Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2015

Needless to say that at this stage in the festive proceedings, I’m very busy and I’m sure that you must be too! So, just time to wish those of you who do get chance to visit Garybuie over the Christmas period a very merry Christmas (holiday) and good health and happiness for 2016. Check BB out in her festive get-up!!

Festive hen

After the event

December 27, 2013

After all the eating, drinking and being merry, it’s nice to slip into that quiet time between Christmas and the New Year. As you may have read earlier, the weather at Garybuie has been anything but quiet recently with severe gales and horizontal hail/rain becoming the norm. But yesterday, Boxing day, the day dawned with a clear blue sky and not a breath of wind! Mother Nature’s festive gift. So, Kevin donned his running shoes and headed for the hills, whereas I had the same idea as Cecilia and went for a Boxing Day walk, maybe just to remind myself just how beautiful the glen is.


The ridge


The sheep all looked happy – and clean – to have the chance to finally dry out!


I never had the chance to wish you a happy Christmas before the event, so instead I hope that you had a wonderful day, however you spent it. Our day was quiet, just the two of us with dad and between us, we received some lovely gifts. There’s one that I have to share though! This one was from Matt, our eldest son, his wife, Sarah and those twinnies!

wee garden

This should certainly be a conversation piece for our guests next year! I’ll show you my wee garden when I’ve planted it up.

Grumpy old woman?

December 1, 2013

I’m not a reader of magazines. The only time I succumb to their glossiness is at this time of year for Christmas ideas; food, gifts and decorations. Well, no more! There’s not an original idea out there. I’m sick of reading about how to achieve the ‘Perfect Christmas’ when we eat our ‘Perfect Turkey’, ‘Perfect Roast potatoes’ and of course our ‘Perfect Brussels Sprouts’, all whilst admiring the ‘Perfect Bloody Table Settings’! It’s the same every year with a tweak here and there. Should we cook the sprouts with bacon or chorizo? What’s the ‘in’ colour this year? To be fair, one magazine did suggest some alternative, continental festive dishes but seriously, would Swedish meatballs push your boat out on that once-a-year day? And as for the gifts, most of them are perfectly useless/frivolous, EXPENSIVE suggestions which will undoubtably end up in the dark recesses of some cupboard. So, after disposing of my glossy collection in the re-cycle bin, I decided that I would work with what I’ve got and turn to Mother Nature for help. Yesterday, whilst walking in the re-planted forest on the other side of the river, I spied a fallen larch …

Fallen Larch

Today has been a grey but pleasant day, so I fixed the basket to my bike and headed down the glen to re-visit the tree and gather me some wonderful lichen-covered larch branches complete with lots of cones. I haven’t decided what to do with them yet but hey, it’s a start and I won’t be consulting any magazines!

Bike and larch

Still on a seasonal theme, I spent yesterday afternoon making Christmas cards and today I’ve completed another gift, this one for the neighbours who take care of the place whenever we go away. Maybe this is also a gift which will end up in the dark recesses of some cupboard but all it’s taken is some ink, watercolour and my time.

Fingal and Idrigill

plucking Kevin’s been busy too these past few days but not in a particularly festive way. He’s been dispatching our chickens and can probably pluck one in his sleep by now! This evening, we’re having our first, home-grown chicken of the year for dinner! Better late than never!



As for other Garybuie residents, it’s been a peaceful day of leisurely Sunday activities. Some feeding, some preening, some socializing, some swimming and for the hens, a wee bit of mixed-bathing in the winter spa…

mixed bathing

Festive food

December 23, 2012

I had Christmas foodie-project on the agenda today but before I got started, I went for a brisk walk up the glen, despite the wind and intermittent rain. Now that we’re down to minimum livestock to take care of, life has taken on a more sedentary pattern. Not good, so I’m determined to GET OUT THERE on a regular basis! At the top of the glen is a memorial…

memorial It’s in memory of Donald MacDonald, born in 1750 here in the glen. He was responsible for committing  classical bagpipe music to print for the first time in 1822 , thus “preserving for posterity a heritage of music which covers the history of the Highlands.”

HamsAnyway, cobwebs cleared and feeling a bit wind-battered, it was back to the kitchen for some Christmas food preparation. It’s a shame that we can’t have smell-o-blogs because honestly, if there’s something which smells festive, it’s a ham plucked straight from the cure; delicious, dark, sweet and decadent, but you’ll just have to take my word for it I’m afraid! However, the foodie-project today was to bone a chicken and stuff it, which makes a lovely, easy to carve roast.

