Signs of … Something

February 7, 2014

I was a bit startled, when cycling through the village, to be accosted by a fellow gardener and asked if I was planning on going to potato day again this year. Already? I thought. It’s not even as if winter has properly started yet, and here people are planning for spring. And then I was startled again as I stuck my head out of the door to chat with a passing neighbour and found not just sunshine but – out of the wind, anyway – actual warmth. Looking around there are snowdrops everywhere, daffodils poking their leaves up out of the swamp that passes for the countryside, birds going bananas in the hedgerows. Time to start panicking about the garden again

The problem is that, with storm after storm marching through, we seem to have had nothing but an endless October this winter. It’s been so mild, I was picking caterpillars out of my kale the other day. There’s been no sense of anything going properly dormant and hence no sense of the impending spring. And I’ve barely been able to touch the garden because even if I wasn’t too busy, it’s far too wet to do anything but plan out where to construct the rice paddies…

broad beans

Still, she says, recklessly tempting fate, at least the broad beans are hanging on in there…

Anyone else still feel they’re waiting for winter to arrive?

I’ll Be Dammed

February 4, 2014


I wandered up to our local beauty spot the other day to inspect the amount of water going over the waterfall, by way of a change from checking the levels on the ford (I don’t know why I bother as the photograph I took of it was so similar to the one taken a month ago I initially thought I’d saved the file twice).

leaf gutters

leaf ‘gutters’ two weeks on

I was last there a couple of weeks ago, during an earlier wet spell – or possibly just earlier in same wet spell, it’s hard to tell these days, as there seems to be no let up.* While I was last there I found there was water running over the road and right across the bridge because there were leaves blocking their route to the river, so I spent a contented ten minutes or so rearranging the leaves to form a little gutter mainly because I enjoy that sort of thing although I told myself it was a social service in case the water froze and made the bridge all slippery. I didn’t think anything more of it until I came up again this time and found that my handiwork appeared to have survived, and the water was still heading down towards the culvert, which pleased me more than was strictly reasonable. Either that, or there’s someone else in the area who likes to do a bit of amateur hydrological engineering, which wouldn’t surprise me in the least – it’s about the only entertainment to be had around here while the weather is the way it is.

Of course, adding more water to the river may not be my most brilliant idea right now

swollen river

*and while we’re on the subject, BBC Weather Centre, please note the difference between ‘calm day with sunny spells’ as advertised this morning and ‘howling southerly gale with intermittent squally showers’, as actually delivered, because some of us use the weather forecast to make plans, not just for the pleasure of listening to your mellifluous tones. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

Rider on the Storm

January 31, 2014

I knew the forecast wasn’t looking too clever this morning, so I thought I’d better just quickly check the rain radar before settling down to see whether I had time to get some work done before setting off. A quick glance showed an enormous scary mass of rain marching rapidly towards us with no end in sight so I didn’t hesitate and was out on my bike to get down to the paper shop and back while I still could. In fact, I probably could have done without the rain radar as a glance to the west revealed nothing but increasing murkiness. I abandoned my normal contemplative pedalling style and concentrated on making progress, egged on by the chilly bite in the headwind: it wasn’t just rain that those dark clouds promised. The sky over papershop village was looking apocalyptic and all the east-bound cars headlights were on, never a good sign, but at least on the way home I had the wind behind me. Focusing on the lighter skies to the east, I put my head down and let it push me home and, very satisfyingly, was wheeling my bike into the shed just as the first drops fell.

Since then we’ve had rain, ice, sleet, snow, and back to rain again. Pleasant as it is to be safe at home throughout it all, it’s the village Burns supper tonight so out I must go again, and in all my Burns night finery,* because the other half has the car and won’t be back in time to ferry me down. I wonder just how easy it will be to do the Dashing White Sergeant in wellies…

* In my case, ‘clothes I haven’t gardened in recently


January 26, 2014

In what’s shaping up to be the rainiest winter ever, there’s an unwelcome new development: the courtyard in front of our house has taken to flooding regularly.* This morning was another wild and wet start and pretty soon the water levels were creeping up and no amount of poking things with a stick was going to make any difference

yard flooded

A quick yomp around in wellies revealed that we were surrounded

The burn that runs down one side of the property had overflowed and was now running across our drive as well as onto the road

driveway converted into a burn

On the other side and behind the house the water was running directly off the hillside behind us and pooling right up against the back wall, which may be why we don’t have a back door. Oh well, I’ve always wanted to live in a property with a moat…

flooding at the back of the house

As for outside the property, it’s never a good sign when there are white caps on the water running down the road.

whitecaps on the water on the road

It did all drain away eventually, although it reached the shed door at its height and I spent a fair bit of time anxiously monitoring it. If this continues we’re going to have to erect a depth gauge in the front yard, ford-stylee

Meanwhile, here’s a glimpse of the real thing.

ford in flood

More heavy rain forecast for tomorrow. Oh joy.

