Posted by: christinelaennec | April 16, 2015

Burning the heather: falasgair

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:

Narcissi 'Actaea' and 'White Cheerfulness'.  I think the yellow one behind is 'Quail'.  Glasgow, 7 pm, 16 April 2015.

Narcissi ‘Actaea’ and ‘White Cheerfulness’. I think the yellow one behind is ‘Quail’. Glasgow, 7 pm, 16 April 2015.

Carnations growing on in pots, a peony waiting to grow through the support, a cowslip, a fading hellebore, and a pot of narcissi.  7 pm, Glasgow, 16 April 2015.

Carnations growing on in pots, a peony waiting to grow through the support, a cowslip, a fading hellebore, and a pot of narcissi. 7 pm, Glasgow, 16 April 2015.

Tiny and highly scented narcissi 'canaliculatis', next to a cheerful violet that survived the winter.

Tiny and highly scented narcissi ‘canaliculatis’, next to a cheerful violet that survived the winter.

Do you remember this rose bush?

Frost on the roses, late December 2014, Glasgow.

Frost on the roses, late December 2014, Glasgow.

Here it is now, raring to go:

'Boscobel' shrub rose, 16 April 2015.

‘Boscobel’ shrub rose, 16 April 2015.

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:

Burning the heather, near Ullapool, April 2015.

Burning the heather, near Ullapool, April 2015.

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!

Advertisements

Responses

  1. I’m glad to hear you had a good break, I look forward to hearing all about it! In Australia they apparently do a similar thing to encourage new growth in the forests we were told, they are usually very well supervised and as here, only done at a certain time of year, but apparently it is very good for the land! Who knew 🙂 x

  2. While I have never thought to express it this way, I appreciate Katharine’s observation that even when working alone outside she felt companionship with the life around her as it is busy with renewal in Spring. I have felt that, too! My last two posts reflect my involvement with some of the plants and creatures around our ponds…most of which I enjoyed…even with other folk around me.
    You and yours have been especially in my thoughts, Christine, as I wondered how you and Dafter and Michael faired during your trip, and I am glad to hear your preliminary good report! When you have a chance I look forward to receiving more details 🙂 xx

  3. Well I never! That fire was at the end of our road! We saw it too on our walk up to the saddle of beinn dearg. We live just a couple of miles along the lane from there. I think it was muir-burn but as the sheep don’t often graze there we couldn’t understand why. Neighbours said there were men keeping it under control at times, but the general feeling was that it had got a bit out of control! email me when you are next this way and maybe we could meet up for a cup of tea?

  4. So nice to hear you’re home safe and had a good time. Your garden looks beautiful. Speaking of bees, this is the first time one of my succulent plants has bloomed. It’s a magnet for bees; they are all over the tiny flowers. I’m looking forward to read more about your adventures in the Hebrides. And, Lilly sends her greetings to your dear little Tilly!

  5. I’m so glad you had a good break and look forward to hearing more about it.

    Your flower photos always make me want to take up gardening. Alas, I struggle to even keep my cactus alive!

    Trust you have a good weekend. Blessings xo

  6. Your garden photos are lovely. Everything is popping up! I’ve tried staking my peonies to no avail. That support you have looks very sturdy. I’ll have to see if I can find something like that.
    Nice to hear you had a good break and all was well at home while you were gone. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the Isle of Harris. 🙂
    Have a nice weekend! ♥

  7. I am thrilled to hear you had a wonderful break and look forward to hearing all about it.

  8. Thank you everyone! You’re kind to be happy for me having had a good break. I am still sifting through many photos, and trying to decide what to blog about. You will soon be inundated with Isle of Harris posts, never worry!

    marksgran, I recently read about how fire helps certain coniferous cones to release their seeds, and so helps the regenerate the forest. It sounds so counter-intuitive doesn’t it?

    annie, how funny! You live in a beautiful part of the world. Thank you very much for the invitation, I hope to take you up on it someday. And obviously if ever you are in Glasgow, let me know!

    Lilly’s Mom, your bee-blooms must be a joy, especially if the plant hasn’t bloomed before. I think some succulents don’t bloom every single year – so it must be so special when they do grace us with blossom.

    Laura, I would say, just enjoy other people’s gardening efforts!

    Anne, I do really like these plant supports. They aren’t cheap (mail order from Harrod Horticultural) but I use the tops in the winter to keep digging animals out of my pots of bulbs, and then just when the bulbs come up I take them off and not long after that they are put to their proper use with their legs. So they are in use year-round.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: