The softer crofter – a land of sustainability

The sheep enjoy fresh spring grass.

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The thermometer read minus two this morning.

But the sun is strong now and unfettered by any clouds. Our pretty Highlander girls have lost all interest in us now that the grass and rashes are a vivid, succulent green. They graze far and wide, ignoring their hay ring breakfast bar where they jostled and queued all winter.

The sheep roam around the cattle’s hairy feet, no longer mooching for scraps from their breakfast table. So, it’s an easier morning round for us crofters with only the daft pigs to feed, who long ago foraged every root, acorn and pine-cone from their sizeable woodland.

Their little forest is perfectly, porcinely ploughed, but they must still be finding some nourishment there as they seem less frantic at feeding-time, pausing their grubbling and guzzling for the occasional scratch and cuddle.

The let-up in winter feeding has allowed much-needed attention to be given to the now stuffed-full Polycrub where every speck of soil, every hanging beam has been usefully employed in the mission to feed the family entirely from its harvest.

Raspberry canes, lemon, orange and cherry trees should keep rickets at bay, while the plethora of weird and wonderful varieties of carrots, potatoes, asparagus, and squashes will nourish us throughout the season and beyond.

Our newbie attempts to live off the land mirror the much more experienced efforts of families throughout the length and breadth of this peninsula and in the village beyond. Thanks to those techie neighbours who set up email networks and social media groups there is a fantastic bank of information and expertise shared locally.

Whether you want to learn how to plant oak trees, acquire foraging skills or find out how to run your home on renewable energy, somebody local has been there, done it and is happy to point you in the right direction.

Over the last few months this valuable mine of knowledge and enthusiasm for environmental projects has been formalised into the Tayvallich Sustainability Plan, a platform for sharing information and taking action to create a more sustainable community.

The plan has grown organically from a pilot scheme run through the winter months with Keep Scotland Beautiful to a website, action plan and monthly activities.

Open to everyone with an interest in achieving a healthy, sustainable future for the village and its surroundings, the plan will work on the whole gambit: from food growing to flood mitigation; foraging to forestry and heat pumps to bike pumps – a new cycle repair work-stand has been installed outside the village shop.

Joining the online meetings throughout the winter, I was amazed to see not just the number of locals involved, but also the extraordinary talents and interests they share.

We only entrenched ourselves full time on this wild wee bit of Argyll a month or two before lockdown so we’re not well-kent faces and, likewise, the faces of many villagers I’ve only ever seen strangely pixellated thanks to my dodgy connection to the Zoom meetings.

Hopefully the same is true for wifi throughout the area and that my, now ubiquitous, Zoom-accompanying glass of wine has stayed safely out of shot.