Friday, 30 December 2016

Railways and Rivers at Peebles

If you are looking for a interesting, short and easy walk in the Peebles area then this should tick all those boxes, combining old railways, woodland and the River Tweed.

At last there was a break in the weather to allow some of us a walk, we had hoped to do a hill walk before middle son went back to Glasgow, but the weather was against us so we enjoyed a wee three mile wander along part of the old Peebles railway to Lyme Station and back via the wood and river path. 

Looking west along the River Tweed from Manor bridge

We parked just beyond Manor bridge on the Kirkton Manor road and joined the old railway on the south side of the bridge. From here it's a pleasant level walk along under birch, hawthorn and willow past Edston Farm until you come to the old metal railway bridge at Lynesmill.

Remains of an old railway hut

Sheepish reflections

Huge shiny Hawthorn berries on the railway line

Lynesmill Bridge

Once we left the railway down a short flight of steps we walked along the quiet road through Lyne Station back towards the River Tweed. Here we had to cross a narrow bridge which Bracken wasn't sure about at all. His belly usually ends up a few centimetres above the ground as he crosses. Once over we turned left and walked through the woods on the path between two fences.

Another bridge to cross over the Tweed

Bracken doesn't like bridges

At the end of the woodland path we joined the wide avenue through a pair of stone pillars and followed it to the end where the road splits into three. Here we went straight ahead past the old pink tower on the left. An intriguing ancient tower with crow step gables, which after an internet search, it turns out you can stay in it! It looks beautiful, you can see it here

Through the gates to the lime lined avenue

The old pink tower at the end of the avenue

Once past the tower we followed the road to where a finger post points down the hill taking us on a rough track down to the river. It was a bit muddy after the rain but easily passable, at the bottom we hopped over a style and joined the river path.

Walking down to the river

Looking to the hills south of Peebles

My walking companions, Jamie, Bracken and Ben

There were plenty ducks across the river

A pleasant walk along the river in the sun

From here is was a pleasant walk back to Manor bridge and the car then home for hot chocolate and mincepies. Hopefully I'll get a few more walks before I go back to work.

Manor Bridge

You can just see Neidpath viaduct through the bridge

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Friday, 23 December 2016

Keep Merry and Bake Cookies..........

......... and cake, and truffles, and mincemeat pies.  For the next week or so it will be all go in the kitchen here at Quirky bird headquarters. It's ideal on cold, driech damp days to be in the kitchen surrounded by the smells of christmas and cooking.

My home made truffles all wrapped up for giving as gifts 

If you've followed my blog for the past few years you'll know I love making things for Christmas, homemade and natural, made with love, as gifts or to decorate our home. The house is filled with the scent of spruce, citrus, spices, chocolate and cake.

Time to make mincepies

That should feed the horde for a wee while

Table centre piece using fir from the farm ad holly from the garden

Our wreath for the front door is a willow ring with fir, red willow stems and teasels from the nursery garden

Making my citrus and spice decoration for the lounge, the house is full of
 festive smells, it's very relaxing making up this decoration

The finished bowl

Christmas cupcakes with mixed spice flavoured sponge

This years christmas cake and baby ones for the kids
 to take home

This year's cake has a real gold bling look this year

Before we know it, it will be Christmas day, so I'd just like to say have a very merry christmas

Hug your loved ones close and appreciate them

Love to those who can't be with their family whatever the reason

A special hug to those in hospital over christmas, when you'd rather be with your family, sending you positive hugs xx

For those that had a challenging year in 2016 I hope 2017 is kinder to you

To my family and friends thank you for everything and for helping make it a great year

You can see previous christmas make in these previous posts:

Home Made Christmas 
Truffling - Handmade Christmas Gifts
Food and Wrapping up for Christmas

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Sunday, 18 December 2016

Catching up in the run up to Christmas

How ridiculously warm is it for December here in Scotland? Hopefully the plants won't start shooting away and then be nipped back by frosts later on. On the plus side mild, calm weather has meant we can get on with some outdoor tasks here in the nursery.

Another lovely sunset in the nursery

I have at last after many days finished lifting the leaves in the sales area, it's looking very tidy for the start of another year and makes me feel like I'm ahead in the task list (which I'm not). My aim is to keep the sales area looking tidy even over winter and work out through the nursery from there. Usually I leave this and cutting back and tidying the borders until after the new year but I felt now that the leaves are all off the trees and the weather was good it would make a difference visually and task wise to get this big job done and out the way. I'm feeling motivated again which makes such a difference after a real dip at the end of the season. I think looking back I was really tired and run down after a busy and successful season, but having had a break and then an enforced break when my back went I'm back re charged and keen to get on with things.

