Clout Casting Commences

May 24, 2018

Signalled by a strange portent yesterday morning

Not only has the fine weather continued, but suddenly it’s gone from ‘nice and sunny and warm if you’re out of the breeze’ to ‘this is not a drill, this is summer, enjoy it while it lasts, because when it’s gone, its gone’

Unfortunately this has coincided with the crunchiest of crunchy work deadlines so I’ve mainly been enjoying it by proxy, but I have been allowing myself a snatched hour or so outside here or there. This has meant choosing between gardening and the bike …

hawthorn (may) blossom

Today the bike won, even though my seedlings are queuing up to be planted and starting to suffer in the sun. I don’t regret it though, because the may is out (and the bluebells and the gorse and everything else) and where the farmers haven’t been slurry spreading the air is positively perfumed and gorgeous, and warm with it.

sandals

Apologies for the glare…

There might even have been a bit of clout casting done.

Besides, I have pipeline news: they have finished laying and joining the big gas pipe and started to make good the enormous hole they dug to do so, so the site now looks like this. Given the talent the land round here has for growing grass, I expect it to be indistinguishable from the surrounding fields within weeks.

pipeline covered over

Or almost, because a mysterious pipe remains, sticking out of the ground, purpose only to be guessed at …

pipe sticking up

Amazingly, if the forecast is correct, this weather is set to continue after the deadline crunch has passed and I will be able to do all the binge gardening I’ve been longing to do all week. Watch this space. I might even get around to blogging about compost …

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While Stocks Last

May 19, 2018

I genuinely did not have time to get out on my bike today – and I didn’t need to go and fetch the paper because the other half was going into town.

may blue skies

But it is May and the fine weather is still here, and each day brings another fleeting spring moment, and when it’s gone it’s gone. Today it’s the turn of the cow parsley, just beginning to froth in the hedgerow. We have slogged our way through the winter, living for the moment when this weather would arrive, and it would be criminal not to slip out just for an hour or so to enjoy it.

And the roads were empty, for some reason, even emptier than they normally are. Could it be that people round here were all huddled inside, watching the royal wedding? I encountered about three cars and perhaps half a dozen cyclists, one of them out stretching his legs before the cup final.

Tomorrow we have lunch guests (the greenhouse inspection committee) and we’re hoping this weather will continue long enough to wheel out the barbecue. At least we were, until the local farmer – also keen to seize the day – made the most of the fine weather by spending the afternoon spreading slurry. Hopefully the smell will have dissipated somewhat by then

Got to take the rough with the smooth, living the rural life. This is the price we pay for having hot and cold running hares in the garden, and coos for neighbours.


April Showers Bring May … Gales?

May 11, 2018

It’s safe to say that I’ve been pretty disappointed with May’s weather so far. After the various beasts from the east and what have you, I’ve been holding out for a fine, dry May, or ‘summer’ as it’s known in Scotland. We had a couple of nice days over the bank holiday weekend, but not the heatwave everyone was enjoying down south, and since then it’s mainly been rain, wind, the odd hailstorm and fog.

evening ride

Yesterday was nice enough, if chilly, enough to tempt the other half out on the bike for an early evening ride, and today looked promising at least until we checked the forecast: high winds, which would only drop in the afternoon as it set into rain. By lunchtime, with the paper still to be fetched, the wind was battering round the house in an uninviting manner, but as the other half pointed out, at least I’d have a tailwind home, which is better than the usual arrangement.

The trouble with tailwinds is that you can never rely on them to deliver on your way home, however bad the headwind might have been on the way out. But as I came out of the shop with the paper and narrowly dodged the display of plants a sudden gust of wind sent tumbling down, I had a feeling today was going to be different.

And so it proved. My bike is not is still awaiting its winter service* and is all squeak and rattle at the moment, so it’s not the smoothest of rides – but even so, with the south-easterly pushing it along almost dead behind me, it was transformed into a flying machine. The hill home was still a climb, but compared with battering into a headwind, it was positively enjoyable. And as I turned to tackle the final kick upwards to the house I could feel it behind me like a welcome hand on my shoulder, pushing me home.

Even so, I think the weather gods have made their point, and if they could lay off for a bit so I can get my seedlings into the ground without them being blown away, I’d be grateful.

* I think the bike shop is hoping that if they take forever to order the parts needed, I will give up and buy a modern bike like a normal** person.

** adjusted for being someone who rides a bike


And Now for Everything Else

May 2, 2018

After an exciting weekend …

… back to the real world.

Gardens, and spring (and work) wait for no cycle campaigners. I was pleased to get home and spot the first potato leaves peeking through in the raised beds – especially as it meant I could get them earthed up before the overnight frosts (hello May) had a chance to give them a nip.

potatoes peeking through

The trays of seedlings are waiting impatiently to go out. I’ve put the peas, kale and broccoli on a bench out of the reach of slugs and hares to harden off – the forecast was for milder weather but I hadn’t factored in that this meant rain, wind and, indeed, hail. My approach to gardening has always been along the lines of ‘what doesn’t kill them makes them stronger’, although I can’t strictly speaking recommend this as mostly it does just kill them.

seedlings waiting to go out

The raised-bed raising continues (I was going to write ‘apace’ but that would be a lie). So far I’m just about keeping ahead of the need to plant stuff out, but it’s going to be a close run thing.

raised bed progress

How does your garden grow?


