Monday, 8 October 2007

October on the croft

It being October now, I thought I'd bring you the appropriate extract from the book From a Highland Croft by Wendy Wood (see the September extract here .)
Acorns are a great help as additional feeding for the hens, and it was necessary to hurry and pick them up before the squirrels and mice got them, so I went out with a basket, the dog at my heels. Then I went back for a hat, as acorns falling from a height on to one's head are irritating, to say the least of it. They were plentiful, big brown ones, little green ones, and some rosy pink. My fingers were busy among the moss and fallen leaves, and not wishing to spoil my focus by looking up, I passed from tree trunk to tree trunk with my head down, always making for the tree of biggest girth in the hope of greater harvest.

From a crofter's point of view, an outrun of rocky hill covered with oaks is a curse. The cow is lost to sight within a few yards, and it is difficult enough to know where you are yourself, much less the cow, when foliage cuts you off from familiar landmarks. For this reason I put a bell on my cow, but the crafty creature, preparing to sleep outside, soon learnt to lie down at dusk and keep quite still, so that I could be within a hundred yards of her yet unaware of her presence. One night after plunging about for hours along the rocky shore and up the even rockier hillside, I gave up the hunt...In the very early hours of the morning I heard the sound I had so eagerly listened for at night - clang-clang - and there at the gate, deliberately swinging her head "clang-clang" stood the cow. She got a good skelping for her behaviour and well she understood, for the next evening I heard "clang-clang" at the byre door as the sun began to set. It sank a crimson ball and lit clouds near and far like banners, throwing out its glory for miles, tinting the crests of the hills and dipping the lower slopes in purple dye.

Skelping is a Scots word for smacking - not very politically correct to skelp your cows these days but I can imagine her frustration on those cold October evenings - the fireside would be calling and once it was dark it was really dark - you wouldn't want to be out alone on the hillside.

1 comment:

Wild Flora said...

Hello, Puddock. Sorry I haven't been around, all the more so because it seems that you've been feeling down. I know well the feeling of being overwhelmed by a large (old?) house and a lot of land, the isolation of being out in the country, that feeling of why am I bothering and who notices? I wish I could tell you it gets better but the truth is that I don't know, as I copped out by remarrying after 2 years of living alone in the country. What I can tell you is that I often miss my solitude (which is not to say that I'm sorry about the remarriage). Is it possible for you to house swap with someone who lives in a city or town? Maybe you could have the best of both worlds; at the least, it would give you a chance to see whether you still like town life before you make a commitment to it.