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Sunday 27 May 2012

Beautiful weather continues....

....and I'm out enjoying it!!  Will be back soon and will answer comments etc....sorry - sun is calling! Photo above is of Stromness harbour on Friday as the haar (sea mist) was burning off.

Friday 25 May 2012

It's too hot!!

Not a phrase you hear in Orkney very often!! Yesterday top temperature was 20 degrees C/68F - which for Orkney is HOT!  Mid-summer temps sometimes get up to mid 70s F but considering last week we were feeling the cold in temperatures in the low 50s F you can understand why we are all saying we are too hot!  And the poor nesting birdies must be confused. Wind and rain one week, blazing sunshine the next!

These photos were taken by a friend, J,  on a walk to Markwick and she kindly let me reproduce them here.  These are the cliffs at Marwick Head. Some of you in the UK may have seen these in the recent "Coast" programme on BBC, as there was an episode almost entirely devoted to Orkney including the fateful last journey of the HMS Hampshire with Lord Kitchener on board which was sunk just ofshore.  There is a memorial tower on top of the cliffs called The Kitchener's Memorial

The cliffs are home to guillimots, kittiwakes, fulmars and sometimes puffins. All crammed on rock ledges. The noise (and - er  - smell) is amazing when you lean over the cliffs during the breeding season. Go up there out of season and the cliffs are silent. Spooky.

Top photo - looking at the cliffs of Markwick Head.

Here are the nesting birds! In a good season there may be up to 25,000 actually raising chicks "on the edge"!

And here is the lovely pink thrift that also clings resolutely to the edge of cliffs. I love this plant for it's bravery and tenacity.

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Still here!

Oops not sure where the last week has gone!  Busy tonight gardening for real and then armchair gardening watching the Chelsea Flower Show on TV!  Meanwhile....another sunset..... see how far the sun has moved since the end of's quietly moved across the entrance to Scapa Flow.

Back soon......!

Monday 14 May 2012

Flotsam and jetsam..... blown into the garden during the gale and torrential rain overnight.....

Flotsam above, and here is Jetsam - glad *someone* enjoys my garden bench! So far I've had little use of it....

As you can see they are enjoying their respite from the weather!  Neither were keen to leave but given my plants and veggies have a hard enough time battling weather and hens, I thought two sturdy ewes would be a step too far. Both got "shepherded" by C. into my field behind the house as they didn't seem to want to go far! I acted as "road-block" to prevent them running off.  This is probably more amusing if you know that I am only 4ft 8 inches tall.....

Wind has died down now and rain stopped. Garden looks battered from wind (sheep just enjoyed the grass). But everything seems to be intact so that's the main thing.

The wind was making the sea look like it was "smoking" last night.

Sunday 13 May 2012

Rainy days....

I was in the garden yesterday, sitting on my bench, drinking tea and contemplating summer. Then the wind and rain arrived last night. When I say "rain" - it's the torrential continuous rain that folk South in the UK have suffered for some time. The poor wee lambs will really suffer in this. Wind and cold they can deal with as long as they get a warm belly of milk.  The rain is another matter. Not a good time for farmers.

I promised recipes today. But I have an Evil Migraine so that event is postponed till my brain re-emerges from the fuzz that has enveloped it all day.  I'll get back to replying to comments then too.....

It's the middle of May and I'm looking forward to the Leek & Potato soup that is bubbling on the cooker just now......sigh.....

Meanwhile, take a look at this short film of the beautiful neighbouring island of Hoy through the seasons, by John Findlay

Saturday 12 May 2012

Sunrise on a Saturday.....

Much as I welcome the sun at any time, sunrise on a day off is something I would rather miss.... however some night's are like that.  And watching the sun rise with a cup of tea is as good a way as any to greet a morning if one has to ;-)  (Note..... I have never been a morning person!).

Sunrise today 4.48, sunset 9.27....... I love the long light days..... I also like a lie-in on a Saturday....needless to say Button the Cat has a lot to do with me being up at this hour of the day...... who'd have thought there were TWO 5 o'clocks in the same day.

