We had a wonderful time with Jo and Phillip at Colt Cottage, near Kirkcudbright last week. It started off quite well when we got to Kirkcudbright and found an Arts Festival, as well as a laundrette. We had a little wander around, and saw Rapunzel at the castle and artists sculpting by the quay, amongst many other things.
We were camping in their garden, and welcome in the house which was really lovely for us. We could see the sea a mile away from the house, with a lovely view of the weather coming in.
We spent our first morning sorting kindling and firewood, getting it chainsawed and started stacking, and using a hydraulic wood splitter. Its a bit slower than using a maul, but I felt alot safer using it. We stopped for elevenses, as they had a friend call round- so it was lovely homemade pancakes, and icecream from the farm just down the road, for break. We lunched together as well.
The evening had us heading to Taliesan Community Woodland, meeting Jem and others and having a shared meal cooked over the open fire that Big One lit ( first time for her, with matches). Someone had been doing pest control, so brought a few pigeons they’d shot \(Pigeon breast tastes lovely!). Lots of homegrown sausages- Big One was helping with all the cooking on 'her' fire. We had a little walk up to see if we could see the adder that’s been spotted before- but it wasn’t around when we looked. However, just after that we nearly trod on a slow worm, and then as Little One and I headed to the fabulous compost loo, we saw a snake curled up on a rock catching the evening sun. We didn’t go near, as we wanted to share our sighting, but by the time we fetched the others it had gone. I wonder if we saw our first adder? I’m not sure, but I think so. An amazing evening, and we still weren’t troubled by the midges.
They had built a cruck barn and a log cabin there- and of course we didn’t have a camera with us. Big One learned how to toast marshmallows properly- what a fab evening. Little One enjoyed herself as well, especially having a stick for the marshmallows. She didn’t go anywhere near heat, just standing by the bag and popping them on and off the stick before eating!
We had a couple of days doing ‘proper’ work, with a baby hedge to weed and DH finishing off the firewood stack. Hens to feed, eggs to collect, ‘looking the sheep’, feeding Gilbert (the ram, recovering from a touch of flystrike)- all jobs Big One was involved in and reminding us all that needed to happen.
Tuesday was market day at Castle Douglas, and we had a lucky escape. They had some wethers 'cutting grass' at a friends some distance away, and these were the ones for sale. Our help wasn’t expected to be needed, so we were heading straight to the mart to meet them there once they got the 7 of them in the trailer. I think they spent a couple of hours catching them, running around a field in pouring rain, really hard work. We on the other hand, had a very civilised look at the sheep auctions for about an hour (in the dry) and then sorted our lunch out. We were just finishing up when Philip and the other WWOOfer found us- they’d just got the sheep dropped off for auction. On our way to Castle Douglas we spotted a Police Tractor- it didn’t have its flashing light going, but there was an impressive queue of traffic behind it- no one daring to overtake? We’ve never seen one of them before!
The next task was heading to a World Peace Prayer Place ( I forget its name!) north of Dumfries. Another fair drive, but with the weather brightening up, we were set for an afternoon helping build a roundwood timber building. The wall uprights were up, but what they needed ( it was Jem from the woods) was round pegs shaping from dry oak. With shave horses ready to run, draw knives at the ready, DH and Hayley ( the other WWOOFer) spent the afternoon working. The girls and I were booked to play in the woods with a group organised by a Ranger called Tom- that week he was running a tracking session. It was really interesting seeing how some of the older children were really into it. We saw some track traps Tom had set (unfortunately mostly obliterated by the mornings rain), but the girls both had fun following a rope trail. Set up to be blindfolded, but they had fun both with and without blindfolds. When I got talking to Tom, he’s also into green woodworking, setting up a woodland workshop there! Its a small world. Big One also learned a new knife cut there, for making shavings to start the fire, and we all helped to put up a shelter in case it did start raining again. Quite a good afternoon. I got to work on a bit of oak before we left, and we gained a bag full of dry oak shavings, which is proving excellent for the Kelly kettle and lighting the stove.
We managed to fit in another day on the hedge (its a long hedge), and finished the day with a picnic tea on Carrick beach. It was hot and sunny, not windy, and a lovely way to finish the day. We didn't quite get the hedge finished, but we haven't left them with much to do, honest.
We still had one more day, which started off wet. That meant an indoor job, so we were in the shed sorting through the fleeces from when Phillip sheared the sheep. We were mostly pulling off poo-ey bits (dags) but there wasn’t much so it was a nice job. Big One enjoyed assessing the bags of fleece to sort, guessing (usually correctly) how many were in. Not as easy as it might sound, as the black Hebrideans have much smaller fleeces than the white Romneys.
We ‘looked the sheep’, I managed to gather some meadowsweet (its drying so I can try to make infusions from it), and then fitting in a few hours at Stewartry show in Castle Douglas. It brightened up fabulously for us going to the show, so we enjoyed seeing the Best in Show being selected, and having a look at the sheep being collected up. The beer tent started off full ( when we arrived mid-afternoon) but was taking up a huge amount of the field by the time we left! The girls (Both of them!) had a ride on a roundabout, and finished off the afternoon with the final bounces on the bouncy castle. We managed to fit in an organic icecream (from the stall from the farm just down the road) and see the Police Tractor up close. I wonder if it had been heading to another local town a day early for their show when we spotted it on the Tuesday? It seemed a novelty to our hosts as well- I thought the police would use contractors if they needed a tractor.
This week had us really involved in what our hosts were doing, what was going on in the community. Its the first time we’ve spent so much time off the farm, yet generally still being helpful. I don’t know if that’s made the difference, but we both agree on Galloway being somewhere we could consider settling down. I loved being near to the sea, and I realise that’s important to me.
I'm still feeling a bit WWOOFed out, but Jo and Phillip made us feel so welcome, so part of their local community ( I didn't mention tea and cakes in the village hall for the Open Garden event, did I?) and the children were so welcome- Jo was wondeful at explaining things to Big One when she got in from work, and they really seemed to enjoy the company of all of us. We were all welcome to share all meals, which isn't always the case, and we really appreciated it. I'm trying to think of some downsides to our stay, but I'm really struggling. Too much good food? The cock crowing at 5 am occasionally? I suppose the biggest impact was the free range chickens. That's great for the birds, but means their poo ends up everywhere, so we had to be careful to remove shoes going inside (in dry weather I've not been so careful in the tent). I'lve learned that our chickend might have a big run, but won't be free range just for that reason. One place used an electric fence so the chicken run could easily be moved, but still contained them. I like that idea.
As we drove northwards, we saw the land change to the open moors, and valleys of forests, and then got up to Ayr. Ayr is where I was born, but I preferred the hills of a little further south. We fit in a quick visit with a friend of my parents, and then it was heading north up to our next hosts, NW of Glasgow.