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Monday, 26 May 2014

Shifting weather

That's one thing in Orkney, the weather is forever shifting, sometimes all the seasons in one day, whatever time of year!  But that is one of the things I just love about the place. This groups of pictures were either taken from my "front door" or out the "back door" over the last week. Cloud, sunset and mist changing the mood of the landscape.

Hoy wearing a "hat" just as the sun is beginning to set in the West .....(sunset tonight is 10pm.)

And here, with a change of wardrobe, is Hoy wearing a covering of mist....

 Meanwhile out the back door...... Sunset among cloud (last week)

And tonight's misty offering.....

The West side of Graemsay has disappered under a mist bank.....

And the wee town of Stromness has drawn a veil over herself....... well a lass likes some privacy now and again and is probably recovering from a weekend of partying as it was the Orkney Folk Festival. More of that later....

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and put my feet up and watch the sun set!

Monday, 19 May 2014

My little chick-a-dee....

As I mentioned last week I was off the island for a few days, heading south for work.  Irene & Bobby (Squeak's people) were kindly looking after Princess Button, Charlie-in-the-barn, and the hens (well yes and the cockerel).  So I was rather startled to receive an email with pictures of one of my hens with a wee chick!

Photo by Irene

I knew that two or three hens had gone broody. I'd been removing most of their eggs so they would only hatch one. But I didn't expect any of them to hatch quite so soon!  In fact I wasn't convinced that the cockerel was even a "working model"! Clearly I misjudged the poor guy.

Anyway this hen is a very good mother, she's had several broods before. She even pecked ME when I first went to feed her and the chick.  But she knows now I just have food for them both so lets me get quite close. The chick keeps running round the mother so I haven't picked it up yet. But it is very bonny - different shades of brown. And so fluffy!

Indeed Charlie has been reluctant to go near the shed where he is usually fed if she is around as he fears the flappy wings and pecky beak. Don't blame him!  Princess Button steers clear too. She knows she would also incur MY wrath if she had any dastardly thoughts on this wee chick.

The chick soon gets to know the other hens, though the mother hen will chase them away if they get too close or rough with the chick.

And what amazed me was that not only did this chick hatch while I was away but it survived. Because it was born up in the old cattle manger here - you can see the remains of the egg which I took out of the nest and placed directly below. The chick would have had to JUMP from the nest among the straw in the manger onto the floor - which fortunately also has straw on it. This was the sheep pen when they were lambing recently.  Amazing little chick. Wonder Chick!

Once hen and chick have finished feeding the hen settles down and the chick nestles into the warm down and feathers underneath

So...the first chick of the year. I wonder how many more I'll get. I do hope some of them are hens!!  And no I haven't named the chick. Over the years I've had a number of hens and quite a few chicks. So the chicks just get referred to as "chick-a-dee", the hens as "the girls" and the cockerel gets greeted with "ok boy?" None of it very original, but despite not naming them all I do so love my hens (yeah ok and the cockerel!).

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Of builders and trees.....

Friday turned out to be slightly busier than expected.  The lovely Fay, of Wind and the Wellies, came out to help in the garden. But that was planned. What wasn't planned was the sudden arrival of builders.  Well I was obviously expecting them at some point, but after waiting for quite some time (they're popular these builders), it all came together very quickly and both they and Fay arrived literally at the same time.  Has to be said they were slightly stunned at the wee wifey, Fay, arriving clutching a tree, but they're island folk too so no comment was made.

So first - tree.  A beautiful rowan tree.  Now I have several native rowan trees planted in the garden over the last three years or so and they are settling in nicely. However they refuse to flower and no berries.  So I'm feeling a wee bit cheated at the moment.

Cue Fay, who is moving soon and though she could rehome one of her Orkney trees rather than take it with her to foreign parts (mainland Scotland).  So there she was, the wee wifey, climbing off the ferry clutching the Rowan.  We've called him Hugo, well I was never into Latin names......  So here is Hugo in his glory, with FLOWERS about to come out. I keep telling the other Rowans they can learn a thing or two from their big cousin, though he's a posher variety than my common rowans.... Perhaps he's from Edinburgh?

And he's peeping over the dyke looking towards Stromness and he can see the ferry he arrived on and remember his voyage around Hoy to arrive at Graemsay and my garden......... You can read about his trip with Fay here.  He's a well travelled tree - quite unusual for a tree I would say.....

And while Fay was here (she's a  horticulturalist extraordinare) she planted some more trees for me, but these were humble "sticks", some more rowan, birch, and alder, and something I can't remember.  They are carefully planted with black plastic to keep the weeds at bay.

Fay sporting her Wedding Wellies - last seen at the WellyFest!

