The Softer Crofter – In fine condition for spring

Over-conditioned? Surely not.

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Well, this farming malarkey is an education.

This week my husband caught me, yet again, in the woods with our three pigs, not just for cuddles and a bit of welly-nibbling, but for some totally unnecessary grooming. I had worked out that their boisterous shoving, leaning and squealing could be immediately calmed in one single stroke.

As soon as I begin to brush their tufty backs with the comb intended for Highlander hairdressing they fall silent and even stretch out flat at my feet, eyes closed, snouts twitching in delight.

It was at this point that the farmer/husband taught me some new vocabulary.

‘That one on your feet; she’s verging on being over-conditioned.’

‘What, Splodge?’ I replied, looking at the young pig cutting off the circulation to my ankles, ‘she’s too conditioned?’

Yup, it turns out that one of our girls is getting a bit porky and is now on reduced rations until she’s as lean and trim as her sisters, but personally I’m delighted with this new terminology and I intend to adopt the concept myself.

With foreign holidays having been given the Covid kybosh there will be no need this year to swap my crofting attire of hats, hoodies and leggings for anything approaching beachwear, so the threat of over-conditioning this summer brings no fear.

Nevertheless, a bounty of nourishment to get us all in top condition is already budding in our cosy, if slightly smelly, Polycrub.

The husband has discovered skills and muscles previously well hidden.

He has dug out and shifted tonnes of soil, manure and compost to create the perfect base for a load of veg, but he’s also now quite the craftsman.

Inside the Polycrub, he’s built perfect little walls and raised beds from scraps of wood to keep everything tidy and efficient. It’s not going to win Grand Designs 2021, but it’s an impressive feat from a guy who’s never put up a shelf.

In neat little rows we have garlic and onions; early potatoes and carrots; asparagus and courgettes; peas and tomatoes; mint and strawberries and all sorts of salad. In one corner there’s a wee cherry tree, in another a thriving lemon tree. Hanging baskets await the arrival of new strawberry varieties and the back wall is poised to be completely festooned in vines and raspberry canes very soon.

The bulk of our seeds, bulbs and seedlings have been sourced locally, the more exotic stuff from a bit further afield, including yesterday’s new arrival.

Trays-full of baby wasabia japonica plants made their way to us from Dorset, but were soon comfortably ensconced in their new Argyll home.

I confess that these versatile brassicas would be more commonly found on riverbanks high in the Japanese mountains rather than on the windswept Scottish west coast, but they might just work.

Their accompanying leaflet tells me the leaves are lovely in a salad, the stem is an excellent stirrer for a Bloody Mary and the famously nippy rhizome can be distilled to make a very punchy vodka. Sounds like the perfect recipe for peak conditioning. And if we get a bumper crop?

Well, there are worse years to find oneself slightly over-conditioned…