Thursday, 31 December 2015

A road trip to Perthshire

I've travelled a bit around the world, but no where makes me feel great and makes my heart soar than my own country, Scotland. I was in need of seeing mountains and great scenery this week, so I planned a wee road trip with picnic, dog and who ever wanted to come. In the end four of us headed north on Tuesday, the forecast was to be sunny spells (it wasn't! No surprises there) but it was great to get out. After we got the boring bit out the way (home to Stirling), we took the road to Callander and then north. I love this bit because it signals the start of raw mountains, deep glens, rushing streams, rivers and waterfalls, wild life and wild weather. We climbed the road through Glen Ogle, yet again saying we must do the walk up the disused railway there. Being a houseful of railway enthusiasts, a walk along an old railway usually gets even the most reluctant walkers out! Once at the top of Glen Ogle the road tips over the ridge and we descended towards Crianlarich but turning off the road at Lix Toll towards Killin. As we followed the River Dochart towards the village we could see it was high and flowing fast. Once we reached Killin, it's a must to stop and see the Falls of Dochart flowing under the bridge. The waters were fairly rushing and crashing and roaring, no sunbathing on the rocks this time! 

Falls of Dochart at Killin

Falls of Dochart, I like the lone pine clinging to a rock in the middle

The lone pine

Above is a wee video from You Tube of the falls today after the heavy over night rain, dramatic and alarming! After stopping to admire the drama of the rushing waters we hurried back in a shower of rain to the car and onwards to the shores of Loch Tay. One of many Lochs in Scotland this is a long narrow stretch of water with Killin at the west end and Kenmore in the East. If you ever spend time in this area do visit the Crannog centre. David and I spent a great and very interesting visit here last year. You can visit their website here at the Scottish Crannog Centre. In the village of Fearnan we turned north towards Fortingall, our next destination. It is a pretty little village sitting on the north side of the road from Glen Lyon, with thatch roofed cottages no less. The main attraction here is the Fortingall Yew, a dinosaur tree from another age. 

Fortingall Yew in the grounds of the church

The yew tree (Taxus baccata) is reputed to be anything between 2000 and 5000 years old, modern science is leaning towards 2000 to 3000 years old. What remains are parts of the original trunk and there are markers sunk in the ground to show the massive size of the original. This is the third time I've been here, I find it an interesting and beautiful place to be. I'm not sure the lads were impressed, but hey ho. The church yard has many ancient grave stones with interesting carvings. There are also pictish and early Christian relics that have been found in excavations and are displayed in the church. You can read more about the tree and Fortingall's history here.

Fortingall Church and stone bowl

Fortunately by now the weather had dried up though still over cast for our wee walk along the road to a waterfall recomended to look for, although nothing dramitic, the woodland above the waterfall was very nice, lots of mossy rocks under ancient beech trees. A half hour walk along the road and up a farm track found us at Sput ban falls. The woodland sits on top of cliffs over the falls and it feels like a wee secret spot, I'm sure if we didn't have the dog and spent time sitting quietly we would see lots of wild life. 

Sput Ban Falls

Rushing waters

Bracken, Sput Ban Falls

Gate and trees, Sput Ban falls

Jamie, Sput Ban Falls

Lovely mossy rocks at Sput Ban

It was great to go somewhere different to take some photos. Bracken enjoyed being out and about, well recovered from his car argument a couple of weeks ago. We wandered back to Fortengall and the car where we enjoyed our picnic, though a bit breezy it was unseasonably warm for the end of December. This was further underlined by the distinct lack of snow on the mountain tops.

Looking up towards Glen Lyon

Enjoying some food

From Fortingall we headed back to the shores of Loch Tay and east to Kenmore and then Aberfeldy. There was lots of flooding in the fields, but I suspect it will be a lot worse today. From here we joined the motorway and headed south, across the re opened Forth Bridge and home for tea. It was good to get out in great scenery, for a walk and good company.

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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Christmas Week

Presents under the tree

Wednesday was a day of getting jobs done before finishing up for Christmas, fortunately the weather was dry but cold and windy again. I moved the pallet of compost that's sat in front of the sales area for weeks round to the back of the office, good exercise, if a bit wet as the bags were soaking. The cafe flowers are standing up well with their conifer, holly and cones, so I topped up the water and watered the plants on the sales table. Another two trolleys of plants made their way to the tunnel. All the Crocosmias have been re potted and a couple of trays of Chrysanthemums split and potted and once watered, they were lined up in the tunnel for the winter. It was an early finish as we were taking Bracken to the vet and then were going to Granny's for tea. Bracken got his staples out and cone off, so he is a very happy dog for Christmas.

Eldest and middle son with Bracken at Granny's house

Thursday, last day before Christmas and after a long lie David and I went to the nursery and packed up the pop up shop. We treated ourselves to coffee and cake, wished everyone a merry Christmas and headed off home. I divided up the list of jobs needed done around the house and for Christms dinner prep between the six of us, making my life much easier and less stressful. In the evening David went and collected Becky and Adam. Sadly Becky is only visiting for the evening as she's working on Christmas day. We opened presents and had plates of mincemeat pies and truffles before David took Becky back into town in the late evening.

Christmas selfie

Merry Christmas to you all! I hope you are spending it with loved ones and your day is filled with love, laughter and happiness. After a bit of a long lie we all gathered to open presents, everyone was happy with what they got, whew. Although David and I have booked a weekend away in February as our Christmas present to each other, I got a surprise gift too. A lovely wee bat charm for my bracelet, appropriate and cute. It gets better, from Bracken I got Jack Russell charm!

