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The Seasons Change
Posted on: 27th October, 2017
As ex-hurricane Ophelia passed over our island and finally petered out, we were aware once more that the seasons have changed. Inexorably they turn, but are rarely marked by particular days or dates, in fact we’re often unsure that Autumn even exists.
A wet and sun-scarce summer can suddenly become a wild winter as winds blow hard and the lack of island trees make foliage-fall easy to miss. The change in light is a better guide than the change in the colour of leaves, our northerly location making the shortening of days far more pronounced.
When cloud cover permits, we’re treated to a brief period of spectacular sunrises, but it’s not long until morning commutes are being done in darkness. Perhaps more than most, our local crofters, some of our island’s sharpest risers, will be aware of this new time of year.
For those who keep livestock, like the hardy Blackface sheep, this is the real start of the crofting calendar. Preparations for feed, flushing and dosing are done, and by the first week of November rams will be introduced to ewes to get the breeding season underway, the first step in the shepherd’s annual cycle.
Sunrises from Drinishader © Peter Kwasniewski
Those who grow their own produce will be harvesting the last vegetables from the ground, it’s a good time to lift main crop potatoes and get them safely stored to enjoy over the months which lie ahead. With that done, a hard stint of double digging may be in order to best prepare for growing again next year.
It's also a time for keeping home fires burning and those who have cut their own peats for fuel will have them dried, carried home and stacked carefully for the long nights ahead. There is no more Hebridean smell than cold village air tinged with the sweet scented smoke of a peat fire, as it gently swirls from stubby chimneys.
With more storms rolling in, creel fishing boats spend longer tied in harbour and even the workload of Lewis Mackenzie, our Sugar Kelp diver, is reduced. Over the coming months this magical seaweed, so vital for our Isle of Harris Gin, will be given time for regrowth, ready for harvesting again by the following spring.
For our part, distilling continues whatever the weather, our bright coppers stills glowing warm in the Spirit Hall and bringing more beautiful island spirits into being with each passing day