Saturday, 28 November 2015

Christmas at Quercus and Whitmuir

I can't believe it's that time of year again, not quite sure where 2015 has gone. Well half of it went in buying and re launching the nursery I guess. So here we are at the end of November, I've baked the christmas cake, made the mincemeat and started to think about christmas presents. Here at the nursery we've been coming up with small gifts we can sell that fit in with what the nursery is about; sustainability, recycling, quirkiness and good value.

Christmas at Quercus and Whitmuir

For the next few weekends up to Christmas we will be have a "pop up shop" in the Whitmuir building selling Christmas gifts, my photographs and plants. At least I'll be warm and have plenty lovely coffee. My favourite gift is the young Christmas trees, after all a tree should be for life and beyond, not just for Christmas. They make great gifts for kids, who can measure themselves against the tree every year, as it and they grow together.

Christmas gifts from Quercus Garden Plants

Plants, antiques and photographs, a quirky mix

Within the building at Whitmuir is the Dancing Light Gallery where Dee has some lovely art and sculpture for sale. From paintings to pottery, scarves to jewellery, there is something for everyone. I can recommend the conker by Robin Fox, which I was given for my birthday, he has a range of Robins on wood in the gallery, as well as the conkers. His website is here.

The Dancing Light gallery has beautiful art for that
special person in your life

The Edinburgh larder cafe has a great winter menu, guaranteed to warm you up. With locally sourced ingredients, many from the farm, you can be sure of healthy and filling food. Their hot chocolate, coffee and cakes are well recommended too. The Larder launches their Christmas menu tonight with a dinner and jazz evening here at Whitmuir. Every Friday night you can have the opportunity to dine here and sample their interesting and tasty festive food. See The larder website for details here.

The Christmas tree is up in the cafe

Outside in the farm steading Andrew Rennie has his Wood Shack. He creates beautiful pieces of art, both decorative and useful from wood and reclaimed objects. He also does bespoke furniture, mantle pieces and mirrors crafted from Scottish wood. You can visit his website here

Finally, the farm shop stocks a broad range of organic and sustainable food, with a lot of the vegetables coming from the farm itself. From Whitmuir farm organically reared pork and lamb to locally sourced beef and venison, organic dairy to your cupboard staples, organic wines to a lovely range of fair trade and organic chocolate, organic fruit and veg. They also stock wooden toys, gifts and toiletries. See the website here.

The chocolate shelf in the Whitmuir shop

Why not try an organic wine for Christmas?

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Friday, 27 November 2015

First snow, tunnels and brochs

This week the weather has got much colder and the big greenhouse heater is on all the time. It's nice and cosy in there for the tender plants, cacti and succulents. We also replaced the two broken panes of glass in the wee greenhouse, so we're all set for bad weather. It's ideal weather to be in the kitchen keeping warm, this week it was time to make the mince meat so it has time to mature before making it into pies in December.

Making mincemeat

David and I moved the rest of the prop plants to the tunnel, it's quite full already. I can't wait until we've got it levelled and all the plants are laid out properly. By Friday the weather and temperatures had really taken a dive and we had the first hint snow. We had snow, sleet, rain and sunshine, all in five minutes! I spent some time potting then back in the office sitting on the heater with a coffee and doing some paperwork, then back outside. I finished sowing the last of the tree seeds and David sorted out the mountain of poly tunnel bits to work out what we want to keep or sell. We had a productive Whitmuir meeting and I've got a contract to do all the cafe flowers at Whitmuir, which is great. 

Selfies in the car, driving to the nursery on Saturday, don't worry, David was driving

Well the snow arrived, just a sprinkling, enough for woolly hats, lots of layers and coat for the dog. Our bridge looks quite pretty in the snow. Now that the tunnel is up we've got plenty to do on cold, wet or frosty days,

Snow comes to Quercus

We spent Saturday levelling the area in the tunnel where the slabs are going, be removing the turf and filling in hollows with sand, we did not bad and got nine slabs down too. It was great to have a warm job on a cold day and our new radio system between us and the main nursery area works! 

Saturday was spent levelling the potting area and laying the first slabs

Chard growing in the Whitmuir tunnel which you can buy in the farm shop

Sunday was more of the same, another frosty day spent laying more slabs. But we got the whole area finished and it looks rather good, even if I say so myself. Now David can get on with building the potting bench and next week we'll strt levelling the rest of the tunnel and laying the plants out.

Potting area slabs finished in the poly tunnel

and from the other direction

Once we'd finished the slabs, David went off to do a few other wee jobs and I took my camera and made the most of the late afternoon sun and sunset, a perk of being your own boss.

Last apple on the farm fruit trees

The Whitmuir Teepee in the afternoon sun

Curly Miscanthus leaves in the nursery

Snow on the stock beds

Fairy lights, clear skies and the moon, lovely late afternoon at Quercus

Pastel sunset at the nursery

I love sunrises and sunsets

Trees at sunset

On Monday the weather was pretty poor, cold and wet so I spent the day catching up on household chores, including all those jobs I've been putting off for ages. On Tuesday the forecast was good for the east of the country so we headed to East Lothian and the Lammermuir Hills. We visited a series of ancient coppermines David knew about. We couldn't go in as they were all flooded, but they were set in a cliff above a fast running river, a very scenic place.

