Calm before the storms?

A spell of good weather heralds the start of Spring and a sudden burst of activity in the gardens of

A miraculous spell of dry, calm weather has been lingering over Fair Isle for the past couple of weeks. Already the land is beginning to dry out and there is even a hint of new, green grass starting to emerge.

Gardens, virtually abandoned throughout the long winter, have suddenly become hives of activity. All around the island the sound of forks and spades turning soil has been heard. It feels, finally, as if the winter hibernation is over. The cold, wet months, when the only thing to do outside is to try and get back in as quickly as possible, are coming to an end.

During the winter it can sometimes be hard to remember the positive aspects of living so far north. The long hours of darkness, the rain, the wind, the cold, more wind; it can get, well, just a little depressing. But when the light finally does return it is like a blanket being lifted, and the world feels suddenly bigger and brighter again; the days begin to lengthen rapidly, stretching themselves out towards mid-summer when the sun will hardly set at all.

When it happens, as it seems to this past week, the garden becomes the immediate focus.

Seeds, which have also lain dormant for months, suddenly seem filled with potential, and the first trays of compost are filled with things that, hopefully, will return to feed us in the autumn. Tentatively, some of these have been placed outside (under cover, of course) and the more delicate have been placed in windowsills around the house. Red cabbage, cauliflower, curly kale, lettuce, spring onions, rocket and broad beans, as well as herbs such as coriander, fennel, dill, parsley and thyme have all been entrusted to the soil. I hope we have not been too optimistic. Others have been more cautious and are holding back; there is still plenty of time for the weather to misbehave.

In the vegetable garden itself, which we share with two of our neighbours, there has been action also. In the past week we have spread muck over the ground, ploughed it, and planted potatoes, again in the confident assumption that things will go our way weather-wise. In five months or so, with any luck, each little potato will have multiplied into a dozen or more, hidden beneath the ground. It never ceases to amaze me, the great value of that deal; with just a little digging and weeding during the year, one magically becomes many.

But it’s not just people that are ready for change. The sheep too are looking increasingly eager to rid themselves of the great weights inside them. Our lambs are due to start arriving next Sunday, and all around the island the swollen mothers-to-be are looking just about ready to begin.

Gestation periods for sheep are fairly predictable (around 150 days) so it is possible to know with some accuracy when the lambs will appear. Occasionally an over-eager ewe will have jumped a fence to meet the ram before she is supposed to, and will therefore lamb early, but, for most, next weekend is the crucial time. Again, poor weather can be a serious problem when the lambs are first born, so it is vital to keep a close eye as the time approaches, and to make sure that the sheep are comfortable and have shelter available. Fingers and toes are all crossed in the hope that things stay as pleasant as they have been.

***

When I wrote the first part of this blog a few days ago, the isle was still enjoying the calm spell; now it is pouring with rain and blowing a gale. I hate weather!

Malachy Tallack is 26 and lives in Fair Isle. He is a singer-songwriter, journalist, and editor of the magazine Shetland Life.
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Appreciate the full horror of Nigel Farage's pro-Trump speech

The former Ukip leader has appeared at a Donald Trump rally. It went exactly as you would expect.

It is with a heavy heart that I must announce Nigel Farage is at it again.

The on-again, off-again Ukip leader and current Member of the European Parliament has appeared at a Donald Trump rally to lend his support to the presidential candidate.

It was, predictably, distressing.

Farage started by telling his American audience why they, like he, should be positive.

"I come to you from the United Kingdom"

Okay, good start. Undeniably true.

"– with a message of hope –

Again, probably quite true.

Image: Clearly hopeful (Wikipedia Screenshot)

– and optimism.”

Ah.

Image: Nigel Farage in front of a poster showing immigrants who are definitely not European (Getty)

He continues: “If the little people, if the real people–”

Wait, what?

Why is Trump nodding sagely at this?

The little people?

Image: It's a plane with the name Trump on it (Wikimedia Commons)

THE LITTLE PEOPLE?

Image: It's the word Trump on the side of a skyscraper I can't cope with this (Pixel)

THE ONLY LITTLE PERSON CLOSE TO TRUMP IS RIDING A MASSIVE STUFFED LION

Image: I don't even know what to tell you. It's Trump and his wife and a child riding a stuffed lion. 

IN A PENTHOUSE

A PENTHOUSE WHICH LOOKS LIKE LIBERACE WAS LET LOOSE WITH THE GILT ON DAY FIVE OF A PARTICULARLY BAD BENDER

Image: So much gold. Just gold, everywhere.

HIS WIFE HAS SO MANY BAGS SHE HAS TO EMPLOY A BAG MAN TO CARRY THEM

Image: I did not even know there were so many styles of Louis Vuitton, and my dentists has a lot of old copies of Vogue.

Anyway. Back to Farage, who is telling the little people that they can win "against the forces of global corporatism".

 

Image: Aaaaarggghhhh (Wikipedia Screenshot)

Ugh. Okay. What next? Oh god, he's telling them they can have a Brexit moment.

“... you can beat Washington...”

“... if enough decent people...”

“...are prepared to stand up against the establishment”

Image: A screenshot from Donald Trump's Wikipedia page.

I think I need a lie down.

Watch the full clip here:

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland