Saturday, 31 January 2009

Weather, paper boats and Daisy the sheep

After a busy end of week spent organising the school library at Leverburgh, S. Harris with a colleague, I arrived home last night to find that my husband had been busy with the camera.

The sea was very rough and grey and glowering yesterday so here's a picture of the bay near to where we live.

Even though we are a couple of hundred yards away from the seashore and can't see the sea at all from the house, we are still aware of it because of the noise the waves make breaking onto the rocks, especially when the weather is stormy. Some people think that there is no noise here because we are remote from centres of population, but nature can be incredibly noisy at all times of the day and night.

Good news - my paper boat which I made from paper printed with our new Harris Tweed pattern and named "An Clo Mor" docked safely at Durness and is now part of the Caithness Horizons exhibition-in-progress. For more info see Friday 30th January entry - my boat is number 17. It's not too late to contribute to the exhibition to commemorate the voyage of the Westland to New Zealand. Just click on the above link.

Update on Daisy the sheep - she is doing well. Lots of new friends and new places to explore.

This is Daisy having her tea......

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Hen of the Day - Bonus edition

As promised we have two hens of the day. The first is the Voorwerk, who is kitted out in a natty little ginger outfit featuring a black head and tail and white ears. We have four Voorwerks who are all well-mannered and get on well with the other hens. They lay brown eggs and the breed originated in Holland I think.

Our second hen is a brown araucana. Araucanas originate in South America and aren't related to other breeds of chicken. They lay blue or green eggs which leads to them sometimes being referred to as "easter egg layers". The blue shell is thicker than the brown and the egg itself is lower in cholesterol than regular eggs. They have a cute little topknot and some have either fluffy earmuffs or a beard, or both. In temperament they can be very squawky when roused and in the three years we have been keeping them we have never had one go broody. We have four full blood araucanas - three lilac (which is really a light grey), one brown and a half dozen crosses who carry some of the characteristics of the araucana.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Great New Website

The new website for Gedgrave Wensleydales is up and running - its well worth a look with lots of information about the Wensleydale Sheep, fleeces for sale and a shop nearly ready.

I love Wensleydale sheep - they are my favourites apart from the Hebrideans of course. Tracys' fleeces are gorgeous - I speak as someone who has handspun some of them (look back in the blog archives for more info).

My only criticism of the site Tracy is that there are no pictures of ducks or hens - I know you keep them too. And bees....... we want pictures of bees! I am an ex-Outer Hebridean bee-keeper (another very rare breed!), and am fascinated with everything apicultural.

Sadly no pictures today - couldn't find one of a Wensleydale sheep, or even a honey-bee.


Coming up tomorrow evening.........
"Hen of the Day" - there will be two hens of the day as I'm feeling generous.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Hen of the Day

It's been raining today and the white silkie hen had a definite air of punk about her......

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Otters, Lobsters, Free-Range Eggs and Hen of the Day!

Yesterday I was in Leverburgh, south of Scalpay, to pick up a gift I had commissioned from a Align Centrefriend - Abi Stubbings - who was one of our regular stallholders at the SassyGael Craft Fairs in 2008. She did a fabulous painting of an otter on reclaimed wood which I thought was an ideal gift for a friend who lives near the seashore opposite a small island where otters regularly parade around. When I saw it, I was completely entranced - it is just amazing. In fact, I nearly kept it for myself. Our little creel boat is called the "Sea Otter", so I guess it is just a matter of time till I order another copy for our porch.....

Although, of course, we already have some of Abi's previous work. Because my husband catches lobsters for a living Abi painted a lobster for us. Though I'm sure she would have even if he wasn't a lobster fisherman!

These paintings are really special and Abi specialises in things marine - crustacea, birds, etc. Her oystercatchers on table lampshades are well worth having. If you are interested in getting in touch with Abi, just contact me.

Now here's a picture which shows a degree of optimism for the future season! Five eggs, all laid on the same day - wow. Think the lighter evenings and mornings are having a good effect on the hens, so we will soon be back supplying the tastiest, freshest, most free-range eggs at the Outend, Isle of Scalpay.

Hen of the day today isn't really a hen - she's a guinea fowl. We have seven of them and they make great guard poultry. They lay small speckled brown eggs with very tough shells. Though they can fly extremely well they stay around and about the croft and don't wander far. The dog enjoys nothing better than rounding them up and keeping them together while she moves them up and down outside the house. They co-operate for a while but when they are fed up with the game they fly over the fence or go up on top of the turkey shed where they screech loudly. Our youngest guinea fowl was hatched by a miniature nankin bantam and though it is about five months old and twice the size of its foster-mum, still thinks its a chicken!

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Spent the morning with the winder hanking up my hand-spun single tweedy yarn which is now washed and aired and ready for Etsy. It started life as a bag of bits from the Carloway mill and is now a soft and springy yarn which is a joy to knit with.

