dear diary :: a productive day

With the warm sunshine, high humidity and fleeting showers everything is growing at a rate of knots and as other bloggers are saying some of the flowering plants are almost over before they begin with the heat.

The free tray of the long flowering valerian plants given to me by Elizabeth McGregor at her nursery in Kirkudbright a few years back is now well installed and flourishing in the seaside garden (top photo). I love the wispiness and I am hoping they don’t go under too quickly in the heat.

Further along the border there is no sign that the clematis Montana Reubens will stop flowering anytime soon it is still dripping in flowers this year even though we hacked it back with no precision at all – it must like a good hair cut.

Yesterday I cleaned. I was waiting for the heating engineer to service the gas boiler in the caravan. He didn’t show….again…. but that is typical for this area. As usual we rang him to arrange another day, no explanation was offered as to why he didn’t come and now we will wait for him to come on Friday….or not as the case might be!

But the caravan is spick and span… seating hoovered, bed changed, bathroom sparkling, windows washed and everywhere had a good hoover. If there is a spider left in here I would be surprised.

Meanwhile DH hung some cheap net curtains at the cottage windows. It was looking rather forlorn so earlier this week we cleaned down all the gutters and drainpipes, then the windows inside and out and it has made it look less of a ruin. The curtains will stop anyone looking inside and give it a more lived in look to passers by.

After lunch the cleaning continued and I washed pots. Remember the free pots….everyone in the village has them, every house you pass it is like spot the pots. They are extremely useful and I have turned them into quite few gifts for people adding herbs and bulbs. The lady who is giving them away is now onto her very last crate full – so I might just go and take a few more.

Meanwhile DH did a tip run with umpteen bags of garden waste in the trailer and on his return he continued with our new project….the banking that runs down beside the lane. We thought it was quite steep until we saw the open garden at the weekend where it was almost vertical in places; ours is not quite as bad as that. A while ago we had the idea to terrace it just using planks of treated timber – this will give the plants a more stable pocket of soil to grow in and prevent them from toppling over in the wind as well as making it easier to weed. Many a time I have been balancing at the top of the slope and lost my footing only to end up sliding all the way down.

The large conifer that overshadowed a lot of this patch came down last year as it had grown through the power line and with all the extra light that flooded in a lot of everything suddenly wanted to grow here. We put in a chicken wire fence at the top because with the conifer gone it was feeling a bit exposed.

As you can see from the photo ferns love to grow here – they are all self seeded but it would be nice to have other plants here as well – the jury is out on what the planting might be but I have some ideas churning around. We have been building the banking up over time with rotted compost from our bins and it is extremely fertile. Rather than have the planks in straight lines we are running them at angles to form wider and narrower beds for more interest and some of the boards will be single height and some double.

This is the view from on top of the banking looking down.

Today we shall be doing more in the garden and hopefully get the first stretch of the terracing completed before we go home next week.

I still have the stone path to complete and the border above in front of the Olearias which really needs a complete overhaul and reshaping. originally it was quite a large bed with 3 fairly modest Olearia plants. Now the Olearias have grown the border has shrunk considerably and some plants have been lost altogether beneath the shrubs.

It may be my imagination but my list does not seem to be getting any shorter even though we have both been working hard and ticking the jobs off as we go.

dear diary :: a nudge in the right direction

Saturday was hot. I started numerous jobs and then had to move to find more shade as the sun moved around the garden.

I have been scouring our garden finding more flat stones to lay down at the entrance to the lower wood that leads to the pond. They keep a lot of the weeds down in a place where nothing grows very much other than self seeders. Bark just rots down quickly and doesn’t stop the weeds as they just root into the bark but the flat grey stones have been really good at supressing them.

Before long the heat was far too intense and I had to abandon the job; instead I moved round to the patch beneath the holly and apple trees which gave me an umberella of shade to do some weeding. In this bed there is always a scattering of the sneaky self-seeder tellima nestling in alongside other plants and eventually overcoming them. To leave this part of the garden looking natural is actually hard work and requires more management than you might think. So very carefully whilst crawling around the bed to avoid the pain of kneeling on the fallen holly leaves ….ouch…. I managed to selectively extract the tellima that had muscled in on my delphiniums – well the delphiniums that the rabbits have not devoured yet.

