Monday, January 31, 2011

Finding the path


Such a busy time since we arrived back. I know it looks like we spend all our time at the beach, or the stones, or knitting by the fire, but we have been working and even completing some things!  Plans still being hatched and new ideas keep flowing. Friends are being made, and help is willingly offered.  It seems there is no time to blog all the goings on, and, anyway, they are so quickly superseded by other things.

I need to gather all my thoughts and write up a proper progress report type of post.

Which I will do - soon...
...yes, very soon now...

Friday, January 28, 2011

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. Hope you all have a blessed weekend.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yarn Along (1)

I am joining in with this fun blog party at Small Things this week for the first time.  Reading and knitting are two of my favourite things.
So here goes.
Knitting: I cast on this sweet wee cardigan the other day - intended for my second grandchild,due in a few weeks time.  The pattern is Easy Baby Cardigan from More Last Minute Knitted Gifts, by Joelle Hoverson. The yarn is a gorgeous glowing golden superwash merino by Artesano.  The cardigan is meant to be a 4-6 hour project, but that kind of timescale is beyond me at the moment.  Still, a snatched row here and there, and it should be ready in time.
Reading:  Two books.  The first is one I have just started.  Song of the Rolling Earth, by John Lister-Kay, the naturalist and conservationist. It is a personal account - almost a meditation on the landscape, environment and wildlife of the Highlands and Islands. It is beautifully written, and just the thing to wind down with last thing at night.
The second book is the one that I am reading to my 4 year old son just now - On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We are so enjoying these tales of Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura and baby Carrie, and their adventures, as they try to make a living.  We have already raced through the first two books in the series, then skipped ahead to The Long Winter, during our own snowbound hiatus.  It certainly puts our easy lives into perspective anyway.
I have enjoyed sharing this today - join in with Ginny and yarn along too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


It always amazes me how quickly we fall into a more relaxed rhythm within a couple of days - hours, even, of being here.  The hurly burly of the last two months seems years away now.  We have just picked up the threads where we left off.

Maddie Mor and Maddie Beag were absolutely fine - they have grown quite a bit over the last few weeks.  They did not appear to have noticed either our departure or our return, much to the dismay of James, at whose insistence we had carted a bale of lowland hay in the back of the truck, as a present for the sheep.  Ah well.
The heavy frosts have taken their toll on the back wall of the barn. This will need some swift attention, as we don't want to lose this valuable building.  We are planning to re-roof it later in the year, but a repair job will be carried out this week, by the man in the yellow wellies.

Quite a lot of crofty things being planned for this week, so it was good to head off to our favourite beach for a few deep breaths of good clean air.

And, it was great to get our toes in the ocean again.  Very refreshing!

and breathe...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Latha math - a good day

A local band - well, the singer is anyway.  We saw them on the BBC Alba Hogmanay show and just loved them.  This is their new single which is now available as a download.  (See here).
We have been dancing around to it all evening. Wonderful!
Latha math air an eilean
(A great day on the Island)

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Journey

Leaving Lothian on a frosty morning, we are soon passing the Wallace Monument in Stirling,  and on to Perth, to the A9, where, for me, the journey really begins.  Sharing the back seat with a boy and his otter, knitting on my knee, and a long road ahead.
The Ruthven barracks flash by, as we head past the Cairngorms, forestry plantations hiding our view, until - Inverness at last!  Over the Kessock bridge, we see the boats resting in the marina, sleeping until warmer, kinder weather tempts their owners back to the water.
Turning our faces West now, we look out for the beehives at the roadside in Contin, and before we know it, the An Teallach ridge* is in front of us.  The ferry arrives early, and  soon we are heading out over The Minch, towards Stornoway.

And as we arrive at the croft, that glorious moon rises over the house to welcome us home again. 

* I think it is An Teallach, but my mountain spotting abilities are very poor.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wagons roll

Starting to pack up the wagon for our journey to the North West.  Most of the room has been taken up with the dog crate and a bale of hay (don't ask).  Still there is plenty room for my spinning wheel, sewing machine, fabric and wool stash, boxes and baskets of notions and another few loads of books.  John will have to get going on those bookshelves this trip. Most of our clothes will be squeezed in, once the dog is settled down, and bags of food, and pots and pans will fit in any spaces. 
Cupboards, shelves and drawers are slowly emptying each time we make this journey.  There is now a  definite scent of permanence about this move. 

The hens will be moving up in early March - one of our tasks this time is to fix up a home for them.  Here they are enjoying a communal dust bath in the greenhouse.  They do like their little luxuries, those girls. I hope croft life suits them, I miss them a lot. 

