Friday, April 30, 2010

Mother to Mother

This afternoon I was working on my own at the bottom of the garden, planting out my summer cabbage and cauliflower, when Mrs. Blackbird came and sat chirping on the fence.  I stopped work and said hello to her.  I knew that she and her mate were very busy with a nest somewhere, but I didn't know where it was.   I asked her how she was and she chirped back.  So I said how busy she must be, she agreed.  I  enquired as to how many babies she was having and she chirped 3 times.  We had a lovely conversation for a few minutes, about children and eggs, and then I asked if she would stay and allow me to take her photograph.  She chirped and wagged her tail, but when I went to fetch my camera (always an essential garden tool) she flew straight into the holly hedge.
I thought I had lost my chance, but she stayed there very still, so I crept up and peered through the fairly dense and prickly branches.  A bright eye stared back at me - can you see her? How gracious of her to invite me to see her nest - thank you dear Mother Blackbird..
Just a little bit of magic in the air.  Beltane blessings to you all xx

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

And of course...

... no visit can be made to this land without seeing the hauntingly beautiful The Callanish Stones.  A 5000 year old community standing proudly and stoically in the middle of the island.

What are their secrets?  Ah - if only they could tell us - if only we would hear them.

I feel that each stone has a character all of it's own.

and this one is my favourite - a comforting and beautiful image of Motherhood. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bridging the ocean

On our journey to Camus Bostadh, we had to cross over the Atlantic Ocean - via the Bernera Bridge. There is a poignant semi-circle of stones on the hillside there, which looks just like a group of women, shawls pulled about them as they gaze over the sea.

They are thought to be part of the Callanish complex of stone circles, and are known as Callanish VIII.  It is a fascinating subject, and so much has been written and speculated about these stones, which are reckoned to be over 5000 years old.  I feel very strongly that they are images of women and of a matri-focal society, and the idea that Callanish is a lunar observatory would fit in with that. They are powerful and special in any case - no doubt about that.

Certainly worth crossing an ocean for.

Beach No.3

Another day in Lewis, another beach. - more isolated this one, but well worth the twisted mountainous road to get there.  Camus Bostadh in Great Bernera.  Bostadh (pr Bosta) means small farm and is a Norse word.  The west coast here abounds with names which show their Viking heritage.  Again, I won't say too much, as the pictures pretty much speak for themselves..  

One interesting feature about this beach (yes, I know the setting is enough of a feature, but...), about 20 years ago a storm caused the sand dunes to shift, revealing 4 Iron Age houses built on the beach. Imagine finding that when you went to walk your dog in the morning!  Once excavated, they built this replica close to the site, and recovered the originals with the sand. Unfortunately it was still closed for the Winter, so we couldn't see inside, but a definite visit next time. I love how it just blends in to the landscape.

The original Iron Age village was just behind this fence - but the chap below was roaming around freely.  Luckily he was friendly enough - we Scots generally are :) 

Monday, April 26, 2010

Beach No. 2

Dalbeg beach on the West Side of Lewis.  The name comes from the Gaelic -  Dail Beag, which means small valley. It is a favourite haunt of surfers later in the season, but we had the place completely to ourselves.
Simply stunning!

No need for words really.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beach No. 1

We were back in the Hebrides for a few days, and driving through Harris to visit friends, we spotted this gloriously deserted beach at Horgabost. How could anyone drive on from there?

One boy, and his dad -  excitedly anticipating that first barefoot step into the soft sand.

Full of the joys, running towards the sparkling sea.

Feeling that deliciously cold water lap gently over the toes! 

Paradise indeed!
Except it got a bit crowded later.

Earth Day - One family's hopes and wishes

I had posted a couple of weeks ago about our intention to make Hope/Wish prayer flags for Earth Day on Thursday.  Well, we did and here they are.  Mine and James's are pictured above.

Kristine's and my Dad's

John's and Kenneth's

Sorry this is a bit after the event, but we were away early the next morning for a few days and I didn't get a chance to post this until now.  It was a lovely creative family thing to do - lots of fun choosing our material, thread and buttons, not to mention thinking up our Earthwishes and how to decorate them.  They are still there - hanging on the washing line - the paint has run and the felt tip pen has disappeared, but the hopes and wishes of this family have soared off into the ether and all around this wonderful planet of ours. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Subversive planting