Friday 11 May 2012


I'm valiantly carrying on planting seeds in the veg patch, despite low temperatures. Showers of rain today but there is some warmth in the sun, out of the wind. (Photo of sunset above was taken on Wednesday night).  But main temperatures are still in single figures....and it's the middle of MAY!  At least we haven't suffered the torrential rain and flooding of other parts of the UK. Even the grass seems to be slow growing this year. Which is fine for me as it means I can spend time gardening rather than mowing grass (no it doesn't count as gardening!).  But not good for crops or silage etc.

Anyway the strawberries are netted as they are coming in to flower now.

And carrots sown today and are cosy under their fleecy blanket! This helps keep carrot fly at bay - I keep the fleece on all through the season and it seems to work and I still get regular sized, tasty carrots!

Even in the walled garden I struggle with some herbs. They just don't survive the winter winds laden with salt spray. I've planted these two thyme plants near the compost bin.  I keep trying!

I've planted some trees in the garden. Here is a young Rowan tree (supposed to keep evil spirits away from the house or so legend tells!). It's not very big - the lovage is taller (just behind it).

Meanwhile Spring flowers are blooming. Aquilegia are my favourite. I have several in the garden.

The forget-me-nots are happy here. These are from Kentish stock (from a friend's garden) and have adapted well to the harsher Northern climate!  Happy little things

These bluebells have been here for many many years, long before I moved here. Each Spring they bloom despite being exposed to strong winds.

Time for a cuppa after all that work!

Thursday 10 May 2012

More on hens.... the garden!  Above "Who's a pretty boy then?"

Clearly these girls think so! A friend suggested a caption for this "Hands off, Snowy, he's mine!"

Meanwhile this bee is enjoying some nectar from the lungwort

A one legged not really - she's just resting one!

Mrs & Mrs?

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Hens and gardening...

Photo looking over Burra sound to Moaness and Ward Hill on the island of Hoy

On a fine day it's great to get out into the garden at last. These photos were taken on a lovely Spring day last week. I took the opportunity to plant the tatties (potatoes), some onions, parsnips and broad beans. More peas and salad crops to go in yet but weather too cold to contemplate planting.

I tried shutting the hens out of the garden with "contraptions" over the gateways but they just flew over the wall! So I'm back to the usual "protecting seeds till the grow" regime.

At least I don't have to worry about working the earth to a "fine tilth" with chickens around happy to do it for me.....

And here is my new compost bin (safe from marauding chooks!). I've never really kept a proper compost bin so lots to learn but hopefully this will supplement the seaweed I also use to fertilize the ground...eventually....if I get it right....  It's quite a challenge to get a good compost going in Orkney because of the cooler temperatures etc but lots of people succeed so I shall take advice. Though I may not follow it all - one piece of advice was to pee into it!  I'd need a stepladder to get up to it and the neighbours think I'm odd enough as it is ;-)

Meanwhile my new (to me) tulips are doing well despite the wind. This one is so beautiful and reminds me of a rose

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Blogging Adventures Part II

It's taken a while for me to get back to this but here are some more photos from Perpetua's recent visit to Orkney (For Part I look here), and a description from Perpetua herself here.

So after a visit to Skara Brae we set off across country to the Ring of Brodgar. Perpetua was keen to see the Neolithic stone circle as she has a print of a picture painted by her sister. It was quite slippery underfoot due to recent rain but we valiantly walked around part of the circle, touched the stones and marvelled at the neolithic people who had created such a wonderful thing of beauty which had survived so long.

Imagine what this looks like when the heather is out....

Imagine how much is in the ground for this to stand up, and remember the circle was constructed before modern machinery.

The gentle curve of the circle

All too soon it was time to head back to Stromness. We passed the Ness of Brodgar so that Perpetua could get her bearings and be able to follow the archaeological dig blog that will start again this year in July. Then it was into the town for some lunch at Julia's Cafe Bistro before it was time to say our goodbyes. We packed quite a lot into such a short visit and we talked and talked and talked!  Here's hoping we can add another chapter to "Blogging Adventures" before too long.

Monday 7 May 2012

The humble scone....

