Inspired… and in awe

Yesterday we spent a most enjoyable afternoon in Shetland’s Westside – namely in Sandness. Transition Turrifield held their third open day this summer and they also put on a small farmers’ market and teas, soup, bannocks and homebakes in Sandness Hall. A perfect reason for a little drive West, I thought, especially since the weather was lovely too.

It’s always great exploring different areas and corners of Shetland but the Westside must be my favourite as the lanscape is really beautiful. There are miles of quiet single-track roads with many hidden lochs that shine like gems, nestled in the hills. And sheep roam free. The vistas are juxstaposed with peatbanks with lovely dark peat and white crofthouses, dotted in the landscape. It feels like the Westside is Shetland in miniature. And then there are the egg and veg boxes beside the roads… it’s so exciting buying local produce and having the element of surprise as sometimes there can also be homemade cakes, jams or preserves. The whole experience feels like a little treasure hunt!

So after a plate of tasty soup and a spot of shopping at the hall (we bought some veg, Shetland cheese, pork, beer and fudge) we set of to the croft at Turriefeld. And what a busy place it was! Cars and people everywhere. It was great being back again and seeing how everything grows as the season progresses. In June we spent an ejoyable day with Penny and Alan learning how to build a polytunnel from discarded salmon cage pipes and plastic sheeting. Back then it was a cloudy day with a lot of wind so we didn’t get a chance to finish the tunnel and put the sheet on. (I’ll write about that experience another time.)

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This time the weather was just perfect, it was sunny, warm and there was very little wind. Everything looked green and lush. When we arrived we were given a lovely guided tour of the croft’s growing areas by one of the volunteers and in a few words I have to say I was in awe… Yes, it was amazing to see big juicy tomatoes, beans, courgettes, aubergines… but there were also pumpkins, corn… and melons too! All these were in the tunnels. Outside all sorts of brassicas, peas, carrots and tatties are thriving. And then there were the animals – hens, turkeys and ducks… and the pigs that help to work the ground.

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I could keep going on but basically visiting Turriefield and seeing the amazing work that Penny, Alan and their volunteers do is simply amazing and utterly inspiring. Visiting their croft is real eye-opener and it shows how with a bit of knowledge, some shetler and a bit of digging (or a lot) it is possible to grow many things in Shetland. And do so in a responsible, sustainable way.

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I’m totally inspired and next year I’m planning to reduce the lawn area even more to make space for a few more raised beds… just a shame we don’t have more space as I would love to have one of thoose big tunnels too… (the one pictured below is the one we built in June and it currently used for drying a great crop of garlic before it is used in the new season).

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Find out about my previous visit to Turriefield here. For further information and recipes click here.

More photos here.

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Polytunnel

I love our polytunnel. In fact it is called a solar tunnel as it is more sturdy than standard polytunnels and the plastic cover is double-layered with mesh reinforcement which is perfect for Shetland conditions. The benefit of having a solar tunnel is that it allowed us to extend the growing season by several months and if you are organised and plan well you could have a supply of greens throughout the winter. m_DSC_1698

Very pleased with the end of April pickings – delicious flat leaf parsley and juicy radishes.

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I think strawberries from the polytunnel don’t taste as nice as those grown outside but they ripen much earlier.

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End of May – peas are looking good and so is garlic. Unfortunately not much success with carrots or beetroots yet as something seems to be eating the young seedlings and I still haven’t found out what it is… Will keep trying though!

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Can’t get enough of these delicious salad leaves. A little tip – instead of growing salad from seed, which can be time consuming and not always successful, I buy ‘growing salad’ from Coop which costs approximately £1.00 and you get a huge number of young plants. After carefully separating them I plant them in a tray or straigh in the ground and after a week or two all you need to do is cut the leaves and wait for more to grow – simples!

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Someting for the eyes, the nose and the bees too… and delicious with lamb – rosemary – one of my favourite herbs. In fact I’m addicted on rosemary essential oil and I use it on my skin or to perfume the house. Just add a couple of drops in a bucket of water to wash the floors and you’ll be amazed with the result.

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Can’t wait for some delicious sweet peas! In fact I don’t think I’ll get a chance to enjoy many as my son Jan loves them and pretty much devours the lot.

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And lastly – some of today’s pickings – sage. The plan is to dry the leaves and use them in my own herbal tea blend – but more about that another time.

 

So if you have a small space in your garden I’d thoroughly recommend getting yourself a solar tunnel or even the Polycrub – the Shetland version of a polytunnel developped by Nortenergy Ltd