Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

And so, the new season begins

April 21, 2018

We got of to a bit of a false start this season because of Easter being so early. Nature was still sleeping. We had B and B guests over the holiday, but then all went quiet. Anyway, things start to pick up again this weekend and not just on the tourism front.

Now we at least have some cheery blooms to welcome our guests…

…as well as a freshly painted home.

Poor Kevin hates heights! We really should get a little man in!


Spring is also making its presence felt in the garden. After expelling the hens from their winter spa, who were none too happy about it as usual, the polytunnel is now shipshape with some early veggies now in place.


Some seedlings however, need the slightly kinder environment of the conservatory to encourage them to make an appearance.


Of course spring is not just about the appearance of all things green. Yesterday, our first chicks of the season arrived. BB, the bantam Silkie, has done us proud by hatching four youngsters. As usual, we exchanged her own eggs for those of our larger, table birds.



Silkies are wonderful mothers and BB has decided to keep her new family indoors for now, which is probably very wise as there’s quite a stiff breeze out there.

In a few days, we’re expecting our second batch of chicks, this time from eggs which we’re incubating ourselves. So, watch this space as they say!











Let the growing season commence!

March 25, 2015

I know that I got all enthusiastic the other day about the (hopefully) imminent arrival of spring. Well, we’re still getting some reasonable weather but quite cold these past couple of days. Gerlinde asked when I start planting our veg; in a nutshell, not yet, outside at least, although there’s a wee bit of planting and germination going on under cover!
In the conservatory where there’s some warmth, our first greenery is making an appearance; salad leaves, herbs, cauliflowers, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers and chillis.


Now that I’ve reclaimed the polytunnel from the hens, things are looking ship-shape, albeit not very interesting! But, the potatoes (which I’d forgotten to order until last week!) are a-chitting, under the damp patches on the left are some early peas and spinach, the seed tray holds broad beans and in the background are some fairly feeble strawberry plants!


In a week or so I shall plant some carrots and parsnips, closely followed by our early potatoes. Kevin rotivated the veg plot a couple of days ago so we’re ready for action. Shame really, it looks SO neat! As I may have told you before, I prefer the animal side of things really but at least this year, what with providing optional dinner for our B and B guests, I have more of an incentive on the herbaceous front as what a treat it will be to provide freshly picked vegetables and salad!

veg plot

With only five more days to go until the expected hatch date of our first quail, everything’s ready for them in the old church. Here is the brooder. We shall just use the one on the right and if more space is required as the birds grow, there’s a partition between both brooders which can be removed, almost doubling the floor space.


As the birds outgrow the brooder, then the floor runs are also ready.

Quail runs

Kevin is now putting his efforts into constructing outdoor quail accommodation for when summer arrives!


December 7, 2014

It’s been a busy old week. There were a couple of nice, dry days, so it gave me the chance to plant our new raspberry and blackcurrant plants. The plants we have at the moment are very old and it’s time for some new stock. The old D.I.Y fruit cage has taken a battering over the years so will be demolished after next season’s raspberry crop. Of course we now have our new fruit cage, gifted to us by our friends recently before they moved south of the border, which has been great temporary accommodation for the Guinea Gang. Anyway, I measured a space for the cage in the veg plot and planted or new bushes within the boundary. In this picture you can see the fruit cage in its present position beyond the veg plot – along with an inquisitive Guinea fowl!

Fruit bushes

I’ve also been busy indoors too with all things festive; making this year’s Garybuie Christmas cards, along with pickles and preserves as gifts.

Pickles & preserves

Another gift wrapped and posted was my latest portrait, Toby, who belongs to an elderly lady whom I’ve known for most of my life, down in England.


And then the BIG news; The Guineas are OUT! We really didn’t want to wait six weeks before granting them their freedom, so after just less than three weeks,
we decided to risk removing the netting around the cage yesterday. There was careful exploration of their extended environment and they all went to bed in the evening like good little guineas! Today they’ve been more adventurous, exploring the garden…



…checking out the fast food joint (not impressed!)…


…and checking US out through the kitchen window!


Shades of blue

August 21, 2014

Not much time for blogging these days with our busiest season ever taking up much of my time. I still make time to pay brief visits to my favourite blogs however and yesterday I enjoyed seeing Cecilia’s beautiful white hydrangeas. So, I thought that I’d show you our blue ones!



