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Monday, 29 November 2010

Yes more snow....


Well to be honest it has thawed then snowed again, so we don't really have any deeper snow than we did before. When I went out to shut the hens in for the night a couple of hours ago it was still thawing, but who knows what the next few days will bring.  All the schools in Orkney were closed today as lots of the rural roads are tricky to travel along. Not that the island kids seemed to mind having another day off school - they were out with sledges earlier today! I think all the children throughout Orkney are hoping for more snow and all the parents are longing for a thaw!  Although Orkney isn't doing too badly with snow it is far worse south in Scotland. I think the main route (A9) has been blocked for much of the day.  Thankfully I don't need to go anyway in a hurry!

Above is sunrise this morning rising above the hill at Windbreck at about 8.45am.  Most of the fields are empty around Sandside now as a lot of the cattle have been taken indoors for the winter, and sheep moved to other fields.  So the fields are left to the curlews and lapwings, who have been a bit disconsolate the last few days.

Last night there was a bit of a breeze and I love the way the snow is clinging to the stone in the garden dyke.


Snow over the Orphir Hills on the Orkney Mainland

Sunday, 28 November 2010

More snow....


More snow overnight. Still not very deep on Graemsay, and very crunchy so fun to walk in (unless you have paws). I'm staying nice and snug indoors most of the time, as is Button, but we both "took the air" this morning.

The young hens are somewhat bewildered as to where all the grass has gone. I cooked up some spaghetti and rice for them as a treat (they like spaghetti as they think it's a pale worm!).



Water running from a land drain is frozen on the shore.


Another snow shower coming in


Time to head home to the warm!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Snow....


We're not having as bad a time as other parts of the UK (yet), but we have snow and the occasional blizzard! I went out this morning to feed the hens and they were still roosting - the snow on the roof made the hen house dark and they thought it was night time!  They were surprised to see me with breakfast......  However I have kept them shut in for the day as there are some young birds there and I'm not convinced they understand it's better to stay indoors during a blizzard!  Charlie the barn cat was glad to have breakfast, but at least he has a lovely warm hay barn to sleep and hunt in.  I gave him "extra rations" but I suspect he's probably getting plenty of food from the mice moving out of the field into the barn! The garden birds were glad of more fat balls, seeds and peanuts, and with the hens shut in I was able to leave food on the ground for the blackbirds - though of course the sparrows and starlings were just as happy to eat it.

I was due to go over to Stromness last night as various galleries were having openings of their Christmas exhibitions. However after phoning the ferry skipper's wife to book the boat she advised me the wind was due to get up and snow to come in so I cancelled. Just as well as we have enough snow to make driving difficult and slippery!

So I'm snug indoors with a slightly grumpy Button (a bored cat is an annoying cat!) and am just watching the weather pass over. I have lots of work to be do so I'll just get my head down and get on with it and await the thaw!



Here comes the blizzard again!

Friday, 26 November 2010

A dusting of snow


Just a light dusting of snow across Brinkies Brae in Stromness but the clouds speak of more to come.  It's blooming cold too!

Beach Day....

OK I confess these photos were taken a couple of weeks ago before the gales and the extreme weather. However I enjoy looking at them when the weather is quite "challenging"! 

A memory of summer


I was trying an "artistic" photo of an old winch but Button had to get into the picture!


And again.......


Seaweed piled up after a recent gale

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Sea Snake

No not a real snake, but some photos (courtesy of Irene of Breckan) of the experimental renewable energy equipment using wave power. This is being trialled just off Billia Croo on the West Mainland of Orkney, and the "sea snake" can be seen going up and down the Flow to it's base at Lyness on the island of Hoy.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Christmas Shopping....


OK I admit I fall into the "Bah Humbug!" category of Christmas grouch. I don't begrudge anyone their fun at Christmas, just don't expect me to join in. Well unless there is mulled wine on offer... Anyway even I had to concede I needed to start shopping for Christmas gifts so last week ventured into Kirkwall. My first port of call was my favourite shop - Shearer's.  This is an old family firm which sells everything from seeds for farm crops, hardware, kitchen utensils, pet food, to groceries and cake. Yes all in one shop.  In the Spring time the upstairs is full of different seeds which are mixed by hand to suit the individual farm or field.  I had my walled garden grass seed mixed here with advice from Richard Shearer himself on which grasses and what density to go for.  I'd asked for something that didn't need lots of mowing ;-)  He said he had the solution - spray the grass with beer twice a week and it will grow half-cut.  Boom Boom! (as the slightly faded Basil Brush would say, sorry that joke will be lost on anyone outside the UK...).

