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Sunday 31 May 2009

An absence of wind......

... no not my digestive system (well that too), but I'm referring to the glorious weather today. This morning I sat outside in the sunshine and it was too HOT! No breeze at all. Thankfully a breeze picked up in the afternoon making life more pleasant for working outdoors. Which is just as well as the island has been busy today. (Photo from South side of Graemsay looking towards Moaness and the Hoy Hills).

Farmers are sowing seed in the fields and moving livestock around. The kids next-door spent most of the day on the beach. I've been pottering in the garden again. Plus some more work has been done with the digger in the garden.

Button enjoyed the lazy sunny day today too, and the hens enjoyed a doze in the sun.

The air was filled with bird song, plus the drone of various water craft from Stromness harbour. Several yachts were out in the bay, the Lifeboat seemed to be doing extended exercises, a couple of jet-skis were around as well as a speed boat or two. Because of sea temperatures, tides, wind etc it tends to be the fairly hardy who take to "watersports" in Orkney, so the area doesn't get as busy as some shores in the South of England where jet-skis and speed boats buzz around from dawn to dusk.

So I've enjoyed a lazy Sunday watching everyone else doing some work. Well two days really as yesterday I watched Mick mow the grass around Sandside. His ride-on mower is broken so he has been using my "walk-behind" one - well he said he wanted to lose some weight....

Friday 29 May 2009

Another sunset.....

..... I make no apology, I love sunsets. Today's was at 2205 with the sun setting just behind Black Craig over on the West Mainland of Orkney.

And Sandside Bay with the moon at 2210:

Thursday 28 May 2009

Buzz Buzz

I've neglected the flower border recently in favour of the veggie patch, but took a wander past today and the cornflowers are in full bloom. I just love the vibrant blue - as do the bees! There were at least six bees engrossed in the blooms on just one plant.

And the Forget-me-nots are looking delicate and beautiful today too.

And could someone please tell me what this very common perennial is called? A friend gave it to me last year and I've forgotten it's name (if I ever knew it!).

The border is just coming into flower - I like to remind myself of "before" and "after" as some days it doesn't feel as if I've come very far cultivating a garden - and then I look at how it was a couple of years ago and feel I'm making progress!

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Tram lines on Graemsay?

No - just tractor wheel marks after the field was spread with fertilizer. Some years the field at the back of the house has been used as summer grazing, but the fence is in poor repair so this year it will be used for silage, or maybe hay for winter feed for island livestock. Once I get the fence fixed and "livestock" proof, animals could go back in there - not mine I hasten to add! I let a neighbour use the field - I get the pleasure of looking at the livestock without any of the work!

Today has been another bright sunny day. I've been out weeding in the vegetable garden. The peas and beans I sowed just before I went south are already appearing above the ground. I have to turn a "blind eye" to the rest of the garden as it will be some time before that is sorted out. As a friend said, just concentrate on what has been done, rather than looking at what needs to be done! Otherwise I get a bit despondant. However I just need a little patience and all will come together.

I see there was a cruise liner in Stromness harbour today. Orkney is visited by quite a large number of cruise liners, though most visit Kirkwall. Usually the visitors are landed in small boats and then go on coach tours around the Orkney Mainland to various historic sites such as Skara Brae or the Ring of Brodgar, with a little time to shop in the town. At least the visitors will take home good memories of Orkney in the sun this time.

And I heard seals calling today while weeding the garden. That is such a relief as I haven't seen seals around for some time. They would usually be around the rocks and skerries of the shore, but the fish must have been scarce as there were no seals to be seen for some time. However the fish must be back as the air was filled with seal calls tonight. Most of the seals around the island are grey seals. In years gone by they would haul out onto the sandy beach in May, but they've been choosing other sites on the island for their sun bathing in recent years.

Here's a photo from about 10 years ago when they would sunbathe on Sandside beach:

Monday 25 May 2009

A Welcome Home

I've just returned from a fleeting work visit south, and was greeted by an appreciative Button and this beautiful sunset. I enjoy visits south, but I love coming home. Tonight I sat in the conservatory with Button beside me and watched the swallows scooping up the insects outside, the waves lapping the shore and the sun slowly setting at 21:58. A beautiful "welcome home" which cannot be beaten!

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Graemsay Ferry

Here's a picture of the "Graemsay" ferry in dry dock - no, they didn't forget to unload the passengers...... it's a model! Brilliantly put together by Alan P. in Cumbria. I think he's made an excellent job of it. Alan contacted me last year as he had started on the model using some plans of the original ship, but had noticed on my blog photos that the back deck looked different. So I was tasked with taking photos of the back deck and fittings so Alan could make a faithful reproduction. I got some odd looks from the tourists on the boat who were busy photographing scenery while this odd woman was photographing steps, doors, ropes etc.......