After lunch I decided to tackle the curly wurly tree (corkscrew hazel) and give it a trim. It should have been pruned earlier in the year while it was dormant and leafless to reduce the height …drastically…. as it collides with the apple tree that grows next to it; but we missed the moment with the restrictions and a light trim is all we could do at this point. So out came the long pole that has some pruners on the end to reach the upper branches and that believe me is a job in itself and I gratefully passed the task over to DH. I love this tree as the canopy is low and falls over one of the entrances to the lower wood and woodland walk.

Sunday was much cooler and by teatime the rain had set in and we were treated to a glorious double rainbow over the bay in the early evening, unfortunately both didn’t come out on the photo.

After lunch on Sunday we set off to visit an Open Garden up the road high on the hill above the village with fabulous sea views. It was the very cottage we had looked around in 2004 just before we put in an offer on our cottage so it was really interesting to see what changes had been made. I remember it as being in need of a lot of renovation, probably more than ours, though it did have a new roof. The garden was just long grass at the time – not really a garden at all.

The cottage has changed hands since the original buyers in 2004 who did quite a bit to the place but the current owners have done a lot more and made it into a very desirable property whilst still retaining a lot of the character and cottage feel; in fact when we arrived we realised we knew the new owners from the caravan site – they have decided to up sticks from Halifax and live here permanently.

The garden is on a steep slope with steps leading down from the cottage above.

This brilliant two story Bothy that they have built in the garden and sleeps 2-4 people is a great place to put up visiting family and friends and they also let it out for around £40 a night. It has a fridge and microwave, composting toilet and washbasin and breakfast is provided by the owners.

There is a series of winding gravel paths cleverly taking you down and around the slope through the garden. The welsh poppies are scattered everywhere, little specks of brilliant orange and yellow dancing around in the breeze.

Although windy up above (they are much higher up than our cottage down by the sea) it is a very sheltered garden down below so they can grow the palms and more tropical plants quite easily and they do not suffer from the salt spray like our garden does.

They even have a tiny ‘beach’ at the very bottom where the burn runs through. It is much clearer water than ours as they are at the top of the hill and their burn feeds down into the harbour whereas we are at the end of the run and so we get all the run off from the farms above us which often makes the burn rather sludgy in the summer when there is little water coming down.

Since they acquired the cottage at the end of 2019 they have added an extension as well as the Bothy and now they have bought the adjoining cottage which they are doing up to let out as a holiday let. I was beginning to think maybe we had chosen the wrong cottage to buy!!

However, after visiting their cottage and garden and seeing all they had accomplished in so short a time we have been inspired and motivated to get back to sorting ours out. Since the flood we have really been muddling along not really able to make decisions and then Covid has certainly made things worse – but somehow this visit has really helped us turn a very difficult corner and as my title says it has been a nudge (no less a mighty big push) in the right direction!

Today we started on a project in the garden which I will share with you in another post.

Back soon x

dear diary :: roamin in the gloamin once again…

Just dropping by again to say hello from bonnie Scotland.

It has been a while but one daughter is now moved and settling in well and all the empty boxes have been passed onto to someone else – boxes are so hard to come by these days. Everything went to plan on the day and I was assigned the job of cupboard cleaner and organiser in the kitchen so now of course my daughter cannot find anything and when I go next time I probably won’t find anything either as she will have rearranged everything to suit her. Still the main thing was that all the boxes, but for a few craft items and nick nacks, were emptied and put away by the time we left.

We are now in Scotland once again with a to do list as long as a toilet roll. The woodland walk is in full bloom with pretty white sweet woodruff, pink dicentras and the elegant Solomon’s seal.

The pond is full of rotting leaves as we couldn’t clean it out last year because of the restrictions on our visits or put the pond net over last September to catch the autumn leaf fall. Thankfully, with little rain it is quite dry so will be easier to scoop out and clean then refill with fresh water though it is not a pleasant job and not one I look forward to. The primulas have multiplied and look stunning, I do need to plant some more of the deep orange coloured primulas though as they appear to have gone.

We have plenty of thick moss to scrape off all the paths and then we will spray some cleaner onto them to remove any residual bits. The cows have been watching our every move with curiosity all week.

After a mornings work we stopped for light refreshments! These small assorted danish pastries courtesy of Tesco are one of my treats when we come up here. There are five in a box so we always share the jam centred ones.

In the afternoon we visited Castle Kennedy gardens. (Jayne at The View from Bag End has more lovely pictures here from her recent visit to the area.) We always manage to fit in a visit when we come up and I really missed not being able to go during last year so it was lovely to see that it is open for visitors once again.