*It tells you something about the Scottish weather that it’s possible to be in danger of flooding even when you live on the side of a hill

Signs of Madness

January 20, 2014

It’s usually not a good idea to listen to the voices in your head but – like new rattles on your bike – it’s definitely worth paying attention to the little voice that pipes up just after you’ve locked the front door to go out on the bike, especially if it’s saying something like ‘wouldn’t it be a good idea to bring a pump’ rather than ‘the government is reading all your emails’.* Or, as was the case before I set off for a soggy group ride on Saturday, ‘what is the point of packing all of your puncture repair stuff if you don’t bring a pump and how about a spare pair of gloves in case those ones get wet?’

So yes, I suppose it was inevitable that I should end up not just with gloves whose waterproofing had failed so comprehensively that I could wring them out before we’d gone the first mile – but that I should encounter a blackthorn that managed to beat the puncture protection of my Schwalbe Marathon Plus back tyre (it was so wedged in that I couldn’t actually remove it – I ended up just having to poke out as much of it as I could and break off any sharp bits on the inside of the tyre). Fortunately somebody could lend me a pump and the puncture was slow enough that I didn’t have to demonstrate how long it takes me to repair a flat in public, but I did end up having to ride without my gloves on as I just couldn’t face putting my soggy ones back on again. It turns out after the first mile, your fingers don’t get any colder…

Still I did *almost* manage to repair the puncture myself yesterday (I failed at putting the tyre back on, and yes I have seen the video with the zip ties) and today I also managed to swap my front ice tyre out and put the normal one on – apologies to everyone who was enjoying the resulting mild weather, but we’ve had so much rain recently the little steel spikes were actually going rusty …

* oh hang on, wait…

Glug Glug

January 17, 2014

OK, I think I have finally worked out how to use the rainwrap properly now. If you add in the Leggits! it takes fully ten minutes to get all your rain gear on before venturing out. In that time, it will almost certainly stop raining and stay stopped raining until you get to your destination whereupon everyone will look at you even more oddly than they would have done had you turned up drenched. HOWEVER this magical rain repelling property only works if you put everything on before leaving the house. Leaving the house with the rainwrap in the pannier having foolishly believed the weather forecast will result in it starting raining heavily as soon as you are half a mile down the road, or in the middle of Bigtown High Street, whichever is the more embarrassing for attempting to clumsily don a rain skirt in.

In the time it’s taken me to work this out, I may have inadvertently flooded Bigtownshire, for which I’m sorry. On the other hand, it should at least mean we get a nice dry day for our planned winter bike ride tomorrow. Assuming nobody else is foolish enough to leave their over-the-top rain protection in their bag.

In other news, putting your ice tyres on is guaranteed to bring about a prolonged mild spell.

The Great Outdoors

January 6, 2014

I have to confess, it was a struggle to get myself out on the bike today. It didn’t help that we could hear it raining when we woke up and it went on raining as the day got going (I’d say dawned, but it was 11 before it even looked like actual daylight outside) to the point where the yard was beginning to flood. Apart from nipping out with a stick to clear some leaves out of the burn that runs down the side of the house in an attempt to stop the shed from flooding again, I spent most of the morning looking at the miserable weather and dreading the moment when I had to head out into it…

But, although there is something very nice about being warm and dry indoors while it’s blowing a hooly outside, the problem is you can’t stay in forever – and even if you could, in the end cabin fever would get you before January was out (or in my case, the day – as the other half discovered to his cost when I dragged him out for a lovely winter walk into the freezing slanting rain yesterday afternoon because we hadn’t been out all day) – and nor would the paper fetch itself. So with the sky finally lightening after lunch and the wind microscopically dropping, I checked the forecast, picked a moment when it wasn’t actually raining, removed a couple of layers and put them on the Rayburn (the key to endurable winter cycling is to have warm clothes waiting for you on your return) and forced myself out onto the bike (and I realise that at this point that anyone who actually had to commute to work at an actual fixed time when it was actually pissing down has zero sympathy for me at this moment – but then again, you probably get to work in a nice warm office …).

Now the thing about being indoors looking out at terrible weather is that it always looks much worse than it is. And the longer you wait indoors, the worse it seems. The truth is that in the end, even when battering into a violent headwind on a bike that has decided to subject all gear changes to a five-minute cooling off period before consenting to change (I really must clean it more), it’s never *quite* as bad as you feared. Although, I have to admit, for the first 10 minutes it was about 90% as bad as I feared, particularly the part where I came to a standstill going uphill and had to pedal to make any headway going down.

On the other hand, sailing homewards on a stupendous tailwind with the clouds finally lifting and something almost resembling sunshine lighting the hills around me felt like virtue rewarded. Especially as, once I had got home, hosed down and oiled the bike, and reunited myself with both jumpers, I didn’t have to go out again all day except to fetch the wood for the fire. And so I didn’t…


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