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Sunday 31 July 2016

Rain showers

It's the last day of July and today it's very "dreich" (dreary) with grey skies and heavy rain showers. As you can see above!

Anyway the weather was fine enough for me to start harvesting the gooseberries. As a child I remember "topping and tailing" the gooseberries from the garden so Mum could put them in a pie.

This batch is 2 lbs worth, and I've frozen them whole for now.  These are off just one bush, with about half left on that bush and yet another one to start on!  I'll probably make jam or chutney as well as have some as a "compote" to use with other recipes.  They are a good accompaniment to mackerel too!

The netting to keep the chickens out has proved a huge success and both gooseberry bushes are laden with fruit!  Whoo hoo!

I also baked some lavender shortbread using culinary lavender I bought when I was in Kent.  It's cooling in the tin so I have yet to try it!

Button is not keen on rain showers, but she enjoys snoozling in the sunshine on the windowsill

Or a quick wander round the garden. I'm going in for horizontal gardening - everything got battered in a storm a week or so ago....sigh...

The borage is doing well too - great in gin and tonic ;-)

And this yellow flower managed to survive the storm!

I've been watching the birdies from the conservatory.  Here are two wagtails...

This cheeky bird was peeking in.  It's a pipit (meadow?).  It's beak looks quite yellow so I wonder if it's a young one - with the "gape" still visible.

And an older one looking for insects after I'd just cut the grass.

Mmmm think the shortbread is ready....time for a taster!

Friday 29 July 2016

Rhubarb Cake!

OK I confess when I first heard about rhubarb cake I was skeptical. But.... I have a rhubarb glut (again) in the garden and a freezer already half full of the stuff (for jam etc) so was happy to try another form of use, and in my favourite form too....Cake!

So, I used this recipe from fellow blogger, NorqofOrk (click here).  Seriously it is SO easy to make and it turned out wonderfully - see photo above.  I did wonder if it would hold together as it is VERY lumpy and dry when you put it in the tin but it does! See photo below.

Yummy hot (I just tried it!), and apparently cold as cake (or dessert) and it freezes well.  Hmmm will have to bake another one to try THAT theory out! Ha!  And yes, if I'm baking and Cake I MUST be feeling better!!

Thursday 28 July 2016

More skies....

Interesting cloud formations the other week....  Each sunset is different!

The garden is a bit neglected due to holidays, work and being unwell.  So the daisies have grown up round my favourite bench outside the front door.  I sit here for a cuppa during work breaks.  I rather like it though :-)

The big daisies are such happy flowers....

Wednesday 27 July 2016


Continuing the theme of photos taken near the house..... there are a few cows with young calves in my field (it's a summer grazing let, not MY coos!).  I love watching the calves play together. They are just like any group of kids. Haha!  The other night I watched them from the conservatory window... Hoy High light was lost in the mist again!

I love this wee chocolate coloured calf!

So pretty!

All peacefully grazing....

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Other Orkney Blogs

I've done a bit of "housekeeping" on my list of blogs to the right of these posts.  There is now a list of OTHER Orkney Blogs.  We're a creative lot in the isles :-)  They are a mixture of photographic and writings of life in Orkney. All giving different perspectives on life in Orkney.  Enjoy!  And if you discover any more let me know!


My hens are more "free living" than "free range".  They are only ever shut in if the weather is extremely bad or I need to keep the cockerels from crowing outside windows when guests are staying! So mostly they come and go as they please. No natural predators on Graemsay, no foxes, badgers, stoats etc so even a hen with chicks is relatively safe - as long as she keeps guard from crows and gulls!

When mowing the grass they turn into real drama queens, scuttling around squawking but at the same time rushing to get the insects that fly up as I mow, or eat the cut grass.  Such silly things!  Above is the back of the house and the rather overgrown shrubbery! The hens use this as shelter in winter and summer. So they usually have a protected "run" whatever the weather.  The old flagstones were dug up from inside and around the house when it was renovated 16 years ago.  They are wonderful but blooming heavy so haven't moved since!

Here they have rushed to eat the first cut grass....

Their henny hoose is at the end here.  The building belongs to a neighbour but he did it up for me and lets me keep my hens here. He wasn't impressed when I'd shown him pictures of fancy wooden "arks" for poultry, fearing they would be blown Westwards in the first gale!  He was probably right as that happened (sadly) during the hurricane force winds in the 1950s which decimated the poultry industry in Orkney.

Big Ginger challenging my wee John Deere tractor mower. Yeah right Ginge! Not so bold when it has the engine running!  Fear The Deere! Ha!

And of course if I'm late with delivering breakfast (which I have been this last week) the girls are knocking on the door.  This lot look as if they're trying to work out how to get in through the cat flap!

And here comes Tallula (Shetland Black hen) with a friend or two to join in....

The young brown hen has her first chick on parade.  I don't interfere much now. I used to try and "help" the hens, but they know what is best!  Mostly the hen will keep the chick in the byre for a few weeks, and only take the chick out into the long grass for short periods.  But once all the feathers have grown they can move pretty fast themselves and the hen then brings them into the henny house to feed.  The other hens can be really rough with a young chick, peck it, step on it etc, so the hen seems to know by instinct to keep it separate till it can fend for itself.  I have two chicks but not sure whether they are male/female yet....sigh..... no more cockerels PLEASE!  Desperate to get rid of the three I already have!