Why the obsession with trees?  Well Orkney does HAVE some, they just hide them well.  And indeed I love the wide vistas in Orkney. Nothing to block your view here!  But I miss trees.  I have planted willows at the front of the house (as shown in various photos on this blog) and indeed favoured by the hens.

And Henny Penny posing nicely with the trees (willows) in the background....

And the builders?  Ah well more on them in the next post (which will be a few days as I'm making a quick visit "sooth" for work purposes, and some Cake).

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

More on gardening with hens....and Button

Now many people will keep their hens in cages to protect their gardens. I, however, love my girls to roam free so I keep my hens free range and my plants in cages!  Yes those yellow flowers are dandelions...I have a fairly loose way with gardening. Plus at this time of year the bees and other insects just love them.

Yes it's a challenge, but I love being in the garden with the girls (and Button). They are all such good company. Plus the hens are good at helping keep some pests at bay, and are great at helping me keep the soil loose. They are also great at eating lots of scraps so are the best ever recycling machines. And in return they give me lots of lovely eggs (well most of the time when I can find them!).

But back to cages..... the cage around my gooseberry bushes seems to be paying off this year. It's actually open at the top and the bees can fly through the holes. But my pesky fruit stealers are kept at bay....

Oooh look an embryonic gooseberry :-) 

Why the plastic and the rocks I hear you ask? Well this was the OLD strawberry patch which needs grubbing up. However I'm not really able to dig it up myself so the plan is to put plastick down to keep the weeds back and hopefully kill off the weeds/grass underneath. Then in the Autumn or next Spring I can, hopefully, dig it up.  And the rocks are to keep it well anchored through any wind.  G. of Imperfect & Tense came over last week and helped with this, and rescuing a rose which had got smothered. He also is ace at digging up docks (or dochens as they are called in Orkney).

And then there is the strawberry cage for the new strawberries.... the girls are figuring out a way in I'm sure....though it worked well last year.

But this afternoon I took the cage bit off to let the strawberry plants feel the sun on their leaves and for the hens to rootle around among them too - again helps keep pests away. Once they are flowering and starting to fruit - on goes the lid again!  And yes this is the cockerel I didn't intend having - he masqueraded as a hen for quite a few months....   The rhubarb is coming along nicely too, it's first real year for fruiting.

Meanwhile back to the girls.... always glad to help with a spot of digging.

And then it's time for a quick preen by the compost heap and a chat with chums...

Then time for a further rootle..... hens eat grass believe it or not!

And time for a quick catch up at the coffee shop, um sorry water butt!

Meanwhile Princess Button looks statuesque, as in large lump of concrete statue...hee hee.... (Don't tell her I said that.)

But the garden is coming along nicely with the longer days, sunshine, warmth and a drop of rain these last couple of days. This border is full of perennials and bulbs. They die away completely in the winter and grow amazingly quickly from Spring. The shore is only a matter of yards away over the wall so they have to deal with wind, salt spray and sand thrown at them in winter, so most shrubs I have tried just died, Even the ones you see around most sea shores in the UK.

This is a newer border. It has potatoes and veggies in last year but I'm cutting down on those. I don't have the time or energy to battle against the Orkney elements to keep them going. So more perennials it is then... plus I really love flowers....

Oh and forget-me-not....says this wee flower (yes the pretty).

And the daffs are past their best now but some are still flowering.

And one of my favourites, the aquilegia. This is a particularly early one.

So I hope you enjoyed a wander round the garden with us girls (oh and the cockerel...).

Monday, 5 May 2014

"When life gives you lemons...."

..... make lemon curd!  Though to be honest it was the girls giving me a surplus of eggs that got me started. I'd never been a fan of lemon curd till I tried the home made variety. So with a glut of eggs I decided to give it a try.  I used this recipe and it was really straightforward to make.  As you can see I made a little more than two 8oz jars, possibly because the lemons were large and I got a lot of juice out of them, and my girls lay large eggs too!  But it worked out fine.

Now because it's home made this needs to be kept in the fridge and will only last two weeks. However my plan is to give some of it away.  I do various exchanges for other goodies with friends and so it's nice to have something to add to it.

But of course one mustn't use ALL the lemons in lemon curd..... you need to save one for the G&T (gin & tonic).

And for my next trick...... must try THIS recipe for a nice tangy twist on the classic Victoria Sponge.  And before you have me down as some sort of culinary goddess, NOTHING is further from the truth! But I do enjoy experimenting with some home made goodies in the kitchen when time and energy permits. Plus I'm trying to eat more healthily so if I eat "unhealthy" things like cakes, jams etc then at least if I make them myself they are free of additives and I know what goes into them. Plus they ALWAYS taste nicer than shop bought (even if they don't always LOOK nicer).