Lifting leaves, it's either therapeutic or will drive you to tears!

The natural progression after the leaf lifting in the sales area is to tidy the sales tables and tidy up the border that runs along the front of the office. This narrow border sits in shade all the time facing north east, so shade lovers and plants that will cope with poor soil are essential as is interest all year round. This has been done successfully using Phlomis russeliana, Persicaria 'Firetail', mixed Hellebores, Gilenia trifolia and Aconitum 'Arendsii'. At this time of year everything is cut back and I top dressed the border with compost form our compost bins. This improves the soil over the coming year as it gets hoed in and worms pull it down, naturally mixing it through the soil.

Office border top dressed

I've tidied the display tables at the front of the sales area and stocked them up with evergreen shrubs, conifers and perennials. It provides a bit of colour and interest in these darker short days and gives customers ideas of what they can plant in their own garden to give interest through winter. You can mix together stems and winter flowers or Cornus and Viburnums, evergreen conifers and Saroccoca, evergreen grasses and perennials. I will be writing a winter interest blog soon.

Winter interest plants in the sales area including Viburnum 'Dawn' 
with it's scented, pink winter flowers

You too can have lots of colour and interest in your garden through winter

 In the past couple of weeks I've been using evergreens in the cafe flowers teamed with berries and cones and they have coped with the heat of the building very well. Buxus, Lonicera nitida, picea and holly go well with larch cones and cotoneaster berries.

I've finally got around to potting up the bulbs which didn't sell in autumn, but that's ok because they will sell as potted bulbs in spring and provide colour and interest then. I've also potted up the bulbs to go in the gardens here in the nursery. The borders aren't ready yet so they'll happily sit in compost over winter and then I'll plant them out once the spaces are ready. I'm really looking forward to seeing all the scented bulbs coming up in the scented border. One of the things I really enjoy in gardening is designing and creating new borders and seeing them come together, it's a creative thing.

Tulips being potted up

There was great excitement this week as David started work on the new gardens on the middle terrace. He was in again on Sunday and got lots more done but it was dark by the time I remembered about taking photos! He has now got the curves done on the first four beds and the bricks around the pond. It's all looking so good and gives us incentive to get to with more. There are lots of barrows of compost to come down into the beds and gravel to be barrowed up to go between the beds. Then I can do the exciting planting up bit. We are even thinking of making our own willow hurdles using willow from the farm and weaving in situ.

Making a start on the new gardens

You can't beat a climb up the nearest hill first thing in the morning to cut greenery for christmas decoration, great views of the Pentlands too, keeping the Quirky Bird fit
Kale is still growing and tasting good
I've started weaving the willows

The annual willow weaving job, going much faster this year as the basic structure is still there after I renovated it all last year

In other news I've been Christmas shopping, got the tree, decorated the house, been doing lots of festive bakes (see another blog) and I've got all the wedding save the date things made to go out with Christmas cards, whew! 

It's all very festive

Organising Christmas and a wedding, it's a bit manic

I'm also reviewing this blog, I've felt dissatisfied with it for a while and struggled to write it hence getting behind. I don't want to not write a blog, but I need to feel I want to do it too. A couple of bloggers whom I followed and read and enjoyed their blogs have stopped in the last few weeks, which was sad but I understand their reasoning too. So over the Christmas break I'm going to have a think about what I'm going to do here. I'm not going away just having a think (that's what the funny smell is, my brain overloading ha ha). I've changed the look of the blog too, let me know what you think. 

Have a great week enjoying lots of festive spirit.

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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Sunset is still my favorite colour, and rainbow is second

I couldn't agree more with the quote in the title from Mattie Stepanek, there is nothing more beautiful than a sky on fire with either sunrise or sunset. At this time of year they tend to be at a more sociable time so I can get lots of photos as I get up in the morning or on the way home from the nursery. 

Sunset at the nursery

David was in shock on Wednesday when I did as I was told and went to see about my back, it must have been bad for me to give in. For the first time I went to see a physio about it and I have to say it's probably the best £40 I've spent in a long time. I went from barely being able to walk in and move to skipping out like a spring chicken (well maybe more like a middle aged quirky bird) It was so good to not be in agony, it's still uncomfortable but has to heal and I've to go back for a follow up appointment next week. I was even able to bend down and lift leaves in the sales area and move easier for the first time in over a week. Normally I leave leaf lifting until spring but I've got so much to do and am behind with being off, having a cold and my back, I want to work on something that tidies the place up and makes me feel better. Not that its an easy job lifting leaves from a huge expanse of gravel, but it looks so much better once done.

