Competition for Jackson

This is the Wee Guy's latest obsession pastime.

 How many of you remember Enid Blyton's Famous Five?

If any of you know anything about these books, you will know that George owned an extremely clever dog named Tim.

Calum's constant repetition of Tim's exploits are putting this guy under pressure...

... because he does know there's a way of getting his treat off his nose and into his mouth... 

it's just that he hasn't figure that way out.

If I look pathetic, will that work?

Or if I sit and stare at it for long enough?

You got it, Jackson! You look down in your pathetic way, and it just falls to the ground, ready to be eaten.

I'm thinking the 'Bonny but Dim' tag may be kinda accurate. He sure wont be competition for George's Tim.


Last Night's Dinner

Last night was going to be DR's last evening with us for a while.

Where's he going to be? 

Well, he's going to be in Canada and in the USA. Without me.

In Canada. Without me.

In the USA. Without me.

There's only a couple of hours until he leaves and I'm still convinced he'll take me with him. (I mean, really.... could he possibly go without his Mum? Er, DR, don't answer that please. Not in that tone anyway, thank you.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. Dinner last night. I gave DR the choice for dinner and he chose:

Chicken Parmigiana. I'd assumed he'd go for steak. I had certainly assumed he'd go for red meat of some description, but I was glad he chose this dish. We hadn't had it for a while, so it made it particularly tasty. Go check it out on PW's site. Delicious.

For pudding he chose White Chocolate Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis. It was a variation on this recipe, which we love:

White Chocolate Cheesecake with Berries

300 g White Chocolate
600 g Cream Cheese
284 ml Double Cream
50 g Castor Sugar

170 g Raspberries
5 tblsp Raspberry Jam
200 g small Strawberries
a few Blueberries (optional)

Line a lightly oiled 900 g loaf tin with cling film.

Melt the chocolate.

Whisk the cheese, cream and sugar together. Stir in the almost cool melted white chocolate until well combined.

Stir 50 g raspberries with 2 tblsp of the jam. Spoon half the cheese mixture into the loaf tin, then spoon the jammy raspberries down the centre. Top with the rest of the cheese mixture. Level the top, then press in the biscuits. Cover and chill for 6 hours or overnight.

Set aside about 6 strawberries. Halve the rest, then warm in a pan with the remaining jam until soft. Whizz in a food processor, then rub through a sieve. Add a drop of water if the sauce is too thick.

To serve, carefully turn the tin onto a plate, lift away and strip off the cling film. Halve the remaining strawberries, then arrange on top of the cake with the remaining  raspberries (and blueberries, if using). Pour a little sauce over, and serve the rest separately for drizzling over.

We didn't do this last night. We made a digestive biscuit base in a round tin and poured the cheesecake mix over it. We chilled it, and made a Raspberry Coulis, and served it like normal cheesecake. 

Tomorrow, I'll let y'all know whether I'm coping with my firstborn's desertion of his mother.


How to Melt Mum's Heart, #378

For some reason, the Wee Guy decided this morning to collect items from each room in the house, put them on the steps of the stair, place a price tag on them, and expect us all to buy our own stuff back.

He thinks this is a perfectly reasonable way of saving for his next Bruder truck.

A short time ago, I was washing dishes at the kitchen sink. 

These wouldn't be pots and pans left from yesterday's dinner, because I would never allow dirty dishes to lie overnight without being washed. Just so y'all know that.

Anyway, I'm standing at the kitchen sink, and the Wee Guy comes and stands beside me, leaning against the worktop.

Big sigh.

"What's up, darling?"

"There's something about having a shop I just hadn't realised."

"What's that?"

"I just hadn't realised the pressure and the disappointment of people walking past the stair without even looking at my stuff."

How to melt Mum's heart in one easy step. 

And how to be in danger of being eaten alive by the aforementioned Mum.

Needless to say, I've now parted with some of my money for items which already belonged to me. They joys of having a Wee Guy who can twist his Mum around his little finger with nothing more than a look and a few words...


Friday's Facts

Fact #1
We stopped to photograph this fine fellow last night whilst crossing the Barvas moor on our way to town.

 Deer are a common site nowadays, but 'when I was young', I never, ever saw a deer.

Fact #2
Stornoway is twinned with Pendleton, South Carolina. Do any of you live close to Pendleton?
 I stopped the car to take this photo. Nothing wrong with that.

The girls were with me. Nothing wrong with that.

But when I stop the car to take a photo of a sign and the girls are with me.... there's plenty wrong with that. Or so I've been told. In no uncertain terms.

