A good new year to you all.
The Christmas decorations are down but I’ve left some fairy lights in a couple of windows to add a little sparkle to long dark days of January.
This is a quieter time in our farming calendar and, for me, a time to plan ahead.
There are still tourists around in our part of the Highlands.
They’ve enjoyed great weather over the festive holidays, and yesterday there were 12 folk on the beach or in the water surfing at Armadale. It doesn’t sound like many but that’s a busy day up here.
Our holiday cottage is closed for a month as we’re having a new kitchen and bathroom fitted.
Covid travel restrictions abroad have extended our season and we’ve been very lucky with increased bookings. Unfortunately the stormy winter weather left a couple of our guests with no power so perhaps they got rather more of the traditional croft house experience than they’d signed up for!
I’ve been clocking up the miles on my wee Highland pony Lulu, along hill tracks and on many of the north coast’s beautiful beaches, feeling like a tourist without leaving home.
We have a team of local fencers putting in 3,600m of fencing so that hedging can be planted for increased shelter and wildlife corridors alongside existing dykes and fences.
We’re also planting native trees in a couple of awkward field corners, on the edge of existing woodland – the corners that sets of twins love to get together in a mix when I’m out on my lambing rounds.
It won’t all be plain sailing establishing the hedging but it feels like the right thing to do. There will be the usual Doubting Thomases – but I hope to prove them wrong.
There are projects on the farm that I want to do before I’m put out to grass.
The key will be if I can afford to deliver my ambitions to help reduce biodiversity loss and fight climate change.
I remember listening to the brilliant Jim Walker talking at a meeting about the Suckler Beef Climate Change Programme Board’s proposals – before they hit the skids and were buried by the powers that be.
My take home message from Jim was “it’s not going to be cheap to deliver climate change solutions and address biodiversity loss at scale” – and he’s right!
The tightening up of the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) application window, from six to three months, and clashing this with the Single Application Form window when agricultural consultants are already stretched, is complete madness.
Add in the convoluted application process when NatureScot gets involved with an AECS application and I’m not filled with confidence that Scottish Agriculture can deliver on the climate emergency targets set by Scottish Government.
The odds feel very much stacked against us, and I’m increasingly asking myself if they want farmers on board or not?
Agricultural policy is up in the air right now.
I’m listening, and I’m hearing lots of talk, but I feel anxious due to a lack of meaningful progress and no clear direction at this late stage in the process.
The climate emergency clock is ticking ever louder. I fear we’re stuck in the past, with outdated systems and “the computer says no” attitude from those running the show.
As Greta Thunberg says: “Blah,blah blah – words that sound great but lead to no action.”
Perhaps it’s time to learn from Scottish Forestry.
To me they seem to be the only ones with the ability to get the job done, whether we as farmers agree with the delivery or not.