We’ve been here a month already – can you believe it?! I’m not sure we can! It’s been so busy that it’s passed in a bit of a blur, so it’s probably a good moment to reflect on what’s been going on…
I’m pleased to report that today marked the end of the vine pruning and fence-cutting – quite a landmark! All 3,000 vines have been cut back to the two main leaders which have been trained to the wires, and two spurs for next year. It’s actually a very meditative thing to do – listening to the birdsong and the sound of waves breaking on the beach, and even more enjoyable for the glorious sunshine we’ve had this week!
Val, Graham & Holly, hard at work on the pruning
Fence-cutting a kilometre of 4m+ high hedge was admittedly a bit more of a chore, but much easier for having some shiny new kit (thanks again Matt)!
We’ve finally managed to start planting some seeds too, one of my favourite jobs of the spring! The onions and garlic are all in the ground, the potatoes are a-chittin’ and James did a masterful job of cobbling together a greenhouse out of old polytunnel polythene and scrap wood!
Upcycling at it’s finest!
As the tide went out on Tuesday morning, there was much excitement as a huge line of seaweed was left behind on the beach – a real gift from the sea! Seaweed is packed full with all kinds of minerals and trace elements, and has long been used by island folk as a fertiliser for their crops. We stuck the buck-rake on the back of the tractor and got to work! It ended up taking the best part of a day – first hauling the seaweed up the beach into a pile on the quayside, and then bringing it back to the vineyard in the trailer, then forking it out into a mountain alongside our compost heap. It’s lovely stuff, and although it’s traditionally spread on the fields in the winter, we’re going to compost ours for spreading out later in the year, and we’ll make some ‘seaweed-tea’ as a nutritious feed for our plants in the meantime.
Scooping up the seaweed with the rake
Heaping it into a pile…
…then bringing it all back to the vineyard in the trailer
Around 19 different species of seaweed (there are probably more that we missed!)
It was also a big week for Arty & Simon… after a few days getting settled into the vineyard shop as their ‘base’, we finally released them into their new home! After some very tentative peering from the doorstep, Arty was the first to venture out – rapidly disappearing into the fence on important ‘exploration’ business. Simon has generally been sticking closer to home, spending most of his day lounging around on the upper floor of the tractor shed & patrolling the roof-space, waiting hopefully for an unlucky sparrow to fly his way… (fortunately they’re not as stupid as he seems to think)!
Simon checking out his new patch
Stalking sparrows in the rafters!
The weather this week has been sunny and warm, and we’ve had some spectacularly starry nights (looking forward to getting to COSMOS once gatherings are permitted!) – how quickly we forget the force 9 winds and high seas of last weekend!
Oystercatcher riding the breeze
Stormy skies over the Eastern Isles
Waves crashing against Hanjague, an amazing volcano-shaped rock just off St Martin’s
We get great views of the starry night sky through the transparent ‘star cap’ on the yurt!
I guess there’s no way to sum up recent events without reference to Covid-19… the situation here on the island is thankfully stable and so far the islands are virus-free. In terms of day-to-day life, the shop is well-stocked (as much loo-roll as you eat), and besides the fact that the pub is closed, life is continuing much as normal – we even had chips delivered on Saturday night – luxury! We’re also exceptionally lucky to have such beautiful beaches and coastline to take our ‘exercise’, with little chance of running into anyone. From a business perspective, things are tough – the whole island economy depends on the tourist season and although everyone is supporting each other and really pulling together to find innovative ways to bring in some income, it’s definitely a worrying time. All of the accommodation providers on St Martin’s have obviously had to cancel bookings for the next few months, to everyone’s great disappointment. The Steamship Co. who operate the ferry and plane connections to the mainland have confirmed that the Scillonian will not be sailing until further notice, and the Skybus is running a limited service from Land’s End for key workers only. Even freight shipments are now limited to essential items, so it does feel a little bit like being marooned (albeit in paradise)! It looks as though our shepherd hut plans will be on hold for quite some time too, so in order to try and keep ourselves going this year, we’re hoping to start our selling wine online… We’ll be doing a photoshoot with some bottles down on the beach tomorrow, and then hopefully we’ll be up and running with a snazzy new website very soon… watch this space! (Pre-orders now being taken…!) 😉
On a brighter note, we seem to have fallen into a routine of taking a beer down to the beach to watch the sunset… (a jam jar of gin & tonic in my case!). The views out across the Eastern Isles, and over Cruther’s Hill to the west are spectacular, and we’ve been kept company by a pair of seals each night this week, bobbing around in the bay. One month on and we’re STILL pinching ourselves – what lucky buggers we are!
Sunset over Cruther’s Hill (interesting place – site of prehistoric entrance graves and burial mounds!)
Beach-beers taste best!