The Kishie Maker’s Year

Ewan Balfour making a kishie

Ewan Balfour making a kishie

Kishie maker Ewen Balfour explains here what needs to be done each month to grow and gather materials as well as make the kishies

January – Kishie making

February – Winnowing previously saved seed either mechanically or outside on a bright day with steady wind (not too windy) onto a canvas or sheet spread over the ground.

March – If possible turn over your land and fertilise if you wish although Aets will grow in marginal areas. It is better if you rotovate after ploughing to break up the soil. You do not need artificial fertiliser.

April – Sow your seed. Not too densely as the seed will germinate and tiller out. Used to be four seeds per area of a pony’s hoof. Seed must be harrowed or raked in.

May – You should see shoots appearing after 2-4 weeks depending on the weather. Usually we roll the crop at this point to firm in the seedlings.

June – It may appear that there has not been much growth but it could be late June before it really starts to grow.

July – Relax

Late August – Cut flos (juncus) and tie into bundles and hang in a shed to dry slowly. Eight handfuls per kishie approximately.

September – Harvest Shetland Aets (Avena Strigosa). You should be able to see the stalks ripening. Weather must be dry. Cut with a scythe or corn hook or mechanical means but do not damage straw and cut it long as possible. Tie in sheaves and set these initially in sixes then twenty fours.

Ewen Balfour and his father building skroos after the harvest. Photo: Pete Glanville

Ewen Balfour and his father building skroos after the harvest. Photo: Pete Glanville

October – On a dry day you need to get the crop built into a large skroo (stack). This would normally be outside but could be inside. Make a circular shape with sheaves on a dry spot with good drainage. Seed heads to the middle and build round and upwards until you reach the required height. You need net over the top and weights immediately to stop mice getting in.

November – Kishie making using cleaned gloi. Bundles of gloi stored where mice do not have access. Do not let gloi get damp. All seed must have been removed and stored in a barrel.

December – More kishie making. Waste straw can be fed to animals.

by Ewen Balfour

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