The Croft, Port Of Ness, Isle of Lewis, 1978.
I woke the next day at dawn with a slight hangover. The temperature had dropped and tempting as it was to stay in that warm bed, stuff needed done. Besides, there was no one else there beside me to swing the decision. It was raining outside, a cold, driving rain lashing the windows from clouds that hid the sunrise.
Yesterday’s idyll was soon forgotten. The day brought with it a long shift in the loom shed, the poor lighting making the complex plaid in the heddles hard work when mistakes were made. Fingers were cold and errors were plentiful.
The postman arrived with both cheques and bills. The cheques, such an archaic way of settling payments and invoices, could only be cashed in three days time when the mobile bank passed through this remote village on its weekly visit. Then another three days to clear meant it would be a week until the funds arrived in my ever dwindling account. The bills demanded payment at once, as usual.
Despite the impression given over these recent series of posts that all is rosy in the croft garden, it’s hard work and will only get harder as plans progress. This isn’t River Cottage or Escape To The Country, it’s not easy to make ends meet, harder still to make inroads into all the work that still needs done to make the croft flourish.
I’m not a rich man and know now I never will be, there’s no trust fund or money made on property booms to play with. Only graft, turning what few skills I have into resources and remittances for all the work rendered. But I relish the challenge and the hard work, because the gains are truly my own and noone elses.
Such is crofting.
After such a long struggle to get here, a harder struggle, so fortunately, finally, to sign a sublet on this wonderful piece of land, a good day like yesterday makes it all feel worthwhile, worth the sacrifice and the stigma associated with trying to carve out a better way of living, now alone, in the back of beyond.
Things won’t always be like this, one way or the other, but you gotta take these moments of outright happiness when, where and while you can.
“If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal – that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Walden, or Life in the Woods