There's nothing worse than finding a website and reading about 'we this, we that and we the other', so here is a little information about the 'we' behind this site.
We moved to Scotland a little over twenty years ago, from the sunny and drought ridden climate of the south coast of England. We kept a selection of goats, sheep, ponies and poultry and ran a very successful road-side farm shop. The shop started off as a way of getting rid of surplus eggs, but after putting a little sign out offering eggs for sale, people stopped and soon saw the lovely green veg in Grandad's garden and the goats grazing.
The demand for milk, yoghurt, chemical-free veggies, chicken and Christmas turkeys soon took off and became practically a full time job, and as well as the shop, the smallholding was a regular stop for local school children and visitors from town.
So all in all, we've been involved in keeping rare and minority breeds for nearly 40 years - even before they were 'rare'. Only having a small amount of land (much of it rented and separate from the house), we found traditional breeds to be ideal, as many of them are smaller than commercial breeds, and often they are more hardy too. A change in the local estate management, resulting in rents going up from a few pennies a week to hundreds of pounds a week, to 'facilitate' the new horse owners moving in, saw us heading north for some land of our own.
We brought the entire entourage (this took many trips in a small horsebox and furniture lorry), including a broody Silkie hen sitting on her eggs, a goat with a new born kid at foot, rabbits, white and lilac guinea fowl, Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys, Rhode Island and New Hampshire Reds, several Shetland sheep complete with their X Dorset lambs, Old English Game bantams, Plymouth Rocks, Polands plus a couple of resuced dogs; a collie called Timmy, and mad Rex who was as loopy as a loopy thing and sat in the back with Grandad. Unfortunatly we couldn't bring Candy the Exmoor at the time due to her being a grand 32 years of age, and a 700mile journey in roasting summer temperatures didn't seem like a good thing to do to her, and nor could we bring Dandy the rescue Dartmoor pony because he wasn't allowed out of the county. Flower, the hair-pulling Toggenburg died a little before we moved but we did bring Megan and Chloe, a beautiful set of twin British Alpine goats.
Once settled in our new home in Aberdeenshire, we expanded with ducks and geese and numerous other poultry, all in smart DIY built arks in the garden. Over the years the fowl population was decimated by the packs of foxes that would roam across our fields, and rescuing many, many birds literally from the mouths of foxes and stitching up the wounds, eventually we gave up trying to beat them. Even the pair of Fox Terriers we had couldn't aid the problem as the local farmer threatened to shoot the dogs if he saw them near his land. These days, half of the forest has been felled and the foxes are managed to a better degree, although we still have to keep a watchful eye open. We keep a few hens to provide us with enough free range organic eggs for our table and for bartering, a muscovey drake and a pair of Shetland geese complete the feathered section.
In the spring and summer the chickens range far and wide, often taking in a trip to the veggie plot. This of course is incredibly frustrating when small seedlings have just sprung, or freshly transplated veg has just been watered in, and we go out there only to find the whole place scratched to pieces! Potatoes are a stable food in this house, and over the years we've tried several varieties (.......), carrots and other root veg can always be stored and used in soups and stews, and in the summer it's a treat to go and pick some fresh salad for lunch. We're not too successful with soft fruit as the wild birds tend to get to it first, and although we could net everything, what's the point of having a nice patch of land to attract wildlife if you don't let it feed? Talking of that, this winter we had our first sight of a woodpecker on the peanut hanger in the back garden.
In the fields, a mixture of Jacob, Shetland, Southdown, Soay, Herdwick, Lleyn and Suffolk influenced crosses munch their way through the grazing and in the winter they consume innumerable amounts of hay. We're not overly fond of shop bought lamb, so we rear our lambs to hogget and mutton, selling or bartering some of the excess meat. Those who have a stereotypical image of a ragged broken old ewe as mutton are often surprised by the tenderness and flavour from our meat.
To keep the sheep in order we have a working collie, Finnigan, trained in basic obedience since day one, and trained by ourselves in the art of rounding up and penning the flock. It's a bit like the blind leading the blind sometimes, but we generally get there, and the fact that it's easier with the dog than without must mean that we've done something right! Finn's buddy is Star, another collie, but this time a rescue. He doesn't contribute much to the farm but after being poorly treated and suffering rotten teeth and gums in his previous life, he deserves a bit of time out. There are also cats a-plenty on the holding, well, you have to keep the vermin at bay somehow.
Once you've had horses and goats, life is never quite the same without them, although sometimes both species can be fairly challenging! Crumble is the Exmoor pony whom we travelled down to Jedburgh to collect, her previous owners bringing her up from Yorkshire. She's a shy beast who loves attention, but getting hold of her is sometimes a bit hit and miss. Hopefully she'll settle down as she gets used to us.