Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Vagaries of the scottish weather

Weather wise here in our upland piece of central Scotland we know we aren't out of the bad weather woods until mid May onwards. We have had snow in May and foot deep snow in April before. The last two to three week's weather has been exceptionally warm and sunny for this time of year here. See here and here and it was glorious while it lasted, we're not complaining, BBQ's, trips to the beach, paddling, eating out on the patio, it was great. Now in a few days the temperature has dropped by at least 10C and back to minus temps at night. I thought I was done with the greenhouse heater for this year, but it has been back on the past few nights. 

Today, not only is it cold, we've had snow, wind, hail, rain, sleet and sun.

A bleak outlook over the back garden

Snow covered Daffodils

The birds were hanging onto the peanuts in the gusts of wind

Pulsatilla vulgaris

View from the greenhouse this morning

Of course it is inconvenient from a gardening point of view as I can't get anything done outside, and won't this week as the forecast is to stay wet and cold. But it is damaging too, as you can see from the photos of the bean seedlings below. They are now has beans! They were hardening off in the unheated greenhouse after being potted up at the weekend. I knew it would be cold the last couple of nights but didn't anticipate it being cold enough to do that much damage. I moved them into the heated greenhouse yesterday, but for some that is too late. Fortunately I have another batch of a different runner bean coming  on in the heated greenhouse, so all is not lost. But it is frustrating to lose plants you've nurtured and look forward to planting out and picking a harvest from.

Frosted dwarf beans

Frosted runner beans

How the beans looked at the weekend

Of course late winter weather damage isn't confined to tender plants in the greenhouse. Blossom, be it ornamental or on fruit trees can be frosted resulting in no fruit for that year, young growing tips n plants can be killed off, slowing the plant down for the season or year if it is a slow grower. I haven't seen any major damage on the out door plants here, so fingers crossed the beans are the only casualty. Looking at the five day forecast the temperatures are to stay low during the day and night, and the rain / sleet is to continue. So we will sit tight, and do the waiting game again until the temperature is on the rise again. It's back to catching up on indoor chores, photo editing and preparing for my first course this weekend. While I write this the sun has been out, shining in the study window, but I see a big bank of dark heavy cloud making its way towards us from the south west.........

Sunday, 26 April 2015

This week, summer has come early...and gone again

I've been making the most of the fabulous weather we have had this week to get on top of the garden and all the jobs needing done. The weather is forecast to deteriorate and my course starts in a weeks time so I need to be organised! Gulp.

A selection of my Primula auricula collection in flower

Last weekend was busy as I cam back from Coll in the early evening on Saturday and then on Sunday we went to middle son's OTC (Officer Training Corp) passing out parade in Glasgow. It meant an early start to get there for 9.30am but the weather was dry and mostly sunny which was ideal as the parade was outside. We had coffee and biscuits in the officers mess and then were escorted up to the Glasgow University buildings and the West Quadrangle. It was great to see middle son in his uniform with his fellow OTC members marching and demonstrating rifle manoeuvres, they were very smart and their timing excellent. The band were also spot on with their playing and turn out. One very proud mum.

A collage of our morning at middle son's OTC passing out parade

Monday was my usual house cleaning, catching up on chores, especially having been away for the best part of a week! Finishing sorting out and editing photographs and taking the doglet for a walk. There are still lots of lambs appearing in the fields and some of the older ones are getting to that stage where they club together, bounce about and get up to mischief, they are fun to watch. As well as the usual wee birds at the bird table we've had the greater Spotted woodpecker back several times and I've been able to get some great shots from the camera set up on the tripod. We've also had some other visitors too as you can see below.

Greater Spotted woodpecker on the bird table

Some other visitors to the bird table

On Tuesday I had a day to myself and the weather was forecast to be hot and sunny so I planned to work in the garden all day. It was lovely to be working in short sleeves enjoying the warmth and the birds singing. I weeded and tidied all the beds in the front garden, raked up leaves on the drive and put more soil on a piece of the front step border that was too low where roots of the prostrate birch were exposed. I top dressed and fed the box balls and pyramids in posts at the front door, topped up food on the bird table and put fresh water in for the chickens. The plants in the prairie bed I made earlier in the year are growing and I'm looking forward to seeing how this new bed looks through summer.

