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Jo Mackenzie: Finding my place in the world after my baby goes to school

Jo plans to start online studies while the girls are at school.
Jo plans to start online studies while the girls are at school.

This week my baby started school. In truth, I think it will take a few days for this to sink in and probably a few weeks – maybe months? – for me to find my place in the world again.

With Daisy at the top of the school and Mollie just starting, I have been a stay-at-home mum for a decade.

I wrote last time that this was always my intention and one of the reasons I made writing my career long before I’d met anyone I could see myself having family with, however traditional or taboo being at home with your children seems to be in today’s modern world.

(It has always seemed paradoxical to me that if you take care of your own children you are regarded as a parent who doesn’t work, yet if you pay nursery staff or a childminder or even ask a grandparent to look after your kids they are doing a legitimate and worthwhile job.)

The girls attend a small rural school where there is no wraparound childcare, so happily I will still have them home by 3pm and I’m sure it won’t take long for me to transition into a new daily routine.

Not only will I start online studies shortly to further develop my range of botanical soaps and natural skincare thanks to a LANTRA training grant, but there is always plenty to do to support Nick on the farm.

Work to transform the new-to-us industrial container for our upgraded self-service farm shop has started with a coat of ultra-weatherproof black paint – the stuff used on oil rigs – since local and national material shortages mean our plans to clad it are on hold for now.

New shop and directional signage commissioned last month is all ready to go and we are currently deciding on a highly durable and cleanable vinyl to line the interior with as well as planning the outside space.

The new shop site has incredible panoramic views of Ben Wyvis so we will have outside tables where customers can enjoy a tub of ice cream at the farm before they leave, while the sun is still shining that is.

The Mackenzies plan to put picnic benches outside the new shop so customers can enjoy their ice cream at the farm.

Nearby family-run Fettes Sawmill will be our first port of call for these solid picnic tables, a business we are especially keen to support following a devastating fire that recently decimated their beautiful display of log cabin, garden sheds and outdoor furniture as well as most of their wood stock.

Thinking ahead to Autumn, we are also exploring the feasibility of having a self-serve coffee machine at the shop, one that allows us to incorporate our own creamy unhomogenised milk.

Elsewhere on the farm, the glorious weather made for a bumper second cut silage crop and new grass is already flourishing in one of the re-seeded grass fields. Meanwhile, Scott and Nick are busy tidying and cleaning out the sheds ready for harvest.

Hopefully the fair weather will continue for some weeks to come for the sake of the harvest, ice cream sales and for everyone’s ongoing mental health and physical wellbeing.

We have had one of the best summers ever with organised activity days, tennis camps, beach trips, wild swimming, paddleboarding, strawberry picking, forest cycles, picnics, BBQs, garden plays and horse riding – all without leaving the IV postcode area.

To me, the start of the academic year always feels like the end of summer but with cousins, Aunties and Uncles from down south still on holiday and staycationing up here, we are clinging on to that holiday feeling just a little longer.

It’s still August after all.

  • Jo Mackenzie lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle with Nick, daughters Daisy and Mollie, and 120 dairy cows. They run the Black Isle Dairy.

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