Balance is a hard thing to achieve. Particularly for me at this time of year; we moved to Skye knowing we'd be hundreds of miles from friends and family and therefore any child-free time was going to be extremely rare, at least to begin with. And that's OK. We do now have friends and neighbours who have offered to look after Joe for us. We should maybe consider taking them up on it.
But through the summer it's generally just me and him. The days can be long and exhausting; he's most definitely a talker. He asks a lot of questions and has the memory of a champion. So there's no making promises and then avoiding honouring them. Ever. He wants to be doing, doing, doing. He plays hard and he sleeps deep.
We do a lot of things together though, and for the most part it's good fun. Living here means there's much on offer but often at tourist prices so we're resourceful and we keep things simple. Walking, exploring (we've got so many places we want to see), picnics. A weekly playgroup which some of Joe's schoolmates attend - and the drive there and back is one of my favourites. There are always wellies and waterproofs in the car boot, along with a fishing net and a blanket.
But it's important to try and steal some thinking time during these busy days. Sometimes he'll go and draw up in his room, or I'll let him watch something on Netflix while I drink tea at the kitchen table. Occasionally, after a particularly eventful outing, he might doze off in the back of the car and I get a brief respite from the constant chatter.
I think we're faring a bit better (or worse, depending on your outlook) than further south in terms of weather. The heatwave petered out a few weeks ago and we're back to cloud and coolness and breezes. Fine rain sometimes, but the odd day of sun too. I prefer a bit of meteorological balance. It helps the garden and it isn't as draining as the constant stifling temperatures.
We've been out to various beaches (sometimes just spotting somewhere interesting and clambering down to the water). There are always things to bring home: bits of driftwood, crab shells. And lately we've been picking wild raspberries. They're prolific up here, as plentiful as the blackberries later in the year. So we'll soon be making jam.
Yesterday Joe and I went into town to meet Jay for lunch (and to retrieve Joe's little fishing rod from Jay's car boot - he was pestering me about it all morning and I gave in). On the way back we stopped near Skeabost and went for a walk to the bridge.
You pass through the grounds of a hotel and by lots of mature trees. In little patches of birch, we spotted lots of big flat toadstools growing in the damp ground. There was wood smoke wafting in our direction too and there it was: the slightest but still perceptible turn of the wheel. Summer is very subtly turning to autumn. I'm sure we'll have more balmy days yet, and bright displays of high-summer flowers in the castle gardens. But still. My favourite season is within sight.
When we reached the river and the bridge, we spotted a couple getting married in the field opposite. They were standing under an arch decorated with flowers. There were only a handful of guests so we quietly walked along the stones for a while, taking the briefest of paddles, before I suggested we turn back. It felt a bit intrusive somehow, us being there.
So: a midway point between summer and autumn. I'm reading Notes from the Jam Cupboard by Mary Tregellas at the moment. It's such a useful book, and inspiring too. Harvesting and preserving is such a timely thing to do. The raspberries then gooseberries next, followed by blackberries.
We've been working on the garden, removing a dense and overgrown row of privet. It marks the boundary between our property and the surrounding croft, with a stream running in between. There's some sheep fencing there too but taking out all that hedging has completely opened up the back of the garden. We're planning on dismantling the rockery too, and clearing the peripheral areas which have been lost to brambles and other assorted creeping plants.
The plan when we came to Skye was either to buy land with a small house on it, or to build something very modest sitting in a few acres. Instead we ended up with a large house in a reasonably-sized garden. So what becomes of our plans to grow our own, and to maybe have a few chickens? We make a garden croft instead. By reclaiming half the driveway, clearing those overgrown areas back and potentially taking down the huge studio (to be replaced with something new and perhaps two-thirds of the size), by utilising the front garden with raised beds, and by emptying the patio area by the back door of its random pots, we can grow a lot of stuff.
The little wedge-shaped garden hiding behind the outbuildings is a sheltered suntrap and perfect for edibles. We're hoping that, once the edges of the drive are cleared and the rockery gone, we can get a polytunnel built.
Time and money. It'll be a gradual process, of course. But as we head towards autumn we're planning on doing as much groundwork as we can, cutting back and digging. The incinerator will see a lot of action. We'll be living in jumpers and wellies (no change there then) but hopefully, it'll start to change shape. Not a croft, not a garden, but something in between.