How it has changed – Clachtoll Broch

Back in the summer, in July, work began on Clachtoll Broch.  The plan was to stabilise the broch as much as possible and clear the rubble that had been created during what was considered to be a catastrophic event not long after the broch was built and which had resulted in the inward collapse of some of the stone walls.  The work was carried out by AOC Archaeology, and they had a mere 3 months to complete their investigations.  We visited the broch often during the 3 months, and at the start of the work you can see that the archaeologists are standing on top of the rubble in the centre of the broch:

 

At times it must have felt like this was more a rock moving exercise rather than an archaeological dig.  Much of the day was spent in a human chain simply moving rubble.

Working so close to the sea has its ups and downs, but their enthusiasm for the project never wavered, and all those working on the site were always happy to have us visit to see how the work was progressing, and happy to spend time explaining the developments and items they had found.  Soon you could see changes in the look of the broch – the side walls began to appear and the “floor” began to move downards.:

 

 

An important part of the project was public engagement, and part of that engagement included “Finds” workshops where anything found in the broch was studied and cataloged.  This was the aspect I was most intrigued by.  Of course the actual broch construction was interesting, but I was fascinated by the idea that any objects found in the broch had not been seen or touched by anyone for thousands of years.   Fortunately the archaeologists always thought that the catastrophe that occurred was most likely a fire, and the feeling was that it was unlikely that they would find human remains in the broch.   They also thought that the collapse happened not too long after the broch was built, so they were uncertain as to how much they would find buried.  As it transpired, they found quite a lot.  And items of such delicacy, it was amazing they’d survived the weight of the rubble bearing down on them all those centuries.

The standard narrative is often that of  “the iron age was a time of savages”, but the finds defy this thinking.

A beautiful copper pin, carefully created to hold a shawl in place perhaps?  The copper shows that trade was happening with people outwith the immediate area as there is no copper here, perhaps even from as far away as Wales:

A decorative comb made out of antler or whale bone – it has yet to be examined in detail.   Someone made the suggestion that instead of a hair comb this may be a comb used for weaving?  You can see a hole in it, perhaps used to hang it up in a safe place.:

There was some pottery found, some of which was decorated and some of which was plain, which would indicate influence from both the western isles, where typically pottery of this period was decorated, and from the east coast where typically pottery was very plain.   Here is a small container:

This is thought to have perhaps been a lamp of some kind:

I was interested by the number of spindle whorls found inside the broch.  It is hard to imagine why so many would have been needed.  They were in a range of sizes, and I thought a few were very small to be spindle whorls.  One of the items that has been left in situ is this beautifully coloured stone vessel, perhaps used for grinding?  What struck me about this vessel is that it is a completely different stone to the walls.  Less porous perhaps?  My glove is there to give you an idea of scale:

After 3 months of visiting the broch once a week or so and watching the incredible work being done by the archaeologists and volunteers, it was over!  The safety fencing was packed away.  The sheds were deconstructed and taken off site, and all the workers disappeared.  But what they have left the community is an astonishing feature showing detail of the building that has not been seen in centuries.  Here’s a short video I took yesterday showing how the broch looks now.  Stevan is just over 6ft tall, so you can see the sheer scale of the work involved in removing the amount of rubble they did to expose that wall behind him which is now more than double his height.  You can also see a beautiful staircase which was exposed.  My apologies for the poor quality – it was just filmed on my little point and shoot camera:

If you’re ever in Assynt I urge you to visit the broch.  Besides the interest of the building itself, the situation of the broch is stunning.  One does wonder why they built it so close to the sea, but of course the coastline could have been different at the time it was built.

Scourie – When a Plan Comes Together

Photograph courtesy of Woollywormhead

When I knew that Woolly Wormhead had been asked to teach a few classes at Loch Ness Knit Fest in October I was so pleased.  I have long been a huge fan of Woolly’s designs.  We had a little chat and decided that a collaboration for the event would be a most excellent plan.  We talked about colours, hat styles and yarn bases and eventually settled on the Sport Weight Merino in my range.  As many of you know, this is one of my favourite yarns.  It is soft, and has a beautiful bounce and springy-ness to it.  I thought a colour that always proved popular with my customers would be a good idea, but I wanted it to develop a little, and so The Dark Sea Storm was born.  This is a darker version of Stormy Seas, a colour that came about as a fundraiser for the RNLI.   Because of the method used in dyeing this shade, each and every hank will be slightly different – some will have more turquoise showing through and some will have a more even dark blue effect, but whichever one you choose it will look fabulous with the Burnished Gold colour that Woollywormhead chose as the contrast for her sample of the pattern.

