There’s so much to do right now : harvesting and processing garden produce, building maintenance that calls for full days of dry weather, cutting grass, keeping the borders tidy(-ish), foraging for natural dyeing materials. And then there’s serving customers and hopelessly straining to replenish our fast-depleting stock of hand-spun or plant-dyed yarns, knitted garments, crochet articles …
But it’s not any of those things that cause us to linger in the evening sunshine, to take every task out in the garden that might be more conveniently done indoors, nor why the cats come in for the night (if it’s not raining) at the very last moment possible, after I’ve taken Tilly for a walk, and just as they know I’ll lock the door and turn out the lights.
With the currants and gooseberries down to the last pickings, our organized efforts have turned to harvesting the peas and, since a day or so ago, the broad beans too. That’s is how we know that summer’s early has given way to late (if there was a mid, we must have missed it!), and the year itself from waxing to waning. From here on, every moment counts – it feels we’re on borrowed time.
The cats know it. The sheep do, too, and of course the birds of the sky, the countless varieties of wild flowers, each and every blade of grass, and even the mites and earthworms in the soil. All of nature knows it!
Already, there’s that unmistakable scent of autumn in the air.
Fresh-picked aubergines from Greenhouse 1 Uist
Lemon Verbena in the sun and warmth of Greenhouse 2
Drying onions in the sunshine, outside the dyehouse.
View from Ludag, South Uist, across the Sound of Eriskay and the causeway, to Eriskay.
Trays of peas ready for podding and freezing.
Drying onions in the sunshine
Peak Summer Salad: Homebaked bread, everything else home grown.
Lemon Verbena leaves, dried and stored for winter
Denise podding peas for the freezer
Goldenrod flowers – a natural dyestuff.
Goldenrod flowers harvested for dyeing wool. The Hebridean Woolshed, Isle of South Uist
Spring has at last sprung, and the land and sky around Eight Askernish is stirring with promise of new life. Skylarks soar and sing, and Lapwings swoop and dive …
Indoors, final preparations for our first guests of the 2017 season. Outside, spring sunshine is spurring the willows to bud, so now’s the time to take and plant cuttings, making good the wear and tear of the past winter – from wild storms and hungry deer.
Yesterday, Sunday, we spent in the SW of Lanzarote, mostly in the Timanfaya National Park – a land of calderas and camels. It’s an active volcanic area, and dangerous in places (if not from the volcanic activity, then from the extraordinarily baked-hot barren landscape) Visitors have to park their cars, and then transfer to buses. Becky and I got seats second from front so we had good views. The bus driver showed his experience and skill, negotiating hairpin bends through narrow passes of lava and steep drops. The cafe – another of César Manrique‘s projects! – cooks with volcanic heat. A ‘geothermal restaurant’.
Both Becky and I are environmentally responsible, we’re committed to sustainable living, and unwilling to contribute to global warming, so we chose croissants, not kebabs, which seem to me an irresponsible use of volcanic heat, released un-necessarily into the atmosphere. (Ha ha – just joking! No, really, just joking !)
Now the next bit might offend extreme vegans. A camel ride across the wasteland of volcanic ash. Safarists (those who undertake a safari?) were allocated camels according to stature: Becky and I were obviously considered light in weight as our transport seemed to be a little smaller than others, probably a female. The camel ahead of us might have been a male: I felt sure I heard the guide call it Humphrey. [J: Denise does like her puns. Best to humour her!] All camels well behaved for the short 2km trek. The guide led them and gave commands to each camel in turn, telling them to get up and to lie down.
Even after reading the information displays (in Spanish) in the interpretation centre, we’re still not sure when camels were introduced to the island, but in the Yaiza and Uga area the animals were the tractors of their day. They performed multiple tasks from ploughing, harrowing and sowing seeds to carrying water in barrels, baskets of grapes and used as a mode of transport. The tools on display showed a very long plough with a 4m long beam, a metal plate that was dragged over the rofe – ash – to break it down and make it level for sowing. These were all harnessed around the neck of the camel. There were also wooden barrels, crates and seats like the ones we were on that were placed around the hump. I suppose they were the equivalent of our Eriskay ponies!