Thursday, 15 June 2017

The Allotment In June

On 11th May this year, I posted a couple of photos of the almost bare vegetable plots on my allotment. I will re-post one of them below. Just for the record, here are two new photos I have taken today. As you will see - plant life grows fast at this time of year on Skye, when we have about 18 hours per day of good daylight and growth-inducing temperatures and rainfall. Unfortunately, the weeds also grow very fast... but so far, I am just about keeping on top of them!

The allotment on 15th May 2017

The allotment today - just over one month later!

...and from the other end...
Foreground - Brussels sprouts and Kale. Middle left - Onions, Swede and Broccoli (with a little shelter)
Middle right - Potatoes. Far left - strawberries and rhubarb. Far right - more potatoes and carrots.
Distance - Beans (Broad and Runner) and Sugarsnap peas (better seen in the picture above).

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

On The Way To Skye

The vast majority of visitors to Skye who drive here from England will approach Scotland on the M6 and then continue on the A74(M) towards Glasgow after crossing the border just north of Carlisle.

The purpose of this post is to encourage such visitors to consider taking a detour for a day or two. Try turning left off the A74(M) and head west for a bit. The biggest town you'll find is Dumfries (population about 35,000). This historic town is worth a visit, and is the burial place of renowned Scottish poet, Robert Burns.

In Dumfries-shire, you will find mile after mile of green rolling pastureland dotted with patches of majestic trees. There is also some forest (one shares a name with the village with the shortest place-name in the UK - Ae) and to the south, the wide expanse of the Solway Firth is home to many thousands of geese and wetland birds.

Everywhere here is peaceful. Remember - the visitors have all dashed on north on the motorway. There are numerous small, quiet towns and villages - every one of them worthy of a wander-round. Head even further west, and you probably won't want to continue to Skye at all - Galloway has hills, forests, woodland, rivers, castles, beaches... and everywhere there is space to park your car and the eating places are't crowded.

Sue and I have just enjoyed an all too short break, staying just outside Dumfries. I could not claim that the landscape matches Skye for grandeur, but the almost total lack of visitors is refreshing, and there's plenty to see and do while on holiday. We have so many places on our 'must visit' list, but Dumfries and Galloway has not been completely crossed-off the list yet!

Caerlaverock Castle

Ruined - but very explorable!

The castle has a fascinating history of improvement and destruction 

Caerlaverock Castle

The Solway Firth

Wanlockhead - Scotland's highest village
Lead Mine Museum, Wanlockhead - you can pan for gold here
Wanlockhead also has the highest adhesion railway - a narrow-gauge industrial line

Leadhills village, Lowther Hills

Pausing in the Mennock Pass

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Friendly Skye

Visitors often comment on how friendly everyone is on Skye. The cynic in me says that will be because those visitors are spending their money here and providing us with our income, so we need to keep them sweet… But then, thinking about it – we are a pretty friendly community. It is absolutely the ‘done thing’ to say ‘hi’ to everyone you meet, whether you know them or not (unless in a really busy place like the Co-op, and then you only say ‘hi’ to the several people you meet who you know). We smile a lot. We know all our neighbours. We help each other out when someone has a problem.

When I travel to the south of England to connect with friends and family, it is most noticeable (to me) that when strangers pass on an otherwise deserted pavement, the ‘done thing’ is to determinedly avoid any eye contact, and to make no attempt at all at communication. I find it very strange to travel on public transport in the South, and see everyone plugged in to earphones and staring intently at little rectangles of plastic. No-one speaks to another person – heaven forbid!

Now, it is visitor season on Skye again. A couple of our neighbours in Roskhill offer visitor accommodation, so we have strangers wandering past our gate most days, as they explore the immediate neighbourhood. I always say ‘hi’ to anyone I see. Some look a little surprised, but they always say ‘hi’ back – and sometimes even pause for a brief chat.

It’s not so hard to be friendly.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Cuckoo Update - And The Allotment

In may last post, I expressed my concern at the lack of cuckoos here this year. Seems like I was a bit ahead of myself - we are hearing a cuckoo every day now, and as ever, they are cheerfully waking us up at 4.00 every morning. Hmmm... However - I remain certain that there are fewer of them around this year than in previous years.

As to the allotment - we have been enjoying a period of dry and mostly warmish weather for the last few weeks. This has enabled me to get on with all the planting, and I am now pleased to report that I have peas, runner beans, broad beans, carrots, onions and potatoes all planted and, in some cases, showing above the ground. I also have baby plants of sprouts, broccoli and kale in the cold frame in pots, all waiting until they are big enough to be planted out. That just leaves the swede, which I will be planting in a few days time.

It's a lovely time of year on the allotment - as it all looks so neat. As the spring turns to summer, our very long hours of daylight encourage incredibly rapid growth of a jungle of weeds of all shapes and sizes. Having an allotment which borders rough grazing and open moorland doesn't help - as the unwanted plants all grow there unchecked and eagerly spread their seeds onto my carefully cultivated plots. Every year I vow that I will make a big effort to keep on top of weed control, and I haven't really won the battle yet... so maybe this year..?

Here's a couple of pictures of the bare, weed-free beds, taken a couple of days ago...