This is a very special place for us as DH’s grandfather was head gardener here from the late 20’s up to sometime in the 60’s when he retired. His granny and grandad lived in the head gardener’s cottage on the hill by the little bridge that takes you into the car park. DH stayed here for a while when he was younger with his mum and dad when they moved back from Ireland and he tramped daily around the estate trying to keep up with his grandad.

Because of our connection to the place we held our elder daughter’s wedding here in 2016 and had a marquee by the old ruined castle that sits next to the walled garden and the cute little wooden tea room.

The wedding was in July so the walled garden was at its best.

And the marquee took in the spectacular views across the estate and of course all our guests could relax and roam around the grounds during the afternoon.

And when it went dark in the evening it was quite magical.

Of course her wedding day would not have been complete without having the old tea room part of this big day. It has over the years had many coats of paint and also had the floor levelled so the tables no longer have blocks of wood beneath the legs to even them up. Today it has even had the addition of a disabled ramp.

The guests all enjoyed the afternoon tea provided on the picnic tables.

Everything was homemade and done on a tight budget – I made all the invitations, confetti, table flowers and favours….

…spent hours making yards and yards of bunting and a few hours decorating the marquee and putting up cheap white paper lanterns from a very wobbly ladder.

So it was lovely to wander around in the same warm sunshine that we had enjoyed that day with our memories and see that thankfully the place remains quite unchanged. We had gone specially to see the magnificent collection of rhododendrons that are in bloom at this time of year – they are renowned all over the world and they did not disappoint. They were stunning.

Many of them were planted by DH’s grandfather who also propogated many of the hybrids on the estate such as ‘Lord Stair’ and one named after himself RW Rye. He was awarded an RHS gold medal for them and of course we have his rhododendron in both our gardens. He is also credited as the person who propogated the pale lavender buddleia named ‘Loch Inch’ which many people will have in their gardens.

The round lily pond which is 1/4 of a mile across is another feature which is absolutely glorious.

The ‘newer castle’ built around 1860 is where Lord and Lady Stair reside and is situated between the two locks (the Black Loch – Loch Crindil and the White Loch- Loch Inch) and has magnificent views across the landscape.

We spent the afternoon sketching in the sunshine before treating ourselves to tea and scones – it was so nice to do something quite creative for once though I need a lot of practise I am decidedly rusty, especially the watercolour which is spectacularly bad – but at least I made a start – it takes time to get back into it.

We decided that today would be a ‘rest’ day and we are walking to the village and up the steep hill out towards the Mull to see one of the Open Gardens at a cottage that adjoins one we nearly put in an offer for, but we bought our cottage instead so it will be interesting to see what they have made of the garden.

The weather has been so hot here everything is beginning to look parched and dry and many of the flowers are soon over. Even the foxgloves have bent over heads from a lack of water. Our garden ranges from peaty and waterlogged to dry sandy dust and my style of gardening is just to let the self seeders find their own home where they are happiest.

So that is all my news so far which just leaves me to say a warm welcome to all my new followers and sorry for the lack of posts – life just gets incredibly busy and my energy levels incredibly diminished – but I hope everyone reading is enjoying the good weather, though personally I could easily tolerate it much cooler but at least the sea breeze helps to cool me down. I have had to garden all week wherever there is shade so I have been constantly moving around and consequently no one patch or task is fully complete. We have also spent some time over a concerning problem that has arisen because the new owner of the caravan site next door wants to put a locked gate at the top of our lane over which we have a right of access to our cottage. This would be very restrictive for anyone coming to the cottage if we had to hand out keys to everyone who has to have access, especially when we start to have contractors on site again to renovate the cottage.

Nothing ever stays the same for long these days and it is so easy to get swept up by other people’s agendas – I am feeling pretty upset by it all especially as it has been such a difficult time with the flood and then the Covid restrictions.

But tomorrow is another day as they say!

Back soon x

dear diary :: garden progress

Just a quickie as I drink my cocoa as my bed awaits – I am utterly shattered from a few days of intense gardening and we have only just scratched the surface. Apart from the horrendous wind and rain on Saturday morning we have had good weather for most of the week with clear skies and sunshine and each day has got a little warmer than the one before. Tomorrow we have to go down home for two or three weeks to attend appointments and do other things including another visit to my mum whilst my sister is on her respite holiday.

Everywhere I look there are jobs to be done here, weeds to be lifted, branches to be pruned and order to be reinstated (well as much order as you can get in a semi-wild garden). Most plants seem to be quite late coming out this year – everything is in bud and about to burst forth and probably waiting for the moment we leave!

I made a start on this banking below the lane and on the wood side of the cottage.

