The above is a fairly standard view for us for nearly the last two weeks. The yellow is a shrub of some sort (couldn't catch the name through the accent of our wonderful but very Scottish host) that seems to cover the hillsides like a weed and, despite the good looks, hides some pretty vicious thorn tangles. Fun!
We have now been at MacLeod Organics in Ardersier for just about two full weeks, having arrived last Monday the 16th, and are due for an update here. Ardersier is about 11 miles northeast of the small city of Inverness, which lies right at the beginning of the Highland area of Scotland. Inverness is considered to be the hub of the northern part of the country and, though it is a bustling town, ~55,000 people isn't huge by any means. It's nice that way. It is small enough to feel a little less like your standard big city, but big enough that it has the necessary amenities: an airport (where the next Batman movie is rumored to have a scene shot), some live music venues, and, after a little searching, some worthy dark chocolate. We visited last weekend and wandered the downtown center where we discovered that A) the Andean flute players really are in all of the major markets worldwide, B) the Inverness castle isn't quite as old as it should be, and C) print studios don't have to be messy and covered in ink. The latter was something we had been looking forward to seeing since Casey found it in a little research months ago and it's every bit as great as it seems. Workshops, open studio, screen printing, digital, mono print, etc. etc. The Iist goes on and on.
But enough about Inverness.
We have been pretty excited to have a full month to work with the farm and really spend some time with the people that are integral to its existence. It is a family farm, run by a life-long resident of the area, his daughter and son-in-law, along with a large extended family of helping hands. MacLeod is not unfamiliar with WWOOFers and has three bedrooms in the house dedicated to traveling farm help. Another couple from Hungary are in the other room currently and have been with the farm, in some form, for about a year and a half, having spent the better part of that time at the sister farm about 30 miles away. They have been incredibly helpful in both orienting us to the farm work and giving us advice on where to explore beyond the small village of Ardersier. Plus, Casey has been learning small bits of Hungarian from Monika throughout the day - most importantly the word for chocolate covered cottage cheese. And, of course, beer. This may also send us to exploring Budapest for a little longer than expected.
MacLeod Organics is a small farm, the main gig of which is organizing a weekly box scheme that delivers produce (all organic, plus meat, dry goods, dairy, etc. sourced as locally as possible) all over the highlands. This means that our jobs, so far, have consisted largely of planting, watering, harvesting and boxing produce that is grown on site, as well collecting eggs from ~600 chickens (2x daily), rounding up sheep or cows, and then starting over on Monday. In short: we are farmers for a month.
MacLeod is an active member of the Soil Association of Scotland, is intensely resourceful and self sustaining, participates in multiple farmer's markets each week, and fully supports neighboring organic farms. We are learning a lot about growing in polytunnels, under-planting...or maybe it is called something else..(i.e. planting lettuce between and under runner beans), and generally how to get the most out of your soil and land with the most natural processes. We also find ourselves saying things like ... maybe when we have some land, we can also have some chickens? Woohoo!