chickenBoning the chicken is a slippery, time-consuming affair. Basically, cut off the parson’s nose and wing-tips, place the bird breast-side down, cut along the backbone with a sharp knife and carefully scrape the meat away from the carcass. Snap the leg and wing joints where they are attached to the carcass when they are revealed, then continue to scrape the meat away from the legs and wings. When most of the leg/wing-bones are revealed, pull them towards you so that you essentially turn the limbs inside-out. Gradually work at the remaining rib-cage/breast bone taking care NOT to damage the skin where it’s attached to the breast-bone; gently does it! And there you go, one floppy chicken! (And some great bones for stock!)

boned chicken

Place your chicken on a large piece of foil and prepare a stuffing of your choice. I used a mixture of cooked onion, minced pork, chopped cooked ham, chopped, dried, ready-to-eat apricots, red currants, grated orange rind, ground coriander, parsley and thyme. Place the stuffing in the centre of your chicken…

stuffed chicken

…then fold over one side of the meat to a central point, followed by the other side overlapping the edges and making a giant chicken sausage! Fold over the foil to make a tight parcel…

chicken sausage

…and turn it upside down in a roasting tin so that the original breast side is on top. Roast in the usual manner but increase your oven temperature for the last 10 minutes and split/peel back the foil to brown the skin.

So, that’s the chicken dish completed and another completed project is my painting of Patches. My first attempt was a diasaster and I’m not overly happy with my second attempt! Essentially, being a white wee puss doesn’t work well with my usual pen and ink technique, resulting in more of a watercolour – not my strong point! My mum-in-law bought me some pastel pencils some time ago and I think that maybe they would be the perfect medium for Patches. I’ve never used them before so I’ll have to read up about them and have a go!


And finally, regarding another indoor pastime, reading, I think I mentioned a couple of blogs back that I was reading a book called ‘A Discovery of Witches’ by Deborah Harkess. I enjoyed it and while looking over all her research material at the end of the book, a book called ‘The Seven Daughters of Eve’ by Bryan Sykes caught my attention and maybe you’ll see why…

“In 1994 Professor Bryan Sykes, a leading world authority on DNA and human evolution was called in to examine the frozen remains of a man trapped in glacial ice in northern Italy. News of the discovery of the Ice Man and his age, which was put at over five thousand years old, fascinated the world. But what made the story particularly extraordinary was that Professor Sykes was also able to track down a living generic relative of the Ice Man, a woman living in Britain today.

How was he able to locate a living relative of a man who died thousands of years ago? In The Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes gives us a first-hand account of his research into a remarkable gene which passes undiluted from generation to generation through the maternal line and shows how it is being used to track our genetic ancestors through time and space. After plotting thousands of DNA sequences from all over the world he found that they had clustered around a handful of distinct groups. In Europe there are only seven. The conclusion: almost everyone of native European descent, wherever they live in the world, can trace their ancestry back to one of seven women, the Seven Daughters of Eve. He has named them Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine and Jasmine.

In this remarkable scientific adventure story we learn exactly how our origins can be traced, how and where our ancient genetic ancestors lived, what their lives were like and how we are each living proof of the almost miraculous strength of our DNA which has survived and prospered over so many thousands of years to reach us today. It is a book that not only presents the story of our evolution in a wholly new light, but also strikes right at the heart of ourselves as individuals and of our sense of identity.”

I was thrilled to discover that our local library has a copy and I’m about a third of the way through it. It’s a fascinating read and Professor Sykes has a real talent for explaining a complex subject in a plain and easy to understand way – with humour in parts too! I think that he’s probably one of those people who is passionate about his subject and that passion just can’t help spilling out and infecting anyone who cares to listen (or read).

Merry Christmas!

What, no pressies?

January 4, 2012

We bought a pot-grown Christmas tree this year in an attempt to be more green and also, let’s be honest, to keep costs down a wee bit. After stripping it of all its festive glory yesterday, Kevin moved it into the half-way-house of the polytunnel, just to keep it sheltered from gales and torrential rain which refuse to leave us alone! You may remember that we opened the polytunnel some weeks ago as a ‘winter spa’ for the hens so that they can get themselves a decent dust bath during this soggy season. Whilst walking by today, the scene in the polytunnel made me smile when those chicken faces said it all, “Did Santa forget us this year then?”

“No, no, no…”, said one of the Wick Chicks, “Can’t you see, it’s the perfect gift, an umbrella in case this place springs a leak!”

The reason I was passing this festive scene, was that I was on my way to check on our curing processes. The hams are now ready, with their wonderful dark, treacly colour…

…and the chorizos are coming along nicely…

Should any of you out there happen to have a leg or two of pork handy(!), here’s the recipe for the Whiltshire cure which we use. (These quantities are sufficient for a 4.5 – 5 kilo piece of meat. For a full leg from a mature baconer, or two legs of the previously mentioned weights, the double the quantities)

1.5 kilo salt

50g saltpere (optional)

3 litres beer (bitter)

1 kg black treacle or molasses

20 – 30 juniper berries

30g black peppercorns, crushed

Boil all the ingredients together, stirring occasionally and then leave to cool. transfer to a suitably sized non-metallic container and chill to 3-4C. (I do this by adding two or three of those freezer packs used in cool boxes) Place your pork, also chilled,  in the brine and completely submerge using a non-metalic weight. Leave the pork in the brine for 3 days (minimum) or 4 days (maximum) for every kilo, changing the freezer packs a couple of times a day, or more if you live somewhere hot! The maximum time is if you’re intending to keep the ham for a long time, the minimum if you can’t resist tucking into it as soon as possible!

