I had hoped to share more news of an exciting partnership with my brother and business partner who will soon be offering milk vending in Inverness at their Cup and Cone coffee and ice cream shop in the Crown district, but unfortunately delivery of the vending machine has been delayed.
It is increasingly apparent that very few sectors have been untouched by the combined effects of Covid, Brexit and the Ukraine crisis.
Last month Nick met with a local renewable energy provider to assess what we can do to reduce our environmental impact and energy costs at the farm.
We are awaiting their recommendations, but early ideas include more solar panels on the south-facing cow sheds – we already have two huge banks providing 30% of our electricity – and investing in an alternative system for the three houses to replace the oil-fired heating we currently use.
Both would represent a significant outlay but based on current and predicted rises in oil and electricity prices, plus the drive to ‘green’ our businesses, we will be giving any recommendations serious consideration.
On a more upbeat note, the newly extended ice cream shed is 99% complete.
Upcycled from our original timber shed – destroyed last year by Storm Arwen – it has been given a fresh coat of paint, new roof sheeting and guttering.
We will move the milk and chilled vending machines in shortly so that all our products are under one roof.
With panoramic views of Ben Wyvis, the picnic benches recently installed outside the shop are proving popular when the sun comes out and we have three more on order from our local sawmill.
Nick has set up a calf pen near the shop and next on our to-do list is planting up some old zinc water troughs, both aimed at enhancing the customer experience.
Meanwhile, production parlour manager Katie has been working hard on our new summer flavours and honing the overall range of gelato, sorbets and frozen yoghurts.
New fruity seasonal flavours, which have joined the cabinet for summer only, include Peach Melba, Lemon Panna Cotta, Strawberries and Cream, and Pina Colada.
In our Artisan Originals cabinet alongside our core flavours, we have replaced our coffee gelato with a fantastic new Caramel Latte ice cream while we have two exciting new luxury flavours – Mochaccino and Nocciola.
I’m especially happy about the addition of Nocciola, a sumptuously rich chocolate and hazelnut gelato, because it is the favourite flavour of my long-time friend Nadia, highly discerning Roman and owner of critically acclaimed Di Giorgio’s Caffe in Edinburgh. I just need to try and get a tub down to her for the Italian seal of approval.
The summer flavours are ready in time for the school holidays, which are already as busy as the end of term.
In June we hosted a farm visit, welcoming children from the girls’ Early Learning Centre to pet the calves, see a robotic milker in action, have a seat in the Massey Ferguson and fill up a glass bottle of milk to take back to the nursery.
Nick, cattleman Craig and shepherd Ian vaccinated the young stock before putting the cows out to grass at my father-in-law’s Essich Farm, west of Inverness.
Back at Rootfield, the first cut silage looks to be of good quality – great news for the feed bill – and 30 acres of grass have been re-seeded including one field of red clover, a new crop which Nick plans to add to the ration to increase protein in the diet.
Sports day, a strings concert, a birthday, a wedding, transition events, a gymnastics display, and a very emotional Leaver’s Assembly and last day of primary school for my first-born rounded off the academic year.
We are grateful to key members of staff (you know who you are) at Mulbuie for their support and guidance of Daisy over the past nine years. She is however ready to move on to high school…her mum slightly less so.
Jo lives at Rootfield Farm in the Black Isle with husband Nick, daughters Daisy and Mollie, and 120 dairy cows. They run the Black Isle Dairy.