The banking is one of those places that I find hard to decide just what to plant here. I have cleared it a few times and then never got to put any plants in as by the time I have cleared it all it is time to go home and when we get back there has been another flurry of seedlings – but never quite so bad as during this lockdown period. It is dry and sandy near the top, almost like dust, then it can be quite boggy at the bottom where the water runs down and collects. It gets a lot of wind from both directions and until last year had an enormous conifer at one end which gave us plenty of shade and privacy. The conifer was taken down by Scottish Power as it was situated just underneath the power line to the cottage and every year or so they had to take a good three metres off the top of it which left it looking rather an odd shape and in the end a lot of brown bare stems. It wasn’t very pretty so we had it removed and we will grow something a little lower in height.

Over time the soil has washed down the banking with the rain because it is quite steep and so our plan is to build it up a bit more using the well rotted contents from our compost bins and then we will terrace it with some wooden planks of treated timber to make planting pockets. Well that is the plan.

Most of the weeds are pink campion and blue alkanet – both lovely wild flowers but quite invasive and they crowd out any garden plants so have to be well controlled. As you can see from the picture below it is a slow job clearing such a backlog of weeds. In the picture, but well hidden behind the fern, is a little Robin sitting on its nest – 3 little eggs – she has been quietly watching us garden all week – we probably relieved the boredom of having to sit still for hours on end!

Above is looking across the garden from on top of the banking next to the lane. I cleared this patch from unwanted invaders fairly quicky. The lane gets a lot of wind and sea spray so anything planted here has to be fairly tough. Below is the little blue gate leading to the daisy path that takes you down to the cottage. The Rosa Rugosa hedge on the right should have been well pruned this year to reduce the height to keep it bushy and prevent it being ‘leggy’ but of course we could not come up to do it. The holly tree like the rest of them in the garden is waiting clipping but that will be another job another visit. The conifer used to completely block the view of the cottage making it more private so something will be put in its place.

There are one or two nice little spots in the garden here and there.

Solomon’s Seal
Sweet Woodruff and Astrantia
Primula
Braeburn Apple blossom

I really don’t want to go back home – I miss the sea when we have to leave.

I won’t miss my aching back though!

Back soon x

dear diary :: good to be back

It is so good to be back by the sea and nothing lifts my spirits more – though a little less sea breeze and a slightly higher temperature would be better. It is sunny, bright (and breezy) but certainly very cold and as we look across Luce Bay we can see the snow topped hills in the background a reminder that although my calender is telling me it is May the weather has still to catch up.

I am having to choose my position in the garden very carefully – the seaside garden is a definite no no and the wood side, although more sheltered, is shaded by the trees at this time of year while the sun is still a bit low. So I am nestled into a cosy spot outside the little porch that leads into the kitchen. The giant Fatsia and privet hedge providing shelter from the wind on one side and the cottage itself on the other. It is not the worst part of the garden by any means there are places crying out for resuscitation after being ignored for more than a year….but one step at a time.

We had a visit from the ‘ratman’ this morning – during the lockdown they had taken up camp in our wood being fed nicely by the escalation of the takeaways and leftovers of food in the bins belonging to the pub next door (part of the legacy from the government initiative ‘eat out to help out’ scheme). I don’t think they had included the rat population in this – but they had a good feast nonetheless.

Afterwards I managed a couple of hours gardening while the leek and potato soup simmered away on the stove. After lunch we had a stroll to the village chatting with one or two of the locals at a safe distance and catching up on the news and generally just passing the time of day. It was obviously washing day. I always find it is an immensely satisfying sight for some reason to see washing on a line and blowing in the wind by the sea (no tumble driers needed up here) and I just had to have a few pictures.

We took the low road that runs by the shore back home to view the now famous artwork – the painted stones – which have grown in number over the past year and many more painted stones have been added to the collection, an obvious sign of what everyone has been doing during lockdown. I loved these simple little leaf paintings.

Tomorrow we have a visit from a local civil engineer who will hopefully make some suggestions for the repairs we need to have done to the burn; we lost a bit of the banking this winter when the willow tree fell over into the water taking part of the banking with it. The farmer next door removed the tree for us with his tractor and now we need to repair the hole before it erodes any more.

A lot of land was lost to the sea this year on the seabank below us but luckily this is not our responsibility and falls to the new owner of the caravan site. Presently, he has the civil engineers in with diggers and hefty looking Tonka toys making the banking good and laying armoured rock against it to hopefully stop further erosion. The power of the sea should never be underestimated.

