• Maggi

Planning news afoot

Well the weather is becoming kinder, still very much northern spring but the daylight hours are longer and when the sun is out it warms the earth and melts the snow that settles on the cold ground. Life is harsh but glorious this far north. As someone very erudite once said there is no such thing as bad weather just inappropriate clothing and that is so true. I cannot adequately describe how invigorating it is to venture out into a whiteout which may only last for 40 minutes before the skies clear and the blue and the sun bring warmth. So long as you are wearing suitable clothing and with all the modern fabrics there is plenty choice, it is possible to revel in enjoying the enormous weather, safely. Dawg is so much happier in the cold than in the sun, he ain't a happy boy when it gets hotter, coat though fine is very dense, he is a person built for the cold.

We are now settled back into island life after the sadness of the passing of Uncle Tommy and we are busy planning the what, where, when and how of our lives as newly learner crofters and holiday hospitality hosts. Crofting is unique to the highlands and islands of Scotland. The term refers to folk who either own or are tenants of a piece of land upon which they undertake small farming activities in order to make a living. In the past crofters would have been basically subsistence farmers, living off the food and income that their wee few acres provided. People south of the border generally understand a croft to mean a house with land. This is not at all the case. Croft refers to the patch of land that is either owned or rented by the person who farmers it and often does not include accommodation nowadays. Some of these are tiny and some very much bigger. Our croft is 6.5 acres. There is a de-crofted area which is the patch designated to build our new house. It is necessary to apply to have a patch de-crofted in order to build a house upon it even if one owns the land. Until a plot has acquired de-crofting status it is not possible to apply for nor get planning permission to build. So there are two types of crofters. Either owner occupiers, which is what we are or tenant crofters who do not own their land but are tenants of a landlord. Back in the dim dark ages of lairds all crofters would have been tenants. However this is no longer the case and there are many owner occupied crofts across the north of Scotland. Scottish land owning law is significantly different and very much more democratic than that of England. Thus whilst it sounds disadvantageous to be a tenant crofter it actually isn't.

Our croft address is 1 Suledale. Confusingly (but not unusually up here) the are three properties called 1 Suledale. This comes about when a larger established croft is sold off in parcels at which time people generally name their particular patch to avoid confusion (and assist new learner posties). Thus our friends and neighbours, who live in the original croft house when it was all one and owned by the father of one of them, live at The Old House, 1 Suledale (pictured). The other neighbours living in a more modern house didn't bother with a name. We named our croft An Taigh Ur, meaning The New House. And one day in the future our cosy wee cabin will be replaced with a new house!

Tubby, dawg and I are currently working on expanding our estate, more of this to follow in future posts. In the meantime we hope you are all staying safe and well and are getting excited with the thought of being gradually eased out of lockdown.

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