“Why the name Scourie?” I hear you ask.  Well, Scourie is a little village to the north of Clachtoll where I am based, and a while back while driving through Scourie, Stevan and I stopped off for a little wander around.  And I came across a beautiful graveyard wall covered in lichen.  Many of you will know my love of photographing lichen, and this was one of the photographs that I took on one of the gravestones.

 

As soon as I posted this photograph on Twitter, Woolly said “I think I have the name for the hat!”  And so the name Scourie was settled upon.

Woolly Wormhead has written a blog post about Scourie, and as she has explained this pattern will be an exclusive release for Loch Ness Knit Fest for the duration of the festival.  I will have a variety of colour combinations made up into kits for the event, and also a couple of knitted versions of the hat with different colours on display, but here are a few ideas to get your colour juices flowing:

A Cerise which Demands Attention and Assynt Peat:

Shepherd’s Delight and Moonshine:

or you may prefer the colours I’m using,

Turquoise Delight and Wild Violets:

The construction of the hat is similar to the patterns in Woolly Wormhead’s Elemental collection, so if you enjoyed knitting any of those you’ll love this pattern.  Ideally you’ll have a contrasting colour that will really “pop” and show off the fabulous design.

Loch Ness Knit Fest 2017 is only a couple of weeks away now, and I believe there are still a few valuable places left on Woolly’s classes, so if you want attend a masterclass on Knitting in the Round, or learn more about The Art of the Knitted Circle, then book your place soon.  I will have kits made up on the stand in various colour combinations which will include the printed pattern, or you will be able to buy the yarn and pattern separately, selecting your own colours.  Scourie will be released as a digital pattern later on in the year, so if you want to be alerted to when this happens make sure you sign up for Woolly Wormhead’s newsletter.  Once Loch Ness Knit Fest is over I will have any remaining kits up on the website for everyone who wasn’t able to make it to LNKF to buy.  But it will be lovely to see you in Inverness if you happen to be able to come.

 

 

 

 

What Show Preparation Looks Like

When one goes to a yarn show it is always wonderful to see how lovely and colourful the stands look.  I think this is especially so when stallholders have to make the best of an agricultural building such as we do when we go to the likes of Yarndale and Woolfest.  I know you won’t be surprised to know that besides all the dyeing that happens well in advance of an event,  a lot of thought and preparation goes into getting the stand look attractive and appealing.

Today I was packing stock and boxes to go to Yarndale towards the end of the week. Here is yarn, and lots of it, as you can glimpse in the grey boxes already safely packed into the trailer – you will also glimpse poles, signage, and bags that contain elements that make up my display stand.

But it isn’t just yarn that has to find a storage corner, no no no! Here are some of the piles that were found around the garden and workshop today:

Boxes which contain parts of my stand, bags stuffed with clean table covers and bags containing signage:

(We have a new stand format for Yarndale this year, so there is always the added concern that we’ve not measured properly, or we leave some essential piece of kit behind.)

Dust sheets to cover the yarn overnight to protect it from the birds that sometimes find their way into the auction marts, as well as the bag which contains one single long piece of calico fabric to go all the way around the stand in order to have a “clean” background:

The much needed “Admin” box, which contains all kinds of things including hooks, note books, pens, hand cleaner, sample hangers, business cards, spare card machine rolls etc etc etc:

But perhaps the most difficult part of packing for a show is what has to get left behind.  Yarn that hasn’t dried enough to label and pack:

or because there are multiples or singles of colours that I simply just can’t squeeze in:

Tomorrow will be a day of making sure nothing has been forgotten, packing of personal stuff, and of course knitting for the journey.  Thursday and part of Friday will be spent on the road travelling south.  Friday afternoon is spent setting up the stand, and then it is back to our accommodation for a quiet evening so that we look bright and chirpy for 10.00am on Saturday morning when the doors open to the public  And I love it.  Every aspect of it.  And I’m looking forward to seeing many of you there.

