welcome to ‘hips from the hedgerow’ …

My life isn’t all about playing with swathes of tweed, I run a B&B from our home in rural Angus and we have a ramshackle smallholding bursting at the seams with sheep, ducks, chooks and soon we’ll add goats to the menagerie.

This time of year it is quiet at ‘the field’, there isn’t much growing except a little kale and a few lettuces in the poly tunnels; so it’s only feeding the animals that pulls me there each day.  Today, as the sun began to set there was a cold chill in the air, I was desperately trying to find a water butt with a thin enough layer of ice to break.  It’s been cold, properly Scottish cold, and I’m faced each day with frozen disks of water between me and all the water in the butts.

The ice on the old bath has a layer of snow with a few delicately placed paw prints, it doesn’t take much of a detective to know that it was the field cat Bean (short for Verbena), as her sister Betty (Betony) only has three legs (that’s another story) and wouldn’t have risked the ice breaking; but even with a garden fork I can only chip a corner away, enough to get water for the poultry anyhow.   The cats live at the field, rather than in the house, and are supposed to support themselves, they are possibly the fattest farm cats in existence, I just can’t work out why they are so round.  In the winter months though, we supplement a dwindling diet … reward for all their help through spring and summer … sitting on my lap when I’m weeding and flattening all the new seedlings as they come up!

Not so many eggs from the chooks at this time of the year, but one or two are enormous – good work girls. The ducks, Indian Runners, are hiding as per usual, three of them  already in the duck house, the others engage in their usual comedy act, disappearing into the long grass only to pop their long necks up like periscopes and run one after the other like a demented conga!

They head  hopefully for the gate, and when I call they scuttle off, it is, afterall, an ancient ritual; I dump the watering-can near the entrance, then walk round the back of the duck house, and as I do, they run back in on the other side, quacking loudly, a complaint no doubt at being kept waiting for dinner!

As I look at my herd of Soay & Hebridean sheep, and the sun starts to properly set, I think, life gets so busy we forget how wonderful and beautiful our home and its surroundings are. Make a mental note to stop and stare a little more, to breathe deep and try not to complain about frozen water butts and the lack of eggs, because it is all a bit of a miracle, this incredible corner of Scotland where I have made my home.