Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On days like these

It has been snowing for several days now - snow on snow. So deep that most of the rowan tree's trunk is submerged in a sea of white. Icy blasts of wind come whistling over that North facing wall, and my attempts to clear the greenhouse roof are abandoned for other pursuits.

 On a day like this, then

we make ice art,

we remember the warmth of Summer and the abundance of Autumn, still sharing the garden with us.

We welcome old friends,

and we marvel at how much snow the back of a pick-up can hold!
Inside we paint and listen to some classical music radio,

and we are warmed by candle and firelight.

On days like these, I am thankful that I have my family at home, safe and warm, and that we have enough good nourishing food to sustain us.  We have nowhere we need to be, but here.  

My thoughts today are with all who must travel in these conditions.  I hope your journey is safe and you are soon back in the warm.

Friday, November 26, 2010

This moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember. 

I am joining in again with Soulemama this week.  Wishing all my US friends a wonderful holiday weekend.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Feeling a bit retro today.

Just having some fun with these retro photo effects.
Above is James helping his big sister, Kristine, in the kitchen -

- and James at work and play this morning. I am loving this - it is a free app (retro camera) on my mobile.  Now we are all striking moody film noir type poses. I'm sure it will wear off.  Meantime, I'll try and not get too kitschy...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Some birthday fun.

Who is that woman - anyone know?  She has so many candles to blow out, she needs 3 cakes to hold them all!
Alright - it is me, having one of those birthdays that folk seem to think is special just because it starts with a 5, and ends in 0, and a good enough reason to show face on the blog for a change.  A very rare occurence, and it might just be another 10 years before it happens again!

 Lots of lovely presents though - special birthdays do have their compensations.  Lovely food and fellowship with family, a new static lens for the camera, music, lovely smelling things - and this work of art. Hand spun, dyed and knitted by a local craftswoman - just fabulous - I love it.  I can just see myself striding the fields, crook in hand, tending my flock, or planting the potatoes, wearing this as protection against those South Easterlies.  It is warm, roomy and has that gorgeous oily smell. Did I mention that I loved it? Well I really do.

And now for a birthday game - no prizes, it's just for fun.  A few weeks ago, I posted a picture of one of the standing stones at Callanish, and several lovely people commented that it looked like an owl.  Many of the stones seem to contain images,or represent something, and I thought I would share some of them here. I walk this magical circle often, and yet each time, the changing light reveals another picture I hadn't seen before, or I notice a new angle, and behold a different shape. 
I took a stroll up to the Stones towards sunset and photographed a few. Look carefully - tell me - what do you see?





Of course there are no right answers.  The stones show different colours to each visitor. I'd love to know if you see the same as me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

This moment...

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savour and remember. 

Today I am joining in with Soulemama 
Have a blessed weekend.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The first cut..

With views like this out of our windows, it is so tempting to leave them uncovered. As I write this,however, I am being accompanied by the sound of Gale Force 8, which has caused the ferry - "lifeline" of these islands, to remain tied up on the mainland, where it has been since Monday night.  Gales are a fact of life here  in Winter, so expanses of bare glass are not really an option. 

So, I had the idea to make Swedish, or roll-up blinds in Harris Tweed  - very cosy and insulating, and I can roll them up out of the way and enjoy the views during the day. Off I headed to the cutting room of the mill in Shawbost, where you can buy the the most beautiful fabric in a rainbow of colours . Never having attempted such a project before, I decided to start with the small south  facing window in James's bedroom.  We chose a sunny yellow and sky blue combination.  The colours of Harris Tweed are inspired from the landscape, and this reminds us of Summer beach days - golden sand and clear blue sea.

Making that first cut is  rather daunting. I am really not a very accomplished seamstress after all and I must have measured more than a dozen times.  Once the pieces were cut out - one for the front of the blind and one for the back, I then sewed a long bag.

In the bottom of the bag, I inserted a piece of 1cm (3/8") dowelling - enclosing that with the zip foot of my sewing machine.  A strip of velcro along the top, with the hook side attached to a piece of batten, and we fixed it to the window frame with 2 angle brackets.

With the cords in place ( attached to eyelets on the underside of the batten and to the front of the blind)  - it works!  I am always surprised and delighted when these things work out.

A reasonably successful prototype then. What do you think? Maybe it could be a tad wider at the top, and the seams aren't very straight, and I think I will make matching ties, rather than using plain blind cord, but they do go up and down very nicely. So then, full steam ahead for the rest of the windows - unlike the poor ferry - I do hope it gets underway soon..

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

And so it begins!

We are real Crofters at last - we have livestock!  It is just so exciting, I can't keep this inane grin from my face when I think of it.
On Friday, all the sheep were being brought down from the common grazings for the winter.  There were two of this year's lambs unmarked, so John was asked if he wanted them.  Now we are the proud posessors of two Cheviot X Blackface sheep - and our own croft mark, which is a red dot on the side.

Of course being suddenly responsible for stock fairly concentrates the mind, and our procrastinating about the fence came to an abrupt end.  The hole next to the gate was duly repaired and made stock-proof by these two able fencers.
And then they arrived in Angus's trailer - bounded into the bottom field and wandered happily off to explore their new home.  This field has not been grazed for two or three years, so there is plenty of still lush grass for them to feed on.
James has named them both Maddie - Maddie Mor agus Maddie Beag (Big Maddie and Little Maddie).  There they go inspecting the edges of the field already, while James fruitlessly calls on them to come and play.

