Wednesday, 29 July 2015

In which I experience vibrant colours and that soaring feeling after chasing the dragon

Don't worry, I'm just high on life.

As well as our dragon hunting escapade on Sunday morning, we also spent the afternoon wildlife watching, but this time over on the west coast of the mainland.

Top to bottom: Bog Asphodel; a young skua; Scottish Primrose.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Boglan before breakfast

As the last vestiges of pinkness fade from the grey clouds and lethargic turbine blades indicate a reduced wind speed, it is very peaceful here at Tense Towers tonight.

This is generally considered to be a good thing.

For the previous few days, there has been very little in the way of peace and quiet hereabouts.

Part of the reason for this has been the Aberdeen Angus bull featured in my last post. When I say 'part', I mean fifty per cent. The other fifty per cent can be attributed to a Shorthorn bull.

Black Angus (as he shall be known), along with a single cow (name unknown, but she has a fierce stare) are inhabiting the paddock below our home. A mixed herd of about a dozen and a half cattle, mainly Shorthorns, has been occupying the large field over the road from the house.

The upshot of all this is that Black Angus is rather taken with the ladies of the Shorthorn herd and is not backward in coming forward in letting everyone know about it. The Shorthorn bull isn't too impressed with this state of affairs and has been keen to make his displeasure known. Volubly.

So at regular intervals during the day, the closest point between the two fields has been Bovine Central, with much posturing, low frequency rumblings and out-and-out bellowing. In the local dialect, this is known as boglan, from the verb to bogle. Tense Towers is effectively at ground zero for these exchanges, which makes for an interesting period between first light and the time when our alarm clock goes off. It's not quite the spectacle of a Red Deer rut, but what the bulls lack in panache, they make up for in decibels.

This evening, it appears that the Shorthorn herd has been moved again. So we're left with the brooding silence of the heavyweight stare that the single cow is bringing to bear upon Black Angus.

Boy, I wouldn't want to be in his shoes.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Landscape, not portrait

It was a schoolboy error, akin to an epic Microsoft Word fail.

Remember this from a few weeks ago?

My attempt at marking out where the raised beds for our veg patch should go?

Aligned with Tense Towers and giving a view from the kitchen window (to distract eyes from the aesthetically-challenged oil tank.

Our Lass was having no truck with it, as it was wrong on just about every level.

So this evening (having allowed the grass to grow under my feet for a few weeks), I tried the re-orientated, aligned with our neighbours' track, landscape version.

And here's a shot from the track, which isn't into the light.

Keen-eyed readers may also notice the bull at the other end of the garden, leaning over the fence (despite two strands of barbed wire!) and munching on our grass, and possibly the willows. Ah, it's always greener, eh?

Sheep rustling?

Things have been a bit quiet on the old blog of late. But thanks to a small, dedicated band of trusty followers (and countless, less welcome, spa**ers), the hit count has trundled through 100,000, which is something of a milestone, I guess. It's definitely not a millstone, although the whole concept does feel rather aged on some level. However, the lack of output has been more to do with mundane matters, rather than any 'end of blog life' - I've had less free time recently, due to extra work commitments and a visit by relatives.

For the past three Fridays, I have been covering the business recycling shift for a colleague, slowly morphing into Captain Cardboard as I visit local businesses to uplift their recyclable waste and transfer it to the Council's processing centre at Chinglebraes.

Chinglebraes - the name conveys something of a green and verdant setting for a children's tv programme, but it's not that sort of 'green'. Less Tellytubbies or Trumpton, more Clangers on acid, as loud metallic crashes mingle with dayglo clothing and flashing warning lights. Plastic, paper, cardboard and tins are bundled up to be shipped south for further processing, whilst glass is crushed and used within the isles as an aggregate for road surfaces (yes, really)  and the large concrete blocks that form the Churchill Barriers.

I normally start the recycling run with a workout as, at the first collection, it's not possible to park the vehicle near the waste container. This results in sprints* back and forth to the van, taking in a change in altitude and, usually, a convenient crosswind. It doesn't take long to reach 'working temperature'! There's usually a bit of contamination to deal with, too. I don't mean in a radioactive or sewage way, but somehow there'll be a single glass bottle in a bag of plastic ones, or a stray drinks can in with the paper. Education about recycling is part of the remit, I reckon, so the struggle goes on.

A few pickups are more difficult than others, perhaps due to limited public parking adjacent to 'high street' businesses or the obstacle course of machinery that is the daily life of an industrial estate. But it is heartening to be welcomed by a cheery face and a helpful hand, such that there is a palpable feeling of business community involvement in the war against waste.