And here is the "Graemsay" on it's first "sea trial" (OK it was on a pond, but given the scale of the boat, "sea trial" sounds more appropriate").

Sunday 17 May 2009

Peedie lambs......

There are new lambs appearing in the fields around Graemsay as lambing gets underway. I just love watching the peedie lambs (peedie = Orcadian for small), especially when they all start playing together like kids, racing around the field and jumping about.

The kye (cows) are also appearing in the fields after wintering indoors, and again the calves all join together to race around.

The Starlings have hatchlings in nests at the top of the byre and I can hear the cheep cheep noises as the parent birds fly in with mouthfuls of worms to feed them.

The Arctic Terns are back too - it can make walking along the shore a bit hazardous as they dive bomb, at least they scream a warning! I got pecked on the head a few years ago as I didn't think they would actually hit me!

The Bonxies (Great Skua) are around too. I was watching fight in the sky when a Bonxie was chasing a gull to get it to drop it's catch.

The Black Back gulls are around too - especially during the lambing season. I'm not keen on these as they tend to attack the ewes as they are lambing and peck out the immobile ewes eyes, or attack young lambs.

And the sun is shining again after several days of a chill east wind. Thankfully my cloches and seed coverings survived the wind and everything is beginning to burst into life in the veggie patch - yes even *I* can now tell I have potatoes growing.........

Friday was the worst day weatherwise, and of course I had several appointments in town so just had to go across to town. The ride on the boat went via Hoy and was pretty rough - a combination of an east wind and a high tide. The boat picked up school-kids who had been spending a couple of days at the Outdoor Centre on Hoy, and I did feel sorry for some of the kids as some of them looked various shades of white or green. However most of them seemed to be enjoying the roller-coaster ride on the boat.

Here's another sunset from last week (sunrise is now at 04:39 (or so they tell me) and sunset at 21:39, and the other night it was light all night! OOooh I LOVE this time of year):

Tuesday 12 May 2009

The early bird...

….. is in danger of getting smashed over the head or impaled on the garden fork! The hens just love it when I’m digging in the garden. However they have got so bold that I now have to watch I don’t get concussed hens (how would one know?) or worse – ready for spit roasting…… They arrive in a battalion (can you have 4 in a battalion?) anyway, the first to attack are the two boldest and they dive for the worms as I plunge the fork into the soft earth. Scrabbling to get at the worms before I can even turn the earth over and trying to break up the earth by banging with the fork is a little hair raising – or feather raising. Then when the first two have had their fill they retreat and the next wave (of two….) move forward for the attack, then when they are full, the first wave is hungry again! I’m now trying to anticipate the attack and dig a “dummy” piece of ground for them to rootle in so I can then move onto the border unimpeded by feathered friends. That’s when Button usually decides to wander across and inspect progress, at which point the hens realise they have been duped and run clucking to where the real action is.

On another front I am preparing the defences for the vegetable patch. I was actually quite impressed that my “Heath Robinson” contraptions for keeping the hens off seed beds actually stood up to a Force 8 gale last week! The Strawberry patch is nicely protected, and the netting can be raised to let bees etc enter and buzz around, while still allowing the fruit (I am ever hopeful) to be protected from birds of all varieties.

I got a few odd looks from friends when they saw me purchasing hanging baskets last week – a little on the risky side as the house is so exposed to winds from all directions. However, there is method in my madness – sometimes, and I have been using the upturned hanging basket containers to protect newly grown seeds. The white stuff is shell sand and grit to protect from slugs (as I said before – I am ever hopeful).

So the Veg border is more or less complete, I’ve dug the length of the wall and the border is now approx 100 feet x 5 ft – I know it’s about five feet as I measured it by lying down and it was a little wider than I am tall. Yes I know I should have gone and got a measuring tape but that meant clumping back to the house, taking off boots and rummaging. Lying down served two purposes, a) I got a rest and b) I measured the border. Anyway, back to the veg border - I still have peas to plant – I was delighted to hear that they may grow well outdoors. I’ve grown them in the back of a car before and they did well. And no that’s not as strange as it sounds – not in Orkney anyway. On the isles, when cars no longer work they are pressed into service to store feed, implements, or in my case to house a few grow bags. The car was an old estate and provided a nice crop of tomatoes, peas, beans and lettuce one summer several years ago before it was shipped off for scrap.

