Good morning my darling Fellowship, today we are off to Scotland to see Christine and wander about her wee farm.  She and her husband have  created a most amazing property plus a Bed and Breakfast if you are inclined to visit.  Most especially you may remember she painted a beautiful picture of Big Dog that hangs on our living room wall. Our John is deeply eternally grateful for that painting. Over to you Christine – 

Years ago, in our former life in England, if there was gloomy news on TV or if my husband, Kevin, came home with tales of woe from work, we used to have a saying, “What we need, is a croft in Scotland”. So, twelve years ago, almost to the week, when our two boys were on the verge of embarking on their own independent lives, we made the move. Although not a croft, because even though such a thing is only a small scale farm, it probably wouldn’t have been small scale enough for our non-existent agricultural abilities!

Our search finally led us to Garybuie (Yellow Garden), a traditionally built Highland home, conveniently sitting on about one third of an acre of land on the Isle of Skye, off the West coast of Scotland. It was certainly big enough for half a dozen hens and a few vegetables, which was my only ambition at the time. The garden, yellow or otherwise, was completely swamped by un-pruned trees and rampant raspberries. The house itself had been run as a Bed and Breakfast, a route which we had no intention of following. There was a modern extension however, perfect for a self-catering apartment, so our first tasks were ready and waiting; clear the garden and revamp the extension.A lot to tackle (1)

We opened for business at Easter, bought six laying hens plus a coop and planted two rows of carrots! That particular Easter, Skye had the best of the weather within the U.K. and everyone and his dog descended on an island with not enough beds. And that was how our B and B was established; taking in two weary, bed-less travellers with their one-year-old baby. ‘Baptism by Frying-Pan’, as our neighbour referred to it!Seeing the light! (1)

We soon realised that we were in an environment that could provide us with food of a very special kind; that special, un-processed kind; the no additives kind. There were sheep and cattle all around us; red deer, fish and as Garybuie sits in the bottom of the glen, the soil is deep and rich, perfect for vegetables and the soft fruit that Scotland is famous for.

So, the development of our small, small holding began. We were already enjoying our fresh eggs but our own roast chicken sounded tempting, so a cockerel was presented to the ladies. Although the earth was good, it needed some serious turning over and what better way to achieve that but pigs! A wee house was built along with some hopefully, sturdy fences, ready for the arrival of our first two, eight-week-old pigs from a neighbour; Gloucester Old Spot/Wild Boar cross.skye-5

Of course we were thoroughly charmed by their characters and antics, but even more charmed by the beautiful pork which they provided for us! After slaughter, we were determined to have a go at butchering them ourselves. Nine and a half hours later (!), the freezer was full and the following day we made our own brawn, sausages and put the legs and bellies to cure. We’d never tasted ham like it!

Of course by then we had the bug! The following year we bought three weaners from our neighbour; two gilts and one boar; the boar for meat, the gilts for breeding – Effie and Flora. We needed more land and so rented a patch from our neighbouring crofter, carefully reading suitable literature on how to construct a sturdy home for the girls. We were quite proud of Piggy Palace! We bred pigs for two years, borrowing Boris the Boar from a few miles away to do the honours. We found it too expensive though, two sows take a lot of feeding year round and we only had limited space. We’d reared pigs in some shape or form for five years and within this time we’d branched out in our poultry pursuits, investing in Aylesbury ducks and a pair of Muscovies. So we down-sized; everything was moved back within Garybuie’s footprint, including the dismantling of Piggy Palace which was recycled to become the new duck house. With open fields surrounding us, there’s no shortage of space for our birds to forage.skye

By then we had a good sized, productive vegetable plot, a polytunnel for growing the more tender plants, plenty of raspberry canes, blackcurrant bushes and we were incubating our hen eggs for a supply of table birds. We had also purchased a wee building next to Garybuie, an old church, which was perfect for brooding our young birds, both chicks and Aylesbury ducklings. The Muscovies managed perfectly well by themselves!

By this point the B and B was really taking off so I gave up my part-time job so that I could devote my time to all things Garybuie. Three years ago, dad came to live with us and so we gave up the self-catering apartment for his needs, concentrating on the B and B. Other fairly recent new additions to the place are Silkie bantams to help with incubation, three more Muscovies and ten guinea fowl. We are currently making preparations for the breeding of Quail, small birds for our small, small holding! We plan to sell both meat and eggs to local restaurants.

