June 17, 2014

salad and spring onions

As a long period of far too much gadding about begins to draw to a close, we passed a bit of a milestone in the garden, with the first salad picked this weekend. That makes it the first crop for this growing season. Everything else is madly behind except for the broad beans, which are quietly going beserk and seem impervious to neglect. I must have a rummage and see if there’s enough beans in there to make them worth picking.

Broad beans

On the other hand, my peas are looking pretty weedy for some reason (although I have no idea why we call it that: weeds themselves never seem to be weedy; in robust health would be more like it)

weedy looking peas

As ever, my garden provides a mixture of pleasure and angst. I could happily spend hours doing activities which would be dangerously close to ‘tidying up’ if done indoors but which are highly enjoyable in the context of a garden. The painful part comes when I don’t have hours to potter in and the list of things to be done urgently gets longer and longer. Growing veg is pretty time consuming and planting dates wait for no man. I’ve already lost half my fennel by keeping it too long before planting it out and the celeriac was a complete non starter. Everything else is being threatened by weeds. I comfort myself with the thought that you can never actually finish gardening so it’s all relative. However, it would be nice to be able to find the crop in among the weeds

vegetable plot in June

My fellow gardening pal in the village keeps dropping hints about coming up for a look round the plot. His own tiny garden is always crammed with immaculately kept and meticulously planned veg. There’s only so long I can continue to fob him off with stories of outbreaks of bubonic plague and/or zombie apocalypses before he’ll get suspicious. I’ll just have to keep cracking on until I have something worth showing off or at least something that won’t get me hauled before the court for garden neglect.

The mystery beans, at least, are doing well.

mystery climbing beans


Buzzard Dundee

June 16, 2014

OK, so here’s something I never thought I’d ever say: it was just too lovely and sunny this afternoon. And not because I was stuck indoors – I had to head off on the bike. To the papershop. Through Buzzard Alley. And that was the problem. Having lost my magical tweed hat earlier in the year, my only remaining anti-buzzard head protection that it’s practical to cycle in was the hood of the apocalypse proof jacket and breathable as it is, I didn’t fancy wearing it on a gloriously warm sunny afternoon.

That left me with a choice of braving the buzzard bare headed – or cycling in my Akubra hat, which I did, as fortunately there wasn’t too much of a breeze. It means you either have to keep your pace slow or your head down to avoid it flying off – but it does seem to offer sterling buzzard protection as I wasn’t so much as buzzed in either direction. Clearly the general air of readiness to wrestle wildlife to the ground it gives the wearer was sufficient to keep my nemesis at bay. Long may that last. Although I suspect that it’s more likely that it will simply start raining again as usual.

And How Was Your Weekend?

June 15, 2014

In retrospect, the weekend had definitely been going far too well. The Bike Curious event had been a bit of a blast (more details here from one of our demonstrators) and we’d had a packed out room of women talking a mile a minute about cycling at the Women’s Cycle Forum in the evening, followed by the pub. I was at the station this morning well in time to catch my train home, secured the perfect seat (table, facing, power socket, no annoying fellow travellers) and settled down for an hour’s journey catching up with a little work.

Put it this way, when your quiet journey home is interrupted with a rattle and a bang, followed by the train coming to a halt and the news that the overhead lines have been severed and the pantagraph had come down and crashed into a window, the rest of your day is not going to go well. I won’t bore you with the tedious details (I used to have a whole blog for that) but suffice it to say that I was very very glad to have brought a book, an actual book that didn’t need to be plugged into a power socket to work, with me. Also that you know it’s serious when they don’t just distribute free tea and coffee, but crack open the contents of the snack bar and tell people to help themselves

So, having lunched on crips and chocolate, I have finally made it home seven hours later, although I suspect that had the passengers going to Lockerbie not formed a united and vocal faction and all but taken over one of the replacement coaches after they seemed to have forgotten about us, then I might be standing in Carstairs still. Fortunately, they do have a reasonable facility for train passengers driven mad by the chaos that reigns in the wake of a broken train. In fact, it’s possible some of the inmates had escaped a while back and had been keeping themselves busy trying to run a railway since…

When Wildlife Goes Bad

June 13, 2014

I have to admit, I didn’t exactly set out to get the paper with a song in my heart this morning. More of a sort of nervous keeping-one’s-spirits-up whistling. Being struck by a buzzard out of the blue is one thing, and frankly it’s scary enough. Knowingly setting off on your bike to face an angry buzzard is quite another. As I rode down to the papershop I found myself counting off the miles: Nearest Village is pretty safe, then the bit down to the sharp corner is fine, then there’s a long stretch which has never been buzzard infested to my knowledge, then that nice downhill bit to the ruined cottage…

buzzard alley

Here be buzzards

… that marks the entrance to buzzard alley.

The stretch of road where I’ve been attacked only amounts to about half a mile of the whole five-and-a-half mile run down to Papershop Village. Clearly, that’s about the size of an angry buzzard’s territory. It happens to be surrounded by conifer plantation – lots of nice buzzard ambush points – and goes up the longest, steepest hill of the whole ride, meaning any cyclists are going slow enough to be swooped upon. As I approached the entrance, I stopped to put my hood up, nerved myself up, had a quick look around for any obviously enraged raptors, and set off.

