Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Gathering at the fank

Some of the tasks of the crofting year are still carried out on a communal basis.  Gathering the sheep for shearing is one of those. Most of the sheep have been on the croft land, but after shearing in early Summer, they go up onto the common grazing land - the hilly terrain that surrounds the flatter low lying croft. The sheep were brought in to the fank by various means - herded by dogs, or quad bikes, or  driven in trailers.  Our two were herded into a corner of our feild by a neighbour's dog, and brought along in a trailer.

Once all the sheep were gathered in, it was decided by all that it was not a good day to do the actual shearing - it had rained earlier and looked likely to again.  So the big moment was put off until the next day, and the sheep were left in the field at the back of the pens.  Look at the two Maddies at the front there.  What a fine pair they are!

The next morning, John got going with the shears - much encouragement and gentle leg pulling came his way - all in Gaelic, of course, but he soldiered on and soon completed the shearing of Maddie Mor.

And there she is with our flock mark decorating her new hair do. Ok - maybe he missed a bit, but in two weeks you will never know the difference.  The rest of those sheep were sheared with electric clippers, which gets much closer to the skin.

Then it was Maddie Beag's turn - she is much much harder to catch and hold - and photograph

But in the end - she also wears the red dot .  Look at her giving us a twirl there!

James was there to watch and learn too - he feels pretty confident he says.

And there are the girls waiting for their holiday transport to depart.  See you at dipping time!

Although we did spot Maddie Mor having a wee sunbathe on the lower slopes the other day.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hello Baby!!

Welcome to your new home.  

And hello to your Mama - Delia.  

A house cow for milking was always in our plan - just maybe a couple of years down the line.  After much reading and discussion, we had decided on Dexters - a good dual purpose breed - milk and beef.  Their size - small and stocky, descended from the original black cattle of the Celts, was perfect for our 3 acre croft. Once we were more organised and had things in place, then we would see about it.  We still had a byre (cattle shed) to sort out - a trailer to buy - a stock movement licence to apply for - milking things  - we even needed a tow bar on the truck, for mercy's sake!
Then, a couple of weeks ago, in Lewis Crofter's Co-op, as I idly scanned the" for sale" ads on the notice board - my eye came to a screeching halt at a card which  read:

1 Dexter cow
       1 Dx/BG X heifer.

"Not now!!! Not the right time!!  Not ready!" 

I resolved not to mention it, as I wandered back to the truck.  
But, of course I couldn't keep it in -
"I see there is a dexter and heifer for sale in Ness"  I whispered, half hoping he wouldn't hear me.
Before I knew what was happening, John was back in the shop, punching out the number on the mobile.
A couple of days later (the next day was Sunday) saw us heading up to the top of the island, to meet Delia and Baby.  I wrote about it here, and of course, you all knew what would happen didn't you?

So today, Donald, our very kind neighbour, took John up to collect our new ladies, in his land rover and cattle trailer - and now they are here in our bottom field!!

They are not in milk, but that suits us fine at the moment, and hopefully by next summer the Lewis Dexter dynasty will begin to establish itself.

Yes.... I think everything happens at  just the right time - don't you? 
Enjoy exploring your new place girls!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer Loving

Evening walks

Soft feathery grasses

A beach bag ready to go.

A visit to the sports centre in town.

A rainy morning brainstorming session.

Hens and cockerel pecking by the front door - deck scrubbers too!

and looking forward to another week.

Summer is such a busy time, and so much is going on that I want to hold on to. Each Sunday I am posting a list of things I have loved in the past week.  Those ordinary but special things that might have gone unnoticed or forgotten  Trying to distill the love and joy from this hectic Summer season to remember with gratitude and warmth when the days are short again.

Friday, June 24, 2011

This moment...

A single image, no words, capturing a precious moment from my week.  A simple moment that I want to pause, savour and remember. 

