Horticulture for crofters

I’ve just received this copy of Horticulture for Crofters, a fabulously useful handbook published by the Scottish Crofting Federation.

I’ve been trying to get my hands on this for months, and so its arrival in the post this week was a cause for much excitement on my part.

It’s an incredibly detailed read on vegetable, fruit and tree production in Scotland, with lots of advice on crop shelter, soil care, crop selection and drainage. There are plenty of examples from growers in the inner and outer Hebrides, many on Skye. Just what we need to provide solid advice on local conditions and challenges.

Not to mention the wonderful illustrations by Chris Tyler, generously scattered through the chapters, which sadly I don’t have the rights to share here.

Bring it on! That’s the next weeks reading sorted.

Whilst the gales lash outside..

On the reading table for consumption this weekend are two books on permaculture and perennial vegetable growing:-

  • The Earth Care Manual – a permaculture manual for Britain and other temperate climates by Patrick Whitefield
  • How to grow perennial vegetables – low maintenance, low impact vegetable gardening by Martin Crawford

The first is a book on permaculture in Britain and other temperate zones. It’s said to be the definitive manual on the practical application of permaculture principles to our islands, written passionately and compellingly by an author who has been an exponent of the permaculture movement since 1990.

As I am a firm believer in permaculture as a movement, I am very much looking forward to this as a read.

The second was inspired by another blogger who posts on perennial vegetables, which sounded like such a wonderful and practical idea that I just had to know more.

Perennial vegetables are those that don’t need replanting annually, but last at least three years in the soil, and in many cases many years more. It contains over 100 perennial vegetables, from the commonplace to some that I have never heard of, with tips on how to source seeds, how to grow them, and recipes for their use.

It looks fascinating, and a quick browse has shown me how many plants I hadn’t even heard about, let alone realised that they were edible and worthy of cultivation!

Let the gales blow and the rain lash the windows this weekend. I will be tucked up on the sofa with these two lovelies and a mug of tea.

The joy of vegetable plot planning

There’s something very satisfying about the process of designing a vegetable garden. Whether you have several acres or just a small back yard, selecting the vegetables and fruits that you love, working out what will grow in your environment and sketching up a planting plan is a seriously happy thing.

I know that I should be focussing on practical things with the house build, but I can’t help sneaking a peek at books on raised beds, cold frames and no-dig gardening. I don’t dare go near the seed catalogues any time soon as it’s all far too premature – we won’t be planting vegetables on the croft for at least another year, but I convince myself that a planting plan now is a sensible thing to spend time on!

Please ignore the seed packets. This is a wonderful little company but I’m not buying anything yet. Honestly. However heritage and helpful and lovely they are.

It doesn’t help that I get serious garden envy from reading blogs with wonderful, established kitchen gardens where the owners are almost totally self sufficient in fabulous, organic produce. Like The Big Garden http://biggarden.scot/blog/ and https://charlieandjo.wordpress.com/ Totally inspirational – thanks guys.

I know that to get to this stage has probably taken years of hard work, mistakes and learning. I know that the first year on the croft will be one of watching and listening, preparing, and taking much experienced local advice if I’m not to completely balls things up. I don’t mind making mistakes – it’s all part of the learning process. I’m just impatient now to start.

I’m going to start small, segregating a south-east facing part of the croft close to the house for raised beds. We’re talking about composting, and building a wormery, which husband has had great success with in the past. I’d like to grow a herb bed, and a few vegetable beds, and a fruit bed. And we want to plant an orchard with hardy apple varieties. And maybe even try growing nuts in a sheltered space, which I know may be a step too far on Skye, but what the hell, it’s worth a try.

 

Kilted warriors striding the land

In the deeds to the Croft we found a clause that allows the warriors of Clan MacDonald right of access over the land to the distant Castle Dunscaith.

This is a ruined castle of unknown age, linked by legend in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology as the place where Scathach, a woman warrior and teacher of the art of war, trained the hero Cú Chulainn in the arts of combat. The Irish name for the fort, Dun Scathiag, was named after her.

There’s not much of it left these days. The castle itself sits on an off-shore rock which rises 40 feet above sea level and there is a gap of 20 feet between the rock and the mainland. The gap was once spanned by a walled, arched bridge with a drawbridge, the pivot holes for which are still visible on the far side. Once on the other side of the drawbridge a door opened to a flight of stairs which led up to the castle.

I’m amused by the idea of medieval kilted warriors striding through our vegetable patch. Hell yeah.