To cut a long story short, ASBO buzzard is still there, and it’s still angry. But its aim has either improved or worsened, depending on its intentions, because I only got two close-ish passes this morning, rather than the full buzzard-across-the-back-of-the-head treatment.

And lest you think it’s all wildlife-related terror round here, once safely out of Buzzard territory, I then rounded the corner and encountered two hares who were more interested in either beating or chatting* each other up than me. Apologies for the quality of the photos; my camera phone zoom is worse than useless. But you know what they say: the best camera is the one you have.

hares fighting hares fighting

Anyway, now I am safely in Edinburgh where at least I only have to deal with the trams and the lorries in two dimensions, rather than three. If any of you are also in the city and at a loose end, may I recommend this followed by this?

* Like herons and humans, their fighting and courtship rituals are hard to distinguish

Air Rage

June 12, 2014

I literally did not know what had hit me at first. There I was, cycling blamelessly along to Papershop Village, thinking my own thoughts, when THWAP, something skelped me hard across the back of my head. The impression I got was of something soft, but heavy, as if someone had thrown a cat at me. It was only when I heard the wings that I realised that ASBO buzzard was back … and this time it was serious. I put my hood up and it still had two more goes, albeit not making contact after the first time. And just to make it even more scary, I could see that there were two of them, although whether both were attacking I couldn’t tell.

I have to admit, I hesitated before I made the return trip having picked up my paper. Even Big A Road was beginning to look less daunting than running the gauntlet through ASBO buzzard’s (or buzzards’) territory. It was the silence that made the whole thing most unnerving, well, that and the force with which it struck. Before, there’s always been a lot of noise before the bird actually swooped down and after the first time when I felt its talons in my hair, there hasn’t been any actual contact. But this time, the attack came out of nowhere – it was overcast, so I didn’t even see its shadow closing in on me. Cycling back, with my hood firmly up, I could only pedal as fast as I could* and hope there wasn’t an angry raptor on my tail, poised to strike. Even though it didn’t actually attack on the way back, I was expecting it at any minute. It doesn’t make for the sort of relaxed, happy, hello trees, hello clouds cycling that I prefer, I can tell you.

The whole episode has left me with a faint, possibly psychosomatic, possibly buzzard-strike induced, headache. And in urgent need of a replacement anti-buzzard hat. Or possibly a new papershop…

* I know that some commenters have suggested that I should stop or slow down in order to make the bird less likely to attack but to that I can only say: you try facing down an infurated buzzard without accelerating away from it as fast as you can. Then come back and let us all know how that one went.

A Listening Administration

June 11, 2014

The gadding continues, although the end is in sight: yesterday I was in Edinburgh for the day, partially camapaigny stuff, but mostly meeting up for lunch and attempting to cram several years’ worth of catch up gossip with two old school friends into a couple of hours. Having talked ourselves almost hoarse, and finished with a cheeky half (at four in the afternoon! The decadence!) in the pub in the station, I got on the train home to find I had seated myself opposite the leader of the coonsil, also on his way home from what sounded like a much less fun afternoon.

He gave me the slightly hunted look all politicians must reserve for the moment when one of their local single-issue activists has managed to corner them somewhere with no hope of escape for at least an hour. He manfully managed to connect my face to my cause, which is pretty impressive, and even bravely raised the subject of cycling, but I had work to do and to be honest he looked pretty worn out and did mention quite sadly that the weekend before he had been at some event in Glasgow and ended up next to someone from the area who spent the whole evening moaning to him about the state of the schools. I suppose it’s par for the course – especially round here – and part of the job and all that but I’m just not ruthless enough to spend a whole train journey talking some poor local politician into the ground even in the cause of cycling. Plus I’m pretty sure that promises made under those conditions would count as ‘duress’…

So he got to have his journey in mostly peace and quiet, and I got a bit of work done as planned, and we left on good terms which will hopefully stand me in good stead when I really need to bend his ear over something. Or maybe I’m just going soft in my old age. Time will tell.

Space for Gardening

June 10, 2014

I knew I was taking a bit of a risk, but I thought I would chance it. I had to be in Edinburgh for the day and was coming back via the station just as the local guerilla gardening group were holding their plant swap evening … at the station. There would be plants there absolutely free, for anyone who wanted to take them. Anyone who had the space in their garden and the time to tend them. Anyone entirely unlike me, in other words.

So it was a danger. Going into a garden centre without ending up with a whole nother garden worth of plants is hard enough; walking past a free plant stall is something else again. Especially as friends of mine would be there helping organise it and it would be rude not to stop and chat. But I was careful, I took precautions. I was on my big bike, so no danger of having a handy basket ready for a tray of homeless seedlings. I didn’t even bring my pannier bag, which can just about take a potted plant or two if they’re carefully wrapped and not too delicate. All I had was my backpack, and that was already full of my laptop. No matter how tempted I was, no matter how persuasive my friend on the stall, no matter how much some exotic plantling (tomatillo! Kohl rabi! Come on, admit you’re tempted) batted its eyelashes at me, there was no way I could take it home. It was a shame, but no. I would be firm. I just haven’t the time or the space or the energy for any more plants in my garden. And fortunately I haven’t the space for them in my bag either…

plants in backpack

… I suppose I should be grateful that at least they aren’t tomato plants.