Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Flaming June?

What the hell happened to global warming?
Its the middle of June and really, summer has'nt started yet.
Its wet, windy and cold outside about 8c.
Still, the veggies are coming on strong.
I have turnips, onions, shallots, and Swiss Chard etc all bursting out of the ground. Might make some soup tomorrow to warm us up.
Thinking about building a henhouse and buying some point of lay chickens. We never buy anything other than free range anyway so might as well get em for free.

This is Olliver, our youngest grandson, he's just six months old. Is'nt he just as cute as a button?
He stayed wth us at the weekend along with his big bro Josh (Jock) we call him.
Jock and I went fishing the local pond but I spent most of the afternoon sorting out his tangles.
Nive to have them, just as nice to send them home lol

I,m off to sit by the fire and watch a movie. Its "The Sheltering Sky" with John Malkovitch and Debra Winger. Its a wee bit arty farty but I'm in that kind of a mood. Might have a glass or 3-4 of Cote du Rhone.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

The Bridge at Millau and the Pont Du Gard

This is the Pont Du Gard in Provence. The initial bridge must have been very well built because through the centuries they built another two on top of it. The Romans of course, those dudes knew how to build.

Bridge in the sky and my Peugeot 307 estate.

We had a holiday in Provence last year. Stayed at a place called Rochefort du Gard for one week out of two. Real nice peacefull relaxing holiday. While we were there we went to see the above mentioned bridges. I have a special interest in bridges as I worked as a painter for 15 years on the Tay and Forth railway bridges here in Scotland.

The ribbon of steel which forms the highway in the sky is 270m (885ft) above the river, but the central pillar is 343m (1125ft) high. [quote] from the offical website.

We also visited Italy staying a night in Torino and 3 nights in Arenzano just north of Gerona. I had the same dinner every night. Pizza Capricciosa, side salad and several bottles of Moretti beer. Italian men tend to spend a couple of hours over a beer and were quite shocked at me having one every 15 minutes or so :-0


Something eating my turnip tops.

Just moved the sweetcorn from the greenhouse to the plot.
This is Meggy our English Springer Spaniel saying"What you lookin at boy"

New fence

Chewed turnip tops

When we returned from holiday 2 weeks ago some critter had eaten all my young cabbage, cauli's and sprouts. I assumed that it was rabbits as the dog was away on holiday as well.

Yesterday I found the culprit, a male pheasant strutting around pulling chunks off my Calabresse. I dashed outside like a madman and chased the devil away. He was back within half an hour however so I decided that he would have to be shot, and of course eaten.

This morning I was ready with the air rifle, when he proudly strutted up from the forest complete with wife and six chicks.

Could'nt shoot him now could I?

So I went to see my farmhand buddy up the road a wee bit and he gave me some temporary fencing materials.

If this doesnt do the trick I,ll have to kill him, chicks or no chicks.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Rosslin chapel

After reading the Da Vinci Code and watching the film we went to see the wee kirk at the village of Roslin near Edinburgh. If you,re interested in architecture this is the building for you. I,ve never saw carvings and detail like it, not even in the South of France.

Unfortunately its under a huge canopy just now as the outer structure (sandstone) has been absorbing water. Back in the 50's some conservation group painted the inside with a waterproof paint to stop the water permeating through and dripping on the pulpit etc.

This led to the water being held in the stone and made the problem worse.

I could have told them that would happen!!
No point in me rambling on about it though as all the experts info is on the web. Its a lovely building with a lot of history.
Rosslin is just about 2 miles from Ikea so dropped in there on the way home for Swedish meatballs and coffee. Then as usual Sandra dragged me around the place and spent a fortune.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Our wood burning stove.

The central heating in the cottage is run on kerosene. This is a very expensive fuel, 2 hrs in the morning and 3 in the evening worked out at about £50 a week to run.

