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

Before a Fall

March 31, 2016

seeds planted

As I took this photo in the greenhouse yesterday – pleased at having caught up a bit with my gardening backlog and got all the ‘sow by March’ seeds at least started in the greenhouse – I reflected that, over the years, I had managed to pick up a few bits and pieces about this grow-your-own lark (after all, making mistakes is probably the most effective way to learn). While things might change if we move to a new place with new soil and new pests and a different microclimate, at least in my old familiar plot in the walled garden I knew enough to get the growing season off to a good start in a pretty slick operation, even if I did say so myself.

With the other half’s tomatoes and tomatilloes germinating on the kitchen windowsill, and the chillie seeds enjoying the gentle heat of the rayburn, and the seed potatoes chitting nicely at the back of the greenhouse ready to be dug in, I went to bed feeling that we had done a good days’s work.

And woke to a heavy frost. I *think* the seed potatoes should have survived it, but who knows what a seed potato that has succumbed to frost looks like, compared to one that hasn’t?

Certainly not me …

It Can’t Last …

March 28, 2016

wheelbarrow with a view

… but I actually managed to find the time to get out and do some gardening over this weekend. Not much, but a few barrowloads of manure were hacked out of the nettle heap and transferred to the greenhouse. If I get really reckless, I might even start some seeds, or just dig up the parsnips which have emerged now that the soil is warming up a bit

parsnips re-emerging

… and tomorrow, I will even be able to return to yoga. Actually, these two announcements may not be entirely unrelated…

sunshine and showers

Normal Service Resumed

March 26, 2016

rain falling

Like most of the country, we’ve had a miraculous period of settled dry weather for a couple of weeks now. As always, it has coincided with me being too busy to take much advantage of it, beyond my usual bicycle excursions – hence the rather light blogging in recent weeks – but, just as things were easing up on the work front, the Weather Gods returned from wherever it is they’ve been …

I was due to be leading a social ride in Bigtown this morning and I was extremely grateful when someone else offered to be the one who went and stood at the rendezvous point waiting for nobody to turn up, as it saved me a 45 minute ride there in the rain, followed by a 45 minute ride back, and having to get changed in the bath.

wet lawn

As it was, if I hadn’t had to empty the compost bucket and feed the landlords’ cats, I might not have ventured out at all today.

Well, except for one important thing, obviously

checking the level of the ford

Normal blogging service should also resume too, hopefully.

felled daffodil

Meanwhile Happy Easter, everyone.

Sure Signs of Spring

March 22, 2016

Greyish brown blobs of frogspawn in every puddle and ditch…


… and litle white blobs fleeing over the hill at the sight of a blogger with a camera phone

fleeing sheep and lambs

You’ll just have to take my word for it that the lambs are gambolling away like gooduns and are very cute, but a tad flighty.

A Strange Light

March 7, 2016
Walk Cycle Vote launch

Launching the We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote campaigners’ day with Professor Chris Oliver

It’s been a busy weekend, with a trip to Glasgow for the We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote training day – which was a blast but also a lot of organising (oh okay, someone else did the organising, I just fired off a few emails and tweets to spread the word and then shared in the praise when it all went off incredibly smoothly) – and so I was just enjoying being collapsed on the sofa with the woodburner going on Sunday evening when a post on Facebook suggested I should get outside and look north because the northern lights were visible in Bigtown which meant they should be even more visible out here.

We’ve been hoping to see the northern lights ever since we moved up here, but so far all we’ve managed has been a faint and somewhat ambiguous glow. Yesterday evening looked as if it wasn’t going to be much different – the sky to the north was definitely lighter than it should have been but it wasn’t the glowing dancing green lights that you see in the photographs of the aurora borealis. However it was a dark night and a clear sky, so we perservered (having gone back in and put on our coats and checked that nothing was boiling over on the stove) and this time we were rewarded with a definite greenish cast to the light and a few vertical streaks which came and went imperceptibly as we watched.

I’ve a feeling that the more spectacular photos – at least this far south – are partly down to long exposure times and look a little bit more impressive than what you actually see for yourself at the time. I did test this theory by trying to take a picture with my phone but it doesn’t actually have a long exposure setting, and I can tell you now that using the ‘fireworks mode’ doesn’t work…

Northern lights, as captured by a Samsung phone camera

I can’t believe I’m actually posting this, the worst photograph of the Northern Lights ever.

The stars, on the other hand, were something else. With no moon and a cold clear frosty night they glittered as we passed under the bare branches of the trees on our way back to house. We really don’t spend enough time appreciating the amazing dark skies we have, with or without any geomagnetic additions

sunny bigtown

Or, indeed, the strange light that has been appearing during daylight hours these last few days


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