June 23, 2020
It seems we are coming out of lockdown – even here in Scotland where things are proceeding at a more cautious pace than south of the border. Not only can we make the 100-mile round trip drive to see my parents (as soon as the weather relents enough to make sitting in their garden while we socially distance a realistic prospect) but I got a text from my dentist confirming that my checkup will be going ahead on Friday (of all the things I was looking forward to being able to get back to doing, I can’t say this was top of my list)
I’ve also had a bit of a break in the work schedule – as a glance out of the window at the weather would confirm – and a chance to actually get to grips with a couple of those lockdown projects I started back when I thought everything being cancelled for the foreseeable future might actually give me some more free time.
One of these was an attempt at a couple of timelapses from photos taken during our daily state-sanctioned exercise. I’m still wrestling with the technology to make a proper timelapse (including something that can compensate for the difficulty of taking a photo from exactly the same spot at exactly the same angle every day) but for now the WordPress gallery gives a good enough first draft of the arrival of spring at the wood at the end of our road.
Sifting through the photos and trying to line them up is something of a thankless task, but I’m glad I made the effort – it seems an appropriate enough response to these timebending days. Weeks, even months can pass in the blink of an eye, while also being measured out in endless days: the same walk, the same spot, and time sneaking up on you all the while without your leave.
May 27, 2020
If all goes to plan, we should be looking at the first real easing of lockdown in Scotland from tomorrow – I know that some friends of mine are very excited about the prospect of garden centres reopening, while I’ve already set up a socially-distanced walk date with a friend for tomorrow.
Perhaps it’s the imminent easing of the lockdown, perhaps it was the weather, or perhaps it was a bit of social media chat about cycling during this crisis (basically, all the new and leisure cyclists are having a wonderful time getting out on the quiet roads, while the bikes belonging to us gnarly old utility cyclists are sitting gathering dust in sheds and garages, wondering what it was they said …) but as I started down the road for my daily walk I suddenly thought ‘sod it, this is too slow, I’m getting the bike.’
And so I did.
When the sun shines in late May around here, it’s just heartbreakingly lovely. The photos are one thing, but they don’t capture the smell which – assuming the slurry spreading has not been too recent – is a gorgeous mix of gorse and hawthorn blossom.
I had to take a side detour in a little loop round Nearest Village because just as I was heading up towards the village and planning to turn round, I had greeted a lady walking down the hill the other way. It took me perhaps a little longer to get past her than she might have anticipated so, we had to repeat a couple of variations on our ‘lovely day’ remarks in order to fill the time. Obviously, I couldn’t then just turn around and cycle back the way I’d come and past her again, so I made a little detour to avoid any more social awkwardness. This is entirely normal behaviour, no?
Normally I hate riding this road, because it’s fast, bendy, and I get at least one close pass, sometimes on a blind bend every time I ride it (and incidents like this are sadly all too common). If lockdown easing does start to mean increasing traffic, I shall miss the relative calm of the last couple of months (even though I’ve still encountered far too many dangerous drivers for my liking).
Perhaps I should be getting out more, while the going is good.
April 8, 2020
A few days after the southern half of the country was basking (illegally) in sunshine, the spring warmth has reached us here, no doubt due in part to the fact that I have just finished knitting an enormously warm jumper (of which more anon) and some last-minute work has arrived which ought to keep me chained to my desk.
But with mutterings about tightening lockdowns and banning outdoor exercise – and with vitamin D in short supply – we thought we’d better get out on the bikes and do a little stockpiling of our own.
I’m almost reluctant to post these photos as I know how incredibly lucky we are to be able to get out and enjoy such scenery with barely a handful of cars and just a few other cyclists and walkers scattered along the route.
This used to be one of my favourite rides when we lived down in the old cottage and it was on our doorstep. We don’t do it so often these days but perhaps we should.
The route took us past the ford road but I thought you’d probably be bored of ford updates so I didn’t bother going down …
… just kidding, of course I did.
Hope you’re all staying safe and are able to get out and enjoy the spring weather.
May 24, 2019
I had for some reason thought that things might get a bit calmer after PoP – a chance to chill out, catch up with some gardening, possibly even tidy the house (but let’s not go mad, eh?). Naturally that didn’t happen and this last week has been particularly bonkers as I’ve tried to combine a rash of tight deadlines, commitments I’d taken on in the intoxicating day and a half when I thought I might be about to have some spare time, and coordinating a non-Pop demo (of which more anon) which suddenly kicked up into high gear just as the sun came out and the countryside hit peak May in all its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it loveliness.
So today was a bonus: one of the commitments I’d taken on was to lead a chilled ride out to lunch for a local cycling event and although the forecast was for it to be at best cloudy, the weather outdid itself.
I was leading a select bunch of nice people who were happy to ride at the speed of chat, and I was suddenly reminded just what an amazing place we happen to live in (especially at this time of year).
