Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The sheep of destiny......

The sheep of destiny did indeed smile on me today. Its great to get out and do alot of exploring, and those of you reading this blog may often wonder if any 'real life' or infact, um, cough, any 'gardening' goes on here at all. Well, I've in my defence been a tad distracted - thesis finally in, today was my viva (Oral exam of scariness). All scrubbed up and shiny, which is also unusual, my general form is mud caked, I managed to not only leave for the office at the college early but with time to spare to drive in quietly and think about my project, my write up and what on earth they were going to ask me. I did of course under my deeply sensible clothes, wear knee length odd stripey socks - its what all proper scientists wear, honest injun!

Meeting 250+ sheep on the road, enroute the my scary post-grad viva - not exactly what I'd had planned. Thankfully I was early and had a chuckle about 'only in Orkney', well only anywhere rural I guess is more appropriate would someone move sheep at 8.45 on a work day. However, as you can see - its not exactly a busy road.  Anyhow, they gave me a well needed giggle, doesn't really help to take yourself too seriously, even when faced with a scary viva.

Thankfully, it would seem the sheep of destiny were smiling upon me today - I've finally passed, they loved my work and I've a few minor corrections to do (in the next 3 months). PHEW! Finally I feel as if I can speak more about my own work, I've been working on a project for the past 4 years looking at the feasibility of growing several different biomass energy willows for renewable heat fuel in peripheral regions (especially Orkney). Its involved alot of communing with my crop, alot of lugging and alot of scratching of my head to help develop the right kind of growing techniques for our climate. Thankfully, the lovely visiting experts liked alot of my work and were very complimentary. I'm sure my little willows would be proud, all, um 6 ha of them (90,000 individual plants) or so of them. And, yes I do know them all personally and by name.

Yippee. Willow is no longer a dirty word in this house, I can now look on it with fondness and maybe develop some of my ideas a bit more practically which might help anyone wanting to try and grow the stuff. Now, I'm not saying it will solve all the problems of the world, but every little bit we do to reduce our dependancy on oil is in my mind worth it.  And, now that is out of the way, I might be able to do a little bit of gardening (finally) and without any guilt! Viva la willow. Now, discovering you've dyslexic tendancies half way through a PhD project is a bit of an eye opener, a bit frustrating, a bit enlightening and life made more sense. Thankfully I've encountered alot of folk on that journey which have allowed me to form my own strategies to overcome some of my issues, and let me get on with the task in hand. For them, their help, persistance, kind words, support and 'you CAN' get there mentality - I take my hat off to you all, whether you've helped me or anyone else with dyslexia. You're all really stars, OK I've not finished with a PhD, but hey - I don't think my crop cares, its happy I took the time to ponder and develop it. This nifty willow quote says it all better than I ever can and its very apt for dealing with the unexpected and bouncing back just like my little self and my little crop and true for all of us:

“The willow which bends to the tempest, often escapes better than the oak which resists it; and so in great calamities, it sometimes happens that light and frivolous spirits recover their elasticity and presence of mind sooner than those of a loftier nature”

Sir Walter Scott quotes (Scottish Novelist, Poet, Historian and Biographer, 1771-1832)


  1. Well done you!!!! So proud of you today, and for the last 4 years too! :) :) :)

    That quote is perfect, and does indeed sum it up perfectly! xxxxx

  2. Congratulations again - such a fantastic bit of news, not though we had any doubt you could do it, of course! Hurrah for Sheep of Destiny & Stripey socks!

    R xx

  3. I echo Robyn - Hurrah for the Sheep of Destiny and stripey socks! Well done you (and your willows...). Absolutely love that quote. It's one to keep for me I think....

  4. Well done :), sure the stripey socks helped :) Love the quote too.

  5. well done missus xxx

    Went to a talk and demo about willow on sunday and though of you


  6. Wonderful news and so well deserved!

    Mind you, the socks must have given you the edge!

  7. Congratulations Stacy !
    I remember your post with loads of willow stubs and I did wonder what that was all about. I thought that it might be an Orkney thing that a Londoner wouldn't understand.

  8. congratulations and well done! i hope that you will get some time to yourself now and be able to enjoy the summer. :) (the sheep picture is priceless).

  9. Willow as biofuel? How much better than using food crops for biodiesel!

  10. FANTASTIC!!! Congratulations Fay, I'm delighted for you. How wonderful to get it all out of the way, but even better to have experts rating your work highly.

  11. Congratulations to you. You have worked hard and deserve to pass. Viva la Willow!!!

  12. what can I add to the congratulations? How about thank you for inspiring me each and every time that you post? Loving that quote and it is being immortalised in my journey any minute now.

    Well done on overcoming all the willow hurdles and may the knowledge bring much work your way.

  13. Does Orkney still send it's waste up to Shetland? Couldn't understand why they didn't use it to heat homes in Orkney.
    Where would we be without willow? (especially in Orkney) Good luck with your project and congratulations.
    PS I learnt to drive in Orkney (had to really it's a long walk into kirkwall)and the worst thing you could meet was a flock of sheep, a tractor or the odd boy racer...

  14. Well done you! I think there is somewhere in Northern Ireland doing studies with Willow as biofuel.

  15. Thank you all for the lovely congratulations!!!

    Bridget they do, one of my examiners was from northern Ireland :)

    Janet, Orkney does ship it's waste to the heat plant in Shetland. Willow is indeed very cool :) and you're right about driving in Orkney, many a sheep on the road :)

    Cheri you always say such sweet things xxx

    Kim thanks!

    Mrs bok, sft, and Janet thank you also, so lovely to be finished, although I've just opened an email saying, "ok now, how about we right some papers....." I feel it's not over yet!!

    Elephants eye, it's a quite new fuel but common in Sweden, uk and a few other countries, generally as a direct fuel for renewable heat or as a co-firing fuel.

    Jts, scot ad roads and sheep are like coffee and cream aren't they, go together nicely :)

    B-a-g ta muchly, not a lot of folk are so obsessed with willow, so not your fault, when you work at it for four years, you forget that 'normal' folk don't see it every day!!

    Anne the socks definitely helped.

    Shaz thank you :) xx hope the willow talk was fun :)

    Jenny - phew indeed!!!!

    Dreamer you've been with us all the way, thank you :)

    Sian glad you like the quote, very true for Orkney!

    Robyn - hurrah indeed :)

  16. Congratulations!!! Vivas are scary - mine went on forever.

    Enjoy the adulation!