January makings

I was furloughed for all of January, which I must say was amazing. I was able to focus entirely on things that make me happy. So I knit, I planned this year’s garden, I read, and I went on short excursions up in the hills with a thermos of tea. I’m certain that when I look back at this time that I “had to” spend at home, I’ll think I was so fortunate – which is probably a terrible thought to have in a pandemic. But the incessant focus on career and sitting at a desk or a computer for the vast majority of your waking hours has always bothered me. There is no time allowed for interests or hobbies – things that make me feel right, or like I have accomplished something. I’d much rather we could spend two or three hours at our desk jobs and then get to go out and work with our hands. Maybe the recent rise in interest in home steading and self sufficiency is a result of other people feeling the same way.

We had frost a couple of nights, but we also had a few days of real snow! It was so lovely to see since I haven’t really seen snow for several years.

Most of my knitting time this month was spent on my Wilkhaven sweater. I got a kit from Black Isle Yarns in 2019, which consisted of the pattern as well as some beautiful shades of Shetland yarn – two natural shades and two naturally dyed shades.
After knitting a swatch (yes, I’m trying to be a person who makes swatches) I found that my gauge was tighter than the pattern, so I decided to knit a size up. This was a mistake for two reasons. Firstly, because my gauge was knit flat which for me produces a slightly tighter gauge than I get in the round. I was also only off gauge by a tiny bit, so knitting in the round I will have met gauge easily. Secondly, the kits for each sizes were different and I got the kit for the smallest size.

So I was knitting an oversized version of an already oversized garment, and I then ran out of one of the dyed shades halfway down the first arm. I had a feeling that I would run out, but I was so against ripping back the whole body and starting again that I instead steeked the armhole, after which I could not rip back, and just kept knitting. Luckily for me, Julie of Black Isle Yarns was able to send me more of the indigo yarn which I had run out of and I was able to finish the sleeve. Halfway down the second sleeve, however, I ran out of the white yarn. I also only had 10g left of the gold. Again, Julie came to the rescue and sent me the 46g of white leftover from the cone, and I purchased another skein of the gold. I ended up using about 12g of the white, and actually had 2g of gold leftover without having to break into the new skein!

Even through my yarn and gauge struggle, this sweater has become my all time favourite make. The Shetland yarn is so wonderfully soft (there’s a reason it’s regarded as the British alternative to Merino), and the colours are really striking. I’m actually thinking of getting another kit once Julie dyes a few more up, and gift the one I’ve just finished to my mother.

While waiting for yarn refills I picked up a languishing work in progress. Thinking I had an arm and a half left to knit, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually only had half an arm left! It took me all of an hour or two to finish, and I had a finished project. It is child-sized though, but I really love it. I’m planning on making one for myself next, with natural shades of brown wool. It still needs buttons, and ideally a band to cover the steeks. It’s knit in acrylic, which I don’t buy anymore, but I like to use it from stash for children’s garments as they’re easier to wash and keep.

I also knit a lopapeysa in Álafosslopi which I’ve worn over my fleece when out in the garden, as well as a pair of socks for Liam.

I didn’t read an awful lot in January, as I was too obsessed with my Wilkhaven project to focus on much else. But I did finish the most recent book in a series I started last year – Firebrand in the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain. There’s a collection of short stories set in the same world published as well, and hopefully the next book will come out this autumn. After that I’m sure I’ll have to wait years and years until the series continues, as the author is rather slow in releasing work.

Sewing wise I pieced together the second set of fabric for my quilt. I now have to square them all before putting together into blocks, which is my least favourite thing to do, so the project has stalled a little.

I’m back to working remotely now in February and expecting to be back in the office at the end of the month.

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First finished project of 2021

After finishing my Bear Hug Cowl (and a cabled headband) on the last day of December, I was feeling really inspired and excited to cast something new on. I’ve had a skein of mystery yarn (unknown content) that I got from a rug hooking shop in Cape Breton for a while, and I’ve been wanting to use it for its gorgeous colour, but it was really rustic and scratchy so I was unsure what I would make out of it. Really the most useful thing I could make was socks, so that’s what it turned in to!

