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Wednesday 30 March 2016

Another beach walk....

Button insists I take a walk to the beach most days.  I think she may have been a dog in a former life! She goes back and forth to the door, meowing, and refuses to go out unless I put on my wellies (rubber boots), coat etc and set forth to the beach.  Usually the coral beach first then the sandy beach, weather permitting!

There is little sand on the coral beach, and very little coral (or shells) on the sandy beach.  I am convinced there is a sub-sea traffic light system.  Coral to the left, sand to the right, hurry along now! Ha!  I know it probably has something to do with the tides, currents, pier, rocks etc.  But still it always amuses me....

I love the patterns in the sand.

And I love the huge flagstones on the shore....

And Button loves the sandy beach too.  It must be much softer on her paws than the coral and shells!

Tail aloft!

Though she gingerly walks over the small streams that cut across the beach.  This is water that is running off the fields on the other side of the sand dunes and road.

There are always oystercatchers along the shore, even in Winter.  Though most of the summer flocks are returning now.  They don't actually eat oysters (though they might I suppose if they found some!). But mostly they poke about in the sand for all sorts of good stuff.  I watched one of this pair get a small crab out the sand and run off behind a rock to eat it as it's first one was stolen by a herring gull. Great scavengers Herring gulls.  Why work when you can get someone to do it all for you.!

Button wants to go  NOW please....

Clear blue skies, blue sea, no breeze.  Ah bliss!  This was the coral beach the day before our Sandy Beach escapade....

The tide is a looooong way out! This natural "swimming pool" is quite empty.

Button is contemplating a walk to check where the sea has gone.... here she is at the bottom of the old Sandside pier.

But she settles for climbing the steps and having a look out from the top of the pier instead.

Lots of shells piled up against the old stone pier.

Random photo of the old sail shed (where all the sails and bits and bobs from the yoles (small boats) that sailed from the shore here would have been kept.  Wouldn't provide much shelter now!  And you can see it's starting to come away from the main building (the old stable and byres). You can also spot where other "openings" had been, maybe a door maybe a window.  The main low building used to be a dwelling house before the main Sandside house was built.  All the old buildings got altered over the years. Lots of beach stone around to use!

And then back home in time for lunch.  Lunch did you say?  Ooooh yes please say the hens.....sigh....

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Chickens enjoying the Spring!

Though the chickens (15 of them, 12 hens and 3 cockerels) get plenty of food in their henny house, including layers pellets and lots of scraps (veggie only), they also love rootling for worms and such like in the garden.  AND they eat grass.  I didn't know that till I actually SAW them.  It does mean once I start getting young shoots appearing in the garden the hens dive on them for a feast, so any veggies or new plants need to be protected.

They like rootling among the dead grass under the willow trees too. Lots of nice creepy-crawlies to eat...

And it's an ideal place to have a rest and do a bit of grooming and preening.....

and then on for another graze....

Though the daffodils mostly out, much of the garden comes to life much later than in the South of UK.  Well I can't blame it.  Stick your head above the ground too early and it will get blasted by the winds!  This border is starting to come to life again with pulmonaria (lung wort), other perennials as well as the daffs.

Here are a lovely wee group of miniature daffs. They come out quite early and seem to do very well in my garden.

And the fluffy buds are appearing on the willow trees!  Keeping the young leaves safe and warm inside....

While on the other side of the wall over in Stromness a mist is hanging over the landscape....

But it's that time of year when I can use this sign again, to let folk who come "a-knocking" where I am,  so I'm a very happy person :-)

Monday 28 March 2016

Easter weekend

We've had mixed weather in Orkney this weekend.  A gale the other night (but NOT Storm Katie, oh no, we just had a "gale" while the rest of the UK got "Katie" a day later. Hee hee... we get used to being ignored.... ) Anyway, as you can see from the photo above, today has been lovely (mostly) with blue skies, sunshine, and the odd rain shower.

Now, in most of the UK, Good Friday and "Easter Monday" are public holidays.  However in Orkney, for reasons I've yet to fathom, only "Easter Monday" is the public holiday.  But I wasn't working this weekend anyway  so,  of course,  there were potters to the beach..... with Button....

Did I mention showers?  "Incoming!".....

Though last night there was a lovely sunset....

And a rainbow after the showers..... (and earlier winds gusting to 81 mph on the hills!).

And the crocus and daffodils are out!  Ahem, Button has to get into the photo, purely for perspective, she tells me....

"Look", she says, "You can take an action shot photo of me chewing this dried grass. People will want to see that".

"What do you mean, you are taking photos of these FLOWERS?! WHY?"

AND we are now on British Summer Time!  So the clocks went forward an hour at 2am on Sunday morning.  And THIS is the view from my bedroom...... ah yes, lighter morning and longer days.  And even warmth in the sun!

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Back in February

Back in February, after I had dropped my visitor back at the airport, I took the chance to visit the Ring of Brodgar.  It's one of my favourite sites, and is a neolithic henge monument.  It's only in the Winter I can be sure to have it to myself.  Coach parties visit in the summer as do other tourists and lots of locals too.  But I love the solitude to wander around and breathe the air and imagine.  I also stopped at the Standing Stones of Stenness, no longer a complete circle but lovely to wander around too. Both the henges are part of the UNESCO Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. Here are a few photos taken on a sunny but cold February day!

