Funny how time moves here on the island. It definitely has its own pace, which is pretty slow. Now, a bit more than a month into my stay, I find I've adjusted to this new schedule just fine.
I've been gathering wild plants and experimenting with them in the kitchen. I have wild garlic growing right outside my front door. The bulb stays in the soil and a cut made at ground level yields a slender, almost leek like stalk that has a decidedly garlic flavor. Over time the bulb sends out another stalk. A 2 minute walk across my side yard brings me to a small creek that has beautiful mints growing on its banks and tall cress like plants that I use as salad greens. My favorite wild plant is stinging nettles for it's super nutritious, incredibly tasty and plentiful. And I feel like somewhat of a badass picking this rather nasty plant (any interaction with the fine hairs on the plants surface leaves you stinging for hours) and transforming it into delicious meals.
A bowl full of just picked nettles. They look harmless enough, but handle with care!
Last week was Jo's birthday and I made her a Lemon Nettles Cake.
It went over really well-so well in fact that Pauline, a neighbor whose daughter was heading to America for the summer, requested one for her daughters farewell dinner. I've made pasta with nettles, added them to omelettes and eaten them simply sauteed in olive oil with a bit of chopped garlic. Always delicious!
Jo has six hens and a goose named Goosey. This very old goose (about 18 or 19 years old!) still lays eggs and no matter how far into the hills she is, she responds when Jo calls her. Two of Jo's hens died recently, so she bought four more from the mainland. We kept them in a back room of the coop for four days to get them acclimated to their new home and before we let them out, I clipped their wings. One hen, white with a grey shawl, was particularly calm and didn't struggle at all when I picked her up to trim her feathers. Whenever I went into the henhouse after that, the white hen would run over to me. I could pet it like a cat and it would follow me as I collected eggs or changed the water. The other day I noticed the four new hens to the side of the coop, just outside the gate. Three of the hens were milling around but my friend, the little white hen, had her head wedged between two rocks in the rock wall. At first I thought she was stuck and I crouched down to see if I could help her. I petted her back and cooed at her, but she didn't move. I was just about to try to pick her up when plop! an egg fell beside my shoe. She removed her head from between the rocks and went to join the others. One morning Jo and I went up to the hen yard to feed the hens and Goosey was nowhere to be seen. Jo called and called (a loud "Goooooosey, Goosey, Goosey, Goosey"), but no answer. We realized it had been a few days since either of us had seen her. Jo went inside, put on a pair of boots, grabbed her cane and off we went into the hills to look for Goosey. Her niece Cathrin (my landlady) and Cathrin's two children Laura and Jamie joined us. I searched along the bottoms, moving through dense stands of irises. Cathrin and Jaime hiked to the very top of the hill and disappeared over the top. Jo and Laura made their way up the first level of the hill, past a low stone wall where I met them after I'd scoured the bottoms. Jo called constantly for her beloved pet. We started back down, trying to find the most gradual way down for Jo. She told me if Goosey was setting on a nest, it'd be along the wall. I'd followed the wall most of the way up the hill, but had left the last 30 feet or so unchecked as I headed for the gate. Although I was sure Goosey had met her demise, I headed over to the wall to comb the small area I'd missed. Two steps into the irises and there was Goosey, her nest right against the wall where Jo said it would be.
I had my first visitor last week. Eli Adams is my friend Marshall's grandson. He is on a 2 week holiday in Ireland and his first stop after a night in Dublin was Inishturk! It was fun to have him here. We took a long hike out to see the Puffins (I even got him to hike barefoot!) and he also did some exploring of the island on his own. The weather report predicted lots of rain while he was here, but he got two beautifully sunny days, perfect for being outside. He even got a bit of a sunburn! He was enthralled and hopes to come back next summer and WWOOF here.
Yesterday morning I went to Helen's to get a lesson in making kefir. It was incredibly easy and I went home with my very own stash of kefir grains. I now have a jar of milk on my windowsill fermenting away! After my lesson, we met up for a hike to look for the elusive Bogbean flower. It sounded like something out of Harry Potter when she first mentioned it. It only blooms in May in a freshwater lake on the western side of the island. Since it was June 1st, she was afraid she'd missed it. We hiked through a field thick with nettles and then up a hill thick with sheep to a part of the island I'd never visited. We walked up a series of hillocks where Helen told me potatoes and maize used to be grown. We came to a small lake and aside from some buttercups growing along the edge, there were no other flowers to be seen. We crossed a small stream and walked on until we came to another lake. The far side was covered in green water plants and there we found the Bogbean! A delicate little flower, it was such a pale lavender it looked white. The frilled petals encircled a stiff stem that stood above the green foliage. Hikes with Helen are always enchanting events!
I wish I'd taken this photo, but it's from wildflowerfinder.org.uk
With the summer solstice less than three weeks away, it's light enough to take a walk well past 10:00 at night (although I'm never out that late) and the east window in my bedroom is showing me morning by 5:00. I like getting up really early (usually by 5:30) because the island is so quiet with no activity. The tides are low that early, so the harbour is still, it will be hours before the fishermen make their way to their boats. I'm realizing what a cooperative place this is...indeed, that it HAS to be. With so few people, you have to rely on others to get things done. Case in point: I was low on heating fuel and was told to ask Jack, Helen's husband, to pick me up some when he collected the mail in Cleggan. He takes his boat to Cleggan twice a week for mail delivery and various other errands. I had a choice- a five gallon container or a fifty-five gallon drum. The price difference per gallon was substantial, so I opted for the drum. He came by my house one morning on his way to the harbour and unearthed a barrel hiding in the weeds in the side yard. I'd never even noticed it there. He proceeded to load it onto his boat and headed out to Cleggan. By noon he was back and he docked where the ferry usually docks and the huge crane on the pier lifted the full drum off the boat and onto the landing. Later that day I walked to the pier and looked at that big drum of heating fuel. My house is close to the harbour, but how was I to get that huge, heavy drum of fuel to my house and emptied into my tank? This time I was told to ask Robert. I don't know Robert really, a hello in passing when I see him at Jo's, but I do know his wife Mary Helene, who runs the only store on the island. As I was walking to the pier one morning, Robert drove by and I stopped him and asked if he could get the fuel to my house and in the tank whenever he had the time. Like most everyone on the island, Robert has many jobs. Things get done when they get done. A few days later I walked in my side gate after visiting a neighbor and there sat the drum, empty. Wow. I suppose it's much like living in an intentional community, although it's rather unintentional. There are really only a handful of names here...most everyone is related and i'm still figuring out how they are kin. There are a few outsiders, but not many and we are all treated well. The islanders are an exceptionally polite group of people, mannerly and gracious. On a daily basis, I realize how fortunate I am to be here.
Here, the sea sings constantly to the shore.
Sometimes a low hum, repetitive and dreamy.
Other times a roar, a crescendo of violence.
But a symphony, always this, a symphony.