If the speed time passes is linked to age P&T must be getting old! The year has flown by at a time they want to slow down, but there is still another year’s work ahead before retirement mode can be fully adopted. Progress slows but headway has been made. Apart from Thérèse’s health issues it has been a good year with several holidays and a very productive garden.

Relaxing on the croft. P&T are moving into a support role as Duncan takes on the business.

Thérèse started the year with a burst of energy wanting to make up for time lost to last year’s depression. Seeds were sown in two gardens and the plants looked beautiful all summer. Big plans were made for long walks and materials were collected for multiple mandalas. In early May she and a friend walked the Moray Way, 100 miles in six days staying at B&Bs along the way. Starting in Forres they walked east along the coast to Spey Bay, up the River Spey to Grantown and along the Dava railway line down to Forres. She finished in good form and got stuck back into gardening. Then Covid struck in June and she had a grim week with headaches and a cough that put her back out of joint and caused much pain. However a month later her strength returned and she was back to living life in the fast lane. Obviously too fast when she skidded on gravel and came off her bike in Nairn, but Thérèse continued on to her afternoon dance class.

A riverside walk along the Dee at Mar Lodge.
Thérèse and dancing friends under the second largest Scot's Pine in Scotland.

 In September, two weeks after the bike tumble, Thérèse walked 22 miles through the Lairig Ghru to Mar Lodge with a friend while Peter drove around the mountains. They had a happy time, which Peter had organised, with 15 of their dancing friends. The Braemar club organised a dance for the last evening, an excellent event, but Thérèse started to feel pain in her back. By the time we arrived home the next day the only pain free position was flat out in bed, and this continued for over two weeks, with trips to the toilet using crutches. Acute sciatica had struck. Slow improvement followed having her sacrum manipulated by a Shiatsu practitioner [osteopathy and acupuncture had been tried], then she could stand for short periods between lying on the floor or in bed. It was ten weeks and early December before she could sit at the table. Now she is much better but having to take life carefully.

 October was the month three mandalas were planned; Brodie Castle, Logie Steading and James & Laura’s wedding. Two were cancelled but Thérèse wanted to be represented at the wedding by the mandala she had designed. Jo, Sam & Peter made the mandala on her template in a backroom at the reception. It was well received and had the groom’s dad in tears! The initials of James, Laura and their daughter Morag can be seen.

Jo’s year has been similar with plenty travel and pressure at work. Desana struggles to keep up with the demand of the growing customer base so Jo’s team is busy sourcing new office space. She and Owen are in the process of moving from a rented flat to one that they have bought on the outskirts of Bristol. Recently Jo flew out to Lanzarote to help Anni & Tony cope with squatters. Spanish law gives squatters many rights and eviction involves a long legal process, so heavies were flown in from Gran Canaria and they persuaded the guy to leave immediately. He had obviously had a disagreement with his Mrs, the lock had been cut out of the bedroom door with a chainsaw! Tony has repaired this and says that it adds character to the house. They hope to sell the house this winter. Jo now says she needs new younger friends to party with because all her long term friends are settling down with babies!

Sam has now been in Canada for over a year, living the dream on the west coast twixt mountains and sea. He enjoys his work with work mates who share his passion for climbing, skiing, mountain biking and water sports.  He has met few Canadians, mostly British guys attracted to the area for outdoor sports. He was back in the UK for a month from mid October to attend the wedding, but also to avoid the usually wet autumn weather. However it was exceptionally dry this year. He plans to extend his 2yr visa. P&T hope to visit him in 2023, but this will go against Peter’s wish not to travel more than 2hrs by car from home ever again! He says, “If you live in the Garden of Eden, why leave it.”

Thérèse’s brother Michael, the barefoot walker, and sister Krysia visited in April. Krysia, a nurse, was very excited to lamb a ewe for the first time, aged 70! They both helped Thérèse with this intricate mandala on Nairn beach.

Fornighty March 2022.
Santa ready for Rafford dance party.

Peter has focused on getting the new lodge, now called Sandstone, liveable in. Don’t confuse this with finished, there is another year to go, but the Completion Certificate was obtained in September. P&T are now enjoying living in it, pleased with most features, but the heating needs modifying as the living room is over heating when logs are burnt to raise the water temperature. Hopefully the sun will heat the house and water for 6 months of the year.

After seeing how unwell Thérèse was with covid Peter has restricted his outings to dancing 2 or 3 times a week. However due to a leg injury it is still part walking, part dancing, but he enjoys a laugh with his friends. He avoids pubs, restaurants and concerts saying, “Why eat out when you are better fed at home, and our sofa is more comfortable than any cinema!”

Spot the dolphin.
Sandstone of Laikenbuie
Peter's 71st birthday swim.

Some of you may have watched This Farming Life and seen Lynn and Sandra from Lynbreck Croft near Grantown-on-Spey. They have been friends since visiting Laikenbuie when they first bought Lynbreck and were looking for ideas as to how they should run it. This summer P&T took Duncan & Piper to Lynbreck to see the progress that they have made. They are very capable and have put in much hard work. Their book Our Wild Farming Life is excellent and highly recommended.

Duncan & Piper have parted company after 5yrs together. P&T miss Piper who is always cheerful and enjoyed her time at Laikenbuie . Duncan is doing well, working longer hours to make up, and has become interested in foraging and preserving produce, often by making alcoholic drinks! He has stopped making gates, finding it more relaxing to work as a subcontractor for his old employer. He hopes to be a tenant of the croft and holiday homes early next year, and to work away from Laikenbuie one week a month. P&T wait to find out how he will organise the extra work, and look forward to having less responsibilities. Laikenbuie Ecology Trust is now a Scottish charity and will officially own 88% of the land, plus farmhouse and steading on 01.01.2023.

Kenny Macleod continues to feed and photograph the squirrels beside Laikenbuie. The Pine Martins are a mixed blessing. Our old dog Pip hears the squirrels traversing the trees and loves watching them. There is nothing wrong with her hearing, but she is becoming quite frail.

The Summer Isles in January.
Hot tub at Achiltibuie.
The obligatory mandala at Achiltibuie.

Four holidays were taken in 2022 – sounds decadent – starting with a quiet week near Achiltibuie in January. There were also three trips to Mar Lodge; in March for Thérèse’s birthday, in September with the dancers, and a family visit with Jo & Sam. This was a bonus with them both being home for the wedding in October and a chance for Jo to see Mar Lodge for the first time.

This photo represents Laikenbuie’s support for Ukraine, especially from Peter. He sees that those conducting the aggression [which does not include foot soldiers there against their will, or poorly educated citizens swamped by propaganda] as a direct continuation of Stalin’s NKVD [secret police]. They murdered his grandfather and dumped him in a mass grave with 3435 Polish officers in a forest on the outskirts of Kiev. There are thought to be 100,000 murdered Ukrainians buried in the forest. This will help you understand why the Ukrainians are fighting so hard.

Fi, Piper, Duncan, Rupert, Thérèse, Jo and Isla.

Laikenbuie community meals have not been so frequent this year. Christmas dinner happened last week, but there was no day that everyone could come, Alex and Sue are missing. Rupert & Fi are staying while they build a house somewhere yet to be determined. After the news above you maybe wondering why Piper was there, it’s just that her parting feast had not happened before.

With best wishes for a safe and happy Christmas and a healthy New Year.

With love to you all from
Thérèse, Peter, Jo & Sam.