Muddisdale Trees

The area of trees on the banks of the Muddisdale burn was planted as a Millennium project involving all the schools in Orkney.  A variety of young trees which are known to survive in sheltered conditions here were planted and nearly 20 years on the area is a well-loved, easily accessible place to walk and cycle.

I have followed with interest the winter and spring life of these trees.  Here are some piccies of some of them.

These are Ash trees, and their tight, black buds are still not out.

One tree, or bush, that grows very well here is the Willow.  It loves wet roots and stands up well to the winds.

There are a few Beech trees.  Like the Ash, Birch and Alder, they do not grow very high, because of the winds.

Much planning went in to the creation of the woodland.  The path twists and turns, and you get many mini vistas.

One of the great colonisers in Orkney is the Rosa rugosa.  This proliferates by suckers, and soon fills up space.  Some hate it, but I love it!  Flowers all summer and beautiful big hips in autumn.

The end of the area abuts the golf course – you can see a blue flag in the centre of the photo.  The grass and reeds here are not cut, and in winter the orange stems give a lovely contrast to green grass. 

There are several varieties of birch all over the area, often providing shelter for less hardy species!  I love the Silver Birches, and often find I am humming Land of the Silver Birch as I go past.  (No beaver here though!)

In amongst the various Birches are some Hazel bushes.  They are sheltered by the birch and seem to be growing well.

Finally, a couple of photos of the Alder trees.  The first shows the small ‘cones’, the fruiting bodies, and the second shows some leaves on their way out, taken the other day.

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February Remembered

It was a funny month, weather-wise.  It started with snow, and became spring-like.

At the beginning of the month, the days were getting longer, and my dog walking was happening after sunrise.

Mists and cloud still made for great lighting.

By the end of the month it was the sunsets which gave the wonderful colours.

The grass was growing, and the sheep were out.

There were days where the stormy blue-grey skies, and the low sun, made my stained glass angel glow.

The dogs continued to make me laugh!  This is Eilidh reacting to a video of Scottie puppies playing.

Towards the end of the month we had a mild spell, with plenty of sun.  The the mixed woodland of the Muddisdale walk was especially colourful – here the silver birch (with Magnus)…

…. ash….

and alder. The verges are beginning to show signs of spring.  Snowdrops and crocuses came out very early this year.  We are just hoping we will not pay too dearly in April….!

January Remembered

The main thing I remember about this January is the skies. I never tire of skyscapes, and Orkney never tires of providing stunning ones.

Morning walks started in the dark, and as the month progressed the sun rose earlier and earlier. The saturated neons of the first half of the month gave way to pastels just as the cold spell hit us.

I love snow – even little bits! The past couple of weeks have been below zero with ice making the roads and pavements like a skating rink. Fortunately my granny wagon is excellent in the ice, so it was walks as usual.

At the very end of the month, we had a slight thaw, and I saw these snowdrops. Spring will come!


While I have been away….

The past couple of years have not been the easiest, but things are settling down now.  I have had to leave Flotta for good – a wrench, but there it is.  I am now the main carer for my elder son, Ben, and we are in a new house in Kirkwall!

The main change has been the entry into my life of the terrible two.  Just over a year ago I decided I couldn’t live without a Scottie, and I went on line to see what might be available.  Several weeks of searching led me to a litter of wheaten puppies.  Now, I have always wanted a wheatie, so I enquired.  I had just missed the last one.  Then 24 hours later I had another email from the breeder to say someone had pulled out, and the one with the purple collar was now available.  This is Eilidh.

A couple of weeks later a brindle boy became available from a friend of Kath’s, so Magnus became mine.  Tricia brought him up to Lancashire for me and I travelled from there to Inverness by train with two dog carriers!  I was met by my friend Sue and we travelled on up to Orkney by car and ferry.

Both dogs had been born and reared in a family home, so they were very well socialised. 

Ben met them first…

… then Nick (I gave up trying to get them all still – 2 out of 3 was my goal!)

Then came Ben-dog, the black Scottie belonging to Steve.

Both pups were fearless, and on one occasion Eilidh got herself stuck in the mechanism of my riser-recliner.  It took Ben lying on the floor and messing with the motors to get her out.  As soon as she was free, she just curled up by his feet and went to sleep!

