I’m told that people are missing my blogs. This year, in a classic “new year, new me” stylee, I am going to try being better at it.
Last time I blogged, I wasn’t long out of hospital after kneeling on a nail. To be honest, that threw me off kilter for most of the year. Everything became a catch up exercise, and I didn’t catch up.
Veg did ok, but not brilliant. Carrots failed to germinate well, potatoes got scab, and the garlic was a disaster. And then one of my kittens was run over and didn’t survive
In good news, the turnips were great for the first time in 4 years, mainly because they were covered.
There has been lots of good stuff, though. I am living in a warm house. I moved into the big end of the house in late August, and am still appreciating the joy or hot water, heating and a shower. Now the little end of the house is getting the same treatment – it is currently taken back to the dirt and the stone, ready for a new concrete floor.
My goal this year is to try and do an outside job (allotment related) every day. If I can eat better and generally keep on top of life, that will be a bonus.
This is Morag the Mantis. She will hopefully reduce digging time by cultivating, rotovating, ploughing furrows and edging beds. Fingers crossed. It’s a powerful wee machine which provides a full body workout when used.
So yeah, there we go. It’s back to the grind of digging, fertilising and clearing ground. Sadly, the Pumphouse which never looks its best, is full to the gunnels with hens and ducks sitting out the Avian Flu directive, which means that all domestic birds have to be kept away from wild ones. It began on 6 Dec, and was extended this week until 28 Feb. Whilst I totally understand why it is being done, it is a nightmare for poultry owners and results in a vast quantity of mucking out and a constant battle against mites, worms and mess. No-one is amused, not least the birds.
As I reckon we are at least 2 months behind on preparing the ground for the upcoming season, it’s going to be a busy 2017.
Bliadhna mhath ùr!
Oh man. It has been an odd two or three weeks.
It began with a mad dash to get the second polytunnel up during a nice calm spell of weather, and it ended with a trip in an air ambulance and 6 days in the Deathstar (Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, formerly known as the Suffering General).
I am back home, shattered, with all my good bacteria blasted into orbit thanks to a course of IV antibiotics – at the worst, 3 types 4 times a day. It will be a while before I am properly fit again, but I’m glad I don’t have a raging knee infection anymore. Looks like my 10k at the end of April will have to be put on hiatus until next year.
First up, I got a bike. I have been getting bad shin splints recently and have had to ease back on the running, so I figured a bike would be a good idea. With my injury, I can’t cycle at the moment either. Here she is, though! I look forward to many happy cycles.
Next up was sowing seed for the first part of the season. There has been decent sunlight, and growth in the tunnel is good, so it’s time to sow!
Lots was planted, and we’ll see what germinates.
Then it was time to get tunnel 2 underway. This time, apart from help with the ridge pole form Ben and Hannah, I built the frame myself. Mark and Jo kindly helped with the cover again.
It wasn’t an easy task, but really really satisfying. Tunnel 2 lives!
20 minutes after tunnel 2 was completed, with working doors, and everything, I went to collect an egg which a hen had laid in the back of the compost bin. I knelt on a bit of old gate and heard a small pop followed by a lot of pain. I had knelt on a nail. 24 hours later infection had set in despite antibiotics, and within 48 hours I was in an air ambulance to Glasgow. I spent 6 days on IV antibiotics. Thankfully, the infection stayed in my knee and didn’t spread. A week later I flew home. I am trying not be to annoyed at all the things I can’t do. It will take a few weeks to get back on form – it is terrifying how quickly you lose muscle and fitness when confined to bed and fed hospital grub whilst slowly poisoned. I can’t tell you how grateful I am though, for the medical care on the island, ambulance crews both on land and in the air, and for the NHS which put me up, put up with me and gave me good enough wifi to have a full blown netflix binge. Not only that, but I am incredibly thankful for friends, family and neighbours old and new who have rallied round and helped out. People are awesome!
Back on the croft, there is plenty afoot! I returned to a polytunnel with beds in it, and a delivery of my new signs, along with lots of growth.
Our latest acquisition was a tub of tiger worms, delivered from a friend, so I look forward to seeing them multiply in the compost
And here are some cat pictures.
Last year, I got an old rotovator from a very kind friend. It needed some TLC, and between one thing and another, it has taken longer than I expected to get him up and running, and it has involved a lot of help from other friends and mechanics. Today, I finally got him running smoothly. (It’s a Howard 350)
In under an hour I rotovated a 20 metre strip which would have taken the best part of 2 days with a fork.