We stopped to climb a half-ruined tower and watch the house martins from above as they hoovered up insects and came into their nests
And we barely saw a car.
I still have a million things to do and I have no doubt that the few hours it took out of my day could have been more productively spent but I don’t regret it for an instant.
And now, back to the grindstone…
April 16, 2019
April seems to have been a month of easterlies up to now – bringing dry, cold weather rather than the traditional showers and – in my case at least – a welcome tailwind when climbing the hill to home. Indeed yesterday, in a boisterous hat-snatching gale, I could actually feel it like a hand on my back and my legs were suddenly very very good indeed. This made the fact that I’d had to pedal downhill on the way in worth it.
Even a withering east wind hasn’t quite managed to hold back spring, though. There’s a sudden surge of greenness everywhere (except on the big trees, which will hang on a while yet, I imagine). And today the wind relented and it got more mild (complete with the return of the April showers, possibly a good thing given our water butt is almost empty*). I even managed an hour or two in the greenhouse, potting on seedlings. I was pleased to note that my greenhouse potatoes were finally putting in an appearance after over a month
As, er, are the last of the stored potatoes, which I’m going to have to summon up the courage to investigate and deal with before we end up with a thriving, if cannibalistic, potato patch in our utility room.
And another green shoot popped up in the post this morning. This year’s PoP t-shirt is a zinger and you should definitely buy one.
In other news, it’s harder to make a cow costume than you might think.
* Note to the Weather Gods – you didn’t hear me say that, OK?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
How does your garden grow?
April 18, 2018
For those of you wondering, the lack of posting on the raised bed front unfortunately reflects a lack of progress due to a combination of rain and the need to earn money to pay for the things. Today was suffering from both obstacles but after lunch, with my brain in sore need of a rest and the rain letting up, I thought I’d get the next two into position, if not filled.
As an aside, I’m pretty pleased with these raised bed kits so far. Yes, we could have built raised beds out of wood from scratch for about half the cost, but if we’d opted for that we’d probably still be drawing up plans, whereas these just fit together very neatly and are pinned into place with a couple of pegs which even a feeble person like me can drive into position with a couple of whacks with a hammer.
They’re also pretty light so I can put them up single handed and manoeuvre them into position, which is handy when you have just started filling them and then walk past and look at them from another angle and think …
… ah no, that’s too crooked, even for me.
The problem is, the site isn’t particularly square, so they were always going to be a bit skew whiff both in relation to the other elements of the garden (themselves not square) and each other. I’m not someone who insists my pictures hang straight or things have to be particularly neat (as you might have worked out from the rest of the garden) but it turns out I have my limits.
A bit of digging and shoogling later, and it was all a bit less jarring to the eye and no doubt once everything gets growing, any remaining wonkiness should be disguised by the rampant vegetation.
Which might be sooner than I like because with the warmth, spring is all ‘here I come, ready or not’ …
Hopefully they’ll all have homes to go to before it’s too late.
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. 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.
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.
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?
March 23, 2018
I was just hopping off my bike at the post office yesterday afternoon, having cycled up to New Nearest Village for a smear test,* and on my way to on a friend to pick up some post from our old address, because obviously this being Bigtown, one of her colleagues has moved into our old cottage and is passing it on to her, and it struck me that this was a perfect multi-errand ride, just the sort of thing to get you ahead of the game if it were Errandonneering season. And then I remembered it was Errandoneering season – in fact the 2018 Errandonnee had started 3 days ago, during which time I had unwittingly done six excellent bike-based errands, including cyling to get a lift to choir (Arts and Entertainment), taking my bike to the bike shop to not get serviced (it’s a bit reassuring that the bike shop doesn’t find it straightforward to maintain my bike either) (um, Personal Care?) going to shovel horse manure into bags (um, not actually sure what category that goes in. I didn’t actually haul any of it back by bike or it would definitely have qualified as ‘You Carried WHAT on your Bike?’). Anyway, it’s all moot as I hadn’t properly recorded the rides in question and if it’s about nothing else, errandonneering is about sticking to the rules (which is, before you all get a bit sniffy in the comments about unnecessarily elaborate rules, all part of the fun).
Spring clouds for illustrative purposes only. Lark not included. Picture posed by model. Serving suggestion
Today my only bike-borne errand was to fetch the paper – category Store – except that I also heard the first lark of spring singing its little heart out on the way there, and spotted the first lambs near us on the way back and it was very cheering after the winter we have been having. So maybe stopping to appreciate both counts as a Peaceful Everyday Action?
Clearly I don’t really need a hashtag and a challenge to get me out running errands on my bike, but if you’ve never given Errandonneering a go, there’s still time, and if winter can just bring itself to stay away for good this time, it might even be fun.
* Chaps: sorry if that was too much information but they save lives so I thought what the hell, why be coy about it? It’s been reading about other people’s that has finally nudged me into to making an appointment to get it done until, so hopefully this will give someone else the nudge they need.