Jonathan: A lovely late summer morning – and a strong desire to linger over the routine duties, to revel in the familiarity. Last to be attended to in Home Park, down by the shore, are the rams and the geese, who form a combined scrum around the line of feed I lay down. The rams push and shove from either side of the line, whilst the geese dive in between their legs to grab what they can! Some of the bolder chickens stand at either end of the line, but they’re not there as referees, they’re picking up the small fragments of feed where they’re least likely to get trampled, kicked or butted! As the food disappears, the tension eases and the animals reform into flocks and start to move away. I sit awhile, on the grass, making the most of the moment. Rhubarb (one of this year’s bottle-fed lambs) leans against me, resting his chin on my shoulder and his cheek against my face, urging me to rub behind his ears and talk to him. There’s Flotsam and Jetsam too, the two goslings hatched out at home and who have known Rhubarb since they were all of them tiny. Flotsam – who we think is a girl, settles down close by my right side, letting me stroke her. Jetsam is behind me investigating the details of my boiler suit – the collar, waistband, and the pockets. These three familiars are too close to photograph, so here’s a few of the others.
Jonathan: It’s been a fine day in Uist, today, and I’ve made the most of it … carrying fencing materials up the hill to the new field, High Field, at the top of the croft. Eight round trips, each more than a half a kilometre out and 40m of ascent, across rough grass and heather, climbing rocky outcrops and across minefields of tussock-grass and hidden ditches, and staggering across bogs. With quarter of a tonne – about 265kg – balanced on my shoulder. Yes it hurts. No, there’s no practical alternative. And anyway, it’s not so bad done slowly, patiently. Step by Step. One by One. It’s just a question of balance! 1 bundle of wooden stobs at about 20kg – just to warm up. 2 big wooden gate posts (they’re wet through) at about 60kg each. 5 reels of fencing wire, 25kg each. To warm down, and to help forget the pain in my left shoulder – driving in the stobs and setting up the two gate posts. And then at last home for an evening meal and a relaxing evening podding peas!
Jonathan: Here’s the last tray-full of gooseberries from the croft. That makes a total of about 25kg from the croft, and possibly 60kg from croft and garden combined. All the bushes on the croft are of this red desert type – sweet and rich in flavour. It’s called Black Velvet. At home, in the walled garden, we’ve got green culinary gooseberries (Leveller), and a small blushed/red desert gooseberry which we think is Careless. A few kilos of Leveller are being turned into wine, but everything else is for making jams, jellies, chutneys. Right, now to top-and tail these little lovelies, the last of the best. Then into the freezer with them!