Sunday, September 22, 2013

Seventh Day Reflections

I had a couple of blog posts planned for last week, but somehow another seven days has flown past since I was last here. I was going to talk to you about tomatoes - and crochet - and I will, but here I am on Sunday evening looking through my camera roll and wondering what happened to my week. 

Well -  a happy smiling girl was part of it. What an absolute joy and delight she is!

Our bake of the week was plum, almond and cinnamon slices - recipe from here.

The weather has been quite rainy this week, so I have been enjoying some relaxation in the afternoons. I am not sleeping too well just now. Nothing major -  just that internal radiator that switches on during the night - 50+ year old women readers will know that one. Anyway, I have been nurturing myself with little naps and rests - and crochet and tea.

The stunning scenery all around me is such a balm to the soul. I never tire of driving this road, (just as well really, as it is the road). From here, you can see the sea in the distance, and it looks higher than the little lochan in the foreground, almost as if it is going to spill out from the gap in the hills. (I took this shot from the passenger seat, just in case you were wondering - John was the driver.)

There was a late shopping night in Stornoway! Now, that may not sound very interesting, as in many places shops are open late, every day, even 24 hrs, but for us, it was a novelty. Most of my favourite shops were open until 8pm and there was quite a party atmosphere in the town. Special offers and discounts, tastings and samples. I tried Spanish food, looked for treasure, drank tea, chatted and crocheted, while James and John had haircuts. The Lewis Pipe band played, and there were even Pirates! 

I found some great things in the charity shop too - a tea trolley, some pyrex dishes, a lovely painted glass jug and some linens and a pretty tray - £13 - bargain! 

And I was just cheered by the bright colours of these charred roasted peppers straight from the grill. so snapped a picture. 

As we start a new week, it is good to look back and reflect on the blessings of the last seven days and those simple, ordinary moments that have made it special. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Seven Days

It has been a beautiful week, and we have been out and about in the good weather. I finally managed to climb up to a new monument that has appeared at the road side not far from home. It commemorates the site of the first Lewis agricultural show. It is a stunning setting to be sure, looking over towards the hills of Harris, and the land is just beginning to take on a tinge of gold.

With that in mind, it was good to take advantage of the sun, and get some tidying up done in the garden. The first of the equinoctial storms were forecast, so I needed to secure some of the taller plants and make sure the wind protection was in place. The bees were working hard on the last of the borage flowers, and I worked long into the evening, clearing beds, sowing and planting for winter crops, planning for next year.

Banana cream pie made a brief appearance on the kitchen table. James and I have been following the Great British Bake Off on television, so each week we make a dish based on the theme. This time it was pie week, so a great excuse to make the recipe from this book.

I've had a slow puncture on my car for a few weeks, and John has been diligently re-inflating it for me. It was really high time I took it into the tyre repair shop, but it was one of those things I never seemed to get round to. This week, on a drizzly afternoon I managed to cross that job off my to-do list. The garage was busy, as it usually is, and I had to wait for a while. Still, it was pleasant just being there - leaning against the door post, the soft rain falling, the warmth of the shop, the mechanics going about their task - slowly and methodically, the sound of the local Gaelic radio station playing in the background, people coming and going, that special garage smell, and the oil stained advertising signs - exotic names like "valvolene" and "yokohama" - just waiting my turn. I had a nail in my tyre, which was duly repaired, and I was back on the road.

We had a wonderful Community night out - a celebration for a  very special person - our Croileagan (Nursery School) leader, who retired at the end of the Summer term after  27 years of service. She has played such a big part in the lives of everyone in the township. As testimony to the love and esteem we hold for this lady, many people turned out to this event, and there was so much hilarity as we recalled the various highlights of her time there. The picture shows the " Guess the Santa" game.  Santa invariably gets stuck on the mainland and can't get to the Christmas party, so over the years, numerous men from the community have had to step into his shoes. Could she tell, blindfold, who the Santa's were? Amid gales of laughter, and a few lines that maybe the children didn't quite understand,  a score of 5 out of 5 was recorded.

