Well we seem to have arrived at June already, but I couldn’t tell you how. When we bought our house, back in December, I naively thought that we would be making great strides forward in our renovations, by this point in the year.

How wrong I was!

Half way through the year and we haven’t even begun work on the main house, as we realised that we would need full planning permission to reinstate our house as a dwelling. Months later and we are still going through this process. We cannot afford professional help and are learning one mistake at a time. We will get there, but in the meantime, spirits need to be lifted and a derelict house (even when it’s not officially considered to be a house at all), needs to start to feel like a home.

I don’t mind admitting that I have struggled with this over the past few months and the late arrival of warmer spring days, has not helped. Or perhaps spring is no later than usual and it is just my perception of it that is different. Have the stresses and strains of 2022, blinded me to the beautiful awakening of the natural world around me?

I think it’s very likely that they have. So I have been working hard to reset my mind, and rediscover the optimistic me. To find comfort and a feeling of home building through starting work on our garden and opening my eyes once again to the simple pleasures around me.

Our polytunnel, might still be wrapped up in one of the barns (also awaiting planning permission), but there is still plenty that we can do to keep moving forward.

I made a start by making a mini polytunnel, to give some seedlings a place to get started and to house the strawberry plants, gifted to us by a kind friend.

Wren gave me a hand to make a simple wooden base (from some old cladding on site), and hoops for the plastic sheeting from some old water pipe, found in the yard. Some fishing net from the barn, has been a huge help in protecting the scrappy bits of plastic, from the wind.

It was a small start, but a start none the less and gave me the confidence to build two wooden raised beds, for Lark and Wren. They were so looking forward to starting their own gardens this year and I wanted to make that happen for them. 

building-a-mini-polytunnel
building-a-mini-polytunnel

Lark and Wren both helped to make their gardens – cutting the scrap wood for the frame, hammering in the corner posts and putting down the various layers for their no-dig beds.

Several weeks on and aided by a few sunny days, their gardens are full of little seedlings and the mini polytunnel is in constant use.

The girls are so excited about the thought of their own little spaces filled with flowers and good things to eat. It won’t stop there, plans are already being made to make some garden ornaments out of things we find lying around.

gardening-with-children
gardening-with-children

With their spaces sorted out, my thoughts went to growing spaces for my own plants. Due to the difficulties of this year and the lack of funds for any kind of wind break on our very exposed site, I have decided to focus mainly on the little courtyard garden behind the house.

Grander plans and garden adventures can wait until next year.

I have created two no-dig beds. One, from large rocks, found on site (presumably from an old wall or even building), the other from scraps of wood and pipe and some long lengths of rope.

The only money that we have had to spend on the garden so far, has been for compost. I did try to make a hot compost heap, to get a large quantity quickly, but it was not successful. It has made a good start to a cold compost heap though, and should be ready to use next spring.

A little garden seat has been made too, with a few old blocks and a piece of flagstone. It has been used by all of us as a quiet place to sit with a hot drink, watching the many birds and wild rabbits that live in our garden.

Using these things, that have been found in the garden and outbuildings, also means that they blend in perfectly with the old buildings surrounding the courtyard.

Many plants that have been quietly taking care of themselves for the past couple of decades, have also shown themselves this spring. A variety of daffodils and bluebells, an absolutely enormous rhubarb patch and long drifts of crocosmia, have all survived in this area.

I have a few containers that I have found around our property, which will add to the growing space, one of which is a very large belfast sink. I have left space for little paths between the raised beds, which we will probably fill in with stones.

woven-rope-raised-bed

The further areas of our garden are mostly tall grasses and a wide variety of wild plants. Our ducks have been very pleased about the large amounts of dandelion. They can’t get enough of the leaves!

For myself, I am glad of the easy access to the stems for basketry.

Ribbed plantain is also prolific here, which has many uses, including cordage making with the leaves and natural dyes that can be made from the stems. There are several mystery plants, which we are watching to see how they look when flowers and seeds appear and some old favourites which are just starting to come through – purple vetch, flag irises, cow parsley, scurvy grass, buttercups and huge banks of clover, to name but a few.

wildflowers

The real treat for a wildflower lover though, is the coastal path, which is just a short walk away from our home.

Up on the cliffs, looking out to mainland Scotland and the island of Stroma, there is plenty of natural beauty to be found. Looking down, the treasures are even more abundant with swathes of wildflowers now coming into bloom.

Thrift, one of my particular favourites, clusters all along the edges of the cliffs, and the variety of pinks can clearly be seen. Some, almost white, others baby pink and all the way through to a vivid lilac.

Spring Squill, a new delight for me, grows here in its hundreds. So tiny but creating a haze of blue through the shorter grasses.

Birds foot trefoil and Tormentil bring in the yellows, while masses of red campion add to the pinks.

I shall look forward to seeing what else might come through, during the summer months and then the pleasure of collecting crowberries in autumn, which are growing here in abundance and make a wonderful dye.

spring-sqill-orkney-islands
coastal-wildflowers-orkney

,As we come into summer, I am reminded of just how important it is, to take the time to appreciate these simple pleasures. They bring balance to an often stressful and busy modern life. They put things into perspective and lighten the heart, giving you the strength to deal with life’s challenges.

My daughter, Lark (12 years), summed it up perfectly. A few months ago, she found walking on the coastal path difficult. The power and huge depths of the sea are so apparent on this wild and rugged coastline, that she felt worried to be up there. Now though, she rushes along happily, from one patch of wildflowers to the next, gazing out here to look at a sea bird and looking down there, to admire the sparkling rocks below.

I asked her about the change and she said,

“Oh no, I don’t feel worried at all now! I can’t feel worried, when I am so happy and it makes me happy being out in the sunshine and seeing all of these flowers and creatures. It’s wonderful isn’t it?!”

Children know what they’re talking about, children always notice the wonders of our world. We, as adults have much to learn from them, and watching my children immersed in these simple joys, chases my worries away too.

I hope that you all find time to treat yourselves to some quiet time in nature, over the coming summer months. No matter how many pressing things may need our attention, we will be making it a priority and slowly but surely this old house, will start to become our home.