Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Garden Inspectors

Good friends Hugh and Christine Stewart have watched my efforts in transforming the garden at Skip over the ten years since I moved to Annandale. They used their season ticket for a visit yesterday, and we had a splendid day together.

I hope the garden passed inspection. What growth there has been in the past ten days! My Hosta collection is beginning to look good, with some now out front.

Others grow on in pots at the side door.

This Rhododendron was looking splendid yesterday. But the show will be over all too soon in this heat!

I'm hoping that we have seen the last frosts of the year, and three of the big containers have been planted up, mostly with plug plants that I bought early and grew on under cover.

And the Bishop's Children (see here), grown from seed, have been potted on a couple of times and are set to go into the ground at the beginning of June.

And here I am, courtesy of Hugh behind the lens, if only to prove that I am indeed alive and well and soldiering on after the demise of Skip Cottage Curling!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Castle in Scotland

Oxenholme Lakes District station is the main line interchange with the branch line that runs through Kendal to Windermere. Many at the station today, going to or coming from holiday, were not expecting to see a steam train hurtling through to attack the climb over Shap. Call it a 'holiday bonus'!

GWR Castle Class 4-6-0 no 5043 Earl of Mount Edgcumbe was pulling the Vintage Trains steam excursion 'Castle to Scotland', destination Edinburgh this evening. I saw this loco back in March at Carlisle, see here.

This diesel loco was on the tail, but...

... by the time the train had reached Wamphray, after a couple of hours for the passengers to enjoy Carlisle, the diesel was double headed with the steam loco, and the train was moving at a pace towards Beattock.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In need of inspiration

I've been clearing this area as the first step in making another 'room' at Skip. I was in need of some inspiration, so made a trip to the gardens at Glendoick last weekend.

The garden centre is well known for selling Rhododendrons, and its cafe of course, but it is great to see the plants at their best in the gardens at Glendoick. The house and estate have been in the Cox family since 1898, and the gardens began to be developed by Euan Cox in 1921. They are well worth a visit if you get the chance, especially at this time of year.

 Around every corner on the woodland walk was another fabulous sight.

 Red is my favourite colour in Rhododendrons. Isn't this spectacular!

The ruins of the old mill provide shelter for more tender species.

 Not just Rhododendrons but Himalayan poppies too.

It seems that around every corner there was more colour! If 'inspiration' was what I needed, my day out certainly delivered.

It is a small world, and I was thrilled to bump into a former Royal Infirmary colleague, Anne Chambers, who is a real plant enthusiast, here beside Rhododendron fortunei, named after Robert Fortune, a nineteenth century Scottish botanist and plant hunter.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Looking to build

A pair of swallows, recently arrived from South Africa (see here), have been checking out my old shed/woodstore. I wonder if they will consider it a good place to nest? Each year I see swallows around, feeding over the fields of an evening, and particularly as they group together to head south in the autumn, but this is the first time any have checked out Skip Cottage early in the year.

Now, how many swallows does it take to make a summer?

Photos © Skip Cottage

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fashion Shoot at Skip

When the last Grand Match was played on the Lake of Menteith in 1979, I wore the shawl collared curling jumper that my mother had knitted for me some fifteen years before, see here. Although that historic garment still exists, it no longer fits (!) and has been donated to the Nation.

However, a chance conversation about my treasured collection of knitting patterns for such items of curling fashion, has led to Jenny Stark recreating another jumper for me. Thanks Jenny!

Skip Cottage was the location of the fashion shoot, and Robin Copland was the photographer. The 1960s corn broom is from my own curling memorabilia collection.

I'm now suitably kitted out for the next opportunity I get to curl on outside ice. Crampits and stones are ready to go. Let's hope we have a summer before then!

The pattern which Jenny used is featured in this article on the Curling History blog.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Bishop's Children and other visitors

This is the fourth year in a row that I've invested in a packet of Dahlia Bishop's Children to grow from seed and provide some colour later in the year. Here are some that were pricked out, grown on for a little in cells, and are just now into their own pots. I must try and take some photos if they do OK in the garden this year. With the winter past being so mild, perhaps some from last year might have overwintered in the ground. I don't usually bother to lift the tubers.

