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Chutneys-R-4-Us

Denise: The greenhouses are full of lovely tomatoes, peppers and herbs, and the garden and our stores are overflowing with every kind of goodness!  There’s few things we make with our produce that makes better use of the variety and abundance, and is so long-lasting and useful, than chutney. The art and craft of chutney-making is so rich with possibilities …

Chutney with tomato, green pepper, shallotts, and courgette: An Garradh Mor, Isle of South Uist

Chutney with tomato, green pepper, shallotts, and courgette … plus herbs and spices

Those we make for sale all conform to our Big Garden ‘house style’, all using the same hexagonal jars, all the labels and wording conforming to the same format.  So for ourselves, it’s a pleasure to make use of an assortment of jars and lids – whatever comes to hand. The labels may be simply hand-written on a scrap of paper and pasted on – or may be omitted entirely, in which case we rely entirely on appearance, memory, and position on the shelf to avoid a shock to the tastebuds!

Pellet from the Sky

Jonathan: Working croft this morning I looked up to watch a family of Ravens making a commotion directly overhead: they were apparently in some kind of altercation with what – judging from the silhouette – was a golden eagle. The ravens made off towards the shore, and the eagle was left to itself, tacking effortlessly across the sky above the scree and boulders on the north face of Ben Sgiathan, powered by a steady breeze that was forced up towards the summit. After a while of apparently fruitless search, it turned away in an slow arc, passing directly above me, and then away to the wild and rugged cliffs and crags of the east coast.

Resuming my work, I spotted something on the ground beside the old feed bag containing fencing supplies – something that definitely wasn’t there a few minutes before.  At first sight it appeared to be a large and rather dry goose-poo ; but as our geese didn’t come anywhere near here, and there hadn’t been any wild geese about, that didn’t seem likely. Besides there was something different about it … so I took it home to investigate.

At home, with the benefit of my glasses, I could see that the object was made up of mostly hair or fur, insect wings, bits of bone, and a bit of research showed that this was typical of a pellet of indigestible material regurgitated by a bird of prey. (It’s not just owls that eject pellets.)  Washing away the mass of fur and smallest particles, I was left with insect wing cases, tiny skulls including rows of tiny teeth, dozens of tiny bones, and – most intriguingly – a claw or talon that (as someone completely inexperienced in these matters) could be that of a smaller bird of prey (perhaps a fledgeling?).

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To me this suggests that the bird that ejected this pellet has predated a smaller bird of prey, possibly insect-catching small birds, and rodents.  In my mind, this points to a golden or white-tailed eagle as the source of the pellet: both birds are present in this area, though golden eagles are more numerous.

Is any reader – more knowledgeable than myself (which wouldn’t be difficult) – able to throw more light on this?

Biotite

Denise: In High Field there’s an outcrop of partially metamorphosed granite with prolific inclusions (both veins and lumps) of biotite – a type of mica that’s black, soft and very flaky.  The large crystals of the granite are ‘granulating’ from the effects of weather, and doing so unusually easily, such that the parent rock is actually eroding faster than the biotite, which as a result stands out like varicose veins, or chocolate chips in a cereal bar.  How ironic, one of the weakest of minerals proving more durable than what is normally one of the strongest of rocks!

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J brought this to my notice when he came home with a heart-shaped lump obviously from the boundary between the biotite and the parent granite, with one side micaceous, the other side fine crystalline dark granite. It takes a man with a heart of stone to win over a female geologist!

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