Thursday, December 27, 2012
Twelve moments from my year. New additions, new skills, family celebrations, new projects, a lamb in the house! Community picnics, sparkling hot summer days, working in the garden - and on the croft, mellow autumn days, fire festivals and Christmas.
Just a few tiny snapshots from a very busy and blessed twelvemonth. I will be back after the New Year holiday, with a few changes and a wee giveaway. Until then, here's wishing you all the very best for 2013 - may all your dreams come true. xxx
Thursday, December 20, 2012
The mornings are dark here, just now - we need alarm clocks to wake us in time, for if we wait for the sun to creep round the corner of the blind, it is well on in the day.
But - at last, dawn breaks over the far southeastern horizon. On these icy cold mornings, the light is pure and golden. It is hard to tear our gaze away from such skies - as the moments pass, bringing more and more beauty.
But the cattle have no time for such idleness - back to work now please. Celia stands patiently in the pink light, while Gretel has her breakfast and then all the girls line up for some sweet smelling hay - frost still heavy on their thick coats.
It is such a beautiful day, one of those days that you know you can't waste. We have workmen. finishing off the kitchen, so decide to get out of their way and go for a walk. It is already nearly lunchtime, so we head up to the Standing Stones.
The midday sun is low in the sky. At this time of midwinter it moves a very short distance - barely skimming the horizon.
Our steps lead us to the cafe in the visitor centre for a quick lunch - with dessert, of course!
The sea-loch is like a mirror today, and the light is reflected even more. It is a joy to be out on such a day. We decide to walk along to the pier.
It's a perfect walk - just the two of us. We amble along in silence - mostly. Listening to the cry of the birds, far away rumble of occasional traffic, feeling the stillness. We clamber over the the other side of the peninsula and look down on that shore - surprising a couple of Black Throated Divers (Loons), who skim off over to Bernera. We watch a shape out in the water, diving and surfacing wondering if it could be an otter, (and wondering why once again we didn't think to bring binoculars with us! ) Eventually it comes close enough to shore for us to decide it is probably one of the divers. I remember Thoreau and his story about the loon - it somehow amplifies the solitude of this place.
But - the light is already fading on this short midwinter day, and we wander back along the path. James will be home soon, and there are evening chores to do.
Climbing up the hill we can see the smoke from the village peat fires hanging in the still air . The frost still carpets the grass as we walk through the circle and down the road, and we feel the coldness settling in for the evening.
So we hurry inside, sit down with a cup of tea, our cheeks still aglow, resolving, once again, to take time out like this more often.
Saturday, December 15, 2012
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
First time in ages back on Yarn Along. I have been busy with other things in the summer, but a couple of yarny projects have been happening, a hat, hairband, couple of baby gifts completed and a crochet bag is almost done. Just now, though - last minute Christmas gifts in progress - elving, as they say in the best blog circles ;-)
I am knitting a balaclava for John - making the bottom ribbing extra long to cope with the Winter gales we get herabouts. Using Stylecraft Lifestyle Aran - a wool acrylic blend, to give it some stretch without losing shape, and also so it wont be too itchy. Nothing worse than an scratchy balaclava, I imagine. Oh - and it's red, so I can spot him with his orange jacket as he goes about the fields. I have a hat, fingerless gloves, mittens and crochet flowered hairbands in the pipeline too.
Reading - well - loving Tasha Tudor's Take Joy right now. Just the most Christmassy book in the world. Also - as we are expecting our own Christmas birth - reading up on calving in The Family Cow Handbook. Hope Fiona has read it too!
And, since I mentioned gales, we have been enjoying days of calm, still, beautiful weather this week, but I hear the winds are due to return at the weekend, so lets enjoy it while we can.
Happy Elving - and be sure to visit Ginny for Yarn Along - check out her wonderful giving giveaway too. xxx
Friday, December 7, 2012
Thursday, November 29, 2012
The crofting year drifts on - never ending in its cycle. All though we are heading towards the darkest days, Spring is already well ahead with its plans. The ram is in with the sheep - Tupping time as it is known here, and hopefully the results will be seen in April. We have moved the cattle up to the field beside the house - a nice slow amble up the hill in the low Winter sunlight.
They are soon settled in to their new place. Dexter cows are very hardy and they should winter out here quite easily. We have 5 cows in our little herd. Delia and Baby have been with us for a couple of years now, but we recently added three more. Celia and her calf, Gretel, and Fiona, who was originally called Madame, but was soon renamed by James to a more appropriate Scots name.
And here is the lovely Fiona. She is a beautiful, gentle soul and is due to calve at the end of December. In fact all the cows, except for little Gretel should hopefully be in calf. Celia had been running with another Dexter bull for a few months before she came to us, so hopefully by late Spring, we should see another addition. And Delia and Baby have been spending a lot of time with Gorgeous, our neighbour's Highland bull, so maybe in the Summer...
We have high hopes of milking Fiona once her calf has arrived, and are working towards setting up a place to do that. In the meantime, we have been getting her used to the idea. I think James could be just the right man for the job!
Things are still growing in our veg beds - lovely calendula lives up to its name and flowers all year.
Lots of brassicas - kale, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, and swede (rutabaga) as well as salads, leeks, carrots, chard and fennel. I am so pleased at how the raised beds have turned out. Hopefully the garden will feed us for a couple of months yet, and I am already starting to plan for next season.
