The usual deluge of snow has yet to block the lanes, and the geese are enjoying the relatively sunny weather. Robin’s thoughts turn to the old fur trade and unbeatable real tweed
The November moon has come and gone. What has happened to the usual influx of Scandinavian woodcock? Relatively few of these migrants from across the North Sea sought refuge in our somewhat warmer woods. Certainly, we had a short, sharp spell of quite hard frost, enough to freeze up the smaller flight ponds and send the mallard scuttling off for the shelter of the bay. Snow has been remarkable by its absence; not like the old days when our lane would have been blocked at least once by now. Notwithstanding, the frost is dying off, so soon I shall load up the quad (what did we do without them?) and trundle over the 100-acre stubble with some barley to appraise the situation.
The relatively sunny weather has made the goose music rather enjoyable to hear, especially the feeding birds on what stubbles are left by the huge combines. It’s what I refer to as ‘murmurings’, and with the sun glinting off their backs as they pile in to join their brethren, it makes quite an imposing picture.
From my ‘play room’ window I was watching a dog fox in his prime going about his business along the clifftop. My thoughts took me back many moons to when we could get £25 for a good pelt. If I remember rightly there was a fur farm over at Duror that would buy these skins. I expect a good many would end up as smart sporrans. The .22 Hornet was the weapon for the job. I think mine cost me £33 new; I could be wrong though! Nevertheless, I know it could drill a neat hole through a four-inch fence post at 100 yards.
This year seems to be unusual in the amount of huge round straw bales, hundreds if not thousands of them, still adorning the recent barley stubbles. I find it rather odd that the grey geese, pinkfeet and greylags do not shun them. In some cases they use their closeness to shelter from inclement weather, and indeed feed on convenient barley with no heed of the bales. Of course they make brilliant hides when three are pushed together; their geometric roundness makes them so easy to push, so long as they have not been there a month or so, thus developing a flat bottom and requiring some energetic rocking to roll them into place. However, I suppose they will be moved soon while this clement weather lasts.
One thing, now that Christmas is nigh, is the amount of superb all-weather clothing that is on the market. Fifty or so years ago, a bib-and-brace overall seemed to cover all events on a hill farm; of course the stalking team had their estate tweeds but at a fraction of the price now. I’m very lucky – I get my friends’ cast-offs! Nevertheless, despite all these magic materials you cannot, in my book, beat the real tweed.
‘With the sun glinting off their backs, the geese pile in to join their brethren. It makes quite an imposing picture’