A very pink sunset over the Pentlands

I'm putting the leaves in a ton bag for David who is going to build a leaf bin in the wild life garden for wee creatures. This will give frogs toads, hedgehogs and a diverse range of insects a snug home over winter and through the year. I can then use the leaves one they are rotted down and then we start again, a win win situation for everyone. You can build a leaf bin very easily using 4 stout stakes or posts and some chicken wire. Simply put the posts in at whatever size you want the bin to be, I usually make them about a meter squared. Run the chicken wire round (3 feet high wire is ideal) and staple it to the posts. You can engineer some way of getting into it easily to empty. I very simply put 3 or 4 large nail down the last post sticking out an inch or so and hook the last edge of the wire on to these. You can then unhook that edge and get into empty the leaf mould when the time comes.

Remember we have vouchers available for Christmas gifts

Now that I've started lifting the leaves I want to get on with the job before the wind picks up and moves them around, It's incredibly calm at the moment, unusual for Scotland and this time of year, this is shown itself in the distribution of leaves over the sales area to be picked up. There a lot more this year, they literally dropped straight down and lay where as last year they were in the main blown away. So it will take quite a bit longer to do this job this year.

Nice to see some blue sky

The weather is really up and down temperature wise these past few weeks, we get several days of very low minus temperature and so deep frost then it warms up and is pleasant and dry for a few days, then it drops again. The clear cold days do mean there's a better chance of seeing a decent sunset before I leave the nursery.

SUn setting from the nursery

The trees are light with the setting sun

We went through to the far side of Glasgow to pick up some plants for an order on Friday morning, making the most of a frosty morning to get that task done. I did the cafe flowers in the afternoon once we were back in the nursery and carried on lifting leaves. David did some more digging on the middle terrace for the new garden, at least the soil is defrosted this time. Bizarrely some one helped them self to a plant out one of the nursery borders while we were out this morning. The odd thing is they had to pass the ones for sale in pots in the stock bed to get to the one in the garden!

Berwick Law and the Bass Rock from the Lammermuir Hills

I do often say my life is quite random these days, in a good way, it makes it more interesting for sure. On Saturday I accompanied David to East Lothian where he was teaching the Lammermuirs Hare group how to use radio tracking equipment. this is working towards studying the mountain hares in these hills over the next year or so. We had a lovely lunch with the guy who is leading the group and then headed out to the Lammamuir Hills to put the theory into practice. Bracken and I got a hill walk which was great with lovely views over the River Forth, Berwick Law, the Bass Rock and beyond. Once everyone had had a turn of the radio tracking equipment we headed back to the car at sunset. You can find out more through the Lothian and Borders Mammal Group, a chance to learn more about these lovely animals, get out in the hills and meet interesting people.

The Lomond Hills across in Fife

Bracken grouse spotting

Mist creeping over the hills

Learning about the equipment

Walking over the Lammermuirs

Sunset over the hills

Sunday and we headed to Barter Books in Alnwick for our annual pre-Christmas gathering with David's family, minus family, apart form out kids. Sadly David's mum hasn't been well so she and his Dad were unable to make it this year. Having already bought the train tickets for the kids we decided to have a mini get together anyway. David Adam and I went by car and Ben, Jamie, Becky and Becky's boyfriend Teejay were collected from the train station. We had a great wander around, a lovely lunch and of course bought some books. How could we not when they are all great prices, second hand, it's a great way of recycling and giving books a new home. If you are ever in Alnwick visit Barter Books, it's housed in the old railway station building and they've kept all the original features. It's a real gem of a place.

You couldn't have any other type of Christmas tree in a book shop

So many books

Bracken trying to look intelligent

My goodness it was freezing cold on Monday, I was glad to be off and in the house. No chance of doing anything at the nursery today. I got the house cleaned, cake baked, the study blitzed, lot of paper work cleared out, so much so I overheated the shredder!

Lovely sunrise on Monday

That tree in a pink sunrise
Porridge for breakfast, essential on freezing days

Monday's dinner was creamy sausage canneloni

Making Victoria Sponge

The finished sponge

In a bid to catch up after nearly three weeks of little work dues to being ill and my bad back I went into the nursery on Tuesday while David was gliding. It was back to leaf lifting as I really want to get it finished, it's going to take long enough as it is. Luckily my back is holding up, it's good exercise for the waist too a that bending and twisting. 

Hope you are having a good week and getting organised for christmas.

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