SUMMER time can be a chance to catch up on some essential reading – and once the day's chores are over, it's time to enjoy the garden at its best and ... relax!

Here we review two very different books, each with a farming connection and all providing some fantastic insight and tales to tell.

'Our wild farming life – Adventures on a Scottish Highland Croft' By Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer

(£18.99, Chelsea green publishing:

Lynn Cassells and Sandra Baer shot into the farming consciousness after taking part in the popular BBC series, 'This Farming Life' and now they have written a book about their shared experiences of their journey that's taken them closer to the land.

They shared the writing duties for this book which is centred around their taking over Lynbreck Croft, in the Highlands. As park rangers for the National Trust, the couple knew a fair bit about taking on the responsibility of running a croft, but how did the fare meeting the challenge with their own ethos and their own money? Pretty well, it has to be said.

Coming from two entirely different backgrounds – Lynn is from a town in Northern Ireland and Sandra, though she had Scottish roots, was largely brought up in Switzerland – it was a bit of a miracle that the pair ever met, never mind got to have a shared dream of becoming crofter/farmers.

But they did and their story is a compelling journey, sometimes where naivety saw them through and sometimes where it stymied their progress in transforming 150 acres of the typical scraggie land that abounds in the Cairngorms, into something worthwhile. If anything, it was perhaps their ranger experience that held them in good stead, including the need for good fences – which was part of the route to improving their own little patch of Scotland.

The pair appear to be ingrained in their little venture, but not so much that it has become a romantic ideal. They tell of the real privations, attitudes and battles with the weather and the terrain that they have had and still have to endure on a daily basis.

Throughout the book, Sandra and Lynn have met every challenge head on and are honest about their appraisal of their farming fortunes and their own relationship. If you liked This Farming Life, then you will like this book. It's the same open and honest 'reporting' of what it's like to start from scratch and work your way through, but in a written form.

'Old Shows and More' By Freda Hastings

(£10 from Tarff Valley shops or e-mailing

A Lockdown project for Freda Hastings, from Troqueer, near Dumfries, has produced this compelling book chronicling the fortunes of agricultural shows in Dumfries and Galloway – but the research has also thrown up many interesting facts to ponder.

And just as the Highland Show celebrates its bi-centenary this year, the book reveals that its show 100 years ago this year was held in Dumfries and Galloway, at Rotchell Park, with a record-breaking attendance for the area.

Freda told us how the book came about: "As trophy convenor of the Dumfries and Lockerbie Agricultural Show, I became interested in the old societies that were engraved on the cups, but I had always wondered when competing for an agricultural medal started. During lockdown, I was able to undertake a lot of research and the book is the result."

The book faithfully records D and G's place in producing the Highland and Agricultural Society shows (as it was then), including some interesting accounts of the agms held on the showfield, as well as the 'Pavilion dinner'. An interesting fact from the 1837 show in D and G is that 'In the evening about 1250 gentlemen sat down to dinner in a pavilion erected for the purpose – the Marquis of Tweeddale in the chair; JJ Hope Johnstone esq, of Annandale, MP, croupier.'

The dinner was followed by many toasts, such that you would wonder that many hackneys would be needed to take the guests home!

As well as the H and AS events, the Dumfries Show itself played a valuable role in becoming part of the fabric of rural life in the area, as well as being a formidable force in the education and knowledge exchange on many farming topics, including livestock improvement.

The last word is for Freda: "Our agricultural history is a treasure and there is a gem or two in every show report (the book finished in 1907). Our knowledge of the 19th century shows has long gone and this book is a way of bringing it back to life."

But this book is not just one for those based in D and G. As reported in the book, visitors to the H and AS events travelled from all the airts and pairts of Scotland to compete and view the very best of livestock. I dare anyone not to come away from reading this book without a treasure trove of facts and observations.