I’ve had the skein sitting on my shelf for over a year, since we got home from our Canada trip in October 2019, and I’ve known that I wanted to pair it with a bit of white as I really enjoyed that contrast.
So I cast on a pair of socks, or slipper socks, and using some leftover yarn from Liam’s Eriskay geansaidh (in Uist Wool ‘Geòla’) I made a Latvian braid and a purl ridge for some colour contrast.

The last several pairs of socks I’ve made I have used the Fish Lips Kiss heel pattern, which is really pretty and easy. But I find that those socks don’t fit quite as well as socks with more traditional heels do, so for this pair I made a modified Eye of Partridge heel and it turned out great. I also incorporated some calf shaping for a better fit over the leg.

I didn’t follow a pattern for this sock, except for the heel, but I was inspired by the Lumi sock pattern by Fiber Tales, which features a Latvian braid and a slip stitch motif knit in bulky yarn. As this skein was closer to sport weight I simply made up my own interpretation of the pattern.

This year I’m really looking forward to knitting more with natural 100% wool. I still have a few skeins of hand dyed merino mix yarn in my stash, but I’ve been gravitating much more towards rustic yarns lately. I’ve already cast on for a jumper in Black Isle Yarns Shetland wool, and I’m so pleasantly surprised by how soft the Shetland is. I’d also love to knit more in Àlafoss Lopi and Léttlopi this year!

The Bear Hug cowl/faux polo (free pattern)

If there is one thing winter brings out in knitters it’s the understanding of the warmth and protection of wool. Although I knit all year it’s not until winter that I start to realise the importance and wonder of knitted wool garments. Wool is able to keep us warm and dry while still being breathable – a characteristic that only natural materials possess.

This winter there was one accessory in particular that I felt was missing. I was getting fed up of having to adjust my scarf and the collar of my jacket to close the gap between the two at my neck, so I decided to knit something to deal with this issue. When I was little I always wore a faux polo under my jacket or overalls. It kept my neck shielded from the wind while also providing extra warmth over the back and chest, blocking some of the cold that inevitably seeps in from the zip.

These faux polos have just become popular again this year, with a variety of patterns being released featuring all kinds of techniques and designs – cables, brioche, stranded colourwork, you name it. I decided to make my own pattern up, which I’ve shared as a PDF below, out of some 100% wool chunky weight yarn I got in the sale bin at the local yarn store by my mum in Sweden. I must admit that I love it so much that I wear it both outside and inside under my robe when the house feels a little cold.

Here’s the pattern!

One year and 100 books later

When I was preparing for my trip from South Uist to Sweden over Christmas last year I decided that I wanted to bring a “good book” with me to read on the journey. I hadn’t read much during the year at all, but I had remembered the joys a really good book can bring, and I thought it would be an excellent distraction while spending many hours on a plane, on a bus, or at an airport.

I went to Goodreads to scout something out, knowing that I wanted a story from the fantasy genre, and that the reviews of it would need to be almost exclusively fantastic – to ensure that it really was a “good book” and that I would actually sit and read it as opposed to just carry it around with me unread.

I chose Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer, and it was everything I was looking for. I have a distinct memory of sitting on the small plane going from Benbecula airport to Glasgow early in the morning, turning over the first page of the book.
I finished it a few days later, while staying with my dad. I loved the book so much that I asked if we could go to the one book store in the city that was guaranteed to have the sequel. I read this book, Muse of Nightmares, even quicker.

Opposed to buying new books when I knew I had unread or unfinished books sitting at home in my old bedroom, the next story I picked up was A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas. I had read this several years ago when it first came out, but then not picked up the next installments as they came out the following years. After finishing this book I was on a seriously slippery slope, devouring stories quicker than I thought I was able to read. The second and third book in this series, A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin, were even more enthralling and I read late into the night, still rising early so I could get back to the story. I finished the novella, A Court of Frost and Starlight, just before heading back to South Uist. By then I knew I was not finished with fantasy, not by a long shot.