Several of our business customers also contribute loose items of scrap to either our Bruckstore project (for creative play in schools) or to SteptOZe Yard (for reuse or upcycling sales). These are always much appreciated.

On a personal level, Plastic Free July continues with a definite lack of 500ml drinks bottles and sandwich bags (which is good) and one plastic cup cap (which is bad), inadvertently bought for me by a work colleague. That was a bruising brew :o(

* factually inaccurate, as 'sprints' would be a Health and Safety no-no, as well as an exaggerated description of my ambulatory speed.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Single use? Singly useless

During June, I participated in 30 Days Wild, a month long challenge, where the Wildlife Trusts asked folk to make nature part of their lives and carry out a random act of wildlife each day. Some of the daily highlights were featured on Imperfect & Tense, but I mainly posted to the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, as time was often limited.

For the current month, I have signed up to a very different challenge, Plastic Free July, in an attempt to wean myself off single use plastic items. Opting to forgo the Top 4 offenders (coffee cups, carrier bags, drinking straws and water bottles) seemed the best choice for me, as I can't imagine trying to shop in a supermarket and avoiding plastic altogether. Whilst I don't use drinking straws (25% of the way there already!), I do occasionally opt for one of those waxed cups with a throwaway plastic lid, we still have the odd plastic bag lying around and, to my eternal shame, I'm a bit of a 500ml water bottle fiend.

So the way ahead is clear... no more sly coffees on the go, bags for life at all times and no more single use 500ml plastic bottles.

Meet my new best friend...

And... no more sandwich bags in my lunch box, either.

Mind you, I have a colleague who doesn't even have clingfilm or paper towels in her kitchen. That is proper hardcore.

Sunday, 28 June 2015


Yesterday evening, following a day which consisted of mainly warm sunshine, I kept popping outside to monitor the changing skies.

The photos were just taken with my phone, but provide a simple, if rudimentary, anatomy of the sunset. The air was still, Oystercatchers were calling, responding to perceived threats from predators. Occasionally, a gull would glide slowly across the sky, on its way to roost.

At 22.04 (above), Wideford Hill is aglow.

At 22.22, the sun sets in the north west.

Meanwhile, at 22.33, the western horizon has a bit of a pink cameo.

At 23.05, there's still plenty of colour low down on the horizon.

Just after midnight, looking north, one of the neighbouring farms (Little Hurtiso) is silhouetted against a pale sky. 

Friday, 26 June 2015

The deepest cut of all

Yesterday, Thursday, dawned dry and bright.

Patchy blue skies, a light easterly breeze and the promise of a day without rain meant that, if not all, then at least many things were possible. I was very tempted to nip off to a suitable pool or pond to look for damselflies, as the temperature was almost high enough to encourage emergence. OK, it was nowhere near 17 deg C :o(

However, living in Orkney soon makes you realise that decent weather mustn't be wasted upon frivolous dragon hunts, so it seemed the perfect time for a little more mower-cise. I had managed to cut half the garden earlier in the week and, as we're trying to lower the nutrients in the soil to encourage wild flowers over grass, I had also been able to cart all the clippings away to the local composting site.

Happily, things went according to plan. I pushed the lawn mower around, wreaking havoc amongst docks, thistles and nettles, until I ached, then augmented my efforts with a gentle application of the self propulsion lever (oh dear, that sounded a bit ruder than was anticipated!).

Apologies for the wonky horizon, I was suffering from dehydration and exhaustion.

After a tea break to replace fluid loss, I tackled the pile of trimmings, cramming the grass and weeds into recycled fertiliser bags, packing the bags into the car and then transporting the whole lot to the local recycling centre. In due course, the treated green waste is turned into a soil improver, which is available free to householders.

We're contemplating an area of raised beds for growing vegetables, so I decided to mow a suitably-sized patch even shorter, in order to gauge how it might fit in with other possible plans.

This produced further clippings and precipitated another trip to the dump with a car stuffed full of grass.

Meanwhile in the 'flower' border at the front of the house, I was heartened to see the welcome return of some Common Ramping Fumitory, Fumaria muralis.

By way of contrast, this morning is damp, grey and cold. Low cloud and rain are disrupting flights and washing away the memories of a day's pleasant gardening. However, life must go on and a small flock of a dozen Starlings are busy in the severely cut patch, searching successfully for invertebrates to feed their hungry nestlings. And a Brown Hare cantered along the track at the northern side of our garden, presumably in preference to negotiating its way through the wet grass.