We only use it for showers and hot water now that we have our woodburning stove. The cottage is located at the top of a beech forest hence the name " Beech Cottage" and the landlord owns this land as well. He has given me permission to tidy up any fallen branches of which there are plenty. I have a wee Husqvarna 136 chainsaw and a trailer and spend a lot of my spare time proccessing beech logs for the stove. The stove, used properly heats the whole house. Sometimes, even in winter we have to open a window because its too hot. The house is built of engineering brick and the area behind the stove stores the heat for many hours after the fire has gone out.

I had to build a log store to stack and dry the logs for winter. Wood can be so wet that water splashes in your face when you put the axe through it. Wood will burn wet but messes up the chimney so it has to be swept more often, it also has to "cook" on the fire before it generates any heat. This can take up to 20 minutes, so its better if the wood is dried.

Hardwood is best for a stove as it burns longer, but if I come across some dry softwood I keep it by for the spring/autumn when we only need a small fire for an hour or two in the evening. Firewood is measured in cords. A cord of wood is a pile of tightly stacked logs measuring 8 ft x 4ft x 4ft. We used 2.5 cords last winter so I intend to have at least 3 cords stacked by the end of June. It has to be in by then to give it sufficient time to dry as its last in first out. Get the picture?

If you have a stove and are not sure how it works, put in a lighted firelighter, some kindling, some logs with the vents open. Once it has established itself, shut the vents. Every two hours or so add a couple of logs, it will keep your whole house warm.

At the moment we are hardly using the stove as the heat through the windows keeps the living room at a comfortable temperature until early evening. Most evenings I start a fire at about 7pm, and load it up when we go to bed at say, 11pm. The room is still warm when we get up.



Here in Scotland we have a wealth of good fishing. Big pike in almost every loch south of Ullapool and some of the bigger rivers. Trout in almost every loch and river. We also have some coarse fish including carp, roach, rudd, tench, dace, chub, barbel and many more.

I,ve had a few big pike the best one being a fish of 36lb, 44inches long. This old girl, like all the fish I catch, was returned safely with the minimum of stress/pain.

Pike are not easy to catch especially in the bigger lochs. Some of the Scottish lochs have up to 65 miles of shoreline and possibly only 3 or 4 miles of that suitable habitat for Esox Lucius ( thats the Latin name for a pike) are'nt I clever ;-) You need to spend a we bit of time on these big lochs to find out where the pike live.

This is the boat that my lovely wife bought for my 50th birthday last year. She is a British built Seahog Hunter. She is equipped with a power tilt and trim 40hp Yamaha 2 stroke outboard, Yamaha 22kg thrust trolling motor, sat nav, ship to shore marine band radio and fishfinder. I have a Cannon mini troll downrigger for fishing the deeper water. Her current name is Chrissie11 but that has to be changed. Its unlucky to change a boats name but I found a ceremony for doing it. Unfortunately this requires the services of a man of the cloth and I do'nt know one yet but....................

I also developed a cool anchoring system that allows me to anchor where I want to be without drifting off the mark. This involves two bow rollers, one on the bow, one on top front of the cabin, a hole drilled in the windscreen and a cam cleat. Enlarge the pic you will see what I mean.

The type of fishing I do depends on the time of year. November through to April I mainly fish dead or livebaits. The rest of the year I mainly troll lures such as Rapala. These are pulled along behind the boat at slow speed in 20 feet of water or less. This is a very effective method not only for pike but also truot and salmon which also are returned alive. I love the hunt and the chase but cant get around the killing part. In the UK salmon are in decline. No-one should kill a salmon particularly a female that can produce thousands of fry, still it happens.
I am considered to be what is commonly known as a "coarse angler" because I use coarse methods ie; baits and lures, but I seldom kill a fish, whereas the game angler, who only uses an artificial fly tied from feathers and a single hook, is considered the gentlemanly game angler. The game angler is the chappy that you see walking along the bank with a brace of hen salmon most likely gaffed by a willing ghillie who is more interested in his reward of a bottle of malt whisky than the decline of the species that provides his living.
Game anglers get right on my very last nerve ;-(

