Hello folks! I am back from a fantastic few days on the Isle of Harris, and once I get myself a bit more straightened out, I will share my lovely holiday with you. Michael and the Dafter were definitely both much less exhausted than when I took this holiday a year ago, which was a good measure of how far she and we have come since this time last year.
For now, let me comment a little bit on Katharine Smith’s essay for April 16th. She wrote: “Working alone, one yet has a sense of companionship, as all life is busy at renewal, bees foraging, birds nesting, trees budding into leaf, early flowers blooming.” (p. 59) It is just the same here this year. I came home after five days’ absence to find that the narcissi I planted last year had almost all come into bloom. And just before I left last week, the most enormous bumblebees were bumbling around the garden. Let me show you how things are looking this evening:
Do you remember this rose bush?
Here it is now, raring to go:
Before I get even more carried away with excitement about the garden, let me share one photo from my recent trip to the Outer Hebrides with you, that relates to one of the things Katharine Stewart touched upon in her essay: burning the heather. She begins by recounting a frightening wildfire on the moor close to her croft: “… for hours they hosed and battered the flames. Such fires can smoulder for days when they get a hold of the underlying peat.” Then she writes, “Muir-burn, or the burning of the heather, inadequately supervised and outwith certain times of the year, is an offence, punishable by law.” (p. 62)
It’s in the spring that landowners burn certain patches of heather, I believe partly to control what is an invasive plant, and also in some areas to give the grouse fewer hiding places come hunting season. On the bus from Inverness to Ullapool, I saw a huge area of heather burning:
The burning heather has a very distinctive smell, one I came to be able to identify even in the city of Aberdeen at this time of year. A Gaelic-speaking friend told me the word for the smell and the practice is “falasgair” (something like FOWL-ash-geth), and that’s the word I think of when I smell the heather fires in the springtime.
The heather fires are planned and very well-supervised. But the danger of wildfires is great, even so early on in the year. In fact, just an hour or so after I took the above photo, I was watching the news while on the ferry to Stornoway, and one of the lead stories was about a massive wildfire further north.
I wish you all a good weekend. I will be back with tales of my travels as soon as I get a bit more organised!