There are four hanks ready - one mid-blue and three multi-coloured.

Also, I now have my Hebridean Tweed available on Etsy.

It's a little heavier than Harris Tweed, because I wove it with 21 shots to the inch instead of the usual 19, and it's quite a bit softer. I've seen it tailored into a jacket - and it hangs beautifully.

I was trying to take photos of some of the different sorts of hens we have on the croft. They were all running about and most of the pictures just came out blurry.

Hen of the day today is a Lemon-Pencilled Frisian Bantam who I nearly got into focus as she sped past.

The only member of the croft family who would stand still was our young ram, who is a bit of a prima donna......

Friday, 9 January 2009

Rough Weather Ahead

Excerpt from the Shipping forecast:

And now the Shipping Forecast issued by the Met Office, on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, at 1130 on Friday 09 January 2009.

There are warnings of gales in Viking North Utsire Forties Cromarty Forth Sole Shannon Rockall Malin Hebrides Bailey Fair Isle Faeroes and Southeast Iceland.

The general synopsis at 0600:Atlantic low 965 moving steadily northeast, expected 180 miles southwest of Iceland 957 by 0600 tomorrow.

The area forecasts for the next 24 hours: Rockall Malin Hebrides Bailey Fair Isle Faeroes:

South or southwest 7 to severe gale 9, occasionally storm 10, perhaps violent storm 11 later. Rough or very rough increasing high or very high. Rain or drizzle, showers later. Moderate or poor

Time to break out the Tilley lamp and bring in a bucket of peat for the fire so we are all set if the lights go out! Nothing in the incubator just now thank goodness.

Little Heather the dog has definitely got the right idea for today!!

Monday, 5 January 2009

Finally got some more items on Etsy

Yesterday I was busy with the camera taking pictures of new items to put in our Etsy shop. Not all have made it so far, but here is a little taster of what's in store:
I see Calana Crafts have been keeping a close eye on what I've got for sale because there's a link to my waistcoat on Joan is constantly reminding me that there's no point in making things and hiding them away, I've got to sell them too!
Anyway, here are a selection of pictures:

The waistcoat.

Matching Bow Tie. There is also a matching necktie.

Hebridean Tweed Cufflinks - also a matching necktie is available

And finally a pure linen necktie.

Incidentally, the cloth the tie is resting on is one of our linens - a 12 x 12 Herringbone in natural and 1/8 bleached white linen. It was the first linen that the mill in Shawbost finished for us and it is just amazing - smooth and shiny.

All the material for these items was woven by me (or my husband) in our loomshed and were milled by Harris Tweed Hebrides, Shawbost, Isle of Lewis.

Farewell to Leda of the Tin Shed and SassyGael. We watched the ferry sail from Tarbert this afternoon as the sun was setting. We were having a "falaisg" (heather burn) on the moor near Eilean Glas lighthouse and waved as the ferry went past. Tomorrow if it is not raining, I will take the camera and get a picture of a falaisg.

Also today, I was experimenting with felt making for next weeks after school club. Overall the effect was reasonable and I think with a little practice I could get quite proficient with the bubble wrap and the soap. However, glad to get back to the spinning!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

New Years Greetings!

Happy New Year to All
International Year of Natural Fibres 2009
We start 2009 with a beautiful sunrise. The photo shows the sun shining on the mountains of Harris - the view from our kitchen window at about 9.30 this morning. The little fluffy cloud in the centre is sitting on top of the highest peak in the Western Isles - called the Clisham. We get a very good view of it from the croft when its not obscured by rain or cloud.

Then a lovely new year surprise - in the hen house were TWO beautiful eggs. Yes, another hen has started laying. You can't see it in the picture below very clearly but its a greeny-bluey colour which means its from one of our Araucanas - three of them hatched last year. It's very small so that is probably the first egg the hen has ever laid. Maybe they'll all get the idea now!

Daisy the lamb we got from Leda yesterday (see for full tear-jerking details), was ready for her breakfast this morning. She has made a little friend - out of shot just now, half of a set of Hebridean twins and they are hanging out together on the hillside in a relaxed and laid back way. Daisy is quite vocal, as you'd expect from a pet lamb, but seems settled and is eating well.

These are a few of the others who come in for a quick snack morning and evening.

The main part of the morning was taken up with hanking and washing my Carloway mix yarn which I will put in the Etsy shop as soon as its dry and aired. It's so tweedy and soft and bouncy. Would really like to keep it all for myself, but with all these mouths and beaks to feed, we must keep an eye on the bottom line.......
This afternoon we're off to walk along the path from Urgha towards Rheinigidale - the path has had some extensive upgrading during the summer so we will be enjoying the sunshine and views and hoping its not going to be too crowded today. Probably won't be able to get photos as my camera batteries went dead earlier and they are on the charger.
Then paperwork this evening - end of the calendar year assessment of animal numbers, performance and whether the croft is still solvent (at any rate it's pretty wet in places!).