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Saturday, 15 December 2018

December weather......

The worst of the Winter weather in Orkney is usually from January to Mark.  So December tends to be fairly mild, wet and windy but not severe gales.  However today we do have a gale blowing about 60mph with gusts stronger than that.  I've been out and fed hens and Charlie, the barn cat. Now Button and I are snuggled indoors.  Incidentally the hens still manage to come out and find a bit of shelter in the lea of the hen house.  They prefer that to being shut in all the time.

Above - well it wasn't taken today!  These sunset photos were taken a few days ago.....

A grey chilly day but quite calm.... hens enjoying a rootle about on the grass at the front of the house

One of the hens hoping for a snack!

Button never likes to be left behind, naturally.....

Now you know why she's called Button - eyes like Buttons!

She's fine with the hens.  She is well aware of flapping wings and pecky beaks!

Marigolds are still out in bloom even in December (though maybe not after today's gale!).

The lavatera bush was planted this year and is doing really well.  Still blooming as it has been very mild and this is a sheltered spot....

Young Kye (cattle) on the hill.  A neighbour's pony in the background, and the hills of Hoy make a good backdrop.

Calm water in Sandside bay.

Looking over to the croft of Quoys, the ruin of Quoynanapp on the hill, and the roof of Windywalls just peeping over the hill.

A neighbour uses my field as summer grazing but as it wasn't used this summer and just had hay taken off the land they are keeping sheep on it for the winter.  This is a Texel ewe.

A rain "stump" over on the Orkney Mainland

Looking over to Black Craig on the West Mainland.

And today - I can barely see out the windows for the salt covering them! White water in Hoy Sound!

Time to curl up on the sofa with Madam Button (who is already snoring!).  No boats today for Graemsay and many cancelled on the other islands.  Hopefully we get some respite tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Christmas approaches

There are many things that are harbingers of Christmas.  Two of my favourites are the Christmas Exhibition at the Pier Arts Centre, and Shearer's in Kirkwall that opens a Christmas shop upstairs, complete with old lamps, fire, tree and Santa!  Oh and lots of goodies too.

Above Santa keeps warm by the fire! Among the Christmas goodies are oil lamps....

And over the fireplace too.....

The bigger versions of the lamp below was also a heat lamp as the reflector shield behind radiated the heat from the lamp. 

In the summer months the upstairs is used for farm seed mixes for pastures, wildflower meadows, gardens etc.  I had some mixed up for me once when the garden was new.  I was fascinated with the process, a handful from here, another from that sack, thrown on the floor and mixed with a brush and spade and then put into a bag and weighed.  And my garden did very well too!

After spending time in Shearer's I headed back to Stromness and the Pier Arts Centre.  The Christmas exhibition is great, anyone can put items in, whether a student, professional artist, or keen amateur.  There is such a diversity of pieces this year.  Goodness knows how they curate it.

Here are a selection of paintings (abstract and the more representational), lighting, ceramics, glass, jewellery and fabrics, much of it inspired by Orkney culture and landscape.

We are so lucky to have this amazing free art gallery and wonderful space within Stromness.  I love the lines in this picture..... (the neon sign says I heart (Love) Life - very appropriate!)

The back of the gallery looks over Stromness harbour with the "Nav School" (Navigation school) next door where mariners can learn the art of navigation. They do a great job with lots of the school kids and youth groups too as so many youngsters are keen to have a wee boat.

And in the reception area a very minimalist Christmas Tree!

Then it was off to the local library (yes we have a wonderful one in Stromness) to sit and read till it was time for my boat home.  The view from upstairs is wonderful.  I could watch my ferry being prepared for the trip to Graemsay and Hoy, and see the Hoy High lighthouse and my house to the right of the mast on the vessel.

I watched one of the local librarians go out to feed Donald (Duck) his tea.  Another local came along with bottles of water that are used to mix Donald's food.  Donald appeared a couple of years ago all on his own.  It's thought he may have been dumped by someone who no longer wanted to keep him.  Ducks usually like company but he has evaded all attempts to catch him to take him to a farm.  So the crew of the MV Graemsay and other folk at the harbour (and the library!) feed him.  When he gets lonely he apparently swims down towards the Primary School where the kids feed him and there are wild ducks down there.  He seems quite happy and is probably the fatest duck in Orkney.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Harvest Home

Back at the end of November we had our Harvest Home. It is a non-religious harvest celebration, with a supper, and dancing which is held in parishes across Orkney from October to November.  These days Graemsay's harvest is largely silage and fodder for cattle and sheep for the winter. All the community come along, and many take part in the preparations in one way or another. Above folk tucking into their soup and rolls at the start of the meal. As you can see we got quite a few into our wee hall!

James found a way to amuse himself while waiting for dinner to begin! Older sister Katie is equally amused. Erm.... the tins of beer belong to the adults, not the kids!

The meal consisted of a lovely carrot and corriander soup with rolls, cold meats, clapshot (tatties and neeps mashed together with lots of butter. Um... that's potatoes and swede to the non-Scottish among us!), vegetables, new potatoes, and gravy.  Dessert was chocolate trifle with a good slug of rum in it! Then there was tea and coffee, after dinner mints, and homebakes while everyone relaxed after the meal and the speaker gave a short speech.

This year we were delighted to have local vet and accomplished musician, Andy Cant, come along and speak to us.  Very entertaining it was too, with quite a few stories to tell as you can imagine.

After all the tables were cleared away it was time for music.  John Budge, friend of the island from Walls on the island of Hoy was over and played the accordion.  Andy played the fiddle....

There was dancing too, of course.....

Later Sam, from Hoy set up the keyboard and joined in with the music.....

Young and old join in the evening......

And the dancing gets a bit wilder as the night progresses. I can't imagine why. Hee hee!

Sunday, 9 December 2018

A wander around Sandside....

Above Hoy High lighthouse, just at the back of the house.  Below a view from one of the old byres across to the green fields on Graemsay.

Down at the shore.  With Button, obviously.  Looking across to Stromness.

Fancy a dip? This makes a lovely natural swimming pool when the tide is in....

The old "lighthouse" pier, where all the stone for the Graemsay lighthouses were pulled up on carts in the 1850-60s.  Across the water to Quoys and Garson.

It's never easy trying to take photos when out with Button.  I was wanting to experiment with the macro features on the "bridge" camera. No chance with Madam in the vicinity sticking her nose in...

I was delighted to see were were accompanied by a grey seal on our visit to the shore.  You can see it's back flippers as this one was resting in the shallows.

Eventually is shifted and swam up and down, curious as to what we were doing.

This is a stonechat that was along the shore.  I had to zoom right in to get this shot so it isn't the sharpest.  Beautiful bird nonetheless!

Looking over the lighthouse pier towards the green fields of Graemsay and beyond the Hoy hills.

Given the coral sand on this beach I'm often amazed that Button is so happy to walk on it.  It must hurt her delicate little paws.  Here she is hurrying me along. She is easily bored!

Button appalled as she thinks someone has burned her pea-green boat!!  And no sign of Owl.... (The Owl and the Pussycat....)

Sandside looking wonderful in the Winter sunshine, if I say so myself....

I love how the low sunlight shows up the ripples in the landscape and fields....

The green building is our community hall, where many a good night is to be had!

And heading home again, the path down to the shore, Stromness in the background.