As we drove past Croft 36 today the small wooden kiosk beside the road from last year had been replaced with a rough, bleached pine shed with a sign on the outside stating: OPEN 10 AM till 9 PM?? On the inside walls were hand-written comments from satisfied customers and to my surprise was a printed out copy of my Blog post from last year. It made me feel very humble that someone should think it was a good read.
This is Dragon’s Den entrepreneurial spirit, Hebridean style. An ‘Honesty Box’ for simple, quality food: knotted loaves of bread at £1.50; £4 or £5 for a perfectly dressed crab sitting on ice; gleaming, cellophane-wrapped, home-made scones, kippers, freshly dug potatoes from Northton’s machair. While we stood there dithering about what to buy, a young member of the Croft 36 family replenished the almost sold-out bread from a huge delivery crate filled with fresh, warm bread – more perfectly formed, sweet-smelling dough. Who needs expensive perfume when there’s fresh bread to tantalise the senses!
We decided to knock on the front door. The lady of the house, Julie, greeted us as she sorted through a box full of fresh crabs and said she would introduce us to Steve, her husband, who spends most of his time baking bread, fishing and making curries. We walked through the hall festooned with children’s paintings and drawings, bold, sequined and colourful. The smell though!! Ooh, the smell of home-baked bread filled the air.
The kitchen with a round wall, lighthouse-style, is like no other. I looked around the huge living space, sofas, computer, toys, stuff, with the baking area at one end. To me it was the feeling of Willy Wonker’s Chocolate Factory, only this was all about bread. Can you imagine watching the TV, working at your computer, playing with Lego surrounded by the aroma of cooking, and freshly-baked bread…. Heaven on earth.
Julie took me down the back garden, like a wild glen which backs on to the grey, rocky and purple heather-clad Maodal (251 metres high). Steve and Julie’s garden is a forest of willows where fattening chickens with big feet run free, almost wolf-whistling as we stepped carefully through the family’s paradise on the Isle of Harris.
This is Croft 36, crofting 21st century style. This is life on the edge. Making the most of what is available locally. Julie and Steve have lived on the island for just 14 years. But they welcomed us into their home, a hive of baking industry, in true Hebridean style. Go there if you can.
Seafood meals and produce from Croft 36, Northton, Isle of Harris