MAKING hay in Shetland necessitates an optimistic nature.

Every day we have been here has seen a range of weather conditions. Luckily the car is laden with waterproofs and bikinis (I jest), sandals and wellington boots, thermos flasks and a cool box. We are ready for anything.

John has always said that if the weather is right, good hay should not take any making, but if the weather isn’t favourable, bad hay does.

Across Shetland we have seen fields of grass cut and rowed up ready for baling, but with the daily rain we presume that much of the crop will be for silage rather than hay. But today we saw a method of drying grass that I have only ever seen in books. The farmer had created stooks of grass in a wigwam effect. Each stook was set on a frame allowing the air to circulate underneath, and so that presumably any rain soaking the pile could drain swiftly away.

Another farmer we spoke to had not finished drying off his cut grass in the field, but quickly baled it to stop the rain soaking the cut grass any further. He had then opened all the doors into his shed and crossed his fingers that the hay would dry out in there. John was rather doubtful over the efficacy of this scheme, but if it worked for this farmer who was running the farm single handedly, that was fine.

Meanwhile everything in Shetland seems to be under close observation, either by the sheep, the ponies, otters, or most noticeably, seals. Every time John casts a line into one of the bays, an enquiring head pops up out of the water to see what is happening. But the top seals we have seen this week are the lazy, fat, and most certainly opportunistic ones that live in Lerwick harbour and congregate outside by the quay where the fish are landed.

Amusingly, to me, the seals held their positions in the water vertically. All you could see until going close to the harbour edge was a circle of seal heads, tracking all movement in the vicinity. But come the time when the rejected fish was thrown into the water, it was if the sea boiled. Every seal for himself. Then once the fish had all gone, back to a peaceful bobbing up and down on the sea bed waiting for the next handout. No wonder they were all great blubbery creatures. Why go out and risk the North Atlantic to fish when takeaways are so generously provided for the taking.