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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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Homegrown Fruit & Veg

Watching the national evening news tonight. Tube strikes, massive rail fare rises, appalling state of inner city schools etc which caused me to reflect on how lucky we are up here in the Highlands of Scotland. (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

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An Inspector Calls

An Inspector Calls

We had a brace of Hotel inspectors in to see us the other week. After all
these years we know many of them, but in this case neither of them had been
before. Inspectors generally come singly, book in advance, and do not declare
themselves until checkout in the morning. At this stage they will sit down with
whomsoever wants to discuss the visit, and go through their experience.

Some individuals in the industry seem to resent the inspecting bodies, but we
have found them to be helpful, informative, and extremely knowledgeable.
Anyone who visits several hundred establishments a year, and is trained in the
job normally has a lot to offer if you care to ask questions beyond the “how did
we do?” level. Many inspectors have been chefs, hoteliers or wine bu

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!

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Greenhouse Blues

Greenhouse Blues (or rather BS??? Pale Stone)

We certainly live in area of outstanding natural contradictions (beauty too of
course) Last week we had howling gales and snow, this week we have T shirt
weather (if you come from round these parts) and snow drops, winter aconites,
cyclamen and crocus miraculously sprouting all around us.

I would have had more time to admire them if Wendy had not decided that the
greenhouse needed a makeover. The entire frontage came out – all eight metres-
and was replaced by new timbers. This is work enough but of course we then
had the inevitable change of paint colours, why it is inevitable is a matter of
mystery to the average male, but inevitable it invariably is.

No complaints though some thirty litres of timber preservative, floor paint and
wall coatings the greenhouse is now a thing of beauty – or it will be when we
have scraped the paint dribbles from the glass.

If you happen to be wandering round our walled garden this Spring or Summer
do pause to admire our handywork, but be warned that anyone disagreeing with
the choice of colours will be badly beaten with a four inch paint brush!

Ian and I did breathe a momentary sigh of relief as the paint pots were stowed
away, but only until we realised that this now clears the way for the frenzied
planting of the first batch of seedlings, which in turn leads on to pricking out and
then to planting out and rather a lot of weeding.

Wonder if the potting shed needs the roof replacing?

Xmas

We like the Ho Ho Ho

Christmas – We like the Ho Ho Ho

I was reading a rather depressing article in a magazine the other day which was quoting statistics about the increased deaths, marital break ups, crime etc which occur around Christmas (added to which we have the Mayan prophecy of Armageddon this year) – all very gloomy.

We at Boath have decided to ignore all of the above, bury our heads in the snow, and endeavour to have a really good time.  To this end we have been chopping wood (to keep the home fires burning) erecting festive trees (5 to date) and strewing garlands, pine cones, holly and mistletoe around the premises with little regard to the purveyors of doom and gloom.

Charlie has Turkey, Venison, Pheasant, Pork Belly, Beef and a host of tricky and delicious accompaniments on the go (and some rather festive vegetarian dishes too) and the Mulled  Wine is improving in the cellar. We find that like Christmas pudding, it improves with a little age, this of course is probably true of the majority of us too.

We have dug out the motorised snow plough (which was completely redundant las t year) in the hope that we get just a dusting of snow. It appears that the bookmakers are betting against a White Christmas, but here in the far flung North we can generally be relied on to beat the odds.

Christmas shopping has taken a bit of a back seat with us in recent years as the children have become adults, so we are hoping for a Christmas filled with friends, family, a touch of goodwill and a complete absence of Armageddon. We wish the same for all of our friends out there.

Merry Christmas!!

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Lifes a Beech!

We had to cut down a very large Beech tree at the front of the house last week, it was rotten in the middle and was in danger of bringing down a fairly healthy specimen next to it. We think it was planted around the time the house was built in 1820. Apparently Beech trees are only viable for this sort of period and then start to drop large limbs and eventually die off.

It is always heartbreaking to cut down an old tree (or any tree) and this one was too far gone to use for anything but firewood. A slightly smaller one came down in the gales two years ago, it was perfectly healthy so we brought in a mobile sawmill and had it cut into planks which we hope to use in the grounds. An old gent from the village rescued some of the larger lumps and turned them into salad bowls. Most of the rest was chipped and put on the beds to stop weeds – a fairly successful recycling exercise (apart from the fact that it all cost a fortune!)

We now have some large spaces where we will plant more trees. We will not see them grow to maturity, but there again those who planted our existing trees did so as an act of faith that future generations would enjoy and cherish them.

We too have faith!!