Saturday, 28 June 2014

Rona's Random Ramblings

What a lovely sunny weekend at home. Thankfully my painful back is easing and I can move more comfortably. I am trying not to write morose sad blogs about leaving Easter Mosshat, but when I see ideas and planting plans coming together that have been developing over the years and finally doing what I envisioned just as we are about to leave, its not easy to not feel sad. I also think the plants are having their revenge. The Abies koreana I grew from a seed 14 years ago has its first perfect purple cones this year. An apple tree planted about 10 years ago is fruiting. The delphiniums that struggle are amazing, tall and perfect this year. Hmmmmmm!

Bracken sheltering from a rain shower

So today we are moving all the plants from the greenhouses up to the top of the garden, where they can be loaded into the van when the time comes. I of course in supervisory capacity only while David and Adam wheel plants up in barrows. Benches, old chimney pots and the other random items scattered around the garden to add interest have been gathered into crates and packed. Once the plants were all moved it was on with dismantling the large greenhouse.

The big greenhouse emptied of plants

Honeysuckle and Ox Eye Daisies
Plenty of colour

Open top greenhouse
Team Work

Part of the collection to go
Spot the dog

Two thirds of the collection to go
A third of the collection to go

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

A weekend to Oban, Staffa and Lunga (Part One)

On Friday David and I took a well earned day off and headed to Oban for the weekend. It was great to escape the packing boxes, lists of things to do, moving and dwindling belongings and take time out for us. Over the weekend we combined our love of travel, food, gardens, history, nature and adding new experiences to life and I survived camping and a small boat!

We meandered our way north via Glasgow to Loch Lomond where we stopped off at my favourite view point on the loch to stretch our legs and take in the view.

Looking north up Loch Lomond

From here we travelled over the Rest and be Thankful to Loch Fyne and down to Inverary. I haven't been here in years, its a pretty little town on the shores of the loch with its white painted buildings and fine views to the mountains beyond the loch. Here we stopped in Brambles Bistro for a coffee and cake, very nice it was too. 

Buildings in Inveraray

After our refreshments, we headed south along the loch, enjoying the views in the sunshine towards Crarae Gardens. Now run by the National Trust for Scotland, this garden is built round a gorge with tumbling waterfalls and woodland. From informal flower beds outside the visitor centre you climb up gradually along the side of the gorge under giant Rhododendrons.

Rhododendron falconeri
Rhododendrons in sunlight

Remains of an ancient burial mound

With views across to the bankings on the other side and the sound of water falls it really feels you are somewhere tropical and not in Scotland. We were a bit too late for the Rhododendrons in flower but there was still plenty colour. Primulas were in flower and Rodgersias with their bronzy leaves brightened the boggy areas next to the stream. Occasionally a small bridge crosses the gorge and you can either follow these paths or continue to the top bridge and down the other side. There are several paths and routes to follow depending on time, your fitness and what you want out of the garden. 

Crarae House

Some late flowering Rhododendrons
We meandered back down to where the stream levels out through a bamboo tunnel which was really cool. Another idea for the new garden in a year or so's time. After sitting in the sun under huge Philadelphus and roses with their intoxicating scents for a while, we headed back to the car and the next leg of the journey to Oban. 

From Lochgilphead we headed north through Kilmartin Glen. As well as being a pretty glen to drive through, it is steeped in Bronze Age history. Dotted all along the glen are cairns, burial mounds and standing stones.

Inside one of the burial mounds
Steps out

In Kilmartin village there is a great wee museum about the glen with a fab cafe where we had lunch, very nice. More foodie treats for my birthday foodie.  After lunch we walked down the glen to visit four of the cairns, a burial ground and a set of standing stones. I really liked the burial ground amongst the trees. It had a restful tranquil air about it. One of the cairns is accessible down a set of stairs and the burial cist has been left in place. For history fans like us its great to visit these places. The set of standing stones in a nearby field were really interesting in their alignment. Unfortunately there was no passage back to the past... if you are a Diana Gabaldon and Outlander fan, you'll get the link. She's my favourite author and her Outlander series is incredible. 

