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A 'pet day'

Yesterday was a real 'pet day', as they are sometimes known here. I woke to a covering of settled

sleet on the velux windows, and then the sun came out interspersed with more sleet showers at first.

It just got better and warmer until I was seriously tempted to have lunch outside. Such a treat to

have days like this after the wind and the rain.

The snow looked quite thick and crunchy on an Stac and Roshven, the sky was blue and a pair of

buzzards were dancing high in the sky.

Bella and Dulcie, the ponies who graze the meadows here in the winter, were enjoying the sunshine

and there were greylag and Canada geese seemingly everywhere in and around the meadows.

This morning it is much colder and there is frost all around. More of the hillls have snow, but just

lightly sprinkled, and it's lower down. No geese to be seen, but a curlew is wandering around in the

middle of the front meadow. When I first spotted on last year it seemed to hang around the gate so

it's a change to see it going further into the field.

I have been thinking about getting more hens, but have just noticed some great tits showing a great

interest in the hen house. They may just be after the insects in and around it, or they may have

claimed it as a nesting site – in which case there probably won't be hens this year!

There is such an unspoilt expansive view from my kitchen table that it's tempting not to go outside

in the cold weather – just sit here with a cup of steamiing coffee and the binoculars. But that doesn't

get the jobs done!

Christine was here helping yesterday, but apart from the two of us there wasn't anyone in sight all

day, and somehow in this weather the silence seems to be even more pronounced – until darkness

comes and the owls begin their conversations.

I'm not expecting to see anyone today unless my neighbours walk 'round the block', or I catch sight

of Kirsty checking on the ponies. Too tempting to completely chill out, and forget that I'm here to

look after things and not just enjoy retreating from the bustle that seems to be going on everywhere


The high tides driven even further onto the shore by Storm Ciara brought the gift of lots of seaweed

deposited higher up than usual, and the subsequent rain has washed it fairly free of salt, so now

would be a good time to gather it up for nourishing the garden. Storm carried seaweed often arrives

with the holdfasts still attached to small rocks, so it does take a bit longer to collect it up, but it's

such a good natural fertiliser – that and bracken have traditionally been used in this area for

centuries. (Note to self – I recently read that bracken cut in May is best, so that will need to go in

the diary).

And Angus Peter has kindly logged and split the thick oak branch that has been lying on the ground

between Vicky and Charlotte for the past couple of years. It was lying directly on the ground and I

was worried that it might be starting to rot, but it seems as though it is just nicely seasoned and can

now be dried out over the summer ready for next winter. We'll bring it nearer the house and stack it

loosely on a pallet so the wind can get through it and then make room for it in the covered way so

that it can complete the drying process under cover. I'm looking forward to using it – it burns hot

and slow, and gives out so much heat. I'm currently using up smaller older bits and pieces of wood.

Last night I brought in what looked like rhododendron. I was given a pile of that some years ago,

and I seem to have found a few leftovers. I have been told that rhoddy is good for the beginning and

the end of a fire, and I think that's right. It doesn't take much to get it going, and then the slower

lighting wood can be adding, and when the embers seem to be dying a small log or two of rhoddy

will add a bit of extra life. Although it burns very brightly it's quickly gone.

The small, delicate daffodils Eleanor and I planted several years ago are just coming up at the top of

the burying ground. They are very old varieties which I was given from an old croft garden in

Glenuig, and they smell wonderful. I love them! I just hope that they hide as long as they can in the

remains of last year's bracken, which may be some protection from the deer. Daffodils are on the

lists of 'deer resitant plants'. Ha! This lot 'discovered' them a few years ago and began eating a few

here and there. The other night they climbed into my Belfast sink planted with lavender and round a

small table just close to the house and ate everything supposedly 'protected' from them. The few bits

left behind were pulled out of the upturned pots and the small standard holly trees which were

actually touching the window were mercilessly pruned. I do occasionally hanker after my garden in

Suffolk where the peach tree I planted against a south facing wall reached my bedroom window, but

that seems a lifetime away.

Well, back to work in the laundry. This week's thankless task is tackling the large pile of sheets and

towels stained over the last season by fake tan.... onwards and upwards, as they say – I may manage

to salvage some of them, which will also have an environmental benefit over just throwing them


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