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Jo Mackenzie: The joys of Hallowe’en on the farm

Jo and her daughters love the spooky holiday and decorating the house with pumpkins.
Jo and her daughters love the spooky holiday and decorating the house with pumpkins.

Regular readers will know by now that the girls and I are huge Hallowe’en fans.

Even towards the end of August our youngest was starting to ask when it was time for Hallowe’en, protesting about all the sunshine and how bored she was of summer.

Happily this year we have managed to book a slot (now completely sold out) to go on our first ever family pumpkin picking at the original Highland pumpkin patch – Loch Ness Pumpkins at Corrimony Farm – organised and hosted by Barbara and David Girvan, who breed beef cattle in Glenurquhart near Drumnadrochit.

Needless to say the girls and I are super-excited to embark on this new Hallowe’en activity and augmenting our collection of shapely gourds in all different sizes and fiery autumnal hues that we’ve been gathering to decorate with at home and at the honesty shop, alongside my ever-growing collection of Hallowe’en decorations.

(Last year, I made four metres of bunting with gorgeous Hallowe’en fabrics in ethereal mauve, soot-black and pumpkin-orange from my local sewing shop, the fabulous Wee Fabric Shop in Inverness, which I cannot wait to put up.)

My love of the season and all things Hallowe’en has even found its way into my skincare creations.

Jo is doing an online course in organic skincare forumlation.

Again, regular readers – thank you all for your continued loyalty – will know that a Women in Agriculture Training Grant from LANTRA is enabling me to build on my fledgling artisan soap business to study for a Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation with international online school, Formula Botanica.

Following a somewhat stilted start, I have now completed two of the eight modules and formulated cold and warm-blended creams, a facial serum and a skin toner – all using natural botanical ingredients.

When creating my facial serum, I plumped for some highly nourishing pumpkin seed oil as one of its components.

Rich in essential fatty acids omegas-6 and 9, zinc as well as Vitamins A and C, pumpkin seed oil is said to be good for balancing oily skins and boasts fantastic anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties too.

It is fair to say that my level-headed other half does not entirely share his family’s enthusiasm for Hallowe’en – although he has promised the girls that he will dress up for guising this year – and was more than a little bemused to see me measuring out the green-coloured oil with a pipette into an amber glass potion bottle.

Jo has been using pumpkin seed oil in some of her skincare creations.

“All you need is a witch’s hat and a cloak,” he laughed.

I have both.

Outside the farmhouse, Nick is just back from a well-earned break as he has largely been managing the farm solo for the past month because staff member Scott unfortunately contracted Covid following a week’s holiday. Happily, Scott is back to full strength.

With the barley bruised, treated and stored inside away from the elements, October is tidy up time with Scott carting the last of the bales from the fields to dry storage.

Nick meanwhile is finalising the winter ration for the herd in preparation for their transfer back inside from the grazing platform and he is continuing to use sexed semen to AI the cows following its success over the past several months. (Lots of female calves.)

Finally, the ice cream production and on-farm honesty shop haven’t escaped the Hallowe’en treatment either.

While the girls and I will be giving the honesty shop a spook-tacular makeover this weekend, Rosie and the team will be whipping up seasonal batches of Pumpkin Spice and Cinder Toffee Apple ice creams. Available for a limited time only, visit the ghostly honesty shop if you dare…

Happy Hallowe’en everyone!

Pumpkin patches: How to pick the perfect pumpkin this October

  • 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 Black Isle Dairy.

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