Friday, March 30, 2012

Wakey wakey!

{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 happy to be joining in again with Soulemama this week.  Wishing you arelaxing weekend.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Knitting and reading

Joining in again with Ginny for Yarn Along - although I have a bit of a cheek, given that my knitting has not progressed very far since my last YA post,  and until today, other blogs and twitter feeds had been my main reading matter for a week or so.

Anyway, I am still plodding on with my simple and effective shawl.  I had made a few mistakes, and so kept having to rip the whole thing out, as it was too difficult to pick up the stitches again.  Then the lovely Shannon took me aside and suggested using lifelines.  Lifelines! I never knew of such things, but they are very well named - lifesavers indeed.  So now my stitches are safe - thank you so much Shannon.  However, when we were waiting in the ferry queue, on our way to the wedding (I haven't forgotten), I accidentally sat on my knitting bag and broke one of my Brittany wooden needles.  Well, of course, I didn't have any spares with me, and 6 am in Stornoway is not the best time and place to pick up a new set.  I was annoyed, as I had been using a circular needle, but decided to work on straights until I had enough stitches.  No matter, I reasoned, I would get some in Ullapool when the ferry docked. Three hours later, (a lot of lost knitting time) we stopped outside the two yarn shops (they are across the road from each other) Gasp - both were closed until April!! Sigh... another 4 hours lost as we drove down to our hotel, and the next day was taken up with James's xrays and scan.  I had to wait for 2 days until I went to Edinburgh, before I was able to buy a set of 3.5 needles. However, it was my favourite yarn shop, K1 in the Grassmarket, so a lovely browse around all the goodies there made up for the wait.  The very friendly lady behind the counter was knitting hexipuffs to make this, which I thought was very cool.  But I digress - and I kept on doing so, over the rest of the week, as I only managed a few rows.  I am back on it, in between everything else that is happening.   The weather has been amazing so we are really making the most of it, and knitting isn't quite making  the top of the list.  Still, I always have it around, to sneak in a row or two here and there, and it is slowly growing.  Still loving the yarn, although it is not stripey, as I thought, but more of a marbled effect.

Reading has not been happening either -  apart from Home style magazines, blogs and twitter, nothing is calling to me right now.  So, I was delighted when the postman called today with my copy of Taproot.  Yes, I know it is technically a magazine, but it is different - there are lots of words - all strung together into real meaningful sentences, paragraphs - essays. Beautifully and mindfully written, as you would expect.  Photography is inspiring, artwork stunning. Actually, I have only read one article so far - Julia Shipley's incredibly evocative piece on Soil - sheer poetry, and I just didn't want the images and ideas to fade from my mind, so I stopped.  I think this publication will be like that - read an article, and then meditate over it before moving on to savour the next.

Hoping you are all able to savour your own knitting and reading this week xxx

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sunday Sunday

The first day of official Summer time was glorious, so after a quick bite of lunch, we decided it was time to give the beach bag it's first outing of the year.  A rug, thermos of tea and an observer's book of the seaside and we were off on the short drive to the beach.

And relax...

Oh, but it was wonderful to be back on the sand, under the warming sun - now holding a promise of some Summer heat out to us. The air, the smell - the feeling was just sublime.

John disappeared to a sunny spot with a book, while James took off, as children on beaches do. Here he is playing at being King Canute - with no more success, but finding a seat "like a throne" in the rocks.

And I wandered along, looking at the rainbow of colours along the shoreline.  Oh my, I must take hundreds of pictures of shells, or tangles of seaweed - I love the shapes, the colours - how every single one is different.  I love the way the waves leave them  carelessly scattered along the beach, and yet once you start to look, you notice that they are carefully positioned works of art - the Master stylist at work.

I never tire of being here - it is so completely and utterly refreshing, cleansing, uplifting... 

The water is so clear, and I take my first paddle of the year - it feels wonderful.  I declare that if I could plunge my feet into such water everyday I would live for ever.

But time moves on and boys are hungry, so we head home for tea.

Today, though, the light lingers well into the evening, we cannot resist a little stroll to watch the sun set.

Before heading home for the night.
A perfect day, I hope yours was too.

Friday, March 23, 2012

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 happy to be joining in again with Soulemama this week.  Wishing you a fun filled weekend.

I know I said I would be posting some wedding pics, but it is taking me so long to sort them out and to catch up with everything else we have had to do since we got back. I hope to post them on Sunday instead of 7 days  xxx

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Scenes from the Calmac Isle of Lewis ferry. 

