The Softer Crofter – Biblical rain and porcine playing

Want to read more?

We value our content, so access to our full site is only available on subscription.

Your subscription entitles you to 7-day-a-week access to our website, plus a full digital copy of that week’s paper to read on your pc/mac or mobile device.

And there’s more – your subscription includes access to digital archive copies from 2006 onwards.

Already a subscriber?
Problems logging in and require
technical support? Click here
Subscribe Now

By Fiona Ross

For days now we’ve been hanging off the edge of the world, the house holding tight to the whin-strewn crag behind.

Gale-force winds and biblical quantities of rain have battered the croft and a thick, murky sky has wiped our neighbouring islands completely off the map.

The MacCormaig Isles and Jura are no more. All that’s left to see from the kitchen window are our hardy flock and our three heilan’ lassies coorying together behind the woods, cosy and out the path of the hoolie that’s being blowing all week.

The pigs, however, are entirely unperturbed in their thick little woodland; the wind whipping up their dafter side.

The three of them have concocted their own tournament of snoutball, flinging their orange drinking buckets between the trees, catching them and passing them to and fro other like a porcine Partick Thistle.

They’re cute and they’re clever and I’m increasingly aware it’s my fondness for them that’s not clever. But we’re rearing all the beasts here with care and affection so I see no harm in enjoying their company for as long as they’re sharing our home.

Also resident here on the croft is a melting-pot of deer – a cheeky roebuck who munches the herbs around our door; a sika mum who’s rearing her three wee ones down by the pond and eight hearty red deer who feast on last year’s sprout stalks and withered kale.

The wildlife and the wild weather are what defines this beautiful slice of Scotland, but they add a challenging twist to our arable endeavours.

Our scrappy wee fruit trees were lashed by salty storms last year and yielded one solitary apple that was donated in slices to the calves. The girls were delighted with this meagre windfall, but it would be nice to offer them a more constant supply and, perhaps, nourish the indoor inhabitants with more fruits of our labours.

The harsh weather and the healthy appetites of our resident deer mean some form of protection is needed if we’re going to get our five-a-day this year.

It took just a quick surf of the web a couple of months ago to come up with our answer.

The good parishoners of Northmarvine in Shetland struggle with even harsher climes than us Argyll folk. Their community clings precariously to a skinny isthmus pounded on one side by the Atlantic and on the other by the North Sea.

While Shetlanders can get their fill of fish any day thanks to their thriving aquaculture industry, getting your greens locally isn’t so easy. This fact, and a wee bit joined-up thinking, led the Northmavine folk to come up with a storming idea: a Polycrub –  a gale-proof greenhouse/polytunnel hybrid that repurposes defunct fish-farm gear that would otherwise be sent to landfill.

So, instead of being dumped in a northerly midden, the reclaimed fish-farm bits now form a snug little nursery for our fledgling veggies. It’s an invitingly cosy spot on this windswept croft so solid doors are being added so that it only admits only two-legged types. The shaggier, four-legged lot aren’t on the guest list, but all human visitors will be welcome post-covid. Just bring your own trowel and maybe a wee dram to keep out the cold.


Windswept and interesting – stormy weather on the croft. no_a10SofterCrofter01_Machair

Like a porcine Partick thistle. no_a10SofterCrofter02_PiginWoods