Ah well my bed beckons….night everyone x

dear diary :: here at last

At last we are here in Scotland at the cottage but staying in the caravan in the garden of course (as those regular readers, who know the flood story, will know).

And what of the garden? Well did you ever read the Secret Garden as a child? Then perhaps like me you can remember having an image in your mind of the moment when Mary discovers the entrance to the hidden garden and unlocks the door to discover a wild and beautiful place – well that is just what our cottage garden looks like now after 6 months of neglect. Very wild but also quite beautiful. My heart was both heavy and lifted at the same time.

The daisy path
The stone trough
Looking out to sea at the end of the trellis border
The lawn garden and pine tree border looking towards the entrance to the lower wood and woodland walk

Everything has grown in abundance including the wild flowers and those that are definitely weeds. The goosegrass is draping itself around so many plants and weighing them down.

The stone steps to the pond – all but disappeared!

Sadly, we cannot leave it in this state as even a wild garden has to be managed or the most vigorous plants eventually take over and the smaller vulnerable ones are crowded out. If left unpruned the trees and shrubs grow so tall the reduced sunlight causes the undergrowth to die back and with little light plants like ivy soon settle in and can sweep through a wood floor like a fire. It is a fine balance I have to strike in this garden to keep it in check but also keep it looking quite natural.

Looking back across the lawn garden
The entrance to the woodland walk in the lower wood
The streambank border with self seeded giant thistles

After an initial tour of the garden I estimated it would probably take us about 2 years to get it back to what it was like before, but now having spent a couple of mornings in the garden I might revise that to 3 years hard labour! Everywhere I look trees and shrubs need attention, the invasive weeds removing and many plants need thinning out or cutting back. The ivy is heading for the farmers field next door and some of the weeds have settled in so well they have tap roots more than 2 feet long.

But it is not all doom and gloom, despite the rather wild and shaggy appearance, and the fact that some areas have been fully taken over by something far too vigorous, there are delightful little corners to discover where self seeded foxgloves and poppies have made a new home.

The laneside border

The picture below is by the lower woodland pond and I now have a very green mossy path with daisies that was once bark chippings – but I quite like this and will probably keep it as it is. The little seat by the pond has disappeared altogether into the undergrowth – it may take me a while to uncover it.

The pond by the woodland walk in the lower wood

There will be plenty to keep us busy for a while – thankfully we do not have to maintain the caravan other than it needs a wash down on the outside to remove the green winter film it collects. And of course there is soup to make – mushroom maybe and tomato.

On our very last visit here back in January we did not get to replace the empty gas bottle so that was on the priority list, there is nothing like running out halfway through cooking a meal. So a trip into our nearest town of Stranraer was required in the afternoon…..that and it was good to take a break. Frequent rests are much needed at the moment until our backs are stronger and can cope with the strenuous work in the garden. Being at home for so long during lockdown just pottering around the house and our very small Yorkshire garden has left us with weaker unused muscles.

The weather was so lovely yesterday that whilst in Stranraer, which was eerily quiet, we decided to take a walk down to the harbour and round through Agnew Park. The light and cloud formation was incredible – I will leave you with a few pictures.

It is time for bed now – I am not sure I am making much sense in this ramble – I have an early start in the garden tomorrow….weather permiting. x

dear diary :: homeward bound

Nothing much happened yesterday other than a trip into the local town of Stranraer – but for me that is quite a pleasant event.  We decided to put the final portion of the tomato soup in a flask, make a sandwich and take lunch with us.  All was calm weather wise and the sun came out so we stopped in the pretty village of Ardwell further up the coast and watched gulls bobbing about on the sea whilst lunching.  The two cottages facing out onto the bay are my very favourite on this coast – much more sheltered than we are.

Would you believe it though, as we turned off the main road into the picnic area by the shore the car beeped and a fault message suddenly flashed on the dashboard screen ‘automatic parking brake fault’ and the service light came on?   Usually when we stop the car when parking the handbrake automatically engages as there is no handbrake to pull on and luckily even if the automatic parking brake doesn’t work you can operate the brake manually with a lever – but it is yet another problem to add to the list.  When we arrived back at the caravan later all messages had disappeared from the screen and the car’s automatic brake came on – so maybe it has corrected itself…who knows!

After lunch we took a quick brisk walk along the beach looking for beach finds then headed off into town – it was bitterly cold so we kept dodging into shops just to keep warm.  I got mum’s card and a lovely one that opens out into a train for Freddie’s 1st birthday.  I had to write mum’s card in the local café to get it in the post – I slipped in a book token for her – as she cannot get out much now reading is quite important to her but this means buying a lot more books.

