Posts By: Don Matheson

Wood chip boiler system

Chips (wooden)

Georgian Houses are beautiful to look at, and a pleasure to live in. They are however a complete nightmare to heat. Despite 3 foot thick walls and knee deep roof insulation there seems to be little one can do with large sash windows. It is clear how much heat is lost through the windows when opening shutters which have been closed overnight, its just like opening a fridge door as a wall of cold air enters the room. (more…)

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Epic Weather!

Having only just cleared the last of the damage to our trees caused by the gale we suffered here on Christmas Eve, we watch with horror the devastation being caused further South.  Although we lost three tree and had major branch damage we seem to have got off lightly so far. We have seen no snow here on the coast this year to date, and only a couple of slight frosts. (more…)

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Autumn Delights

Autumn Delights

All of apples have now been picked and juiced. Normally this labour of love falls to Wendy and I, but this year Charlie and his crew plus Ian our Groundsman achieved in an afternoon what normally takes us two or three days. We had an enormous crop this year  (although plums and pears were not so good) so lots of lovely apple juice. How difficult is it to make cider?? (more…)

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Beech Bums

When we came here some 22 years ago the parkland at the front of the house had a number of magnificent mature beech tree. I have read that after a couple of hundred years beech trees start to decline and drop limbs for no apparent reason. This has been happening to us for the last five years or so, indeed the last time was only a week ago. We were rebuilding the boundary wall to the north of the house on a lovely hot 25 degree afternoon when a large limb some 20 inches in diameter split lengthways and sagged to the ground. (more…)

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Busy Bee – Not Me!

BUSY BEE – NOT ME!

I have been a casual beekeeper for a number of years now. We started off with three hives of the local black bees which thrived for the first three years, then started to decline.  Despite efforts to shore up the dwindling populations we eventually lost the last hive this winter. No sign of any disease, and despite a couple of poor summers we would not normally have expected these losses a few years ago.

The current decline in bee populations is well documented at the moment, and it does seem odd that urban bee keepers are not experiencing the same percentage of losses as those of us surrounded by countryside.

Whilst scanning the internet looking for all things bee I came across these bumble bee hives and bought one to see if it would prosper here. The small hive and the colony arrived a few weeks ago and is thriving wonderfully well, great to see as bumble bee populations are also under threat.  I would encourage anyone who wants bees but no suit, smoker or stings (or honey }to look at these little marvels. There is absolutely no upkeep, but there are lots and lots of beautiful bees bumbling and pollinating round our garden again. Apparently the hive dies out over winter (although some queens will survive to start again next year} but the company simply supply another cassette population next spring, and I believe that for around £70 per annum this has to be one of the best investments we have made for some time – we are going to buy more hives next spring and dot them round the walled garden and orchard..

As I said earlier there is no honey, but there is no work involved either – ideal for the lazy environmentalist and for those of us who love to see those fat, striped little marvels hard at work whilst we sip a glass of chilled white wine.

Check out – www.dragonfli.co.uk/bees/beepol-lodge

Pip the assistant groudsman

Wot no snow!

Wot no snow!

I may yet regret these words, but the weather here in February and early March has been outstanding. Almost every day the same, cold frosty mornings with clear blue sky’s giving way to a fairly warm day with no wind to speak of followed by another cold frosty night.

The snow plough we purchased the year before last after two of the worst winter’s in recent years languishes in the shed still waiting to see snow.  Machinery has of course replaced most of the manual labour in the fields. The garden here would have had at least six permanent garden staff a hundred years ago. Now we have a part time lady and a groundsman who does a million other things (including a lot of tea drinking).

Twenty years ago we would have spent days and days raking leaves in the Autumn, now with a large leaf blower be can do the job more effectively in a matter of hours.

What cannot be replaced (fortunately) is the sheer wonderment caused by plants bursting from the earth each Spring. No matter how many times I see this annual miracle (this will be number 69 – though I confess I cannot remember the first half dozen years) it still makes me realize how privileged we are to be able to get dirt under our fingernails, and home grown produce on our table.

Now brace yourselves for snow!

leaves at Boath

Bloody Leaves!

Bloody Leaves!

November (or Movember if you are growing a moustache for charity) is the month when we start our maintenance on the outside of the house. The roof, windows, drain pipes, parapets and drains all inspected and repaired where necessary. It is always necessary!

We are surrounded by beautiful mature deciduous trees which shed a gazillion leaves over a four to five week period, November winds pick them up and deposit them in drifts everywhere, but mainly in the roof gullies and the drainage system, thus rendering them useless unless they are cleaned out every other day. Gullies are the worst as reaching into an eighteen inch deep round hole only slightly bigger than ones arm which is full of icy water, mud and leaves is bad enough – the discovery of a very large toad (we have lots breeding in the lake) who is quietly hibernating and starts squirming madly in ones hand just adds to the general disenchantment.

Our Groundsman, General Handyman and all round good egg Ian blows the leaves into vast piles on the lawns (gone are the awful days of raking endlessly). We then spend several days pushing them onto a tarpaulin and dragging them into piles in a corner somewhere . They are then ignored for a few years – this is apparently known as mulching, but Ian and I have another name for it.

Leaf mulch is much prized by our gardeners, and I really do love our trees, but just occasionally I do wish for just the odd Spruce!!