The plans for the medicinal herb spiral are now in motion.  We have identified a space, in the front garden, and I have started growing the herbs.  I tend to start most of my plants in pots or modules as we can have a short season here, so I do like to give them a start.
I am growing herbs based on my favourite herbal - A Woman's Book of Herbs, by Elisabeth Brooke. Here I have sown quite a variety - centaury, vervain, artemesia, agnus castus, pennyroyal, yarrow, fennel and hyssop, and today I put in some meadosweet and great mullein. I also broadcast eyebright seeds over the back lawn (sic), and I have valerian and elecampane still to go in on the next root day.  Most of the herbs in the book are considered wildflowers at best, or  more often, weeds - many already grow abundantly in the garden - nettles, shepherd's purse, horsetail, cleavers and chickweed, or are staple herbs, such as rosemary, sage, thyme and lavender. The ones I have sown this year are much rarer where I live - more and more of the green spaces are being concreted over in the name of progress, so these old helpers are being lost to us and I do not like to collect plants from the wild, as they are scarce enough.
I know some of these herbs could be considered - well - controversial I suppose.  Artemesia is also known as wormwood, and some of the others were recommended by Culpeper to bring on a delayed period. They are all plants that would be used by the wisewoman!  In the book, Ms Brooke details the myths and legends surrounding each plant, then indicates their physical, emotional and magical uses - some of these are very intriguing..  It is a wonderfully subversive book, and I did feel at bit of a rebel in my own greenhouse today!

Saturday, April 17, 2010


James has been spending a lot of time this week just pottering about in the garden.  He amused himself for ages just playing with a pile of straw.  Of course, it's not just playing, or amusement - it is much more important than that - living, learning and growing taking place right before my eyes.

He learns what he lives - the garden is where we spend most of out time right now, so that shows up in his play.

Just up the road from us, a new railway line and station are being built.  For well over a year, we have lived with big trucks and machinery going by, and we take frequent walks up to see how things are going.  One of the men told us that the big track-laying machine will be arriving in the next week or so, but James is already ahead of schedule with his track.

I love the way children just observe and absorb, and then you see how real learning happens.

Greenhouse greenery



cabbage and cauliflower,

leeks, broad beans, sweet peas, purple podded peas,

and  -oops - forgot to label this one, so it will be a surprise!  Any guesses?

Garden greenery

Lots of green stuff shooting up in the plot this week.  The lovage is such a strong growing plant - a bit of a thug mind you, but it looks splendid in it's corner when it is taller.  Just a couple of young leaves add a lovely savoury taste to a green salad.
Garlic is looking good.

The shallots are peeking through.

Hmmm - so are the creeping buttercups.

The nettles are ready to pick at last.

and look at this cheeky foxglove growing out of the wall!
The delicate angelica is looking very lush too.  Not surprising that everything is bursting into growth - we have had a fairly long spell of decent weather.  A bit cold and windy the last couple of days, and we have been warned about more snow.  Every time I check the forecast pages, though, the snow has been pushed back another day.  Maybe at this rate I will be posting pictures of a snow covered garden in June!  Apparently it did snow in June one year - about 60 years ago!  It is ingrained into our local folk memory now, and people even younger than me will say - 'It once snowed in June' as if they were there.  Funny thing the weather.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


What a great few days it has been!  I love it when we get just a taste of Summer's heat early in the year.  I love it when boys are out playing barefoot all day and reluctantly come in late, muddy and tired - and I especially love little dirty feet.

The violets are out in our spring bed.  This was such a beautifully planted border, which we inherited when we moved into the house.  Over the years, children running through it, footballs,  and marauding hens have taken their toll, but it still does its best every Springtime and never fails to cheer my heart as I walk past.

I am very excited to be growing this ancient and rare variety of Kale.  Kale is a most excellent vegetable here in the cold north - it was one of the few greens that we were able to pick fresh during the Winter.  I imagine this one will be super hardy, so I have planted a lot.  I sowed some on Friday, which was a blossom day, according to the moon calendar, and also more today, which is a leaf day.  Hopefully I will have enough fresh green leaves to see us through another year, and enough plants going to seed to save for next year too.  It is the first time I have really consciously planned this - normally I am just glad to get out there and rush around getting as many things sown, planted and moved around as I have time for. It felt good to be taking the time to think and plan before acting.  I look forward to seeing this working.

I am very keen on the use of herbs - culinary and medicinal.  I  have herbs planted all over the garden at various points.  This is fine for the less frequently used ones, but when I need a sprig of sage, the thought of trekking away down to the very bottom of the plot - through the 2 new hen proof gates,in all likelhood during heavy rain, slithering through the mud -  well, most often I do without, ditto chives and parsley. Finally it has occurred to me to have these things nearer the house (duh!). So I enlisted the help of my 2 super strong masculine presences to heave these old sinks round to the sunny south facing side door for me, and set them up.  Now filled with this fabulous compost, (3 free bags from the council for every citizen!) they are ready to become my kitchen herb planters.  I have already sown some coriander seeds (leaf day - see above) and I have parsley germinating in the greenhouse.  The basil and oregano will go in when it is a bit warmer at night,  and I plan to add sage, thyme, dill and marjoram.  I already have 2 rosemary bushes in the front garden and chives and sorrell in pots.  My big herb idea is to plant a medicinal herb spiral based on  the book 'A Woman's Herbal', by Elisabeth Brookes.  I am hoping to start swing some of the seeds for this tomorrow, and I am really quite excited by this project.  I will write more in future posts about this - it is very exciting.


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