Friday 24 December 2021

Happy Cairngorms White Christmas!

What are we doing in the Cairngorms on Christmas Eve...???!!!

Well,  the story begins last Sunday, when Sue pops over to The Old Bakery at Strathpeffer to finish off Christmas shopping in Inverness. Unfortunately, she hadn't done much shopping when the pavement suddenly came up towards her, making first contact with her left arm and then her chin. She was promptly whisked into Raigmore Hospital A&E, where the super-wonderful NHS acted promptly and professionally, soon diagnosing a broken wrist and displaced jaw.

So, the wrist was rapidly wrapped in plaster, but for the jaw, it was deemed desirable for Sue to make an urgent visit to Scotland's specialist facial injuries unit in Aberdeen (!!) The appointment was for Thursday 23rd. Now, Aberdeen is a looooong way from Skye, and quite a looong way from Strathpeffer. But, hey, we can cope. I sorted out our Skye cottages which were both booked for Christmas visitors, and then drove over to Strathpeffer on Wednesday, popping into Inverness on arrival to collect Sue's car, which was still in a car park in the city.

The consultant who Sue met in Aberdeen was typically thorough, and decreed that although the jaw bone is cracked, it will repair itself fairly speedily with no surgery being required. A much-relieved, but still slightly-in-pain Sue and I (and Cupar) then spent the night in an Aberdeen Travelodge, before making our way back to Strathpeffer today.

By way of celebration, and to make a more interesting journey, I chose to take the scenic route, passing through the northern part of the Cairngorms, and including the infamous Cock Bridge to Tomintoul section past The Lecht. It was a good decision. We enjoyed a lovely drive, and are now toasting our toes before the stove in The Old Bakery, before we make our way back to Roskhill on Christmas Day morning.

This was not quite the run up to Christmas I had been looking forward to, and Sue is devastated that she will not be able to carry out her care work duties for a few weeks, though we will be delivering the numerous Christmas presents she has for friends and clients in the coming day or two.

I close with best wishes to all the readers of this blog for Christmas 2021, and let us ALL hope for a safe and healthy 2022.

A939 towards Tomintoul

Corgarff Castle

Gairnshiel Bridge

Thursday 16 December 2021

Six Hours

The date is getting close to the winter solstice, and we are a long way north here.

At 8.00am this morning, when I took Cupar out for his morning walk, it was just about light enough for me to be able to make out the trees, undergrowth and fences that line the local roads. By the time we returned, half an hour later, the grey morning light was just giving way and painting the landscape in dark greens and browns. By 9.00am, it had become as light as it is going to get today, as an area of high pressure is building, giving us low dense cloud cover and occasional light drizzle. The sun only makes rare appearances at this time of year. At least it is pleasantly mild!

In just six hours time, our winter daytime light will be fading again. Indoors, with deeply inset and rather small windows, we live in a permanent gloom, brightened only by electricity. How on earth did people manage when all their lighting was by oil lamp and candle?

I often wonder at how the wildlife copes with such a short daylight time to forage for food. Even if the garden birds rise at the first glimmer of grey, and hang on until the world returns to uniformly black, they will still have to face some sixteen hours of night before venturing abroad again. It is no surprise that virtually all plant life slumbers through the winter.

It's that time of year when it is good to browse back through the summer posts of sparkling sunshine on the sea and flourishing wild flowers...!

Roskhill Barn garden, August 2018

Wednesday 8 December 2021

The Potting Shed Latest

Regular readers of this blog may recall that we are in the process of building a new space in the garden at The Barn. A timber 'Garden Room' has been erected, and a lean-to greenhouse will be added onto it early in the New Year. 

The purpose of all this is two-fold. One, to provide an environment for growing some of our own bedding plants and starting off veg for the allotment, and, Two, to create a craft workshop which will be equipped as a hobby pottery, giving me an extra occupation for when I retire again and we give up the the holiday cottage business. Sue and I both intend to squish a bit of clay from time to time.

Being dual purpose, but both purposes being pot-based, naming the building the Potting Shed seemed pretty appropriate. We shorten this to the PS.

At present, we await delivery of the greenhouse - now promised for mid-January; and also of the pottery kiln, frustratingly delayed due to difficulty in obtaining some essential internal parts. But in the meantime, I have been busy fitting-out the interior of the PS. I bought some of the cheapest range of kitchen base units sold by DIY giant, B&Q, and have to say, I am most impressed by the quality. I have also been keen to use as many as possible of the 'off-cuts' of the timber from the build of the PS, and am delighted to now have a larch floorboard floor, made entirely from off-cuts from the external cladding. I laid the floor on a base of very effective floor insulation material. I have also made a work table and shelf unit, both of which are built largely from left-over construction timbers, with just a new sheet of MDF to provide the work surfaces.

We hope to be potting in the spring.

Viewed from the greenhouse end, the kiln will go in the far left corner.

This view, through the front doors, showing my massively built work-table.
There is room for a potter's wheel where the radiator is standing,
should I decide to invest in one at some time in the future.

The kitchen units and worktop.
The shelves are also made from a worktop, sawn down the middle.
The raw edges will be covered by an edging strip presently.

Looking out through the greenhouse end

Monday 6 December 2021

Hunkered Down

It's that time of year again - deep, dark December. I don't dislike it. With the curtains closed and Cupar curled up in front of a glowing stove, it is cosy enough in here - and wonderfully quiet too! 

Sue is away at the moment, making a pre-Christmas visit to her Mum and friends in Kent. Sue is working over Christmas this year. I am occupying much of my daylight time in fitting-out our new Potting Shed with cupboards, work-surfaces and shelving. I made a trip to Inverness the other week in a hired van, and returned with kitchen base units, work tops, paving slabs and assorted other stuff. I am enjoying honing my joinery skills as I assemble what I have bought and am also aiming to create some useful items utilising some of the off-cuts from the build of the PS itself.

I have had great news today - that the lean-to greenhouse that will become an integral part of our Potting Shed Project is at last scheduled for delivery in mid-January. I am still awaiting news of the delivery of my kiln though... But it will be so good to see our plans come together when all is in place, and then let the potting commence...!!

Meanwhile - on the allotment, we are still enjoying freshly picked kale and brussels sprouts, and when the weather is kind enough, I will be turning-over the soil in the beds to try to keep in place some kind of weed control. 

Cosy Cupar