The resulting soil is beautiful. If only I could get a machine to manure it too…
The house is fully framed upstairs and downstairs, and the first electrical fix began today – exciting times.
Just as exciting is the stair renovation, being lovingly done by David. The edges of the steps, and all the spindles and handrails were removed in the 1960 upgrade of the house. We are using old floorboards and joists from the house to recreate the original. I can’t wait to see the finished result.
In my spare time, I’ve started a new crochet project – the plan is to turn out a lovely ripple blanket. The yarn is from Attic24 in a range of stunning colours. It’s fast becoming a bit of an addiction.
I am off on my holidays on Monday. Fingers are firmly crossed for good weather, but I am packing some layers just in case Gran Canaria suddenly decides to channel the west coast of Scotland.
I had planned to leave Tiree tomorrow, but the best laid plans of mice and men are often thwarted by a weather forecast. I took a few hard looks at the long range and brought my departure forward 2 days. It meant a mad scramble to get things done, but I think it was justified. Tomorrow will tell!
What it did mean was a lovely day in Helensburgh, working in a comfy hotel and catching up with old friends. I even manged a meal at the new restaurant in town – Cattle and Creel. By jove, it was good! I can highly recommend the steak, and the chocolate parfait. I couldn’t help taking a picture. It was so good!
I got a tyre replaced on the van and fitted in all my bulk buy shopping, which was an unexpected bonus.
Mya spent a night in the ensuite in the hotel last night. I don’t think she enjoyed it much, but at least she didn’t bark, and she was a darn sight warmer than she would have been in the van. She is now safely ensconsed in kennels.
Before I headed off, two awesome things happened. First, we got a spell of dry weather. Actually dry. Secondly, my friend and Olark colleague Madalyn popped over to Tiree as part of her sojourn in the UK. Apparently Tiree was pleasantly warm in comparison to winter in Michigan… Serious kudos for braving it at this time of year! Madalyn ++
Plenty got done over the last week. The new potato patch was fertilised, and then covered. Carrots were lifted and bagged. Some are for sale in the local shop, Bùth a’ Bhaile, which is exciting. The rest were put in a traditional straw and earth clamp. Peter was home for a few days and hopped over the stile to edge the new herb patch, working right up until the morning he left! Madalyn helped me weed and turn over last year’s carrot patch, which was also covered and in the midst of it all I got a batch of new-to-me implements from Harris for the Fergusson tractor. All I need to do is oil them and knock them back into working order and learn how to drive the tractor… Shouldn’t take long…
The evening before I left I battled low temperatures and tar in an attempt to waterproof the henhouse. We shall see how successful I have been on my return.
And finally, the presence of a visitor was a great excuse to do some walking and enjoy the beautiful few days.
Tomorrow, I am collecting the second polytunnel, spare cover, a hot water cylinder and plumbing accoutrement from my parents’ back garden. I feel a game of transit tetris coming on… Don’t think my mum will be sad to see the back of the packages littering her garden, though!
To be honest, the only bright spot in the last week has been the fact that the kittens have stopped running round the toilet seat with muddy paws.
No matter. Croft work continues apace, as does the work on the house – Stewart is doing an amazing job – it is such a relief to see things going back together again. And, the sun came out for a few days which was also a blessed relief. Winter has been relentless. It has felt never ending, which it has been – last winter lasted all summer.
Professor Calculus loves Stewart very much
We have a floored loft for the first time ever, and all ceiling joists upstairs have been replaced
Not only that, but half of upstairs is framed.
The drive way has also had some attention, the freshly dug out turning area has a lovely new topping of gravel – it’s looking quite smart
I am still working my way through the last carrot harvest. Carrots used to be yellow, before they were turned orange, and sometimes you get a stray root that tries to go back in time. I found a cracker
We have started digging and fertilising the new potato patch – the first of eight 20 metre strips to be dug…
I spent a lot of my spare time this week moving rubbish into the van, moving compost down to the plot, moving more rubbish… Thanks to my Dad for the handy little cart!
The potatoes have been put in egg trays to chit. Sharpe’s Express, Charlotte and Red Rooster again this year.
Hopefully this weekend will see the tunnel gravelled at long last, and maybe another strip dug? At least I have managed to clear up and replace ground cover blown away by the storms – fingers crossed we have seen the worst of them.