I have fallen in love with scones.  It was only since moving to Orkney and tasting warm home-made oven baked scones that I realised what I had been missing all these years!  I once baked scones at school (domestic science) but they were like bullets and I never tried again. Dad, being from Wales, always preferred Welsh cakes so if I was baking that's what I made.  Latterly he would eat "fruit scones", the supermarket wrapped variety. I hated them, they were big and doughy and not at all the "sweet" cake I enjoyed.

However my tastes are turning to less sweet things these days, and there is absolutely NO comparison between shop-bought scones and home-baked.  Sorry I took so long to discover this Dad.... but I'll raise a freshly baked scone and a cuppa (tea) to your memory!

I received a "Mary Berry Baking Bible" for a recent birthday so have been experimenting with some new recipes. It's cold and sleety/hail outdoors so what better activity to indulge in on a cold Sunday morning (and try and forget it's MAY and should be warm!).

Some lemon biscuits, some oaty ones too and a walnut and sultana "tea bread" (a cake that you slice and butter).

And a banana loaf, one of my favourites so have tried a new recipe.

And no I will NOT be eating ALL these at once. The "tea-bread" style cakes freeze well, as do the scones, and I may be forced to share some of the biscuits this week too! I'm still a very "novice" baker but I do so enjoy the fruits of my labours, even if some are not suitable to share ;-)

Sunday 6 May 2012

Moon rising....

I'm just watching the moon rising, a beautiful orange colour which will change to white once it is higher in the sky. Standing outside watching this is magical. The wind had died down and I can hear Snipe drumming (that's a bird!).

Of mixed weather and lambs

It's certainly been a mixture of weather this week!  On Tuesday I was out in the garden in light gear (well out of the breeze), then later in the week it was windy with hail showers and COLD! I feel sorry for the wee lambs in this weather.  Above were "the gang" happily grazing and bouncing around in the field across from the house. They've moved to new pasture now and I shall miss watching their antics.

But I did get a lamb in the kitchen this week!! I was sitting reading one evening and thought the lambs sounded particularly vocal. Button was peering intently out the window - unusual for that time of the evening which is usually nap time.  I got up and joined her at the window and there was a wee lamb staring right back at us.

I rushed to the door, phone in hand to let the farmer know of an escapee. I opened the door and thought "How am I going to catch this one...?". I needn't have worried - it trotted straight through the open door into the kitchen, bleating all the while! Button gave me the "We're NOT having a dog!" look and retreated under the table.  The lamb kept going towards her, poor confused thing!  Button was making some neat reverse moves till she could escape and run up a couple of stairs to safety. Clearly she hasn't seen the lambs jumping up wee "hills"!

I realised it must be one of the "caddy" (bottle fed) lambs escaped. It was shaking and obviously distressed so I scooped it up and sat on the door step cuddling it until the farmer came.  It was such a sweet thing. It happily sat cradled in my arms while I rubbed it's cheek. Though it has to be said that lambs are surprisingly "un-cuddly" - when young their wool is quite coarse and near their skin. Not like my toy fluffy lamby of childhood memories at all!

The farmer arrived and some bottled lamb milk was supplied. One very happy lamb!  After a feed it clearly decided it was time to explore more so back into the kitchen and another attempt to make friends with Button! Then it was time to be reunited with it's foster mother (neither seemed very keen). Awwww now if it would just stay that size I would have kept it....though I'm not sure you can house-train sheep or placate an incensed Button!

Unfortunately no pictures of this event. I was too busy comforting lamb and ensuring Button didn't disgrace herself!

Tuesday 1 May 2012

SunRISE and SunSET on the same day...

Well obviously the sun rises and sets on the same day but what I mean is these photos were taken on the same day!  A beautiful sunny day, warm out of the breeze. Mrs Orkney Flowers came over to help in the garden so I've been outdoors all day.  A little stiff and sore tonight but nothing a hot bath and a good night's sleep won't sort out!  More on gardening later..... for now enjoy the sun! (Sorry to those poor folk in the "south" who are experiencing terrible floods and more rain.....).

Above is the sunRISE behind the Hoy hills, across Hoy Sound and behind the Hoy High lighthouse.....

Below - my usual spot outside the "back door" looking towards the mouth of Scapa Flow