Last week we were away on a jaunt to the mainland.  I wasn't too keen to advertise the fact that our house was empty, so I was a bit mischievous, setting up a few scheduled posts. But still, we really were extremely busy indeed.  Setting off very early one morning to the ferry terminal and the three hour sea journey, we reached our hotel by teatime, fitting in a quick catch up with Kenneth and Dad.

1. Edinburgh Castle. 2. Covenantor's memorial, Grassmarket. 3. Statue of David Hume, Royal Mile. 4. Cardamom hot chocolate, raisin and marzipan pastry, Peter's Gate, Middle Meadow Walk.

The following day I had a trip into Edinburgh for a wee bit of shopping around the Old Town, and some cake of course.

1. Salsibury crags and Edinburgh rooftops from RHSC, Edinburgh. 2. James, tired and hungry. 3. John and Kenneth. 4. Kenneth, James, and John
Back into town the next day - this time for James, who was having an X-ray and scan at the Children's Hospital.  Some of you may recall he fractured his femur shortly after I began this blog, and this was a follow-up to that event.  A long day - mostly waiting around, unable to eat or drink as he was having a general anaesthetic for the scan.  Big brother Kenneth came along to help keep his spirits up, and after we were discharged - tired and starving, we headed straight to a favourite restaurant for a much needed feast.  The last photo is a very blurry shot of a much re-vitalised James swinging between his Dad and big bro

Finlay and Erin
Of course there was lots of catching up to do with two certain  beautiful grandchildren!

And - there was a wedding!  I am still sorting though the 400 - odd photos that I took, so I will post them tomorrow.  Oops - not the whole 400 - lol - one or two maybe.  Do pop back and see them xxx

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Flowers for Mothering Sunday

For everyone.
Hope you had a lovely day.

I will be back properly on Tuesday.

Friday, March 16, 2012

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 happy to be joining in again with Soulemama this week.  Wishing you a very joyful weekend.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Popping in

... for a quick coffee. Phew!  Hope you are all enjoying the week so far. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bisy Backson

We are going through a very busy spell right now, so I won't be around much this week.

I'm leaving a candle burning for you though. and I'll pop in when I can.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Seven Days

 Wow - March is already well underway, and there is a definite feeling of Spring - despite the gales and hail and stormy weather we have had in the last seven days.  I have written written quite a few posts this week, but there are still  a few pictures of special everyday joys that I want to share :

Like - taking time out one morning, just me and the dog, to head up the coast a few miles, and check out a place I hadn't been, but wanted to see.  The Norse Mill and Kiln as Siabost.

Or - just watching the weather change almost by the minute - four seasons in one day is so much the case here.

This boy's smile

Suddenly noticing the light catching a cobweb down in the barn, and watching as it turned into a work of art.

Marvelling at the vibrant colours of nature's pallette.

Swooning at the deliciousness of this just made custard and raspberry tart at the visitor centre cafe

And just enjoying the happy sight of a vase of pussy willow on the window sill

Nothing special - but completely precious.  I wish you Seven Days full of joy and blessings. xxx

Friday, March 9, 2012

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 happy to be joining in again with Soulemama this week.  Wishing you a very satisfying weekend.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Around the croft.

Time for a little wander around the croft today, and I will show you what's been going on, shall I?

The weather over the last month or so has been mainly like this - cold, strong winds and gales, and stinging hail showers, or else persistent rain. Everyone I speak to has something to say about it - even here where we get such a lot of difficult weather, it has been an unusual Winter.   It has been a bad year for the animals too. The handsome ram in my blog banner became the latest casualty at the weekend.  So hard to imagine that this fine creature is no more.  "Where there is livestock, there'll be deadstock too" sighed our neighbour,stoically, as he lifted his shovel - but he was deeply upset.

Still - there have been times like this, when the dark clouds blow over, and we have felt the promise of Spring - yes, it's coming yet.

But some tasks have not been accomplished.  John is studying a couple of the Gaelic degree modules at the UHI.  It has taken up much more time than he anticipated, and he has been out for the last couple of weeks doing a full time work placement. Improving his skills and speaking the language fluently is so important to him though, and it a big part of why we moved here.  Nevertheless, the combination of bad weather and the demands of his course, on top of all the other things we are up to has meant that the seaweed remains uncollected down at the shore.  It is too late in the year to do this now - it is a midwinter task, as the seaweed needs to compost down. Already there will be too many little creatures crawling around there  - millipedes and such like - not really what you would want in your garden soil.
It's not a big thing - hardly anyone collects this bounty now, but I felt it really marked the beginning of the crofting year - part of that ancient seasonal rhythm of tasks - not to mention the loss of a wonderful compost source.  Next year then...

