Saturday 19th January
Another glorious winter day on Arran but without any sign of snow. I am trying to get over this and focus on all the things I can get done because it hasn't snowed.
Busy day with lots to tell you. Pete tracked down the owner of the chalet and caravan that were free and off we went to take a look. I really want a studio away from the house where I can concentrate better. Home school means that there is always someone wanting mum for something! Sadly, neither option was any good for what we need but always worth a look. I am trying to persuade Pete that he could build me one but I am not sure he is convinced of that.
We did, however, get a very good second hand cooker that was also advertised in the island newspaper yesterday. In the advert it was £70.00 but as it turned out to be a good friend of Pete selling it he only wanted £40.00. Excellent. What I really want is an aga or a range and I am quite sure the islanders will deliver that up in due course. Meanwhile (new) cooker is installed and old cooker ready for uplift. In my quest to spend as little money as possible this year we are off to a cracking start. I inherited a 1950s kitchen unit from my Grandparents and 'operation' kitchen will be designed around it. My dad put the present kitchen in more than 20 years ago so it is due for an upgrade. But I want to go backwards to go forwards. I want a vintage kitchen with a strong link to the 1940/1950s. The kitchen cupboards are in good condition so I am planning to replace the doors and am busy searching for doors that I can paint to match in with the 1950s cabinet. I am stripping some of the wall cabinets away to give a better feeling of space and replacing with shelving which will then be able to display all the vintage bits and pieces I have collected over the years. Floor is quite new so that can stay but I need to redo the tiling and put in new sink and worktops. My plan is to do this job in stages and revamp where possible. I do like a project so this will do me nicely.
The title of todays blog might suggest that I have been back to the lovely Shirley and had a radical hair cut but nothing quite so brave. I have, in fact, been in the tunnel giving my hundreds of herbs a very sever haircut. They look all neat now but that is not really the point of exercise. I don't want the herbs to be supporting poor quality growth so all that has to go. The next job is to re-pot all of them and give them a feed. I use seaweed pellets to feed them as they appear to like them the most. I also spotted quite a few resident snails so they were taken over to the field and deposited, they will no doubt find their way back. I keep the ground in the tunnel damp at this time of year as that encourages toads to move in and what do toads eat? SLUGS.
I have mentioned before how we make more money by value adding her herbs. This year I am going to try and sell as many as possible as window boxes; a kind of starter for 10 for people to give herb growing a go. I am also going to revive our edible hanging basket which we fill with tumbling tomatoes, basil and strawberries. I didn't get round to doing them last year and then, of course, we got requests. We are starting this season much better than the past two as the tunnel is all organised and I am, at the moment, ahead of schedule. George and Max are lined up to earn some money potting on the herbs and Harry is busy with his Dad preparing the ground for the new willow cuttings and building a new fence for the chickens.
I want to dedicate as much tunnel space as I can to cut flowers as the rain on the island causes petal damage. My first flower school of the year is in March and I will have to buy those flowers in but as the year progresses I hope to supply them myself. I mentioned chives in a previous blog and those of you who read that will be interested to know that they are the first herbs showing signs of new growth. Anyone can grow chives so I do hope people give them a go this season.
I am a massive supporter of british wildflowers and we have fields of the blooms but some species are taking over so I need to do a bit of management. I will buy some more in as plugs and plant them into the fields once they are big enough to survive. I would love it if everyone reading this would grow some wildflowers. Since the second world war 90% of all wildflower meadows have been lost and this has a knock on effect to the bees and we really need the bees. Without bee pollination we would quickly feel the effect and ultimately if the bees died out as a species so would we. If we all have a patch of wildflowers we would be doing our bit. I am trying to persuade Pete to get into bee keeping as there is a club on the island. I fancy harvesting my own honey. A little tip for all of you who suffer hayfever in the summer. If you can locate a local supplier of honey they are worth their weight in gold, or hayfever tablets at least. Taking a small amount of honey every day during the season helps to protect you from hayfever. It works, I promise!
While we are on the wild side can I also make a plea for nettles. I know they are horrid things and we generally dig them up. Could you possibly leave a few in a corner of your garden? The butterflies would be hugely grateful as that is a perfect place for their eggs. I adore butterflies but it is another species we see less and less of. In home school once we did a butterfly breeding programme. We really did! You can buy the kits off the internet and once you are all set up you buy the eggs. We released 24 butterflies that summer and it felt very good indeed. The children could also handle them before they flew away. It was a memorable project and one that any family could do. As you will have gathered we are wildlife fanatics in this family and this involves ensuring our land has regular 'bug hotels'. The children and I build up rotting wood, sticks and rocks into a rough pile and them watch as the bugs move in. Great fun and so important. A bit of straw poked into old pots is good in the hotel and, if you are lucky, a solitary bee will move in for the winter. At our last property we buried pots stuffed with straw upside down in the orchard floor. The first sunny spring day we went out and sat nearby and, sure enough, a couple of solitary bees backed their way out of their winter homes and flew away. Magical.
Next weekend is the RSPB garden bird watch and there is still time to order an information pack off their website. We do the survey every year and the children are now far better than me at recognising the different birds. We currently have a thrush digging around in the seaweed on our raised beds. I am not at all sure what he is doing. Anyone know? Someone told me recently that if you have a Robin staring into your house it is a departed loved one. We have a resident Robin who does just that on a regular basis. That will be my dad then checking up on me!
After a day in the tunnel my back hurts so I am off for a bath. I did want to share a great relaxing bath recipe. Place the following herbs in a muslin circle and tie with string:
Approximately 2 teaspoons of dried chamomile flowers
2 teaspoons of fresh or dried lavender
2 teaspoons of dried hops
Tie the muslin pouch round the hot tap and run your bath as normal. The herbs will infuse into your bath. This is incredibly relaxing and just what I need. As I write this we are sitting at about 975 page views since this blog began on the 1st of January. I am hoping that by the end of the weekend we will have gone over 1000. I am, of course, completely thrilled and very humbled. Have a lovely evening and we shall speak tomorrow. xx
Picture is of a favourite spot to sit on a lovely walk at the Dyemill in Lamlash.