So I thought I would pick out my absolute favourite reads from this year, out of the 100 books I aimed to read (finishing at 105!), and reflect back on them. Maybe if I see this post a few years in the future I will be reminded to pick them back up, and hopefully experience some of the joy (and angst, heart-palpitations, or tears) that they brought me the first time I read them.

I’ve discovered that there are a few authors that I’m particularly fond of, so I’ll list my favourite reads from this year by author.

  1. Sarah J. Mass’ A Court of Thorns and Roses, Throne of Glass, and Crescent City series – favourite heroines
    I read ACOTAR (A Court of Thorns and Roses) while still in Sweden, as I already had the first and second book. This series brought me so much anxiety riddled excitement, and I actually re-read the whole series again in November – I might have to do yet another re-read before the fourth book comes out in February (the day after my birthday!).
    Once I finished ACOTAR I looked at Sarah’s other publications. I’d read the first Throne of Glass book years ago, but I wasn’t too impressed by it. On her Goodreads page I saw that she was venturing into Adult Fantasy, and as I was so smitten with ACOTAR I pre-ordered the book. As it wouldn’t come out for a few months, I decided to give TOG (Throne of Glass) another try. I ordered the box set, and although the first and second books weren’t on par with ACOTAR (though the first book there doesn’t compare to the second or third either), once I got to the third book I was again reading several hundred pages a day. It took me a while longer to get through Tower of Dawn, the sixth and second-to-last book in the series, as it’s from the perspective of a character I don’t like, and it takes place at the same time as the previous book. But I got through it and then read the very last book, Kingdom of Ash, in two days. I both cried and laughed while reading it, and I’m so looking forward to rereading the series to catch all the little things I missed or forgot.
    House of Earth and Blood, Sarah’s Adult Fantasy debut (although her previous books have enough explicit scenes to count more as New Adult than Young Adult), was truly intimidating when it arrived. But this 800-page hardback book did not disappoint. In fact, I’ve read it twice already, and I’ll probably read it again just before the second book comes out next year.
  2. Laini Taylor’s Strange the Dreamer and Daughter of Smoke and Bonefavourite soft and fluffy
    I’ve already spoken about the Strange the Dreamer duology so I won’t linger on that, and write a bit about a different series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, instead. I picked this trilogy up because I really enjoyed Laini Taylor’s writing. She excels at incorporating forbidden romance/enemies to lovers into fantasy – there is no need to have a romantic element in a story if it is not done extremely well. Daughter of Smoke and Bone is no exception, and it gives you a heartache while simultaneously sighing contently. These stories are definitely YA, but if they had incorporated elements that fit them better into NA or Adult I think they would be even better.