Fact #3
We harvested the onions from the tubs yesterday. Now for the drying out..

There are a few Spring Onions in this photo too. I think you may call them green onions on 'the other side'... is that right?

Fact #4
We have some strawberries.
Yes, I know I told y'all that before, but some things are worth repeating.

We have strawberries. 
They're red and everything
And we've eaten two of them. 

Fact #5
I saw this book yesterday in town. I resisted the temptation to buy it, but the subject matter fascinated me.

This is how the book is described on the GoodReads website:

Fans of cowboy history will love this fascinating and well-researched insight into the link between the Scottish droving tradition and American Cowboys. This unique account includes turn-of-the-century photographs depicting life on the plains.

I'm on a strict no-buying-of-books diet, so the book stayed on the shelf, but once I've convinced all relevent parties that my addiction to enjoyment of buying books is under control and is no longer of any danger, I may be able to sneak this one into the house.

I could have called this post Friday's Fun Facts, or Friday's Very Useful Facts, but neither would have been true. As it is, they are snippets of information that may, or may not, interest you. 

Oh, and just in case you were wondering: the strawberries were delicious. Red and juicy and delicious.


Wednesdays Words on Thursday. Again.

Wednesday's Words on Thursday again. I could get used to this!

Here are Patrice's questions for this week:

1. I've heard it said that there are two body types when weight is gained? Some are like an apple with a big gain in the middle and others are like a pear with a larger lower region. What kind of fruit are you? :)
Oh, I haven't a clue. Maybe I'm sweet and cute like a strawberry. Of course, maybe I'm not, but I did have to find some excuse to bring up strawberries! Thank you for giving me the opportunity to mention strawberries because I must show you this....

 and this...

Isn't it exciting? Our first strawberries ever.

Yes, I'm aware this is totally off topic, but I couldn't wait to show y'all.

2. Have you ever joined an exercise studio or gym?
No. I know it would be a waste of money, but I can honestly use the excuse that we're 25 miles from the nearest town, and if I really wanted to exercise, I could go for a walk on the machair, or use the treadmill. Hah! Remember that piece of equipment!

3. What was your favorite vacation ever?
Oh that's easy! In 2008, we headed to the USA and spent almost four weeks in that wonderful country. We flew to Toronto, spent some days in Ontario, then travelled in to the United States. We drove around 3000 miles, and loved every single place we visited and every person we met. I could go on and on about this wonderful holiday, but you can see some of the states we visited here.

4. Is there a famous person you'd like to be like?
Oh, this is difficult. When I read of Corrie ten Boom and her amazing reactions and graciousness in what she went through..... boy, what grace! She is so different to what I find in my own heart, but then, maybe it takes the trials she went through to shine that brightly. We tend to want to shine without the pain of the refining...
I would like to have the cooking talent of Nigella Lawson; the demeanour of Caroline Ingalls; the sense of duty of our Queen; the graciousness in defeat of General Lee; the writing ability of Francine Rivers; the organisational skills of, er, well, anyone really; the faith of George Muller; and the tenacity of Hudson Taylor.

5. What's your favorite way to have coffee? If you don't drink coffee, then tell me about another beverage you like.
I'm not really a coffee drinker. I drink tea, but only with cake or biscuit, or a sandwich - never a cupan falamh. That only makes sense if you have Gaelic: the rest of you may ignore it!



Here are some of the questions I've been asked over the past few weeks. I hope my answers answer the questions...

I've seen a barn....do you have chickens?
Deb W

We don't have a barn ourselves, but Big Brother does.... I suspect that's the barn you've seen in my posts. In answer to the 'do you have chickens'.... the answer is, 'No. Not yet'. I have been promised some chickens soooon, so Watch This Space!

Living so close to the sea, I would expect to see more fish and seafood in your diet. ???
Deb W

Mmmm, you would, wouldn't you? But we don't have a great deal of either, I'm afraid. When you're feeding quite a few mouths, and when most of these mouths have voracious appetites, the truth is that we couldn't afford fish very often. However, I do have a brother-in-law who goes rock fishing at times, and it's been known for him to bring us a whole bag of mackerel. Straight out of the sea....


Are you able to leave up those fences/cages/nets/etc. for next year, or do they all have to come down at the end of the season?
Davene Grace

So far, we've taken them all down at the end of 'harvest time' each year, because our winter gales are likely to cause too much damage to them. I did hear the Builder say this year that he was thinking of leaving some of them in situ, but I'm not sure what kind of reinforcing he had in mind for them. It would certainly lessen the Spring workload were the 'cages' and other windbreaks already in place.

