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Tuesday 30 August 2016

Around Graemsay.... flowers...and sunset....

Above, heather on the heath, looking towards Hoy High lighthouse and Sandside. Orphir hills in the background.

The old Quarry..... damsel flies have been spotted here! Looking over the heather to the croft of Dean and towards the Hoy Hills.

So still and clear....

Grass of Parnasus growing nearby....

And Devil's Bit Scabious....

Looking up towards the old School (no longer in use), Cott of School (a wee ruin) and the School House - home to a family.

And back in the garden.... Button on the compost (weed) heap!

Or sitting on the warm flagstones....

Having a wee snooze (no wonder the seeds didn't germinate in this box!).

Or keeping alert!

More wild flowers in the garden. I sowed a patch of wildflower seeds in the Spring and they have done really well.

Wild cornflower


I love the way these have lined up!

A snap of part of the wildflower patch.

And in a change of subject..... Hoy High lighthouse is having a spruce up!  Hmm I wouldn't fancy being up on that scaffolding.  But Tommy Thomson, the last lighthouse keeper, used to paint the lighthouse using a bosun's chair.  Eeek!  That was before the days of "Health & Safety" then...

And a sunset at the weekend..... with the Hamnavoe ferry sailing out of the sunset, home to Stromness for the night.

And of course, Button has to come outside when I'm taking sunset snaps.  Can't miss out on any excitement!

Monday 29 August 2016

Sunset and randomness

This sunset is from about a week ago. Very bonny, as they all are in their way. You can see how the sun has moved across the sky.  In mid-summer it would have set out of shot on the far right of the picture above. Now (end August) it sets just on the tip of Graemsay. I'm in denial about the days getting shorter, but they are.  And it's proper dark at night now!

Still big skies though - that never changes.

And this particular night there was also a full moon, while a tractor continues bringing in the silage (very late this year due to weather).

The pink sky shimmers across the Hoy hills.

And the sky is ablaze.

Elsewhere - Button snoozes on a guest bed that I was trying to make up for party guests! Thankfully they like cats... and are fond of Button in particular....

And while I work on my laptop I am often under observation from the coos! Wonder if I am Cow TV? Heehee!

The hens (and cockerel, just the one now) are out having a rootle about in the field.

The cow doesn't seem to mind!

I said this post was random..... a poppy among the other wildflowers....

And a few days later....another sunset!

A different sky...

Sunday 28 August 2016

Stormy days

A couple of weeks ago we had an "unseasonal" gale which just about decimated my poor garden. Now, two weeks later plants are recovering and new growth appearing.  But I thought I'd post a few photos taken the next day. Just to show I don't live in paradise where the sun shines ALL the time ;-)

This elder tree was certainly around in the 1940s though the exact age is unknown.  Each year it grows to exactly the same height with a few flowers round the edges. The poor thing got blasted just on one side during the storm.  Ah well at least it exposed the bird feeders so I could fill them up again.

This is the Monkshood, much loved by the bees.  There were photos of it in an earlier post, tall and vigorous, with blue and white flowers.  Not any more...sigh...

An alder, suffering....

And this lovely vigorous yellow flower got blasted in the new flower bed.

Even in the "shelter" of the garden the trees are leaning over due to the prevailing wind from the West.

But although the wild flower patch got battered it carried on flowering even though many of the plants were horizontal!  Pink Corn cockle blooming brightly.

Not sure what these pretty blue flowers are but they survived!

And Button, of course, is just fine. Here she is trying to sneak into the strawberry patch!

"Who me? Nowhere near it..."

But I was able to harvest most of the peas, and finish harvesting the gooseberries.  Freezer getting pretty full now!

And we have had some lovely weather and sunny days since.  Photos of those to follow!

Saturday 27 August 2016

Farewell to Ethel

Elsbeth (Ethel) Mowat

29/12/1929 to 21/8/2016

Yesterday we said goodbye to Graemsay's oldest resident, Ethel.  She died peacefully at home last Sunday morning. She was 86 and only a couple of days before her passing had walked down to the pier as usual. A very independent lady and able to live alone in her wee house to the very end.  Her son, N, and family had lived on the next farm and she's had the joy of seeing grand-children grow up around her.

Ethel was born on Graemsay, over on the croft of Gorn, when she married Ronnie she lived at Ramray, and in her later years moved to Western Horn.  The stories about Ethel are legend and will be retold many times I'm sure.

Some of the stories were told at her funeral yesterday.  There was the one about a trip to Hoy dances in her younger years.  With her parents asleep she and her sisters Ruby and Nettie would slip out of the house, down to the boat noust and Ethel would row them across to the dance, and then back again!

She loved cats.... at one time she had about 27, but when she died this had been reduced to a mere 18....  She had names for them all, though they lived in the barn once she'd had her house done up. But in Winter she would put hot water bottles in boxes to keep them warm in the shed, and they slept there by the boiler or in the byres among the hay.

She was famous for her remedies.  Always the same one whether it was for man or beast - containing copious quantities of whisky, molasses and probably turpentine!

