Denise: J was out on in the garden all day Saturday and most of today, digging for the foundations for where we’re going to move the garden shop to. The ground slopes slightly – enough such that the digging is quite deep at one end. This part of the garden also doesn’t appear to have been cultivated for a very very long time, for the soil is poor in humus, compacted and very hard. The turf has gone on the compost heap, and the best soil has gone to fill in where the pond used to be – a lot of barrowing. Saturday was a lovely day, and today started fine, but by lunchtime the wind was getting up and the spits and spots turning into persistent rain. Eventually he had to give up, frustrated, as he really wanted to get that job done before the weekend was out, but he came in exhausted, wet and muddy: perhaps he should have stopped just an hour sooner. Since then the weather has deteriorated rapidly and we’re up to Severe Gale, the window glass bowing silently (they start creaking at Storm force, and start to cause alarm at Severe Storm!), and the roof creaking and even the internal doors rattling. This is forecast to carry on for a day or two, but we’ll bide our time, and then finishing the work in the sun will be a real pleasure again. And it might even be nice enough to take a photo to show you a nice neatly dug rectangular hole in the ground!
Jonathan: What I didn’t tell you last time is what I found when I went out to check on the ponies … All afternoon we’d seen Alasdair up on the skyline of Cnoc a Deas, whinnying whenever we we appeared in the garden – he didn’t seem at all bothered about keeping poor old Midnight company, out there on the far side of the Cnoc! When I went out to check up on them last thing before bed-time, I found Alasdair down on the road by the house – and a passing car swerving to avoid him. I tried to coax him back up on to the hill, but he was having none of it – in fact he was trying to find a way across or around the cattle grid by the house – as if he was trying to get back the way we’d travelled in the morning. Clearly he needed to be tethered, certainly for tonight, so I set off for the croft store, over in Eriskay, for a longer length of rope. But when I got back Alasdair was nowhere to be seen: I searched all over the headland with a torch, but not a sign or sound of him. When I got back to the house, a car was pulling up into our drive and I suddenly realised it was Denise – she’d received a phone call from a neighbour saying a pony was out on the road at Smercleit, and not finding me she’d set out in the car to look for Alasdair. So off we went together in the car, finding occasional ‘waymarks’ on the road, telling us where he’d been, but not where he was now. After checking all the township roads and scanning across the fields the machair and the shore with the big torch, we realized we weren’t going to find him on our own, and returned to the house. I phoned Eòghann to ask advice, but he’d already received a call from a bodoch (old man) at Smercleit Taobh a Tuath to say a pony was in his garden – the assumption hereabouts is that if its a pony, it must be Eòghann’s. They’d agreed that Alasdair was safe enough where he was – he could stay there until the morning. This morning, however, Alasdair was found to be safe and well back in the field we’d taken him from in the morning – he must have found his way along the road in the night, and jumped the fence or gate. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, they say! Thinking about it today, I realized that the north wind would have carried with it the scent of the two females left at Trossaraidh. I mentioned this to Eòghann, and he admitted it was a mistke to take away the two males together. The upshot of this is that Alasdair will stay with the others, and I’ve just got Midnight to look after. At 16 years old, he’s a placid old thing, very easy to get along with: he calls out when he wants moving, and always seems pleased to get a stroke and a scratch and a fresh circle of tasty grass.
Jonathan: Eòghann and I walked two ponies – Midnight and Alasdair – about 3 miles over the hills from by the church at Trossaraidh to Cnoc a Deas (the headland right by our house). It was a lovely morning – soft wintry sunshine with scarcely a breath of wind. We lead them just with simple halters, through the gate in the hill fence and up on to the shoulder of Beinn na Coire, with a few streams to ford and wading through knee-high heather. The ponies seemed eager to get on, but waited patiently when we stopped to talk, enjoy the view, and take photos – like the one here of Eòghann, Midnight and behind him Alasdair. As soon as we got to Cnoc a Deas, both set to work on the grass. Midnight was tethered using a special metal stake pushed right down into the ground, fitted with an anti-snarl swivel. According to Eòghann, Alasadair wouldn’t need tethering because he wouldn’t wander far from Midnight. This evening I went out across the road up on to the hill to check they were okay: Denise said – “Once you and Eòghann start, you’ll be talking to Midnight”!