Reuse, repurpose, refurbish…

I’ve been on eBay whilst laid up these last few weeks, looking for furniture for the new house.

It’s very tempting to buy new, but as we don’t know the final cost for the build yet (and it never, ever comes in under budget) I thought it best to be prudent. I also like the idea of repurposing or refurbishing pre-owned furniture.

Ercol is a manufacturer of classic furniture that is extremely well made and is going through a bit of a renaissance at the moment with the popularity of Scandinavian and mid-century style. To buy new would cost many thousands of pounds.

I’ve purchased a couple of pre-owned sofas and armchairs for a song and am now looking at options for recovering and refurbishing them. The frames have a lifetime guarantee, so I suspect once I’ve got them refreshed with good quality linen upholstery they’ll be good for another few decades.

The chairs arrived this morning. They look a bit sad at the moment with their musty, worn, faded floral fabric, but I have to see past that. The frames are solid and in great condition.

I have these in mind for a cosy reading corner next to the wood burner in front of the big lounge windows. One each for Hugh and I for many hours of lounging with feet up, good books and maybe a wee dram.

Christmas Mojo

As the days tick around to the final approach to Christmas, it’s been a slow burn this year in starting to feel the usual joy for the season.

This has been mainly down to health, having undergone a knee replacement operation a few weeks ago and now living the prospect of a long, slow slog back to pain-free existence. It’s been a tough few weeks.

I know that the operation was necessary to allow me to live a full, active life on the croft, and I embrace and am thankful for the opportunity to do that.

By now I’ve usually baked a Christmas cake, the Christmas pudding, put up a tree and am onto an annoying Spotify loop of Christmas carols. I haven’t felt like doing any of this so far this year.

As we enter the final few days before Christmas, I’ve rallied a bit. Tradition holds strong, and in the end I couldn’t envision a Christmas without some of these things.

So we’ve decorated the bay tree on the balcony, lit some candles, and bought presents. The fridge is full, and the annual charitable donations have been made. We’ve got new books to thumb through over the break in preparation for our new life, and each page promises new knowledge. Family arrives tomorrow, which is really what it’s all about.

This will be our last Christmas in London and we will make the best of it. Skye beckons next year, and we simply can’t wait, but every day is precious and living in the now is important. This year is about using our waiting time fruitfully, but it’s also about enjoying the company of family, and relaxing into the seasonal embrace of Christmas.

Wishing you all a warm, relaxed and happy festive break and a wonderful New Year, wherever you are reading this from.

Christmas Mojo is being wrestled back on as we speak 😘.

Wilding, the book

Wilding, by Isabella Tree, is a book based on an experimental re-wilding of a 3,500 acre farm in West Sussex.

Forced to accept that the intensive farming of the heavy clay soils of their farm at Knepp was driving it close to bankruptcy, they handed the farm back to nature.

The results in terms of biodiversity, soil fertility and increased wildlife have been nothing short of astonishing.

This is a pioneering book describing a brave and far-reaching experiment. If we can achieve these results on a piece of intensively farmed, chemically fertilised, biologically sterile land situated under the flight path at Gatwick, with time and patience we can achieve them anywhere.

Books like this provide inspiration and reinforcement of the thought that given half a chance, nature will fight back and thrive.

What we do to our little six acre pocket of land on Skye will be much less impactful than the 3,500 acres at Knepp, and the soil, weather and environmental challenges will be very different, but to the local area of Sleat it will be just as important.

So many ideas and plans. We can’t wait to start.

On the Crofters Trail

On the reading pile this weekend (between flooring catalogues and kitchen cabinet fittings) is this poignant read.

Written by David Craig and originally published in 1990, this is now out of print and was a purchase from a second-hand bookseller.

It contains interviews with the descendants of those cleared from the Highlands and Islands who settled in Novia Scotia.

Some have letters from the period describing the atrocities in faded but visceral detail. Some have tales passed down through three generations from their great, great grandparents and recount them in detail.

There’s is something incredibly real and intimate about a book that contains a reference directly to the croft or township that you live in. For me it creates a tangible link back through time.

I look over the ancient but still visible lazy beds on the moor above the croft and feel a real link to the lives of those who wrestled them from the soil.

Winter dreaming

Working for a Publishing House means that I’m privileged to be surrounded by books of every kind in my normal day.

Books have always been a huge and important part of my life, and husband and I probably have a collection of many thousands between us, which we are going to have to prune out to more manageable levels before we move to the croft.

Having said that, there are some classics that I’d never part with. I fell in love with the River Cottage handbook set many years ago. I’m a sucker for a well bound hardback, and these little books in their sturdy covers are just the right size for a small shelf in the corner of the kitchen or to pop in your pocket on a walk through the countryside.

Covering everything from shoreline foraging to home brew, cheese making and jams, they’re a great entry level into each of these worlds, leading on to more specialist reading for any specific area of interest.

I’m looking forward to having the time and space over the winter months on the Croft to curl up by the wood burner and plan and dream with these old friends.

After all, as Neil Gaiman said, “A book is a dream that you hold in your hands”.

So true.