November 12, 2012 § 8 Comments
WordPress, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Spotify…I seem to be everywhere and nowhere online and all at once and it’s been getting really difficult to keep track and on top of all the updates and connections needed to stay this “social”.
I’d been thinking that the blog here has sort of lost its momentum a bit, since moving back the impetus for the blog’s original purpose, namely researching and finding my roots and routes home to these islands has been lost somewhat. Instead of being a resource for exposing the islands music, art, culture and history to those who might also be interested, it’s in danger of becoming one of those island blogs where your day to day life gets written about and snapped and put out there for all to see…not really what I want or had intended for it. I’m also blogging about Harris tweed stuff over at www.harristweed.org/blog so even keeping this blog busy with tweed stuff would be just plain ol’ repetition.
So what to do?
Well basically I’ve picked a format, namely a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OffTheCroft that will have a nice and simple, short and sweet, feed of goings on from life here on the croft and will be focussing my attention there from now on.
If you’d like to keep track of The Croft going forward then that’s the place to go, simply “like” it if so. If not feel free to keep checking back here to see if anything more heavyweight crops up. You never know…
Either way, thanks as always for reading!
PS You can always reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 3, 2012 § 1 Comment
Yūgen is a Japanese word pertaining to a profound awareness of the universe which evokes feelings that are inexplicably deep and too mysterious for words.
The word itself is like an extension of awareness, the aesthetic perception which allows us to conceive of the vastness of the universe but carries it beyond into an inconceivably mysterious realm. The feeling of Awareness is induced by confrontation to the brevity of life, and yugen is initiated from the awareness that even ‘aware’ itself is an ephemeral thing.
Zeami Motokiyo’s description portrays a medium through which one may experience the unspeakably deep, stirring, feeling of yugen:
“To watch the sun sink behind a flower clad hill. To wander on in a huge forest without thought of return. To stand upon the shore and gaze after a boat that disappears behind distant islands. To contemplate the flight of wild geese seen and lost among the clouds.”
October 23, 2012 § 6 Comments
…Over The Hill
It’s been the most beautiful of days.
From sunrise, a fishing boat blinking past Port of Ness harbour, the sky grew from peaches and pink to ever-changing blues. It was frosty and hundreds of spiderwebs strung between the spikes of the croft reeds shimmered with fat beads of dew.
The air was sharp and cold and the nearest house, down and across the village road, was already puffing out peat-smoke which filled the air with its reassuring reek. As the sun rose so did a mist, settling into the hollows of croft land for miles around and Venus, alone, pinpricked the sky.
The rest of the day was cloudless and still, just sunshine, which burned off the fog and frost, and I worked outside all day just to be in amongst it.
And tonight everything reversed, the sun set in familiar deep colours, those eerie clouds of moisture rose again, the moon appeared.
As I locked the hens in their coop for the night I spotted the cat perched on a fencepost, silhouetted against the darkening sky, just taking it in also.
I’ve had more happy days in recent memory than in years of Glasgow living and for no other reason than nature provides.
I feel privileged to be here.
October 17, 2012 § 1 Comment
This is Eleanor Nicolson, she is 14 years of age and attends the local secondary school, The Nicolson Institute, here on the island.
She also sings songs and plays guitar rather damn nicely.
Here she is playing an original song of hers live.
Maybe they’ll rename the school when she’s rich and famous…
October 13, 2012 § 7 Comments
Last year I organised Glasgow’s first Tweed Ride and such was the demand for another one in 2012 it would have been rude not to oblige.
Being so far from the city meant that this time around I took a back seat / saddle and placed the event in the hands of two Glasgow chaps I knew would make a sterling job of it.
And that they did…
October 12, 2012 § Leave a Comment
A new video from the new album of music by Lewis singer-song writer Iain Morrison.
Homeward is the first release from the forthcoming album ‘To the Horizon, Sir’.
It is available as a free download HERE
Weirdly, I’d penned a very short story a couple of years ago that after watching the video seems to tie up a little…
He rose from his old armchair, in his family croft, sat on the shores of an expanse of sand, perched at the edge of the Atlantic.
Draining his glass, he slipped off his unknotted boots and thick woolen socks and pulled his navy geansaidh over his head. The jumper’s neck rasping at his own, tugging at his ears as it did when he was a young boy.
Stood barefoot outside his door he let his toes curl in the grass and faced the wan yellow sun which was slipping beyond the western horizon. Lazy evening clegs buzzing fore and aft, like four stroke engines far over the hill. As he walked away from his red door, ewes and lambs scattered over the rock strewn headland. He felt the dry heather now roughly caressing his soles and the mosses soaked like bathroom sponges, washed his steps.
