The Softer Crofter – Buckets of ginger mischief

Waiting for her cut and blow- dry - Highland heifer Demi, from Cladich on Loch Awe and now part of the Cille Creag fold.

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By Fiona Ross

It’s two years now since we moved to this wee coastal croft on the edge of Argyll; a homecoming for my husband, whose family hails from these parts, and a wild west adventure for me, a 10th generation Glaswegian.

Slowly we’re putting down roots: carrots and parsnips and beetroot and golden wonders; friendships with neighbours, the wildlife, the postie. We’ve brought incomers too: piglets from Cowal, calves from Loch Awe and a flock of wild blackies from Dana. Together we’ve set up home and embarked on a mission to live off the land.

It’s funny to call something so basic a ‘mission’ as if Tom Cruise were about to somersault through a window with a self-destructing message exploding in his fist. For millennia it was how everyone lived, yet now the idea of denying oneself a breakfast of Peruvian avocado washed down with a Californian almond-milk-latte seems intrepid, if not heroic.

The most heroic thing that happens here on our croft is the odd rugby tackle of a daft ewe trailing half a bramble bush behind her, or brushing one shaggy highland calf when her two pals are desperate for their turn. Our three girls are almost a year old now and on the ridge below our house with the Sound of Jura behind them they look unarguably majestic, but take a closer look and there’s a bucket of mischief in those ginger-fringed eyes.

Take too long preening one young lady and there’ll be four stubby horns threatening the backside of either the groomer or the groomed. The pushiest of these 200-kilo beasties will then ensconce herself in the salon seat, head thrown back, eyes closed while her gorgeous tresses are prettified.

It certainly would be mission impossible if anyone were even to suggest these pampered princesses were plate-bound. Their job is to look pretty and maybe have a wee winch with a handsome local bull when they come of age, but we’re not all veggies here on the croft, so something had to be done.

The meat section is a pretty strip of woodland inhabited by three of the daftest, squeakiest saddleback pigs this side of Glen Croe. They’re known as Small, Medium and Splodge in the vain hope of maintaining a strictly professional relationship. Their main carer has, however, been encouraging them to use her as a playground to be climbed on, bounced on and nibbled. She, our eldest daughter, assures me she will still happily feast on sausages when the time comes.

We’re already enjoying the two lambs and the ewe who made the ultimate sacrifice a couple of weeks ago, so the precedent has been set, but it’s not easy. Easy would be flinging New Zealand chops and Danish bacon into the shopping trolley, but that’s not part of the ‘mission’. We’ll cut back on the almond-lattes and avocado toasts, but will the croft yield Argyll’s finest cocoa and coffee beans – and a mountain of chardonnay grapes? This is my mission and I choose to accept it…

Look out for regular updates on life on the croft, right here in your Argyllshire Advertiser.