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Sunday, 1 December 2019

Farming - shipping sheep



(Vegans and vegetarians read no further!) As I have mentioned before, Graemsay is a farming island, with several farms and crofts.  Sheep and cattle are bred here (no dairy cattle) and crops grown for their feed.  At this time of year lambs born earlier in the year are shipped over to Kirkwall Auction Mart where they are sold on to farmers who will feed them through the winter to fatten them up. Then yup they go for meat, some are sold in local shops in Orkney.

So last week on a very dreich (good old Scot's word meaning dreary, bleak), chilly day a neighbour was shipping sheep onto the MV Graemsay.  They are in pens on the pier then go down a "race" (ramp) onto the back of the ferry and have a short journey across the water to be loaded onto a lorry and taken to Kirkwall.

Shipping arrangements sometimes mean alterations to our timetable.  This message on the local BBC Radio Orkney Facebook page brought a few smiles to readers....

"BBC Radio Orkney
 first, then Graemsay. On completion of loading sheep in Graemsay, the vessel will then proceed direct to Houton to discharge the sheep. On completion the vessel will sail from Houton to Stromness. Times as follows:
• 12:00 depart Stromness.
• 12:25 arrive Moaness.
• 12:40 arrive Graemsay.
• It is not possible to give times for departure Graemsay, arrival Houton, depart Houton and arrival Stromness. This will depend on how cooperative the sheep are when loading in Graemsay and discharging in Houton."

And here are a few photos of the sheep being loaded onto the MV Graemsay.  For sheep they were fairly co-operative!   On the pier being sorted.  Photo at the top of this post shows them on the back deck of the ferry.


All aboard and heading for Houton....



A view form the bridge, photo courtesy of one of the crew.




Saturday, 30 November 2019

Rainbows, Orcas, and eggs....



Today has been a lovely day.  Firstly this morning while out feeding the hens and Charlie the barn cat, I spotted this lovely rainbow.  Actually it's a bit special (more special than usual) as it's a double rainbow, with a branch or light pillar off the inner bow.

Maybe you can see it better in this photo.



And looking across Hoy Sound to Warbeth.





Then this afternoon a pod of Orca swam past the house!  I watched through binoculars not even attempting to take photos, but local chap and photographer Graham Campbell took these gorgeous photos and kindly said I could use them.

This photo is of them swimming past Sandside Bay on Graemsay

Courtesy of Graham Campbell

Further along the shore.....

Courtesy of Graham Campbell

Courtesy of Graham Campbell

And this photo is amazing - what a view the folk on this yacht got!  Hoy Low Lighthouse on Graemsay in the photo too.

Courtesy of Graham Campbell

And to end the day I found two eggs in the nest box.  Had thought the sole hen that is laying now had finished for winter (they do this once the light levels get low, unless they are young hens then they keep laying).  But she maybe took a break for a day or two and is still laying.  Maybe.....


A lovely way to end November anyway!! 

Sunday, 24 November 2019

Graemsay Harvest Home

The band playing many good tunes
Many parishes around Orkney will hold a "Harvest Home" in November.  It's a non-religious event to celebrate the end of the harvest and includes a meal, followed by a night of dancing to traditional Scottish music. Sadly these days some parishes don't hold these festivities due to lack of support.  But Graemsay has held the annual event for as long as anyone can remember.

Traditionally it would have been a meal of minced beef, with clapshot (neeps (swede) and potatoes mashed together).  However on Graemsay this event has now evolved into a meal of soup, cold meats, clapshot, new potatoes, and mixed veg, all with gravy.  Followed by, this year, sticky toffee pudding, with cream of course!  All of this is organised and provided by the women on the island. 


The week before the hall is thoroughly cleaned, china, cutlery and pots washed and checked before use, and the hall set up for the night.

Numbers are limited by the number of spare beds on the island, but there are always a few folk from Hoy or the Orkney Mainland who come along to join in.

After the meal there is coffee/tea and after-dinner mints while we relax and listen to the speaker.  This year it was Vera Butler from BBC Radio Orkney who gave a very entertaining and informative speech which was enjoyed by all.


The youngest participant, wee Alfie, tucking into the after-dinner mints while listening to our speaker.


