Introducing Jonathon. He and Denise live in the Outer Hebrides.
In their own words: (nicked from their blog).
We live and work from our home at the southern tip of the Isle of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides – an archipelego at the Atlantic edge of Scotland. We live in an 18thC high-walled kitchen garden set beside the sea, where we grow most of our own food, spin weave and dye wool. We have a croft on the smaller neighbouring island of Eriskay (the two islands are connected by causeway), where we keep the native black Hebridean sheep, and flocks of geese and chickens
Now over to Johnathon –
Vive la difference!
Take your local country medical practice. There’s a lot more to it than prodding and prescribing. The doctoring is what it’s about, of course, but round and about the doctoring there’s a great deal else going on there besides! And farming? Well, we too have paperwork – but there’s so much more than administration that differentiates farming from agriculture.
There’d be no dog without the farm. And no walks on the beach – we’d live in town and have jobs. There’s so much more to farming than agriculture!
Feeding the pigs is agriculture – and so too is reading up on nutritional needs and calling suppliers for information on products and prices. But what about the county show where you get introduced to a breeder from a neighbouring county? You bump into them again by chance on a weekend break in the big city, and spend some time together over a drink or two … and later that summer you get a call offering you first pick of their new litter of pedigree piggies. Well, that’s not agriculture – but it is farming. It’s the farming life.
Piggy on the Parquet: It’s a farming life, Jim, but not as some know it.
The storm that strikes down your hay? That’s agriculture, isn’t it? Alas, yes. So too is checking the Met Office website at least once a day – and planning ahead for the weather that’s forecast. No argument there, surely! But the ritual silence around the breakfast table as the forecast comes over
the radio? And how about that same instinctive reaction whenever the subconscious detects the utterence of meteorological terminology, in the supermarket, at the local bar, even away on holiday? That’s not agriculture. That’s farming. It’s the farming life!
In most countries, farm diversification is officially encouraged. Especially for those farms marginalized by industrial agriculture: Traditional family hill farms, smallholdings, Hebridean crofts. Add holiday lettings, and you’ve added value to your farm – and your farming. Add a microbrewery,
turning imperfect pears into perry perfection, and the reputation of your pears is enhanced, and the value your farming is increased. Go organic, and add Woofers to your workers, and your land, your agriculture, and your farming life, they all acquire value(s) that can’t be added to any
Self-catering guests? Natural dyeing students? Sheep wool customers? Friends from overseas? All of the above! And all part of what it is to be a 21stC Hebridean Crofter!
Sure, blog about the weather. Let’s see photos of those saucy pigs. Yep, we’ll celebrate with you when the bull gets a rosette, or the grain’s come in dry enough to go straight to the silo. But why not let your blog wander a little further afield: let’s hear a word or two from ‘him outdoors’, or share
your frustrations over dwindling ground water, or how inspired you were, away on holiday, by how the locals protect their grape vines from the incessant wind – and couldn’t you do something similar for your runrig allotment out on the machair? Every farm has a cast of characters, from heroes to villains, and leading ladies to hovering-in-the wings: let’s hear from them all, according to their parts!
No, farming is not the same as agriculture – there’s a distance between the two things. How far? In what ways? How is one prairie farm distinguished from its neighbour? Why does a Pennine sheep farmer prosper when his own cousin further up the dale does not? What makes each of us interested
enough to follow each others’ blogs? (And by follow, I mean read, mark and inwardly digest.) That distance, those differences. They’re what make life interesting, worth living, make it worth the striving and the struggles. There’s distance and difference between your place and those of others
that go to make you who you are. But the greater distance, the more meaningful difference, is that which you make for yourself, and which you put – not between you and others – but which brings
you and all of us together.
So, let’s raise a glass of home-made (ours is rosehip and blackcurrant – and yours?) for the farming life! Vive la difference!
As the winter storm at last gave way to weak sunshine, this blackbird appeared on the high garden wall, singing to itself, barely audibly.
A portent of winter’s end.
Johnathon and Denise blog at – The Big Garden and Croft