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  • Writer's pictureHighland Croft

The World Is Far Away

People who come to stay with us mainly say three things when they arrive here, often fresh from the airport or some form of more condensed civilisation:

1. Wow - what a spectacular view. (There's no arguing - it is so.)

2. How did you end up here? (Well ... That is a looong story)

And, with a mixture of simultaneous admiration and repulsion:

3. This is really remote. (I would argue with that.)

To me, this is not the most remote place I have ever stayed or worked. From some of the shearing quarters we were staying at in Australia, it was a solid one hour drive at a fair speed on a straight road through a vast nothingness to get to the next supermarket. With no little convenience store in between where you could grab some milk if you've forgotten to do your shopping. Nothing.


Living on a remote farm has its benefits

Ten minutes from here is the village with a shop, a post office, a gas station and a pub. It takes me about 25-30 minutes to the next bigger town with supermarkets and an equal amount of time to the doctor. I remember one night in the shearing quarters, when Tom had managed to ram a massive chunk of wood into his flesh (I'm not saying where) and since the hospital was too far away, it was decided that I would remove it with one of his shearing cutters. It was the only time that he ever asked me to perform surgery on him and just goes to show in how much pain he was. It was brutal, but enjoyable from my point of view.

Our next neighbours here are far enough away that we don't bother each other, but if we wanted to, we could spy on each other with binoculars, and we do. You will not walk into a single house around here that does not have binoculars on the window sill. They are a must have accessory in rural communities - we love knowing what everybody else is up to.

We live at the end of the road, so I can let children and animals roam free without the need to worry about them getting run over or being abducted.

Delivery drivers from the city are really confused when I tell them that I habitually leave me key in the outside of the door. I will quote the lovely guy here who delivered our kitchen all the way up from Edinburgh: "We looked on google maps for landmarks ... There is your place and around it ... NOTHING! F*$£@NG NOTHING!!"

Some people are put out by how quiet is is ( CAN be, I should say - try rounding up my children to leave the house on time or for dinner and you will hear them alright ...). Other people have never seen so many stars before in their life.

Living in a remote community means I am closer to the people than when I lived in an apartment in town: I neither knew nor cared who lived next to me, below me, above me. Here, people always know what you're up to (remember the binoculars ..?) and are very approachable and helpful, too. When our sheep stray over to the neighbour's again, he will push them back up the road with infinite patience.

My friend in Germany claims that over there you need to sign up your children for nursery the second you ovulate. Here, with a school of less than 20 kids including nursery, they always knew about our wee ones and sent them Christmas presents every year even when they were still babies . I also had no trouble signing my daughter up even though I was actually so late I, ehm, missed the deadline to do so. They are grateful for every child and the kiddies in turn don't know how spoilt they are having a ratio of two teachers to four children in nursery.

For the children, growing up on a remote farm in the hills means they enjoy many benefits and freedom. It's a safe place where peer pressure is not as imminent as elsewhere and being outside most of the time makes them tough and resilient. In fact, both my kids will only sleep outdoors during the day - in wind and rain, wrapped up in a sleeping bag under a rain cover in their pram. Only if it hails or in a blowing gale I'll make an exception and bring them in.



There are downsides about living remotely, too, though. If you were waiting for stories about adverse weather, here they come: Sometimes - especially in the winter - the power goes off. For a few hours maybe, sometimes longer. The longest we were without electricity here was four full days. It's fun for about the first half hour, then it gets pretty annoying because even when it's not properly dark, it's forever gloomy. Luckily we have a woodburner and a gascooker, so heating the house and water and cooking food was possible. And with the help of a generator we managed to pump a bit of power into our freezers every once in a while to stop them from defrosting. Life slows right down and the simplest tasks that you can normally do by pressing a button take forever: Going outside to chop firewood, carry it in, light a fire, keep it going and hot enough to cook on it, say ... You also become very self-conscious as all the podcasts, music playlists, youtube videos or whatever else your phone usually provides in the background to entertain you, is now silenced. I would go so far as saying that you find out how much you really like your partner when you're forced to spend time with each other without any distractions available.

Luckily back then it was only the two of us. But when we were snowed in during the Beast from the East, I was pregnant with my second and we had a toddler. Not knowing how long your confinement is going to last, that uncertainty, can grind you down. For us, it lasted seven days. We couldn't get to our sheep to feed them, which was probably the biggest worry. You also start running up the walls when you are mainly forced to stay in the house with nothing but each other's lovely company. This time round though we had power, gas in the tank and enough provisions in the house. When you live remotely, you quickly get used to having at least one full chest freezer in the shed. After a week, a neighbour with his snow-plough attachment to the tractor was able to get the road cleared - and we were free. Our first trip was to the sheep in the common grazing. To his horror, Tom spotted tracks going to the river bank - and disappearing. The lick-block he had put out for the sheep had rolled off the edge and a greedy ewe had jumped after it. She managed to fight her way through ice and water underneath an overhang - where she had been sticking it out since whenever the accident had happened. Cowboy Tom managed to lasso her out and saved her.

In a weird way I find it oddly comforting to live in a place where we are at the mercy of the elements. Living in the city, which I did for years, removes you from what real survival would have been like for our ancestors. Here on the croft, we go with the seasons and the daylight wherever possible. Sometimes, however, we have to admit defeat and bunker up against the cold and dark. It's good to know that Mother Nature still has the last word.


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