Another sparkling but icy cold day. After lunch I took the trailer over to Tipperton – at the very south-west most corner of South Uist – and loaded it up with seaweed from the strandline. Boiler-suit, wellies, gloves, hat, wheelbarrow, garden fork … and two hours immersed in nature and the task in hand.
Oh, one thing else in the tool-kit : the digital SLR camera – and telephoto zoom lens.
Back at the walled garden, I reversed the trailer into position, then lowered the back ramp, revealing a neat vertical section through the mass of seaweed.
Oh, such riches!
I readied the barrow and fork ready for the unloading.
After a mug of tea and a natter with Denise, I readied myself.
Gloves and wellies on … Ready? … Go!
Collecting seaweed is good for the body, the mind, the stomach (via the compost heap and the garden) and for the soul.
Today, the sky is clear and the sunshine brings a cheer to the soul, but no warmth for the body – or not that can compete with an icy wind from the Siberian tundra.
Snails hibernating on the outside walls of the Hebridean Woolshed
Too-early primrose. The Big Garden Isle of South Uist
Even so, there’s just a few days left of February, and so Spring is, officially, waiting in the wings.
In the walled garden, crocuses – including those gifted to us last Spring by a generous fellow blogger – are tentatively forming flower buds.
This afternoon we found a young primrose plant that, naïvely relying on the lengthening days as sufficient cue for flowering, was burned and withered by the wind-chill. It will survive and try again in a few weeks, along with the older, wiser primroses – including it’s own parents.
Preparing to re-fit the Hebridean Woolshed sign to the timber boards of the shop’s exterior cladding, we noticed the extended family of snails that habituated to the space behind the sign during the summer, have spent the winter there as well.
One seasonal phenomenon that seems to have taken to the stage somewhat earlier this year, is Homo Sapiens ‘Touristicus’. This year, bookings for our two cottages before Easter are unusually good.
Thus motivated, J and I set about putting our shop, here in the walled garden, into order for the season ahead. Normally we’d be doing this just before Easter, so we’re at least a month early.
However the Hebridean Woolshed 2018 has new heating and lighting, and that might make all the difference. Or are we being naïve, like that primrose? If so, let’s hope we don’t get wind-chilled too!
After many months of shifting thoughts on the question, we’ve decided to relegate our blog from the front page of The Big Garden website to, well, just a page. And by relegation we mean also that we’ll be posting much less often.
We very much appreciate the interest of our many readers over the past ten years, and in particular the comments so many have contributed. Indeed, this change is something of a reprieve : even within the past hour we came very close to shutting down the website entirely. If it wasn’t for our followers, we might have done just that ; but we have a natural wariness of any action that is abrupt, extreme, or contrary.
We’re both now in our 60s, and after 15 years of this way of life – which is all-encompassing and very physical, we’re increasingly finding we don’t have the strength and staying power that’s needed. We need to work less, and leave ourselves more time to rest and relax. But our way of life is a patchwork of, well, work – with little space left for anything else : the inter-connectedness of our many activities is, certainly, profoundly pleasing – but it is also perplexing. It’s difficult to find a way to do less of anything we do, let alone actually give it up.
Casa Los Fueros
And yet, something has to give. Anything! And soon!
The Big Garden Blog started, nearly ten years ago, as a make-over of a conventional website we’d been maintaining for a few years, to promote our (then) developing micro-businesses. To us, then, WordPress was just a new online publishing technology. The blogging side of it was something that simply came with the package : we thought we’d give it a try, as a sort of enhanced marketing tool. Soon, though, we found it offered an intellectual and artistic counterbalance to the highly physical and mundane of our island everydays .. and so it remains to this day. It’s also proved to be the only way we get to know others – mostly in North America, as it turns out – with similar interests and outlook.
Over the past year or two, though, we’ve found that the technological rigour needed to keep a website up and running – and secure – has become increasingly onerous. It’s the same for on-line marketing : ever more effort seems to be required, over an exponentially expanding universe of portals and platforms, merely to slow the inexorable slide into oblivion. This is not what we moved to Uist to do.
We’ve another six years or so to this way of life. That’s neither a figure plucked out of thin air, nor one arbitrarily imposed on us : it’s a point towards which we foresee various life-lines converging. We hope that the changes we must contend with will come progressively, smoothly and above all happily.
We want to enjoy our remaining years here in Uist, fulfilling our dream of living on and from the land – and from our own talents. That’s the goal that we have achieved, but only by investing everything we have, in terms of money, time, commitment, energy … Now we want to ease off a little, to free up time and mental space for regeneration : sowing seed, nurturing and growing our dreams for life after Uist. We need time to dream, to discover … but also to prepare for what comes next.
And, without doubt, that means more time with our daughters and their families – in Navarra, yes, but also in Wales.
Casa Los Fueros, the house we’ve bught in San Martin de Unx, Navarra, is a down-payment on that new life.