Anyway, at this time of year the upstairs of the shop is turned into a Christmas wonderland - as you can see in the photo above.  The fire is lit (yes real fire!), and Christmas tree and chair ready for Santa, old lamps, tins and other oddments adorn the high shelves, while tables and cupboard are laden with all sorts of food goodies from far and wide.  I managed to not dribble all over the chocolate and this time just bought some bird seed and "fat balls" from the department downstairs.  (Why is it OK to feed fat balls to birds but I can't live off chips and bacon rolls?  Don't birds suffer from high cholesterol??!)

Then it was onto a well known Supermarket for more groceries. While I was browsing along the non-food items the clothes rails caught my eye and I was drawn to a rather fine pair of pyjamas.  Now in Orkney when one is looking at anything in a shop, if there is someone else looking too, well you strike up a conversation.  So there was this other lady also looking at these rather fine pyjamas and we were commenting on style, material, quality etc.  Then I said "But I don't know how practical they will be outdoors."  Small silence in the conversation (I swear the lady took a step back....).  "Um..." she said "you do know these are pyjamas..... for wearing in bed...?"  "Yes" I replied "it's just.....um..." at this point I realised I could not go on and say what was in my head given the look on her face so far, so just finished lamely saying something about needing to put the cat out etc.... Instead what I had been about to say was "well sometimes I need to go out to let out the mice the cat has brought in. Or to take a photo of the sun rising behind the cows from the corner of the road. But it's OK cos I do often put my wellington boots (rubber boots) on over my 'jamas, and a fleece too depending on the weather..... Some things are best left unsaid.....

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ship ahoy.....


Before the raging gales of the last three days our local Graemsay ferry managed to deliver my heating oil. You can see it being winched off the boat in the background to the photo.  The tank holds about 1,000 litres and the process of getting it to my domestic oil tank can sometimes be a challenge due to weather! The fuel is classed as "dangerous goods" so can only come out on certain runs. Unfortunately the weather closed in before it could be put on a tractor and trailer and be transported up to the house, and even then it was a case of waiting for the wind to drop before pumping it into the household tank at the back of the house (it's an electric pump but you have to stand over it!).  So advance planning is required when ordering fuel!

There was also another shipment of lambs going off to the Mart. The lambs have been in their fields since they were born earlier in the year and will probably go off for "store" lambs to be fattened up for future use. At least they had a calm trip over this time!

The gales raged for three days and apart from going out to feed the hens and Charlie the barn cat I haven't set foot outdoors!  I do however have a treadmill so have been getting *some* exercise.  Button disappeared under the sofa and emerged only when necessary.  Today the weather has improved considerably and Buttion is out "taking the air" as I type.....

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Calm day....


Sunday was a beautifully calm day, some respite from the winds which are due back this week.  Though I have to say I treasure the calm days more just because they are rare in the winter!  Temperatures are mild though so that's something I suppose.  Though we have had quite a bit of rain and the fields are getting wet so the cattle are now beginning to come into the byres for the winter. Sunrise here is 0806 and sunset is 1547 as we speed to wards the "shortest day" (compared with 0720 and 1610 in London).

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Knock Knock.....



I was quietly getting on with work the other day and I heard a tapping at the front door.  I opened the door - nothing..... just the hens on the grass scratching about.  Hmmmm did their air of concentration look a little too studied?  I closed the door and went back to my work.  A few minutes later there it was again.... tap..tap... tap.... I opened the door - just innocent looking hens...... O-kay...... back to work.... tap... tap... tap.... I thought "Right girls you're not going to get the better of me THIS time!!"  So I snuck out the back door and round to the front where the girls were all clustered around the door!  On closer inspection they were pecking at the putty at the bottom of the door guard!  I'm assuming the linseed oil attracted them or something.  I muttered darkly about consequences if my door leaked this winter and they wandered off to perfect their air of innocence......

Monday, 8 November 2010

Action Cat


I just love this photo of Button! The pure energy and grace of a hunting cat.  She was out in the field behind the house, having been cooped up for days indoors with gales and rain.  She just rejoiced in the freedom to explore the field. I saw her hunting and it was a pure fluke that I managed to capture the action shot!!

