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A change of scenery
AS we bump down the track from our friend’s Highland home, I pondered the difference in lifestyles that c an be experienced in this country of ours.
Nick and Carolyn’s home is set among hills and woods; idyllic now but over winter harsh. They can easily be cut off from the outside world by heavy snowfalls, but come the spring, late in this part of the world, it would be difficult to find a better place to live. That is if you relish a self sufficient lifestyle. Our friends do.
During the summer Nick chainsaws branches from fallen trees in his forestry area to fuel the wood burners that provide the central heating and cooking facilities. Solar panels sustain any demands for extra power and polytunnels house tomatoes, grapes, raspberries, strawberries, sweetcorn, garlic, onions, cabbage, runner beans, mangetout, potatoes and more. Practically the only vegetable growing outside is an asparagus kale, delicious with butter, that I have never eaten anywhere else. The plants are carefully guarded from marauding deer by an eight-foot fence and it was one of these marauders that we dined on last night.
From the house window we spied on siskins and woodpeckers at the bird table. And, amazingly, a red squirrel. Red squirrels? “We’ve about 60 on the estate,” said Nick. “We have waged an unrelenting war on the greys and as a result, the reds have returned.” Real Squirrel Nutkin ones.
The other speciality of the estate is an osprey nest. The resident pair have been tracked as they go from the Highlands to over-winter in Gambia. The pair return at the start of April and immediately start to lay. By the start of the second week they have four eggs in the nest and then start sitting. A process that takes them into May.
“But we have had a dreadfully wet spring,” said Nick. “By now the chicks should be hatched and being fed, but we are fairly convinced the chicks have perished in the cold and wet because the pair are just flying around without a purpose.”
Sadly, the birds only have the one shot at rearing their chicks as there will not be time to raise another brood before they set off back for Africa in early August.
Back at the farm, friends are house and dog sitting. My brother-in-law Geoff is taking care of stock. It does mean a frantic amount of house clearing up before we leave and blasting the various alien life forms in the fridge into infinity.
At this very minute I am sat in the car, courtesy of Bluetooth technology, 3G and iPad, typing this article. How cool is that? My office view is an endless vista of mountains and a fairytale castle coming up on our right. Emails from our friends tell me that one of my broody bantams is just hatching off her eggs, the calves have been fed, the sheep are fine, cows well and dogs being ruined. I could take to this lifestyle on a regular basis.