My new bat charm

A Jack Russell charm for my bracelet from Bracken

The what's in here pose

What every teenager wants, an inflatable candy
cane, lol

This year's Christmas cake

Festive dresser

A lot of pigs in blankets


After the kids went off to spend an hour away with their Dad, we started cooking and putting the finishing touches to Christmas dinner. I'm only catering for six this year, which is a fraction of what I used to do, in some ways that's a good thing, in others not. Our menu this year was

Toast bites, pate and a plum and apple chutney

Roast turkey crown
a mountain of pigs in blankets
stuffing wrapped in pancetta
stuffing loaf
roast potatoes
sprouts with chestnuts and caramelised onions
maple syrup roasted parsnips
orange and ginger carrots
braised red cabbage and apple
thick luxury port gravy

Chocolate orange cheesecake
Christmas pudding


Chocolate orange cheesecake

Merry Christmas from Bracken

Boxing day was very wet but fortunately we were below the snow line. After a really bad nights sleep I had a relaxing day catching up on chores. I scrubbed out the wee fish tank and it looks so much better. The large tank got a normal clean, accounts caught up on and a host of other small jobs done. Dinner was a very easy affair, a cheese fest!


Sunday and an mixed weather day with the morning spent catching up on emails and "stuff". In the aternoon we piled into the cars and went for a walk along part of Roslin Glen. It was great to get out in the fresh air and stretch ourselves, only a couple of miles but enough that the anti-walkers didn't complain too much. There is a ruin of an gunpowder mill at the side of the river under the trees and a blanket of fallen leaves. From there we walked up onto the disused railway path for 10 minutes or so before returning to the car via the road from Roslin Castle Stat

Ruins in Roslin Glen

Bracken in Roslin Glen

Roslincastle Station

Roslyn Chapel from the road

Monday and another poor night's sleep, not sure what's going on but pretty fed up with it! The weather was dry so I headed outdoors to tidy and water the greenhouses. I've switched the heater off again as the weather is so unseasonally warm! After picking off the dead leaves and potting up a couple of cacti and watering, I got on with the task of lifting leaves on the patio and steps up to to the greenhouse. An hour or two later all the leaves were lifted and put in the compost heap, though my back wasn't happy the place certainly looked a lot better. I suspect after storm Frank or whatever it is has rolled through, there will be plenty more leaves lying about again.

Have a great week, until the next time.

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Saturday, 26 December 2015

Food and Wrapping up for Christmas and holidays

Christmas present from the vet for Bracken

Wednesday was a cold and windy day as seems to be the norm these days so I worked through plants stacked up in the covered area for tidying and potting. In the afternoon David came over and we got more of the tunnel done, we must be about half way there by now. It's great to see it coming on, though I suspect the tunnel will be full of plants in the end! Lots of lovely new stock for next year. We've run out of sand for levelling though, so we'll have to wait until we order more and it arrives, but we're winding down for christmas so it will wait until after the festivities.

Progress in the tunnel, tree and shrub seeds in
trays to the left there

There's absolutely no getting away from Christmas now, the two photos above on the left are this year's new decoration, a large glass bauble with beads on wire in it. I like something that's a wee bit different. I've been doing a wee bit of prep every evening and I think we are just about there apart from last minute food shopping and kids presents to sort out on Christmas eve.

The doglet with his one of shame, we decide to sign it like a stookie, by the time he got it removed it was covered

On Thursday the mail brought us the new Scotland Gardens guide book for 2016, in which was our advert for the nursery, very exciting. Hopefully this will help bring new people to the nursery. I did the cafe flowers in the morning, adding in some blue spruce to add to the festive look.

Christmas Flowers for the cafe

Friday was a mixed day and a short day as I was going out in the evening with friends for christmas dinner, a good meal and great to catch up. On Saturday the weather was dry and not too cold, amazing! I got another chunk of willow weaving done on the bottom terrace and probably only have another couple of hours to go, then there's the row at the back to do. Inevitably the rain came on about lunchtime and I moved more plants across to the tunnel. I then stripping down neglected Crocosmia corms and potted plants in the covered area. It's nice to be able to finish early when the weather is bad or it gets dark, the down side is in spring and summer I'll be working 7 days and long hours, hey ho.

Festive decoration on the dining table

Festive foliage, cones and apples

One of the best ways to spend a cold, wet, miserable day is to be baking and cooking in a warm kitchen. On Monday I got all the mince meat pies made and the marzipan on the cake. I also got the greenhouses tidied, the house cleaned and beds changed for Christmas guests, so a productive day.

Making mincemeat pies

I like the ones on the left best

If you've read previous blogs, you'll know I do a lot of cooking and creating at Christmas, here's a couple of links to what I've done in previous years.

Home made Christmas
Christmas truffes

Tuesday saw us heading to the garage to collect David's new to him car, poor old green tanky had finally reached the end of the road, but at 207,000 miles, he had a good innings. We then collected Adam and did the Christmas food shopping, fortunately the store wasn't too busy and by dispatching Adam and Davd to collect things off the list, we did it in good time. Back for a rest before I headed to Lanark to pick up middle son Jamie from the train station for his christmas holidays. So now I have all my boys home, just missing Becky who we will see on Christmas eve.

I hope you are all well nd having a good week.

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Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a very merry christmas

from all of us at the Quirky Bird Gardener and Quercus Garden Plants