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Monday 26 March 2012


Now we are on "British Summer Time" sunset is at 7.38 pm....whoo hoo!!!  Sunrise is at 6.59 a.m. but I'm less concerned with that!  In mid-winter the sun set between the hills of Hoy to the left of the picture. I love tracking the sun across the sky over the seasons.

I'm always posting pictures of the Hoy Hills which are a lovely backdrop to Graemsay. Here is a short film of the island of Hoy. Very atmospheric and beautifully shot by Raymond Besant.  I can only provide a link as it's not on YouTube but do take a look here, it's only 3 or 4 mins long.

Sunday 25 March 2012

Extraordinary weather!

It's mid March and I've been digging the garden in a tee shirt (well I used a fork too and was wearing trousers....). BUT I didn't need my hat, scarf or trusty waterproof to keep out wind and rain!  It was joyous!!  As you can see above - the chickens were on hand to supervise again....

It's been a lovely few days, though we did have some fog yesterday.  Friday Mrs Orkney Flowers came out and did some work in the garden, including digging part of my border while I just hovered about being unproductive. Today I made up for it by digging over the veggie-patch and tidying up the edge of it with Mrs Flowers trusty edger thingy.  To get a straight line I   measured from the wall and used pegs and string.....sigh..... unfortunately I spent most of the time untangling chicken feet from said string.....

I think the hen is saying "Go on, gi' us a kiss"!

Anyway with the help of the chickens the straight edge isn't perhaps as straight as it might have been!!

But poor Mrs Flowers beautiful straight-edge soon got ruined by the chooks!!

And of course the chooks have been enjoying a dust bath today... and yes I have to engineer all sorts of contraptions to keep them off my seeds and veggies!

We had discussed ways of keeping the chooks out of the garden this summer.  But - er - I think I might have to revise those plans as clearly not even a 5ft wall will keep SOME of them out!

Maybe a guard cat would help?

But while I was happily pottering in the garden, farmers on the island were busy with lambing, calving, ploughing and muck spreading. The new season has begun (it was the start of "British Summer Time" today) and lots of work to be done.

For the farming community there is also concern at the moment as the local abattoir, Orkney Meat, made a sudden announcement on Thursday that it has ceased trading. The local council, Orkney Islands Council, and our member of the Scottish parliament, along with shareholders etc are trying to sort out a rescue package as it will be devastating for the local farming community. Without an abattoir in Orkney all livestock would have to be shipped across the Pentland Firth to Mainland Scotland. Not good for animal welfare or costs to producers. Our local butchers buy their produce from the local livestock mart and it is processed by Orkney Meat, so an uncertain time for all concerned.  Fingers crossed a solution can be found soon.

Friday 23 March 2012

Spring!! Off to the garden....

.....with Mrs Orkney Flowers coming over to help today.  And she fixed the weather so it's sunny - although the haar (sea mist) is rolling in now. Still a lovely day for the garden.  And it was the Vernal Equinox  first day of Spring) this week AND this weekend turns to British Summer Time with the clocks going forward an hour. So more daylight in my day.  Oooh my cup runneth over..... I'm a sloth, and hibernate in winter. I come alive in the Spring, like a wee seedling, pushing it's way up through the earth where it has snuggled warm over the winter, now ready to embrace the light..

Sunday 18 March 2012

You're never alone when you have hens.....

Yesterday was another lovely Spring day. A bit breezy but in the shelter of the old stone dyke (wall) it was lovely and I got some more digging of the veggie (vegetable) patch done.  The hens just love rootling around among the soil as I dig.  Fresh worms in exchange for fresh eggs seems a reasonable deal to me!

However..... sometimes I feel a little crowded by hens..... I fear I might impale one on my garden fork, or give one concussion as it bends for a worm in a clod as I go to whack the clod to disperse the earth! Fortunately it's the older hens that cluster round me, and the old cockerel.  The younger birds wait till I've retreated to a safe distance before they tuck in.

Meanwhile the furry buds on the willow trees are bursting out already. They are so pretty.

Now....if I could just get my hens to lay eggs like this I would be very happy! But their own variety are probably healthier....sigh..... and go better with toast......

Saturday 17 March 2012

Guess what this is......

Well....... it's an egg skelter, of course (bought from the British Hen Welfare Trust)!!  And this is what it looks like with lovely freshly laid eggs upon it. Sadly you can't use it AS a skelter or you end up with scrambled or cracked eggs.  But it's still a neat way to store the free range eggs I get from my chooks AND I can keep track of which are the newest and which are the oldest eggs.  Two of my hens are laying now that Spring is here. Fortunately they are laying them in a place I can find them. Having to keep an eye (and an ear - they cluck loudly when they have laid an egg - well wouldn't you?) out for them sneaking off to lay somewhere I can't find them.