After a trip to the post office we went round to my favourite hardware shop which is more like a mini department store.  Here you can still buy something as basic as a steel fire basket for your coal fire or some of those old varieties of seed potatoes ….and sure enough they had jam pot covers –there was even a choice and I opted for the mixed pack of waxed circles with the cellophane covers.

It is one of those shops where you feel you can buy anything and coming across a pile of cloths between the dishcloths and floor cloths marked ‘udder cloths’ was no surprise.  They are quite nice – like stiff muslin (maybe you had one Pat on your farm?)  I am sure they might be quite useful for something other than udders – but I couldn’t think what so I put it back.

A lot of the shelves were quite bare having cleared away all signs of the decorations, artificial trees and lights that they have on display at Christmas to the delight of the local children (it is their only Santa Grotto for miles).  The assistants were busy having a bit of a change around as shops do now and just starting to put out their new stock.  It is a struggle for these independent shops to keep going – a lot are family owned and when they retire they are lost and gone for ever leaving increasingly empty gaps like on most high streets.   I always try to buy things when we are up here to help keep them going.

We had a bit of a shock in Tesco though – it is not a big store but bigger than one of their Express stores.  A few years ago they removed the instore bakery but have continued to sell a range of freshly baked bread and Danish pastries; now the section selling the freshly baked bread and rolls has halved in size to one small fitment and they have stopped selling wholemeal loaves altogether unless you want the wrapped steam baked Warburton’s type which I don’t like (too squishy for me). 

What made it worse is the fact that they have now expanded the sugary cakes and doughnuts section to fill the space.  This feels like a big step backwards to me especially in a region that is known to have a pretty bad diet of high fat and sugar foods anyway.  Are people substituting cakes for bread I wonder?  The Tesco assistant said this was not the only store to remove the wholemeal loaves.

When we come here for any length of time we are going to be quite stuck for bread now – we can bring some with us but obviously not for a whole week or longer – I like my bread on the dry side but stale is another thing!

We bought the haggis, a few wee scotch pies (the men love these), macaroni for the vegetarians and some after dinner treats….Tunnock’s of course. There is no way to make haggis look appetising in a photo but here it is.

So today we are homeward bound – car allowing, stopping in Castle Douglas another fine market town full of little independent shops, a huge Wilkos and the best craft shop ever.  Oh and did I mention they have an award winning chip shop – so a bag of freshly cooked chips is a must.

I just need one more turn around the garden to say goodbye until next time.

Have a wonderful weekend. x

PS. The tomato soup recipe is now in the recipe section – click on the tab above the header. Hope you enjoy it Wendy x

dear diary :: roaming in the gloaming

The journey to Scotland didn’t start too well.  We were up, packed and ready to go on time but then a power cut delayed us, as we had to wait to be sure everything electrical was off and the burglar alarm set OK, then as we drove the first mile it was obvious the car is still not as it should be….smooth.  The suspension was suspiciously rather bumpy and hard which is not like Citroens at all.  We circled the block a couple of times, me driving, then DH driving as it seems far worse on the passenger side, then we went back home to decide on what we should do.  Already having forked out £1200 for this problem we are reluctant to go back to the same garage.

We decided we would carry on to Scotland turning back at Preston if the suspension had not settled down by then or had got worse.  It more or less remained the same – probably better on the smoother roads like the motorways and no warning messages had activated so we pressed on, fingers crossed all the way.

Anyway we are here in Scotland now and despite all the weather warnings it was gloriously sunny yesterday, but bitterly cold in the breeze.  I have said this before but I do love these grey winter days by the sea, they are quite calming and relaxing. 

And we have no plans other than to relax.

Because of the earlier set backs and subsequent late departure we didn’t get to the cottage (caravan) until 9pm. It was cold inside the van, the central heating boiler had lost water pressure and was flashing fault. Hastily, we scrambled around for the manual to check the fault code – most likely due to a leak it says – no obvious signs inside so we will need to examine the outside pipes under the van in the daylight – in the meantime DH is able to let more water into the system so that we can get the heating up and running again.

Meanwhile, I start to busy myself unpacking and making up the bed with clean linen only to discover that the electric blanket that I had taken home to wash…. was……you guessed it…… still at home. Memories of the recent cake saga flood into my mind. Luckily, we keep a hot water bottle at the van and so this was requisitioned to warm and air the bed which was so cold I could only envisage a night of discomfort. Trying to heat up the whole of the bed a few square inches at a time takes some effort when you are tired and cold and just want to climb into a warm bed and sleep.

