‘It’s a good day for the washing’ was the comment as the storm raged across the landscape. Earlier I had been blown through the fields. The wild winds chasing me. Sharp gusts, threatening to whip my legs from beneath me, as I had ventured out first thing for a bracing run with the dog.

If only there was an invention of sturdy ‘Hebridean clamps’ to clutch those sheets to the line, that laundry pile would have been done and dusted. However, with plastic pegs that happily unclip the sheets at the first hint of a gale, the Persabus washing would soon have been billowing out across the sea to Kintyre in no time. No doubt causing all sorts of additional disruptions to those Calmac ferries, as the Happy Farmer’s undergarments went happily sailing past.

The Scottish Farmer: Christmas brunch for the Highland cowsChristmas brunch for the Highland cows

December was a tense time, getting everyone home for Christmas with a week of stormy weather. Planes are delayed and cancelled, buses are fully booked, and ferries trying to operate intermittently in huge seas. They did an amazing job. It must have been tricky getting everyone on and off the islands safely, with no window in the weather before the big event.

Christmas day, and there were smiles all round. The early feeding rounds, as the animals' Christmas brunch are always a top priority. The traditional photos of horses and sheep get merrily festooned with a touch of tinsel. The images of the Happy Farmer dancing in his wellington boots in front of his Aga, loading and unloading trays of kilted sausages, stuffing, and then the dressed wild turkey, crisped to perfection, ready for carving.

The Scottish Farmer: Christmas brunchChristmas brunch

The ‘fizzle and buzz’, that heady build up to the festivities, as materialism happily goes into overdrive. Social media, television screens, shop windows, and magazines, are all festooned with bright shimmering lights. Those images of amazing Christmas brunches, dinners, and party buffets.

The push to hit ‘perfection’, as the glossy faces of Christmas scenes float in and out of our daily lives, even if we weren’t particularly looking for them, and then suddenly we are ‘flung’ out on the other side. Decorations are taken down and packed away, and we are blown broadside into a brand-new year. The hustle and bustle of busy December coming to an abrupt halt. The quietness, as we find ourselves stepping over into the month of January.

The Scottish Farmer: Kilchoman beachKilchoman beach

Early year, and for some, it can be the cruellest, harshest time. Short, dark days, and long nights. Storms lashing and raging. Cold, damp, dreich, murky weather. A time when the stresses and strains of life can really threaten to swallow you whole.

Mental health is a tricky one. I can almost feel those toes shriveling awkwardly in those wellies, cringing at the very thought. It is a subject that can feel uncomfortable at the best of times. Reading about it, acknowledging it, and discussing it, is not an easy ride. If you’re breezing through life, without a flicker of a ‘blip’, it can be incredibly hard to understand or get your head around, but statistics show that most people will at some point be affected by the ‘black dog’, and if not affected personally, they will know someone who is struggling.

The Scottish Farmer: Tiggy in the barley stubbleTiggy in the barley stubble

I always believed anxiety and depression were wrapped up in feelings of sadness. I had never really given them a passing thought, safe in the knowledge that it would never be me, as I was a happy chatterbox, blissfully breezing along in life. It was not something I ever had any intention of dabbling with. However, life has the habit of occasionally lobbing a huge curve ball in our direction, flipping everything lopsidedly upside down, in the blink of an eye.

When life threw curve balls my way, an untenable situation, a trigger, and suddenly that ‘black dog’ was sinking its teeth viciously into my thoughts. Grabbing at me, and pulling me down, into huge waves as I sank right to the bottom. A deep, dark, lonely, empty place. Now here’s the thing, it felt much more debilitating, much more disabling than a broken arm or leg, but to others it was invisible.

It was not sadness, just complete and utter numbness, an inability to feel anything. I felt cut off and adrift from my emotions, although they seemed to pour out abundantly. Feelings of deep and utter despair, hopelessness, emptiness, loneliness, the list goes on. Thankfully I had an incredible team around me. The Happy Farmer was an absolute rock, solid and strong, with the broadest of shoulders. Ready to support.

The Scottish Farmer: Winter beach walks Winter beach walks

It was a journey, difficult, unique, and personal. Believe me, there’s no easy switch to ‘snap’ out of it. It’s an illness from which recovery can be a gradual, slow process, step by step, two forward and one back. A frustrating, difficult chapter, but in the end a hugely positive journey, as you can circumnavigate your way through and out of that maze.

The mind is a complex thing. I went from a time when I could not have put pen to paper, and could not face the world around me, and here I am today, seeing the world in all its colour and shades of brightness. Who knew that storm would pass? That I would emerge stronger? And the world would have more clarity? Working away exploring art and design, through my ceramic ranges, as I am led on fantastic creative journeys by my fabulous customers.

That, and I’ve had the pleasure of writing for you a lot for a couple of years too. An absolute pleasure, as the world of farming twists and turns introducing me to some of life’s rich characters, full of hearty stories, and good craic. The innate wisdom, close knit community, and kindred spirit of the farming world.

So, why am I grabbing that skeleton from the very back of the cupboard? A distant memory, being dusted off, brushed down, brought out to share? It is because I know I was not the only one to have been attacked by that ‘black dog’. There are people out there who are suffering, some silently and alone. Hang on in there, help is nearby. There is no shame in reaching out. Dig in, and no matter how hopeless it might feel, how huge the curve ball that has been slung your way is, know that storm will pass.

In my case, every ounce of support guided me gently in those small steps on my journey to feeling amazing again. The people who took the time to ask how I was, to check in on me, those simple smiles, and greetings. The health service and counsellors, and my close network of family and friends. They didn’t always know what to say, but the fact that they said something, and reached out to me, really helped, and if you’re one of the lucky ones, realise how much your hand of friendship counts. Simple acts of support, and help.

As we step into a brand new, exciting year, know the woodland might not be white with snow, but there’s a beautiful carpet of snowdrops waiting to be enjoyed. Wishing you a very happy 2024.