I am sure there are plenty folk out there who have an old cast iron griddle laying around. Rusty probably. You want to use it, but don’t know how to clean it, and you can’t bring yourself to throw it out.
Whatever you do, don’t throw it out! “They don’t make them like that anymore!”
Here’s how I cleaned my Gran’s old one.
I washed the dust off.
Then I smothered it in vegetable oil and put it on the stove at full heat.
I left it there until it was smoking hot.
At that point, the rust began to to lift slightly. I got a metal fish slice and began to scrape. Flakes of rust went everywhere, but it was effective.
Once I had lifted as much as I could, I washed it again in cold water. Oiled, and repeated the process.
A final rinse, and a good oiling and we were good to go.
I let the stove and the griddle drop down to a decent pancake temperature, and oiled as I waited.
It took a few tries to get the temperature right, but I finally got pretty decent pancakes. Not a patch on my Gran’s, I’m sure, but passable.
200g self raising flour
- weigh flour and sugar. Add to a bowl and mix through
- Add the eggs and whisk until you have a breadcrumb like mixture
- Add milk until you get a batter – slightly firmer than double cream.
- Pour onto griddle (small ones to start with) to test temperature.
- When the top bubbles, it is ready to turn.
- Rinse griddle lightly, then oil before putting it away. I hang mine so oil doesn’t get everywhere. Never use washing up liquid if you can help it – it removes the oil, and oil is your friend in this instance.
My Gran used to put ears on them!
Despite our best efforts, yesterday was a write off. Storm Gertrude did her worst, and there was no way much could be done, even in the tunnel, other than taping up small tears.
The polytunnel has stood up to some serious wind this winter and it is impressive how well it has done. I made a wee video yesterday so you can get a flavour of the surroundings!
I did manage to sort out the compost yesterday, though. I got 9 bags of beautiful compost from the bins, and turned and rearranged the rest. One bin is ready to compost down further for summer, and a second for winter. The third bin is free now for the next collection.
I got some help too! The Professor ventured out in the breeze. Today he made it as far as the polytunnel where he wreaked havoc…
I am pretty chuffed that despite the wind and rain, we still have enough produce in the tunnel to supply folks with the occasional veg order – must be doing something right.
Since today was calm, I managed a run – a total of 6k, and a personal best 5k of 32.08. I didn’t want to go, but the feeling of success was worth it in the end.
Last on the job list was creating a path in the hen enclosure. The poor wee souls are upto their oxters in water right now, so we liberated some of the gravel for the drive and made a nice new path. We’ll see how long it lasts.
Gertrude got the better of the pumphouse roof, but as my Dad says, it won’t be the first time it has been patched and I doubt it will be the last. In happy news, there is a perfectly formed, if small, Kohl Rabi in the polytunnel.
And finally, the second tunnel has been just been ordered!! I can almost smell spring…
It’s been a long winter, and it’s not over yet.
Nonetheless, it’s time to get planning, digging and preparing all over again.
Christmas and New Year are past, and I am slowly beginning to get going on all the jobs needing done. So far, the polytunnel has survived 6 good going storms, although Frank tore a hole in the east end. It was a repairable hole, though, which was good.
So, first thing was to extend the henhouse as the hens were getting a bit cramped. As Becca was visiting, I roped her in and used her superior joinery skills. The hen house now has a full length nesting box on the left hand side.
Then, it snowed. And melted just as fast, but not before the hens had a little skate.
Once the freeze was over, Jane and I set about clearing the garage. Over the last few months of last season on Fresh off the Croft we had pretty much reached the point of blindly flinging things into the garage, including all the groud cover and netting. It took the best part of a say, but the garage is now spring cleaned and ready for a new season.
Next on the list is fertilising and covering the eight 20 metre strips in the allotment. The first one is done, and Jane was delighted to discover the quality of the latest batch of manure. She does love her compost!
The seaweed has now arrived, so it is all systems go as soon as the pegs for the ground cover wing their way here.
Two new kittens arrived at Coll View at New Year. They are 7 months old, and adorable. Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus
And finally, I treated myself to a new toy – a trail camera. So far it has spotted cats, blackbirds and a rat. My next goal is to get a video of an otter. Watch this space.
Tomorrow, I am going to rearrange the compost. No doubt I will be doing it in the rain. Then, I am going to order the second polytunnel… Happy days!