I am still picking flowers from the garden for the house. A mix of cottage garden flowers, and a new favourite - quaking grass - so pretty and delicate.

I had lunch in town yesterday with my loves, at one of our favourite restaurants. Nice relaxed place with such good food - I just love their warm crispy chicken salad.

Afterwards we licked ice cream cones as we walked along by the harbour - the water was so still and reflected the blue sky and bright colours of the fishing boats moored there. We wondered if this was the calm before the storm, but in fact, the gales here have not been quite as bad as predicted.

So that was my Seven days. A few small  moments of joy, that I can take with me into the week ahead. Wishing you all a week full of delights.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Garden Notes 2013

So - Summer is over. The first of the Autumn gales have been forecast for the weekend, and it is time to batten down the hatches. But, before we do that, I want to have a look and see how 2013 went for this garden on the edge of Europe. It was a late starter for us, due to the very cold Spring, the diversion of the polytunnel construction and the fact that not all the raised beds were in situ until June. But, we got there in the end, and I can now share some of the results of our Summer labour.

Chard is always dependable. Such a good crop here - beautiful big glossy leaves - which taste sweet, even when they run to seed, and can last until next season's seedling are ready to go in!  I do find that the ruby chard seems to bolt much more than the yellow and pink, so when my (seemingly never-ending) packet of Rainbow mix is finished, I will order single colours.

The beetroot has been a great success this year too. In previous years I have always had trouble getting a crop at all, so these tennis ball size globes are such a bonus. This year I grew the Beetroot seed collection from Sarah Raven. Amazing result, and we have lately enjoyed several platters of 
incredibly trendy looking, three-beet salad. I would say though, that there were very few of the golden beet seeds, so I will need to order double of that variety for next time. Happily there were plenty of the red and pink, so saving a bit there.

In other veg news, the carrots (Autumn King) are fattening out and can really stay in the ground until the end of the year. I will cover them with fleece to keep the worst of the winds off them. The kales and cabbages are nice and snug under their enviromesh cover and we will harvest them as we go. Cauliflower and broccoli have been cut, eaten and some of it even frozen! I did leave the broccoli plants in the ground, and have been picking little shoots now and then - just enough to add to stirfries and salads.

Potatoes did well, considering how late they went in (end of June). I planted Accent, which was a first early, and Charlotte, a waxy salad. I am almost at the end of the Charlotte now, and as I worked through the bed, discovered a courgette plant and a large nest of hens eggs hidden beneath the foliage!
The Accent were large white potatoes - very easy to over-boil if you took your eye off the pot, and they were really soft in texture. I found them to be a bit bland, but the rest of the family seemed to like them. I thought they were tastier cold rather than hot, so better for salads. Charlottes are always good, and I will definitely grow them again. Next year, I will be more organised and get them in earlier and even try to grow a maincrop as well.

Beans were mixed. The broad beans did really well - a mixture of Super Aquadulce and Stereo. The Stereo grew really tall and suffered a lot in the windy conditions, but the beans were superb. Aquadulce are always good performers, and we like the big fat beans and the furry pods. I have several bags in the freezer, and we enjoyed them in a lot of meals over the last two or three months. Broad bean hummus is definitely  the taste of Summer for me.
I had also planted dwarf French beans ( Cantare and Aguillon) and climbing beans ( Borlotti and Blue Lake) but  - failure here. I never can grow dwarf beans - they are always tiny, shrivelled little specimens. Even in my previous garden, much further south, I only ever harvested enough for maybe one or two small portions. I just don't think it is warm enough here.  I am still going to try next year, but in the poly-tunnel. The climbers?  Well, Borlotti is very far from home up here on the Western Isles, so a few stumped empty pods and wind-scorched leaves were the result here. I had hoped for more from the Blue Lake, as I have had good harvests in the past from this variety. Again, though, it was those old South-westerlies that did them in. Sustained moderate breezes are just as drying as hot sun, without the growth promoting qualities.

