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Monday 30 June 2008

Daylight at midnight....

Several folk have asked how light is it at night at this time of the year. Well today’s photo (appearing here by kind permission of Steven Heddle of Kirkwall) shows Kirkwall Harbour at midnight on mid-summer’s night. As you can see – it’s very light!

Today sunrise was at 0402 and sunset is 22.08, while in London it’s 04.46 and 21.21. If it’s been a grey cloudy day then I sometimes need the lights on indoor just before going to bed, but often I can sit in the conservatory until bed-time without the need of artificial light. And I find I need to draw the blinds to shut out the daylight when I go to bed else it’s difficult to get to sleep. And of course the daylight in the early morning wakes me up. Having said that I just LOVE this time of year with the loooong days, whatever the weather. It’s hard to imagine in the long dark winter months that it can ever get light again, but each year it does!

I also love this time of year when it’s warm enough to have windows open and to hear the waves lapping gently at the shore, and the seals calling from the rocks. One thing that amazed me was the number of birds that fly around at night, calling out. Some nights it gets so noisy with bird alarm calls that I get up and shut the window!

Sunday 29 June 2008

Islands beginning with "G"......

Just returned from a short visit to Guernsey in the Channel Islands (UK) visiting relatives. Clearly my family have a thing about small islands….. Guernsey is approx 24 square miles but has over 70,000 inhabitants! That compares with about 21,000 inhabitants in the whole of Orkney, most living on the Orkney Mainland. Gosh it felt so crowded in Guernsey, lots of houses close together. It is a lovely island and my family really enjoy living there – and the climate is much warmer in the summer than Orkney. But I was still glad to get home to the peace and tranquillity of Graemsay!

I was only away a short while, but what with having been very busy just before my departure the garden weeds have run amok. I’ve been trying to spend a little time each day working on a “control” programme for them. The “eradication programme” is still a dream…… However I am delighted with my border – once it’s tidied and looking respectable I must post some pictures. The shrubs are coming along nicely, and the perennials are doing well too. Unfortunately so is the cow parsley, buttercups, daisies, camomile and a plethora of other “weeds”. I don’t mind a few daisies and buttercups but did have to rescue some of the plants as they were threatened with strangulation.

Fortunately my neighbour, Mick, is still happy to cut the grass with his ride-on mower, so I can invest all my gardening efforts into the borders. The walled garden was sprayed some weeks ago, and has died off nicely. Once there is a dry spell the dead grass will be burned off to hopefully reveal any remaining stone edging etc. It’s unlikely it will get planted this year, but would be great to have it ready for Spring planting next year!

Here are a couple of photos of the walled garden – which is approx 100 foot x 100 ft.

Wednesday 18 June 2008


Quick entry today as it’s late (nearly midnight, *way* past my bedtime), but tomorrow the electricity is being turned off all day as the electricity company (Scottish Hydro) are carrying out maintenance work on the island. Need to get everything done today that requires electricity!

And we are also having road resurfacing carried out on the island. Our “main road” is pictured above. As you can see it’s a single track tarmac road. The white bags on the left of the picture contain all the aggregate that will be used to resurface and there are drums of tar being shipped over the island over the next couple of days.

On Saturday the “Hoy Head” will be delivering the main machinery, which is too heavy to be lifted by our own ferry. Then next week the resurfacing will begin in earnest.

This week the road-men have been cleaning the road, removing all the vegetation which usually grows in the middle of the road! And also filling in any pot-holes etc.

There is probably only a couple of miles of public tarmac road on the island. The rest is made up of private tracks. As we don’t have a “car” ferry there isn’t that much traffic on the road – which is just as well as it’s only single track and with no official passing places! Generally it’s a good idea to check the clock before setting off in a particular direction – you don’t want to be going the wrong way when it’s boat time else you could end up reversing if you are going against the traffic!

When I first moved to the island I had an estate car which was quite long, and the wing mirrors were broken. I can only reverse using mirrors - being so short if I turn round in the driving seat my feet don't touch the pedals any more! The farmers learned it was quicker to reverse their tractors and trailers than wait for me to reverse! However with my nifty little red bug of a car it's much easier....

Thursday 12 June 2008

Long live the King in exile.....

Well I’m feeling a little sad as my old Maran cockerel has been deposed by his younger half-bred son this last week. The old cockerel, Finlay II was home bred a few years ago. Last year one of the hens had three chicks, two were hens and one a cockerel. Unfortunately I failed to find a new home for the new young cockerel, not even any takers “for the pot” and I have a rule of not intentionally eating any animal I have been personally acquainted with, so Finlay III stayed as part of the flock. At the time his father kept him in check and all was fine. But this Spring he came into maturity and I returned from a short trip away to find Finlay II ostracised to the old garden and not allowed anywhere near the hens. Any time he makes an appearance Finlay III chases him away most vigorously.

Poor Finlay II has even stopped crowing, though otherwise he seems in good health. Anyway as I have taken pity on him I am now feeding him separately and giving him “extras”. Of course this now means that Finlay II sits on the doorstep waiting for me in the morning to give him his share of the bread before I head down to feed the rest of the hens. I top up the hoppers in the hen house, then bring some grain back for him to eat too. At this rate he could live in exile for years!!

