A Rose between Two Thorns

July 17, 2021

As I may have mentioned, after double booking myself with work in the first half of the year, I’ve taken July as gardening-and-cycle-campaigning leave (and I can only marvel at the breakdown of the Weather Gods’ system for detecting when I’ve got time off and coming at me with all the rain and hope that they don’t notice for at least another fortnight).

So far the gardening side has been all about tackling some neglected corner of the garden, realising guiltily how overrun with weeds the plants I’d actually planted were, spending all afternoon clearing out the weeds around the survivors and then moving on to the next victim. So far I’ve managed to bring some sort of order to the gooseberry bushes (unsurprisingly gooseberry-less), one flowerbed where I discovered that a tiny plant bought at a plant sale years back and then somewhat given up on had grown into a bit of a monster (I suppose the name ‘tree peony’ might have given me a clue there), and excavated one rose I only have the vaguest memory of planting but which has been valiantly flowering away among the brambles.

Rose bush that had been submerged by brambles

I’ve also filled one compost dalek completely from a standing start, and have been reduced to leaving piles of weeds dotted around the garden to be wait until the magic of composting makes some room for them. Hopefully this will happen before the piles have grown a new crop of weeds of their own, as appears to have happened on the patio where the chunkiest bits of root and tangled stem from clearing around the sitooterie have taken on a bit of life of their own.

Weeds growing through piles of roots and sticks

Despite all this neglect, there are some corners of the garden that occasionally look – well, almost garden like. Occasionally my tactic of throwing plants at random in wherever there’s a space in the hope that they’ll outcompete the weeds does sort of work.

mallow and lychnis flowering together

And the little rose rescued from the sitooterie site is flowering away in its new spot; it was obviously quite used to being overwhelmed by way more vigorous neighbours and wasn’t going to let a little sticky Willie get in its way.

rose flowering

I’ve been inspired by this to plant some more roses, as I do love them, and the more highly scented the better. This might be a fool’s errand; when Gardeners’ Question Time last came this way and the panel were asked for their suggestions on growing roses in this climate; their advice (after much sucking of teeth) amounted to ‘why not embrace the inevitable and grow Himalayan poppies instead’. But, nothing daunted, I asked Twitter instead and got something much better than a list of possible varieties:

… A whole rose garden that needed rehoming. You don’t get that on GQT

Meanwhile, with the Weather Gods’ backs turned, we actually had to put up our garden umbrella to shade us from the sun for the first time ever this afternoon (it’s rescued a couple of barbecues in the past from passing rain showers).

garden umbrella and bench

I’ve been calling this corner of the garden the Mediterranean garden largely as a joke, but if this weather continues, it might stop sounding quite so ridiculous an idea.

When Summer Calls …

July 2, 2021

.. You answer

Road in summer sunshine

Having somewhat prematurely celebrated the end of a big job of work, which promptly returned, with bells on, in the manner of the monster in the final act of a schlocky movie rising up from the apparent dead, I finally completed it on Wednesday lunchtime and this time nailed the coffin down properly AND put a stake through its heart.

Amazingly, despite this gap in the workload, the Weather Gods have not yet caught up with me and with an unexpectedly free afternoon, the sun shining, and some vouchers of the other half’s to spend, we plotted a magnificent afternoon escape.

coffee and cakes on outside cafe table

I have a massive backlog of things to do, and no doubt there would have been more productive ways to spend an afternoon than pootling along back roads on our bikes, refuelling with coffee and cake, buying All The Cheese at the attached organic dairy farm shop, and then topping it off with a paddle in the river on our way home, but I’m struggling to work out how (apart from remembering to buy cheese biscuits to go with the cheese).*

Bike on river bank

For the next month I’m going to be a different kind of busy as I take a month off from work work to catch up with all the work-shaped stuff I do when I’m not working. It’s not exactly what I envisaged when we ‘downshifted’ all those years ago, but I suppose it will have to do.

And at least if summer does call again, I should be able to answer…

* I did do penance when I got home by spending an hour or so going through planning applications, because that’s the banging way we cycle campaigners like to unwind.

The Weather: A Public Service Announcement

July 26, 2018

As the rest of the country swelters can I just say:

trees and river

It is not that hot here.

I don’t know about the rest of Scotland, but it was raining here just a few days ago, and it’s only really just brightened up again, and it was in fact a bit too cold to be wearing shorts yesterday.

shady path

And the grass is still green, and even though it’s reached the point today where even I will seek the shade, it’s still not that hot here.

summer woods

There are few meteorological advantages to living in this damp little corner of Scotland – but this is one of them: when the rest of the country has finally had enough of the heat, and the chorus of moaning about the weather reaches a deafening level, and everyone else is longing for it to rain …

dappled shade

… That is when we will finally have our summer.

