I've often been asked which is my favourite season, and the truth is that I cannot ever pick one season over the other. Each has her own beauties, with the result that as soon as the new season arrives, I am immediately smitten. So at the time of typing, I am relishing the kaleidoscope of colours that abound in woodlands and hedgerows, munching Victoria plums to my heart's content and opening conker shells with the excited anticipation of a five-year-old.
The only aspect of autumn that I dread is the selling of this year's crop of lambs. But before you ask the inevitable question ("What about Pickle?"), let me reassure you...
Being a farmer's daughter, I should be resilient, nay impervious, to the annual partings inherent in rearing livestock. However, there are sometimes exceptional situations when one has to break the rules. And Pickle is one of those "exceptions".
Having fed him in the wee sma' hours for weeks, watched him trotting round the kitchen while I prepared his bottle and become accustomed to hearing his unique, high-pitched bleat bellowing from the field every time I venture into the garden, there is simply no way that I can load him into the wagon and send him off to market, and nor can HunterGatherer.
So Pickle will stay – most likely as a winter companion to FatHorse, a summer companion to our new tup Ivan (of whom more another time...) and, most importantly, a year-round companion to Yours Truly.
As you'll see from the photos below, our wee woolly warrior has grown somewhat from the early days. And here he is in all his autumnal glory...
Pickle is not the only living thing that's been thriving here at the Sparrowholding: there have been rich autumn pickings from Victoria our plum tree, who has excelled herself this year. Meanwhile, in the polytunnel, various other veggy goodies have been growing and Vinny the vine has been hard at work creating myriad bunches of tiny green grapes... Ah yes, there is much to love about autumn!
Suddenly our summer (such as it was in Scotland!) is virtually over and on the arable farms here in Kinross-shire the combines have been revving up as farmers hasten to snatch their harvest in between the showers. And as another summer comes to an end, so does another showing season for all the livestock farmers for whom summer weekends mean trekking round Scotland on the showing circuit.
In the 1980s, when Yours Truly used to show Shetland ponies all summer long, the fun and friendly finale of the showing season was always Kinross Agricultural Show, which traditionally takes place on the second Saturday of August. In those halcyon days, the show used to be held in the walled garden of Kinross House – an idyllic setting, with the eponymous Neoclassical country mansion providing an almost surreal backdrop.
However, in life all good things generally come to an end, and several years ago the sale of Kinross House necessitated a move for the local agricultural show. But where on earth (or at least within the bounds of Kinross-shire!) could they hold the show that would ever compete with the previous unique location? The answer lay in an unassuming grass field, right next door to the RSPB’s Vane Farm on the shores of Loch Leven – with the Sleeping Giant (a local hill, so christened because its profile resembles a sleeping giant) as a backdrop and a breathtaking overview of the loch. It was an inspired choice.
When the sun shines, as it did this year, there are few places in Scotland that could rival this stunning rural show setting. For any of you who haven’t been to an agricultural show before, know this: the showing of sheep, cattle, ponies, goats and dogs is taken extremely seriously by those who participate. The exhibitors will have been up since the crack of dawn to make their final preparations before loading their budding animal beauty queens into lorries and horseboxes and making their way from far and near to the showground.
Having had experience of judging classes at local shows in a previous life, I know how precisely how nerve-wracking that particular task is. One thing is a given: there’s usually only going to be one happy person after each class, and that’s the owner of the animal who received the coveted first prize rosette. Everyone else will be muttering under their breaths what a fool the judge was for failing to appreciate the finer merits of their fabulous sheep, cow, goat or horse!
Unsurprisingly, now that I attend shows purely as a spectator rather than as an exhibitor or a judge, the whole occasion is vastly more relaxing. Instead of feverishly polishing ponies or weighing up the respective merits of entrants, I can take time to enjoy these couthy* rural gatherings which are as eclectic as they are entertaining. Here’s a quick photomontage compiled at this year’s show to give you a flavour… Hope to see you there next year!
* For any readers not familiar with this Scottish term, couthy (or couthie) means "warm and friendly".
Welcome to Square Sparrow’s new blog home where you’ll find photos, anecdotes and snippets about food, family and Scottish country life.
It’s only taken me five months to summon the words, the energy and the time to compose a long-overdue post, and this one doubles as a welcome – a welcome to the Square Sparrow blog’s lovely new home here on WordPress.
Copious lashings of gratitude are due to web guru Andy at Interphase Design for all his hard work (on the site) and patience (with me!). I really hope you enjoy the new look and the ensuing tales from The Sparrowholding.
Life has been ridiculously busy over the past few months, which is the only excuse that I can tender for my dearth of posts this year. As any of you who follow the Square Sparrow Facebook page will be aware, however, April saw a new addition to our little menagerie in the shape of Pickle the Pet Lamb.
This woolly bundle of joy was rejected by his mum from the moment he plonked unceremoniously onto the grass, and his arrival heralded a few weeks of sleepless nights as we attempted to “play mum”.
Lark-like HunterGatherer did the dawn feeds and owl-like Yours Truly was responsible for the late night shift, often feeding by torchlight in the rain and even, on occasion, sleet!
Still, our initially feeble wee friend has now grown into an energetic, lovable, woolly rogue whose presence brightens our every day. Even though we weaned him a couple of weeks ago, his resonant voice booms out across the paddock any time he sees (or even hears) humanoids approaching the fence – no doubt he fondly imagines we might still be bearing a bottle!
If you missed the photos on Facebook, here’s a wee reminder of his progress over the past twelve weeks…