From flora to fauna, the Muscovy ducklings are pretty much all grown up now. Twelve of them are lucky enough to have found new homes but of course the remainder will have a somewhat shorter life. We’re planning on doing evening meals next year for our guests so I guess that duck will find itself somewhere on the menu! The wee chicks in the foreground of the next picture are BB’s. She’s down to five now as one developed breathing problems and couldn’t keep up. She’s such a happy girl though, spending most of her time with them foraging in the field behind us.

Muscovie ducklings


A post of wildly different images and words

February 16, 2014

The first image is the usual one but look at that; finally some blue has been added from Mother Nature’s palette!

the view

But now for the first of today’s wildly different images. I showed you the appearance of our first clump of emerging snowdrops recently, but now they are in abundance! Here in the front garden, the hens spend a lot of time scratching around – great for clearing any moss! – and they’ve helped spread the snowdrops too!


more snowdrops

On the kitchen wall I have a framed piece of our eldest son, Matt’s early artwork accompanied by a poem…

Matt's snowdrops

And now for something completely different! Going back to the Glasgow Boys, one painting which caught my eye in a gloomy kind of way was this one by E.A. Hornel entitled ‘The Brownie of Blednoch’. He looks a bit Gollum-like to me!

“The Brownie, that odd figure in the mythology of the wilderness, freakish and friendly, coming suddenly to the neighbourhood of the farm-towns and disappearing suddenly, has been traced to the Pict, the ancient inhabitant, dispossessed from the land, living in mountain retreats but seen sometimes by the conquering race or finding employment among them.”

Brownie of Blednoch

There’s a poem about this unfortunate soul too by William Nicholson, ‘The Brownie of Blednoch’, ‘the greatest piece of vernacular literature that Galloway has ever produced’. It’s a tale where we find ourselves pitying the creature rather than fearing him.

Not quite as easy as the snowdrop poem to read but certainly something to get your teeth into!

There cam a strange wight to our town-en’, And the fient a body bid him ken; He tirled na land, but he glided ben Wi’ a dreary, dreary hum.
His face did glare like the glow o’ the west When the drumlie clud has it half o’ercast; Or the struggling moon when she’s sair distrest- O sirs! ’twas Aiken-drum.
I trow the bauldest stood aback, Wi’ a gape and a glower till their lugs did crack, As the shapeless phantom mum’ling spak’, “Ha’e ye wark for Aiken-drum?”
O had ye seen the bairns’ fright As they stared at this wild and unyirthly wight As he stauket in ‘tween the dark and the light And graned out, “Aiken-drum!”
“Sauf us!” quoth Jock, “d’ye see sic een;” Cries Kate, “there’s a hole where a nose should h’ae been, And the mouth’s like a gash which a horn had ri’en; Wow! keep’s frae Aiken-drum!”
The black dog growling cowered his tail, The lassie swarfed, loot fa’ the pail; Rob’s lingle brak as he men’t the flail At the sight o’ Aiken-drum.
His matted head on his breast did rest, A lang blue beard wan’ered down like a vest; But the glare o’ his e’e nae bard hath exprest, Nor the skimes o’ Aiken-drum
Roun’ his hairy form there was naething seen But a philabeg o’ rashes green, And his knotted knees played aye knoit between; What a sight was Aiken-drum!
On his wauchie arms three claws did meet As they trailed on the grun’ by his taeless feet; E’en the auld gudeman himsel’ did sweat To look at Aiken-drum.
But he drew a score, himsel did sain; The auld wife tried, but her tongue was gane; While the younger ane closer clasped her wean And turned frae Aiken-drum.
But the canny auld wife cam’ till her breath, And she deemed the Bible might ward aff scaith, Be it benshee, bogle, ghaist or wraith- But it fear’t na Aiken-drum.
“His presence protect us!” quoth the auld gudeman’; “What wad ye, where won ye-by see or by lan’? I conjure ye-speak-by the Beuk in my han’!” What a grane ga’e Aiken-drum!
“I lived in a lan’ where we saw nae sky, I dwalt in a spot where a burn rins na by; But I’se dwall now wi’ you if ye like to try- Ha’e ye wark for Aiken-drum?
“I’ll shiel a’ your sheep i’ the morning sune, I’ll bury your crap by the light o’ the moon, And baa the bairns wi’ an unken’d tune If ye’ll keep puir Aiken-drum.
“I’ll loup the linn when ye canna wade, I’ll kirn the kirn, and I’ll turn the bread, And the wildest fillie that ever ran rede I’se tame’t,” quoth Aiken-drum
“To wear the tod frae the flock on the fell- To gather the dew frae the heather bell- And to look at my face in your clear crystal well Might gi’e pleasure to Aiken-drum.”
“I’se seek nae guids, gear, bond nor mark; I use nae beddin’, shoon nor sark; But a cogfu’ o’ brose ‘tween the light and dark Is the wage o’ Aiken-drum.”
Quoth the wylie auld wife, “The thing speaks weel; Our workers are scant-we ha’e routh o’ meal; Gif he’ll do as he says-be he man, be he de’il, Wow! we’ll try this Aiken-drum.”
But the wenches skirled, “He’s no be here! His eldritch look gars us swarf wi’ fear, And the fient a ane will the house come near If they think but o’ Aiken-drum.”
“For a foul and a stalwart ghaist is he, Despair sits brooding aboon his e’e bree, And unchancie to light o’ a maiden’s e’e Is the grim glower o’ Aiken-drum.”
“Puir slipmalabors! ye ha’e little wit; Is’t na hallowmas now, and the crap out yet?” Sae she silenced them a wi’ a stamp o’ her fit; “Sit yer wa’s down, Aiken-drum.”
Roun’ a’ that side what wark was dune By the streamer’s gleam or the glance o’ the moon; A word or a wish-and the brownie cam’ sune, Sae helpfu’ was Aiken-drum.
But he slade aye awa’ ere the sun was up; He ne’er could look straught on Macmillan’s cup; They watched-but nane saw him his brose ever sup Nor a spune sought Aiken-drum
On Blednoch banks and on crystal Cree For mony a day a toiled wight was he; While the bairns played harmless roun’ his knee, Sae social was Aiken-drum.
But a new-made wife, fu’ o’ rippish freaks, Fond o’ a’ things feat for the first five weeks Laid a mouldy pair o’ her ain man’s breeks By the brose o’ Aiken-drum.
Let the learned decide when they convene What spell was him and the breeks between; For frae that day forth he was nae mair seen, And sair missed was Aiken-drum.
He was heard by a herd gaun by the Thrieve, Crying, “Lang, lang now may I greet and grieve; For alas! I ha’e gotten baith fee and leave, O luckless Aiken-drum!”
Awa’! ye wrangling sceptic tribe! Wi’ your pros and your cons wad ye decide ‘Gainst the ‘sponsible voice o’ a hale country-side On the facts ’bout Aiken-drum?
Though the “Brownie o’ Blednoch” lang be gane, The mark o’ his feet’s left mony a stane; And mony a wife and mony a wean Tell the feats o’ Aiken-drum.
E’en now light loons that jibe and sneer At spiritual guests and a’ sic gear At the Glasnoch mill ha’e swat wi’ fear And looked roun’ for Aiken-drum.
And guidly folks ha’e gotten a fright When the moon was set and the stars gi’ed nae light At the roaring linn in the howe o’ the night Wi’ sughs like Aiken-drum.