I also discovered one of the Maran hens had gone broody in the old byre. I decided I didn’t want any chicks this year as I think I’d like to buy in some new fresh stock, so dumped the poor hen on the floor and ran off with her eggs with her clucking outrage ringing in my ears……. She had only been sitting on them for a few days so I didn’t feel too bad, and I then dumped the eggs over onto the shore. She sat on an empty nest for a day then gave up and joined the rest of “the girls” again pretty soon.

The deposed King, Finlay II

The newly crowned King Finlay III

Sunday 8 June 2008

One man went to mow.....

The weather has been beautiful this weekend, lovely and sunny and warm. Makes me feel guilty as I have friends in the US who are baling out a flooded home. However I have made the most of the fine weather this weekend and got on with some gardening. Mick of Hoy High has a new toy – a ride-on mower, and he has kindly been cutting the grass around Sandside for the last couple of weeks. You can see in the picture he is supervised by about a dozen kye – just to make sure he does the job properly…..!

It’s great getting the grass cut as if I do it with my walk-behind mower it takes a couple of hours and the worst bit is emptying the grass box. So the energy saved from mowing has been spent working weeding the borders. Also transplanting some plants – Irene & Bobby at Breckan are reorganising their garden and had a plentiful supply of plants to give away. So these have been shared around various gardens on the island and I’ve been putting mine in the new border at the rear of the house.

Hopefully the plants will take – it’s very dry at the moment and I did water them in, but I was mindful that our island water tank is pretty low at the moment so didn’t want to waste any water! Our water comes from the Hoy hills, into Sandy Loch at the north end of Hoy and then treated before being pumped through a pipe on the sea bed over to Graemsay. Although the loch is full, there is a limit to the capacity of the treatment works and pumping station, and since a new Hostel opened on Hoy a couple of years ago which uses quite a bit of water, Graemsay and other Hoy residents have noticed a drop in supply. In fact no new connections can be made on Graemsay or at the north end of Hoy – so if new houses were to be built owners would have to put in a bore-hole. Scottish Water do have plans to upgrade the system but no date for the upgrade. So meantime I try to be careful with the water I use!

More sunsets....

It’s been a busy few days on the island. The council are about to resurface the public road on Graemsay and are sending over by ferry lots of materials to do this. So tons and tons of “aggregate” are being offloaded onto trailers and deposited around the island. It is expected that the tar-making equipment and workmen will arrive in the next week or so. This will have to come via a different boat as our own ferry crane is not capable of offloading heavy equipment. Apparently the method of resurfacing the road is very quick and so it shouldn’t be necessary to close any part of the road for very long. Which is just as well as with only one single track road any closure is disruptive!

Friday also saw our three South Isles Orkney Island Councillors over to talk to folk in the community about various issues. This was followed by the three of us that are “Community Councillors” going over to Hoy for a finance meeting where the Community Council gives grants to various organisations that have applied for help with their costs. There was a beautiful sunset on the way home so I took some pictures from “Moaness”, which is the pier at the north end of Hoy. The photos look towards the west.

Tuesday 3 June 2008

Sunsets and coos

Just been out to take a photo of the sunset at 10.30pm tonight. Actually it looked better for real than in the photo - often the way. Anyway the young stock are clearly interested in photography as they were hanging about while I took the shots. Unfortunately the ring-leader wouldn't stand still so the picture is a little blurred! (and yes it really is still this light at 10.30pm).

Catching up on return

Back after a few days off the island. Returned to find shrubs and plants have grown amazingly in such a short time. Everything is looking fresh and abundnant with the yellow poppies in bloom (welsh poppies?) and even the rosa rugosa starting to bloom. While away I saw a wonderful display of Aqualegia and so was delighted on my return to find one of the plants donated by a friend was indeed an Aqualegia. So hopefully I can encourage lots more to grow in the border.

In my absence a friend has also sprayed the old garden with weedkiller as the first stage in the regeneration process. I’ll take some photos later as I want to have a “Before” and “After” record. It will take some weeks for all the weeds to die off, then it’s hoped the dead grass can be burned off to reveal the edging around the old borders. This was done with stone and these need to be dug up as they will damage any machinery used to level off the ground etc. Still not sure what I will do once the land is cleared – it needs to be fairly low maintenance so will no doubt include a large amount of lawn, but am also hoping for borders for flowers and vegetables and a seating area, as the 5ft wall will provide shelter from the summer “breeze”!

Also see that some young cattle stock have been turned out into my field which is used for summer grazing. There are about 15 of them and they are very funny as they act just like adolescents! Often they just graze but every now and then they start charging around the field. Or someone walks past and they run up to be nosey. The cat went out for his daily constitution this morning and ended up with 15 coos hanging over the fence watching!! Unfortunately I couldn’t get my camera in time as that would have made a priceless photo.

And the ewes in the field in the front of the house have got wee lambs with them too. I do love this time of year with all the young animals around – almost makes me want to turn vegetarian. Then a ewe eats one of my shrubs and I immediately change my mind!!

Fitzi-cat is still unwell and is now losing lots of fur, so I’m awaiting a phone call from the vet to discuss the next course of action. Given the traumatic last vet visit I’m hoping we can minimise the stress to all concerned this time.

Weather today is mild but there is a bit of a sea mist around and actually I think it might even be raining at the moment. That will please the farmers who spread fertilizer on the land a couple of weeks ago and have been waiting for rain to wash it in!