Sunday, August 29, 2010
I had a leisurely wander around the garden with my camera, trying to capture the late summer feeling - and it is, still summer - for just a little while.
I watched the hens devouring their breakfast - their bright red combs bobbing up and down. Further along on the lavender hedge, a bumble bee was already hard at work, gathering the winter stores.
Tomatoes drip off the vines - a daily harvest. These plum tomatoes are loving this sunny weather and will ripen soon enough - plenty of time. As I walk back down the path, shy violet peeps out - "I'm here" she whispers. The herb beds by the conservatory door are bursting with seeds, soon to be saved in paper envelopes for another garden next year.
I sit down on the step, mug of tea in hand and watch the swallows cavorting joyfully in this blue Sunday sky.
They are here, still...
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Here I stand, barefoot on the grass, enjoying this warm late summer day. I have just come out of the greenhouse with a harvest of tomatoes and squash, and paused to admire the hydrangea. This gorgeous bush is abundant with huge blooms - blue, pink and mauve just now, but Autumn will fade them to old red and finally turn to a parchment-like transparency in Wintertime. I cut fresh flowers now, and use the large leaves on cheese-boards and fruit platters and later I pick faded heads to dry for Christmas wreaths and decorations.
Most of my wanderings today were between garden and kitchen. We are back on the Mainland for a few weeks, and the garden here is burgeoning with ripe produce. Our hunger today was satisfied from this very soil.
Slowly slowly sizzle the courgettes (sprinkled with a little salt) and chopped cloves of garlic to taste in a glug of olive oil, until they soften and start to break up and look more oily than watery. Pour off excess oil (keep it to use another time if there is enough)
Throw in some parmesan and a splash of cream. Serve on warm soft buttered toast, or you could toast it in the oven sprinkled with olive oil.
Grab a piece for yourself first, because hungry boys and husbands soon polish it off.
Later in the afternoon, I wandered down to the plot, basket on arm, to see what was suggested for our evening meal. There has been a terrific crop of garlic - large bulbs of rosy pink juicy cloves. Many of the lettuce we had planted here has either gone to seed, or is very expectant looking. I pulled a couple of Cos heads that looked as if they were headed for the sky. But what to do with an overblown lettuce? Lettuce soup of course - with peas - yes! We have a great crop of peas too - quite the best I have grown. They are a rare heritage variety called Champion of England. Despite the name, I am thrilled with them. Can one be thrilled with a pea? Why not - they are sweet and perfect and the pods are mostly full of shiny regular green pearls. They are very tall, however, and they did pull the netting over as they grew, so stronger supports next time. Back up to the kitchen.
Lettuce and pea soup
Sweat an onion (or any allium really - shallots, leeks, scallions) and garlic cloves to taste in olive oil until soft and transparent.
Add 8 oz (ish) of shredded lettuce and as many peas as you like (frozen would be fine too). When the lettuce has wilted, add your stock of choice ( veg, marigold, or chicken)
Bring to the boil for a minute or two and then blend.
Add cream if you feel so inclined and serve with croutons. I used the left over courgettey/garlicy oil from lunch to toast the croutons with.
This is the last week Gardenmama is hosting Wandering Wednesday. I have so enjoyed taking part in this photo challenge. I never knew where my wanderings would take me, even as I posted the photograph. It has been a moving meditation. Where will you go this week?
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
A close up of my favourite lettuce 'Freckles' - one of the few things we have planted in our new garden. There is quite a lot of space, but so different from our garden on the mainland. All the ground is at the front and to one side of the plot - facing south west - which is good for the sun, but not for the full frontal south-westerly gales we have been assured we will see in the winter.
Somewhere too there are blackcurrants and gooseberries in there, so they will be rescued, and the compost bin is already well established. It is a work in progress, as all gardens are. And we have 2.5 acres of croftland to work too!
All in good time - I will post pictures of that project soon. In the meantime, we are back down on the Mainland for about a month to see Kenneth safely moved into his first flat (apartment), celebrate Kristine's 21st, visit Mum, who is failing quite a bit, and catch up with everyone and everything else, including the garden here.
Friday, August 20, 2010
We are holding on to Summer as tightly as we can. Every day gifts different wonders for us, here on our beach. Today we were in an artful mode, as we played with our seaside treasures. Water, weed, sand and stones - just right for all sorts of sensory creations.
Inspired by Friday's Nature Table at The Magic Onions.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Gardenmama, who hosts Wandering Wednesday on her beautiful blog. Join her and other wandering women from around the world, all with the gentlest of footsteps.
Saturday, August 14, 2010
I was going to say that we went to a classic car rally today, but actually it was billed as the Western Isles Transport Group show. There were a few tractors and motorbikes, but it was mostly cars. James is very interested in transport, he happily plays at 'garages' every day and we read a lot about cars and trucks. So, seeing this as a sort of field trip on the subject, we headed off.
We have a friend back down in the Central belt who refers to Lewis as The Isle of Rust! Not a lot of rust in evidence here, I have to say. Lots of shiny, shiny metal glinting in the sun.
Ford had a big presence on the field, with this gorgeous turquoise Popular and lots of Escort Mexico's.