And it’s bloody gorgeous

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.


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 …

Summer Comes but Once a Year

July 12, 2017

Sometimes Twitter gets it bang on

As is traditional when we get a couple of days’ sunshine, I am currently stuck under a pile of All The Work, so I’ve mostly had to just sit and watch it out of my study window, but I did have an afternoon appointment in town.

summer clouds

You honestly couldn’t pay me to drive on a day like today, because it was my only real chance to enjoy the sunshine.

On my way in I encountered a friend, a photographer, who has started this little project on Facebook. After chatting for a while, she offered to add me to the roster of ‘humans’ and took my photo there and then,* and then we went on our way

It was only as I was riding home again later in the afternoon, that it struck me how fortunate we are to live in a place where one can have a brief photo shoot in the middle of the road, and not be interrupted by a single vehicle, and not even think it remarkable.

summer reflections

It scrubs up quite well when the sun shines, too.

* As I have to write a few words before it gets put up, I may not be appearing there for a while

Call me a Fair Weather Cyclist …

June 14, 2017

… but I cannot deny that my bike becomes a whole lot more appealing means of transport when the rain stops

Fair weather road

June has been a bit too Octoberish for my liking recently, but this afternoon the clouds thinned, the wind dropped, the air warmed up and I even took my gloves off

Add in the fact that the hedgerows are full of birds who haven’t quite taken their L-plates off yet, so are often still fluttering about around me as I pass, and of course the hares, and suddenly spending time on my bike becomes a positive delight, rather than the virtuous chore it can frankly be when it is bucketing it down.

Oddly enough, the sunshine doesn’t just make rural roads more pleasant to ride on. Even my least favourite bits of today’s cycling – getting into the Tesco carpark, the roundabout-of-doom where I swear I will meet my end one day, even the hill home – they all seemed so much more doable somehow, although the last one might have been the tail wind.

As a result, I am rashly planning a little mini adventure on my way up to Embra tomorrow. More anon. If I’m spared …

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.

Busy Bees

June 1, 2016

It’s not often we get the best of the weather, but that seems to be what’s happening in recent days.

bee on chives

I have much I should be doing indoors but, like the bees, I’m making the most of the sunshine in the garden while I can.


Meanwhile, my thoughts are turning to the new house (or more accurately the new garden). Once we move I will for a while be maintaining two gardens as I’ll be keeping on the veg plot (which has a tendency to turn into the long lost veg plot if I turn my back on it for an instance) while also getting to grips with the garden at the new house. The latter might be interesting as it the vendors have moved out a while back and apparently left no arrangements in place to get the grass cut.

overgrown veg plot

First find your veg beds

If anyone’s in the market for some hay, we may have a meadow on our hands by the time we get the keys …

Carpe Diem

May 11, 2016

morning shadows

Yesterday I had a thing in Edinburgh which meant getting up at silly o’clock to cycle to catch the bus to catch the train, to be there for ten. Actually, once I’d got over the whole having to wake at half past five part, there was something rather nice about being out on such a perfect May morning with nothing moving on the road except me and the loose calf (how do they get out of fields with such ease and make such a meal about getting back in again?).

Edinburgh castle

It was glorious in Edinburgh too – and our vantage point at the National Museum of Scotland gave us a wonderful view out over the rooftops. Fittingly, given the subject of the meeting was air pollution, there was a bit of that too, or the view would have been even more splendid.

hazy rooftop view

If we’ve learned anything in the past eight years, it’s that you have to be ready to enjoy the summer whenever it arrives, because it could happen at any time. This week might be it for 2016 – and at least riding a bike means I have the chance to get out and experience it even when duty calls and I have to spend the bulk of the day in meetings of various kinds.

evening light

Remind me of that when I’m moaning about getting drenched and frozen in the depths of winter. Or, possibly, June …

In the Nile

August 17, 2015

We woke to a bright but chilly morning this morning, and condensation on the windows – a sign that for all the warmth of the sun we’re (finally) getting, the end of summer is looming before it has barely got into its stride.

But never mind all that, she says, sticking her fingers into her ears and singing very loudly. For I had a jacket-hat-and-glove-free ride down to the papershop today and there have been very few of those this summer so far. And as I cycled up past one farmyard, I noticed that the steading roof was almost covered in house martins, and they all of them took off at my approach so that the air was filled with their chittering little calls and the flashes of their white rumps in the sunshine.

The fact that I’m sitting here now wishing I had a jumper on, and with darkness outside the window (and it only 9:30pm) is neither here nor there. Summer isn’t over yet … how can it be when it has hardly begun?