May is fast turning into another busy month on the farm, at school and on the home front.
This time last week, the Mackenzie family was taking part in the Highland Hospice’s annual Black Isle Cycle Challenge.
Last year, Nick and Daisy did the six-mile family cycle with Mollie and I cheering them over the finish line, and joining in with the celebratory tea and cakes served up by Resolis Primary School parent council afterwards. It was such a lovely day that I signed us all up this year.
The sun was shining and there was a fantastic turnout for the different races (6, 15, 20 and 26-mile routes).
We gaily set off with our friends, me with Mollie on the back and Nick up ahead with Daisy and her buddies.
It wasn’t long however before I was off my bike completely out of puff at the first incline.
I had been cycling a handful of times before the event but the roads around Rootfield are quite flat and most of my bike rides had been without a toddler on the back.
I had to swap bikes with my good husband in order to complete the route, meanwhile Daisy sailed through the challenge.
We all collected our medals at the end and enjoyed a fabulous spread of homemade cakes and sandwiches in the Hall, while retired local farm contractor Willy Matheson served up sausages and burgers in buns outside in his mobile BBQ unit in return for donations to the Hospice.
Started as a hobby, Willy is now found regularly attending fundraising events with his BBQ to raise money for local causes.
Meanwhile on the farm, Nick is chasing his tail with Rootfield’s Scott still away helping with the lambing and the milk processing side of the business ramping up for the season.
Last week’s sunny spell saw ice cream sales soar and the milk vending is still proving popular.
Nick is about to order more glass bottles and customers continue to visit the farm every other day, refilling their bottles with the white stuff.
We have even run out of milk on a few occasions such has been the demand.
An additional attraction has been the arrival of two orphan lambs from Grandpa’s sheep holding in Essich.
Lucy and Peppy, named by the girls, have taken up residence in the top shed with the calves, next to the honesty shop.
Customers with young children love visiting the lambs and a few have started coming to the honesty shop around tea-time in the hope of joining in with feeding.
In typical toddler fashion, however, Mollie is not as keen to share Peppy with visitors but suggests they feed Lucy. Happily, Daisy is more accommodating with her pet lamb.
In other farm news, the silage pit is being prepared for the first cut planned at the end of the month, and the spring barley and grass seed are sown.
Nick met a grass seed specialist back in March to select the best grass to sow for the soil conditions, climate and of course the cows here at Rootfield.
When I got wind of this, and with my parent council hat on, I asked Nick to quiz the consultant about grass seed for playgrounds and games pitches.
As luck would have it, Kenny Liddell, of independent seed specialist Watson Seeds, not only recommended a top-grade grass seed to Nick but offered to donate a bag to our school. I was absolutely delighted.
Having spent hours looking into purchasing neighbouring farmland next to the school playground or having the games pitch resurfaced with rubber mulchbond, all to no avail, the most feasible and affordable option to improve the muddy outside space is to have it reseeded.
Receiving a donation like this is fantastic for a small rural school like ours.
We are now desperately hoping to secure some funding to contract a landscape gardener to carry out the reseeding professionally for us, to give the grass the best chance of growing over the summer when the school is closed over the holidays.
How wonderful it would be for the children to start the new academic year with a lush, green games pitch and grassy playground rather than parched, compacted earth.
Going into the autumn, we are hopeful too of more improvements around the school resulting from an ongoing road safety campaign, the main priority of which has been to secure a permanent reduction of the speed limit passing the school from 60 to 40mph.
After attending a public meeting in February and pledging support from both the school and the farm, I was invited to join a focus group as part of a community-led campaign to reduce the speed along the B9169.
Rootfield’s drive is situated on this increasingly fast and busy road.
We are also attracting a growing volume of traffic to the farm in addition to the tractors, loaders and HGVs, so Nick and I are fully behind the campaign.
There will be a public meeting on Monday to present and garner support for the proposed 40mph zone going past the school.
We are all hoping for a bumper turnout from our passionate rural community.
Next month: Here comes Summer
Rootfield Farm is on the Black Isle, 10 miles north of Inverness, where Jo lives with husband Nick, a dairy farmer, their daughters Daisy and Mollie, and 170 cows.