Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Jo Mackenzie: The challenge of finding focus on a busy dairy farm

Jo is starting an online Diploma in Organic Skincare.
Jo is starting an online Diploma in Organic Skincare.

Studying is a lot harder than I remember.

With young people across the country returning to or beginning their tertiary education, I’m whisked back to memories of my own university days in the beautiful City of Edinburgh.

Being a homebody, it would be untruthful to say I wholly enjoyed this time but at least I seemed to take the coursework in my stride…more or less (public speaking of any sort, be it a presentation or within a small tutorial group, induced varying degrees of panic and perspiration).

When I finally sat down a fortnight ago to start my online Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation, with the aim of developing my fledgling botanical soap and skincare range to sell from the farm, I soon found self-directed study in my mid-forties to be an entirely different beast.

I can only assume it’s because I’m now a fully-fledged adult with responsibilities that somehow makes it extremely challenging to devote time to studying; there is always something more important that I think I should be doing rather than re-training for a new career, be it researching new products to stock in the farm shop or tidying out a cupboard.

There’s a new book I read about recently (instead of studying) that explores the historic nature of humans to willingly look for distraction – the 21st Century hook being our addiction to social media and the 24/7 online culture – as a means of putting off doing something genuinely important or worthwhile.

Jo’s husband Nick.

I’m sure most people can relate to this. Even my hardworking hubby, with his hands-on vocation largely based in the great outdoors as opposed to an office, is constantly on his phone – taking calls, checking emails, sending messages, responding to robot alerts and monitoring security and calving cameras.

Granted, this is communication rather than distraction. As for me and the studying, I think my brain is out of practice; I’m not used to focusing on one thing for a prolonged period of time such is the nature of a busy working farm and farmhouse with folk constantly coming and going.

Out on the busy farm, contractors finished up harvesting the spring barley earlier this week and baled an extra cut of silage from the reseeded grass fields. All good in terms of home-grown fodder for the herd come winter.

Meanwhile, work on the new honesty shop container edges forward – the interior is now lined with chipboard and it is rigged up for power and lighting.

More excitingly we have been taste testing some new local products to sell from the vending machine, namely crackers and chutneys to go with the range of Highland Fine Cheeses we stock, made with our milk.

We have plumped for a berry jam and Seville orange marmalade (to complement our weekend croissants and twice-weekly artisan sourdough) and two chutneys (a tomato and a beetroot) from Nairnshire producer – Rose Cottage Country Kitchen – while nearby Highland Crackers are now supplying us with two varieties of their award-winning and lip-smackingly good seeded crackers.

The Mackenzies produce a range of ice cream and other products on their farm.

Ice cream sales always dip with the temperature so we are keen to have a good mix of tempting produce to keep customers visiting over the autumn and winter months, as well as products that work well with what we make on-farm.

Further products we are looking at include home baking and possibly a bean to cup coffee and hot chocolate machine, one which would let us use our own creamy whole milk.

I love the idea of stocking fruit compotes to go with our yoghurt, too. It’s maybe something I can experiment with at home… instead of studying.

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

Already a subscriber? Sign in