Poppy enjoying being out in the sun

Next I raked up the bark from the chicken run they have kicked through the fence onto the lawn, though it was a waste of time, by the next day it was all back again! In one of the borders at the side of the house I planted up last year the Clematis 'Nelly Moser' hasn't taken, so I divided another piece of the one I brought with me and planted it, hopefully this piece will take as it's bigger. After lunch I started tidying weeding and putting pelleted chicken manure on all the moving troughs, pots and containers on the patio.

Lots of colour in the troughs this week

At one end of the patio I have all the fruit I brought with me in large pots. The rhubarb is looking really good, I probably won't pick any this year and let the crowns bulk up recover from being split and moved.

The rhubarb has moved very well

Next I moved onto all the pots and troughs on the upper level, these also got weeded and fed. The plants may end up in the troughs and pots for a few years so it is essential they are kept fed and watered to survive. Next I potted up some of the cuttings that I too from plants I couldn't move from Easter Mosshat. These have been hardening off at the back of the greenhouse for a couple of weeks. I kept 2 of each for my future garden and the rest will either be sold or swapped for new plants. Now that I had cleared some space I moved more cuttings out of the wee greenhouse to harden off, they aren't ready to pot up yeat but I need the space in the wee greenhouse to harden off veg seedlings from the big greenhouse. It gets complicated at this time of year!

Veg seedlings in the wee greenhouse to harden off

Veg seedling mosaic

I moved my auricula primulas to the patio where I can see them flowering, they are looking lovely as you can see in the first picture. I watered both greenhouses and then took photos of all the plants in flower at the moment see this blog here. I also labelled some plants poking through the soil and some that have flowered and I can positively ID now, they also got updated on my data base. Whew, I think that was it for Tuesday, I was tired at night but in that good way when you know you have achieved an awful lot, in good weather and doing what you enjoy.

It's nice to have fresh herbs to cut again

Wednesday was dentist and shopping day, if I'm going to West Calder or Livingston I try to do everything at the one time as its an extra six miles both ways now from where we lived before. Once my teeth were fixed I went and did some retail therapy clothes shopping for myself. I hardly ever do this, so it was nice to wander around the shops on my own (with no one saying they were bored) and pick up some great bargains. I reckon I saved about £50 of the cost of the clothes I bought in sales and Easter offers, now that's my kind of shopping, some lovely new clothes and bargains too. I also did the food shopping whilst in Livingston, as I had a birthday party that evening to shop for it made sense to do it earlier in the week while there. Then it was Mum taxi time as I picked up my two eldest who were coming through for step son Adam's birthday tea that evening. It's something else I feel blessed with these days that both David and I's children have slotted together incredibly well and get on great. It was nice to catch up with Ben and Jamie on the car journey home then it was time to put the shopping away and cook Adam's birthday dinner. He has chosen sushi and nachos, fushion cuisine! At the end of the evening there was nothing left so I guess it was a success.

Home made sushi for birthday tea

Even reading this week is making me feel tired all over again! Thusrday was another lovely sunny day and with nothing planned I spent it in the garden finishing off catching up. I have to say having a smaller easy to look after garden is great. After constantly trying to keep up with 2 acres at Easter Mosshat and losing the enjoyment of it, this is a dream, I really enjoy working in the garden as I know I can keep on top of it and have time to do everything. While I tidied the big greenhouse and put some hardier plants in pots on the patio, David cut the grass. I potted up the veg seedlings ready to be potted (back in the greenhouse as it is still getting quite cold at night) and sowed some seeds. Jamie and Ben came out and helped do some odd jobs once they were up (this being after lunch, being teenagers/ young adults). It was really quite hot and I finished up mid afternoon, with nothing left to do (that's a first for me in the garden) and spent the rest of the afternoon reading on the sofa.