Oh! I thought of another one! Does the Hebridean Revival of 1949 have anything to do with your spiritual heritage? Not that you were around then (!!!) but is that in the background of the church you are in communion with?
Deb W

No, I wasn't around then, thank you! But I know, and have known, quite a number of people who lived through the time of this revival. There were quite a few similar revivals on the island over these decades, but this is the one that has been written about the most. Many of the older Christians I knew when I was first saved had lived through, or had been saved during, local revivals. They were amazing times for these people and in many cases the 'fragrance' of these times lived with them throughout their lives. Many of these Christians has such a warmth and Godliness about them; I had the privilege of being in their company often, and to hear them speaking of deep, deep theological questions with the warmth and passion that can only come from a heart-religion was a blessing indeed.

May I ask what motivates this "column"?
Rachel E

Oooh, this one really made me stop and think! I began this blog just over a year ago, and shortly before I began I'd never even heard of such a thing! A friend of mine (you know who you are!) introduced me to a blog, threw in a comment about starting one up herself, said to  me, 'you go for it too!', and that was that! I began with my Introduction, and loved the fact I could 'talk' to cyberspace. My dear husband loved the fact that I could ramble on without him having to listen to all my ramblings, and so this blog was born. I still ramble; I still feel like I'm talking to cyberspace; and I'm still amazed that folks come and say Hi. I love it when folks come and say Hi!

With four kids and homeschooling, I'd become terribly incompetent at keeping any kind of record of the kids. My photo albums date back to the mid-90s, and it would appear that no more photos were ever taken after that. Maybe this blog gives me something  to look back on. I really don't know if that will be the case. When I'm 'retired', will I look back at old posts and remember with fondness these busy, busy days when I never had time to print a photo and put it in an album? I really don't know. At this stage of my life, I don't get out much, so it's become my social like. No kidding.

There are so few being taught at home in Scotland these days that I wondered if you have any concerns about the children's social lives and interaction with other kids?  

I kind of answered this question in the comments section, but in relation to the last question, I  have to point out that the social life of homeschooling mums is probably a more valid cause for concern than that of the children!

To repeat what I said in answer to your comment at the time, Niseach, the answer is, 'No'. That's the honest truth. I have the evidence in front of me every day (three of our kids are well into their teen years)  that socialisation simply is not an issue, but even before I began homeschooling, or even in the very early days, I have to be honest and say that this was never a concern of mine. I just never thought that having up to 30 children of the same age, doing the same thing, learning in the same way regardless of their own interests and abilities, was the best way of 'socialising' a child. I don't want to go on and on, but....! 

This is such a commonly asked question, and I certainly don't mind you asking it! Maybe it's me that's odd because in many ways I just don't 'get' where the question comes from - most of our kids are very, very sociable - that's just the way they are. Other children are less sociable by nature and that's fine. We are who we are, and it'd be a very boring world if everyone was the same way. 

See, I said I wasn't going to go on and on..... and I did!

I'm not sure if this answers your question. I do honestly believe that the 'normal' school environment isn't the best way of preparing kids and young adults for 'real' life, but then, that's just my opinion!

I'm afraid to ask, what is your average temperature this time of year? And also, when are you coming to the states so we can go on a road trip exploring mountains together??? ;o)
Mrs C

This year's May, and last year's too, has been cooler than our normal May. I do hope this is not a trend, because Global Warming would be more than welcome in these parts.
Here, where we are, the average temperature has been between 10 and 14 degrees Celsius. That's 50-57 Farenheit. If you add the windchill factor (which is present almost all the time!), it's going to feel considerable cooler.

The other day I was over at my sister's house (shhh, she's a townie now, but we don't tell that to many people), and we sat in her back garden. It was like being in a different world to being in my garden.... such as it is! There wasn't a breath of wind, and the sun felt hot. Positively HOT! Dear me, I thought, I could live like this quite easily. But then I realised I'd be in town on my own. I know the kids wouldn't come, and I reckon the Builder is staying where he is too.

Oh, and I couldn't see the sea. Not so sure whether I could live there after all.

Anyway, I think I've gone of the subject .... a bit.

In answer to your second question.... ahhhhh, if dreaming about it would pay for it, we'd be there tomorrow! I do hope we'll be able to go to the US again, and we would love to head West. At the moment, these are just delightful dreams, but I hope they'll become a reality at some stage.