I’ll try and remember to put pictures up on Twitter and Instagram as the event unfolds, so you will find live updates there if you want to see how the stand looks once I’ve finished frou frou-ing it!

Helloooooooo (anybody here?)

My poor blog – it has been very neglected.  Will anybody even read this, I wonder.  Summer has been very busy with a mix of shows and events and my focus for social media has been Twitter and Instagram – quick to leave a quick comment, and the 2 platforms seem to be well used.  The new workshop has been a hive of activity with dyeing, and preparation for shows, and visits from folk passing by on the North Coast 500 driving route, or staying locally and looking for yarn to use on a rainy day.  There have been visitors from all over the world, and it has been lovely to meet them one and all.

At the moment I’m in the middle of a run of big shows which means I’m either packing boxes to head off to the next event or dyeing yarn!  Last weekend was my first showing at Perth Festival of Yarn. It was a lovely event.  The venue, although busy, had a very relaxed layout and feel, and visitors to the event really enjoyed themselves.  Stevan and I took the opportunity to have a couple of days off and do some really touristy things which we don’t often get the opportunity to do.  Going to shows tend to entail getting there, doing the show, and getting home again, with little time to explore the area we’re visiting.  But last Monday I finally got to see the Kelpies – I’ve been wanting to see them ever since they were erected, and they did not disappoint!

Despite being a Monday, there were a lot of folk around, and it was good to see so many enjoying this wonderful piece of art work.  You can take a tour inside the Keplies, but we preferred rather to sit and admire them, while enjoying a coffee and a bite to eat.

We also had another “first” while we were in the south – we crossed the new bridge which spans the Firth of Forth – The Queensferry Crossing.  None of the photographs I took of the bridge, as a whole, do it any justice, but I did like this one that I snapped while driving over the bridge:

We also took the opportunity to visit Dundee – I wanted to see the new V&A building that is being built alongside the river in Dundee, and again, it did not disappoint.  I look forward to the day when it is open to visitors.

I’m off to Yarndale later this week, but we took advantage of the good weather this morning and headed to Little Assynt to have a good walk.  Autumn is definitely showing itself now, with the days getting shorter, and chillier.  There were so many mushrooms out – I only wish we were slightly more knowledgeable about which to pick and eat and which are safer to leave behind.

Peggy, now 14 years old, has had a few health issues lately, but with the care of her wonderful vet, Lucy, she is almost back to her old self, and this morning’s walk didn’t seem to daunt her at all.  A few months back we would have had to carry her around parts of this walk (see previous blog entry), and we were considering getting a doggy sling to help us do that.  But now she’s doing the whole walk on her own, albeit slightly slower at times.

The colours are definitely autumnal now

and I suspect we are seeing the final flourish of flowering heather for the year

One of the best things that a walk around Little Assynt offers you is the best view of our favourite mountain, Quinag.

So now it is back to work getting ready for Yarndale next weekend.  I hope to see a few of you there.  Then I’m home for a couple of weeks before it is time to pack up again and head to Loch Ness Knit Fest in Inverness for a few days.

If you’ve read this, leave a comment and say hello – it may encourage me to try harder at keeping it up to date!  Twitter and Instagram are all very well, but I do miss blogs.

Little Assynt

It has been a grim few weeks in the UK, and one has to be careful not to let events overwhelm.  Self care is vital, and for us that includes leaving the laptops at home and heading out for walks.   We did a long, rough walk on Sunday, and as Peggy is the respectable age of 14 we decided to give her a slightly easier time of it today and so we headed towards an area called Little Assynt, where the path is clear and defined and little Yorkie legs don’t have to get too tired by jumping continually over clumps of heather in order to keep up with her bosses.

You can see that the landscape has changed from its winter shades of brown to its summer shades of green.  You can’t quite see the heather in the photo above, but it is beginning to appear in various shades of pink and purple.  The thistles are beginning to appear too, and the budding flower is so pretty:

We came across one creature that had the heart of this African born girl racing, but fortunately it was just a slow worm.  And actually, it wasn’t that slow.  Once it realised we were close it moved pretty quickly!