Plan, what plan?

November 9, 2013

Whilst having a cup of tea in bed this morning, I had a plan for the day. That plan was:
1. Change ducks’ straw
2. Pull up corn plants in Polytunnel/Winter Spa for chickens
3. Plant garlic in chicken-free zone in polytunnel
4. Put remaining red cabbages to cook in crock-pot, ready to freeze.
5. Come in out of the cold and get on with my latest animal portrait.

Well, 1, 2 and 3 went well. The ducks all have sweet-smelling straw and there’s no longer any corn in the scene below. You’ll just have to take my word for it that the garlic is planted behind that very stylish piece of drapery in the background!

Winter spa

Then I digressed. I hate it when I do that. It’s just that the day was bright and mainly dry – a rarity at the moment – and I looked at the chaos in the raspberry patch and well, that’s where I spent the rest of the day! I suppose that I should feel pleased with my un-planned achievement but I just ended up grumpy and frozen! Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for gardening. I actually decided that I probably really dislike gardening but bizarrely, when I came indoors I ordered next season’s seedlings! It’s just that all that fruit and veg tastes so good!

When it’s wet and cold, I really do prefer indoor tasks. You may have read a couple of weeks ago when I was camera-less that I was currently  re-decorating the B and B double room. I showed you the ‘before’ and now that I’m re-united with my essential equipment, here’s the after…

Double room

Double room 2

I hope that our next season’s guests will like it. Still on the subject of painting, albeit with a smaller brush, I’ve also just completed my latest portrait. His name is Whisky and as you can see he’s a true American! You may have met him before on the farm where he lives, if not, then go and visit, there are some wonderful characters there!

