Stonehead Croft lies almost at the end of a ridge a little over two miles out of Insch, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.
The croft house dates back to at least the 1740s, while the neighbouring Stonehead Circle dates to the late Neolithic period and lends the agricultural surroundings an air of continuity that reflects the fact this area has been occupied for thousands of years.
The main part of the croft house and the entire steading are built from local stone, mainly round granite boulders although much of the original and local slate roofing has been replaced in recent times by Welsh slate.
Several of the boundaries take the form of drystane dykes, again built from stone taken from the fields, while the whole ridge is a huge mass of stone, split by a fault running roughly east-west.
We have a six-acre field that extends to the west and north (out of sight in the photo), which is largely used for grazing sheep, for making hay or for sileage.
Our pigs, a herd of pedigree Berkshires, are on several smaller fields and pens created out of the larger one, but these post-date the aerial photo.
Tucked in between the L-shaped windbreak and the backwall of the steading is the Chicken Fort, the small brown shed just in front of the trees.
Dwelling within their stout, electrified perimeter fence are most of our flock of chickens, a mixture of Scots Greys and ISA Browns.
Within the other L-shaped windbreak is our vegetable patch of 14 beds. We also grow other vegetables in the fields in rotation with the pigs.
The steading itself, the L-shaped stone building, consists of (starting from the road to the south) a generator room, workshop, byre, hayshed and an old cottage. The cottage is currently used as a lumber store and to house the broody coop.
The house runs east-west across the front of the steading and is a mish-mash of old stone walls, various extensions, a converted garage and a roof extension. Visitors are always surprised by its Tardis-like nature as they wend their way through the various room.
The workload is relentless, particularly after one of our regular gales, but the rewards are fantastic as we slowly see a self-sufficient croft re-emerging from its slumber.
We are not trying to create a profitable smallholding or farm in any of the modern economic, social or cultural senses, but nor are we trying to lead an alternative lifestyle.
We’re trying to lead a more traditional lifestyle while also minimising our impact on the environment around us. Our life is hard, but it’s ours and it’s a lot more fun than being a wage slave tied to the consumerist treadmill.
So while the croft once supported four families and their livestock and is not likely to do that again, it’s a real pleasure to have one foot in the past and another in the future.