Nestled between ridges, hunkered against the prevailings, the empty blackhouses stood. Walking through the mantle-less doorway, nettle beds held their sting as he reached down to pick up a great block of stone that once made up a wall. The roof and beams were long gone leaving him ringed in lichen rock, ragged tattoos of silvers and bronze.
Walking, stooped, across maram grass, whipping lightly in the evening breeze their in-curled leaves bowed at him, sphagnum gave way to machair. Clovers and dogweed kissed his path as his heavy steps led him to the beach where, like stars in the universe, below him they flowed countlessly.
The sands were hidden from everyone but the sea and in the rocks at its edge flotsam and jetsam stored up from voyages unknown lay. A long faded plastic box, marked STO NO AY COOPE ATI E, held a blue rope, plastic and faded and frayed.
Setting the stone down he sat once again and set about coiling the rope into embracing knots. His small fingers spun hitches and cloves from straight lines, unforgotten intricacies bound the block and kneeling now, the gniess tight in its sea-beaten grip, he looped the remaining rope around his neck, crossing it over his chest and tied tight at his back.
Taking the strain he rose to his feet and walked to the waves breaking on the secret shore. Razor clams rose beyond the waterline and the limpets and mussels clung to the nearby rocks opened wide while his footprints led to darker sands and seafoam.
Cold brine raced around his ankles hugging them as he walked on, knee deep now, up to his waist, the sea carried his weight, held him upwards, refused to chill his bones.
The waves of Uig broke across his breast and he strode firmly now, forward into deeper water.
His grey eyes lifted towards Hiort as the sky erupted into golds and burnt ambers. Water face-slaps him one last time, stinging his thoughts away one last time
Dropping his burden, rock that preserved generations, he was pulled down. Remembering, he released everything to the roar of tides and time. Arms raised, feet still grounded in sands, he breathed in.
October 12, 2012 § 1 Comment
I’d mentioned previously that there were six hens and a cockerel now on the croft.
Chickens are pretty much a basic for any crofter or smallholder and so after the wee starter flock of Hebrideans it was a no brainer to get some chooks on the go.
They reside in a hand-built wooden coop, nice and simple design, waterproof roof / lid, 4′ x 3′ x 3′ in size, roosting perch, single nesting box, small door, brass air vent…that’s it. The coop gets a good layer of wood shavings and a bit of straw, all very cosy. They are hemmed in by a 5m x 5m square run of dark green, heavy, nylon netting held up by spiked poles that allow me to move the pen around to let the ground recover from all their scratching and crapping. I’ll probably let them free-range at some point but this will keep them safe until they start laying and encourage them to keep to the coop and nest box when they do start dropping eggs.
I got the critters at 6 weeks of age which made them pretty scrawny, feathers not fully developed, quills poking through as if they’d been plucked alive in parts. Kinda gross really. This was their first venture into the open air and they still needed protection from predators (seagulls, cats, crows…) so I took a roll of small-holed plastic netting and added a a very small porch to the coop so they could hang out and find their feet, so to speak. They get fed growers pellets and whatever else they can peck up from the grass and ground, there’s water of course and I need to sort out some grit and poultry spice at some point I suppose.
I’ve been amazed at how quickly they’ve grown, every morning when they get let out at sunrise they seem to be bigger and better looking. They’re also much bolder, the protective inner pen is wide open now and they run around the main run doing their stuff. If they catch sight of the cat or a large bird flies overhead they bolt back under cover but they’ve been taking on thieving starlings who come near their feeder and generally look like they can handle themselves more. Yesterday the Ram tried to get at the feeder of food and ended up tangled in their netting but somehow doubt they felt able to take him on, but in future who knows?
There is one Rhode Island Red, two Frizzles and the rest are hybrids of RIR, Marans and Barnevelders and hopefully they’ll start to lay in December. Right now they’re just eating and growing and sorting out their pecking orders.
The weather here is cold, windy and wet today, they came out to eat and drink but haven’t ventured very far from their front door at all. I pegged a piece of off-cut tweed across the coop entrance as the prevailing was blowing straight inside so they have a bit of a windbreak at least.
All very exciting huh?
To be honest I thought they’d be pretty uninteresting, just good for eggs and perhaps one for the pot every so often but their behaviour is fascinating and I’ll happily kill a tea-break watching them chase flies or interact with their new environment.
They remind me of little dinosaurs…
There names? Dolina, Murdina, Kenina, Alexina, Katrina, Christina and Tiff Peaches.
October 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Catrin Evans is a 15 year old singer songwriter who lives on Grimsay a small tidal island in the Uists.
Apart from that I don’t know much else except that at 15 she shows a lot of potential, showing shades of Laura Marling, and should be another one to watch from this remote part of the world.
October 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Wee Studio is a recording studio/booking agent/record label based in Stornoway here in the Isle of Lewis.
They have a neat YouTube channel that houses all their goings on including live sessions from local musicians.
Check them out.