cause a delay) to filling the freezer.