It's a thankless task being a shepherd boy.

                 Maddie Beag.                                            Exploring the shelter                                            Maddie Mor                                         


At a community gathering last night, one of our lovely neighbours sang this song in such a sweet and poignant voice. It encapsulates all my feelings about war and remembrance.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


James was 4 today.   A happy day spent playing with his new balance bike, and then a long involved game with his farm animals, bricks and cars.  He wanted to make his own cake - carrot, orange and eggshell!  It was just a bit too crunchy for me, but since there was a fair bit of butter and 4 eggs in it I managed to struggle through a fairly large piece. 
Birthday tea in the kitchen, which is a bit chaotic at the moment, and then through to our newly furnished front room, to play by the fireside.
As he snuggled down in bed for the night, he thought that next year he might like a volcano of his very own, since he would be five by then.  Well - who wouldn't?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Out and about

We woke up on Sunday to a perfect golden morning - just a touch of sparkling frost, highlighting the beauty.  This is the view from my bedroom window - ever changing with the light and weather, but how it gladdens my heart each day to wake up here.
We have been very busy being out and about on various errands, but not so busy that we can't take the time to enjoy being here.  Mainly photographs today - you don't really want to know about our fencing and ditching discussions.  Well, maybe you do, but perhaps later - for now I'll let the beauty of nature speak.

Although, Henley the cockerel always has plenty to say  for himself!

It is cold this morning though, and the heavy coats of the sheep on the next croft are still covered in frost.
The rosemary that I planted at the end of summer is in a cosy spot behind this old wall and is doing well.
Later in the afternoon, we took a walk along the beach.  I never tire of watching the waves, and these ones were breathtaking! I can never resist taking off my boots and socks and getting my toes into the water, and by the time I had walked barefoot  down the freezing sand, the water was almost warm!

 I could watch these breakers roll in all day, and we did stay for quite a while, but the weather began to change and we headed home, just as the storm broke.  As the shipping forecast says, Force 9 - 10 sometimes 11, occasionally 12.  Back on the mainland I would have been worried by such a wind, but here I felt quite safe and secure, cosied into our kitchen.

Most of the structures around here have been standing for quite a while, despite the violence of the winter storms, so I guess I took comfort in that thought.
By the next morning, the winds had died down and the only trace of bad weather was a light dusting of snow on the highest of the mountains.
Down at the croft later in the morning we were greeted by some neighbours, who wandered over for a chat..  What a fine looking trio they were too!

Friday, November 5, 2010

F is for....

Flexibility.  If you saw my last post, you will have noticed these Angel Cards, which I like to use for a little bit inspiration.  I was thinking in particular of our new move to the croft and the challenges we face with this project.  As I sat by the fire and shuffled these cards I meditated on these issues and asked for a key word, or essence to guide me.  Well, as always with these cards, the guidance was just right.  I will need to be flexible in sooo many ways.  Physically I need to be fit - all those drainage channels to clear, peat to dig,  hay to mow, sheep to shear and produce to deal with (eventually)  Living on this island, where the weather seems to change every 10 minutes (although what a beautiful day it was today), flexibility will be key to getting the work done.  Letting go of narrow-mindedness, the book says. I never think of myself as being narrow-minded, but who does?  Already we are learning that the big ideas we had while we were still in the dreamy 'wouldn't it be nice?' stage just might not be feasible.  Goats, for instance, do not do well here, as they suffer terribly from foot rot, due to the wet soil - ah well - a nice jersey cow maybe?  We shall learn as we go.
And living on an island means we have to be flexible about our travel arrangements. My second F word is Ferry - and the ferries don't run in a Force 9 gale - especially if it is coming in from the north. So, our heavily trailed departure was delayed by a few days, to allow the winds to die down.  We headed on up to Ullapool to catch the Thursday evening ferry and enjoyed a nice smooth crossing.  James loves going on the boat and stood happily on the beach watching it dock, then the big doors opened and the cars and lorries streamed out.  Such excitement when you are nearly four - it's also quite exciting when you are nearly f.. (shhh!)
Talking of Ullapool brings me to my next F words - Feet and Fleece.  I was so thrilled with myself for learning how to knit a sock, last week.  I didn't, however, have enough of the Artesano Aran wool  that I had used, to knit an actual pair of socks, but James didn't seem to mind and said he would wait.  Imagine my delight to find a shop selling the most delicious yarns in Ullapool itself - including Artesano!!  Sadly, they didn't have the shade i needed, and sadder yet - the shop is closing down!!  Happily, the owner has 2 shops in the village and will be keeping a small selection of yarns and needles there - and they are still open until after Christmas, so I can do a fair bit of damage yet.  As i looked around, like the proverbial child in the sweetshop, not knowing what to go for - only that I had to have something - I spied a  basket in the corner, with a label that said it contained local handspun wool from local Moorit sheep.  Wonderful - just the thing for another sock, or maybe even a pair this time!

F for fire.  As we caught up with neighbours today we were told that the community council had organised a bonfire and fireworks display, with hot soup to follow.  We set off into the night - the starry sky was so incredible that we wondered how fireworks could compare.
They were pretty spectacular actually, but James didn't like the noise, so we had to pass on the hot soup and head back home.  It was nice to see so many people there, though, and what a thriving community we are living in.  When we got back to the house we spent such a long time just looking at the night sky. The most glorious, but silent light display.  Fantastic. xx


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