Expectations Management

April 30, 2016

Well, miracle of miracles, I got out and did some gardening today. I still have too much work to do, although the end may be in sight, but with Pedal on Parliament finished – meaning that it’s now possible to actually finish dealing with my emails before the next tranche arrive – and the garden backlog getting steadily more urgent, I decided that if I didn’t get out now then I might as well give up on the veg this year. All I needed was some decent weather and I could get my seed potatoes in, or at least the first and second earlies, before it was too late.

wrinkled seed potatoes

Top tip for gardeners: don’t wait until your seed potatoes look like this. Although apparently they will still grow

Now if you’d told me even a week ago that a day when there was only one sudden violent hailstorm, plus intermittent icy showers, no actual ground frost and a forecast of it not to snow again at least for a while would count as decent gardening weather, I’d have looked at you as if you were mad – but after the weather we’ve had in recent days, we’ll take what we can get, frankly…

Not Tempered to the Shorn Lamb

April 29, 2016

Cycling down for the paper today in a viciously cold wind, I was trying to work out exactly what direction it was coming from – and whether I’d be cycling back right into the teeth of it on my way home. The wind tends to swirl around a bit through the village and sometimes hides behind hedges before pouncing unexpectedly. Plus if it’s a cross wind it can feel like a head wind in both directions – and if it’s a tail wind, you never notice until it’s too late

Coming back in what turned out to be a biting north-easterly cross wind – but of course – I realised that what I should have done was looked at the fields – because all the ewes were lying down and all the lambs were huddled on their mothers’ leeward sides. They’re still little enough not to have much fat to insulate them, or much wool either, and need what shelter they can get – although it has at least stopped snowing…

Spring. Did I blink and miss it?

Your Poor Hands Look Frozen…

April 28, 2016

… exclaimed the checkout woman as I handed over my cash this morning, and looking down at them I could see her point. Five miles into an icy headwind in sleety drizzle really doesn’t do anything for your skin, and while I know that spring in Scotland can mean anything, and we can get snow in June and all that, it’s one thing knowing it in theory, and it’s another thing to be digging out the lobster gloves when it’s almost May.

If yesterday’s weather was freakish, with its alternation of hot sunshine and snow, today was just Novemberish, and we had enough of that in November frankly.

The only bright side is I’m so behind with the garden I almost look prescient. To think I used to start planting things in February…


April 27, 2016

We woke this morning to clear skies and glorious sunshine – and no frost on the grass, for once, which was an improvement on the last couple of weeks. What better day, I thought, to take the peas and beans out of the greenhouse where I started them in a panic at the end of March and try and harden them off to plant them out before it’s actually May? And maybe get some washing out to boot?

hailstorm on laundry

And yes, I did stop to take a photo for the blog before rescuing the washing …

In retrospect, a day when it didn’t keep suddenly hailing, alternating with snowing, might have been better.

The weird thing was, in between hail/snow showers it was rather nice and even warm. In fact, I was sitting on the bench with my lunch when the first lot fell and it confused me because there I was enjoying the warmth of the sun, and here was this white stuff falling out of the sky – I confess, I looked up to see if there was a jackdaw or something dropping things because that made more sense than snow.

Anyway, according to all the gardening columns, hardening off your glasshouse-grown plants is a gradual process of putting them out on sunny days and progressively getting them used to the great outdoors with longer spells in the cold and eventually keeping them out overnight – not subjecting them to a day of violent freak weather conditions and hoping for the best.

broadbean seedlings

Fortunately, my peas and broad beans seem a pretty hardy bunch. With any luck they’ll survive tomorrows plague of frogs, or whatever it is the Weather Gods have in store, and I can plant them out at the weekend, ready for it to hail taxis.

Pea seedlings

Springing up

April 18, 2016

Working away at the kitchen table this morning I was interrupted by a familiar and very cheering noise

Yup, the swallows – or rather swallow – was back, sitting on the wire, chattering away, wondering where everybody else was. I’d seen one briefly yesterday on my way back from the litter pick (which went fine, by the way; someone came to my rescue and helped out with the teas) but nothing in our yard until just now. It’s always a little sobering how many we send off at the end of the year, and how few come back in the spring but hopefully this is just the harbinger and won’t be quite so lonely by the end of the week*

Other signs of spring are somewhat less welcome. Like the crunching noise underfoot that indicated I’d just unwarily stepped on a snail (I’m no fan of snails, but I prefer to give them flying lessons than completely flattening them).

Oh, and time to start weeding the cobbles again. Long since, in fact


*Indeed, cycling down for the paper, I happened across a chap I often stop and talk to – he’s a birdwatcher too and we normally exchange sightings of there’s anything to report. Naturally I told him about my swallow and as I encountered him on the way back he started waving madly and pointing up at the sky where there were four swallows. It’s moments like this that really make my day …

Waterproof in Scotland?

April 6, 2016

So, given how busy I am, what productive thing did I get up to this afternoon? Well, among other things – trying to turn the Rayburn into a laminator.

noticeboard tree

It all makes a certain sense, if you think about it. In my new role as secretary of the community council I seem to have the job of organising everything that happens in the parish, and that includes our annual litter pick. Litter picks require volunteers, so they have to be advertised, so as well as putting something in the community newsletter and up on our parish Facebook page, that means putting a poster up on noticeboard tree because nothing is officially happening round here until it’s properly announced on the tree. And as it rains a fair bit around here, putting a poster up generally means getting it laminated so that it remains a poster, instead of turning into litter itself the minute it rains.

We don’t have a laminator, but a little googling suggested that you could improvise with some clingfilm and an iron.* This worked surprisingly well, but then I got ambitious – could I take advantage of the heat the Rayburn generates anyway and use that instead of an iron? This worked less well, although not disastrously so, due to the lack of flat surfaces on the Rayburn hotplate covers. With a bit more experimentation I did reckon I could have perfected the method, using the two scrap sheets of metal we use to speed up defrosting when we’ve forgotten to take stuff out of the freezer in time, but at that point sanity prevailed and I decided I’d sunk enough time in the project and walked up to the waterfall to post the one I’d done earlier.

Pedal on Parliament

POP Poster. You are all coming, aren’t you?

Of course, when I got there, I saw that the POP poster I’d put up three weeks earlier was still going strong, despite all that the weather gods had thrown at us in recent days, so I may have wasted my time after all. Or it may be that POP posters are made of the right stuff and are rather more robust than our cheap printer paper.

Either way, I shall keep you posted on the relative survival times of the home-laminated litter pick poster and the non-laminated POP one. I know, I know – you can hardly wait.

* ‘You used an iron?’ said an amazed other half when he returned from Notso Bigtown and asked what I’d been up to… He may just have been surprised that I knew where it lived.

Ready or Not

April 5, 2016

Are you bored of the ‘I’m too busy to blog about anything except about how I’m too busy to blog’ posts yet? I know I am … Things are hotting up as the preparations for Pedal on Parliament enter their last few weeks and suddenly it’s April and how did that happen?

Anyway, for those of you waiting with bated breath to find out whether the seed potatoes survived, they appear to be fine. Not planted yet – don’t be ridiculous – but fine.

seed potatoes in greenhouse

And I think they may be ready to start growing, if the potatoes we had stored in the basket in the kitchen are anything to go by.

potato shoots

Let me out of here!

I shall enter the greenhouse warily next time I go up. I don’t want to be grabbed by the ankle by a desperate tuber shoot, begging to be planted.

potato shoots


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