After a while we managed to warm up the room and the bed and eventually jumped in fully kitted out with t-shirts and socks….. and actually slept quite soundly.

It was quite late when we surfaced, tired after the long journey, but the sun was shining so after breakfast we went out to survey our land – not quite roaming in the gloaming (which means twilight – I had to Google it) but rather midday.  We always have a wander through the wood and round the garden then down onto the beach to check everything is OK.

Everything was as it should be with no evidence of any fallen trees or flooding, even the burn running alongside the cottage was not as high as it might have been.  It would seem we had survived storm Brendan – only the little path that takes us onto the shore was covered in a pool of water so we had to make do just looking from the banking.

Round the corner from us is in the next bay is a different story; where the coast road runs alongside the beach the road is closed – an action that has been taken far more seriously since the death of the couple and their two dogs last year when they were swept out to sea one stormy night.  It is a long diversion and one that the locals are loathed to take but one that will save lives.  The spray from the sea covers the road and sends up quite large beach stones with it…a treacherous mile known here as the car wash.

So all seemed well until we came to open the garage door only to find one of the cables of the up and over door has snapped.  Being so close to the sea there are certain things you have to get used to – rust is one of them.  The cables rust with the salt from the sea spray, which finds its way in through any crack, and so need replacing quite frequently.  DH is quite capable of replacing them and we always keep a spare or two.  However, as he started to replace the cable the tension spring went as well so now we have a door that we cannot close or open fully.  With this and the car problems I won’t deny the stress is building up a bit.  The search for a garage door fixer is now on. And we have still to locate a possible leak.

In all this turmoil, both in our lives and the world generally who can deny the beauty around us and tuning into nature is one of the best ways to calm down – I tell myself – and it does – I was delighted to see snowdrops dancing around in the breeze and the first daisies appearing in the grass.

There are little signs of new life everywhere and the rabbits have not, as yet, been scratching up the bulbs but I do need to put a little food out for the birds….the table is empty and the robin sits looking quite hopeful at me.

So today while DH is on the phone trying to find a Mr Fix it man I will be making some warming tomato and red pepper soup for lunch. I am hopeful we may get into town for a look around the shops – only a look – there is nothing much we need other than jam pot covers, and we will certainly find them here – we had no luck at home. Keep warm everyone.

dear diary :: calm before the storm

We came up to the cottage with the intention of getting away from everything and having a rest.  That was the plan – but of course we are so used to doing things and not resting that we still packed the boot of the car with gardening tools – the gardening tools for heavy work such as the hedge trimmer and pruning pole.  We never learn.

DH’s cold has kept him inside, just resting – I am trying to dodge the sneezes as I really don’t want to catch it.  When he was at work he never had colds or flu – I can’t ever remember him having a day off ill, so where is he catching this from now he is at home most of the time.

I did very little yesterday other than make some tomato soup; it feels quite foreign to do nothing.  After lunch I went for a walk around the garden and then down onto the beach.  I actually like the greyness at this time of year it has a kind of sombre tranquility when the colour of the sky merges with the colour of the sea.

The weather must have been quite bad whilst we were away as there is seaweed strewn over the little steps down to the beach, suggesting some very high and forceful tides.  I had a mind to collect some seaweed for the garden but then got diverted taking photos. There are still a few pockets of colour here and there in the garden and the trees are turning a lovely golden colour before the leaves fall.

This is a good time of year to get on top of the weeds but my knee is not good at the moment – I have a hard cyst called a Baker’s cyst developed at the back of my knee in the crease and the fluid makes it hard to bend it when I kneel down so weeding has been a bit of a struggle this afternoon and two hours has been my limit.

Having so little to do here has given me a chance to catch up with my favourite blogs and even leave a comment or two.  I will make the most of this quiet time because come the weekend the pace will increase again as we will be going down to North Yorkshire from here to stay with my daughter so we can visit my mum and take her out for a couple of days, and then look after the grandchildren a couple of days. Then we can go home and catch up with the jobs piling up there. I am savouring these few days of calm. Looking at my diary it will be almost November by the time we get back home – a sobering thought.

I have also caught up with a bit of reading.  I downloaded the accompanying ebook to an audio book I got from Audible a while ago.  It is called The Kaizen Approach and part of the ‘lean’ process of doing things.