She was also a very kind person, quietly doing good deeds, and giving comfort to folk.  Whenever I went to visit I would take her some flowers from the garden or some home bakes. I would come home laden with chocolate, or dried fruit for more baking.

One of my first memories of Ethel was when I lived in the caravan in the garden when my house was being renovated.  She was at the post office next door which was also a shop at the time. She'd been buying cases of cat food - of course! She spent more on cat food than on her own food!  Anyway she'd walked down to buy it and Jimmy Manson (brother-in-law and neighbour) offered her a lift home on his tractor.  So she loaded the cat food in the box at the back of the tractor and then climbed in herself - standing up and holding onto the back of the tractor cab.  Off Jimmy set with her.  I couldn't bear to watch as he trundled the tractor up the steep incline to Ethel's door but it would seem she got there unharmed!

So yesterday we all came together with her family and friends to bid her goodbye.  She came back to Graemsay on the 12 noon sailing, which seemed appropriate to me as that was always the one she would come back from Stromness on. I shall miss our blethers (chats) on the boat home.

The service was held in the Graemsay hall.  Very sad for the island folk as just last Saturday night we'd had one of the best parties the island has had in a long while and the next day we had lost Ethel. The service was lovely, with a poem and eulogy from those that knew Ethel well.  I have no "faith" or "religion" so tend not to sing along to hymns. Instead I gazed out the window at the fields that Ethel knew so well.  In my head I could hear her laughing as she ran among the long grass and wild flowers with her sisters, Nettie and Ruby.

After the service folk made their way down to the kirkyard. Ethel was taken past her home and Ramray one last time.

I stayed in the hall with a few others to clear away the chairs and set up the buffet, get the whisky, and wine into glasses, all in readiness for the return of the mourners.  The family had prepared a magnificent spread of food with a few of the "ladies" lending a hand in the morning to prepare sandwiches etc.

Once back folk swapped memories of Ethel, her stories, her family. There were tears but much laughter too. The rain of the morning had given way to a lovely sunny day with just enough breeze to keep the midges at bay.

Ethel was laid to rest in the kirkyard which overlooks Burra Sound and the Hoy Hills and is just a short walk from the farm where she was born.

Burra Sound and the Hoy Hills

So goodbye Ethel.  You will be greatly missed by all of us on Graemsay.

Thursday 25 August 2016

Ness of Brodgar Dig 2016

Dig with Hoy Hills in background
Each year, since excavations began in 2003, the Ness of Brodgar archaeological dig has been giving up it's wonderful secrets.  Though not all - it's still unclear what the purpose of some of the structures were or why the entire site is there.  It sits within the heart of the Neolithic Orkney World Heritage site, sandwiched between the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness.  The site is being excavated by ORCA (Orkney Research Centre for Archeology), overseen by site director, Nick Card.  If you want more detailed info take a look at the website.  But briefly, the site dates from about 3,300 BC and it seems that it began to be dismantled about 2,200 BC.

The BBC have run a number of programmes, presented by Neil Oliver.  There is a new series of 3 programmes due to be broadcast which also involve Chris Packham (TV presenter and naturalist). The world media has also been filming at the site these last few summers.

Earlier this week some news from the site hit the UK media as some unusual stone slabs were found underneath a midden (rubbish dump) and may be one of the first structures on the site. Click here for photo and brief report

Anyway each year I go along to take a look. I love watching the archaeologists painstakingly working their way through what to me looks like mud and rubble!  Students of archaeology as well as qualified professionals come to work for the 6 week period in the summer.  Now the dig is being wrapped up again until next year.  The work doesn't stop there though as the team spend the winter cataloguing and carrying out further research on all the "finds".

Here are some photos taken this summer.

The walls in the centre of this picture are as they were found.  They haven't been "rebuilt", just carefully excavated.

The house in the background was purchased by a benefactor and given to the ORCA and is used for storage - as well as the flush toilet. A bit of a luxury on a site I'm told!  The tyres are used at the end of the dig to weight covers down until the next season.  Hopefully that preserves as much as possible and stops any weather damage.

I DO you make sense of this!  Yeah I know - years of training!

Heads down on with the work.... I would imagine sore knees is an occupational hazard.

A film crew (not the BBC this time) busy recording

The site is extensive with a number of structures, and in one corner what appears to be the remains of a "standing" stone.

As I say, the site is extensive, these next two photos show the whole site from the viewing platform.

And daily artifacts are appearing.  This is a stone pot just dug up that day.  Stone pots are very unusual and this is the first found at the Ness dig. Most pots were of various types of - er - pottery. There will be analysis to see if there is any pigment in the base, as some decorative art has been found at the dig. It was amazing to think that I was one of the first people to see this in millennia...

One of the team is carefully cleaning what seems like an ordinary stone till he turns it and shows the sharpened edge. A tool of some kind.

Meanwhile the Hoy hills look upon the dig in 2016, just as they did when the structures were first built. I love all that "timey wimey" stuff (to quote Dr Who!).