The fleece is protecting the carrots – from hens, cold, wind and (ever hopeful – did I mention I was ever hopeful?) carrot fly. The onions have started sprouting too. I have absolutely no idea if the potatoes are, never having grown them before. *Something* is growing but I suspect its weeds for now – I shall wait till things grow a bit more!

Now I want to start on the next border, but there is quite a bit of stone to be cleared so I shall need some help with that first.

**Written Monday 11 May when broadband was off – wail – in cyberspace did you hear me scream?**

Thursday 7 May 2009

Winter returns?

Today a gale has been blowing - it's so easy to forget when the first warmth of Spring arrives, just how changeable the weather in Orkney can be. One minute planting out seeds in the garden, the next running for cover as the rain starts and the wind increases! Gusts were up to nearly 60 mph in the Flow this morning. The sea looks quieter outside now, but it still sounds breezy!

I think the broad bean seeds I planted yesterday will be burrowing further into the ground, rather than reaching for the sun at this rate! Here's a picture of the veggie patch - I've dug the full length of the stone dyke (approx 100 feet x 5 ft). OK it's a bit of an odd angle but I was trying to balance without treading on newly planted seeds or hens!

The "anti-hen" devices I've been using have stood up well - though haven't been out to see how they did in today's gale. I've also bought some hanging baskets to put upside down on the earth to create a little "dome" for lettuce so that the hens don't nip off the green shoots before *I* get a taste.

Lambs are beginning to appear in the fields on Graemsay. I love watching the wee lambs all racing around together. All the birds have been pairing up and I can see a pair of oystercatchers dangerously close to Button's hunting ground - sigh. Oh - and I think Bill the Lone Goose must have wandered off and found his/her friends as there has been no sighting for some weeks now.

One thing that takes some getting used to in Orkney is that Daffodils, Tulips, primroses and bluebells all bloom at the same time here! Though "daffs" are usually a little earlier than the others. However it's lovely to see colour appearing along the banks at the side of the road. There's a lovely display of primroses down near the pier too.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Through the cat flap.....

........ but not with Lloyd Grossman....... this week's challenge, should you wish to accept it, is to persuade Button to use the cat flap...... having spent a large amount of time, myself, gazing at the view in the photo, I can tell you it's not as easy as it sounds.

Firstly - cats are used to "staff" - they have staff to provide their food and staff to open doors for them, staff to rub up against when the need arises etc. So WHY would any self-respecting cat use an automatic door?? Sigh.

Secondly, it wasn't helped that I decided to go all techno-whizzo with the cat flap and get one that is activated by the microchip in the cat. This would be fine - except that I have now discovered that the place the vet puts the microchip is too far along the back of the cat to activate the door opening. I discovered this after ramming poor Button's head into the cat flap saying "Open, darn it". You know the pictures of cartoon cats who have run into a wall - flat-iron face etc? Yup that's how Button felt.

Eventually I took the batteries out the whizzo-gizmo and it operated like a regular cat flap. Only Button wasn't to be fooled by THAT ruse, once bitten (or button?) etc. So she sits either side of the flap gazing in or out depending on her mood and location....... if *I* open the little plastic door she happily will come in or out. But is not inclined to do the work herself.

So someone suggested propping open the cat-flap to get her used to using the hole in the door if nothing else. Seemed like a good idea. Until this afternoon that is....... I heard her on the loose stones outside the back door so struck the usual pose of the last few days, face up against cat flap calling "Button, come on Butty Button, there's a good girl, who's a clever girl then?" (not me clearly.....). And there is Button, pleased as punch, ready to come in..... with a MOUSE in her mouth. Swift rearguard action of slamming the plastic door down. Anyway she'd dropped the mouse and was peering under the stones for it. So I went out, picked her up and put her in the conservatory - "Don't play with your food" is the motto in THIS house! Well as swift as only a cat can be she ran up the conservatory steps, through the sitting room, into the kitchen and "snap" out the cat flap - no problem opening the little plastic door THAT time! Ha!

So I'm not too sure what the score is at, at the moment. In Button's favour I suspect. The whizzo-gizmo cat flap doesn't work on the microchip due to microchip not being in right place, PLUS when it's windy cat flap - well, flaps - which I thought it would a bit, but it's much flimsier than I'd expected. And then Button doesn't seem too chuffed by it all either....... But I now have a hole in the door so......

However I shall persevere as she needs to be able to come and go as she pleases, particularly when I'm away. But for now...... pass me the gin somebody.......