After what was possibly the wettest, stormiest month ever, in these Isles, it was so good to see blue skies today. We seized the moment, as you must here, and spent a good few hours outside catching up on some work - and some sunlight. We were lucky not to sustain any damage to our property, in the gales, but there was a fair bit of debris lying around, so it was mostly clearing up, and sorting out the recycling.
The livestock were enjoying the fine day too - and it was a relief to see them with dry coats for a change. All the cattle and ewes are in the field outside the house just now, and it is very handy for feeding, and keeping an eye on them. The down-side is that they expect food every single time we appear outside the house: then there is a veritable stampede of cows and sheep following us up and down, trying to attract our attention in the most unsubtle of ways. I swear they can actually tell when we begin to put our coats and boots on inside the house. Och, all right - it's not really a down-side...
The hens haven't been laying during these dark and miserable days, so it was good to see them basking in the already strengthening sun. Some of these girls are getting on a bit for laying now, so I am hoping to refresh my stock soon. The surprise chicks that hatched just before our holiday, sadly, were not there when we returned. We'll never know what happened to them, but I suspect it would have been the crows. Hopefully now she has hatched a brood, the mother will have another go in the Spring.
The garden has survived the onslaught of the gales reasonably well, although parts of it are a bit waterlogged. There are some pretty seedheads still attached, and some very early and welcome signs of new growth.
We have had a good supply of vegetables from the beds all Winter. I like to ensure we have plenty of fresh leafy greens on hand. The chard has been a star - especially the yellow variety. It is getting a bit bedraggled now, so I have been cutting it fairly drastically, as I harvest. I am confident it will come up again and by the time I have picked all the current plants, new leaves should be coming up, and keep us going in the hungry gap. The kales have been great too - and that straggly looking broccoli that I left in has actually done well - giving us two or three servings of small side shoots over the Winter. I have a good crop of January King cabbages, growing away nicely under their mesh cover, and carrots and beetroot are still happy in the ground. The leeks have been casualties though - scorched and de-flagged by those cruel winds. I will definitely add some enviromesh covering over next year's leek bed, as it really makes a difference.
So, there we are - still standing, still harvesting and still planning. Another nice day is forecast for tomorrow, so I hope to get out into the polytunnel (also still standing - phew!), and start work on the new raised beds that I want to put there. Then there is the seaweed collecting, the manure spreading, the propagator to be filled.... The Crofting year begins again!