One problem I have is lack of room, not having a greenhouse, and hardening things off is not easy. Mind you there was frost last night (May 4) and the forecast is for another cold night tonight. So I'm not rushing to get things outside just yet!

Late last year, a good friend asked if I had any use for this unwanted gift. "Just what I needed," I said, and it's been waiting in the woodshed for the right day for me to get it assembled. That day came on Friday. The box got emptied, and the instructions laid out. I would just put it all together in the thirty minutes or so before lunch.

Optimistic, or what?

The disclaimers on the instructions are written in ten languages: English, Czech, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Swedish, Finnish, Dutch and Danish. I can now say in all these languages, "You must read these instructions carefully before you start to assemble this greenhouse."

The instructions are in pictures!

But where it says that the use of work gloves is recommended, do as it says. I would also emphasize the instruction, "Always wear shoes and safety goggles." In fact, I would go further. Forget shoes. Steel capped boots are in order, so when you start kicking your house wall in frustration, it doesn't hurt so much.

I rather liked the instruction, "Do not attempt to assemble the Cold Frame if you are tired, have taken drugs or alcohol or if you are prone to dizzy spells." Taking alcohol AFTER you've tried to assemble this thing is likely to be required.

The 'Tools and Equipment' needed are work gloves, lubricantt (sic) and a Phillips head screw driver. I never did discover where the lubricant was to be used. I would suggest drinking it, had it not been for the 'don't drink and assemble' instruction above.

Also needed are patience, perseverance, manual dexterity, map reading skills, the ability to work whilst standing on your head, and the skill to swear in ten languages. Don't forget to set out the Elastoplasts and antiseptic cream.

And I thought that, as a graduate of the IKEA school of self assembly, this would be a piece of cake. Maybe I'm just getting old! Never again.

Here's the final result - only a couple of breakages (thank goodness for duct tape), a couple of bits left over, some blood, a lot of sweat and tears. It is pegged into the ground, but when the next storm comes expect to see a large plastic kite flying towards Moffat! Still, hopefully it will get some use this month (as a cold frame, not as a kite).

Such was the time spent on my 'cold frame challenge' there was little time left in the day to do anything major, so a 'small' job got tackled, tidying up the alpine troughs, and replacing those plants that had failed to survive the winter. This container is just an old polystyrene fish box that had been discarded.

And of course, Skip is the home for old and unwanted curling stones, so they can spend the rest of their retirement in a safe loving environment! That's just a few of the current residents above.

This trough was an old sink, with a coating of cement/peat mix, and with a bit of age, now looks the part.

Here's another old sink, again pretending to be a stone trough! This one really needs to be completely replanted.

I watched this little fellow through the patio doors for a good while - he was having a good scratch! It was only when I got the camera that he stopped scratching. I wondered where he overwintered? A good reason for not keeping the garden too tidy. At least that's my reason and I'm sticking to it!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

By the river

Today was really nice, no wind, blue skies, and even some warmth when in the sun. Just right to have a wander along the Annan river bank. This is looking upstream from near Skip towards the Jocksthorn Bridge.

No doubt the next time the river is in spate this piece of plastic will be washed downstream.

I'm not very good on my wild flowers. Perhaps someone can identify this one for me. I think it might be Cardamine pratensis (Cuckooflower)? It's soon to be engulfed by the surrounding nettles!

 I know this one though. My nose confirmed it - wild garlic!

This is almost at the Jocksthorn Bridge. Evidence here of an artificial bank on the right, presumably to control flooding in the past.

Looking downstream from the perfect spot to enjoy the late afternoon.

The evidence that it is a dynamic landscape and things are not always so quiet as today. I am pretty sure this tree wasn't here like this a couple of years ago!

Looking across the field to Wamphray Village Hall, my 'Polling Place' for tomorrow's Dumfries and Galloway Council election. Wamphray is in Annandale North Ward.

Photos © Skip Cottage