Monday, 21 April 2014

Sports bulletin

Here's an update on progress in the garden, first mentioned in this post.

In an Easter weekend where there has been any number of sporting fixtures, I can report that the score is...

Docks 14, Willows 44

On the face of it, this is a great result. Although, as with most things, the devil is in the detail.

Today's planting pattern
In team news, a third row of Willow, with the addition of a few scallops, took up the last 44 of our cuttings. So more sticks will be at the top of our next shopping list.

To add a little gloss to the performance, some of the first two rows are beginning to sprout, which is most pleasing. Quite whether all of the previous 160 will burst into bud is as yet unknown.

Excuse the rubbish photos, the sun was so bright, I couldn't see the phone screen properly. Add to that dock-digging fatigue and it was a miracle they are the right way up at all. Where's the physio?!




So far, so rosy, eh?

Hmmmm, the '14' referred to the number of bags of Dock roots dug up and ready to be shipped off to the recycling facility. I just hope that the council's industrial composting procedure can cope with perennial weeds.

Even a close friend, who is even more passionate about environmentally-friendly and wildlife gardening than we are, has quietly taken me to one side and whispered in my ear, "You do know these are Docks, don't you? You will have to resort to Captain Chemical to shift them."

I admitted that I did know this, but was not yet ready to accept the ultimate truth. For if I keep digging them up, season after season, I will eventually win the battle. But only if I live long enough to see the game through!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Very good Friday

Good Friday was the last full day of my brother and his wife's week long visit to Orkney. They had arrived the previous Saturday on the ferry from Scrabster to Stromness, which was forced to sail up through Scapa Flow due to strong winds and heavy seas. Their first night involved gale force winds (nothing to do with my cooking) and the next day was sunshine and intermittent hail showers. As they say, Welcome to Orkney!

They were able to do touristy things during the next few days: Tomb of the Eagles; Burwick cliff walk; Skara Brae; Stromness street amble. But Wednesday was a return to wet and windy weather, so we all explored the sights of Kirkwall: St Magnus' Cathedral; umpteen shops; and there may have been tea and cake at a cafe. That evening's entertainment was the power outage that affected the whole of the north of Scotland, including the Western and Northern Isles, always a fun-filled hullabaloo, what with all the candles and torches!

The following day, with electricity restored, life returned to its meteorological windy normal. We visited the Orkney Brewery and partook of their tour (this will be a separate blogpost), followed by a quick trip to the Harray Potter and then Betty's Reading Room over by Tingwall.

Yesterday dawned both bright and reasonably calm. so we all piled into the car for a West Coast adventure (erase from your mind any images of a VW Camper decorated with a primary colours flower motif, with its occupants sporting long hair and garish clothing, not that West Coast). As we trundled through Finstown, I recalled that Our Lass and I had had a conversation the previous week about whether to visit Happy Valley, so as it was virtually en route, we made a small detour to take in this little gem of a place.

I will apologise right now, as there aren't any habitat shots here. I was carrying Very Wrong Len, so all the below photos are close-ups of one form or another.

The little wooded valley was teeming with Spring flowers: Bluebells, Primroses, Wood Anemones, Purslane, Lesser Celandine, and several shrubs were in flower too, notably Redcurrant and the invasive Salmonberry.

I heard, but did not see, a Willow Warbler, which is always a treat and more so this far north. It really did finally feel like Spring. Numerous species of bee were buzzing from bloom to bloom and we flitted about the place in similar fashion, drinking deep of the spirit-lifting sweet nectar of life bursting anew.

Suitably invigorated, we bimbled up to Birsay for lunch, before heading across to Marwick to explore the bay, cliffs and Kitchener Memorial.

In keeping with some deeper Easter tradition, a Hare ran across our path, at some point in the day (our local farmer has banned the shooting of Hares on his land, so we are doubly lucky).

Good Friday? Pretty much perfect.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Never a truer word

Last night, there was a power cut in the north of Scotland, the Western and the Northern Isles, with about 200,000 homes affected.

Sady, there were traumatic scenes, as folk were unable to watch the closing moments of this week's edition of Masterchef, and worse still, even less fortunate people had to sup their beverage of choice by candlelight.

Which neatly brings us to the true meaning of a ...

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Admin matters

For a while now, it seems, there's been a problem with this blog.

Who said, "Yeah, the bloke writing it."? Cheeky so-and-so!

No, it would appear that commenting has been a problem for some, but not for others.

Following some sterling research by laligalover, I have changed the manner in which the Comments appear. No longer will they be embedded within the post, they will be in a separate pop-up window.

Can I ask that anyone who has had trouble posting comments (constructive, humorous or otherwise), please have another attempt and let me know if there's an improvement in service? Regular commenters, hopefully, you will be unaffected, but please feel free to verify that you can still comment.

Thank you.