Now, here’s a wee conundrum. How to sex a Silkie. Apparently it’s very difficult. So far We’ve been convinced that all three are pullets but now I’m not so sure. I picked up the palest grey bird yesterday and there seems to be a definite comb development. Yes, I know that pullets have combs too, but to what extent in Silkies? All three are pretty much the same size. The two wee storm clouds are doing quite a lot of squabbling. Are they BOTH cockerels is it just the normal pecking order procedure. Interestingly, BB doesn’t seem to get involved. We’ve been online to check what the differences are, but it all sounds a bit vague, with even the experts making some serious gaffs! Maybe we’ll just have to wait and see who, if anyone, decides to lay an egg! Today it was the paler storm cloud who lost the argument…


So, as for tomorrow, the plan is to maybe go for a walk in the glen and then get on with a new portrait. At the moment we are walking our friends’ dog while one of them is working away. He’s a lovely wee Lakeland Terrier called Max and I thought I’d do his portrait as a Christmas gift.


Is there such a thing as a multi-tasking blog?

June 26, 2013

Multi-purpose perhaps? Multi-‘story’? Either way, I’m catching up on several topics in this blog, so perhaps you’d better make a cup of tea! First of all, we had a happy event at the weekend when six of our Aylesbury ducklings hatched. “Hey girls, someone’s moved into our cage!”

That's our cage!

We’re keeping a close eye on them in the kitchen for a few days, just to check that there are no slow-developing Aylesbury/Muscovy crosses this time. So far they all look great and are very active and inquisitive. They even thought that Kevin’s running shoes were something worth exploring. Brave wee souls!


Now that the incubator is free, we’re about to attempt to hatch some hen’s eggs once more. We don’t have many to spare as we need most of our eggs for guests’ breakfasts of course, but we can spare a dozen and also, during our search for a new cockerel, we’ve managed to come across someone who has Silkie eggs here on Skye! Fingers crossed! Speaking of our new cockerel, Big Fella, he’s recently discovered the front garden and seems to have appointed himself as front-of-house, meeting and greeting guests on occasion and also bidding a fond farewell if he’s available! “Are you sure those bikes are secure?”


Moving from fauna to flora, an increase in temperature accompanied by some very ‘useful’ rain on occasion, the vegetable plot is making up for lost time. Virtually 22 hours of daylight certainly helps and I’ll swear we can almost SEE things growing!

brassicas and beans


Of course all blossom and flowers in general are late this year, but well worth the wait. The rhododendrons are glorious, with quite a few of the illusive bee population visiting…

Busy bee

busy bee 2

After having no blossom at all last year, our Laburnum is positively dripping with flowers. However, there’s a big problem with the tree. Can you see how this bough is interfering with the telephone cable?


And how the tree trunk has split?

split trunk

Unfortunately, three more of the boughs are over-hanging the road and are going to have to come off for safety’s sake. When our family visited back in May, Matt and Kevin managed to insert a sturdy post under the ‘telephone cable’ bough, so hopefully it will prevent the need to take it off. Of course we’ll wait for the long-awaited blossom to fade before taking a saw to the poor thing.

Finally, on the indoor front, some of that useful rain which I mentioned earlier has given me some opportunities to work on my animal portraits. Pusscat was a lovely subject with his beautiful colours and gentle expression…


I drew him with colour pencil on pastel paper.  Secondly, I’ve had my first commission! Lalo is his name, a very wistful-looking border collie – very hairy too! I painted him in pen and ink/watercolour.



Equally exciting – for me at least – is that I’m currently working on my second commission! Two cats this time for lady in Australia who came to stay with us, along with her mum, earlier in the season. The portrait’s a secret yet though until my Australian guest has seen the end result! (If you would like to see other portraits which I’ve done, I’ve just added a wee gallery along with my other pages on the side-bar.)


Definitely spring – I think!

April 17, 2013


Pusscat may not be too keen on gale force wind and hefty, horizontal downpours, but rain is certainly something which we needed after an unseasonable, extended dry spell. Temperatures are much milder too, so finally some spring-like signs are evident and spring-like tasks in the garden are possible. (and enjoyable!)


At last, seedlings are making their appearance in the polytunnel – peas, lettuce, broad beans, broccoli, red cabbage, kale and cauliflower – and I’ve planted some new ones; brussel sprouts, courgettes and savoy cabbage.









veggie seedlings



Outside, I planted spinach, beetroot and under the tunnel in the background of the next shot are carrots and parsnips.





