The Croftless Crofter

NO F30 Nic Goddard byline pic

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When we first made our home in the Highlands at first people did was shake their heads and said to us, ‘well, you haven’t done a winter yet…’. The second was ‘wait til the midges arrive’.

We have subsequently survived many winters and many midge seasons. But in the same way as I often wistfully think of the midges as ‘not being that bad’ when we are in the depths of winter with wild winds and barely six hours of daylight, now that the midges are back once more I am
hankering after colder temperatures and breezy conditions.

Here in the West Highlands the words ‘they’re back…’ said with a dark tone can only mean camper vans or midges and in the coronavirus-related absence of camper vans this year it is only the midges which have returned.

As an optimist by nature I spend a lot of time trying to find silver linings and making the best of things. During our time on Rum I put a huge amount of effort into finding ways to ‘celebrate the midge’.

These included setting up a mini family festival we called ‘Midgefest’ with midge-related crafts, games and music.

Our community ranger taught us all midge facts and we all looked at the tiny carnivorous sundew plants with a new found respect when we learned how they ate midges.

In our little croft gate shop we sold a whole range of midge-inspired items. I made cuddly crochet midges, my daughter created candles scented with citronella.

When we discovered an enormous pile of midges on top of our hot water boiler, lured in by the smell of the gas and then killed by the heat we collected them up and I set them in resin to make keyrings and pendants to sell to the islands visitors as souvenirs of their epic battles against the Rum midge when walking or camping on the island.

Since returning to the mainland the midges have troubled us a little less – now we are in a house with a constant electricity supply (unlike our previous off-grid life) we are able to have fans to keep areas midge free, but the return of the midge still coincides with times when I want to be outside, tending my little garden or enjoying the beautiful area we live in by walking through shady woodlands, watching the wildlife with the return of the migrating birds like swallows and seeing the bats dance at sunset, enjoying all the wild flowers or discovering my own private beach.

It is right there though, as I describe what I love about this corner of the world in the landscape, the flora and fauna, the unspoilt beauty and the lack of people that I have to concede that the Highland Midge and the place I love have a very close relationship with each other.

It is the very landscape I describe, host to ancient woodlands and wild flowers which creates the perfect environment for the midge.

It is the midge which repels the hordes of people and keeps those beaches quiet and the midge which feeds the birds and the bats I so enjoy watching.

The only real way the midges will leave is if climate change or the impact of humans on the landscape drive them away. So I’ll plug in that fan, dab on some repellent and accept that this summer’s silver lining of the midge return is the world outside my window, even if I need that window to keep them away from me.