Out of necessity, we have learned many new skills and have thoroughly enjoyed the journey. Kevin still works to provide year-round income as the B and B is seasonal. During the season, there’s a lot of work; satisfying though, not stressful. We can feed ourselves for most of the year with the veg that we grow and eat chicken that tastes how it used to. In the past we’ve exchanged pigs/ham and latterly chicken and duck, for lamb which has grazed right here in the glen. The weather can be challenging, particularly in winter but when the sun shines, the island transforms into a breathtakingly beautiful place. We’ve shared Garybuie with hundreds of visitors from all over the world. We are very lucky.

Thank you for inviting me Cecilia.


92 Comments on “Garybuie

  1. Pingback: Garybuie heads west | Garybuie's Blog

  2. They just get better and better. That was indeed a wonderful tale of determination and endurance..You have truly embraced the good clean air and the adventure of Scotland…and got away from the rat race…. Great pics and a great story..Thank you so much Christine for taking the time to sit down and to write this..we are all highly honoured

    • We certainly have a wonderful life here; hard but very rewarding. A big decision to take but one we’re so glad that we did!

  3. Lovely! You live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, and you walk lightly on it. I know how much hard work trying to raise and grow your own food can be; like you, I found butchering to be long, hard and extremely messy work, but the resulting meat was outstanding. Sadly I’ve had to give up that life, but I still look back fondly, and now I can enjoy your vicariously!

    • I’m glad that there’s someone else who found butchering to be a challenge but I agree, the results were worth it.

    • Aren’t they just! That was Effie’s first litter – twelve in all! She was a wonderful mother but a mean old sow!

      • Another of nature’s lessons. Being a good mother doesn’t mean your nice to everyone else, does it? I envy you all that live amongst such animals. Until I make such a leap myself I’ll soak it up vicariously. I have been wanting to plan a trip to Scotland for some time…how far are you from Edinburgh and is there good fishing nearby?

        • We’re about a five and a half hour drive from Edinburgh. The river in the glen is a salmon river and there are two wee lochs in the hills behind us which hold brown trout. We can also point you in the direction of some good sea fishing spots too!

  4. Thank you for the marvellous history from a courageous couple. I know how hard the weather can be on Skye, so am very impressed with your achievements. In 1996 we took four French friends on a b&b tour of the West Highlands, including a stay on Skye on Skye in a small farm which sounds just like yours, and another on Mull. It gave us (and our friends) some very happy memories.

    Bonne chance for the evolution of the Yellow Garden.

    • I hope that the weather was just a wee bit kind to you during your stay. Sometimes we feel so sorry for our guests if they have a few days of mist when none of the scenery reveals itself! (It often does on the day that they leave!) When living here however, the weather can dreadful for weeks if it likes because we’ll still be here when finally the sun shines!

        • Ah, the midge! We’ve learned how to avoid them now, either that or donning our delightfully attractive net suits when working in the garden! The suits are great with their integral hoods but can scare the bejeezus out of any unsuspecting visitors!

                • No, a midget is a small person! But seriously a midge isn’t a mosquito; it’s much smaller but in greater numbers. They do bite, but they’re more of an annoyance, tickling your face, ears, nose and anything else which is sticking out! Their bite isn’t bad unless you’re allergic; just itchy. They can be avoided though; they don’t like bright sunshine, heavy rain or anything above a slight breeze. Dull/shaded, still conditions are their favourite – so you can see why they’re common in Scotland! They’re not around all year though.

    • Glad you enjoyed it! Just click onto my gravatar and the link is there. Look forward to ‘seeing’ you there maybe!

  5. What a wonderful story and photos. The Isle of Skye is on my bucket list. Goose and duck are high on my favorite food list. My absolute favorite is duck confit. Thank you for sharing .

    • Duck confit is a regular here Gerlinde. Glad that Skye is ‘in your bucket’! You’d like it in the glen I think, my neighbour who takes care of our animals whilst we’re away is also a Gerlinde!

  6. I have been to Scotland but never to the Isle of Skye, which is still a dream. Now I have a place to stay! Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your life with us, Christine.

  7. What a lovely story Christine, you are living the dream. Your little farm sounds wonderful and if we’re ever up that way, we’ll definitely book a night at your charming B&B.

  8. Oh my, what a lovely break from deepest winter here in Ontario! Thank-you, Christine. My mother is a MacLeod. When we first visited the UK forty years ago, Skye and the ancestral castle were high on the list of places to visit. It was wonderful. I’d love to go back to your island.😄

    • Quite a few of our visitors are from some part of Canada, most of them looking up their Scottish ancestry. we enjoy being able to help out.

