Monday, 29 January 2007

What, why, when, where, who, how

Today's track:
Dazed and Confused
(Led Zeppelin)


I'm in the living room of a comfortable semi-detached, suburban home in the English Midlands, gradually coming to terms with the fact that in just over a month I will be in a tumbledown cottage on an eight-acre croft on the Orkney islands, trying to scratch a living with next to no agricultural experience.


Scared? You bet your boots I am.


For the geographically challenged, the Orkneys are just off the north coast of Scotland, close to John O'Groats. I'm off to the island of Westray - on the top left-hand side of the group. It's 11-miles long with nearly 600 people, three shops, two hotels, a crab factory, a school, rugby and football teams, two ferries and two flights a day to the Orkney capital of Kirkwall.


There are beautiful, empty beaches, spectacular cliffs which become huge seabird colonies. And there is peace - probably the best reason for going there.

I'm a journalist by trade, gardener by inclination and have recently given up a 25-year career to chase. . . something. I'm no farmer, I've never lived further than half-a-mile from a chip shop or pub, so this could be very embarrassing.
The plan - such as it is - is to bring in half-a-dozen weaners (young pigs who have just left their mother) to fatten up for the autumn. This should be lead us on to buying in breeding stock in 2008 in the hope of establishing a rare breed herd to supply top notch pork, bacon and sausage. Easy, huh? There will also be back-up cast of dogs, horses, chickens and maybe a duck or two.
Am I just another townie dreamer, fantasising of an island paradise (albeit a very breezy one)? Am I up to the job of becoming a pig farmer, overseeing the renovation of a neglected old house and maintaining relationships with wife, children, friends and family? Sitting here in front of the fire, watching an old episode of Poirot, I'm not altogether sure. Stick with the blog and we may all find out.

We'll find out exactly how to look after pigs, how to grow veg in weather that is desperately unpredictable, we'll conquer my fear of chickens, we'll go surfing with seals (in very thick wetsuits - us, not the seals), we'll spot puffins and guillemots and we may just be able to make some sense out of this life of ours. Welcome.