Halfway around the circular route on Little Assynt, there is a beautiful loch with a thoughtfully placed step to allow Yorkies to step down and cool off in the clear water:

The path is edged with a range of different flowers, including these beautiful daisies and grasses:

We found this stunning butterfly which I’m told is a Marsh Fritillary  Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary  So beautiful – look at the iridescence on the body in the second picture.  The first photo reminds me of a stained glass window:

 

The bumble bees were out in force today.  At times it was quite difficult not to step on them as they buzzed around the clover which clings to the path:

Towards the end of the walk it was clear that our 14 year old Yorkie was a little tired, and so, unusually, she allowed me to pick her up for just a few minutes, before she demanded to be put down in order to finish the walk on her own four paws:

A good walk.  If ever you’re in Assynt I would highly recommend you make time for this walk.  It isn’t particularly challenging and it takes us about an hour and a half to do – including breaks for a drink and slowing our pace to allow Peggy to keep up.

From Dorset (via Australia) with Love

 

I’m so pleased to tell you that Clare Devine, over at Knit Share Love, has used some of my sock yarn in a couple of new designs as part of her “From Dorset with Love” collection of knitting patterns.  The patterns are released today over on Ravelry, and I have had a sneaky preview for a few days and I can tell you they are just lovely!  Clare is based in Australia, but has travelled the globe, and the series of patterns were inspired by a road trip through Dorset a couple of years ago.

 

Tyneham, designed by Clare Devine Photograph © Kate O’Sullivan (@aplayfulday)

 

 

Tyneham Socks were designed using the Ripples Crafts Reliable Sock yarn – the colour Clare used was Warm Gold.  I have added 3 versions of Gold to the shop on the 4ply sock yarn base – Pale Warm Gold, Warm Gold and Burnished Gold.

Tyneham, designed by Clare Devine Photograph © Kate O’Sullivan (@aplayfulday)

For those of you who don’t know Clare’s patterns, she is the author of the wonderful book “Sock Anatomy” – a must have for all those who love knitting socks.  Clare is also the designer of the very popular pattern “Slipt” which she designed especially for Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2015 using a colourway I dyed exclusively for EYF 2015.   If you’ve never knitted any of her patterns I would encourage you to do so.  Her instructions are detailed and informative, and she always adds a little twist somewhere along the line.

The second pattern which Clare designed using Ripples Crafts Yarn, this time the Doubly Reliable Sock Yarn, is Studland:

Studland, designed by Clare Devine Photograph © Kate O’Sullivan (@aplayfulday)

For Studland Clare used the colour “Copper Beech“, which has long been a favourite of mine, and of many of you too, I know.

Studland designed by Clare Devine Photograph © Kate O’Sullivan (@aplayfulday)

The Doubly Reliable Sock yarn is ideal for chillier days, or for wearing inside walking boots or wellies.  However Clare adds “Similar in design – the patterns can be knitted in 4ply or DK – giving you options for slouch or more practical fitted legs”.

Clare has very kindly offered a discount code for all my customers and blog readers which will give you a 20% discount on the individual patterns from the collection.  Use the code “ripples20” when checking out on Ravelry to claim your discount.

I will also be launching a wee bit of fun on Instagram.  If you follow me on Instagram and leave a comment on my post there today about Clare’s collection and patterns, I will pick a name out of a hat later this week and there will be 2 prizes.  One winner will receive a hank of Doubly Reliable Sock yarn in the Copper Beech colourway, and the second winner will receive a copy of the ebook “From Dorset with Love” thanks to the generosity of Clare Devine.   So pop across to my Instagram page, follow me if you don’t already do so,  and leave a comment and you’ll be in with a chance.

 

Work Going On Behind the Scenes

I am sorry this blog has been so quiet.  However it isn’t because nothing has been happening at Tigh Na Ripples Crafts!  Those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instagram will know that the dye shed has a new home.  After Edinburgh Yarn Festival, Stevan and I sat down and after some discussion, came to the conclusion that after 9 years of working in the old dye shed the time had come to give me more space.  When we first got the “old” shed the space I had felt luxurious.  I did a blog entry about it’s erection here.

