101 Uses for a Brompton: (Not Quite) Wimping Out

August 20, 2016

brompton under treeToday was supposed to be the last of our summer rides – and to describe the forecast as not looking promising would be an understatement. For a couple of days it was predicting ‘heavy showers’, but this morning – as I woke to the sound of rain on the skylight – it had settled on just heavy rain from ten in the morning onwards, and by mid morning it had thrown in a couple of yellow weather warnings for good measure. Contemplating the thought of cycling six miles in the pouring rain to spend twenty minutes waiting for people not to show up, followed by six (uphill) miles in the pouring rain home, undoubtedly with a headwind, I took up the other half’s offer of a lift into town with the Brompton, with the hope that nobody would show up for our advertised 11 mile ride.

rain on the river

And come 2pm, when the ride was due to set off, it began to look as if that was indeed what would happen. My fellow ride leader had gone for the folder-in-the-car option too, while another local member had come by largely out of curiousity to see if anyone would turn up. We stood under a tree and watched the rain sheet down so hard that even a dog – a dog in a rain jacket, no less – was refusing to go for a walk in it. And we were just about to call it a day and head home with some relief, when three figures on bikes – mum and two kids – hove into view with waterproofs on and raring to go. The prospect of a cosy ride back in the car evaporated. We were on, every soggy sodden mile of it. We were going to do this family bike ride if it killed us

And you know what? It was great. It was, as someone pointed out, quite warm rain (and tbh only the Scots consider this to be an improvement on the regular kind of rain). I’ve been cycling back and forth on the same road for too long for the past few weeks, so it was good to get out and go somewhere else, just for the hell of it. The older child had a new-to-her bike and was getting used to the gears so we were riding along practising going up and down through the cogs, while her younger brother bombed ahead, his jacket discarded, having decided just to get drenched. And when the inevitable puncture came as we reached our destination, we were near to a shelter and could sit under a roof eating brownies and making helpful comments to the person fixing it, and watching someone else have what was possibly an even worse weather-related afternoon:

bride in the rain

By the time we were back on the road, the rain had briefly passed, the sun had almost come out, and I discovered a new route back to the house, by way of some lovely empty tiny roads. I’m still not sure it was exactly how I would have planned the afternoon – but it just goes to show that no day with a bike ride in it is ever entirely wasted.

Garlic, the Final Verdict

August 15, 2016

greenhouse garlic

As you may recall, last year I was very excitingly given three sets of heritage garlic bulbs by Marshall Seeds to trial and report on to see how they might cope with the sort of conditions we ‘enjoy’ in Scotland.

garlic under snow

garlic under the snow

Initially, I was worried about the garlic surviving the winter at all – but all of it managed to sail through some of the wettest, windiest and most changeable winters we’d experienced and come out looking pretty splendid.

garlic plants

Then – by way of a bonus – we discovered scapes, which are seriously one of the most delicious things you can grow in your garden and were entirely unexpected. Having enjoyed those we were looking forward to the main event – after all that nurturing and care.

garlic stems

But I’ve long said it’s not the winters that are the problem around here – it’s the summers. And as after a fine start, the summer quickly degenerated into wet weather, it did look as if I had missed the moment to actually harvest the bulbs themselves. It didn’t help that we were moving house, so I had other more pressing matters on my mind.

sprouting garlic

If you’re wondering if you’ve left your garlic too long before harvesting, this might tip you off …

By the time I got to them, many of those which hadn’t started to sprout, had started to rot in the soil, although some of them had formed really impressive bulbs. We managed to lift some to eat right away (chicken and garlic in white wine – a delicious way to use up garlic in a hurry), and a couple of weeks ago – just after we’d moved – I lifted the rest and left them to dry before going through the resulting bulbs to see what had survived

garlic harvest

Some have, unfortunately, rotted further, while others have sprouted but I have – just – managed to produce slightly more garlic than I started with. The Mikulov seems to have survived best, producing whole bulbs, which actually look as if they will store quite well (always assuming we don’t eat them first).

final garlic haul

And the pinkish ones (I think Bohemian Rose – unfortunately the labels blew away before I could harvest them) certainly look splendid, although they broke up into individual cloves as the papery skins got too soggy and soft in the claggy soil.

pinkish garlic cloves

All in all a qualified success (especially the scapes) and one I will repeat again but with the following minor modifications to my growing method:

1. get all the cloves straight into the ground and not mess around with pots, waiting till new year or anything like that
2. not move house just at the point when they’re ready to harvest
3. consider planting them in a dryer, sunnier location such as (to pick an example at random) not Scotland.

Oh, OK, maybe not the last one. Although with the weather we’ve had these last few weeks, Spain is looking distinctly tempting…

Come in, you’ll have had your Summer…

August 11, 2016

I was thinking yesterday, as I was woken yet again by the sun at 5 am only to watch the morning cloud over and the day descend to endless drizzle, that it would be kinder of the Weather Gods not to give us that daily hour of hope and expectation, but just start the day off as they mean to go on. And then we were woken this morning by the sound of rain against the skylight and I decided I’d take what sunshine I could get* (and maybe invest in some blinds for the bedroom).


Still, rain or no rain, I had to get myself down to the greenhouse back at the old house – or the allotment as it is now known – if only to water the other half’s plants and harvest some produce. Because, even with the rain spattering on the roof, it’s all going great guns down there.