So this year, our main source of compost will come from the cowshed. Delia and Baby have open access in and out of their byre.  There have not been many days when they haven't managed outside at some point, but we have been giving them their hay inside over these Winter months.  They have been housed on a deep litter system - as per Joel's advice, and when they do go out onto the common grazings for the Spring, we will have a wonderful supply of well trodden manure.  Still have to muck it out, mind you - I wonder if James will be up for that job?
We have the chance to buy another Dexter cross cow, from a lady who lives few miles away; still thinking that one over. Delia is getting on a bit ,and will probably only have one more pregnancy, and Baby will be 3 in the Summer - quite old to never have calved.  John has been on the AI course now, so we should be starting to try that in a few months time.  The cows have come through the winter reasonably well - although they have lost a wee bit of condition.  I thought Delia looked a bit thinner the other day.  Once the new grass comes through and they feel the sun on their backs, though - I am sure they will perk up - wont we all?

Our own sheep are doing well, and they had their own post last week, so I will leave them out today. We do, however, have some visiting sheep on the bottom field - they belong to DT, who gave Mick to us.  I mentioned the possibility of their arrival in my last  crofting post - and sure enough, they appeared soon afterwards.  John and a friend have been using them to train the dogs with. They are a very polite bunch of year old lambs - they patiently queue up for their supper, and they are quite tame.

Mick loves to be out there working - the weather (sorry) had held back his training somewhat - as well as his trainer being a novice too - but help is at hand, and apparently they are still on course for the trials in the summer. He is lying at my feet now as I type.

While we are still down at the bottom field, we can admire the now completed drainage ditches.  It looks a bit muddy in that picture, but the grass has already become to grow again. John, and our contractor and his Dad are discussing where the pipe should go.  This field will get a bit of a rest this year, once the visiting sheep have gone. I am not sure if we will be ploughing and reseeding it or not.

Back up at the house - the hens are laying well, and the one who was attacked by the dog is really on the mend. They are spending the rainy days hiding under our little stand of trees, along with all the debris blown in by the Winter gales, but as soon as the sun peeps out, they are spreading out their wings and sunbathing for all they are worth.  We seem to have acquired a three or four more hens - al least they eat and lay here.  They belong to our neighbour's large flock, and arrive in time for breakfast, spend the day, then wend their way home at night.  Our girls seem to put up with them fairly well.
And - remember Elvis?  He has an impersonator!  Elvis, despite being our cockerel, has never yet spent a night in our hen hut - he likes to roam around (oh no that was Dion wasn't it?).  No, each night, he goes home to Mum, two fields away, but arrives back at dawn to waken us and to spend time with his official wives. Then he started bringing a couple of girlfriends with him, which seemed fine by the other hens - and then one day, I thought I was seeing double - two Elvises (Elvii?). Since then, both Elvises and their associated ladies have been spending their days with us, and going back to the next door croft at night.  My neighbour, W, has a large flock of hens, presided over by Henly, The fake Elvis is his son, but W wants to keep him.  Henly doesn't care much for  him though, so he tends to stay out of the way as much as possible. He has a little harem of devoted fans, and they have all started hanging out at ours.  Real Elvis (with the rose comb) is fairly tolerant, so the arrangement works.  So confusing, and I am so sorry if you managed to struggle through all that - honestly it is like a soap opera - a sort of Chicken Dynasty.
Anyway, to avoid any further confusion, my neighbour, another friend from the village and I had a very serious debate over  coffee last week -what name to give the young pretender? We decided to stick with the pop star theme, as we have already have Elvis and Mick.  Many names were banded around and the merits of each earnestly discussed - Roy (my personal choice) Freddie, Prince, but in the end we settled on Cliff. It was a hard decision, and I am not sure I am fully on board, but the majority carried the day.

And so to planting.  The pigs will be leaving the stage soon, so raised beds will be built on the ploughed up garden.  Quite a big job to contemplate, but we have ideas about how we want to do that.  In the meantime, a more important project is happening.  The polytunnel has arrived.  This will be built next to the house, in a fairly wind sheltered spot.  John has dug the holes for the foundation tubes, and we await a dry day to concrete them in.  I have, in excited anticipation planted loads of tomato seeds in 5 different varieties.  I had big sowing afternoon early in the week, and now my spare room has become a plant nursery.  Trays of leeks, salads, chard and cabbages adorn windowsills and tables. My seed order has arrived, I have been back to the garden centre for bean tubes, more module trays and compost, all the rooms  in the house will be taken over by seedlings, and my sewing table in the loft is covered with trays of chitting potatoes.  This is going to be the best year yet :)