More bean seeds coming through

The hens enjoying some extra brassica seedlings

I took some cuttings from the plants that got tidies and put on the patio

Potted veg seedlings

Friday was an odd job day after a bit of a long lie, it's been a busy week, I'm allowed. Granny came up for dinner and then took youngest son to his Dad's for the weekend, eldest back to her house and dropped middle son at the train station on the way back home.  So we went from five in the house to just David and I, so quiet! I spent the evening catching up on reading and writing blogs, catching up on some of our TV viewing and relaxing. A nice bottle of wine helped.

Primulas on the patio

Although Saturday was an early start it was a relaxing day spent at the TWIC spring conference in St Boswells in the borders. TWIC being The Wildlife Information Centre which David is involved with. There was an interesting range of talks over the day cover lots of different aspects of wild life and conservation the talk about controlling and eradicating invasive plant species along the river Tweed was very interesting. With a free lunch and a chance to talk to people I know and meet people I have heard David talk about, it was an interesting day. We treated ourselves to chinese take away for dinner, making the most of a weekend to ourselves.

Tomato seedlings in the greenhouse

Today Sunday has been a lazy catch up day. The weather has turned much colder, dropping a good 10C from earlier in the week! I've gone through the freezer and listed what there is it make into meals for the coming week, which will keep the food shopping bill low. I labelled some more plants in the troughs and updated them on the database, did the ironing and wrote this epic blog! Hopefully that's me caught up with blog writing, photo editing and I can get on with organising the next few weeks.

That's my 6 month holiday nearly over, my course starts this coming week. The time off has been amazing, relaxing and just what I needed. I've never been bored and never been so relaxed and happy. I could live like this all the time but unfortunately that doesn't earn a wage. I am half looking forward to going away and half very nervous about starting my course. It marks the beginning of what will be a very busy and manic summer combined with some interesting work proposals to look into and think about.

Life is constantly taking me on roads I never considered or anticipated, for some one who never liked change or the unknown I am loving it and life.

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Friday, 24 April 2015

Garden Bloggers Bloom day, April 2015

Better late than never. I've been away and then home and catching up with everything in the house and garden and taking photos of all the plants that have sprung into flower in the last week or so. The great sunny warm weather we've had recently has certainly helped, not only making us feel better but the plants too. There are so many flowers I thought I'd do some collages so it didn't become a huge long blog!

From top to bottom, left to right we have:

Pulmonaria rubra 'Ann', Pelargonium rubricinctum x cordifolia and Pelargonium 'Rio Grande' (in greenhouse)

Brunnera 'Jack Frost', Pulmonaria 'Diana Clare' and Vinca minor ' Flore Plena'

Narcissus 'Mount Hood, Narcissus 'St Patricks Day' and Primula 'Gold Lace'

Pulmonaria 'Dark Vader', Pulmonaria 'Beth Chatto' and Pulmonaria 'Blue Ensign'

Erythronium 'Pagoda', Primula 'Kusum Krishna' and Fritillaria pallidiflora

Primula denticulata 'Alba', Pansies and Anemone blanda 'White Splendour'

Pulsatilla vulgaris, Narcissus 'Rip Van Winkle' and Pulmonaria 'Rachel Verne'

Myosotis sylvatica 'Bluesylva', Primula denticulata and Prunus incisa 'Kojo no Mai'

Caltha palustris 'Flore Plena', Narcissus 'Jenny' and Sanguinaria canadensis 'Plena'

Primula auricula 'Blue Velvet' and Primula 'Kusum Krishna'

Some of my Primula auricula collection

Colour in the moving troughs, mini borders

There is so much going on in the garden at the moment, it's great to wander round and see everything coming through. Because a lot of it is in the moving troughs it is concentrated and does give a greater impact.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Hello, I've been away, now I'm back

I have been away to the island of Coll off the West coast for Scotland for a few days. My uncle and Aunt live there and I try to visit every year, to see them and to enjoy the scenery and the beaches. I love it there, it's so quiet, unspoilt and beautiful and for a photographer and beach lover, perfect. We didn't manage last year, so I was really looking forward to getting there last Tuesday.