The tomatilloes lie in wait: none of them are ready yet, but we know they will be soon, and once they start cropping, by god they are prolific. Last year we had to resort to depositing bags of tomatilloes on people’s doorsteps when we ran out of room in the fridge. This year we’ve put in fewer plants but they seem to have compensated by becoming even more prolific.

The chillies are taking their time, but the purple jalapenos are worth it for the flowers alone.

purple jalapeno flower

Time to dig out the Mexican cookbook and dream of warmer climes, and summer…

* Obviously, it would be even kinder of the weather gods to start off sunny and go on like that, but we’ve had our summer and we know better than to hope.

Battering on

August 8, 2016
new papershop run

It’s all downhill from here. And then uphill again …

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that the correct configuration for a papershop run is headwind out, tailwind home. I may also have mentioned that the new house is up a fairly serious hill, into the prevailing wind, which has been proving somewhat strong of late. Today that all came together with a wild blustery wind – and I have to admit I set off for the paper with a certain sense of trepidation.

The nearest papershop is now on the outskirts of Bigtown, and the ride home is in four sections, more or less. There’s the first, rolling stretch along the river, the same road I used to ride home to our old house. Then you turn right and start to head upwards, and if you look over to your left (if you feel like depressing yourself), you can see up above you the farm on the hill that is just before the turn to our house. Then you join the B road for a mile and a half or so of steady climbing, while hoping that the cars coming up behind you remember that bikes, while not as wide as cars, still have some width and squeeeezing past when there’s a car coming down the other way is not appreciated. Finally there’s the turnoff, down a little slope through a wood, and the last few hundred yards which just go straight up. None of this is helped by the fact that my front chain ring has become bent and the emits a loud creak at every pedal stroke as it clatters through the front derailleur.

I’ve done the ride often enough to know that although the climb back always seems daunting in my head, once on the road it is never as tough as I think it is (except for the last 100 yards up to the house, which is always a killer). But as I sailed down today I could feel the wind hard at my back and I was beginning to seriously wonder whether I’d make it back up again at all. Still, I didn’t really have an alternative and we needed milk, so I continued on, getting down to the shop in record time. Then it was just a question of getting on my bike and heading home…

On the first, fairly flat, stretch of road, full into the wind, I was alarmed to discover that I was quickly running out of gears on the slight climbs. As I turned onto the cross section, I didn’t dare look up to see how far I had to go but just put my head down and creaked on. Then left onto the B-road, the wind pouncing on me as I rounded each bend, holding my place in the middle of the lane so I didn’t have to deal with the wind AND an overtaking idiot at the same time. On we climbed, me and my creaky bike, wondering when the gust of wind would come that would bring me to a standstill and force me to a stop. And somehow it never did. I passed the house that’s so low beside the road only its chimneys appear over the hedge. And then the farm that stands before our turnoff, and finally reached our turning itself, still pedalling. Even the last climb – though slow – was never slow enough that I had ground to a halt. I arrived in triumph, sweaty but unbowed. I had faced the full on headwind and I had won.

And remembered I had forgotten to get milk.

I’m not Saying it’s All the Fault of Brexit

June 30, 2016

… but there was a cold wind blowing from the south on Friday and it seems to have brought nothing but rain, cold and almost autumnal gloom with it.

Yesterday I ended up drenched cycling home

(and no, I’ve not lived in the western half of Scotland for long enough to consider summer’s ‘slightly warmer rain’ much of an improvement over the freezing stuff we get in the winter)

Today it was at least dry outside – but without the Rayburn to dry everything my gloves, jacket and boots were still pretty sodden, so it was time for desperate measures.

The referendum fallout doesn’t get any better (although at least the Tories are now stabbing each other in the back just as enthusiastically as Labour are), but I’ve decided to try and ignore it as best I can. I know that’s a luxury that many don’t have – but hopefully the country will soon get its sense of humour and proportion back, if nothing else.

To help it on its way, have a heartwarming story of a man rescuing a lamb. You’re welcome.

(In an emergency you may also need this)

Moving On

June 26, 2016

I don’t think I’ve fully digested the impact of the EU referendum result yet – I don’t know that anyone has – but yesterday I had a welcome distraction in the form of my Anniversaire.

new house

Stopping for a sneak preview of the new house

chat and ride

Riding at the speed of chat


summer clouds

Frequent stops to ‘delaminate’ were needed as the weather switched between sunshine and showers

over the moor

Heading back over the hills

rolling home

Downhill (almost) all the way from here

curious cows

Wherever you stop in the country you tend to draw a curious crowd…

Good friends, good cycling, good chat and plentiful cake. I hope everyone else who’s worried about the future managed to have as excellent a weekend. When in doubt, ride a bike.

summer rainbow

Sadly the Weather Gods have resumed normal service, but even that did not dampen our spirits. Well, much.

Waiting for the Second Shoe…

June 13, 2016

Two things I am not, repeat not, complaining about:

1. It is well into June and ASBO buzzard hasn’t attacked yet. Not so much as a swoop. Which is cool. It’s fine. I’d much rather *not* be attacked by a buzzard than be attacked by a buzzard. But the anticipation is getting something fierce.

2. In the past week we have been caught in a sudden rainstorm driving back from the train station on Wednesday, I got fairly heavily rained on riding to the train station in Edinburgh on Sunday and I got mildly rained on going down for the paper today. But has there been any appreciable rain on the actual garden? There has not. Or at least not enough to replenish the water butts. There are four full-size ones up by the walled garden and we’re down to half way through number four…