And a final piece of news.  We are in the process of acquiring some more land!  Our original croft is not at the house, but down on the lower part of the village.  If you look at this picture, you can see our top field beyond that clump of trees - there - with the ditches curving down to the main drain.  We also have our bottom field on the other side of that house you can just see (I have marked it with an x).  We have around 3 acres all together.  It is fine, but we were beginning to feel a bit restricted, as we would like to expand out sheep flock a wee bit more, establish a small Dexter herd, but also grow some corn (oats/barley) and provide good winter grazing and feeding for the animals.  All the domestic food growing will be done up at the house, in the new garden and polytunnel.
One of our earliest New Year visitors was the brother of the couple who owned the croft tenancy next to the house. They had decided to sell, and wondered if we were interested.  Ermm - yes we were!
And so, the transfer application is currently leaping over the various hurdles at the Crofters Commission, as we wait for approval - hopefully sometime in April.  We have obtained permission from the current tenants to keep our in-lamb ewes on the croft though, so that is good.
The new croft is slightly bigger than the one we have already - about 4 acres I think.  It is divided into 2 fields, with a blackhouse ruin on the lower one.  James is walking around there in the picture.  It looks deceiving, and that the 2 crofts are actually close together, but due to the topography of the land, they are not.  Difficult to explain, but I will give you a wee tour once all the relevant boxes have been ticked.
Very exciting and our heads are spinning with so many ideas and plans for it...

...or maybe we'll just sit in the field and admire the view.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Woolly Wednesday

On Saturday, a neighbour and I went to the local woolcraft group - they were holding a special craft showcase day, as their end of term event.  The group meet monthly from September - March.  Such an inspiring afternoon.  The first person we saw was the lovely Shelia from Scalpay Linens, spinning a Wensleydale fleece on the Ashford Country wheel.

Look at that beautiful curly fleece - it looks already spun.  You can read more about the preparation of this fleece here.

This is some of the finished yarn - love that dark brown.
Shelia is involved in a very worthy project here on the isles - Uistwool.  A plan to build a brand new mill and spinning centre on North Uist.

But there was more than yarn here.   The Stornoway quilting group had an impressive display, and I had a lovely chat with the ladies about my mother's quilting  - and all the cut out pieces i have inherited.  They were very keen that I should make a quilt in her memory, and invited me along to their group whenever I felt ready.

At the next stall was the fabulous Sofi Ona.  I loved her - such a fun approach to upcycling, and she had so many wonderful and inspiring ideas. Isn't that zip bracelet just great? Hopefully she is going to be running a course, so i duly signed up for that.  As far as I know, she doesn't have a website, but on her business card (made from old playing cards, and stored neatly in an upcycled cassette box) she does have a facebook page - Precious Waste - Trashion Designs. Do pop over and see her, if you do the fb thing.

Some yarn dyeing next - mostly using local natural materials - flowers, leaves lichens etc.  Glorious rainbow of colours.  I loved the  deep yellows from the onion skins and the light blue, which was woad.

A group of lovely knitters from our fab LYS were sat round a table knitting and chatting away.  I have signed up for a Fair Isle course in the Autumn - where we will attempt to knit a cushion.  The lady who will be teaching was knitting a beautiful Alice Starmore design cardigan, and she explained to me the scary concept of steeks - eek.  All sorts of interesting things coming up!

And then, a friend, demonstrating his Extreme Knitting! This is strenuous stuff, knitting with the waste ends of Harris Tweed, once the cloth has been taken off the loom.

I know J has knitted a few blankets, cushions and rugs from this.  I think a crochet rug would be an interesting project.  When I sat down for a chat, one of our neighbour's sons was having a go with the giant pins too.  
In fact there were lots of workshops and chances to try out various crafts - papermaking, cross-stitch, stick making and wood turning, as well as the yarn based ones. My friend is already an accomplished spinner, and was keen to get back into it, so after tea and cake (of course) she headed back to the spinning wheels

I wandered around a bit more, then got talking to a man who was demonstrating knot tying and rope work. Quite fascinating, and a very useful skill to have on the croft.  He taught me how to splice a rope!  I didn't even know what that meant before :)

Then I found myself back at the spinning ladies, telling of my woes with the wheel.  A very kind and lovely lady sat with me and patiently took me through the process of using the spindle.  Her explanation and techniques really seemed to click with me - so much more than the best books or videos, and I found I was able to spin.  So, here is my spindle of Hebridean fleece, which is already a little ball of yarn! What an inspirational afternoon.  

Today I am linking up with Dawn and Kelly at Spinsiration for their Woolly Wednesday meeting.


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