My question for your post is, are you really as isolated there on the Isle of Lewis as it appears on Google Maps? I'm not meaning to say it Is a bad thing, but you folks are a LONG, LONG way from even any place in your own country! How does that make your daily life harder AND easier?
Catie Scarlett 

Well, I'm not sure what it looks like on Google Maps! 

(Off to check)

Well, I guess it looks just like it is! The ferry journey from Stornoway to the Ullapool on the mainland takes around 3 hours, but we can see the mainland hills on any reasonably clear day, so that makes us feel closer, I guess. Having said that, our house looks out onto the Atlantic, so there is nothing but sea in our view. Thousands of miles of sea, and nothing else. For generations, the inhabitants of this island have been used to looking West, and many of our young men sailed the world.

Because this is where I grew up, I knew nothing else, and thought little of it. We take things for granted when we grow up with them, don't we. Now that we're bringing our own family up here, I appreciate the life more. There are definite advantages to being isolated from larger cities, I think. Any disadvantages in terms of being far from shops have disappeared with the coming of the internet. We can shop online and have our good within a couple of days - pretty much like anywhere else.

The ferry makes two or three return trips every day, and there are daily flights off the island to Inverness and Glasgow.

I was wondering if your children speak Gaelic, and if you use the language much on a daily basis? 

Gaelic was my first language, and the first language of the Builder. It's also the language our first three kids grew up with at first, simply because it was the most normal thing in the world for me to speak Gaelic to my babies. Our children understand Gaelic, but speak it less and less. The Builder and I speak both Gaelic and English to each other - mostly Gaelic, but when, for example Big Brother, the Builder and I are sitting around the dinner table, it's always Gaelic we speak.

We all learnt English naturally. We weren't 'taught' it.... we just picked it up.


Shearing, Part II

After a long day in the plot that Saturday, Big Brother had more work on his hands.

He had sheep to shear.

Here, DR is heading them off into the fank on the machair. See Jenny Miracle?

What would they do without my wee fella out on the left flank? 

Laurie was taking all these photos. At this point, I think my body had told me in no uncertain terms that enough was enough. Laurie is made of sterner stuff!

It was such a calm night, and the machair flowers are beginning to bloom.

Despite the temperatures trying to fool us, it must be approaching summer after all.

Is that a bag of crisps the Wee Guy has in his hand? 

Sheep. Crisps. Such high levels of hygeine.

Now, this is where I need to check some facts with BB.

These are the sheep that are going to be 'shown' at the shows this summer. For that reason, he doesn't use the electric clippers he used on the rams in the last shearing post.

He uses the hand shears. The old fashioned way.
Hang on until I ask him another question:  

Why use the hand shears on these, when you used the  electric clippers on the rams the other day?

 "I use the hand shears on the sheep with lambs. You can't shear them too early because it affects their milk production. When they're cold, the energy their bodies get from the food they eat is used to keep their bodies warm, rather than for producing milk. 

The machine goes really close whereas with the hand shears, I can leave more wool on them." 

Well, you learn something new ever day.

And this is the way the Wee Guy felt about it all...

On top of the world.

PS: Over the past week or two, I've had some questions left in the comments. Instead of trying to answer them with other comments, I'm going to put the questions - and the answers - in a post, which I'll post later this week. The questions range from crofty things (on which I'm an expert, of course) to general island life to homeschooling questions to blog questions. If there is anything you'd like to ask, please leave a question in the comments, and I'll try and get through as many as I can. 


Things I'm Liking in the Plot...

I like the look of this...

 This is my first time ever growing strawberries, so this sight is gooooood!

 Now, this doesn't look so good. What has happened here? All you gardeners out there.... give me a clue.

 These are some of the basil plants I planted from seed. This is Lemon Basil.

 Tomato plants are another first for me. Again, taken from seed, so we'll see how they go.

 I do like the look of all these tubs with strawberry plants in the new greenhouse the Builder made me. These plants aren't as far on as the other few at the beginning of this post, but hopefully inside in the warmth, we'll see some fruit appearing at some stage of the summer.

 I like love the look of this! These are onions we planted at the end of last year, left them in the cold frame over the winter and began feeding and watering them as the days began stretching. We have three or four of these tubs, and many of the onions are ready to eat.

For very little effort, this is a real success story.

 Our potatoes are beginning to sprout beautifully. Let's hope for no gales. Even though we have the fencing right around the plot, because we are so exposed here, the wind can still cause terrible damage to our plants.

 I like that we have this netting (now!) on our onions. When the Builder planted them last Saturday, they were open, and the starlings had wonderful fun uplifting dozens and dozens of them. Thankfully, we had this netting in the garage, so now the onions are able to begin sprouting in peace.