Another of our neighbours dropped off a couple of large hay bales that had started to rot - what a great gift for a grower - and for hens too! They have now been spread over the empty beds as a winter mulch.
And so it goes - the daily round of stock checking, feeding, repairing, harvesting and Winter projects - and sometimes rounding up escaped sheep! As the daylight hours are shorter, so we have to hurry and complete the chores before darkness falls.
And then it is home for dinner, and the warmth of the peat fire.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Another seven days slip into the past. Trying to hold on to a few of those random moments of ordinariness.
Enjoying the crisp blue Winter skies at the harbour in town
Looking forward to the kitchen renovation being completed
Curling up by the fire with special birthday gifts
Thinking of US friends celebrating their Thanksgiving holiday
Appreciating the taste of the season
Reflecting in the glow of candlelight
Moving along in the rhythm of the year
Friday, November 23, 2012
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Hello there! It's been a busy old time lately - lots going on - my heart and hands occupied elsewhere, and my little online world has been neglected. Truth be told, my mind is still in the Sheiling - as the memories of our long sunny summer days linger on. But, the wheel keeps on turning, and once again it is time to draw inwards and catch our breath.
And so - 'tis me! Well, a filtered, instagrammed, just back from the hairdressers sort of me - but this is blogland, so that's just fine.
And it is my birthday tomorrow - I will be 52! How did that happen? Time passes indeed, but anyway, sit down with me, have a cup of tea and a slice of fruit cake and lets talk about food.
Food, you may have noticed, is important to me. I spend a large part of my life, thinking about, planning, organising, cooking and eating food. I grow and produce as much food as I can. I am driven to provide good, honest, nourishing food for my family. I would rather spend my income on high quality, nutrient dense foods that anything else (even yarn - even books).
I feel so incredibly grateful to be living here and now, being in a position to buy nourishing food, to have the time to prepare it, cook it, and serve it at my table. Thankful indeed. I see it as a duty not to waste these resources, but to make use of every scrap. Good, traditional Scottish cooking - I was raised on such wholesome fare.
My mother was a great cook. When I was a child, our meals were home cooked from scratch. Plain food - meat, fish, soups, milk, bread - we had out main meal at noon, and my dad came home from work for this - most people I knew ate this way. Later, when my mother returned to college, I went to my grandparents at lunchtime. My grandmother was also an amazing cook and had a set meal plan which rarely varied from week to week. I can still recall it yet (you knew that...)
Monday - Scotch broth, apple pie or crumble with egg custard
Tuesday - Mince 'n tatties
Wednesday - Tripe, potato and onions, followed by rice pudding
Thursday - Stewed beef, potatoes and veg,
Friday - Mince pie, homemade chips fried in dripping, and beans - ice cream.
What a legacy to have been left with - a love of good, simple food, cooked with love that nourished the soul and well as the body. I can still taste it - and whenever I tie on my apron, I remember them and take them into my kitchen with me.
So - on Sunday, we had a small joint of venison saddle. Venison does not have much in the way of fat on it, so for roasting, it is best to add some extra. It protects the meat in the oven, bastes it and keeps it moist and juicy.
A simple Sunday roast dinner - fabulous. And then, of course, there are the leftovers!!
Growing up, we always had a family meal after Church on Sundays, usually involving a large roast. Monday was a busy night - Brownies and Guides for my sister and I, and my Dad was secretary of the local football club, so we all had to rush out quickly. Dinner was usually cold roast whatever, with proper chips (fries) and beans. Tuesday dinner though, would often be a big plate of Stovies.
Stovies is a classic Scottish leftover dish - a bit like hash, but nicer ;-). It is the best and tasitest way to use up the end of a roast, in my opinion. Basically, potatoes and onions are simmered slowly in the fat and drippings of roast meat. if there are any scraps of meat left, then they are added to the dish at the end. It is filling, frugal and delicious. Here is a quick run through.
After you have cooked the joint, save all the fat from around the meat - the stuff you spoon off before you make the gravy, and any bits that you sieve out. Keep it in the 'fridge until next day. I also kept the fat from the roast potatoes too - and the leftover gravy. My fridge is always full of little pots of substances to be added to something or other.
Melt all these fats, juices, drippings etc in a large pot, and then add a couple of chopped onions and some thickly sliced potatoes. I tend not to peel potatoes now, but you can if you prefer. I usually add between 5 and 7, depending on the size, but if you are feeding more people then add more - this is one of those expandable dishes, Turn the potatoes and onions in the melted fat (add a garlic clove if you like - I certainly did). Add salt and pepper to taste (I add about 1 tsp salt, but you may want more or less)
If you are a bit short of fat from your roast, then add some more - lard, beef dripping, suet or butter. The idea is to stew the potatoes and onions in the fat.
Put a tight fitting lid on the pot and turn the heat right down to a low simmer. Cook until the potatoes are nice and soft, stirring every now and then. If you find they are sticking to the bottom of the pot too much, add a splash of water or stock.
If you have any leftover meat, then add it now, and heat through. I had some cooked carrots left too, so they went in too. Check and adjust the seasoning -
and there it is - unctuous, lip-sticking and delicious.
and gone... xx
Friday, November 16, 2012
Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Happy Birthday Sweet Boy
A boy's 6th Birthday was on Saturday. He celebrated with friends, presents, cards, phone calls and a "birthday cake with 3 layers, 3 colours and 3 flavours" I celebrated with cherished memories of a childhood slipping by so quickly. Holding tightly to each moment. xxx