First dyeing day in the new old dye shed

Looking at that photograph now, there are so many indicators showing how far Ripples Crafts has come and how it has developed.  SO many!  The burners I’m using in the above picture – they are camping gas burners which ran on small tins of butane.  If you look closely you can just see a row of 3 sitting on the shelf to my left.  Now I have industrial gas burners linked to 47kg propane bottles.  Then also to my left, you can see the tiny pots of dye powder, all stored in a small tupperware box.  These days I need 2 shelves to store the dye powders in use, with duplicates stored safely away:

 

Another little gem I found when moving from the old to new shed was the tiny 50g container of citric acid that I used to buy from brewing shops or chemists.   These days I buy citric acid in slightly larger containers, getting 20kg at a time.

It makes me feel both proud and humbled to see how the business has grown over the last 9 years.

And so to the new shed.  Initially we were going to go for something a bit smaller but when we saw this particular model I knew it would be wonderful to have both the extra space, but also all the light which the model featured.  2 opening windows and double doors with glass panels – perfect for duller days when you need as much natural light as you can get.  When we finally took a big gulp and ordered the shed, the suppliers told us it would take about 6 to 8 weeks for delivery, and I wasn’t sure how I could be patient for that long.  So you can imagine our delight when we received a phone call just under 2 weeks later saying it would be delivered the following week.  Fettes, through whom we bought the shed, could not have been more helpful – and patient!   I was amazed at the size of the package which arrived – it looked too small to hold the size of shed we had ordered:

But once we started moving the pieces closer to where we were to build it, I was grateful there was no more to carry.  Frustratingly we had a couple of days of sleet, snow and rain after it was delivered, and the shed remained under wraps until the weather cleared.  But once it cleared we were blessed with days of dry, calm weather, and despite Stevan’s predictions that it would take a couple of weeks to get the basic shed up (seeing as we were doing it on our own), he had it up and finished in just 2 days.

After the floor was laid it took another couple of days to get it painted and voilà!, a new dye shed.

Stevan has worked so hard getting the inside done too, and is still working on plumbing and electrics, but suffice it to say I am absolutely thrilled with the space I now have for dyeing.

No more will I be cramped in one corner of the shed, being engulfed by dyed and undyed stock, threatening to tumble over me or down on top of me from the rafters where I kept my undyed stock.  No more will there be yarn piling up in the house waiting to be labeled.   AND with the extra floor space I now have somewhere to block samples.

When debating how/when/what/size/paint colour, we thought about how a few folk had suggested we undertake a crowdfunding exercise to raise the cash to cover the cost of the shed.  But it really isn’t our style.  We’ve always been a “if you can’t afford to do it then don’t do it” kind of couple.  So while we may have made a few compromises in terms of fixtures inside the new shed to keep within our estimated budget, we only undertook the venture once we knew we could absorb the cost.

A few folk suggested I dye a new shed colourway, so I did just that today, and if you feel so inclined, then your ordering the new colour will definitely help in offsetting the expenses over the past few weeks.  “Let’s Celebrate the New Dye Shed” is available for pre-ordering now and is a mix of bluey grey and a purple which is on the pink side rather than the blue side.

At the moment it is only in Reliable Sock 4ply and Doubly Reliable Sock yarn, but if you fancy it on the Quinag or Burras base get in touch.  There are two versions – one where the two colours are in blocks, and the other has been dyed in the style of Assynt Storms so the colour mix is a bit more random, but still the two basic colours of grey and purple.

“And what of the old shed?” I hear you cry.  Well fear not – that has been rechristened “The Yarn Store”, and that is where dyed stock will be kept in a more orderly fashion, as well as much of the undyed stock.  So when folk call in to see where the yarn they enjoy using is dyed, things will be a little more organised (she says!!).

For those of you who have been using and buying Ripples Crafts yarn for the past few years – thank you for coming along on what has been a pretty wonderful adventure.   Without you things would look very different.  For a start there’d be no new dye shed.  So thank you!

 

 

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2017

What an absolutely wonderful weekend!  I cannot begin to explain how much fun it was at Edinburgh Yarn Festival this year.   I can hardly believe it is all over.  I spent most of winter dyeing yarn for the event, and despite taking nearly 1/4 more stock than I took with me last year I was still fretting after day one that there would be enough for day two!

