Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sunday evening at my house

It has been a quiet Sunday here - morning at the church, afternoon spend organising the house for the first of our Summer visitors arriving midweek. It has been a cold, blustery day - belying the notion that July begins tomorrow. We are tired, after our stint of decluttering, but there is a relaxed air about the house - a feeling of some chi flowing now that the space has been cleared.

James, with the happy prospect of 7 school-free weeks in front of him, declared last week that he was going to do lots of Maths over the holidays. Each to their own, I suppose, but true to his word, here he is,  engrossed in Sumdog, during his screen time, and I noticed some arithmetic worksheets sitting on the desk in his bedroom.

Passing through the hall to the kitchen, I see Mick, the collie lying snoozing on the doormat - I crouch down to take his photograph, but he jumps up and slinks away - "No photos please!"

John is sitting at the table having a cup of tea, and a quiet read. he works so hard and is always cheerful. I love him.

I do not love my latest restoration project, though. I have a vision and it is not yet being realised. Ah well - given time, a lot more paint and just the right fabric and it will be beautiful.

To make myself feel better, I wander into the bathroom to admire the new wash cloth that I crocheted last night, in some soft blue cotton. yes - the sight of it sitting there on the white porcelain cheers me up and feeds my creative ego.

I open the back door and take a look outside. It is still very windy, and a bit dismal.  I think the sun may be there, behind the clouds, and I can smell peat smoke in the air, so someone nearby has lit their fire. The hens appear to have taken an evening stroll around the house, and come rushing up to me, expectantly, as I come down the steps. A gust of wind catches me, and it begins to rain again, so I head back indoors.

Time to put the feet up and realx with some light reading and a warm drink. Tomorrow is another day, another week, another month. Hope you find some moments of rest in this busy time of year xx

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Around the Croft - Growing

It's been so long since I did an update on the Croft. A great deal has been happening, and still is, on these long, long days. With such a short season, most of our energies have been directed towards the garden.  Growing started pretty late here, as we had a very cold Spring, but, we have been beavering away and now have 5 large raised beds at the front of the house. We have also begun to plant a flower border, and a fruit plot. Let me give you a quick whirl around and see what's growing.

We have some bits and pieces beginning to show themselves - nothing really being harvested yet, although those garlic scapes look about ready. There are lots of flowers on the broad beans, and I think I will use the bean tops in a soup next week.
We grow all our brassicas under enviromesh - it really keeps the butterflies off and makes such a difference to the crop. It also protects the plants from the wind, which is never far away. We had fantastic success with this last year, and were picking good clean leaves well into the early Spring. The carrot seeds have just been sown, and they will be covered with mesh too - it really kept the carrot fly away last year. I found a picture here, of cabbage and carrots fresh from the garden at the end of January, and the last of the chard has just been dug up this week!
You may be noticing a lot of rylock fencing on the beds. This is another wonder material - it is the most effective way we have found of keeping the hens from making dustbaths in the newly planted seeds - and from eating my lettuces! It is much easier to do this than to try to keep them out of the plot - they have helped build up the fertility of the soil, and I like their company as I work
This time last year we still had pigs on this plot, so the garden is not even a year old yet. Still much work to do (just look at all those buttercups!) and lots to learn about what will do well (not convinced about French beans yet) - but what an absolute joy it is to be out there, hands in the good earth,  gently moving a hoe around, or just sitting contemplating the scenery. Nothing better - well - unless...

It is pottering around in the new polytunnel!

It was worth the wait for this. I love it, and can happily spend hours in here, nice and warm and sheltered. I have planted 38 tomatoes -7 or 8 varieties, all grown from seed - not to mention half a dozen courgettes and several chilli and sweet peppers. It's all a bit of a work in progress - we were too late to put in raised beds this year, so had to resort to using grow bags, but oh - the plans I have! This will make such a difference - I will be able to produce more of our vegetables for a longer time. Hopefully I can manage the sowing and planting to minimise the hungry gap, and to give me enough surplus to put by. It is a fantastic spot to sit and dream, or drift around pinching out side shoots from the tomato cordons - enjoy a sly cup of tea, and generally hide. Watch this space!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Seven Days