Kaizen is all about changing things in small steps and I love this idea as it fits well with our hectic lifestyle at the moment.  Not that I want it to be hectic – far from it but at the moment with so many family members needing our support we have no option.  Kaizen is all about small – taking small actions, identifying small moments and giving yourself small rewards.

So with Kaizen in mind I am looking at making a few small changes to the way I do things. A while ago we tried eating our meals earlier at 12.30pm for lunch and 6.30pm for dinner and it worked well so I can’t for the life of me think why this has slipped back again. But it has and 2pm can be the norm for lunch and 7.30pm for dinner, which is too late and not good for the digestion especially as we are now getting ready for bed earlier than we used to unless there is something riveting on the TV …and that is not often. One of the changes will be to go back to the earlier times.

There are other changes I need to make too – I decided that cleaning the whole house in one day like I used to is not viable anymore – I don’t seem to have the energy I once had and even doing upstairs one day and downstairs another has proved just as exhausting. So I have been trying to get most of the rooms deep cleaned, reorganised and cleared of clutter so that I can keep up to them on a rota basis over the month. Our office / craft room is still the worst of the rooms with all the paper mountain but I am reducing this bit by bit by scanning important items onto the computer.

Did I mention we have another event coming up that will need my input – it will be little Freddie’s Christening in November (my elder daughter’s little boy who will be 10 months next month). We have the church booked for the baptism and a local village hall for the feast afterwards. The cake maker is on standby and as we did for the birthday party in April we will be ordering the food from M&S and I will make a quiche or two and some desserts.

The village hall does not have any crockery, cutlery or tablecloths but it does have a little bar that they can staff for a small charge. We will be having finger food and using the plastic plates I always reuse for parties….the tablecloths are posing a bit of a problem but we should be able to find enough from various family members. It is going to be a military operation on the day picking up the food and setting up the hall before the service at 11am, crikey…no room for error then. So before I can think too much about Christmas I need to get on with the arrangements for the Christening.

Not much other news at the moment – when I looked at the tasks I set out to do at the beginning of the month (see my October intentions) I have more or less covered them all – only the crafts have fallen behind, but then they always seem to.

Welcome to all the new followers it is lovely to have you on board x

seasons :: all is safely gathered in

Come, ye thankful people, come;

Raise the song of harvest home.

All is safely gathered in

Ere the winter storms begin.

God, our Maker, doth provide

For our wants to be supplied.

Come to God’s own temple, come;

Raise the song of harvest home.

There is something very comforting and reassuring about the words of harvest home – gathering in for the winter ahead, reaping the rich rewards of our earlier efforts of sowing and growing – picking fruits and berries from the hedgerows – and then making, baking and preserving – what could feel better and feed the soul at the same time. It is as nature intended.

I have spent the week here ‘gathering in’; apples for cooking, blackberries for pies, ripening tomatoes in the sun and stacking logs for the wood store – and thinking ahead, I have been foraging for useful Christmas decorations – pine cones, hydrangea heads and a few lengths of willow for a wreath.

I feel now that I am well gathered!

We have lived very simply here over the last two weeks at the cottage – only buying enough food for a few days ahead and mainly fresh food – vegetables, dairy and bread. We don’t keep stocks of anything very much in the caravan just a little salt and pepper, a jar of dried pasta, some rice, a carton of lentils and tomato passata and a few teabags. You might even find a tin of baked beans, if you are lucky.

But with Brexit upon us I have been thinking long and hard about what action, if any, I should take to stock my larder at home. There will be panic buying – I have no doubt – judging by the food shopping frenzy at Christmas – it seems it is a very British thing – but I hate to be a part of that. On the other hand the words in the hymn ‘all is safely gathered in‘ suggests to me that it is a wise move to gather in before the winter storms and what could be more of a storm in the making than Brexit.

At the beginning of this year I decided not to keep large stocks of food in my cupboards at home so that it would never end up as out of date waste and I have loved the emptiness and the fact that we have not needed huge amounts of food in hand or added to the ‘waste’ mountain; but now I feel I must heed the words of the hymn and gather in for my family. So when I return home I will be buying a few extra tins and long dated dry products, ready for the long winter months, ready for Brexit whatever shape that takes.

It has been the most wonderful few days here in Scotland, dry sunny days, not too hot, just perfect for gardening; it has been oh so quiet, just us and a few birds, who have also been busy gathering in – so before we return home, and I am sad to be leaving, here are a few pictures from around the garden…..

back soon – have a lovely weekend and welcome new followers. x