I like that some of the brassicas are now showing signs, not only of growth, but of this coming together in the centre. I always think this looks so lovely. This plant is a Romanesco.

So, these are some of the things I'm liking in the plot right now. But before I go, I have to tell you one thing I dislike.... okay, hate! Greenfly. Grrrrr! I found a few on the strawberry plants I have in the little greenhouse (the ones with the actual strawberries in the photos). So far, none of the little rascals have made their way into the bigger greenhouse. If they do, I shall not be the happiest chappy in town.

Today, I'm linking to the Homestead's Barn Hop.
Head on over there for many interesting links to Homesteading.


God's Answer to Suffering

This week on our island, a 34 year old mother of two young girls passed away. Her daughters are two and four.

Many people ask the question, "How, if God is loving, can He allow such things to happen?"

Maybe this sermon, God's Answer to Suffering, will help answer that question.

Meanwhile, we remember these dear girls, now motherless,  and their father, now a widower. My heart aches when I think of situations like these: what they're going through is simply unimaginable, and yet, there is One who is able to comfort. We take the family to Him, and pray that God would sustain them, comfort them, and give them the peace that passes all understanding.


The Wee Guy's Geography Lesson

For the past couple of weeks, the Wee Guy and I have been doing some map work as well as learning some fascinating facts, by living vicariously through OMSH's family holiday.

Okay, their vacation.

Almost every leg of the amazing family holiday they're having has been chronicled on the OMSH blog (or, on PW's site). 

Their trip began in Texas, where they live, and so far, they've travelled through Oklahoma, 



and visited a snowy Yellowstone National Park inWyoming. They crossed into Montana, 

and visited the Grand Canyon in Arizona and New Mexico.

The fact they're in New Mexico tells me they're coming close to the end of their trip. They are almost home.

(In real life, they are actually at home now, but we're working some days behind them)

When we took our (almost) four week holiday to the US two years ago, we visited none of the places the OMSH family have seen, and yet, reading of their trip is bringing back some wonderful memories for me: 

the excitement of visiting places, previously only seen online or in photos; 

the enjoyment of each other's company, with the feeling of freedom that being on holiday brings; 

the joy of meeting friends - some of whom we'd never met before; others we had been missing for some time, and longed to see again;

and the (possibly unexpected) enjoyment of long trip together in the car.

I've loved 'travelling' with the OMSH family, and following an actual trip like this brings map reading to life for the Wee Guy.

Okay, and for his Mum!

As well as the Wee Guy finding individual towns, roads and parks in an Atlas (as seen below), we have also been sticking dots onto a map of the whole of the USA to give some perspective of the journey.

On the individual atlas pages, we place tape giving a rough idea of the roads they travelled. This is Wyoming, on Day 7 of their holiday. They travelled to the Yellowstone National Park and (I think) drove into Montana for a short time. (Did they do this just for the fun of having another state to add to their holiday? I don't know, but I do know that we did this on our trip!)

You can head over to the OMSH site to read more of their trip. Over the next week, we will finish their journey at our kitchen table, and I'll show you their final leg when we're done.

Sunset and Moon Eclipses

 Last night, I took this photo out my Family Room window just as the sun was setting.

On the other side of the house, out my front door, the eclipse of the moon was visible.

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork" Ps 19:1


Shearing, Part I

Big Brother was shearing rams the other day. As always, he needed me around.

There's a story behind the ram at the front, who is clearly not a Blackface. Doesn't he look odd, as opposed to the others, who look, er, odd.

He'd taken them in to the barn, and took them, one by one, for their haircuts.

They don't tend to be the most willing participants.

By the time I came out to the barn began taking photos, he'd almost finished the job.

Really, how he thinks he's going to manage the job without me, I just don't know.

As I said, they're not the most willing of participants.

Arghhhh! These are scary, scary animals.

By the way - any biologists out there? Why do rams get green-eye, rather than red-eye with the camera flash?


Need my help, BB?

No? Oh well, be like that. I wont be offering the next time.

Electric clippers. In Shearing, Part II, you'll see an alternative method.

Hah! Not so smart now, are you?!

Can you spot Mr Wayne? He's right at the back - wouldn't you say he's lost a certain 'something'? And not just his fur.

No, no.... wool. WOOL. I do know it's wool.

This fella needed a bit taken off his horn because it was going too close to his eye.

Ooooh nice..... erm ... sawing action. ;)

 The part of the horn that was sawn off.

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