Although -  look - right down there at the very bottom of the bean tower -  maybe half a dozen decent looking pods!  A lesson there then - more protection.

I am pleased with the bulb fennel, which I only planted last month, under fleece, and the stems are just beginning to swell. I have planted a comfrey bed, so that I can make my own liquid fertiliser. We are all waiting and hoping for a late strawberry bonus - just a couple of more sunny weeks - please! I had forgotten to sow any peas this year, so I bought some plants at the Crofter's market last month. Of course, the beds were all full and I had nowhere to plant them, so they went into the flower bed. We have had a fair few pods from them, but now they have been discovered by the hens. What I want to know is - why they can't peck at the creeping buttercup as well - then I might not mind so much. Ho hum... least there is still time to smell the flowers..

...oh yes - there should always be time for that. ♥

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Seven September Days

Kite flying at sunset
Theatre trips
Pizza making
Petit Fours
Peat Stacks as art
Hens getting closer
Butterflies on elecampane

Hope you are all enjoying these golden days. Wishing you a happy week ahead. xx

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Yarn Along at lunchtime

I became very bored with the blue jumper I shared last time. It had become such a chore - something I felt I had to plough through before I could move on to the projects I really wanted to do. But, who was forcing me to sit there labouring away with my two needles flapping? No-one except my silly self. So - I ripped it out - just like that, and in one bound I was free - free to crochet a round stripy cushion for the red chair in my sitting room. It is the pattern from Cute and Easy crochet, I am working it in Sirdar Snuggly DK - a lovely cosy yarn, and the colours will match the room.

I am quite pleased at how it is coming along - a few more rounds and that will be the first side done. I started this on Sunday night - so that is good progress for me.

I crocheted a hat -  without a pattern! How hard is it to take a decent picture of your own head? This was done in Patons Soft Tweed -  Ravelry notes are here.

I am reading a book about pie - while eating pie too! Nicely written memoir about a lady, suddenly widowed, and her journey through that loss - and there is pie, of course. Making Piece by Beth M. Howard - a gentle and uplifting book, despite the sad beginning.
I have hardly read at all over the Summer, and have been missing it.  I am actually getting up a bit earlier to have half an hour or so to read before everyone else rises, and it is such a nice way to start the morning. And over lunch too - leftover black pudding and leek pie, fried potatoes and a spoonful of hot sauce and a good book - perfect.

Joining in the Yarn Along today, over at Small Things.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Under the sun

I am always conscious, living here at 58.6°N, of the movement of the Earth throughout the year. The Sun appears to traverse rapidly along the horizon, as the world turns. In these wide open skies, this movement is so obvious.  I watch it move across the edge of this now familiar landscape, feeling the expansion and contraction of the seasons.  I can understand why, in this place, ancient peoples decided to build their complex of stone circles. The rotation and tilting of the planet can be clearly observed, as the year moves on.

I find it awe-inspiring to look up into the sky and see where I am under the sun, standing securely on this spinning globe. I feel grounded by it - secure in the dependability of it. As I write, I also have the text of today's sermon in my mind "I will never leave you, nor forsake you" (Joshua 1:5), and it resonates with this feeling -  I can look out as the day begins and ends, and know that the sun will continue to rise and set without fail. In these often chaotic days of busyness, change and conflict, it is a comforting thought.

I had decided a few days ago, that I wanted to document the journey of  the Sun along my horizons. Every month I will take a picture of the sun at dawn, noon and dusk, and post it here. I am looking forward to charting the turning of the year.
These pictures were taken on the last day of August. The dawn broke at 6.25 am but it took 10 minutes before the sun broke above the bank of cloud lying on the Eastern horizon. It is rising almost in line with our bottom croft.
At noon, I was at the airport, seeing my elder son on to his flight back to the mainland, after a short but very welcome visit. The sun is still quite high towards the South. There is a stiff breeze sending the clouds scudding across the sky.
Sunset was at 8.20pm - almost in the middle of the space between the two croft houses opposite.
It will be interesting to see how the world has moved on by the end of this month.


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