Monday 25 July 2016

Sun dog!

The other night, while curled up on the sofa with Button, I spotted a sun dog. No, not a labrador playing abound the sun, this is a meteorological phenomenon which is a bit like an upright mini rainbow (er without the bowing effect).  It was to the right hand side of the sun so "after" the sun and seen as a portent of bad weather.  It seems it was correct as we had a big storm the next day!

If the sun dog is "ahint" (behind) the sun, like all "good" dogs should be, then it foretells good weather - apparently.  Anyway these aren't great pictures but it was a lovely display to watch.  I love the big skies here.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Who stole my energy!

Bah!  Clearly my immune system has taken a battering, what with the food poisoning while away, then a cold has turned into a chest infection. So I'm proper poorly though recovering now!  Chest infection wasn't too severe but as I have reduced lung function due to a scoliosis and asthma, even a cold is a threat.  My breathing is a lot better now the medication has kicked in, just need to find some energy! But, I'm taking it as my body's way of saying REST so I'm trying to!  Anyway here are a few photos taken during July to keep you entertained!  Above is a sunset shot of Sandside Bay, Hoy High ligthhouse, and Sandside (my hoose!).

This was taken from up the West end of Graemsay looking towards Stromness with the MV Graemsay ferry setting off for Hoy.

And the black specs are coos (cattle) up on the hill at Western Horn.

And though we've had a pretty settled summer, we've had our share of cloud and mist.... but the island retains her beauty whatever the weather :-)

Monday 18 July 2016

Home again....

Had a lovely time away meeting up with friends and family. Unfortunately got food poisoning while away and have returned home with a cough and cold. Sigh. However Button was well catered for by the "relief staff" in my absence who also seemed to have a good week in Orkney (I had friends come and stay while I was away).

No photos of trip South as it was mainly about being sociable and visiting folk.  However - above are lavender fields in Kent.  You could roll around in the lavender.  Oooh bliss!  And I bought some culinary lavender and essence so hoping to make lavender shortbread etc.....

And below - a wee damsel fly (magnified!).  This is a blue-tailed damsel. Several darting about on Big Sis's pond in Guernsey.  We have them in Orkney but you have to be more alert to see them and know where to look!

Once I regain some energy normal service will be resumed....

Friday 8 July 2016

Interruption in service

It's July, high summer and I'm off on my holidays!  Button has drafted in relief staff to stay the week so I can go away without any worries.

Meanwhile the Ness of Brodgar dig has begun again so you might light to read the daily dig diary here in my absence

Thursday 7 July 2016

Hoy High Lighthouse

You've seen many of my photos of Hoy High lighthouse over the years.  Some months ago a group of from the "Lighthouse Keepers Association" paid a visit and had got special permission from the Northern Lighthouse Board to go up the tower.  I managed to acquire some photos of the inside of the light to share with you.

There are about 157 steps UP the tower (well and down too). Imagine pre-electricity days when light-house keepers had to go up and down the stairs regularly at night to keep the oil lamp burning!  Now the lighthouses are un-manned and the accommodation houses at the base of them sold off. But the lights still keep shining through the night (and poor visibility conditions).

The lighthouse houses - all the lights in Scotland and their houses were designed by the Lighthouse Stevenson's and there are fascinating stories connected with their construction. Some on rocks barely big enough for a light! Robert Stevenson was a civil engineer and the designer (and yes he was related to Robert Louis Stevenson!).  The Graemsay post van is parked here as the post office is in a building in the lighthouse garden! Nice and handy.

In the control room of the tower - this pole is painted it's actually just a cement pillar!

And for all the brightness of the light - it's just these two tiny bulbs that keep it going!!

It's the refraction from the glass that makes the light so bright and "big".

Another view of the glass

The view through the window to the pier

And the lighthouse garden!

To the right of the light you can just make out the Hamnavoe ferry setting sail for Scrabster.

And apparently this doorway leads to the hollow chamber that runs from the floor to the top of the light.  All the cables run up and down here.

One of the windows at the top of the staircase

And the ID plaque outside

There used to be a helipad for the light to bring engineers over, there is also a vessel (Usually the Pole Star) that services the lights and buoys around the waterways.  Often workmen just come over on our regular Graemsay ferry.  The Pole Star was here a few weeks ago as part of the Battle of Jutland commemorations. HRH Princess Anne stayed on board as she is President of the Northern Lighthouse board.  She's been to Graemsay before in that capacity too!  But not this time.

And there's the ship and the light in the distance....

Currently there's a lot of work going on at Hoy High light to update all the electrics etc and so there is a temporary arrangement on the top of the tower to keep the light going.- you can just see two "gizmos" on the rain around the light.

As you can see, the back of the light is blocked out so it doesn't shine into our bedroom windows!  It's not a revolving light but a static light.  It's a "leading light" in conjunction with Hoy Low - the herring fleet in the late 19th century had to line the two lights up. If they got red they were off line, it had to be both white to give them safe passage through the narrow channel in the Sound into the harbour.