It has to be said she failed on this attempt, but did provide me with an "offering" later in the day. I told her to take it outside and dispose of it, opened the door and she went out muttering.  [The squeamish should not read further....!] I looked out the window to see her munching away in the light of the cat flap! She then popped back in and demanded a little light supper in her dish........ that's cats for you!

Note re waxwings - I mentioned waxwings a few days ago. Today I found this blog on Fair Isle (part of Shetland Islands) - do take a look at the amazing pictures!  It's a new blog so think we need to encourage more fantastic photos!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Harvest Home

Friday night was the island "Harvest Home". This is an evening  celebration of the end of the harvest period. All the parishes in Orkney hold them about the beginning of November to celebrate having brought in all the crops, tatties, neaps, and safely delivered livestock. 

The tradition is a meal, with music and dancing to follow.  The ladies on the island did a great job of providing the meal with plenty for everyone including the traditional "clapshot" which is mashed tatties (potatoes) and neaps (swede) and happens to be my favourite.....!  John Budge of Longhope gave an impromptu speech at the end of the meal while we had our coffee (it's traditional to have a "speaker" at such an event). We also had home-made shortbread and a new delicacy of shortbread with caramel, and white chocolate...... it was wonderful and I managed to bring a doggy-bag home of some too!


After the meal the tables were cleared and the musicians began.  We were really  fortunate to have Fran Gray and John and Leslye Budge from Longhope.  Fran and John played on accordions accompanied by Leslye on the bodhran (see photo above).  John also sang a selection of songs, some traditional Orkney songs like "Kirkwall Bay" and "Lonely Scapa Flow", as well as traditional Scottish songs and some country music type songs which we all joined in.  There was also some traditional dancing with the "Strip the Willow" going on for some time and getting faster towards the end.  I feared the "First Responders" might be required by the time the dancers finished!! 

The party went on into the wee small hours but I headed home about 2am.  Though rumour has it the party actually carried on until about 9 a.m.!

Anyway it was a great night and we're all very grateful to Fran, John & Leslye for coming over and providing such entertainment!  Now.... I need to work out how to get more of those biscuits......

Friday, 5 November 2010

Rainbow skies.....

After the gloomy, rainy days recently with high winds, today we have a beautifully mild, calm day with a scattering of showers.  Above is the Graemsay ferry heading "over the Rainbow"! On the horizon you can faintly see some wind turbines lit by the sun.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

More archaeological finds

For those of you interested in archaeology excavation work has started in South Ronaldsay (one of the linked south isles in Orkney) on a Neolithic chambered tomb. This tomb was discovered by accident in September and this last week a team from the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology (ORCA) have been working on the site, led by Dan Lee. The dig is a race against time as one of the chambers is filling with water and so they are trying to uncover and preserve the fragile contents, which include human remains.  There is a regular video diary available to view here    The poor team have also been battling against atrocious weather with gales, horizontal rain and hail!  Exciting finds though!

Note (5 November) some photos on the Orcadian Newspaper Archive

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Winter gales....


Yes the clocks went back 1 hour at the weekend, it's now November, and we are well into winter gales and heavy rain.  Today's photo is of a hail shower passing over Sandside bay earlier today.  Glad I can be snug and warm indoors.  Unfortunately neighbouring farmers have been moving sheep around ready for shipping to the mart later this week.  Glad I decided against begin a farmer!!

It now begins getting dark around 4pm and I have to break off from work to remember to go and shut the hens in for the night. I could leave their wee door open, but I like to think of them being snug in the henny hoose without a draught blowing through the hatch (yes I'm a soft southern townie!) and also it gives me a chance to check all are present and correct!

At the weekend we had our island Halloween Party (no photos - I have to protect the innocent - that's you dear reader!!).  I only went along for an hour as I seem to have picked up a low-grade virus and have been feeling sorry for myself for several days now.  Not that I get any sympathy from Button (the cat)! 

Anyway the party was great fun, with duckin' for apples, donut eating without any hands, making spider webs and other rather raucous games.  Of course there was a buffet with homebakes iced in lurid colours and with horrible names lik "bat droppings" - tasted good though ;-)  Most of the island folk attended and had dressed up in scary costumes.  The kids do a party piece in return for sweeties.  I managed to blag my way into the sweet distribution network as I am smaller than some of the "kids" on the island so no one notices anothe wee hand held out!! Tee Hee!

November is definitely a time for curling up indoors in the evening with a good book, or watching TV and listening to the wind roaring outdoors.  Must say it's getting harder to get up in the morning.......!