Monday, 29 August 2011

Blowing the cobwebs away, and the chickens, and the odd 'summer' week

Big sea at Birsay, Orkney, August 28th 2011
Now, what would you expect from a blog with 'wind and wellies' in the title, more wind and more rain! To say its been a tad windy this weekend, would in part be expected, perhaps, but its been very very windy? This weekend we've had a couple of real 'rocks in your pockets' kind of days, with winds gusting over 40mph and almost 50, thankfully its calmed down today. Ok, we do get this kind of weather regularly, in winter, but in 'summer' to be honest, I don't think its very fair although looking back a windy month indeed! Now, I don't yet know what carnage its caused in the garden, aside being flooded for most of the weekend and very very windy! Although, whilst wind in the garden is NOT fun,  it does make for an exciting sea, doesn't it? And to make the most of that we often go on real windy, blow-the-cob-webs-away kind of a walk..................we dragged along our visitors, the trusty dog and I.
Waves at Birsay, August 28th 2011
Poor visitors got stuck, stormbound for an extra day up here, which for us was a bonus, for them having got up early to get home, perhaps more than a bit frustrating, but a nice windy walk and an ice-cream later, back home to a lovely 'roastless' roast dinner, was enough to cheer up the spirits! To be honest its been a bit of a strange week, full of the delightfully unexpected, adventures galore and a few changes/discoveries. First of all, I slowly but surely watched the sunflowers 'Baby Face' F1, safely undercover in their fabulous recycled fishboxes, inside the polytunnel, begin to bloom.....
Orkney grown, dwarf sunflower (Helianthus annuus) 'Baby Face' F1
I've not grown dwarf branched sunflowers before, but they are a real robust, strong little chap, nice flowers (pollen free) and they have several buds in each leaf axil, so I've let a few have a main flower and disbudded a few main buds from others to work out which way is the best for  a good spread of flowers for cutting, I'll let you know.  There were 20 in the packet, (Johnstons) and 20 dutifully came up, at £2.25 they are good value for money indeed.
Recycled fishboxes, tunnels and sunflowers - perfect!
Now as painful as it might sound,  but disbudding the main flower bud its not painful. But, by taking it out carefully (before it form a proper flower), this appears to be quicker in allowing the branched flowers to grow on to a decent cutting size. However, the single main flower buds if left unchecked, bloom earlier than the branches, so I'll figure what works well, in the mean time, I'm enjoying seeing their nodding faces as I get into the tunnel. And, the bee's appear to be enjoying them too! How very lovely, it never surprises me at my joy when seeing the bloom of a flower, from a tiny little seed. My spirits are utterly uplifted from any deep dark mood when I happen across one, I can't help but be moved by them. I've no idea why, but I'm so grateful for it.
Sunflower and bumble bee, Orkney
So, I've been having fun, looking at flowers and picking a few and talking to people about the little experiment we've got going on in the 'spare' work tunnel. Aside that, this weeks been a bit strange, I've slowly but surely cleared my own office. As my project is finished, I'm at the very final stage of corrections and our office has been redeployed into another subject area, so I'm now 'desk sharing' in the room next door to mine - very strange to finally get the place cleared.  The list of corrections are almost well and truly done - I'm sending this off this week for approval, fingers crossed.
One chapter closes and another opens..............But, onwards to new adentures me thinks, which I'm sure will be exciting......I've even began to need to rifle around the bowels of many of my own books, such as this great herb book, rather than reading purely academic papers and other exciting books on producing a cutting garden...........
Deni Bown, The RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and thier uses, the definitve A-Z guide to herbs.
All in all whilst a strange week, crazy weather, moving on in life but nevertheless a good one, in which we even made our own hand made soap, with the help of our lovely visitors! To keep going with embracing new things, I've got some vegetarian rennet (I'm going to make cheese this week), I've got a book out about local seasonal eating in Orkney and I've got a book about practical 'self sufficency'. That lot should keep me very busy and finding new things to do. I'm enjoying going into a library again and borrowing books, rather than buying them, I'm trying to be more efficient myself in my 'local' good lifing exploits. Bit like trying to go flowers for cutting instead of buying them, small steps and changes will hopefully make my 'good lifing' a bit more viable.

And of course having visitors for the week means also we've been off exploring a few things together, like the local garden at Happy Valley, which until I took my visitors to explore it, I hadn't realised was such a genuine secret garden, unsignposted but locally very well known! Of course peedie was just delighted to be going back there again! I'll post my own pictures from that particular adventure another time, its an amazing little haven!
Peedie at the wonderful secret garden of Happy Valley, Stenness, Orkney
More about Happy Valley and its extraordinary creator in these links if you fancy a neb (look):

Just goes to show what alot of hard work and a bit of shelter can acheive, enriching folks lives, even in the blustery north! Visitors safely away enroute home, no longer strombound, its time to get the sleeves up here, best get on with that tunnel then eh? Until next time...................


  1. Happy Valley looks wonderful. A genuinely great endeavour, so worthwhile and now, still, admired, loved and used by many, it seems. The peedie dug evidently likes it too!

  2. Yeractual, the peedie dug, indeed loved it! Happy valley is a truly magical place, we are very lucky Edwin worked so hard. Ta for popping past

  3. wonderful pictures! especially of the Peedie Pup!

  4. The mini sunflowers are so pretty and I think growing them in the recycled fish boxes is perfect!

  5. If the sunflowers are pollen free, are the bees not disappointed?? Is there nectar?

  6. Thanks tempewytch he loves it!

    Jenny, thank you perfect use of beach find boxes....I love this experimenting lark!

    E eye, great question, the flowers have nectar, bees can get pollen from all the others in there. Mr flowers is rather ironically a hay fever suffering fiend, so I'm trying these to bring a few home for him :-)

    Shhh, don't say, it's a surprise !

  7. There's so many uses for fishbones from the shore and other flotsam and jetsam. happy Valley is a very special place. I'm glad it's still going strong!had a mutual Orkney friend down for a few days. Your name came up....

  8. Typo, typo! I meant to say FISHBOXES ( of course)

  9. Visitors did indeed enjoy the wild windswept walk! And not a disappointment at all to be stormbound - was an absolute pleasure and a privilege to spend an extra day with you :)

    Missed you today, was expecting you to be there when I got up for breakfast! Pah. Still, I ate cheery Orkney eggs and cheese for lunch, and tasty pasta sauce for tea and thought of you instead :) And picked tomatoes from the garden! And planted parsley, and chives.

    Your influence spreads far and wide! :)

  10. your pictures of the sunflowers are lovely. i didn't know you could get dwarf ones. i've only ever seen the ones that take over your whole garden. :)

  11. Jts these are very sweet and well mannered!

    Jenni, and we enjoyed it too! Well done for getting so much done! Sorry I missed breakfast......xx

  12. Janet, now I'm really curious.........I knew you meant fishboxes, but who've we got as mutual chums?! X