  9. Away from the rat race, it sounds so idyllic, thank you for a glimpse into your wonderful life. We are trying to get to Scotland, the furthest north we have managed to get to so far is Whitby in Yorkshire, beautiful. But Skye is on our bucket list, and your B and B hopefully x

    • Indeed, Whitby is a lovely place – all that coastal area in fact. Quite a bit further to Skye, but we would be happy to take care of you here at Garybuie!

  10. I’m a regular visitor to Garybuie (blog only sadly), and I’m sad I never got to Skye when I visited Scotland. My maternal Grandmother was a Wallace 🙂 Loved chatting to you on the Farmy today. Laura

  11. Hello Laura, nice to see you in a different part of the world! A Wallace Eh? Not too many of those on Skye. Did you visit the Wallace monument during your visit?

    • No unfortunately not. We were visiting friends in Aberdeen and Glasgow only 😦 Laura

      • Oh, that’s a shame, it’s quite impressive. So is the sword of William Wallace which resides there; probably taller than Mel Gibson actually!

  12. So exciting to see your Gloucester Old Spot pigs! With part wild boar too! We have GOS pigs too! And you are so right, they provide the most delicious pork ever! We embarked on our own butchering for the first time this year! Very labor intensive, that’s for sure! But so worth it! And of course the cured and smoked ham and bacon! Out of this world!!! You certainly do have your own piece of paradise! Thank you for sharing!!!

    • The pig years were certainly good ones. Effie, as you can see, had the Old Spot colouration. Flora on the other hand had the wild boar colouration. Interestingly, they had the reverse personality traits; Flora the gentle Old Spot, Effie the more crochety wild boar!

    • Yes, they were great! It was the first time that we’d watched piglets being born and couldn’t believe how the birth sack just peeled away en route to mum’s teat; a bit like the James Bond thing, peeling off a wet suit to reveal a pristine Tux!!

      • Ha ha – I bet that works better in real life on the pigs! If Disney did a cartoon about piglets like that there would be a national craze for pig pets 🙂

  13. So lovely and so nice to get a peek into your life! Thank you for this Christine. I live part time in OXON but very rarely make it into Scotland, and we should as Robert is Scots and I’d love to learn more about his heritage. In OXON there is the Oxfordshire sandy and black; a most charming pig, and, in my next life, that’s the one I want to raise…although I’m afraid it would well and truly turn out to be a pet rather than food. Off now to learn more about you and your yellow garden. 😀

    • I’ve never heard of the Oxfordshire Sandy – what a lovely name. Your husband must be the only Scot who hasn’t returned to seek out his roots!

  14. Really enjoyed learning about your little farm Christine. I introduced chickens onto mine last summer. Now I am thinking of introducing a rooster as well and trying to produce some birds for the table. The pigs are beautiful…love the spots!

    • The flavour of the meat is well worth it; how chicken used to taste!

  15. So pleased to read about your adventures here Christine. Can’t wait to hear more about the quail in the coming months on your blog. We are planning on getting some GOS crosses and then some Oxford Sandy and Blacks this year – not sure we are ready to breed pigs yet – got the sheep to cope with first! take care Claire x

    • You won’t be able to resist Claire! Your campers will certainly be entertained by your porcine additions; ours used to get lots of ear-scratching by our guests!

    • It’s amazing Jean how many of our continental visitors, who now live in the U.K, find it unbelievable that you can’t buy an older cock bird for slow cooking!

  16. What a great deal of courage you and your husband had to make such an extraordinary leap to such a different way of life! All that work and you both had off the farm jobs to boot. Amazing! Youve made such a success of it! Thank you for such an interesting guest blog.

    • It was a leap but honestly, if you’re prepared to work at it and be ADAPTABLE, it can be a heavenly leap! Oh, and you haven’t got to mind being without city shopping/entertainments!

    • Lordy, Lordy! How do you find the time to answer so many comments most days? I’m not used to this on my wee blog, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed ‘chatting’ to the Farmy’s Fellowship!

  17. Lovely tale of your adventure in Skye. I have been to Scotland many times down the years, but Skye is still yet to be discovered. One of these days…..!

