Sunday, 22 May 2011
Our potatoes are growing! Against all odds – including barren, sandy soil; the persistent, unstoppable encroachment of dense carpets of unwelcome thistles and other weeds; less than ideal weather; and a distinct lack of any genuine potato farming knowledge – the spuds are sprouting up in our industriously dug furrows: our efforts have not been as futile as we dreaded, and we should have a plentiful source of chips for the autumn after all.
Anyway, besides the triumphant tuberosum, what else has been going on at the Northern Isles’ best bird observatory since the last update?
The small Heligoland trap on the track up to the obs has now been completed, to an admirable level of neatness and precision, and is ready and waiting for the day when the wind finally goes back to the east and we get some birds. Rael and Mark enjoyed building it so much that they have already been out measuring up sites where we can build more traps and working out exactly how much wood we will need.
Paul and I, meanwhile, took on the job of creating a much-needed new footpath to the Gretchen Loch bird hide, which involved building some new stiles and creating a new map to replace the existing one. No longer will visitors be directed through the boggy field margins, through the clamorous gauntlet of agitated nesting Lapwings and Oystercatchers, and along the edge of the loch to reach the hide, only to find that there are no birds to see because they’ve scared them all off in their efforts to get there.
Another job this week was to clear all the bits of bed frame, broken pianos and other items of miscellaneous furniture out of the conservatory. The red Land Rover, with a repaired gearbox (but still with doors that won’t shut), came back on the boat, so we were able to transport everything out to a container or, in some cases, the skip. Meals have been eaten in the bar so far this year, but the more convenient conservatory will be used as the dining room from now on.
The tractor has also been working again this week, allowing Rael to crack on with harrowing the oat field. The various other things that we have planted are also coming on encouragingly well, including our patches of fuchsia, willows and irises.
Manchester United winning the league went down well with North Ronaldsay’s resident MUFC fan base, and Manchester City’s F.A. Cup victory was popular with the island’s outnumbered blues supporter. Fleur made sure she took control of the staff room TV on the Saturday evening, which meant that we all ended up watching The Eurovision Song Contest. I’m not sure it would have been anyone else’s choice of evening entertainment, but it made a welcome change from Big Fat Gypsy Child Beauty Pageant or Poodle Weddings with Katie Price, which is the sort of thing we usually end up having to sit through.
We have quite a busy week coming up, with lots of visitors booked in and a vague possibility of improving weather and better prospects for birding. Not to mention the Champions League final.
I’d better leave it at that for now: those potatoes need weeding. Again.