Fifth bloggiversary

Well, there wasn't a five year plan, but here I am. Who'd've thought it, eh? Not me, that's for sure. To be honest, when I reached last year's anniversary milestone, the events that have transpired in the intervening twelve months were not on our radar or hidden over the horizon, let alone remotely constituting a plan.

(Anyone new to the blog may wish to play catch-up with the first, second, third and fourth anniversary posts, but it's not compulsory and there's not a list of questions at the end.)

Lots of folk have had Five Year Plans through history, with varying degrees of success. I suppose Stalin's will be the most well-known? But I have no intention of doubling the grain harvest from our half acre plot, or even having a grain harvest in the first place. The jokes are corny enough, there's barley a week goes by without a terrible pun and excerpts from the blog aren't about to be cerealised.

Idly flicking through the stats, the top five posts from the past five years are a mixed bag. There's not a trend as such, and the number of 'pageviews' registered are a law unto themselves.

But happily ignoring that, here's the 2009-2014 chart rundown...

At Number Five, we have 'Look what turned up on the post!' from 2009, a tale of derring-do in the insect world (373 pageviews).

At Number Four, just nudging ahead, is 'A pun to eclipse all others' from 2013, the Dark Side of the Moon track-infested post about the 40th anniversary of Pink Floyd's famous album (394 pageviews). 

At Number Three, out in clear and possibly hot water, is 'Post post post' from 2011. The title referred to the fact that this post (announcement) was about a post (timber), but er... afterwards (508 pageviews).

At Number Two, several hundred hits to the good, is 'A setting sun and daughter', one of my final blogposts before leaving Milton Keynes last year. Quite why my burble about an Autumnal walk with Second Born should be so popular is a mystery (857 pageviews).

But at Number One, from 2012, with a stonking 12894 pageviews, is 'Disco no more', my eulogy to Taffy the Truck, our dear departed Series 2 Discovery. The referrer spammers and internet robots must've been busy back then.

But not this robot...

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Glanced and gone

In the scudding sky, a solitary Raven glides over ephemeral diamonds in the dust, 
as a vague, misty and mythical vision of distant hills teases my eyes and thoughts.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Man flu and mind games

I had been under the weather for several days, finally succumbing to Our Lass's cold bug, which we were now both struggling to throw off.

Some rather pleasant Spring days had come and gone, whilst I could only gaze longingly out of the window, at vast blue skies and the occasional scudding cloud. My eyes ached both with yearning and with cold symptoms. Meantime, Our Lass, who had a week's head start on the illness, pottered about the nascent garden like a newborn lamb in lush green pastures.

By yesterday, I felt that a little energy was returning, but I was still slow to wake and start the morning. In no particular rush over breakfast, I listened to the local news on Radio Orkney, fired up my pc and scanned emails from presumably healthy folk (or, at least, ill ones who weren't such a wuss as Yours Truly), before eventually deciding to have a shower.

At that point where you're wet all over and have soap suds in your eyes, I suddenly thought,

"It's Tuesday!"

(Ok, there may have been a teensy expletive in there somewhere.)

Not hugely earth-shattering news, I'll admit, seeing as how it was the day between Monday and Wednesday. Even on Orkney, the days of the week tend to follow a similar pattern to elsewhere.

Was there some important deadline to meet? A vital decision to make concerning the fate of nations? Or the publication of a report to secure the future of our planet?

No, the reason for my panic was a bit more prosaic than that... it was bins day.

And I had forgotten.

Worse still, which bins this week?

In Orkney, the local authority operates a fortnightly system; household waste, one week, and recyclates, the next. Laid low by a virus, I wasn't sure where in the alternate universe we were.

Making as much haste as decently possibly, once cleaned, dried and dressed, I ventured to the window to check what our neighbours had decided to do.


Eh? It is Tuesday, isn't it? After checking the calendar and the refuse collection timetable, I could confirm that, yes, it was the afore-mentioned day and that it was also a recyclates week. Odd, then, that no-one else had bothered? Especially as they are usually reliable with their rubbish bin deployment.

Trying to put aside the awful conclusion that, due to my tardiness, the bins had already been emptied and returned to their respective homes (aarrghhhhh!), I wandered outside to look up and down the road, in that time-honoured method of determining what is going on.

Still nothing.

Not a bin or bag, of any hue or size, to be seen... anywhere.

This was becoming weird (as opposed, dear reader, to the weirdness of my befuddled thought processes).

Then I wondered if the approach of Easter had changed the schedule, after all, we're new to the area and perhaps everyone else 'just knows'. A flick through the local newspaper and a brief search online didn't give any clues as to whether this was the case.

Therefore, hoping against hope, I trundled our two green wheelie bins out to the roadside, weighted down their lids with a couple of rocks (because it's Orkney and it's windy) and sloped back inside to see whether the fickle hand of Fate would cast her dice in my favour.

Barely an hour later, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the bins neatly laid down behind our wall. And another consignment of paper, plastic, glass and tin was on its way to recycling reincarnation.


It's true, from time to time, Our Lass has been known to mutter that I worry about all the wrong things.