Last Thursday saw us set off south with the trailer absolutely choc full of boxes / yarn / poles / hanging shelves and everything else needed to make the stand look appealing.   We had a trouble free trip south, just stopping at House of Bruar for the usual bite to eat for lunch and to give Peggy the opportunity to stretch her legs in the special “dog” section of the grounds, which as dog owners we always appreciate.

Arriving at a venue to set up can always feel somewhat daunting.  Even when you know the venue and have done the show a few times the first hour after you’ve unpacked the car feels somewhat overwhelming.  In front of you is a very blank canvas which needs much work doing to it to get it looking attractive.  You’re sometimes tired from the journey to reach the venue, and for me the noise and clatter of the place dominates your thoughts.

 

But before long you get into the swing of things, and by about 6.30pm the stand was covered up in preparation for the first day.

And what a first day!   Unveiling the stand in the morning was satisfying, and it didn’t take long to talk Lizzi and Dorothy through the changes that had happened to stock over winter.

It wasn’t long before the queues that had been forming outside since first thing were coming through the doors and were excitedly exploring the stands.

Friday was exceptionally busy, and there were times you couldn’t move on the stand.  But almost everyone was in generous spirit, and any jostling was generally met with an “Oh I’m sorry!” or at times an apology would begin only to be interrupted with “Oh HI! It is you!” and old friends would be reunited.

At the end of the day I was able to pop next door to the Chinese restaurant to meet up with former retreatees who had joined me on Tanera Mor or at Glencanisp – it was lovely to catch up, albeit briefly.  And the food wasn’t too bad either!  I am afraid I may have gobbled my way through a couple of dishes before becoming a little more sociable!

Saturday was a much calmer day, and if you’re nervous of crowds then I would suggest you consider coming on the second day of EYF in the future.  There was much more time for me to chat to customers and to catch up with other stallholders who I know from shows gone by.

As usual I have only high praise for Jo and Mica, the organisers behind Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and their band of volunteers who work so hard to keep things running smoothly.  The Corn Exchange as a venue is great, and the security staff did not stop smiling and were helpful all weekend. The range of stallholders from all over the world ranging from big well known businesses through to the smallest, but exciting, less known businesses was phenomenal.  Sadly I didn’t have time to visit them all.  But it was good to catch up with Dana from Uist Mill and have a chat about their wonderful yarns and possible collaborations in the future.   All I can say is ROLL ON EYF 2018!

The weekend was made so much more pleasurable too because we spent it staying with our friends, Ian and Jacqui, and there couldn’t have been a nicer end to the weekend than a walk down to their local Italian restaurant for a meal on Sunday evening.  The food was superb, and of course the company was first class.

I am slowly updating the shop site with stock again, but I will also be heading to Dornoch Fibre Fest this coming weekend, so if you’re in the area do pop in.  Furthermore, I have finally got myself on to Instagram, where you can find me as ripplescraftsyarn.  Be gentle with me though …. I’m still getting the hang of it!  It will mostly be about yarn on Instagram – for more general photographs / conversation you can find me on Twitter as @ripplescrafts.

 

The Scenic Route

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Yesterday was Optician day – a day I always dread, not only because of the likely expense of new glasses, but because of the actual test itself.  We have a lovely optician, Margaret in Ullapool.  She is so thorough, and fortunately has a good sense of humour as for some reason I always get the giggles at the optician!  And as to the test, well to put it frankly I get bored.  “Tell me which is clearer ….. this, or this” (as she swiftly changes lenses in those stunningly stylish glasses things you have to wear).  “This, or this?”.  Ummmmmmmmmm.  And then that test where you have to click the clicker thing as the tiny light flashes all over a screen – well my mind tends to wander somewhat.  I find myself thinking about the dye schedule, upcoming events, the shopping I need to do before leaving Ullapool, and completely forget to press the clicker thing.  At my last check up I did so badly on that test that Margaret had me back 6 months later to try again!  So I tried really hard yesterday to stay focused, and I obviously succeeded as Margaret gave me the all clear – no change to my prescription so no need to get new glasses – what you could call a win win.