Sheep Worrying

April 12, 2018

Well, that will teach me to blog about a pleasantly warm day – it hasn’t (thankfully) snowed since my last post but it’s not exactly felt springlike, put it that way. They say the warmer weather is coming; it had better hurry, is all I can say.

Hawthorn leaves emerging

But there are signs of it, and not just in the hedgerows. Exhibit one: putting-lambs-back-in-fields season has begun, with a lamb that had, as usual, worked out the way out of the field but could not for the life of it work the way back in (are modern fences equipped with special one-way sheep valves?) Meanwhile I couldn’t work out for the life of my how a lone cyclist could corner a lamb along a straight stretch of fence in order to chuck it back into its field. Having stood there for a while trying to give it instructions (‘Under, under! You need to go under the fence, not attempt to julienne yourself by going through it, you stupid animal’) and hoping that a driver would stop to help (fat chance), I finally flagged down a tractor driver who said he’d alert the farmer and I was able to head off for my lunch with a relatively clear conscience.

fleeing lamb

My usual lamb photo effort

It only struck me later that would have been a good opportunity to get a better photo of a lamb than the usual ‘distant running-away dot on the horizon’ but it seemed a bit indecent to profit from its misfortune just to bump up my Instagram likes.

lamb huddled by tree

On a related note, I hope that this lamb spotted this afternoon was just sheltering from the east wind, and not actually sick, which was why it didn’t run away. I suppose I could have gone to find another tractor driver or farmer to ask … but while ‘lamb out of field’ seems a legitimate thing for even the most uninformed townie to report, ‘lamb looking a bit depressed’ is a bit more marginal…


We Interrupt this Earth-Moving Tale …

April 10, 2018

… with news of a strange interlude of not just sunshine, but actual warm weather this spring. Not only that but it arrived just as I had an afternoon to kill in Bigtown between coaxing Stephen into riding a bike (still working on it …) and the Bigtown Cycle Campaign meeting.

First stop was the high street for a coffee in the sunshine (outdoors! Without my coat on!) and the traditional Bigtown way of passing the time: waiting to bump into someone you know.

coffee outside

Half a pleasant hour of cycling chit chat later, I headed off on the bike to check out a possible route for our family rides in the summer. It was not a route I knew well, and there has been an issue with a bridge washing out. The Coonsil assured me they were on the case and it seems they are dealing with it in time-honoured fashion, by putting up a couple of barriers and hoping for the best.

hole in bridge

As far as I’m concerned, the main issue with the route isn’t the opening up of a small temporary ravine, it’s the fact that it ends like this.

cyclists rejoin carriageway

Yes, that’s a 30 mph sign – on a long straight wide road with fields on one side. Guess how many cars actually do 30 on it …

(I always find it strange that when there’s a small chance of a cyclist coming off on an uneven section of path, we need to put up all manner of barriers and warning signs. But when it has become inconvenient to accommodate them in safety any longer we happily wave the same cyclists off into oncoming traffic on an A road a few hundred yards further along the route. Go figure.)

Recce done, and having duly got lost in one of Bigtown’s more confusing suburbs, I returned to the park and enjoyed the novel pleasure of hanging out reading the paper and not doing all that much, in weather that was warm enough to not do so in comfort. If I have learned anything at all since moving to Scotland, it is to savour these moments when they occur.

bike and park in April

I would like to think we still have some warm weather to come, but in the event that yesterday was our summer (and it has reverted to grim grey miserableness since) I’m glad to have made the most of it.


What a Difference …

April 6, 2018

… A bit of sunshine makes, with spring finally making a guest appearance yesterday, and apparently now settled in for the week.* It wasn’t exactly ‘taps aff’ in Bigtown, but I felt a bit overdressed in my hat, scarf and winter gloves when I cycled down for the paper and discovered that everyone else was in their summer clothes. What can I say, they’re a hardy bunch. There were even other cyclists out on the country roads (I was deep in conversation with myself, plugging up the hill on my way home, when I was startled by a cheery voice saying ‘nice day for it!’ just at my right shoulder. Turns out other cyclists actually maintain their bikes to the point where they can silently sneak up on people …).

I didn’t technically have any time for gardening yesterday, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to get on with the earth moving project that the raised beds have turned into. I was only going to clear away the soil and tackle assembling them later, but I got the bit between my teeth and it turned out to be pretty straightforward in the end.

assembled raised beds

Assembled raised beds. That small cairn of stones in the foreground is the inevitable result of doing any digging around here …

Today I was going to start filling them, ready for the potatoes which are waiting chitting on the windowsill, but the rain came down just as I had met my last deadline of the week and was ready to head out to do some muck shifting at last.

potatoes chitting indoors

Fortunately, it doesn’t rain inside the greenhouse so I did some binge planting instead. Now all I have to do is assemble and fill the other eight raised beds before everything starts climbing out of the pots unassisted.

seeds planted in greenhouse

That should be easy enough, right?

* I actually thought my Met Office weather app might be broken when I looked at it this morning and there was no forecast for rain/sleet/snow/plagues of frogs for the whole week, just a row of white clouds and more-or-less normal temperatures for the time of year. Surely some mistake?