Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Wendy's Croft in May

The extract I've chosen from Wendy Wood's book From a Highland Croft, written in the 1950s, for May is interesting because she writes about things that having fallen out of favour back then, are now right back in the mainstream - at least in part. She had been cutting rushes to use as bedding for the cattle, and then...
"After cutting rushes I turned to a tougher job, for, lacking my pony, I had to creel the seaweed on my own back. The weed lay on the shore in a rough semi-circle like a rusty scimitar. It was in that half-decayed condition which is so good for the fields yet is unpleasant to touch. I could have put on rubber gloves, but the weed is the very best of hand softeners, and I found the under layers warm. The loch water was so crystal clear that it almost tempted me in for a swim, but the appearance was sufficient, for a test with the pinkie nearly paralysed me.

Big farmers sometimes regard crofters as being behind the times, but with no more than lime or shell sand, seaweed and dung, we are enriching our land, while they with chemical fertilisers, will ultimately impoverish theirs beyond retrieving. I have tasted some of the produce grown by "medicine" and whether it is grass for beast or cabbages for humans, I think it is responsible for some of the diseases of man and beast. The forced production of eggs is spoiling the hens, and the unnatural milk yield is spoiling the cows. In my grandmother's day the cures for human ills were such as sea water, horn broth and elm bark, and folk lived actively to a great age. The cattle had no more when ill than boiled seaweed or home-made cod liver oil, and half the diseases that keep vets busy today were unknown."

I'm not sure I agree with absolutely everything she says but, as ever with this wonderful little book, we are given a glimpse of an older, more balanced, and possibly wiser age.

1 comment:

Fair isle faerie said...

Now there is a woman with sense. If only the farming world could wake up & smell the manure of mistakes it has made all while chasing mass production, tasteless meats, tasteless veg & bank breaking feed costs & vet care.

The world needs a return to how we used to farm & the balanced diet, fresh air & workload that went with the times.