  3. Kristen Britain’s Green Rider series – favourite good vs. evil
    Before the pandemic reached Scotland, me and Liam were in Edinburgh for a weekend. While Liam was occupied elsewhere I went in to a number of bookshops, most notably the Waterstones on Prince’s Street. I had a list with me of books I wanted to read, and since we don’t have any book shops in Uist I wanted to be able to browse (and feel and smell) before picking up my next read.
    By this point I had tired a little of romance plots (I had caught up on some YA fantasy where I wasn’t convinced by the romantic storylines and wanted a book where I would not be annoyed by it), so I specifically had books in mind where at least the first installment did not have a romantic element. I chose Kristen Britains Green Rider, because reviews said there was the barest of hint of romance at the very end, and also because it heavily featured horses. I think that’s one of the things that drew me to fantasy specifically – there is so much magic inherently involved in horses.
    This book reminded me a lot, plot-wise, of The Hobbit but with the majority of the characters being female. I always, always, appreciate representation of strong and independent female characters.
    Since finishing this book I’ve read five of the six books currently published, and even though I do regard the series highly, the incorporation of to me an unbelievable romance sub-plot has been detrimental. Writing romance is unfortunately not a strength of Kristen’s and if there was no romantic sub-plot these books would be so much better. But the fight between good and evil is fantastic in this series, and I have heard that the seventh book is coming out next year.
  4. Jennifer L. Armentrout’s From Blood and Ash series – favourite romance
    After hearing people gush about the two books out in this series on Instagram, I decided to download the ebook of the first installment, From Blood and Ash. I was a few chapters in when I decided that I was going to need a physical copy of the two published books, ASAP. Once they arrived I read the rest of the first book in two days, and the second but longer book, A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire, during my day off, staying up just past midnight to finish it. I was left speechless by both these two books, a feeling I hadn’t experienced since reading Sarah J. Maas. These books fulfilled my every need for strong female characters, slow-burn forbidden romance, and interesting story line. In fact, as soon as finishing the second book I went straight back to re-reading both of them. This did leave me in a bit of a book hangover – a sure sign of a great read! I’ve since managed to re-re-read the first book again, and I’m looking at picking the second up again soon.
  5. Ruby Dixon’s Aspect and Anchor series – favourite world building
    For a while I had thing for reading specifically fantasy romance, where the romance was front and center as opposed to sideline. I downloaded a few ebooks, most notably two series by Laura Thalassa (The Four Horsemen and The Bargainer), and read most of them in one or two sittings. I came across the Aspect and Anchor series while looking for my next read, and the promise of a portal fantasy featuring a slow-burn romance together with one of my favourite tropes, gods interacting with mortals, made me dive right in to the first book. I read through both books, each over 600 pages, as quickly as I could. These books delivered not just on the steamy romance, but also in the world building. It is clear that a lot of thought went in to both the stories and the world, and I was amazed at how perfectly things made sense and then how shocking every twist and turn was. There are only two bad things about this series. First, the covers are terrible and cliché. Second, there is no promise of when the next book will be out, only vague hopes that it will be spring 2021.

Looking back at everything I’ve read this past year, I’ve discovered a few things that all my favourite books have in common:

  • Written by women, about women
  • A female lead finding strength, courage, and undiscovered power
  • Gods interacting with or favouring mortals, or characters with god-like powers

I’m so excited for what next year will bring. I’ve already got at least four anticipated releases, and I’m hoping I’ll find just as many all-consuming, heart wrenching, anxiety inducing stories next year as I did this year.

An autumn update

The last of the asters (or Michaealmas daisies) have bloomed leaving the garden more green and yellow than purple. I’ve still got my favourite kalettes growing, however, and they together with the purple sprouting broccoli provide another source of colour in the garden.

I’ve been able to sit outside some, still, but with several blankets to keep me warm. Ideally I also bring a cup of tea to keep my hands warm while sitting outside reading.
A month or so ago I finished Nordic Tales, a beautifully illustrated collection of folk tales from Nordic countries. The stories themselves could have done with some editing (especially since folk tales are made to be read aloud!), but the illustrations were so wonderful I didn’t mind too much.

We’ve had a select few days where we’ve both been off work and the weather has allowed for a trip out in the sailboat. The last time we went out the wind was a bit too rough, and we ran out of fuel motoring in, and also managed to cut the rope to our tender. Needless to say this stressed me out some, but we’ve been out once since (in the photo above) and it was calm and wonderful – with no mishaps!

It’s also cool enough outside to require wearing knits everyday, which is so fantastic. I don’t have anything new for my own wardrobe, but Liam has his new lopapeysa, and I’m working on a vest for myself which I’ll make a post about when it’s finished. I’ve been using my lopi stash which consisted of half-used balls in a variety of colours to knit up three little lopapeysur in child sizes. I’m itching to order enough wool for one for myself, but I’m not yet willing to part with the money for it. I was thinking about selling the three little jumpers since I don’t have a child to put them on, but I’m also too attached and I can’t part with them just yet!

For a while I had very limited creative inspiration and most of my free time was spent reading. I’ve read around 85 books this year, which is more than I’ve ever read in a year before! I read quite a few over lockdown, but I’ve had a steady stream since the beginning of the year.