It was a beautifully sunny winters day yesterday, so we decided to take the “scenic route” to Ullapool.   Our first stop was just south of Lochinver at Culag Woods.  It is a while since we visited this community woodland, an really it is very remiss of us not to visit it more often.   The Culag Community Woodland Trust look after this project beautifully, with the paths well maintained but not obtrusively so.   The Trust are also responsible for the maintenance of one of our other favourite walks which I spoke about in the second part of this blog entry.  Although Lexie is slow these days, she was feeling quite sprightly yesterday, so we ambled our way down to the White Shore, although it is anything but white.  It is instead a beach covered in pebbles that are a multitude of colours and shapes as you can see in the photo above.  Stevan managed to capture me in a contemplative moment hoping to see an otter:

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The wood itself is a mix of native and conifer trees.  Yesterday it was looking beautiful in the dappled light that is so pretty but so difficult to photograph.

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Once legs had been stretched we headed south again along the single track road which some find terrifying, and others find exhilarating.  I have a foot in both camps!  It certainly isn’t a road I would do in the summer when tourism is at its peak.  Passing places are few and far between, and some of the road is intensely narrow with a rock cliff to one side, and a sheer drop to the sea on the other.  It isn’t the sort of road you want to do when you’re not in the mood to concentrate.  But the views along this road are rewarding.

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The peaks all had a very light dusting of snow – just enough to keep the wind very chilly.  And once we reached Ullapool the village was looking stunning yet again.  The harbour rarely fails to enthrall me, in any weather:

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Today it is back to work.  The weather is still glorious, and now my head is full of colour inspiration from yesterday’s drive.  Oh, and a quick word to the wise – I’m leaving Stevan in charge of the dogs and hens next week and I’m heading off for a few days R&R.  Although the shop site will remain live, orders will not be processed and posted until Monday 20th February.  So if you’re wanting to order something, order soon so I can get it posted to you before I head off.

Winter Sunshine

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We have had a fabulous few days this week, where we have been treated to wall to wall blue, sunny skies, and although it was cold we enjoyed taking advantage of the weather and getting out for some walking.   As I’ve mentioned before, one of the biggest advantages of being independent and running your own business is that on days like these you can just take yourself off for a walk and enjoy the outdoors, so long as all the orders are packed and posted and you’ve nothing pressing to catch up with.

One of Lexie’s favourite spots in the hills, for reasons we don’t understand, is the Old Soldier’s.  It isn’t far from us, and she’s still got the stamina to climb over the heather on the way up to the ruin.  I’ve always thought the location of this house is stunning, and the ash trees that stood protecting the house are always lovely to look at no matter what the time of year.  At this time – mid winter – they are silvery grey.

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One of the trees has taken on a very artistic shape – I wondered if it had been struck by lightning:

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Then yesterday we headed out to a different part of Assynt – The Loch an t-Sabhail circuit, Little Assynt.  The path  is about 4.5km long, and while it goes up and down, it is very easy walking.  However it is some time since Lexie, our Westie, walked this distance.  But she did very well, and thoroughly enjoyed herself.

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There were still pockets of frost on the ground, but although it is only mid January there was evidence of spring plants starting to poke through:

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The highlight of this walk is always the spot here we stop to drink hot chocolate.  The view of Quinag at this point is one of my favourites, and easy to frame beautifully against the lochan:

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This landscape may look “empty” and “wild”, but at one point there was quite a community living here.   The point from which I took the following photograph, you only had to turn round 180 degrees and you can see 3 ruined houses which were once part of a thriving community that lived here.  You can see, on the left hand side of this picture, cultivation beds where crops may have included the likes of potatoes or oats.   There would certainly have been a cow or two roaming about, and it doesn’t take a huge stretch of imagination to picture children playing happily around the houses or on the edges of the cultivation beds while the adults worked hard.

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What a view to wake up to in the morning.

While we were out walking yesterday, my mind frequently went to all those marching around the world in support of women’s rights after the inauguration of the new US president.  I would have to admit to struggling to even write the man’s name.  I would have loved to have joined the Edinburgh march, but it wasn’t possible.   I know I’m way behind, but I have finally started my own pink hat, as I’m sure there will be more occasions when the symbolic hat will be required.  I’ve chosen “A Cerise which Demands Attention” as my pink, and I am whizzing along with it.

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The photographs from the marches around the world filled my Twitter feed yesterday, and it was, at times, overwhelming to see so many taking part.  And so proud of all my friends who were there, both physically and in spirit.