Saturday, 22 March 2008

March on a Highland Croft

Time for the March instalment from Wendy Wood's book about life in the Highlands of Scotland in the 1950s.

"Drip, drip - the rain tub is full and running over, wellingtons and sou'westers are the garb all day long, and the stream is suddenly visible right up the hillside among the bare trees, a series of waterfalls too impetuous to keep to the usual course, somthing that has suddenly leapt from the paralysis of a frosty trickle to a sense of power and joy. It makes a multitude of sounds as it splashes and surges, tucking dead leaves under its shining apron. All night I hear it thundering as if a line of vehicles were pounding ceaselessly along the road.

The croft seems alive with little things. The wren pops in and out of her winter nest beside the stream and I am anxious in case she is swamped out of her home. The robin that roosts in the woodshed gives a sleepy chirp at night when I go with the lantern for logs, and I see him fluffed up with his chin amongst his breast feathers on the handle of the hoe. A vole is living there too among some rubbish in a box. I am well aware of a tiny worn path from her house into mine, and no offering of cheese in her own parlour will stop her pilfering meals in my pantry."

Although the talk everywhere today is of climate change, Wendy's account of Spring is not much different from what I see around me here on the hill. In fact, in some respects, her Springs seem to have come earlier than mine. Her winters might have been colder and deeper, but she talks about lambs in March and of being woken by the cuckoo calling, but the lambs come later than March here, and I haven't heard a cuckoo yet. There is snow on the ground as I write, and more forecast next week - it certainly doesn't feel as if this part of the world is warming up much.
And Picture of the Day is this one of a wren posing like a professional for the camera in my garden.


Sarah O. said...

Wouldn't it be wonderful if spring came in March! We have the best autumns in Canada here in Nova Scotia, but cold, drawn-out springs.

I remember hearing some climate change predictions for the U.K. actually calling for a gradual cooling of the climate as the Gulf Stream changes course/shuts down due to climate change - and don't forget, this year was an el Nina year as well, so everything is bound to be cooler.

Here's to hoping for a lovely summer!

Puddock said...

I hadn't thought about El Nina - that could explain it - thanks Sarah!

It has got a bit milder here this week and there are even a few daffodils out here and there - hope it's good for you too.

Stonehead said...

We've only been on our croft for four years, but talking to neighbours who've farmed here since the 1800s the major climatic differences are warmer winters with a lot less snow, plus a lot more variability, strangeness and unpredictability the rest of the time.

Today is a good example—it's managing to combine heavy snow with mild temperatures (about 5C). The result is two-inch deep slush that's incredibly slippery and makes working in the fields very difficult.

Two years ago, we had such a dry summer followed by a dry winter that our borehole ran dry — there was no snow melt or decent rain to replenish the ground water.

It was the first time in at least 100 years that the water has run out and, while the houses have more modern conveniences, there are far less people and far fewer animals than there used to be. (Ten people in five houses where there used to be upwards of 50 in 12 or so; 50 sheep, 12 cattle and 20 pigs where there used to be hundreds of each.)

It's all a bit topsy-turvy.