That sounds more scholarly than I mean. Crofting itself grew out of the need to maintain some population on Highland farms after the much-hated “clearances”. I do mean early influences on why I have been interested in small scale farming most of my life.
“All Creatures Great and Small” – It was set in pre-war Yorkshire, and continued into the later years of a country vet’s family life and practice. The scenery was wild and beautiful, the farms snug in dales and on hillsides.
Who wouldn’t want that kind of life? Oh, yes, many people. The thought of being isolated in rural Yorkshire, with no neighbours in sight, a narrow, stonewalled road to travel in bad weather, houses with no central heat and drafty old cow byres for a work environment – most people would flee on the next train, on foot if necessary.
I thought of “All Creatures Great and Small” tonight as I made supper. The rain was pelting down in sheets on the icy, snow-covered fields, the trees along the river bank whipped by the wind. It was grey, and lonely. A small red car passed on the road above us, the only one I had seen in more than an hour. I was thankful to be inside where it is warm. While I miss having farm animals, this was one evening I was really glad I didn’t have to pull on a coat and boots and make my way to the barn for milking.
When I lived across the river and up the mountain beside the church, I was a lot more like young James the vet. I got called out in all weather, at any time. Roads were often icy and treacherous. I once slid down Klokledahl Hill sideways in my old Ford truck. That was the evening I decided that the next truck would have four wheel drive. I lived alone; I had animals that demanded feeding in all weather; I had a job that included emergency calls in the middle of the night. I never said, as I crept through a snow storm, making my way home from a hospital at three in the morning, that I regretted my choice.
Now we have moved to the other side of that equation. We are the ones snug in the warm farmhouse, perhaps waiting for someone to come help. It doesn’t happen often; I have always managed emergency deliveries of lambs by myself, and when I have called a vet, he was too late to save the ewe. But we have had a priest visit this year, and we will again. Now that we will have the woodstove, I expect that an hour by the fire, drinking tea and eating carrot cake, would be appealing to a priest (or vet) out on rural calls.
I did love the farmhouse scenes in “All Creatures.” Many of them had the old fireplace as well as the iron cookstove, a handpump, a churn, a huge table, lots of iron, copper and enamelled cookware and a big Brown Betty teapot, kept warm on the hob or the back of the stove. Young James was always getting served plates of sausage and potato, or seed cake and buns. He boasted of his farm-raised wife’s incredible cooking and baking skills. My hope is that my farmhouse kitchen will be as inviting and as comfortable.