Well it is drawing near to the end of our first summer in the Orkney Islands and autumn will soon be upon us once more.
We have escaped the sweltering weather that mainland uk experienced for several weeks, but we have had lots of sunny and pleasantly warm days. There is always a sea breeze to cool things down here!
A large amount of our time has been spent on the beach; searching for creatures in the pools and shallows, beachcombing for little treasures on the sand, munching picnics and enjoying evening walks, to tire out a very busy two year old before bedtime.
It really is a joy to live so close to the sea and just be able to pop down to the beach, whenever we feel like it.
The relaxation of lockdown means that every now again we might see someone on the beach (usually in the distance), but generally we still have the beach to ourselves, apart from the ever present seals, who we like to think of as friends.
We’ve also been very busy in our garden, doing our best to grow as much food as possible while the good weather lasts.
I have been delighted with some of our crops; our tomatoes were prolific and we enjoyed several weeks of constant cropping from eight tiny plants squeezed onto a windowsill! Our leafy veg have also done really well, particularly Pak Choi and chard, which provided us with many meals.
Other veggies have been a real disappointment, so it will either be a case of trying a new approach next year, or more likely, giving the space to something else. Broccoli, aubergines and spring onions have been the worst offenders!
Oh I mustn’t forget to mention our peas, which I planted very late, but have survived being beaten by high winds and are now cropping and providing our kids with juicy, delicious, healthy snacks. On top of that they have such lovely flowers, so I will definitely grow more next year.
Fruit wasn’t overlooked either as we had our first harvest from the currant bushes that we discovered, hidden in the depths of our wild garden. They were made into some delicious cordial, which we were supposed to save for later in the year, but all of the bottles have long since been drunk!
We still have a lot to learn about growing things up here, but I am pleased with how our first year has gone.
I have been thoroughly enjoying watching the landscape change over another season here. This month, in particular has seen the hay being mown and baled, so that the fields around have all turned to a light green. When the sun hits them in the early morning or evening, they seem to glow, as the greens suddenly become much more vivid.
The wild flowers have been switched out, as some favourites have faded until next year, only to be replaced by new favourites!
Yellow trefoils have been replaced by purple vetch and devils bit scabious, the dandelions are making a come back and the heady scent of meadowsweet has faded so that the sweet smell of honeysuckle can have its day.
After what seems like a very long wait (as we arrived in the Orkney Islands in the autumn), the heather is finally in bloom. Both purple heather and bell heather have changed the colour of the hills on Rousay, our island home. The thick masses of it delight us and the bees, who are also busy enjoying the end of summer.
This might all seem like a rather rosie-eyed view of summertime here, but the only fault that I can find with it, is the flies. First horse flies and now the midges. I think that our heavily wooded garden just attracts them all the more. They have driven me mad on occasion, when I am trying to work in the garden or gathering plants to dry for my basketry work. Fly repellant doesn’t seem to deter them at all. I have been grateful for brisk winds that put them off and escaping for walks in more open places and at the coast, where they do not follow.
I think that next summer will call for experimentation with different fly repellants, but with September nearly here, I know that they will soon be gone. They certainly won’t ruin my memories of our first glorious summer in the Orkney Islands!