Most of the puppy piccies I have are of them asleep – that is the only time they were still enough to get pix!

They were interested in everything, and adored cardboard boxes….

If you want to see moving piccies visit my YouTube page!

Orkney Robe of Glory DK pattern released

Those of you who have been with me some time (thank you!) will know about the Robe of Glory. The story as we know it is this.

Back in 1981, Good Housekeeping released a pattern they called Blessings for a Baby. This was said to be based on the motifs used on the Robe of Glory, a sweater given to a boy when he reached manhood. It was said to have been traditional on the Fair Isle.

However, Anne Sinclair, who is a knitting historian who was born on Fair Isle, and who is now in charge of the museum there, has never heard of it, and there is no documentary evidence either.

It was Rae Compton, a very diligent researcher of traditional knitwear, who describes the Robe of Glory in a Shire book, Fishermen Knitting. She does not give her source, but unlike some researchers of that era, she was not given to making up fanciful stories! If she talks about it, it must be ‘true’.

Enter a friend of mine who was born and bred on the Orkney island of Stronsay. She has a pram blanket using the same motifs in a similar way, but knitted before the Good Housekeeping pattern came out. She remembers older ones too, and that the blanket was given to the first baby in a household. Talking with other Orcadians, I get infuriating glimpses but no definites! Many old people say ‘That rings a bell’, but I can’t get further than that. There is definitely a Stronsay connection, and probably a Westray one.

robe editted

The next interesting bit is that there were two big emigrations from Fair Isle in the Nineteenth Century. In both cases, several large families moved to Orkney, specifically to Stronsay. Was the Robe of Glory a family tradition, and did they bring it with them to Stronsay? I have yet to find photographic evidence, but it is a definite possibility.

Whatever the exact history, you can now knit the Orkney Robe of Glory for your own family! This version of the pattern uses DK yarn, and the back of the blanket is knitted in stripes with the yarn left over from the Fair Isle on the front. I used Paton’s Diploma, a 50% wool, 50% (good!!) acrylic which keeps its looks and its warmth through many machine washes and tumble dry cycles.

DK Robe of Glory 003

The front is knitted first in the round with a steek, then the edging is crocheted.

DK Robe of Glory 002

The back is knitted in stripes, the steek cut, and the back is sewn to the first row of the crocheted edging. The pattern has photos showing the various stages of construction.

steek with writing

dc into both legs

The pattern includes charts for all letters of the alphabet, and numerals, so you can personalise the back (or front) with the initials and birth date of the baby if you want.

DK Robe of Glory 001

I have knitted several for different babies, choosing the colours to match the pram. I crochet the edging in whatever colours suit, and which ever I have left over!!

PhotoELF Edits: 2013:07:03 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resize

PhotoELF Edits: 2013:07:03 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resize

DK Robe of Glory 004

You can buy the pattern from Ravelry for $6 – you do not need to be a member of Ravelry.

Burray Heritage Centre and Dogs

As today was beautiful and the forecast bad, I decided to take advantage of the greatly increased bus service and go along to the Fossil and Heritage Centre on Burray.  Now Burray is the island next door, one linked to South Ronaldsay by Barrier 4 of the Churchill Barriers, or causeways.  I had been to the cafe there many times, but never into the centre itself.

I went to look at archive photos.  Now that I have a probable publisher for the Orkney knitting book I can take advantage of the summer months to do more research….

On this occasion the photos weren’t that great BUT they had TWO Orkney wheels, one a drawing room wheel – the first Orkney drawing room wheel I have seen.

Burray drawing room wheel

One of the two wheels was probably made on Burray but at present I don’t know which….  Hopefully we can find out.

They also had a hand spun shawl with a centre pattern I have not seen before.

The weather has been beautiful all day, and this evening we took the opportunity to take some pix of both my sons with their father and all the dogs.  (I am separated from Steve, but we are still friends and he regularly walks my dogs.)

left to right: Ben, Nick, Steve; dogs Scottie, Taz, Bess, Ben
left to right: Ben, Nick, Steve; dogs Scottie, Taz, Bess, Ben

What happened next?  Bess wriggled….

what happened next....