At the time when both DD1 and DD2 were born, HunterGatherer was working on a stock farm in Fife (or 'The Kingdom of Fife', as it's often called), looking after a herd of pedigree Hereford cattle.
Those were halcyon days, and I remember with pleasure being blasted on the beach at Elie by a blustery November breeze or heading into Anstruther on a balmy summer's evening to treat ourselves to a golden, crispy fish supper from the world-renowned Anstruther Fish Bar. It was thus with slight nostalgia that I headed recently with my long-suffering gym buddy, P., back to the East Neuk of Fife for a morning of coastal walking followed by a well-earned rest (euphemism for lunch!).
We were extremely fortunate with the weather. The rain that had threatened during our hour-long drive East from Kinross to Crail was considerate enough to restrain itself for the duration of our stroll along the glorious coastal path, and the clouds and sunshine took it in turn to prevail, which made for some tempting photo opportunities.
Of course, the main benefit of going for a nice long walk is that one can then 'refuel the tank' without (too much of) a guilty conscience, so on our return to the picturesque fishing village we rapidly repaired to the Crail Harbour Gallery and Tearoom to replenish our energy levels.
Being tough country girls, we elected to sit in the tiny patio behind the Tearoom so we could overlook the sea while discussing life, the universe and which cake to choose for pudding! The only slight risk factor (as the waitress warned us, with a twinkle in her eye) was that the cream on top of their hot chocolate had been known to fly into the face of its consumers under similarly windy conditions. All the more reason to down the delicious chocolatey concoction at speed, we thought!
Our visit to the Gallery Tearoom proved a perfect way to finish our micro-visit to Fife, and we've already resolved to return next year and walk another part of the Fife coastal path. In the meantime, our photos will serve as a welcome reminder of our 2016 visit to the beautiful East Neuk.
On Saturday morning, I was on a midge-killing mission, having witnessed the distress of FatHorse and the chocolate sheep the previous evening at the hands (or mouths) of the massed midge swarms that were filling every last cm of the night-time air here at the Sparrowholding.
Judging by the number of the wee blighters that were flying around, there must have been heaps of hatchings – possibly due to the one uncharacteristically hot day (also known as ‘summer’ in these parts) earlier in the week. Whatever the reason, the biting beasties were making life extremely uncomfortable for our girls, and I was determined to find something to thwart them.
The slight problem, in the pony’s case, is that she has a huge aversion to the smell of one of the ingredients that seems to be used in almost every insect repellent known to man: the unmistakably lemon scent of citronella. At some point in her past, she’s obviously been sprayed with citronella and it’s given her a fright, because if I even venture to the side of the fence bearing a rag that has the faintest whiff of the substance, our normally placid Highland gentlewoman is transformed into a rearing, runaway wreck.
This being the case, I was desperately seeking a substance that smelt different and worked my way painstakingly along the shelf, sniffing surreptitiously at the nozzle or lid of each bottle or jar – indeed, if I’ve been caught on CCTV, I’ll probably be on my way to an institution for deranged stockwomen as you are reading this.
Eventually, I found a couple of flying-insect repellents that didn’t seem to exude too much lemoniness, and marched purposefully towards the till. However, as I was stomping in my wellies (the one-day summer having giving way to relentless rain) past the sheep and cattle aisle, my eye was caught by an array of showing-related lotions and potions of all colours and persuasions.
I stopped and stared in awe. Lined up for what seemed to be miles along each shelf were a panoply of pampering products with names that promised tantalising transformation.
If I were a Cheviot sheep, I could make my fleece radiant with powders of virtually any shade under the (now non-existent) sun.
Or if my hair was “unmanageable” – which it often is, according to Farmpa – there was a spray that could fix that, too.
The cornucopia of sheep spa and bovine beauty products was simply breath-taking. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, the Scottish agricultural show season is currently in full swing, and indeed it’s only a couple of weeks until the wonderful Kinross Show takes place just along the road at the RSPB’s Vane Farm nature reserve. If you live in or around Kinross-shire, hope to see you there. And you can bet my hair is going to be looking gooooood…
PS: Just to whet your appetite for show day, read this blog post about my visit to Kinross Show last year – complete with photographs of ferrets!
And suddenly it was spring! Since 2016 began, life here at The Sparrowholding seems to have been one long, relentless stint of soil sampling and spreader testing (HunterGatherer) or tutoring pupils plus proofreading hundreds of thousands of words (Yours Truly). Our only respite during these four months was a snatched escape at the end of January, which comprised lunch at the rightly renowned The Peat Inn Restaurant in Fife (subject of a future blog post so watch this space!) followed by a rare and relaxing overnight stay at the Dunkeld House Hotel, during which we enjoyed strolling together at leisure along an extremely full, more-grey-than-silvery Tay.
Since that bijou break, it’s been flat out for February, March and April, so it’s quite a relief to see this frenetic period of our respective freelance years coming to an end. The farmers have eagerly returned to working the land (meaning that HunterGatherer now assumes his spring/summer guise of welder/mender of agricultural machinery), and the Scottish exam diet has begun (meaning that my tutoring commitments have reduced dramatically – for a few months at least!).
While we’ve been busy, our Shetland ewes haven’t exactly been idle either… All winter long they’ve been cultivating their own “crop” of bonnie, bouncing lambs, and with lambing now over breakfast time in the feeding area is a guddle of bleating babies and anxious mums, each trying to find the other after all the Ewe-lac nuts and JustGrass Blox (courtesy of FarmerBruv) have been gobbled up. During the day, the 24 lambs split their time between sleeping and playing – just as you’d expect of any self-respecting bambino (or perhaps that should be 'lambino'!).
Here's a mini-video plus a few photos of what our mini woolly jumpers have been up to during the past weeks...