Thursday, 17 February 2011

Spring in the air, London 2012 and some interesting news.....

     Long time since my last blog, for which I apologise.  There has been much activity on the spinning wheel since Christmas.  Curly Wensleydale, furry Mohair and sleek Friesland have all been picked, spun, washed and hanked.  And there's still more to do before we start on the annual treat which is cleaning out the loomshed ready for the season (NOT!).

  But today was sunny and even a wee bit warm so we grabbed the matches, woke up the dogs, and went for a falaisg - which for the non-Gaelic means a heather-burn on the common grazings.

   Aaahhh, the smell of smouldering heather is just amazing. 
For those not familiar with the concept of heather burning - when heather is a few years old it becomes very lanky and shades the ground beneath which blocks out the growth of grass and any other little green plants that will feed the sheep.  The stems of the heather become hard and woody and the moors also become dangerous to both animals and humans as the overgrowth conceals holes and unevenness of the ground beneath.

So once every ten years, each section of the common grazings that has cover of heather is burned to re-envigorate the heather plants and also re-establish grass growth so that the sheep can graze on it during the summer period.

On the way home, Bramble decided to put in a bit of training in the pool.  She has hopes of competing in London next year and is spending a lot of time in the water.  We couldn't find a baton to practice the relay, but a coke bottle seemed to fit the bill.

Unfortunately, when the time came to pass on the baton, Pippin had got fed up and gone home!

The other night on a journey to Stornoway at dusk, I saw a mountain hare - nattily clothed in white - dart across the road in front of me.  Though I knew that these hares were in the hills, I've never seen one before.  It was quite a surprise, but a very pleasant one.  Hope it manages to avoid the roads in future.

The news on the island today is that there is the possibility of the island being given to the community by the trust which currently owns it.  Scalpay featured on the STV news and in lots of newspapers and other media reporting.  In Scotland, much of the land is owned in large chunks by individuals and trusts.  Even if you buy a house and garden, the land underneath is still owned by someone else.  A few years ago the government made it possible for communities to buy out these estates when they came on the market and there have been several successful takeovers.  The island of Scalpay used to be part of the North Harris Estate until it was split off and sold in, I think, the seventies, so there is speculation as to whether it might be merged with Harris again.  When we see the progress NHE has made since it was taken over by their community, it is certainly a thought.

Finally, the northern lights are out tonight - if its clear and the moon not too bright, they will be observable from about 9.30pm here.  After a clear day, we have our fingers crossed.  Here at the Outend we have only a few streetlights, and can find a dark place to see the sky, so hopefully we will be in for a good show later on.


Anonymous said...

We heard the news about the possible community buyout on the radio today. It seems like the folk in North Harris have succeeded so well - I do hope Scalpay can do the same.

Your explanation of falaisg was helpful; I'd never really understood how people knew where to burn. We were in Harris a few years ago at Easter and climbed Chaipaval - only to be confronted by burning heather at the top, so we had to go the steep short way down the other side. No doubt the locals thought we deserved what we got for being so stupid!

I envy you the Northern Lights. Here in Aberdeen I don't think we've seen the sky for about a week! Rain, rain, rain.

Anonymous said...

Potentially exciting news about the island. Do keep us posted.
I wonder if you saw the northern lights. I heard that a lot of people saw them in the north and west of Scotland but not here, sadly. I'd love to see them one day.
Good luck with the Olympic bid! ;)

Scalpay Linen said...

Hi CL - Exciting times indeed. We have a residents meeting on Wednesday evening to initially discuss the situation, but the mood amongst many seems upbeat. Sorry about getting caught in the falaisg. We have so few days between the end of october and 15th april where the ground is dry enough to burn that we have to take advantage of every such occasion. But that is also the time that visitors like to get out for walks. The falaisg season is going to be extended to 30th April to take account of weather conditions, so its always good to be aware of the possibility of a fire.
We didn't get to see the Aurora after all. Too cloudy.

Scalpay Linen said...

Hi DB, There will be plenty on the blog if a takeover happens! Thanks for your comment.