It's hard to believe that almost a week has passed since my last post - just so much going on all the time. John had to go to the middle of England for a funeral, and was away for three days. Fortunately it meant he was able to stop off and visit our nephew, still in hospital, but slowly recovering. They had a good visit, and John was pleased with how he looked.
We were also waiting anxiously for news of my Dad, who was undergoing surgery on a small, but operable bowel carcinoma. Happily this was a complete success and he is now home and doing well.
Another funeral at the end of the week, as one of our elderly neighbours passed away. The Islanders still retain their traditional way of burying their dead - without the Funeral industry so prevalent elsewhere. It was a dignified way to say goodbye to a much loved member of the community.
The weather has been a bit dismal this week too - echoing the mood, so it is good to find these pockets of joy here and there.
The ordinary stuff of life continues, though, but how nice it was to come home, after shopping, by a different road, and stop in here for a coffee.

Then suddenly - it was Midsummer's day! How did that happen? A very cold midsummer, mind you - reminding us of that turning of the wheel once again. Still, the drums and pipes played on as the solstice revellers welcomed in the longest day, and it was pleasant to go to sleep hearing the distant gentle rhythm.
And there were more than the usual visitors up at the stone circle this year. The BBC had decided to make a TV programme called Midsummer Live, so we had a week of mild disruption as they closed off the road, trucked in their equipment and built staging and prepared for their filming. I don't know what the actual programme was like - I believe I can be seen with my black jacket and bright pink shoes. It was a lot of fun though. Many of the villagers had walked up, and we stood around chatting and catching up with each other, while the kids had a ball running in and out the stones. 

A lot of our time has been spent just looking at Celia's calf. He is a wee beauty, and it has been such a delight watching him explore this big world. We have named him Ulysses - after the novel by James Joyce, the events of which take place on 16th June, our calf's birthdate. James calls him Ully. It is a fine name for such a good steer. 

We love him 

But even more, we love this little girl! Just look at her - four weeks old already! Now that is joy indeed. I was in tears when Kristine sent over this little triptych. A good place to focus on for the week ahead.
I hope the next Seven days are full of joy for you too. xx

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Last Sunday


Dawn breaks early these midsummer days, and the light comes creeping round the edges of the blinds, waking us around 4 am. On Sunday I lay dozing on and off, until the thought of an early cup of tea became too strong to resist. Peering out of the window, I noticed Celia, our heavily pregnant cow, pacing around agitatedly, tail swishing back and forth. It was time. I watched for a while, mug of tea in one hand, binoculars in the other, until I was sure.

It was time to waken the Crofter, who spent the first hour of Father's Day watching a labouring Dexter cow from the bedroom window. But there were concerns, and we headed out to the field for a closer look.

The calf's head and one foot were out - the normal presentation is nose and two front feet first. We were going to have to assist her. We called on one of our neighbours who came right away. "I knew when I heard the gate creaking what it would be" he said.  Celia was distressed. She is not the friendliest of our herd, and likes to use her head as a weapon, so it was difficult. We managed to lasso her and get her into a pen and tie her head to the fence. It was obvious that the calf's head was stuck, and it was struggling. We tried to push it back in and bring the other leg out, but it became clear that we would have to pull the calf out.
We had used both our ropes in securing Celia, so in the heat of the moment, John used his belt to do the job. It was a hard pull, and took the two men straining with all their might, but then it was over.

The poor calf lay flat and lifeless -  a fine looking bull calf. We worked on him, trying to rouse him and get him to breathe. John was able to feel a strong heartbeat, however, and Celia was quick to get to work on him too. Slowly he began to respond...

A few minutes later, although it seemed so long, he was up on his feet and soon suckling. I felt such relief and amazement at the fragility and resilience of this life.  We trooped back up to the kitchen to clean up and for some much needed tea and toast.

He is a beautiful Dexter steer calf - full brother of Gretel, our year old heifer. There is (cough, cough) a slight dispute over the choice of a name, but we are glad to welcome him to the Croft. He is none the worse for his difficult entry to the world, and is growing stronger and more handsome all the time.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Postcards from the edge

Great weather,
Fantastic beaches
Good food
Wish you were here

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Seven Days

Fabulous clouds and cows

Beautiful Breagha

Golden summer evenings

Apple blossom

A last bike ride before bedtime

New neighbours

School sports day

....and just one more of beautiful Breagha, because we can't really get enough ;)

A few snapshots of our week - looking forward to another sunny, busy Seven Days. Hope yours is fully of good things.


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