Once I felt some inspiration again I found free dressmaking patterns online through an American website that sells linen, based in LA. They have so many beautiful patterns, and almost all are free to download and print out. The dress above is their Noor pattern. I reduced the length of the skirt to be more flattering to my stature, and when I make it again I’ll probably take in a little bit of the skirt width as well as it is very gathered. I made mine out of an old 100% cotton curtain, and with the blue floral print in combination with the gathered skirt I feel like it’s almost an interpretation of some historical dress. The addition of pockets (a necessity when sewing for youself!) only makes this more true.I’d love to get some navy linen to make this dress up in, but for now I’m so pleased with it in reclaimed materials.
I also made a ‘peasant blouse’ out of a bed sheet and I’m super pleased with it too. I’m thinking about making one up for my mum and my sister for Christmas.

The brassicas are thriving in the garden. We’ve just started harvesting our first purple sprouting broccoli which we had with dinner yesterday. The brussel sprouts and kalettes are coming along wonderfully, and our three cabbages are trying their best too. We’ve been harvesting carrots (and beets) regularly. It’s truly magical being able to go into the garden to collect food for dinner, even if it includes getting a bit muddy in the process. Next year I’m hoping to grow more staples – I’m thinking of adding onions, parsnips, and celery to the mix. These are items that we often get from the shop, but that we could totally grow at home (not too confident in the celery but we’ll try!).

Lots of tea, chai, and hot chocolates have been drunk in the last few weeks. Liam has developed a taste for my loose leaf tea I get in Sweden, so we’ve been sharing cups regularly. I should have just enough to last us until going home for Christmas! It’s been a good clear out of my tea cupboard (I feel so fortunate to have a whole tea cupboard!), but I still have an abundance of French Earl Grey in particular. I find this blend a bit too strong, and as it works best with sugar and lemon as opposed to my preferred honey and cream I don’t often gravitate towards it. I might give it as gifts instead to ensure that it gets used.

We had a wonderful dinner for Canadian Thanksgiving/Indigenous Peoples Day. We used our own potatoes, carrots, and beets. I cooked the chicken on a bed of leeks, butter, and white wine, and we also had cabbage cooked with a grated apple which turned out great. And of course, a pumpkin pie! I’m a bit amazed that I was able to put it all together after coming home from work! A roast chicken and vegetable dinner is on my top five favourite foods, right up there with meatballs with lingonberry jam, and a nice homemade pasta.
The tiny cobs of corn were also from the garden, the greenhouse specifically. I grew this Native American/Glass Gem corn mostly to use as decoration, and it really is beautiful albeit tiny.

I’m feeling great now that I can wear all my knitwear again, and that it’s the season of harvest and of staying in with a nice book. It suits me just perfectly! I’ll do a wrap up of everything I’ve read later this year or early next, as well as my goals for next years garden and for making and crafting.

Camping on a misty island

The forecast for this weekend promised sun, and so we decided to bring the tent and our sleeping bags to Vallay, an island off North Uist only accessible at low tide. South Uist offered brilliant sunshine, but once we passed into Benbecula the mist was heavy. North Uist was the same, but the mist wasn’t too cold so we decided to go ahead with the trip.

On the island is a great house, now in ruin, built in 1902. The only current inhabitants are the highland cattle that graze around it, but after peeking in through the windows you can imagine how grand the house must have been.

We made camp on another small island off Vallay, where the ruin of an old chapel is – this one much older than the houses and walled gardens we walked through. I had brought my wetsuit which I got second hand recently, and I was eager to use it for the first time. Unfortunately the beaches were a steep drop off, and the waves and currents were too difficult and dangerous to go into. I’ll try out the wetsuit at a more known beach instead.

Although the day and evening were misty, the night was clear. Shortly after the sun had set we walked up a small hill and witnessed a crescent moon low in the horizon, it looked like sailboat on the ocean. The moon then set too, and the stars became brighter. As we sat by the fire we could see Mars through the smoke, and Venus over our shoulder.

We were lulled to sleep by the waves, and I would have slept very well if only I had a pillow!
The following morning I read for an hour and a half while Liam snoozed. We then packed out bags and walked out to the big house. There we dropped our bags to explore. Liam went across the island while I peeked at the ruined houses before sitting on the shore with my book, watching the tide slowly go out.

