Monday, 28 May 2018

Man-Caves…


I’ve recently been working in my shed – I refer to the BIG shed at Summer Cottage. (I’m a bit of a shed collector - I also have a scattering of smaller sheds – one at Summer, three at the Barn…)

The BIG shed is brilliant. It was built as an agricultural building. It is very sturdily constructed with a timber frame, externally clad with weatherproofed timber and having a corrugated composite pitched roof. The floor is concrete, which I have covered with recycled carpet.

Internally, it is about 18 feet square. It has a pedestrian door and window to one side, and 7ft wide barn doors to the front. There are a couple of clear plastic panels in the roof which provide internal daylight. The roof leaks a bit in a storm when rainwater is driven upwards by the wind and then drips from inside the ridge. In spite of installing eaves filler and expanding foam, I have never completely cured the leak problem, so now, some strategically placed corrugated plastic panels inside the roof direct any internal drips to non-important places. Otherwise, the shed is dry and well-ventilated.

This shed has a proper electricity supply, with its own consumer unit, several power sockets and plenty of lights. It also has a mains water supply, with an outside tap, and inside, a little ‘ensuite’, with WC and wash basin. (!!!!)  There’s no hot water though….

Lining the insides of the shed I currently have an awful lot of junk, most of which we have accumulated as the result of closing a couple of our holiday lets - and the left-over stuff just came here. My current task is to sort all this out…. Urrrgggh!  Are humans programmed to create and then keep junk…???

Having recently had the kitchen at Lochview replaced, I have recycled the old kitchen, and installed most of the floor and wall units and worktop in the BIG shed. This provides some neat storage space so I can finally untangle the muddled stacks of ‘stuff’, unpack the boxes of junk, get rid of the REALLY useless items, and store the marginally less useless items more tidily, and where they are easily accessible if needed.

There’s still a bit of a way to go, but I feel I am making progress. Even in our busy life – it’s good to have a man-cave!

The BIG shed

BIG shed - side entrance

The ex-Lochview kitchen units in place
I'm not going to re-fit the doors, as it is better to be able to see the contents at a glance

Somewhere to pause when I've had enough of cutting grass...

OK, so the colours don't match -
but how many sheds have a working wc and wash basin...?

Friday, 25 May 2018

Bonkers or brilliant?

As if the weather isn't enough for our gardens and veg plots to cope with - we get a significant number of animal and pest attacks too. I have tried several times to grow brassicas (cabbage-family plants), mostly with poor results due either to a summer storm breaking the plants off at ground level, or root-fly maggots chomping through the roots. And now for good measure, it looks like we have a rabbit or two (or a dozen) moving in... Hmmm...

I chatted the issue through with a keen horticulturalist, who suggested I try plastic bottles. Each brassica seedling is planted with a plastic bottle (with bottom cut off....!!) pushed down over the top. The bottle becomes a mini-greenhouse, and prevents flies or creatures that chew from getting to the young tender plant. The bottle is removed when the plant inside is big and strong enough to (hopefully) resist attacks. Wind will then still be a problem, however.

Indeed, locally, I have been told that if I don't secure the bottles to the ground, I will spend a lot of time gathering them from around the hedgerows...

Anyway - I'm giving it a try. The empty space in the bed is for broccoli. The day before planting-out, a slug took a fancy to my broccoli seedlings and munched its way through every one of them, so I have re-planted seeds, and will hope they come up quickly. We might get good enough weather for them to catch up with everyone else!


Note the bluebells and gorse in my 'wild' garden -
both flowering at their best just now

Monday, 14 May 2018

Contemplating Murder...

It was about half past four this morning, and I was lying in bed having murderous thoughts. No - Sue was quite safe, and so was Cupar. The target of my ire was outside...

Now I'm all for nature, and the dawn chorus is something of a favourite. So being gently woken at the first grey light of the day by what sounds like several thousand birds all chirping and tweeting and melodically singing is really not a problem. Sadly, just one feathered friend stands far apart from the rest, and also seems to be able to drown-out every other tweet, twitter, chirrup and cheep...

CUC-KOO...!!    CUC-KOO...!!    CUC-KOO...!!