Above is the Ring of Brodgar, the large stone looks like a head!

The silhouetted where the land meets sky.

There are stunning views all around....

The Hoy Hills in the distance

And a brackish loch (mix of fresh and sea water)

The Standing Stones of Stenness looking magnificent with a snow cloud above.

Incoming snow shower!

These stones also now stand next to a loch....

With this handsome chap sitting on a rock.  Fisherman often come here to fish for trout. Hmmm bet there weren't many left after this chap had visited!

Snow clouds reflected in the clear water

Brrr need to warm my hands and toes after this post!

Monday 14 March 2016

Ruby's teapot....

Sadly last week most of the island went over to Stromness to attend the funeral of Ruby Manson. Ruby had been born into the Skinner family at Gorn on Graemsay  (she was in her 80s when she died).  She met and married Jimmy Manson from Shetland who was working at Sandside at the time. They had three children, now all grown up.  Lawrence living in his father's native land of Shetland, Irene living in Stromness and Sandra now raising her own family on Graemsay with her partner, Michael. Ruby moved to Stromness in 1980 and lived the rest of her days there.

The funeral was very much a way of giving thanks for Ruby's life.  She was a keen member of the Strathspey & Reel group as she was great on the fiddle.  "A fine fiddler" is a  compliment in these parts!  Ruby was certainly that, and could play along with many a band, and pick up a tune just by listening to a few bars.

Until recently Ruby would visit Graemsay for all the parties.  Here's a photo of her on the left, playing the fiddle along with Fran Gray on accordion at a party in 2006.

The Strathspey & Reel group played at the funeral as folk were gathering. It was lovely hearing the old kirk filled with the favourite tunes of Ruby's.  There was a short service then folk went out to the kirkyard at Warbeth for the burial. When folk returned there were large trays of sandwiches and cake as well as tea or a wee dram and folk shared their memories among music being played.

Now.... Ruby's teapot.... where does this come in you ask.  I should really say Ruby's teapotS, as she loved collecting them.  She had a collection of over 400, then a few months ago got rid of some but still had about 350.  The family had the delightful idea of lining the kirk with some of her collection and invited those attending to take home a teapot and think of Ruby when they use it.  There were pots of all shapes and sizes.  Ruby's grand-daughter, Katie took me round them all and told me which were her favourites and where Ruby used to have them in the house, "In EVERY room" Katie said.

The one I chose is most appropriate for me.  Anyone who knows me well knows I must have a constant supply of tea and not to speak to me until I've had at least TWO cups of tea in the morning. So in the photo at the top of the post, introducing  "Ruby's teapot" in Sian's kitchen!

And a closer look shows just why it's perfect for me.  "Instant human just add tea". Hee hee!

So farewell Ruby, thanks for many happy memories of you playing at Graemsay parties, and for your teapot, which I will use regularly and share the story with visitors who stop by for a cuppa.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Longer days...

I've been noticing the lengthening of the days for a couple of weeks now. Only slowly, but definitely happening!  Today sunrise was a 0705 and sunset at 1742 - that's 10hrs 37 minutes of daylight!  And in London sunrise is 0647 and sunset 1743 so that's 11 hours of daylight.  We're catching up again and will soon over take the South of the UK with daylight hours.

The morning was very wet, heavy rain till in the afternoon the sun broke through.  In Mainland Scotland and the North of England there was snow, quite a bit of it in some places.  But here there was just a sprinkling in Orkney and none on Graemsay. Though Hoy looked white again for a while.

The photo above was taken at 4.30 pm with the sun still having another hour to set.  In mid-winter it sets between the Hoy hills but now it sets just off the edge of Hoy. Spring is on the way!

As I say the hills of Hoy has a dusting of snow and cloud was heavy upon them all day today.

The usual Northlink ferry, Hamnavoe, is away for it's annual checks so we have a "Cal Mac" (Caledonian McBraye) ferry on the route instead.  Here she is making her way out of Stromness towards the North of Scotland...

Some of the seabirds are returning now the year is moving on.  There are generally a few oyster catchers hanging about the shore all year, but now larger flocks are returning.  There were a couple of red-shanks on the shore.  The Shags were in their usual place. They seem to hang out here daily!  One has his/her wings out to dry.  Apparently they don't have oil on their wings so it doesn't impede their diving and they can dive deeper and faster.  However they must come out the water and carefully preen and dry their feathers.  And they can't be in the water too long or they get waterlogged. Locally these are known as "Scafies".  There's an inlet on Graemsay with a boat noust and old sail shed called "Scafie" (not sure I have the spelling correct!).

On the subject of birds.... Two of the hens found some silage spilling out a byre to have a good rootle around in.

Meanwhile Big Ginger came for a walk too.  Button was still on the beach giving her territory a thorough survey.  Besides she gives all the chickens a wide berth with their pecky beaks and flappy wings!