Tonight I watched the full moon rise over the garage roof, and had the delicious thought that tomorrow night, I will see it sail through the big skies of Lewis.  Let that wagon roll. xx

Friday, January 14, 2011

Walking in monotone

The last couple of days have been so much warmer. The snow has all but disappeared, but so also has that dazzling blue and white light.  Instead a soft, grey mistiness is draped around us. No panoramic views on our walk today, but a more subdued and veiled landscape lies in front of us. We look down, we peer closer, and we see things that are often lost in the big picture.

Nature's shapes and textures are revealed if we but lower our gaze; if we just look carefully.  Ripples on a puddle; a stand of silver birks shining out in the shadows; the silhouetted seed pods of the broom - still rattling in the wind, and the shape of grass frozen under frosted ice.

 Water is like smooth grey silk today, it looks colder somehow.  And the horizon is within touching distance.

We can also appreciate the geometry of the railway engineering work - straight, square, regular - the work of  Man, but with a poised elegance nevertheless

But we find branches and stones to play with.  We try to break ice on the puddles.

We have our very first picnic of the year.

And we know that colour will return to the world.

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. Hope you all have a blessed weekend.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Trainspotting - with added Vitamin D

A sparkling morning beckoned us outside, and the big skies of the West were calling.  We headed back up to  the re-opened cycle track which runs alongside the new Bathgate-Airdrie railway line. This time, we hoped to see some trains.

And we did! The Edinburgh train -

and the Glasgow train!

Both drivers tooted their horns and waved as they passed - completely making a little boy's day.

We enjoyed some wonderful, wide open views.This is one of my favourites along this route. Just visible in the centre of this picture is Dalziel and Scullion's art installation The Horn - one of a series of pieces of motorway art that border the M8.
We watched a crow taking his morning bath.  He certainly did some serious splashing around in the freshly thawed water.
But we mostly enjoyed being out in this big blue day - and a much needed dose of vitamin D.

Almost home, we stopped to watch the workmen and machines trying to finish off the road at the entrance to the new station.  For several years we have been waiting for and watching the construction of this rail link and station.  Its completion means that local people will be 25 minutes away from the centre of either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Now it is almost here and we are leaving for a land that has never been touched by trains or railroads. I think we'll cope, somehow.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Just another Saturday

Off to a good start with a small mountain of light as a feather pancakes drizzled with maple syrup and a side of crispy bacon (optional).  The recipe for this was adapted from my Christmas present book - A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg. (see end of post).

Snow came softly again in the night, covering up that glimpse of Spring.  James was delighted and rushed out to play.

Fortified by their breakfast of pancakes, Kenneth and Louise followed him out to play.  A good 3 inches had fallen, but apparently it was the wrong sort of snow for a snowman! What do I know?

The Postman brought a surprise parcel - a gift for me from a lovely Mama!  Thank you so much Emma - it is beautiful and catches the morning sun just perfectly.  Of course it will be traveling up to the croft with us soon.  Emma is a truly wonderful person, and she blogs about her lovely family and life at Ramblings through Wonderland.  And I know her in real life too :)

 Back indoors, after a long play in the snowy garden, a Lego marathon ensued. A working lunch was eaten while some pretty amazing creations appeared.  Kenneth and Louise played with James all afternoon, giving this mama some much needed breathing space, and knitting time.

And then a lovely meal at the end of the day.  Kenneth heads back to Edinburgh tomorrow - the holidays are really over now.
Just another Saturday, but what a special one it was.

Light as a feather pancakes. (makes - ooh - enough to make you just be able to manage one more)

2 cups self raising flour*
4 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 cups milk
0.5 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs (separated)
2 oz unsalted butter

Mix dry ingredients
Mix milk and yogurt in separate bowl or jug - add egg whites and whisk until a bit frothy.
Melt the butter and let it cool slightly,then beat in the egg yolks.
Whisk the egg yolk/ butter mixture to the milk/egg white jug.
Add the whole egg/milk mix to the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. 

That is your pancake batter - ready to cook in your usual style.
I used a quarter cup to measure my batter into the pan.

It seems the trick here, as Molly Wizenberg says, is the mixing of the egg yolks into the melted butter.  Try it and see what you think. 