Once the tide was far enough out we walked across to get back to the car. The one thing I wish I had brought with me on this quick trip was a thermos of tea, so once we got home I made up a pot and enjoyed three full cups. Next time I’ll be sure to bring it!

The first days of Autumn

We seem to have caught the very last day of summer when we got back from our trip to the Borders. The weather is now fully autumnal – the wind has picked up, the temperature has dropped, and the rain has returned.

The garden tasks have turned from weeding and watering to harvesting and tidying up. We’ve pulled seaweed from the shore that we’ll use to fertilise the beds once they’re empty. When using seaweed it’s important to let it rot down for a few months before using it, as the rain needs to rinse salt out to avoid scorching the earth. Wherever your pile has been rotting down it will kill whatever is underneath, so it’s a pretty good way of opening up new beds, but you’ll still get some of the hardier weeds come through (dock, horse tail, brambles, sometimes even ground elder).

With less time spent outside, partly because of the weather and partly because I’ve gone back to work, I’ve started spending more time on indoor hobbies. My knitting mojo has been a bit off over the summer months, but I’m slowly picking it back up. I got some bulky yarn that someone was destashing on Instagram and made up a super fluffy children’s jumper out of it. The yarn is of synthetic blends, with a low wool percentage, and unfortunately it sheds plastic. I have been trying to be more open towards synthetic yarns for children’s clothes, but I honestly don’t think it’s worth the microplastic just to have the garment last longer. So from now on I won’t be purchasing yarns with majority synthetic composition for children’s garments, but aim for high wool content instead.

Liam’s lopapeysa also got some attention the last few weeks. I got the kit for it years ago when we visited Iceland, at the Alafoss wool centre. Last year I decided to pick it up and cast it on, and I finished it just in time for going to Canada in October. Unfortunately I managed to space the sleeves unevenly, where the back had more stitches than the front. It wasn’t too evident and you didn’t feel it too much when wearing the jumper, but it bugged me to no end, so when we got back from Canada I ripped the yoke and reattached the sleeves. It then just sat around for months and months (10 to be exact) before I decided to reknit the yoke. I find it hard knitting men sized garments (including socks even), because the rounds are so incredibly long! But I powered through, having to bring the hoover out several times to clean up all the fluffy wool bits from the lopi yarn, and it’s finally finished, again! I think he’s very pleased with it, he’s been asking for it since we got the yarn kit, if not even before. He’s now got both an Icelandic lopapeysa and an Eriskay geansaidh – I wonder what he’ll ask for next. I do have an idea to make him a Norwegian lusekofte, so if I find the perfect yarn that might be the next project destined for him.
I think if (or when) I make another lopapeysa I’ll include some white ponies, just like the Eriskay ponies in the photos below. Me and Liam are part of The Eriskay Pony Society – Comann Each nan Eilean, whose ponies are seen below grazing on the hill. They’re an incredibly rare breed of native UK ponies, and we’re hoping that once we have our own croft we can have a couple of ponies grazing it.

I’ve also been sewing more, making mostly cushion covers in wool and tweed fabrics. I might gift some of them over Christmas, but until then they’ll do well on the bed and sofa. They’re all in natural shades; browns, beige, orange – with the occasional accent of pink. Essentially the colours of the seaweed and my precious pink wheel barrow in the photo above!

I still have dreams and wishes of making a big quilt for the bed one autumn/winter, but I’m not sure if it will be this year. I want to make a traditional pattern, either a log cabin or something with carpenter stars. I haven’t decided completely on a colour palette, but most likely it’ll be in dark muted colours of brown and green with hints of red. One of my favourite sources of inspiration has been the Netflix adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, which features several beautiful traditional quilts.

I’ll finish this post with a photo from last week when we had a waffle breakfast. We finally have maple syrup at home, which we stocked up on when on the mainland, and I also got some blueberry jam which we are both loving.