I am so happy to be joining in with Soulemama  again this week.  I wish you all an uplifting weekend. xx

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Down at the peat bank, this morning, we fell into an easy rhythm of cutting and throwing.  As we worked, I became aware of the sounds of that dance.  The steady slice of the tarisker as it cut through the moist chocolate coloured peat, the occasional rasp and twang as it  hit the rootier sections, and the gentle bump as the peat blocks landed on the bank. Slice - bump - slice- bump- rasp- rasp- twang

Straightening up, we are aware of our own breathing, a bit heavier now because of our exertions, and we are then surrounded by a chorus of skylarks - serenading us from high above; descending swiftly to check on their nests built in the soft grasses of the moorland.  The incessant sound of the chicks chirping in the nests drown out their parents sweet song as they clamour for food.
There is the occasional sound of traffic passing on the long straight road - slightly more now that the tourist season is in full swing.  A neighbour drives by, tooting his horn; curious holidaymakers slow down to watch us; cyclists whoosh past, calling out their greetings.
The glug, glug of tea being poured from the flask, and then quickly back to work.
Slice, bump, slice,bump...
It is a fine dance on such a still day.

At the croft, there are different sounds to accompany our tasks.  More skylarks - cousins no doubt, of the peat bank larks, but still as delightful to hear.  A cockerel crowing or dog barking pierces the silence.  Distant traffic can be heard now and again; occassionaly the low rumble of a car crossing the cattle grid at the entrance to the village,  Sheep calling for their lambs, and young bullocks lowing in a nearby field. Sometimes there will be the clip clop of horses hooves as our neighbour walks her horses.  Washing snaps on a line, drying quickly in the breeze, starlings chatter and whirl  around in their huge extended family flocks and a far off whistle sounds from the hills, as a shepherd tells his dog to come bye
It is a wonderful symphony that surrounds us.

And in the midst of these dim midsummer nights, we might wake and hear the crexx -crexx of the corncrake in the field outside the window.

Sshhh - listen!  What do you hear?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yarn along 6

Another week already!  More knitting and reading to share at Yarn Along with Ginny. 
Well, knitwise, this week, I am scraping the bottom of the barrel, (to disguise my total lack of progress with any of my projects)  Busy busy with croft, family and guests - still unraveling the Manos; still to begin the Pure and Simple cardigan again, and still looking longingly at patterns and yarns that I covet for the future. 
I will share with you all my Millenium tunic - currently languishing in the bottom of the basket.  It is so called because I cast on in that hopeful bright eyed way in the Springtime of the year 2000! I romantically imagined myself pottering around the garden in the autumn of that same year, wearing this cosy sweater. Hmmmm...
The yarn is Wendy naturally Denim DK, a wool and cotton blend, just in case you are interested in old discontinued yarns.  Maybe, maybe... 

Now - the book!  Well I am so glad to have received this book, written by a dear friend and one of my most favourite people in the world.  The Mystic Cookfire, by Veronika Robinson.  To call it a recipe book is doing it an injustice, but essentially that is what it is. A blend of  recipes from the kitchen at The Mother Magazine camps, and others of her own family favourites, as well as thoughts about food - growing, cooking, buying and eating.  I have enjoyed many of these wonderful meals, and cooked some in the camp kitchen, so I can vouch for the freshness, goodness and all round deliciousness contained herein.  It is also a true celebration of food - food for the soul as well as our bodies.It is also about being in contact with our inner mother, creating a sacred space around and in us, as we cook and provide nourishment for ourselves and our loved ones - a meditation indeed. The book is beautifully illustrated by Sara Simon - another amazing woman that I am proud to know. 
Veronika edits and produces The Mother magazine along with her lovely husband, Paul, and she blogs here.

Do drop over and visit Small Things and share in all the delicious knitting and reading that is going on
I am off to make the Bay and Onion soup recipe for lunch. xx

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Midsummer Blessings

Sunrise on a grey and cloudy Midsummer morning.  Didn't quite get the place to myself as usual, but it was nice to see others - from all over the world - watching and waiting for dawn on the longest day of the year.

Wishing you all peace, love and abundance on this Midsummer Solstice. xx

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Summer Loving

Ducks sleeping outside my bedroom window;

vintage tractors - and garage workshops;

concerts in the village hall;

visits from the library van;

silverweed, seaweed and sea pinks;

blond curls

Fathers and Grandfathers.

and let's slide into another week!

Summer is such a busy time and so much is going on that I want to hold on to. Each Sunday I will be posting a list of things I have loved in the past week.  Those ordinary but special things that might have gone unnoticed or forgotten  Trying to distill the love and joy from this hectic Summer season to remember with gratitude when the days are short again.