Temple Wood burial ground

Temple wood
Maintained by Historic Scotland there are comfortable paths and styles to use to visit these ancient sites, the surrounding fields were full of buttercups in full flower and dozing cows, relaxing in the afternoon heat. From here it was a scenic half hour up to Oban and the camp site where we were staying for the weekend. Yes me camping! David is determined to convert me so we can get lots more weekends away cheaply and visit all the places we want to go and do the things we want to experience. I can really see the logic in this and totally agree ...... but camping? Any hoo I survived, but maybe that's because we had great weather so weren't soaked, and huddled in the tent! We are already planning our next trip. 

Monday, 16 June 2014

Reclaiming lawns from meadows and taking down the wee greenhouse

The packing up of house and garden continues. Fortunately at last, we had a weekend off and dry weather, amazing and welcome! Saturday was spent trying to reclaim the garden from weeds and overgrown lawns. Due to a heavy work load over the last month for both of us and rain whenever we were off, the lawns have become meadows and the weeds have taken over the beds and paths.

Spotted orchids naturalised in the lawns and flowering
 because they haven't been cut in ages!

I spent Saturday morning weed killing while David and the younger two started strimming the lawns and raking the grass up. Once I'd finished weed killing, I pitched in with the strimming and raking. Once an area was strimmed down to a manageable height the lawn mower did the rest and we have cut and edged lawns once more. A normal grass cut takes Jamie three hours as there is so much of it. This time it took 8 hours, a strimmer, lawn mower, two rakes, a barrow and five people. But the job is done and hopefully we can keep on top of it until we move in  six weeks.

Some of my pelargonium collection moved
out of the big greenhouse for crating up

On Sunday after a lovely long lie with bagels and coffee for breakfast, David and Adam started moving plants potted to go up from the greenhouse area to the top of the garden. I emptied more plants out the wee greenhouse and crated them up ready to move. After lunch we started to de construct the wee greenhouse. Again team effort at EM gets lots of work done with humour and banter and rewards in the shape of take away later in the week.

De constructing the wee greenhouse

And Lo yonder awaits the big greenhouse,
 a jungle still to be tackled and dismantled!

Bagged and crated ready to move

Bracken kills a potato he found in the compost heap

Even mechanics have problems with bolts

Greenhouse plants move out

Its a fiddly job but a bit of swearing and hammer usually help
The bits are all marked and bagged ready for rebuilding at the other end, whether that be at the rental house or our own place in a year or so time. But guaranteed we will have forgotten what went where in that time, so hence the marking. As the guys said it is just a big meccano set at the end of the day.

Open top greenhouse

Some of the words floating on the air included
damn bl**dy feffing bolts, damn gardeners,
 f ffffff for goodness sake, etc
 Although tiring, we achieved an awful lot this weekend and I feel we have made progress outside in organising things to move. But there is so much to do, dry days and progress make me feel better about getting it all done. David is having heart failure over everything we are taking with us, and yes it is a monumental task to take so many plants and all my things, our belongings etc. but it is also very important to me and eases the pain of moving. I have been collecting these plants for over 20 years, many I have raised from cuttings and seed, brought back from trips, etc. besides it would cost a fortune to replace them and when we get our new place they will more than fill the new garden.

The greenhouse bench becomes a work bench

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Ultimate recycled bread "tins"

I've been going through the larder, using up packets and odds and ends that have been lying around for a while. This way there'll be less to pack and move when the time comes. How I will survive without my walk-in larder? That's one of the many difficult things about leaving here. I designed the house, everything about it is there for a reason, to fit furniture, ornaments and ideas from houses I'd worked around and grown up in. I always remember the big larder in the cottage I grew up in: shelves from floor to ceiling, and if the door had been shut, the smell of spices and food when it opened wafting out to tickle our noses. 

Malted apricot bread in the making

I grew up in a family of bakers and cooks: everything made from scratch, economical and thrifty. I'm a grand-daughter of a butcher, of a generation who lived on rations through the war and who knew how to make food stretch far and grew all their own fruit and veg.

Free bread tins

I have naturally kept this going because I love to cook and bake and I love seeing my family fed with healthy, freshly produced, interesting food (and until recently some home grown too). I like new recipe books and the Good Food magazine, trying out new ideas and meals.