Time for some scrambled egg on toast for lunch I think.....

Thursday 15 March 2012

No really - it is a different sunset....

....from the one I posted yesterday. Just from the same viewpoint a week later!! You can just see the "main road" of Graemsay, the single track public road that runs around the island.

The days are lengthening now which is wonderful. Sunrise was at 6.25 am and sunset was at 6.15 pm today.  Whoo Hooo!  In celebration of Spring I was out doing a little light digging of part of the veg patch today. Next week my friend, Mrs Orkney Flowers, is coming over to help me do a bit more digging. (There Mrs Flowers, it's in print so you have to come!!).

One of the young cockerels was appreciative of a light supper before toddling off to roost for the night.

The bright green leaves are appearing at the base of the furry buds on the willow trees.

And the lungwort (commonly known as "soldiers and sailors") is growing rapidly..... this will have pink and blue flowers on it through Spring and Summer.

So.... a lovely end to a Spring day..... Wintery showers are forecast for the weekend....sigh....

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Catching up...

A week has gone by since I last posted here. How did that happen??!!!  I've been busy with work, plus had some tiling done to showers so had K over from Stromness to do that. He's done a good job and was no bother to have around, but of course I felt obliged to run round with coffee, biscuits, bacon sandwiches, lunch etc!  And the weather...well Spring disappeared for a while and we had gales, wind roaring, rain....oh it went on.  Anyway here are a random selection of photos from the last week!  Top of the post - a lovely Spring sunset (before the gales).

Sunset through the buds on the willow trees

A rainbow off the shell beach (between gales and showers)

Meanwhile I play with some settings on my camera!  NOT an "old" photo at all....

Home baked shortbread (necessary to cope with the disappearance of Spring)

My attempts at feeding the wild birds are thwarted by Button and the hens....

And the hens are convinced that I have a limitless supply of food for them and follow me home, trying to get through the door after me!

While Button returns home to bask in the sunshine...

There - that was my week!

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Sea and islands....

The above  photo was taken by Barry Jones of Longhope on the island of Hoy.  He was walking with the Ramblers (walking group) up the hills and took this stunning photo. It's of the sea stack called "The Old Man of Hoy". He said there was a lot of sea spray in the air that day making it hazy.  In the far distance (looking South) is the Scottish Mainland. I just think it is such a stunning image!

And this link will take you to a newspaper story about Dave MacLeod, a Scottish climber, who climbed the cliffs on Hoy last summer.  Deeply bonkers but rather wonderful. There is now a film out about the climb.  I get vertigo just reading about it...... click here for the newspaper article and click here for some film footage...

And for something completely different and very restful, take a look at the website of this Orkney artist from the island of Sanday.  Bill McArthur paints seascapes and his website, as well as including a gallery of his pictures, has wonderful background music of the waves breaking on the shore. I've had this running on my laptop all afternoon!!  Click here

Thursday 1 March 2012

I care not for calendars.....

As far as I'm concerned Spring started TODAY!  It's 1st March (St David's Day - patron saint of Wales, Daffodils one of the symbols of Wales), the sun is shining, it's NOT windy, the birds are calling, hens are sunbathing, Button is snoozing in the sun on the bed as I type, and the daffodils are out in the GARDEN!  Pah! to conventional calendars that tell me Spring doesn't start till the end of March!  Mind you - we have been known to get snow in April and sometimes it feels as though summer never arrives...... but for today I am in optimistic mood. I made it through another winter (OK I'm a bit of a drama queen! But I know how the ancient peoples felt when Spring returned!).

Here are the hens (and cockerels) enjoying the sun too (picture misty as it's taken through a window that has been salt blasted by the wind since October). I can't take the picture outside as they rush towards me as soon as I appear - not affection, they just associate me with Food...

This sheep is probably also enjoying the sun on her back (now someone will tell me it's a ram...well I wasn't going to go in and check!).

And no this isn't a neolithic tomb .... it's our island water tank. The water flows down from the Hoy hills (in the next picture) into Sandy Loch on Hoy. Then it goes through a treatment works and is pumped under the stretch of water you can see to this tank. It's always circulating back and forth to Hoy to keep it from stagnating, and then we (and the folk at the north end of Hoy) draw off water as needed. Some folk on Graemsay still have their own water supply, but most of us now have water through mains pipes to our houses.

Burra Sound with the Hoy Hills in the background. These are the hills I often photograph, but I'm over the other side of the island from my house, taking this shot.

So after a refreshing trip out, it's time for an equally cuppa (cup of tea) and some cake I think!