A wee hello from Wildlife Croft Skye, Spring 2020

30th April 2020
We always look forward to the slower pace of winter - lots of family time to enjoy dark skies, sledging and the occasional Aurora Borealis. However, this year was a disappointingly wet and windy affair. The weather helped us to get a lot of trees planted out on the croft, as well as preparing an area by our house for a polytunnel.   Little did we know that come Spring we'd be social distancing, just as the season was about to kick off.  We've sadly had to cancel all of our Spring and Summer bookings for Stonechat Bothy, but we have plenty to keep us busy on the Croft over the next few months. We are so grateful to all of our wonderful guests who rescheduled their bookings for next year. Meanwhile we are working hard to make the Bothy and the Croft an even better place to visit and explore, and with our baby trees now safely in the ground, we are turning our efforts to growing food.
Last year was the first time we tried preserving the abundance of food we find ourselves with at the end of Summer. It had begun earlier in the year, with a few attempts at rhubarb jam, but I always seemed to run out of time before I was quite happy with it. I learned a lot making dodgy rhubarb jam, and by the time Autumn came around I was using raspberries, brambles, apples and even Rowanberries to make passable jams and jellies. I even started experimenting, and ended the season with a wonderful Bramble, Elderberry and Gin preserve. It was nice to give our Bothy guests a wee jar of jam along with our duck and hen eggs to welcome them to the Croft. I feel as though I've forgotten everything now though - back to starting over with Rhubarb 😀This year if we have any success growing veg we'll try making chutneys, and maybe even wine....
At the beginning of lockdown we ordered an easy assembly polytunnel from Northern Polytunnels. We weren't sure whether it would arrive, as they warned us about difficulties sourcing materials. We tried not to get our hopes up - but it came and we managed to get it up by ourselves - a very tall man, a pregnant lady and a 4 year old (although the last two did very little and can't take any credit). We're very excited to grow food this Summer, although we have no idea what we're doing. It will be a steep learning curve. Our floor is covered in seedlings ready to go. In the meantime, we've also created a fishbox vegetable patch with peas, radishes, potatoes, onions, garlic, spring onions, spinach, strawberries and herbs. Now the tunnel is up we're working on our watering options and improving the beds before planting. Another problem to figure out as we go along - how to keep the hens out of the polytunnel 😮

We were really lucky to have two fantastic volunteers this Winter, Tom and Emma, all the way from France, who helped us with tree planting on the Croft. We planted around 600 baby trees, all grown here by Phil, from local seed, or cuttings/suckers. These included Hawthorn, Rowan, Willow, Scots Pine, Aspen, Elder, Rose and Alder. We failed to get any photos of Tom and Emma sadly, but these two worked hard in the most awful weather conditions. Sadly their time in Scotland was cut short due to the Coronavirus outbreak, but we hope to welcome them back in the future to see how their trees have grown! We are so grateful to these two superstars for all their hard work here in really unpleasant conditions.

Phil has been busy this Winter collecting Alder and Scots Pine seeds from the croft to grow, and we also have loads of Acorns and Hazelnuts sprouting in various seed trays and root trainers. It will be a few years until they are ready to plant out. We have lots of baby Hawthorns too, growing for hedging in the future

We said goodbye to our Collie/Lab Sammy in February. Our wonderful vet, Gareth, kindly came to our home which we are extremely grateful for. It was so peaceful, and we were relieved we were there with him at the end. He'd been with me for almost 11 years, and when I rescued him, the people at the rehoming centre at the time thought he was around 6 years old.

Sammy lived a long life, filled with people who loved him, and so many adventures all around Scotland, before living out his last years, pottering around the croft here in Skye. We couldn't have asked for more. He constantly made us laugh with his clumsiness, oversize wonky ears and general goofiness. An amazing furry brother for our wee girl, we miss him dearly. We want to say a massive thank you to all our friends and family who helped take care of him over the years. He will be forever in our hearts.

We've just opened our booking calendar for Stonechat Bothy for 2021. You can check our availability here

We hope by next year the Coronavirus outbreak will be under control and we can welcome people back to the Croft. We are working hard at the moment, improving the surrounding area for our Bothy guests, with a new outdoor seating area, a picnic table in the peaceful, secluded orchard behind the Bothy, and a herb garden for our guests to use. We will also improve the paths and signage around the Croft so our guests can safely explore.

We are so incredibly lucky to be where we are during this lockdown, surrounded by beautiful scenery and wildlife. We miss all our family and friends desperately, but we are happy to do whatever we can to stop the virus spreading, and staying at home is a pleasure for us - especially with the beautiful, sunny April we've had.

We are sending love to all our guests and followers in this uncertain time and we look forward to welcoming people back when it's safe to do so.

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