Monday, 16 June 2008

June on the Croft in the Fifties

Reading the chapter on June in Wendy Wood's little book From a Highland Croft, published in the 1950s, was less exciting than I had been expecting. I thought June would be full of the glories of a Highland summer but in those days, even more so than now, summer came late and June felt more like the back end of Spring:
"The first of our calves came today. The mother is an old hand and so I was lucky to catch her on her way to a hidden place on the shore. It would have been unnecessary work to have had to put the calf into a creel and carry it back home, with an infuriated cow bringing up the rear and bellowing to the whole neighbourhood about my kidnapping. It is a bull calf. Some years it is nearly all bulls that arrive and some lucky years nearly all heifers. I hope that this first event does not presage a "bull year". I gave the mother half a bucketful of chopped raw potatoes. I also gave her a hot drink of pease-meal, and because it was not the more usual oatmeal, she gave me a look like a gillie offered sixpence at the end of a hot day. I have no oats left. Preparations for the sowing of this year's oats started a long time ago in the building of a new hen-house in the woods away from the proposed crop, and the purchasing of rolls of wire for a fence to protect the latter.

The ploughing of the field was not easy, for it had not been disturbed for many years, and the soil is very shallow. The ploughman was young and new to the job. He turned up in a bright blue shirt, a joy to see, and I strongly suspected that he had anointed his head with oil, as one appointed. It is always a thrill to see the first brown wave in a green plain, and I could tell by the ploughman's worried face that his job took a bit of daring, like cutting out a green velvet dress without a pattern. I noticed too that when I was in the house, all proceeded in silence, but when I came out, the horses had to be "clicked" and sworn at with terrible swears. Not that the creatures behaved any differently; they just plodded on good-naturedly with the job they knew so well.

It must have been a lonely life, and a hard one, living out in the wilds but it had a rhythm and a balance that we lack today. Have a great summer everyone!

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