I realise this particular species is somewhat musically challenged, but in the interest of being fair, I'd be happy for it to join in the dawn choral performance for a minute or two, but this one went on, and on... and on........ and on.......... for at least an HOUR!

I am happy to report that I did eventually drift back into some kind of sleep, so this particular individual has survived to cuc and koo another day - and the contemplated murder was not committed.

On a brighter note (pun intended) 😉 we are aware of a very strong local population of cuckoos this spring. There have been years when we thought they were in serious decline, but this year, they seem to be everywhere, though conservation-wise, they continue to be a 'red-listed' species. Locally, they favour taking over the nests of the sedge warblers. I hope this doesn't mean we'll have fewer sedge warblers next year, as their song truly is a delight to hear!

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Skye vs South – Some Differences


To us, Skye is just ‘Skye’. We love the place for everything that it is, and have done since we first set foot on this magical land. But it is most certainly a very different land to the one we left behind in south east England when we moved here some ten years ago. However, we’ve never felt homesick for the south, and today, only notice the differences when we make trips over the border on our visits to friends and family.

So – what’s different? Short answer – ‘everything’. Longer answer… ermmm...

Kent, SE England

Isle of Skye, NW Scotland

Landscape;  No-where is flat. There are no fields of growing crops here, no hedges and very few big deciduous trees.

Views;  From almost everywhere, you can see for miles. There’s a sea-view round every corner (or a mountain view) (or both).

Colour;  Winter is brown. Early spring is brown. Late spring and summer are a riot of colourful wild flowers amid the lush greens of the grasses. Autumn is gloriously golden.

The Air;  Fresh, clean, invigorating.

Light;  Daylight goes on for a very long time every day in mid-June, but a grey gloom descends throughout December. Often, the low sun casts its rays over the (usually brown) landscape to illuminate the shapes of the land and the colours of the vegetation in a way much appreciated by artists and photographers.

Sounds;  Mostly, it’s simply silent. Or you may hear the burbling of a burn. However... during a storm, you will be aware of much howling, wailing and whooshing as the wind does its best to find a way into your roof or through the gaps in your windows. You need to get good at sleeping through storms...

Smells;  The sea, sheep and cattle - not exhaust fumes.

Wildlife;  Seals bob about offshore, while rare white tailed eagles and marsh harriers may be spotted in the sky. Brown hares and three different species of deer and are common, and pine martins are here too. We seldom spot a hedgehog or a fox though.

People;  There’s definitely a Skye-look – I wonder if we have inherited it yet…?  It is friendly, welcoming, relaxed, peaceful, comfortable and happy.

Shops;  There aren't many here.

Traffic;  Even in peak tourist season, we don’t experience traffic jams. In winter, one can frequently drive several miles without seeing any other vehicle.

Gardens;  We don’t really have gardens – just a moss-choked bit of a lawn and a few scraggy shrubs. It’s too wet/cold/windy here for garden flowers which are popular in the south.

Which brings us to… The Weather;  You don’t know anything about the weather until you have lived on the west coast of the Highlands for a few years… I’ll have to break this down into categories…

Wind;  We get a lot of wind. It is very seldom calm. 40mph winds are frequent. Gales of 50 – 60mph occur several times every year. 70 – 80mph storms are not uncommon.

Rain;  We get a lot of rain. Rain does not ‘fall down’ here – it comes at you horizontally. The rain drops are not drops at all, they are tiny needles that sting if they happen to strike any unprotected skin. Skye rain can penetrate most waterproof clothing within minutes.

Drizzle;  Much the same as ‘Rain’ above, except the needles are very much smaller, so don’t sting as much, however, Skye drizzle can penetrate all waterproof clothing within seconds.

Snow;  We don’t get much snow (except on the hills). This surprises many people.

Temperatures; It is quite unusual to see winter night time temperature fall below about -2C. It is quite unusual to see summer maximums above about 18C. Of course - we are talking weather here, so exceptions, in summer and winter, can and do happen.


This is not an exhaustive list. I could go on and on, but I am sure you have the idea. We wouldn't move back to the south east of England for all the tea in China. Could you cope with living here?