The bread dough in the tins ready to prove

Anyway I digress, this was to be a blog about my recycled mini bread tins. Don't ask me how this idea came about, it was just one of those thoughts that led from one to another. Oh and clearing out the larder, I found a part used bag of malted flour so decided to make some bread with it, put the two together with some dried apricots and sunflower seeds scattered on top and I had mini loaves. It was lovely to have the smell of baking bread in the house again. 

A tea towel over the top whilst proving

You can use any bread recipe you fancy. Because I was using up the bag of flour, I used the recipe on the back of the packet. Once you've proved the bread, divide it up in to however many pieces you want, or however many tins you are using, I used four and a quarter of the mix fitted nicely into a tin. Because they are smaller pieces in thin tins, you need to bake them for a bit less time, so keep and eye on them until done. Another couple of tips: don't use tins with the plastic linings, just plain good old tins and don't use tins that have pull lids: the bread gets caught on the rim when trying to get it out, not fun.

Out the oven, ready to cool

Really looking forward to these at the weekend, with some cold meats, pate and cheeses

Monday, 9 June 2014

The Quirky Bird is looking for a temporary Bird Hoose

We have decided to rent a house for a while. This is not ideal by any stretch of the imagination, giving the quantity of our processions, my plants collection, 2 greenhouses, 5 full or part time kids, 2 cats, a tank of fish, chickens and a fuzzy dog! But there really isn't an ideal new home for the Quirky Bird gardener, partner, kids and all of the above on the market at the moment. It would be easy to rush into buying somewhere that wasn't quite right and then regret it at our leisure.

Interesting but maybe not

Finding a rental house somewhere that fits all of us, our stuff, is still easily commutable to work for David and I and keeps Dan at his school and is rural is not easy and we have 7 weeks in which to find somewhere that ticks all those boxes. Again back to trawling the internet for suitable places, yawn. Then there is the cost of renting some where! Ouch, that's more than I was paying for a mortgage, and full of old scaffy furniture, hey ho, keep looking. We did look at one place at the weekend, huge converted barn, tiniest garden ever. Really no space for my plants, greenhouse or to exercise the dog and it would be a two hour round trip to work every day for me which does not fill me with joy at all.

Because of all the stress, organising and work of moving house, working full time, trying to fit everything in I really miss getting time to do the things I really enjoy doing for me and ultimately for my loved ones too. I am an artistic creative person and not having time to do those things really doesn't do me much good. I have been reassessing what I actually want out of life, my life. Being potentially half way through my life and after the past few years I've had, it makes you think

Holiday Treats

Part of the moving house and down sizing plan is to make time for those things, to actually claim some time and life back to live life how we want to, not feeling tied to doing things because we have to but doing things because we want too. Also to finally close doors on stressful events, reduce stress in live and move forward.

Things I want back in my life:

Hill Walking
This gal knows how to celebrate getting to the top of a mountain

Get back to reading, my book pile is huge and I used to read all the time,
One of the things on my bucket list is to read the top 100
literature classics, which is why I bought these three

Get back to some serious but fun photography

Lots more trips and travelling as a family and a couple

Tick more things off my bucket list

More cooking and baking

I am sure there are lots more thing, but they kinda run into each other's catagories above. Watch this space ................................

As for the gardens here at Easter Mosshat, the place that sparked this mad blogging lark, oh no its not a lark, its a quirky bird, ha ha. Sometimes when I go out into the garden I sad at the thought of leaving in seven weeks, other times  I sigh and think it will be so much better not to have the weight of such a huge place around my neck any more. Sometimes I can't bear to look at the garden because the memories come rushing at me.

Can't believed common spotted orchids have seeded in two of the
lawns, and were only seen because we haven't had a chance to
mow the lawns!

We haven't had much of a chance to do ant basic maintenance, not through choice or lack of interest but because it has done nothing but rain every weekend I have been off or I have been working. The lawns look like meadows and the weeds are taking control. I have fingers crossed for a dry weekend next and will have to wield a strimmer and weedkiller to regain some semblance of control.