Ups and downs of 2011

December 31, 2011

It’s only when I look at Garybuie’s blog spanning over the last twelve months that I realise what a busy year it has been. Admittedly, there are probably only two life-changing events in there; dad moving in with us and the announcement  of expected twin grandchildren, but between the bed & breakfast side of things and shall we say our more ‘pastoral’ pastimes, we haven’t had much spare time! So here’s a pictorial recap of the ups and downs of 2011…

We’ve had some lovely guests this year, some of them passionate about Scotland, whether it be someone like Ellen from Australia who waited until her 88th year to visit the place with her daughter Heather…

…or a particularly enthusiastic Spaniard, determined to eat all Scottish food and even wear a kilt…

Many guests enjoyed meeting some of Garybuie’s residents…

There were mixed fortunes both in vegetable and livestock production. May was unusually wet, greatly slowing down plant growth – apart from the omnipresent weeds of course! Even so, some crops were exceptionally good in 2011, particularly broad beans, peas, spinach and beetroot.

On the chick rearing front, the year saw a significant increase in non-viable embryos, which we put down to an aging hen population. Probably the two most unusual chicks we’ve ever reared were Clueless and Hopeless, both incapable of foraging, only recognising food if it was presented in a dish, even one belonging to a cat! At least they were good entertainment for our guests!

As for the ducks, we successfully reared some of our Aylesbury/Cherry Valley crosses, but the muscovies were a different matter. After each female having her own nest, Biggles hatched 8 ducklings, whereupon Puff promptly abandoned her clutch to share on parenting duties! Enter THE KILLER CROW! One of the big ‘downs’ of the year, a Hooded Crow decided that Garybuie was the perfect fly-by diner, devouring several chicks – large and small – and four Muscovy ducklings. After a worrying few weeks of introducing various nets, flapping bags on sticks and enough tape strung in the surrounding trees to give the place that whole crime scene look – which I guess it was! – the killer gave up and all remaining birds survived. A good thing really as Puff and Biggles went for brood number two, this time sharing a nest and producing fourteen ducklings, all of them surviving!

September was the month of those earlier mentioned life-changing events. The announcement of an early spring 2012 arrival of the twins by Matt and Sarah and the arrival of my dad, here to stay at Garybuie.

In answer to our poor chick production, more new arrivals were the Thurso Threesome back in November. They replaced some of the older birds, have settled in well and will hopefully help better fill our freezer next winter!

Of course, one of the saddest events of the year was the death of Boris, a great character and a cat who knew how to relax…

But the year has ended on a happy note with both our sons and daughters-in-law spending the Christmas week with us. A perfect opportunity in fact for sharing the fruits of our labours with home-cured ham, muscovy duck and veg straight from the garden among other things!

And finally, my favourite picture this year…

Synchronized buzzard alert!

 Wishing you a very happy New Year!

P.S. hopefully – if I’ve done it right – if you click onto the pictures, that SHOULD (!) take you to the original post!

Something seasonal

December 21, 2011

On this occasion I’m going to apologise in advance – rather than  my more usual, belated excuses – for a lack of posts over the coming week or so. Of course you can no doubt guess  that it’s Christmas which is responsible for the temporary removal of my blogging hat, with one – or indeed several – of a more festive nature replacing it. Naturally at this time of year, it’s a chef’s hat which will be most frequently in use. I have a few ideas which should see us over the festive period and feel privileged to be able to use either home produced or locally sourced ingredients.

Last year, there was just the two of us celebrating that special day and we had a wonderful, relaxing time together, enjoying our first muscovy duck for dinner as I recall. Mmmmm….! This year is a whole different ball game however. Of course, dad is already here as a permanent Garybuie resident since September but this year, both of our sons and daughters-in-law are joining us. I guess that our unborn twin grandchildren will be kind of joining us too and I very much hope that they’ll be able to sense all the family’s happiness on the outside of their current cosy abode!

I thought I’d finish this brief blog with a few seasonal pictures from Garybuie, past and present, which may help you to feel festive…



My kind of snow

December 17, 2011

It was my kind of snow in the glen today – high on the ridge and not making outdoor chores difficult down here at Garybuie! Just enough in fact to produce a pretty winter’s scene and make me feel festive enough to bring out the Christmas carol CD while I wrapped gifts, put marzipan on the Christmas cake and made mince pies!


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