The beach across from my Uncle's house, my favourite place in the world

I took hundreds of photos but I won't bore you with them all! We were so lucky with the weather again after a rocky start on Tuesday when it was wet, windy and a bit choppy on the boat, but it could have been a lot worse. It's a three hour drive to Oban from home then just under three hours on the boat from there to Coll, for me the travelling is part of the adventure, so I don't mind.

Turf roofs at Sorisdale, Coll

Once on Coll it's a ten minute drive to the north part of the island, and once at the house we are spoiled, well fed and well looked after. There were no views to be had from the house when we arrived on Tuesday evening, so we settled down for a quiet evening of dinner and catching up.

Fabulous sea colours, my colours

This is our fourth trip to Coll, so we've seen all of the island, and with only two of my boys with me this time, it was different again. Morning is usually a bit of a lie in then breakfast sitting looking out the full length windows across the water to the island of Rum and Skye behind.

In front is the Island of Rum and behind the Cullens of Skye in the evening light from An Croic, Coll

My first visit when on the island is to the beach right across the dunes from the house, it's my most  perfect place in the world. It's a fairly small beach but the white sand curves around the small bay and in the weather we had, the sea is turquoises, jades and pale greens, lapping in sun dazzled lazy waves like a tropical island paradise. There are plenty rocks and dunes around the beach to clamber and explore and rock pools to investigate for sea anemones and interesting seaweed. Once I've had my fix, sat on a rock and absorbed the silence, open views and light for a while, walked the beach and taken loads of photos I head back to see what the day has in store.

My favourite beach opposite my uncle's house with the Isle of Rum in the background

Over the course of the three full days we were there, we went to Sorisdale right at the top of the island to retrieve a barrel my uncle had found there. He's going to recycle it into a compost bin. On the way back we stopped at Struan beach for a walk with Robbie their dog. In the evening if the sunset looks promising we climb the local hill opposite the house, every evening on this trip the sunset was beautiful.

Sunset on the first evening from An Chroic

The next day we visited Cliad beach which has seals on the rocks just off shore, they are curious creatures that swim along following us as we walk along the beach, silently watching us with those sad looking but intelligent faces. We counted over 10 in the water following us at one point. We collected pretty shells and interesting rocks, it looks like my sons have inherited the habit of coming back from a beach with pockets of nature's treasure from the beach.

Sunset from An Chroic on Wednesday night with the Outer Hebrideas on the horizon

On our last full day I went down to the village to pick up some gifts to take back, being a small island shopping is limited, which is a good thing for the purse! They have a great deli, village store and a post office that sell gifts.

Arinagour village, Coll

Chains at the harbour, Arinagour, Coll

Geese on the loch

After my shopping trip I headed to the south of the island to see what photos I could take, the weather was gloriously sunny and the views amazing, There were plenty lambs and geese in the fields.

After lunch my Uncle took us to the only beach we haven't visited, Gallanach. Every time you think you've seen the best beach, the next one is even better. We walked along to the north end of the beach and climbed the rocky promontory where we got great views all around.

paddling, yes it was cold, but good

Gallanach beach, Coll


Enjoying my wee holiday and the views

Three men on a rock

We finished the day by attending the local kids holiday concert which was very entertaining then dinner out at the Coll hotel in the village. The food was great and the views over the harbour enjoyed as we ate dinner.

last sunset, again we could see the Outer Hebrideas on the horizon

Fortunately sailing home the following day was so calm and sunny, we enjoyed sitting out in the sun on the deck, reading, photographing and enjoying the views which made the sailing go very quickly. An easy drive through the hills and glens in glorious sunshine finished off our trip and all too soon it was home to auld claes and porridge, well dinner cooked by David for us coming home.

Again it was a wonderful trip and a very relaxing break for me, it will probably be my only holiday this year, due to my courses and some other stuff I am contemplating so I made the most of it.