Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Wedding Aniversary Celebration

Sue and I were married on the 2nd September 2001, so the other day was our 16th anniversary. This may not be a particularly significant number, but we still like to have a little celebration. We are not really in to meals in fancy restaurants, and eating out in a nearby pub didn't seem special enough. So Sue suggested we had an afternoon tea in a decent hotel.

We chose to go to Kinloch Lodge, which is one of the most noteworthy hotels on Skye, though we had not been there before. Being an hour or so to the hotel from Roskhill, getting there gave me the opportunity to give Puss an outing - though sadly the weather was 'Skye-normal', so Puss now needs a wash...

The tea was lovely, with the best-tasting scones I have ever had. The little cakes were pretty special too, and the lounge of the hotel provided a warm and comfortable place to spend a drizzly afternoon. Our friendly waitress even offered to box-up the items we didn't manage to eat at the time, so we could have a tea re-run after we arrived back home!

So, thanks to Sue for the afternoon tea suggestion, and Happy Anniversary to us both!

Puss at Kinloch Lodge
Homeward bound

New Gates For The Barn!

I mentioned this on Facebook a short while ago, but unforgivably, never quite got round to putting a post on here... so I'm now putting that right...

To finally complete the transformation of our lovely home on Skye - Roskhill Barn -  Sue and I decided to commission the making of a new entrance gate. After an internet search for such an item, we found ourselves so impressed by the work of artist/designer/blacksmith James Price, that we chose to put the job with him - even though he works in West Sussex, so there would be a slight problem in getting the gate up to Skye.

Anyway, to cut the long story shorter, once the gate was made (and we eventually ordered two gates plus posts), I ventured south in my little van and was able to load the gates into the back and bring them back myself. This was a cheaper option than having the gates packed onto pallets and brought up by courier - they are large and heavy items!

The next task was to remove the existing gate and its solid wooden posts. With much effort, I managed to get one post out of the ground, but the other defeated me. As luck had it, I was extremely fortunate to come across a labourer from a nearby building job having his lunch in his truck at the end of our road. I interrupted his sandwich to ask if he was interested in looking at a little job for me. I showed him the remaining post - still attached to the old and rusty gate. He immediately disappeared back to his van and returned with a heavy 5-foot long steel pointed-ended bar. After 15 minutes of very vigorous bashing and heaving, the concrete securing the post was broken and the post itself levered out of the ground. I very gratefully handed the guy a £20 note - with which he looked totally delighted - and now all I had to do was work out how to install the new gates...

I spent a couple of weeks thinking, and even tried a 'dry run'. Because of their weight, I could only just about move the gates on my own, but with the help of my sack barrow, I managed the task. I gradually built up the courage to undertake the job, and on one fine morning, I made a start. It actually turned out to be slightly easier than I had expected. Gravity and leverage did a fine job of getting the posts into the ground, and I only had to heave them out once to get the holes to an even depth. I used a quarter of a tonne of ready-mix concrete to set the posts into the ground. I don't think they'll move...

Ready to pour the concrete....!
To say that we are delighted with the finished result would be a considerable understatement. Every line and dimension in the beautifully designed gates is perfect, and their construction is a true work of art. They look absolutely right at our entrance, and elegantly compliment the rural and agricultural 'feel' of the Barn  To everyone else, they might just be gates - but to Sue and I, they are the icing on our Roskhill cake.

Roskhill Barn - and gates

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

For Sale - Rowan Cottage

Rowan Cottage
Sue and I have agreed that it is time to reduce our workload. I am 66 now, and would quite like to take semi-retirement from my job of managing our holiday cottages. We once had four holiday lets. We currently have three, but by selling Rowan, we will be down to two – which we think will be manageable by us for the foreseeable future.

Our plan is to use the proceeds from the sale to buy a modern bungalow in Inverness which we will long-let through a management company. The management company will do all the work, and we will get a regular income from the rent – albeit a good deal less than a holiday let might achieve…

A big bonus of selling Rowan will be to reduce the miles we travel to service our properties. The biggest mistake we made when we started our holiday cottage rental business was to buy cottages that were scattered across the island – it is nearly an hour’s drive each way from our home to Rowan, and that’s an awful lot of driving just to mow the lawn!

Rowan Cottage was the first property we bought on Skye, fourteen years ago. It is a lovely little cottage, snuggled down on the shore above a sea loch, with a wonderful view to the nearby island of Scalpay, and also to the mainland. The cottage has been a very popular holiday let. Some of our regular visitors will be very sorry to see it sold – though it well may pass on to an owner who will continue to offer the cottage on the holiday rental market.

The cottage is being marketed through Re/Max Skye, and is available for offers over £185,000. To see the details - click this link .

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Allotment update

I've been trying to find the time to harvest some of the abundant vegetable growth on the allotment. The potatoes have done exceptionally well this year. On planting, I filled their trenches with leaf mould and added a few handsful of organic fertiliser - they clearly liked that! The plants grew huge, and now, on digging up the roots, an equally huge crop is the result.... The crop in the barrow are a seldom seen variety - Red Duke of York - they have beetroot colour skins, but beneath the skin, they are pure white. Each of the larger ones provides enough potato for two portions. The crop in the box are the waxy-textured lovely-flavoured Charlotte.

Potatoes - about one third of this year's total crop...!
That's just one bed harvested - the smaller one... The Maris Peer, Maris Piper and King Edwards are still to be dug up... I'll do my best to store them over winter, but even after giving away a few bags to our neighbours, I think we will struggle to use all these!

Here is the jumble of dying growth in the larger bed. On the right are the carrots, which have also done really well. At the back are the beans.

The larger potato bed (and carrots), still to be harvested.
The broad beans have only produced an average crop, and the runner beans have finally grown big enough to flower, but they are about six weeks too late! I doubt they will have any worthwhile pods on them before we get an autumn frost which will finish them off. I'll start the runners in pots indoors next year, and hope to get them going in the ground a good bit earlier. But so much depends on temperatures and sunshine - one year's weather is never the same as the next.