Then it was time to clear the tables and let the musicians get set up, because of course there is a band for the dancing..... this year a local group Hullion (well 60% of them!) kindly agreed to come and play for us, along with their friend Kitty (we got 100% of her!).  There is probably less dancing on Graemsay than at other harvest homes as some people are no longer fit to dance, or don't know the dances.  But the music is always appreciated and enjoyed.



A bit of a discussion about the dance...


I'm no longer a party babe so I headed home about 10.30 as the dancing was getting going.  The band stayed overnight with me at Sandside, I think they rolled home about 3.30 in the morning!  But they were up for tea and toast before the boat on Sunday. 

We all had a thoroughly good time once again - we hope all our visitors and the band members did too!

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

A walk to the coral beach



I've been so busy recently I've not had time to go for a walk along the coral beach.  Yesterday the weather was glorious.  A truly lovely Autumnal day, a frosty start to the day but the sun was warm on my face.  So Button and I took a wander down to the shore...  Above, Sandside bay at 2.30 pm - sun quite low in the sky.  It will set between the Hoy hills about 3.45 pm. 

Button happy to be out on a walk again.....


The silvery shape on the rocks is actually a grey seal having a snooze!


Looking across the rocks to Stromness


I like it when the sun is low in the sky, I look tall!  Well my shadow does....


Two grey seals keeping a watchful eye...


Button on the coral beach...  There were some seals playing (or courting) in the water just offshore and making a lot of snorting noises.  She's obviously used to them as she paid them no attention. 


The white ship in the distance is the Hamnavoe ferry in Stromness harbour.  It sails daily over to the Scottish mainland.


It was so still and calm.


The Hoy hills across the bay.....


Seals close to the pier.... keeping a watchful eye on us, but not really bothered....



I popped down to the pier at lunch time to deliver something to the ferry.  A neighbour was getting heating oil delivered.  It will be trundled up to the house on a trailer and pumped into the household tank.


And there's been quite a bit of activity over the weekend with big machinery delivered.  The council are doing some work on the coastal defence by the main road on Graemsay that is being undermined by the sea.  There have been various defences put in place over the years but the most recent didn't last long. Hopefully these last a bit longer! The white bags contain stone that will be put into cages along the shore.


One of the diggers - there are other large bits of machinery I seem not to have taken a photo of!


And earlier in the morning Button came to help feed the hence and decided to stop off for a bit of hunting.  "There must be mice in this pile of stones... I just need to wait...." she's thinking.....  Hmm don't wait too long Button there is a rain shower coming in behind you!  And a rainbow stump too!


Sunday, 17 November 2019

A chilly morning....



This last week or so we have had some gloriously sunny but very chilly days.  There is a smattering of snow on the Hoy hills.  Quite early this year.  But I'd rather sunny and crispy than wet and windy.  And at least we aren't troubled by the horrendous floods further South in the UK.  My heart goes out to people who have lost their homes.

Anyway these few photos were taken last Wednesday after I'd been to feed Charlie the Barn Cat and the hens.

Ward Hill on Hoy wears a blanket over the dusting of snow/hail!  The Manse on the hill there above Sandside bay is now under offer after being up for sale for a couple of months.  It will be lovely to have neighbours living there again,.


I love a high tide. 

A work boat heading off down the flow.



Hoy High, and the Orphir hills on the Orkney Mainland with a dusting of the white stuff too.


And then later in the morning we had coffee sitting out on the bench.  Button made the most of the last of the warm sun to sunbathe...


And the hens enjoyed the warmth of the sun on their backs too.


Saturday, 16 November 2019

A walk down the hill to home


Above is the view from up by the Community Hall.

Walking down the hill about 3.15 in the afternoon.  It was cold, but very still and calm.


Sandside and Hoy High in the background...


A panorama of Sandside Bay with Stromness in the background (click for larger version).


Along the links....


And nearly home....  What are the chances of Button having the kettle on (...zero!).



Friday, 15 November 2019

Former Graemsay School for sale



Former Graemsay school for sale. Offers over £34,000. In need of extensive renovation. For further details contact : school@graemsay.one



Looking towards the Hoy Hills.  Also has views down Scapa Flow.