  18. Lovely post, Christine! It brought back wonderful memories of a 2 week colloquium in the West Highlands I attended in August, 1995, studying standing stones. We were based in Oban and spent every day exploring the islands of Skye, Mull and Iona. The weather was perfect, even a bit too hot for many! Thank you!

  19. Do you know, I’ve a feeling that was the year when we took our one and only holiday in Scotland. We were camping and had THREE WEEKS of solid sunshine and yes, it was too hot for anything but swimming in the sea! Maybe you’ll get to visit Orkney and all its archaeology one day. (But don’t expect the sun!)

    • Yes, I knew it was unusual because we saw people clustered in the main squares talking about the terrible heat and the danger of sunburn. It reached the low 30’s! But it was all so gorgeous that, having read up on the history of the highland clan territorial disputes, I couldn’t help but say, ‘I’d probably shed blood for this land, too.’

      I’d love to visit Orkney one day, descended as I am from some of its Norse invaders/settlers. One of the advantages of being an American mongrel is that I can claim roots to nearly every European country plus the native Cherokee tribe.

      You are so kind to try to answer all of us Farmy Fellowship posters and I think we can all see that your blog followers are going to quadruple – or more – very quickly! Be sure you find a way to defend your time or your days will evaporate before you know it.

      Thanks again for a delightful and evocative guest post!

      Mary McKinley

      • Have you read DNA USA? I’ve recently finished it. It’s by Professor Brian Sykes who has written several books on ancestral genetics. Being an American Mongrel, I think that you’d really enjoy it!

  20. Oh my, what a wonderful journey! And how lovely to be able to share this with people. We dont eat our chickens but the eggs are quite delicious .. Super post 😃

    • There’s nothing nicer than a home produced egg – with soldiers!

  21. That was wonderful. I enjoyed being transported to the Skye. My husband is of Scottish descent. We’re Outlander fans too, which as well as people tracking their ancestry, you possibly see a few of as well! If only I could get him on a plane, we’d be there!

    • Not so many Outlander fans step over our doorstep – catch that plane and maybe you could be one of them!

  22. I have never been but have heard that Scotland is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Thank you for sharing.

  23. Leaving the familiarity of your life in England to move to the wilds of Sky was a huge step, but it sounds like you found your niche and are loving it! I envy you although I realize that it must be hard work, but worth it.
    I am from Scotland myself, a little town called Peebles, near Edinburgh. I emigrated to Australia many years ago but still miss my roots and my family. Scotland is the kind of place that gets under your skin, it’s wild beauty is breathtaking.
    I will be following you now (thanks to Celi), as I am eager to see how your journey progresses up in bonnie Skye!

    • I know of Peebles although we’ve never visited. We’ll put it on out list as we are gradually trying to visit most of Scotland, each place is so different; governed by the geology I don’t doubt.

  24. ‘ Though the waves leap so soft shall ye sleep
    Ocean’s a royal bed . . .’

    Did not expect to be waltzing to the Skye Boat Song this Australian summer morning 🙂 ! What a wonderful, happy story about The Isle of Skye which I also have yet to visit . . . and, yes, it has forever been on the socalled bucket list! Love the way your life has developed there and those great ‘family’ photos! Thank you for the telling and all the best . . . and I remember your painting for Celi: such a true likeness!

    • We get quite a lot of Australian visitors, most of them ex Brits of course, visiting family and/or old haunts.

  25. Although Kincardineshire, Angus area is my ancestral home (specifically Dunnottar Castle, so yeah, a while back), i have found the whole of Scotland to be simply stunning. My boys and i spent a month last fall enjoying Shetland, Orkney, Caithness, Inverness area, then a few nights in Forfar, visiting an Aberdeen-Angus breeder there, and of course a few days in the biggest small town in the world, Edinburgh. Hope to get back over in 2017 – Isle of Skye is on the itinerary! Thank you for sharing your story!

  26. What a wonderful success story, from the first big leap to the fine-tuning over the years to accommodate your needs. Those Dalmatian-spotted piglets are adorable! It’s nice to meet you, thanks for sharing your story.

  27. Having just come back from a long weekend in skye yesterday -its beatiful with the variety of weather and amazing scenery! (Writing my blog post now!) Found an artist friend on there too (we both went to school in london area) who I havent seen in 15years! Its a small world really! Cant wait to go back and visit! 🙂

  28. Quail will be interesting. We had two breeding pigs but found they just had too many piglets! Twelve (or more) four times a year was an awful lot of pork to eat or sell.

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