Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spinning around

So much has been happening on the croft in the last few weeks - good things - so it is time to step off the wheel take stock, and share some of the goings on
  Fencing and drainage are the biggest priorities, and we have accepted quotes for this work from local men - a father and son. Some jobs are best left to the men with the proper machinery.  Good stockproof fencing is certainly required - especially since we will be growing crops.  New gates and improved access to the fields will also make a big difference. 

We have two fields - the top field and (surprise) the bottom field.  Although this year we will grow on the top field, and keep the sheep on the bottom (until they go back up the hill) - we do intend to rotate.  Our predecessor, who regularly used to win the award for best kept croft at the local show, when he was 'at himself'',  grew on both fields. 

Both fields are arranged in a pattern of rigs, or  - feannags, which are formed by drainage ditches.  The land is a mildly acid soil - lots of peat, but on a clay base.  Both fields slope downwards, so as you near the bottom, there are a great many rushes, and the ground is marshy.  
We have had no shortage of advice, and everyone assures us that good ditching should bring the land back into production, and we will be able to deal with the rushes easily.  Watch this space to see how that works out!

 And we are getting some help with the cultivation!  These chaps are happy to come along, and for free board and lodging, they will plough, dig, root up, and fertilise enough ground for us to grow some vegetables and oats this year. They belong to one of the neighbouring crofters, but they will be living with us for now.

 Talking of growing oats, I have been in touch with a lovely lady from the Machair Life project - based mostly on the Uists.  She has very kindly put me in contact with one of the crofters there, who will supply me with some native oat seed. Although this is not likely to keep us going in porridge, it will be interesting to see how it does.  It also ties in nicely with another project that we are planning for this year.

Bees!  Oh yes.  Not the bumble bee as pictured, but honey bees.  I have ordered two nuclei from a wonderful beekeeper near Inverness, who assures me that bees should do well enough here. I will get my bees in the Summer.  Indeed there are already several beekeepers on the island, and a couple of week ago, I went to my first meeting of the Lewis Beekeeping Association - lots happening there.

Ciamar a tha sibh? Tha mi ag ionnsachadh gaidhlig. (How are you?  I am learning Gaelic) Yes, I have gone to my first Gaelic class in a nearby community centre.  Along with eleven other beginners I managed to get my head and tongue around some easy conversational phrases, among lots of fun and laughter.  My husband has been learning for over ten years and is fluent enough to attempt speaking to some of our neighbours in the 'language of heaven.' James (or Seumas as he is known here) has been enjoying going along to a Gaelic playgroup.  At lunch today he told us off for asking if he wanted milk. "At the croilligean we say bainne!"   I will have to run to keep up with the conversation methinks.

And all that spinning around?  Well - here is a tangible result.  My very first ball of handspun yarn.  The lovely and very kind Dawn, who writes the beautiful blog - Raising Seedlings, sent me a fat parcel full of zwartbles fleece, some ready carded for spinning.  I had been struggling with my wheel and frustration was setting in, when I discovered a spinning and woolcraft group meeting not far from where we live.  I went along, and was warmly welcomed by everyone:  there are some extremely talented and creative ladies there.  At the meeting, one of the members gave a demonstration of felting, and showed some amazing creations - slippers, hats, wall hangings.  So inspirational.  And they helped me with my spinning technique!  Just to have someone sit with me and give a few pointers, and I was away.  So - my first wool - not bad. I am assured I will get better - and I will.  

 So - what next?  Well, trying to tame these two wild sheep is next on the agenda.  We have to give them their fluke and worm dose, and check their feet.  At the moment, all we have seen is their feet disappearing away over the park at a very fast pace, so.... Well - plenty photos of distant white dots on green coming up soon.


  1. Wow wow fascinating and exciting goings on for you! :)

  2. I saw the title and thought woo-hoo I'm going to ses some wool, and there it is after a lovely catch up first of all the other goings on. Pigs! Wonderful. And bees, I wondered if you'd be getting some one day after you did your beekeping a while back.

    The yarn is lovely, well done - that looks pretty good to me for your first yarn ball. Getting used to the rhythm of the wheel can be a little hard at first but it will come with practice. Glad you got some good advice from your group. If you want any more wool, I have plenty going spare although mostly unwashed at the moment - need some warm days to get it outside to dry.

    Lovely to see your sheep again, and those lovely woolly coats ;)

  3. Wow Jacqui-it really sounds like you have fallen into a heaven-on-earth! With all the serendipity there is no doubt you are in the place that is right for you. All the helpful neighbors, the free cultivating pigs, a spinning and woolcraft group that just "happens to be" right nearby. And the bees! I am soooo excited for you!! I can hardly wait! What is "bee" or "bees" in gaelic?
    Oh, it all sounds so wonderful. Not easy certainly, but still wonderful to me!!!
    You ball of yarn looks FAB dahling!
    I Am So Happy for all of you!!!
    Have a wonderful rest of the week.

  4. Jacqui ~ your soil sounds wonderful for growing blueberries. Adam's Apples (Talaton Plants) stocks blueberries. Good priced, and different ages.

    You've got so much going on up there ~ it really sounds like you're settling in and the roots are going down ;-) WONDERFUL.

    love, veronika

  5. Just one of those things is exciting enough, but to have all that going on, fantastic! I'm off to our local guild in a weeks time, so hoping I can pick up some tips too!

  6. What a lovely uplifting post. Some beautiful glimpses into your little world, I love the fields with their drainage ditches. And bees!! I would love to keep bees one day, I am really looking forward to hearing all about yours. You have so much to look forward to and to plan for. Life looks good!
    Thankyou for your kind and sympathetic comments too, I really appreciated them this morning.

