Posie's Blog. Tales of island life on a hebridean hill farm

Posie's Blog. Tales of island life on a hebridean hill farm

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Bilberry Pie




The clipping didn’t happen, the rain poured relentlessly throughout the day, so the girl’s fleeces just had to stay put, they were too wet. The happy farmer moved the sheep back from the fank and into a nearby field and then set about feeding the pigs and the chickens. One of the chickens jumped into the bucket of pig food, so hungry was she. The happy farmer turned to feed her some barley and what was following her but a fluffy yellow chick, our first this year. The happy farmer scooped her up and made them a nest in the back of the horse box, otherwise there is a strong possibility the chick would get lost and perish. We walked everywhere looking for evidence of a nest or further chicks, to see if there were more, but found nothing.

Eldest daughter was highly entertained though as in the new byre two hens were squabbling over a nest and eggs. One was sat brooding on top of the nest, the other gently nudging her off and quickly scooping eggs under her chin into her nest, finally I went to look and both hens were sat side by side, proudly on their eggs. Maybe we will be getting more chicks soon.


I had been woken early, the window was open and I could hear men talking and the sound of an engine, and wheels. I thought maybe the farmers were gathering to start cutting the fields for silage. I later found out that it was men rolling a barrel to pillage malt from Bunahabhain distillery. Each year whisky is pillaged from each distillery and rolled onto a birlinn galley. The boys sail round the island to pillage the malt and it is later auctioned off for charity.

I went up the hill for a run in the pouring rain, mad woman that I am, but my efforts were rewarded. There at the top of the hill I noticed masses of huge purple bilberries. Bilberries are delicious; they have a tart, dewy flavour and evoke so many happy memories. As a child, when my parents took us on long walks in the Highlands it was a treat when tired and thirsty we would come across bilberry bushes. Now each summer the children always trek out the hill and gather bilberries with their pals. Summer has arrived when the ground becomes a mass of bushes full of bilberries.

Until next time……

11 comments:

snailbeachshepherdess said...

That is definitely not fair...we call them whimberries down here and they are no where near ripe yet! The gooseberries haven't been picked yet either! Where did the tradition start for pillaging the malt?

lampworkbeader said...

I envy you your bilberries. The birds have eaten all my gooseberries. I went down the allotment to pick them today, so I could make a tart for supper, and found five. One of those five had been pecked as well.

thehillsarealivewiththesoundofmusic said...

the bilberries sound utterly wonderful!
i was informed they helped the men in the war maintain good eyesight.
the happy farmer sounds an intresting character slaving all day on the farm and much like my husband still manages to find time for the children and showing intrest in all of their hobbies!

Elizabethd said...

I picked my first year gooseberries, all quarter of a pound! We have planted blueberries, wonder if they are the same as bilberries?

Cait O'Connor said...

We have bilberries around here, they have so many names - hurts is one and also whinberries. I must go and see if they are ready.

laurie said...

raspberries here are just about ripe. another few days. the second batch, in the fall, is always sweeter. but i like the almost sour-tart flavor of early july.

Pipany said...

Love the soind of the bilberries, Posie. Dave and I grow three blueberries which are normally covered but this year they seem to be having a rest. Are they the same as bilberries? xx

Tattie Weasle said...

Hope the hens behave themselves and you have lots of chicks in due course! I always love to see them running about. I hate it when they are just born though and I can hear them but not see them, unless I double and triple check them I can never rest - the number of times I have to rescue them is unbelievable - I think my hens are just plain stupid! One hatched a whole load in the barn loft and we had to help them down! Needless to say the hen is now nicknamed STOOOPID!

@themill said...

We don't seem to have bilberries around here - I was just reading that they are now the new 'superfood'. Don't know anyone who has got any clipping done yet. We've been away but it appears to have rained everyday while we've been awol.

Pondside said...

Your blogs are always SO interesting! I am trying to understand the pillaging from the distillary. Is it something of a local tradition? Is it sanctioned? Are there reprecussions? So interesting.
I could almost imagine the taste of bilberries, although I'd never heard of them until your blog!

Preseli Mags said...

Apparently there are bilberries on the Preselis and having read your blog I will definitely have to go and look for them. Our girls still have their coats on too. I think they have been glad of them for the last week or so. When the sun comes out they quietly begin to steam. I too am fascinated by the pillaging of the malt!