Most of the hard garden work is done by my Qualcast rotovator. This baby makes short work of the 70 or so M2 that is my vegetable patch. Here she is.................
No kidding this old contraption churns up the ground like a 6 furrow plough whatever that is!
I bought her off Ebay for £50. The seller lived in South Queensferry near Edinburgh so I just drove the 50 miles or so and picked her up myself.
She starts first time every time and drags me around after her like a large dog with a small child.
I plan to make/adapt a ploughshare for the back to ease furrowing in my old age, both my brow and the plot.

Fishing and gardening?

I'm Gordon Mills. I'm 50 and so is my lovely wife Sandra.

We recently sold our house and moved from the big city (Dundee) thats in Scotland, to a wee rented cottage between Forfar and Montrose. Sandra is a senior staff nurse at Ninewells hospital in Dundee. I was recently made redundant as the multi-storey car park which I was helping to construct was finished and no other work was available in my area. So at the moment I am unemployed. Fortunately Sandra earns like large so its not a problem at the moment and we still have some money from the sale of the house.

I'm using this spare time to get the garden in order. The house and ground that we rent is huge as in 50mtrs by 150mtrs. The previous tenant used the ground as a sort of car breakers yard, buying and selling cars, breaking them up for spares etc. It was an incredible mess.

We did our best to tidy it up, cut the grass, planted flowers, shrubs etc but it was a massive undertaking for a working couple.

Last autumn, I think, once the landlord ( a farmer) realised that we were interested in tidying up the place he employed a landscaper to give the ground a basic shape, and put in paths and larch borders around the flower beds and a small vegetable garden. We were to take it from there...........

Sandra does the flowers and shrubs and stuff and I do the veg. We sort of share the grass cutting and tidying up.

I had a go last year but was basically clueless. I never put in manure, I left it too stoney, I planted too closely, I planted whole packets of seeds at once, I made every mistake that you can make with a vegetable garden. We had pestilence on a major scale with snails, slugs, caterpillars, afyds, rabbits you name it we had it

The only thing that was a success was the broad beans. 40 plants with hundreds of pods and millions of beans. We perhaps ate about 2lbs of them and gave the rest away. I think we also had half a dozen radishes and a few shallots. I was telling a guy at work how chuffed I was with the broad beans and he said ' awa min ye kid grow they in gravel' cheers Dunc!

This year things are different. This year I read books about allotment growing, general vegetable gardening and tried to work out how I went wrong. Living this far north and at this height (600ft above sea level) you need a greenhouse to get your plants started. Seeds put in the ground in March lie dormant till May or forever.

So the lady next door to my mother in law decided she did not want her greenhouse any more, and asked her if she knew anyone who would dismantle and remove it for her. She gave me a call to ask if I wanted it, I almost bit her hand off. I went down next day and dismantled it piece by piece, pane by pane. I was stacking the glass against a huge terra cotta pot and as I carefully placed the last pane the whole bloody lot went down breaking 8 panes. Pane in the arse I thought. The local glazier no kidding, his name is Doug Glass, replaced them for me @ £2.50 each so £20 for that ballsup.

Next was decide where to put it and went for the south east corner of the garden. There are two rowan trees here that would provide some shade and shelter from the south easterly winds. I made a concrete base and with a little help from our youngest son it was built. I couldnt wait to get started so off to B&Q for some pots and seeds. At the moment I have cucumber, courgette, chilli, capsicum, sweet corn, gourds (marrows) swiss chard, coriander, rosemary and chives in the greenhouse, and broad beans, runner beans, turnips, Swedes, carrots, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, calabresse, red onion, white onion, shallots red, white and French, springonion and Romano lettuce.
Its all going well, I,ll keep in touch.