  7. It is so beautiful there. So many wonderful plans- can't wait to see them all! :)

  8. Goodness! So much to take in - you've certainly been busy! (:

  9. Is math a rinn sibh! Gosh, you've certainly all been busy and accomplished a lot. Last summer my husband very bravely moved a nest of bumblebees from the church garden shed, and he discovered he loved working with them. He said they were so gentle, and it was a really peaceful feeling to be with them. Perhaps in retirement he'll be able to keep bees. I'm so pleased things are falling into place for you all. Beannachd leibh!

  10. What a lot is going on in your life! No time to be bored. Lovely life for the little one - it is so interesting looking after animals and growing veg etc. He will soon pick up the Gaelic and it will help you too - not an easy language but so softly spoken. Am looking forward to hearing how you get on with the bees. Something I have thought about, but maybe, one day..... Will you be able to use your own sheep's wool? Looking forward to the next installment!

  11. Pig! Bees! You have no idea how much I want your life right now!

  12. Wow, what a lovely busy you have all been. That ball of wool looks great, well done. Can't wait for more catch-ups. xxxx

  13. So many lovely, creative things going on in your blog!! I showed your Gaelic sentences to Conor (DH) as he is from Southern Ireland and can speak a little Irish. He was able to translate it, though said it would be slightly different in Irish. I love the though of preserving native languages, the sound of them is so pleasing to the ear and hold such history.

    The wool you have spun is lovely, it looks very soft and reminds me of some favourite 'slubby' yarn that I have in my stash.

    Bees!!! This is an ambition of mine, so I will be watching how you get on very closely!! While I was up in Scotland, I sampled some Scottish Heather honey with it's little bubbles and almost gel-lie consistency. Cathy said that it's very expensive to buy and it's supposed to be as medicinal as Manuka honey. What lovely, exciting plans you have for this year!

    Thanks also for posting details of your camera on the side of your blog. I am saving up for a digital SLR camera and haven't a clue where to begin looking, so it's given me a starting point. My old SLR camera was lovely, but I can't link it to my computer and I have to keep getting the photos developed which seems very archaic nowadays doesn't it!

    Lovely blog as always and you seem very happy. xxxxxxxxxxx

  14. Tapadh leibh (Thank you all) - it is lovely to be able to share our journey with you. i don't feel as if we have been particularly busy - the pace of life is more relaxed for us here, and i think this allows things to happen and ideas to take root.
    Blueberries and cranberries will definitely be going in - nearer the bottom of the field, once it has been drained. I have already planted cranberries in the garden as a trial.
    Bees are wonderful - such a meditative practice. i am looking forward to this very much. gaelic is seillean (pr shellan) plural seilleanan.
    Blackface wool is very scratchy, unfortunately. I might just have to try though. Later we hope to have some rare breed sheep with wearable wool.


  15. Sorry pippa - i was posting my reply and didn't see your comment.
    Yes heather honey is amazing stuff and is produced right at the end of the season - obviously when the heather blooms. Beekeepers take their hives to the moors and leave them for 2 or 3 weeks - hence the expense, as it is only available for a very short time.
    I know that in Ireland, the schools teach Irish gaelic up to school leaving age - unfortunately it is still optional - even here. happily it is beginning to come back on the islands and in other places in Scotland. Cathy could go to a lovely wee learners group in Kincraig :)

  16. Such a wonderful read! Your enthusiasm and excitement spills over into every word and picture. Looking forward to journeying with you from the comfort of cyber space!!

    Blessings and hugs
    San xx

  17. I'll be really interested to follow your bee story. I'd love to keep bees. My father's family kept bees during WW2, really boosting the sugar ration.

    Don't switch your blog entirely to Gaelic! I have to admit it's quite a way down my list of languages to learn. First of all I want to Finnish. Am I a traitor or what?

  18. I can't wait to see how you progress with all your plans. sounds like exciting times ahead. and bees, lucky you.

  19. I have a blog award for you over at my blog-

  20. Your photo's look amazing.What a lot of new things you're learning as you go.
    Good luck with all your plans.

  21. There's a great little biodynamic book called Towards Saving the Honeybee. Nice ideas for handmade hives more conducive to the bees' happiness ;-) made from clay, straw and dung.

  22. So lovely to hear about all your new ventures Jacqui, I can imagine the diversity at your croft will be wonderful! We are thinking of bees too this year, if Ben can get over a slight phobia :) xx

  23. Oh Jacqui, I love seeing you photos of Lewis and hearing you write about it. It just takes me there straight away. Can't really express what I mean but on a deep level-thank you.

    Uma x

  24. Oh wow, everyone is spinning except me! LOL Well done on the spinning, it looks great.

    And acid soil for blueberries too? I am going green with envy!

  25. Your spinning, your scenery, everything is so inspiring. Thanks for another great post.

  26. It is always a joy to visit you here, Your spinning is fantastic and all your drams and plans are heartwarming and inspiring. You keep going with everything. What a wonderful journey you are on.

  27. I like your first picture. Is really different :)
    Have a nice weekend

  28. What a wonderful life you are leading up there.... and everyone is so helpful, not sure I would want to keep Bees though!

  29. Linda - DOn't worry - it will be a million years before i will be able to blog in gaelic! I think you must have mentioned your family beekeeping before - maybe on your blog.
    Veronika - I was going to use the top bar method - for the bees. i do not like the traditional way of beekeeping and have been very inspired by Interesting sounding book, which is already winging it's way towards me ;)
    Thank you all for your inspiring and supportive comments. I really enjoy having you all along on this journey. xx


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