Of course there’s great activity among the fauna too. The birdsong and to-ing and fro-ing of the wild bird population is always welcome to fill us with enthusiasm for the new season. Someone who’s definitely filled with enthusiasm is the Sparrow Hawk who sees Garybuie as his local fast food outlet – VERY fast!!

sparrow hawk

muscovy eggAs far as our domestic fowl, we now have three Muscovy eggs – I think they were waiting for some warmer weather too! The question is, will Puff and Biggles both rear their own family or will we once more have shared parental duties?

After our recent disaster, when all 20 of our incubated hens’ eggs stopped developing, thankfully, 7 out of 8 incubated Aylesbury duck eggs were fertile at day 7 and after an interim check at day 14, all seven are continuing to develop. The dark area on the right of the egg is the 14-day-old embryo. Sorry, it’s not the best of photos.


And finally, another development, involving inanimate objects this time, is the new des. res. for poultry which is almost finished. We now suddenly have lots of CLEAN wall space, perfect for hanging some pet portraits I think! A dual purpose development in fact, although regular dusting of the frames will probably be necessary!

Des. Res.

Spring things!

March 16, 2013


Today sunrise was at 6.37 a.m. and sunset will be at 6.30 p.m. The days are getting noticeably longer. That fact, coupled with Iain the crofter performing his annual muck-spreading, surely signifies that spring has sprung! It’s certainly been a lovely day, a day that we’ve both spent in the garden; Kevin painting fences and me clearing the veg patch for the new season’s plantings. Speaking of the veg patch, even though they’re not really allowed, Puff and Biggles have found it very useful this week – the perfect place to escape MacRae’s attentions. Well, for Biggles at least, Puff’s just there for moral support I think. Yes, MacRae’s at it again, unable to resist the charms of that particular muscovy. Can you see them hiding (and gossiping about bothersome drakes no doubt) among the brussels sprouts?


Meanwhile, Huff was left to police MacRae and his ladies. I think he’d prefer to be in the veg patch too but can’t get enough height to fly over the fence, poor soul!

On guard

Anyway, the girls will have to manage without sprouts from now on  because as I said,  I’ve cleared all the remaining veg, ready for preparation for new planting. There are a handful of sprouts, some parsnips, leeks, plenty of carrots and a small hill of swedes! What does one do with all those swedes?!!


Of course spring doesn’t just encourage gardening activities. New projects start swirling around the grey matter! On this occasion I’ve come up with a plan for some ‘Interior Design’, shall we say. (Did you hear Kevin Groan?) Not in the house but here…

plans afoot

Rough and ready to say the least! You may recognize this as the place where all our newly hatched chicks and ducklings spend the early part of their lives. Have I ever told you that this area is actually the small end of what began life as the only church in the glen back in the 50s? Well, now you know! For some time now, I’ve fancied getting a couple of Silkies, extremely broody bantam hens who would be great at helping with our annual breeding program, leaving the incubator free for rearing Aylesbury ducklings only. But before we go down that route, some serious improvements in accommodation need to take place (Nothing quit so grand as your ‘Coupe’ Cecilia!) I’ve been out there measuring today and plans have been clattering around my head while pulling up old veg! A wee drawing is in order next I think then all I need is a man and a saw…..KEVIIIN! I’ll let you see how it progresses.

Branching out in the garden

January 14, 2013

It’s been a weekend of mixed weather. Sunday was showery and cold but Saturday was perfect; chilly, but the sun made a decent appearance and there wasn’t a breath of wind. Nothing to hear but birdsong – including the occasional cluck and quack (if you can call that singing!). So, a perfect outdoor day then.

spudsPoor Kevin spent most of the day on the conservatory roof, trying to fix an elusive leak. He’s not a heights man, particularly a height which involves a transparent, sloping, creaky roof! I stayed at ground level, doing some general tidying work in the garden and preparing this season’s potatoes for chitting. Is it really a year since the last time I did this?

Being out in the garden meant that the cats had to join me too, realizing that it was probably a family day out! Their activities were somewhat more arboreal than mine – climbing up trees…




…realizing you’ve climbed the wrong tree…

Patches and Hamie

…bidding a hasty retreat from what you could have SWORN was the right tree…

hasty retreat

…but pretending that you had to turn back anyway for a spot of bird-watching…


…and calling a truce for long enough to climb down trees…


All this tree-climbing works up quite an appetite both for food and the inevitable cat-nap!



As for Sunday, after a brisk (and wet) walk down the glen, I devoted most of the day to completing my muscovy portrait. Overall, I’m reasonably pleased with it, although I certainly need more practice with the Inktense pencils and their behaviour. I also began another drawing, but I think I’m going to keep that one a secret for the time being!


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