I was recently sent a copy of Alan Tait’s new book – Making For Home – A Tale of the Scottish Borders to review. This is the story of Polmoodie, a decayed sheep farm house in the Moffat valley that was bought by the author in the 1970s and gradually brought back to life as a farm.
Living in the same part of the world and with dreams of one day having my own smallholding I was pretty sure this was a book that I would love. I wasn’t wrong, although not what I was expecting at all – it wasn’t the usual story of someone falling in love with a run down house in a remote area with ensuing tales of getting it in to shape and the locals. Instead, this is a journey from a bleak coastal village on the Solway Firth to the Scottish Borders in search of ‘THE’ house via a Glasgow tenement, all interwoven with a rich history of people, places, the landscape and agriculture through periods of great change.
This is a deeply insightful book that connects the reader to the landscape through its inhabitants over the years. It breathes life into forgotten and difficult times for sheep farmers and how economic and environmental forces beyond their control influenced the rural communities of today. The beautiful photography will transport the reader into Alan’s world as it bring’s it to life. It’ll make you want to grab your coat and head out to the hills, or, if it’s raining, online to search for old run down farmhouses for sale.
I’ve also been inspired to head back to our local auction after reading about the authors collection of paintings, furniture and masonry acquired from various places over the years as he weaves a new and eclectic history into the farm’s story. I’ve now bought the author’s previous book, ‘A Garden in the Hills’ for some further reading.
Alan is an art historian with a particular interest in the history of landscape. For the last forty years he has lived in the Moffat Water valley in the Borders where he farms and gardens. He’s also the author of The Landscape Garden in Scotland 1735-1835 and A Garden in the Hills.
Making For Home is priced at £30 and is available here on Amazon
We tried ‘Salad Blue’ potatoes this year, a Scottish heritage variety, as they are supposed to be coloured all the way through (unlike last year’s ‘Arran Victories’) and retain their colour when cooked.
The harvest itself wasn’t great – only 1.5 Kg from three seed potatoes but they sure do look pretty. Wondering if it’s something to do with all the rain as there were quite a few rotten ones in the bag… They’re also an early variety so maybe we just lifted them too late although the foliage has not long died back.
They are more of a deep purple colour when peeled and they roasted up a treat (unlike the name they’re not a waxy salad type). They also retained their colour when cooked but the biggest surprise was how good they tasted. I’ve heard from other people that blue varieties have been disappointing on that side of things. They had a great depth of flavour, much better than the Epicures I roasted up with them.
These will definitely be on my growing list again next year.
I dodged the heavy downpours to pop out and harvest our first lot of potatoes of the year. 2kg of epicure spuds from three seed potatoes – not amazing but an improvement on last year.
This was bag one of eight – one more of Epicure, two of Mayan Gold, two of Salad Blue and two of Pink Fir Apple.