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.
Jonathan: After two days of dreich keeping us indoors, we’ve been making the most of better weather today by working (mostly) outdoors.
Pity our poor chickens, who spent their first full day confined indoors for 30 days: three of the four UK national governments (all except N. Ireland) have issued orders requiring all poultry owners to prevent their birds having contact with wild birds. There’s an avian flu outbreak in continental Europe, and the order is intended to reduce the risk of it spreading in the UK. This is the first time this has been done, UK-wide, and our first experience of such a lock-down.
This morning Denise and I went over to Eight Askernish (which is about eight miles north). Denise finished off the cleaning up after the carpet-fitting and re-decorating, getting the house ready for for guests at Christmas and New Year. I was outdoors, fixing a leaking gutter, wire-brushing rust off the clothes line poles – to re-paint another day. I tidied round the garden too … and spotted fresh clumps of deer-poo! I called Denise out to take a look together: deer-poo is quite distinctive, rather like sheep poo, but the pellets are elongated – even pointed. When I come back to paint the poles, I’ll have to set up the wildlife camera – perhaps I’ll have a bit of luck and actually capture wildlife on aforesaid wildlife camera. It’s good to be working together like this, putting things in order, and planning future work together.
After lunch, back at An Gàrradh Mòr, we were both out in the garden. Denise was pulling weeds to take to the hen house so that the girls still get their ‘greens and we still get yolks that are deep yellow. I too had a wheelbarrow and fork, but took it out through the garden gate, across the road, and down the bank onto the beach. Last night, out for a walk with Tilly before bedtime, the storm was abating, the skies clearing, and Tilly and I had stood – me in my wellies – at the line where the surf turned back on itself, the sea sparkling with moonlight. The sands, too, glistened in the silvery light, clumps of shadow revealing great heaps of seaweed thrown up by the sea. It was that seaweed that’s been taking me down to the beach this afternoon. Three barrow-loads taken home to feed the soil of our garden – or rather, today, the soil of a greenhouse, feeding it for next year’s tomato plants. Seaweed Season has arrived! Gathering seaweed will now continue – every day if weather permits – bad weather to cast up the seaweed, better weather to collect it! – until Easter.
Kilbride Bay – view to Eriskay
Kilbride Bay – view to Barra
Kelp, Kilbride Bay, Isle of South Uist
Seaweed from the beach.
Kilbride Bay – collecting seaweed
Barrowing seaweed from the beach.
And last, but not least, Denise and I moved the new batch of seven Welsumer chicks into another greenhouse, where – as we do every winter – we set up a small wooden hen house used for rearing chicks – now no longer needing the heat lamp – until they’re ready to join the main flocks. The chicks have now finally joined Lucky, who made the same move three weeks or so ago. Poor boy, he’s been getting more and more distressed by his isolation: it’ll take a few days for things to settle down, but they’ll get on just fine!
Jonathan: I’m standing on the beach at low tide with the sea gently lapping to and fro around my legs. I’d like to say that my feet are bare and I can feel the ebbing waves sucking the sand away from beneath my heels, but the truth is I’ve got my wellies on, and for that matter my boiler suit and work-gloves on too. I’m on the beach for the purposes of work, but that doesn’t make it any the less a pleasure : in fact I think the pleasure may be all the greater for the fact that it is transitory, unplanned, and breaks upon me as suddenly as does the recollection I have to finish the job before our evening meal. After an inauspiciously cold and grey start, and a forecast for little better than sunshine and showers, it’s proved to be a truly glorious day! After the usual morning rounds of animal husbandry, we completed a ‘turnaround’ at Carrick as early as possible, and came home to get the administration done and then an early lunch – our first home-grown salad-lunch of the year. All this afternoon we were out in the garden in warm sunshine: I was digging over two growing areas, and breaking down the clumps ; Denise followed behind, raking out and treading down the soil, and then sowing peas – lots of peas (to give you an idea of how many – we’re still enjoying peas we put in the freezer late last summer), planting the last rows of potatoes (an assortment of varieties – left over from earlier planting), and planting out pot-grown flat-leaf parsley. ‘Afternoon tea’ was in the garden too, in a sunny spot sheltered from the crisp north breeze, our conversation interwoven with the back-and-forth song contest between blackbirds on their neighbouring lengths of the high garden wall, the lapping of the sea on the beach, and the call of skylarks high above and overlapping all. As the sun’s strength began to wane, we kicked the soil off our boots, cleaned the tools and returned them to the shed. But not the border fork, as there was just one last job for me whilst Denise was getting our meal ready. Down to the beach, with fork and barrow … and here I am, standing amidst the tumble and draw of the waves (very small waves, it must be said – for this has been a very tranquil day) forking a smorgasbord of seaweeds – kelps, sea-grass, sea-lettuce, bladder-wrack, all tousled and tangled together – into the barrow. Next: up the soft sandy path between the banks of marram grass, across the road and back through the south gate into the garden. First stop: greenhouse three where – yes I know this may seem strange, but I’ll explain some other time – we currently have a dozen pullets and two older Welsumer hens, and they like nothing better than picking over a pile of seaweed for all those tasty sand-hopper, fly-maggots, or wee tidbits from the weed itself. A couple of fork-fulls to them, then the rest to the Buff Orpington’s in their yard in the south-east corner of the garden ; and then the ‘spent’ seaweed to gather up and barrow to the compost heap – enriched with … well what chickens enrich everything with. And then? “Jonathan! I’m dishing up!”.