As much as it feels sad to say goodbye to summer, I love the change in season with the crisper weather and the fiery autumnal colours (The rain, not so much).
There’s something comforting, too, about the seasonal routine on the farm; a cosy sense of getting ready for winter. As I write, Nick is literally in the middle of harvesting the spring barley having not long finished the second cut of silage here at Rootfield.
It’s also such a good time of year for visiting farmers’ markets and farm shops.
Our berry supplier, Ryefield Farm Shop at Tore, for example, is most bountiful just now with a rainbow of produce from the last of the soft fruits (brambles, currants, fat gooseberries) and tomatoes to new season apples, a whole manner of greens, tatties, carrots, leeks and onions.
The shelves at the greengrocer in Beauly and on the veg cart at The Storehouse near Foulis are equally abundant and verdant with local produce.
I’m keenly aware of what’s on offer locally as I’ve been out and about more than usual as a result of Nick’s accident last month. We have weekly orders for milk, ice cream and yoghurt from a dozen or so shops and restaurants in the area, most of which Nick usually delivers.
When he fell through a roof on the farm, breaking his clavicle in three as well as four ribs (hitting his head on the way down), not only was he immediately one man short on the farm but he was a delivery driver down too. Cue me.
For the past five weeks, I’ve been doing deliveries the mornings that Mollie is at nursery.
To begin with, Nick volunteered to accompany me on my rounds to show me the ropes which was partly an excuse for him to get out of the house, I suspect, but ended up being an ideal opportunity to review the production arm of the business as well as life in general.
Nick’s injuries initially forced him to spend a great deal of time inside to alternately rest his broken body and turn much-needed attention to paperwork and the overall structure and productivity of the farm, the dairy production business as well as the business interests he has with his father at Daviot and Essich.
Almost six weeks on and my workaholic husband is still not quite back to full speed although he is back behind the wheel, of his JCB at least, but still unable to do a lot of the physical tasks on the farm, much to his frustration.
What I hope the accident has taught him, however – and he tells me it has – is that he cannot do everything himself. And nor does he have to. He has an exceptionally strong team of staff on-farm and by taking a (small) step back, he can implement changes to make things work more efficiently rather than running around at a hundred miles an hour as was his wont before.
For instance, he needs to adjust the herd’s diet because the first cut silage was so wet it is nutritionally insufficient which has a direct impact on the milk quality and volume. He has also arranged to meet a Dutch robot expert to review how the robots are working to ensure they are maximising their potential.
The more day-to-day work he can entrust to his capable team, while still managing the farm – then the more available he is to support his dad who has recently lost a shepherd at Essich and has a tenancy ending at their diversified farm steading business, The Dairy at Daviot.
For me, I know Nick’s accident has changed me.
Broken bones heal, of course, but because he hit his head – and could quite easily have broken his neck – what’s important came very sharply into focus. I was hit by a stark realisation: if everything suddenly ended tomorrow, what would I regret most?
The answer was worrying and not being fully present in life.
I realise this may sound airy fairy, especially to the practical folk of the farming community, but before Nick’s accident I spent a disproportionate amount of time worrying about what might happen in various scenarios, spreading myself too thin to please other people, worrying about upsetting people, planning ahead to avoid the aforementioned, obsessively checking my phone for messages, all of which meant I was not actually living in the moment. Something inside clicked. What could have happened when Nick fell through the roof made me stop and think about the fragility of life.
I made a conscious decision to stop doing things that caused me unnecessary stress, to start taking people at face value rather than second guessing them and basically to start being present in daily life so I could focus on what’s actually important and right in front of me – the girls, my physical and emotional health, and supporting Nick in the business, our livelihood, while helping him achieve a better life-work balance.
In this spirit, we had a great night out with family and friends a few weeks ago when we saw farmer-comedian Jim Smith at our local Eden Court Theatre in Inverness. We’d never seen so many of the Highland farming community in one place that wasn’t an agricultural event.
More recently, we had a special and busy family weekend when my sister’s family and friends were visiting from London, while next weekend we are planning a ‘zero-waste’ market where there will be homegrown foods as well as crafts, wildflowers and pre-loved homewares and clothes for sale.
The new me particularly likes the ethos of Lynsey Burns’ Moo(n) Market, timed to coincide with the new moon, which helps remind us to live mindfully now for the future.
Next month: Pumpkin time
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.