Animal stories, Farm Accommodation, Farm Life, Highland cattle, highland landscapes, Living with Nature, new birth, Uncategorized, wildlife


The birches vanish progressively
as the plastic is pinned to the inside of the studwork
nominal walls til now,
skeletal rectangles allowing light and wind.

Plasterboard starts to define the interior space

where owls perched and pelleted the rough screed floor
now tiled.
Around the house the birds swoop and soar ceaselessly,
the martens spilling wind, pulling their wings back                                                 to flutter briefly in stasis

as they pluck insects from the new hatch
while  swallows wheel in the higher air.
I wait in the doorless portal
knowing evening warmth and calm
and the busiest time of opportunity,
the cattle grazing as if at harvest.
The hills are softened in vapour
and mottled with shade
from cloud teased by distant winds
blowing seagulls in from the east.
Young lambs on the hill
demand to suck:
their calls enter the new room
claiming it.


Farm Life, Highland cattle, Timber building

Fitting doors in the day

There are times to leave the animals to themselves. The temperature has risen unexpectedly, damp lifting from the saturated ground to clog the hillsides. The light is even, without shadow or contrast, changing little before dark.
First the animals, lying quiet or standing to gain the benefit of a slight breeze. Holly in the Aspen paddock waits: I brush her matted coat, lifting it to ease drying. The mounded silage in the centre of the feeder needs pulled to the sides to avoid waste before refilling. That is for tomorrow – now I have doors to fit.
The hammerhead extension at the pottery is constructed as a traditional post and beam timber frame. The structure is douglas fir, clad with larch – all harvested from Scottish forests. I split the offcuts to make doors for the old agricultural steading that used to house animals and a family in the same low rooved complex of buildings. Two of these need fitted today.
The uprights (stiles) are overlength to protect the doors from damage: these horns are cut first, the stiles planed to fit the uneven old frames. Wedged in place with an even joint all round, hinge slots can be routered and the hardware fitted. Screwed to the frame upright (jamb) the door must be set to close tight to the woodwork. The closing edge is drilled and chiselled square to take the lock; holes drilled  from both faces for spindle and cylinder. The keep is then set into the receiving jamb with the precise offset that allows the door to close crisply with no shoogling.
I am racing against the darkness to fit two. The first clicks home with the neatest heft. I progress with the second, lose my rhythm: the keep is set too far from the frame upstand, the door rattles and needs adjusted as I struggle with the failing light.

It is dark as I walk the Nog to the yard to close the chicken house. The crescent moon  behind the branches is enlarged and diffuse,veiled in mist. Tomorrow, God willing, we will walk the hills in daylight- freedom balances obligation.

Timber building, Uncategorized

A green coat is not a white coat

I wore my green coat today. My green coat is not my white coat. My white coat is kept pristine for the showring. My green coat belongs in the pen- where preparations are made: the butlers apron for polishing the silver not his frockcoat for dinner service. Today is the first day of use for my building at the pottery coffee shop. It is traditional post and beam, built on the farm from large baulks of douglas fir and brought along the road in pieces to be assembled and erected. As my worksite for more than a year it hasn’t dictated how I am seen here any more than  the cattle would object if my hat was back to front so I often attend as part of the farmyard. Today this changed: the lights are on, the coffee machine spits steam, the steel tables are cleaned and loaded – and I wear my green coat.