Inside one of the copper mines

Looking back from the mines to the suspension bridge

After the mines we walked back to the suspension bridge and walked up to Edin's Hall Broch. Situated on the north edge of the hill, it would in it's day have had a commanding view if the river valley. It was a great day to be out in the country, so nice to see the sun and blue skies again. After half an hour or so we reached the broch which lies within an ancient fort where you can see the ditches and outlines of round houses. You can read about it here.

Waiting for me to catch up, the broch is on the hill behind David and Bracken

What is left of the broch which is now maintained by Historic Scotland

Bracken of the broch
Looking north from the broch

The broch from one of the ancient defensive ramparts

Bracken masters going up and over a style

Sheep on the horizon

After spending a wee while wandering over the ancient fort we headed back down the hill to the car, then headed south to Duns where we found a lovely wee cafe for lunch, The soup and crusty bread was excellent, as was the chocolate cake. 

Have a great weekend, we are awaiting more snow arriving! Keep warm

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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Battening down the hatches and trying to keep dry

Beginning to wonder if I'll ever keep up! Last week is long gone and it's now nearly the end of this week. So what have we been up to? Well it has rained and rained and rained, every where is muddy, swimming with surface water and we've had a leak in the office roof. Fortunately a bit of moving around of the seals around the sky light seems to have fixed it. 

Last Wednesday we got the new water pipe in for the tunnel, this involved me being up to my elbows in a muddy puddle to find the end of the larger pipe. We then fed the water pipe through this larger pipe, great fun first thing in the morning! But it means we can now get on with installing the water system for the tunnel. I did a trial of flowers for a wedding last Saturday I'd been asked to do flowers for. They wanted a natural feel, which was an interesting challenge for November. 

Some pine, rose hips, late Asters, dried grasses and
wild carrot seed heads went together very nicely for the
wedding flowers

We made the most of the rest of the day which turned out to be the only dry day in the week to finish the stock take. This means I can get on with writing a catalogue and doing the RHS plant finder entry. Then we started strimming the bottom banking outside the cafe and almost got it done before the rain came on. I don't think the bankings have ever been strimmed before, This will allow the smaller wildflowers to get better established in amongst the grasses. There was no need to go to the gym after raking up this wee lot! Not that I go to the gym! So in the end it was a productive day finished off with posh coffee from the cafe, I think we earned it.

The bottom wild flower banking strimmed

Thursday was back to strong winds and heavy rain. Fortunately I had a half day for a doctors appointment in the afternoon, so was able to spend most of the afternoon at home in the warm. It was made even warmer by doing some baking, which I rarely do these days. I started off the Christmas cake and then made some big fat chocolate brownies. 

Mixing the Christmas cake

Dan's bat box, last year my youngest made a bat box which Davd put up in the garden,
and there has been a pipestral roosting in it on and off for the past week or so

Friday brought us the first snow of the year, along with sunshine, sleet and rain all in the same few minutes! It's lovely to have the views of the Pentlands from the nursery, especially when they are dusted with snow. I spent most of Friday in the office updating the database with the stock take, and catching up on paperwork. I potted the last of the bulbs and sorted out some more of our inherited neglected stock to be potted. I found an hour or so in the potting area potting up alternated with an hour or so in the warmth of the office doing paperwork helped keep me warm and achieve a bit of everything.

First snow of the year on the Pentland hills

This is how most of the day looked!

West and East Kip, Pentlands

Saturday morning saw me doing the eight vases of flowers for the wedding that evening in the restaurant at Whitmuir. What do you think? I think they filled the brief for a natural look. I now have the contract for doing the flowers every week in the cafe, so a wee extra income which will help.

The rest of Saturday and most of Sunday were spent moving the young propagated plants over to the tunnel. We cheated a bit, or made it easier, by loading lots of crates at a time into David's car and driving them over to the poly tunnel. Once the new path from the back of the nursery to the poly tunnel is in place it will be a much simpler journey between the two. I tidied and top dressed all the pots before they went over so that should see them through to spring.

We've put down some temprary ground cover fabric until we get the ground levelled, but at least the
young plants are under cover

Poppy cat seems to think she's coming to work with me in the morning

We had a lovely wee article in the local paper, the Peebleshire News

Sunset form my poly tunnel

Monday was spent doing domestic chores and generally hibernating. Out day off and out doing something on a Tuesday took us into Edinburgh this week. David needed his phone looked at and we decided to explore a bit of the new town. Unfortunately the rain arrived much earlier than forecast, so we gave up mid afternoon after a lovely lunch in Stockbridge. 

South East Circus Place

Waiting for lunch

A wee wine with lunch

We shared, it was very nice

A chandelier shop!

David heaven, he loves cheese

Rodney Street tunnel, we were on a walk to find some Edinburgh old railways 

Then and now, Rodney Street tunnel

Scotland Street tunnel, with a bit of selective colouring

Despite the weather, it's been a productive week and we are gradually ticking jobs off the huge list we wrote on the white board in the office last week. Christmas is also gradually making inroads in to life too, there is no escape. Have a great week.

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