Border roadtrip

We had plans to go to the Borders for our yearly take-the-car-to-the-mainland trip over Easter, but with lockdown we had to cancel that trip. We still had hopes that we’d be able to go to the US for a wedding at the end of August, but as time passed we realised that that would also not be possible.
However, travel restrictions were relaxing nationally so we decided to drive down to the Borders and take our planned but very delayed Easter trip.

We took the early morning ferry to Mallaig and drove down to Edinburgh through Aberfeldy. It was strange wearing a face mask on the ferry, and it gets quite hot at times, but otherwise it was a nice crossing.
We had a lovely lunch in Aberfeldy, then drove further south to park the car before catching the train to Edinburgh.

In Edinburgh we stayed with friends for two nights, doing some shopping and playing Settlers of Catan in the evening. After those two nights we took the car down with our two friends to stay for another two nights in Hawick in the Borders. From our base there we drove in to England to see Lindisfarne (which was packed with people and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I had hoped), through Bamburgh, and on to Alnwick. Many of these northern English towns are old and quaint, but a lot of them also have high numbers of tourists (us included) which I didn’t expect as much. In Alnwick we walked around the castle before visiting Barter Books, a large secondhand book shop based in the old railway station. Unfortunately I didn’t find any books, which I think was partly due to there being quite a lot of people there and partly due to their sorting method. There were three small sci-fi sections, but no fantasy or young adult, and I kept seeing popular series like Game of Thrones just randomly dotted on shelves.

The next day we walked up Eildon hill, which is only 422 meters but it’s so steep! It took me quite some time to get up it as I had sore legs from the previous day. Luckily we found plenty of wild blueberries (bilberries/blaeberries) to keep us fuelled.
After this walk we dropped our friends off to take the train back to Edinburgh while we continued driving to find a camp spot for the night. Wild camping laws are different in England to what they are in Scotland, but we had been advised that as long as we didn’t camp right by the car/were hidden a bit, and only stayed one night we would be alright. We did get woken up by a farmer at 6:30am but he saw that we were tidy and would leave no trace so didn’t ask us to move on.

We drove along Hadrian’s wall the following day, starting with a short walk up a hill fort. We were right to do this so early as it seemed every historic location attracted a lot of tourists as the day went on. We tried to book in for a slot to go in to a museum but they were all booked up. I can’t imagine what this area is like during the height of tourist season when there’s no pandemic.

We then drove to Hexham, another English border town, where we had breakfast, visited the Abbey (much less packed!), got me a new sleeping bag, and visited some second hand shops. I found a book called The Voyage of The Arctic Tern which we read a little of in the evenings. After this we drove up to Scotland again, visited Hermitage Castle and started looking for a camp spot. Even with all castle/heritage sites in both England and Scotland closed, the ones on the Scottish side of the border are far quieter and I felt much more relaxed and at home.

That night we camped just off of an old logging road. This was a much more relaxing experience, partly because we were allowed a small fire (plenty of wood available too), and because we weren’t wary that we’d be woken up by a farmer or landowner. I’d also got my new three season sleeping bag, a clear upgrade from the one I got online which must only be 1-2 seasons.

The following day we drove north to the lowlands and then onto the highlands. We wanted to cross a number of items off of our to-do list, including getting a petrol strimmer (can’t get these online as only electrical ones will ship to the island), go to a few supermarkets for bulk items and other food things we can’t normally get, as well as fit in a visit to IKEA. At first we weren’t sure if we’d even go in to IKEA as when we drove past in the pouring rain blown sideways by the wind there was a long queue outside. But we went to get Liam a new phone and did a new drive by and decided that the queue was moving fast enough. I’m so glad we went inside, as I got a number of house items as well as my precious lingonberry jam!

After this we drove further north as we wanted to stay in the Fort William are to be close to the ferry the next morning. We stayed in a wonderful bothy along a logging road, which made the trek out there easier (even if we were very tired). We were welcomed by a shrew upon entry, which quickly got relocated and Liam later saw it happily walking away from the bothy with a beetle. There was also a stream by the bothy were we could wash up a little. We’d also found fresh corn in Aldi and had that for dinner, after which we read a little more out of the book I’d found in Hexham. We were awoken by a mouse in the night, but managed to catch it and then had a good sleep before releasing the mouse in the morning. We had a double air mattress throughout camping, and it’s incredible what a difference it makes to sleeping on a thin mat. Next time we stay in Usinish bothy here on Uist we’ll take it with us on the boat.

