Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Ancient Land

It was so lovely to have my family to stay last weekend. We ate and laughed and explored mine and Chris's new home together: it was a real treat.

I've done lots of exploring the wildlife of Knapdale, but not so much of the cultural history which is amazingly rich and ancient in this part of the world.

After the compulsary visit to the beaver dam visit, we carried on around to the other side of the loch to look at the deserted settlement of Kilmory Oib. Back in the 1700s people living in this ancient hamlet, hidden in the forest, would have worked in the old water powered corn mill.
This is my Dad by the now abandonned mill by the side of the loch.

The people are long gone and the buildings crumbled, but there remains a sign of their faith beside the "Holy Well".

Not satisfied with looking hundreds of years into our past, we then headed for a hill behind our local pub to take a look at some rock art from around 5000 years ago.

The cup and ring marks chipped into this rock by early Scottish settlers using stone hammers are still a puzzle to archaeologists: some think that there may be a spiritual or religious meaning behind the marks, others think of them as pure art and others that it may signify a meeting place or have a link with the making of stone axes.

They are certainly fascinating and beautiful. I like to think that it was some kind of spiritual meeting place. Its high position overlooking the fabulous scenery of Knapdale and to the mountains beyond certainly lends itself well to this purpose. Here you can truely feel at peace with the world... unless your daft family have you in hysterics of course!

My sister, we learned today, has just been awarded a first class MA in Game Design, so look out for the name Katherine Elanor Felicity Holden on the computer game credits of the future!

 I'd better keep this sketch of a beaver that she left on my visitor centre whiteboard; it might be worth a fortune!

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Aim High!

Our little world has changed dramatically over the last week. From the sparkling ice box of the last month to a far more familiar collage of glorious winter colours from russet to grape, slate to khaki and stormy blue to gold.

Chris and I joined our friend Charlie for a little stroll out with our pack of dogs. Charlie and his wife Celia have two lurchers: Rocket and Shanty.

The shaggy coats of these elegant dogs looked wonderfully windswept in the stiff fridgid wind that bit at our noses and fingers as we stomped over the hill top. Very Wuthering Heights.

Charlie took us to a favourite little spot where we could sit comfortably out of the wind while we admired our surroundings. Fox decided that he ought to always be the subject of any photos!

After enjoying a little sit, we headed off again toward home, but our guide first wanted to show us a local landmark... which Chris decided needed closer inverstigation.

There are many standing stones around this area...

And there's a great view from the top of this one! But it was rather too windy to risk standing on the top.

 Growing up with my Dad it was difficult not to have some kind of innate need to climb rocks. Lucily Chris understands this strange urge and shares it too. Before Chris began to suffer from Chronic Cluster Headaches we climbed a lot at the local indoor wall, getting outdoors whenever we got the chance.

We don't climb much at the moment, there are very few places where we can around here, but Chris isn't one to pass up an oportunity. Perhaps we'll manage to go back to my home in the Lake District this year and get some routes in. Fingers crossed that the accupuncture we're investigating helps Chris with the pain of his condition.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


Some of the readers of this blog might be thinking "and about time too!" I've finally started learning to process my own wool and a New Year's Resolution is to start making proper use of my fleeces.

Today, I dragged my friend Diane along to the local Spinning Group to begin learning to turn my lovely fleeces into yarn.

There were plenty of spinners there with a range of experience and some different types of wheel and spindle to try.

We chatted about different types of fleece and had a go with blue faced leicester, alpaca, hebridean and shetland blended with BFL.

I was interested that the general concencous within the group of more experienced spinners was that the staple length of shetland was rather too short and that, although beautiful, required a more experienced hand to use! Food for thought if these are the folk that I would like to buy my rovings in the future.

I took a range of fleeces, with varying staple lengths, along for people to look at.

The great thing is that the group has a wheel and other equipment available for group members to borrow. So I've booked a week of having the wheel at home and can't wait to get practicing. Looking at this rather sorry first attempt; boy do I need the practice!

In a couple of weeks time I have my first felting group meeting so I'll be looking forward to that :o)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Sheepish Improvisation...

It's still icy here. Really icy. It's too icy to walk to the spot where I normally feed the sheep, in fact, after picking and slipping my way up with the feed and using the bale of hay I was carrying like a zimmer frame, I resorted to sliding back down on a feedbag the other day because it is so treacherous... and I can't slide up there!

I've been a bit worried at Rosie and Tolly speed skating down the slope to greet me too! They couldn't stop and crashed into the gate a couple of days ago.

So I've moved the feeding area so that I can stomp across the snowy field instead of up the icy track; but this means that there are no feed racks set up. I found some spare feed bowls that were easy to carry up to them...

And was wondering how to build a new hay rack when I spotted this...

It's a cross country jump!

And the perfect height for filling with hay for Shetlands.

It actually works better than the real hay rack!

Robina says: "It's about time she came up with something useful. It's a tough life being a sheep up here!"

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The more it snows (tiddly pom)!

The UK seems to be locked in an ice box. The councils are running out of grit, breakdown services are getting 4 times the usual number of calls, water pipes are bursting and demand for gas is up 30% due to everyone turning heating up.

So how are we weathering the weather?

For the most part we're great! The sheep are costing me a fair bit extra to feed but they all seem healthy and are keeping condition. We'll be getting some lambs late on though I think as Tolly was chatting Rosie up yesterday! I couldn't move him right now even if I wanted to as the tup field is some distance and at the top of a hill whose track is currently impassable!

We've had a steady flow of guests over the Christmas period from near and very far away! They have all of course been keen to see what the beavers have been up to, and some have even walked on water!

Chris's cousin Karen came to stay with her partner Debbie between Christmas and New Year. I had never met them before and it was lovely to have them here. Karen promises to become a regular visitor to Knapdale and is hoping to get into the forest in order to practice her developing bushcraft skills.

On Saturday our friend and photographer Bill came to spend a day with us. He has a new blog called Rainy Cloud where you can find some of his fabulous photos.

Then, perhaps our biggest surprise as far as visitors go, my friend Helen and her boyfriend Tim landed on the doorstep on Saturday evening. Helen and I were at university together; she was doing her PhD while I was an undergrad, but she now lives in Perth, Australia and I haven't seen her for 8 years! It was so lovely to catch up and we had a great time showing Tim snow and ice (he'd never seen snow before this trip to the UK!) and exploring Knapdale a little.

I'm so pleased that Helen is enjoying her career as a marine biologist and hope that some day in the not too distant future, we'll be able to go out and visit them and see the wildlife that they work with every day. They both seemed suitably impressed with my charges and their activities.

Today it is just Chris and I, with Fox and Whisper for company of course. We're both full of cold and not feeling like running about, much to the dogs' dismay. The ruddy car wont start so I don't know how I'm getting to the sheep! I'll make it however even if I have to walk.