* Self -raising flour.  I am not sure if American readers use good old SR flour, so you would need to add a raising agent of some sort to your all purpose flour.
 The original recipe in the book is for buckwheat pancakes, and the quantities are
1 1/3 cups all purpose
2/3 buckwheat flour
1 teasp baking powder
1/4 teasp baking soda

Actually I have doubled the recipe here, as the original  made 8-10 pancakes. I would imagine you could use any sort of flour you happen to have about you.  If you try them, do let me know what you think.  i would highly reccommend the book too.  Full of charming wee foody reminiscences of the author's life.  Perfect for dipping into between pancakes. . 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What lies beneath

After weeks of snow cover and freezing cold weather, the wind has changed just a little, and there are 15 more minutes of light..  The earth has shed her white gown for now, and the greens and browns are really quite startling to see. I took a little wander around to see what lay beneath.  Silently, silently, life has been stretching and yawning under that snowy blanket.
The lilac tree always shows her buds early.  Look at that - definitely a green tinge there, don't you think?

Daffodils are beginning to stir - just putting a toe out from beneath the covers.

Crocus, nice and sheltered by the door, are a little bolder.

and the brave parsley makes a glorious comeback!

As things ever so slowly begin to waken, we begin to make plans for our growing.  This morning we received the soil analysis for the croft land.  A wee bit acid, but not too much, and easily remedied with some local shell sand. One of our first tasks on our return will be to harvest seaweed to enrich the soil.  January is the best time to do this as the winter storms have loosened the seaweed from the rocks and it is easier to collect.  
Time now to think of potato varieties and other seeds.  We also want to try growing some native oats, but more on that in a later post. 
I am so looking forward to seeing if there are any spring bulbs in the crofthouse garden too.
We have a couple of weeks still before we head back up again, but the preparation for the journey has begun.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Beginnings - New Name!

I love this time of New Year. I know it is a bit unfashionable, and there are so many other times to celebrate a new year, or beginnings of another cycle, and there are the negative associations of excess. and drunkenness to be considered, but maybe because I am Scottish, and this is really our holiday, it could be in the blood, this date still resonates within me. Calendars may have changed and days been lost in history, but there is something to be said for the general feeling of goodwill that is evident among neighbours and the community in general as we collectively reflect and anticipate the change of year.

I love the feeling of hanging up a brand new calendar -  as yet unsullied by scribbled appointment reminders and things to do. A whole clean year dangles there in front of us - what shall we do with such a resource?
Diaries too - 365 slots waiting to be filled with the stuff of life. But I was never very diligent at keeping a journal.  As a child, I used to find the Brownie Guide diary in my Christmas stocking every year. Invariably there would be one entry - "1st Jan. Went to Gran's" - which we did every year. that was all until the next diary - different year, different colour, but only one event ever recorded.

Now blogging has cured me of my chronicling reticence, (as you may have noticed) and I find it important to come to this space and write about life as it happens to me. In the last year, there have been immense changes in my life. One of these has been our long, slow move to Lewis, in the Western Isles, and the purchase of a Croft. I have been feeling that the blog now needs to reflect our new lives, hence the name change.  I will miss The Interrupted Gardener - she was such a good and patient friend,( and I always loved that name,) but now we have moved on and- dare we call ourselves Crofters?
Just before we came down to the mainland for Christmas, we were fixing up some gaps in the fence when our neighbour, who comes from a long line of ancient crofters drove by with his wife.  They stopped the car and  called "You look like a proper crofting family!" (in a Lewis accent)
So - there we are - proper Crofters! (he also in a much quieter voice mentioned that we were putting the fencing on upside down, but no-one needs to know that)
The Barefoot Crofter came to me last summer as exactly the right name for the blog.  You may have noticed the different url earlier, but now, as we take our first tentative steps into 2011, I feel this is a good time to make the rest of the changes.  

Why barefoot?  Certainly it is not because we are able to go about in our bare feet very often in this land and climate!  It fits on a number of other levels though :
We are so new at this - we have no history of crofting, or even farming  in either of our families.  No experience apart from what we have learned from our gardening, and John's long ago summer holiday job on a sheep farm.  Although we have plenty of help and guidance from the community around us - who know what works and what doesn't, still we are able to make our own plans, try out our own daft ideas, and learn from our own mistakes. In a sense, we are barefoot, because we do not have to put on our fathers' shoes - we can run free. 
We are also barefoot because we wish to tread lightly on this land.  Caring for our land and livestock, environment and community in a sustainable and nourishing way - is there any other way?  
So - we have many, many plans - some of which may take a season or two to achieve.  Lots of hard work -  and fun ahead.  It is  such an exciting time, as I contemplate my new calendar.  I do hope you will join us for some of the journey - kick your shoes off and run along.

 Or keep your wellies on if you like. xx


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