Wishing you all blessings for the coming week. xx

Friday, June 17, 2011

This moment...

A single image, no words, capturing a precious moment from my week.  A simple moment that I want to pause, savour and remember. 

I am so happy to be joining in with Soulemama  again this week.  I wish you all a restful weekend. xx

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Around the croft.

Most of our energies this week have gone into potential plans for new livestock, and spending some time with our guests.  The weather was quite mixed at the start of the week, still lots of water lying around, but the wind soon dries everything out.  Behind it all, though, we are, slowly but surely, plodding on towards Summer, in that determined way that the seasons move along.
Down at the croft we have the first of our raised beds in the growing shed, planted up with peas and a couple of wonky rows of broad beans,  Rainbow chard and beetroot are waiting to go in too.  These are my most favourite vegetables, so they have been given priority this year.  Bulb fennel has sprouted and the parsley and salads are growing well.
 During the spell of really bad weather, I was growing quite despondent about my lack of sowing and growing.  Looking back at older posts from the last couple of years at my lush and productive garden back on the mainland I did wonder if we had made the right decision.  Then John reminded me that until 51 days ago, this land had been pasture and that it took 3 or 4 years to bring the last garden into production.  Breathe and let go....

Our other priority this week has been getting back to the peats.  Like many other crofters, we had started off well, beginning to cut the peat, but then the weather made this task impossible.  Now we have been able to get back there and how lovely it is.  Working in the fresh air, the sound of larks singing and the wildflowers all around is a tonic for the soul.
I described the beginning of the peat cutting in a previous post.  Now that peat has been drying out for several weeks as it lay on the moss, and the next task is to begin to "lift" the peats to dry our further.  The traditional way is to pile it up into little 4 sided tent shapes called "rùdhan" (pr. roo-ann).  After a couple of weeks these small rùdhan will be piled up into larger rùdhan mor, and when fully dried will be taken back to the house and stacked outside.
We still have a lot of peat to cut, to see us through the winter, so we will be spending as many dry days at the peat bank as we can, until this task is completed.

As we worked I couldn't help but notice the mass of bog cotton waving around in the breeze. In older times, this was harvested and used for stuffing pillows and also as candle wicks. it occurred to me that it might be good for toy stuffing.  Hmmm, I might one day get round to harvesting some of this - maybe it is a job James could do to keep him occupied next year!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Yarn along 5

Knitting and reading time again at Yarn Along.
Not exactly knitting, from me this week, but a very tangled skein of Manos Silk blend yarn that I have managed to get into a complete fankle as I was winding it.  I have been working on it during odd moments, but really need to get it sorted out, and wind the rest (properly). Not totally sure what it will end up being, but I have been thinking....Tea leaves?  For a Christmas gift?  Just don't be asking me which Christmas :)

The book is a charity shop find, from a few years ago, that suddenly began to call down to me from the attic.  Hmmm, I wonder why?  The Secret Life of Cows by Rosamund Young is a wonderful book, full of yarns about the free ranging cows on her family farm.   A fabulous insight into how cows, live, love and make choices.

Drop in on Ginny at Small things and share your yarns this week.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Maybe Baby?

  Meet Baby - a 20 month old Dexter/Belted Galloway cross -

and this is her Mum - Delia - a 10 year old Dexter.  They might....just might be coming to stay with us in a few weeks.   So many things to sort out first, but fingers crossed.  Watch this space..

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Summer Loving

I am loving

that it is still light at 11.30 pm;

that my guest room is ready, and the first visitors will be here tomorrow;

taking a boy to the cinema for his first time - and celebrating World Wide Knit in Public Day;

the postman bringing treasures from ebay;

the return of the beautiful purple orchid;

spending lots of time here;

running and playing with a boy and his dog.  Hide and seek - can you find him?

Ready now to dance into another week.

Summer is a busy time here on the croft, and so much is going on that I do not want to forget. Each Sunday I will be posting a list of things I have loved in the past week.  Trying to distill the love and joy from this hectic Summer season to remember with gratitude when the days are short again.
Feel free to join me if you like - it doesn't need to be Sunday :)


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