Time flew by on this trip, and I wish I had had more time to forage. I really enjoyed finding those blueberries, but if I had it my way we would’ve spent a whole day gathering berries, mushrooms, and flowers. Maybe next year we’ll take our Easter holiday in August again just so we can enjoy the bounty available.

Here on Uist it seems we just caught the last afternoon of summer. The last two days have been grey and windy with a bit of rain and it truly feels like autumn. But the wind is still warm so I’ve been out gardening and harvesting a variety of herbs to dry for teas and salves.

The garden in June

The garden is bursting with growth at the moment. We’ve had the full weather spectrum this month with warm sunny days, cool rain, and the odd 40-50mph winds.

We’re still learning what grows best here, and as a result of that the layout of the garden has changed somewhat to how I planned it out at the beginning of the year. Unsurprisingly, the best crop are root vegetables and brassicas. More sensitive crops like beans and tomatoes are much more difficult, and I’ve had little to no success with either this year. I also thought I had completely messed up the peas as hardly any came up, but I ended up germinating some more under a wet paper towel on the kitchen windowsill and now we’ve got plenty of peas.

One of the greatest successes this year has been the basil. Last year we got a decent crop growing it inside, and this year it’s thriving in the cold frame Liam built from two old red cedar doors. We’ve got regular Sweet Genovese, as well as Thai and a purple variety. We also grew some potted fennel in there, but the humidity was too high so we’ve put them in the green house instead. I’ve prepared a few fish boxes for them, and we’ll plant a few out to see whether they’ll survive the wind.

I’ve also expanded the garden’s stock of pink flowers. The rosa rugosa hedge is in full bloom and spreads a lovely scent, but I’ve also got fuchsia, bleeding heart (safely tucked by the door as it doesn’t like the wind but is happy enough in shade), and I’m still waiting for the lupins, stargazer lilies, sweet peas, poppies, dahlia, and cosmos I planted to bloom – all in shades of pink. I’m not sure why I’m enthralled by pink flowers, but they make me so happy.

For now, I’ve spied the first pea and strawberry, the potatoes are starting to bloom, and the beets and carrots are swelling in the ground. In the greenhouse the glass gem corn are growing well, too.

A Hebridean vest and a hike

The cows have returned to the pasture surrounding the house, and I’ve managed to use up most of my leftover hebridean wool for a patterned vest.

At the front are one of my favourite Eriskay patterns, called heart in the home. The back is made up of four patterns atop each other, bordered by a double wave on either side. I started with an anchor at the bottom (because where else would an anchor go?), followed by a starfish, the tree of life, and a star/snowflake at the very top. I like putting this star over the tree of life as it looks a bit like a Christmas tree that way.

In the over exposed photo of the back you can see the difference in yarn (just under the armhole) – the bottom is from The Hebridean Smokehouse, from which I knit Liam kilt hose a few years ago. The top darker section is Uist Wool leftover from my Vintersol jumper. The difference is not at all noticeable in real life. The vest is actually lying on a Hebridean fleece I got for the bed from Skye Skyns!

It’s been great to have in the cooler evenings, and I even took it out on a hike yesterday. Me and Liam hiked up from Snishival to Loch Àirigh Nighean Amhlaigh. I thought we’d be out for most of the morning, but we didn’t get back to the car until 6pm. Liam was fly-fishing from the shore while I knit, then we had a little peat and heather fire and ate some chicken soup. It was a difficult walk up there, but so lovely once we reached the loch and got to dip our feet in. On the way there and back we saw owls, deer, otters, and plenty of wrens. I’m now sunburnt and will spend today inside!

Just before we hit the main road on the way back four young bulls came running over. They must’ve thought we had some food for them!