Nice Hillman Humber.
James and his dad studying the inner workings of a Triumph Stag.
A couple of immaculate Morris(es) or should that be Morrisii?
Like this old Bedford van, which was a former workers' minibus. Mind you, there were some cars which I didn't think were actually vintage - that snappy red Escort GTI, or the Capri, for instance - surely some mistake!
James thinks it is a very sleek machine.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Here I stand, my feet placed firmly on rock that is estimated to be 3 billion years old. It is a shelf of Lewisian Gneiss, that is the bedrock of this land. I am wearing my hiking boots, because I know that soon I will be scrambling around on rocks of a similar age with my 3 year old son. I have stopped here, as it is my favourite spot to take a photograph of the Callanish Stones.
Looking West over the bay, I notice the contours of ancient lazybeds, or runrigs - a common method of land cultivation used for centuries in this area, before sheep farming became the default use for the land. As we begin our own growing venture here, it is heartening to see these traces of a once productive countryside.
Where will your feet wander today? Visit GardenMama's beautiful space and take part in Wandering Wednesday - you may be surprised where you find yourself.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
There were plenty of sheep to be admired.
The sheep shearing competition was a pretty fierce event. They make it look so easy, don't they?
Not sure what this chap thinks about it though.
The home industries section was another hotly contested area. I was pleasantly surprised by the number of teenagers taking part in this - especially the cake making. By the time i got close enough to take this picture, though, some of the entries had already gone home.
I was very interested in seeing the vegetable section, however. Many people imagine that Lewis is a barren treeless peat bog of an island. It most definitely is not. The table was covered in various baskets of the most wonderful produce - a lot of it grown outside too. No excuses for me then.
The winning fruit basket was just sublime. We visited this man's amazing garden today, as he is quite nearby, and he was incredibly helpful with his advice on growing conditions here. It was a really useful visit, but I think it may be a few years before he needs to worry about any competition from here :) Mind you, I didn't get round to entering my lettuces, and, although I say it myself, I might have had a wee chance.
Faint heart, though...
Looks good to me.
And here he is again, throwing the 28lb weight over the high bar.
Great stuff! And a great day out. We even met quite a few people we knew, which gave it more of a community feel for us.
It seems so long ago since my last melancholic post, and yet I can't believe how quickly the time is going past. Another busy week is ahead already and a few days of summer have been promised. Life goes on. x
Sunday, August 1, 2010
My Sister phones from Canada. She remarks on the clarity of the line. I say that it is because we are much closer to her now. She laughs and asks what the shopping is like, then "Do you like living there?" I reply in the affirmative. I wonder if she believes me - I wonder if I do.
We go for a walk earlier than usual. There are a lot of people at the stones today. A large group of Spanish/American tourists are on top of the rocks, taking pictures, while a private tour guide is pointing various things out to a Japanese family. A young French couple take photographs of each other leaning against the stones and someone has placed a bunch of wildflowers wrapped in Christmas paper in the cairn at the centre of the circle. I watch James running around, as usual, trying to hide behind a stone, his bright blue jacket and golden hair making his hiding place fairly obvious. "Count to fourteen and then come and find me!" he shouts.
We climb up to sit on the rocks and observe the people moving around - Big Daddy Sheep is grazing beside us - not even pausing to look up, such is his enjoyment of the summer grass. We sit for a while, as James searches, unsuccessfully for baby rabbits. A large boat is anchored in the bay and we watch as a smaller craft detaches and heads for the shore. Another group of young people head up the hill and we see them stop and take in their first view of the monument. I love to see people enjoying this space. A tiny something inside shifts, imperceptibly and I begin to feel a bit better. I want to tell everyone - "I live here!" Instead I remember that dinner is cooking in the oven and I am hungry. As I set the table on our return, I root around in some of the unopened boxes and find the new cutlery I had bought for this house. Yes, it is time to start living in the present.
We were recently back down at the old house for a week, catching up on various bits of business and loading the truck with more things for the return journey. While we were there, Kenneth and his girlfriend took a trip up to see the house and explore the Island. Our paths crossed briefly on our return as we disembarked the ferry just as they were boarding. A quick hug in the terminal building waiting room and they were off. He looked so grown up, confident, his own man. and I felt that pang of loss that happens when you realise your child is no longer yours alone. Back at the house I could sense his presence and felt a huge emptiness, which gave way to tears. I missed him - really missed him, and wanted to be home.
Connection - that's what is missing. We have removed ourselves from hundreds of year of family - of instinctive knowing of a place and people. Recognising the faces - knowing the stories, being part of another's history - this place holds none of that. The home I was pining for is no longer there. It exists in my mind - a recollection of different times, different scenarios different people - the pain of nostalgia. Home is made from memories, conversations, meals, joys, sorrows - all those things- not waxed wood floors and vintage pillowslips. I know Kenneth and Louise will be back here - as will our daughters. James will grow up here and his all his childhood memories will be of Lewis. My grandchildren will come on extended holidays, friends and neighbours will drop by. Home Making is a slow business - it takes time and energy and love, but like the fabric on tomorrow's shopping list, we will weave ourselves - thread by thread into the warp and weft of this place.