Fethaland, at the north tip of Shetland’s mainland, has a long history of settlement spanning from prehistoric times right up until the early 20th century, when the fishing station became redundant. The haaf (deep-sea) fishing station at Fethaland was at one time the busiest in Shetland, with around 60 boats operating from here. Seasonal workers were accommodated in as many as 36 lodges, the remains of which are still here today. Fish were cured and dried on the pebble beach before being shipped throughout Scotland and in foreign markets.
Haaf fishing was very dangerous work. Two trips were made each week in six-oared open boats known as sixareens. The fishermen rowed up to 65m out to sea for species such as cod and ling. Fish were cured then laid out on the beach to dry before being built into a stack. They were then packed and exported.
A picnic at Fethaland
Scotland and Shetland were once part of the American continent until Europe and American collided around 500 million years ago, forming a range of mountains. Around 50 million years ago the continents separated again as the Atlantic Ocean formed, leaving Scotland attached to England and Europe. Fethaland lies on the edge of this collision zone. Within a couple of kilometers of this point you can find rocks representing a longer time scale than anywhere else in Scotland. Ancient Lewisian gneiss rocks, which were once part of the American continent can be found, which are over 2 billion years old….Quartzite and schist, which lay on the edge of America, are around one billion years old… These are among other ancient rocks that grace the land of Fethaland.
The coast from Fethaland
The coast from Fethaland
Each day I can’t imagine doing something more fun than the day before, but so far my cousin Susie continues to surprise me. Today we visited her friend Mary Isbister’s croft (farm) at Trondra. This is a working croft in which Mary and her husband Tommy have created an environment in the Shetland tradition that is farmed sustainably. Their purpose is to maintain native Shetland breeds of animals, poultry and crops. All animals are free range and root and grain crops are grown using organic practices. We made friends with the ducks, hens, geese, Caddy lambs (which jumped up on me like puppies) cows, pigs and the cutest sheep dogs imaginable…..Made me want to come back and work on this farm. Truly!
At Mary’s Croft
Water Mill – This mill was in common use up until the first World War. It has been restored to it’s original working order
Sheep sheds at Burland Croft Trail Trondra
Susie volunteers in the local Lunnasting School every Friday afternoon as a cooking teacher for Fun Fridays. The school educates 25 children ranging in age from those in the nursery class to seventh graders. I met all twenty-five of the most fortunate children imaginable. The school overlooks the North Sea from the front and east side of the building and is surrounded by hills dotted with the Shetland Sheep on the remaining two sides. Tom and Mark gave me a tour of their school and proudly began it by explaining the ins and outs of their Eco School. Standing like a sentinel gracing the school garden was a windmill, and the solar panels were close by. A fruit-filled grapevine was the most prolific plant growing in the greenhouse — a troll-like house shown to me by James who explained all the subtleties of their eco-garden. The three teachers are each other’s inspiration and support in raising this generation of Vidlin children.
Another view from Shetland Islands
James explaining the eco-garden
Traveling is in my blood. After 34 years of being relatively stable because virtually everything I need and want has been found in Sonoma County, California, I’m on the road again. Come September, I’m leaving with a one-way ticket to Europe. My cousin Susie lives in the Shetland Islands and I’ll begin there as we have a successful history of traveling together. In 1978, we spent three months on the Island of Hydra in Greece where she lived. The vibrant and diverse autumn hues of purple, fisherman who shared their daily catches, and older women in black who guided me in their kitchens while navigating me through ways of the heart left indelible impressions. Greece in the fall is the one place in the world I am certain that I wish to return. So stay tuned.
Freedom is the theme of this trip. It’s been a long time since I’ve had the luxury of not knowing what to expect day after day, week after week, month after month….
I’ll keep you posted as I translate one culture from another using all five senses beginning in September…