I think I’m going to have to start working at night, there doesn’t seem to be time during the day, and that’s bearing in mind that sunset is currently at 10pm and it is light again at 4:30am. Here, in summer, if there isn't too much cloud cover, you can still operate for an extra hour at each end of the day. Last night I was woken by the cat who wanted to tell me it was raining at four, and again at five to tell me it had stopped, so I can say that those times are reasonably accurate. I haven’t voluntarily extended my day that far as yet, but I’m beginning to wonder about a reverse nap, - an hour’s work in the middle of the night.
The reason for this is it has been a bit busy, well busier than usual. Gardening, shed reconstruction, Midge shifting, getting out and about, and holidays are all normal, but there seems to be stuff crammed in between. Learning to fly (the quadcopter, don’t panic, video top right ) the Car-club magazine, helping the odd neighbour (well some of them are a bit odd, but that is normal for Tarbrax and probably everywhere else).
I mentioned gardening, well I notice what is going on but real gardening is not something I do, however I have squeezed in a bit of strimming and weeding. The strimming is easy enough (although I am told, occasionally inaccurate) but some of the weeds are over 40 feet tall. Larch mostly, but some mis-placed Sitka and the odd Pine. I suppose they are a crop rather than weeds, but they are growing in the wrong place, and when they get too big they can threaten the house a bit. One was a full metre in diameter at the base, as mentioned in a previous newsletter. Such trees are doomed to be mostly firewood in the end, it would be nice to turn some of them into timber, but it’s not really practical, and it does keep us warm in the winter.
The Tractor-shed project hasn’t progressed much past the ground clearing stage, although having foundations all over the place means I can fit the shed to the existing footings. This particular time I’ve shaped the shed to fit what was the ‘sticky out bit’ of the two most easterly cottages on the fourth row (red) Our house is the brown bit in the fifth row. I think it had been No’s 81 and 82. The blue and green bits were all demolished years ago, I’ve been told when, but keep forgetting. After the mine closed the oil company demolished the 'Upper rows' except for the two that became the Manse and the 'Lower rows' I think there had been 40 houses in each. My suddenly developing a spare Triumph Spitfire meant that I had to play musical Midges in the garages (red) with the cars, and the Tractor had to move sideways, so what was a wood-shed becomes a temporary tractor shed.
My intention is to combine the red and blue Midges so that the best bits of the two will leave a red Midge with a good engine, chassis and bodywork to which I can add a roof and folding windscreen later. Then I'll have to decide whether to sell the green one or to try my hand at building a boat-tail.
One of the more relaxing bits of the last few months was a trip to Sardinia in May. Mum came along and we saw the sights, ate the food, dozed in the sun, wandered about a bit, and generally had a good time. It was rather early in their season, which makes it much less crowded and less likely to induce heat-stroke. The down side of having the place much less crowded is that a lot of the facilities don’t bother opening until several months later. It appears that their peak time is July and August, by which time it is far to hot for us, and by September everything is closed again. I suppose they are influenced by the UK school holidays, I’ve no idea what the Germans, mainland Italians and other tourists do, but it always struck me as a bit daft going somewhere too hot and sunny when it’s just right at home. The Hotel (LePalme) was quite extensive and not too expensive, and even including a bit of Mediterranean coastline.
The accommodation with breakfast and evening meal was reasonably priced and of a very high standard. Having a lagoon in front of the rooms was a nice bonus, although being the early part of the season they had only just started, and it took a few days to fill it with sea water. They don’t have much spare fresh water on Sardinia, and it has the advantage of not supporting mosquitos. The swimming pool was salt water too, which gives extra buoyancy. I didn’t try it as I find swimming quite hard work as I sink in salt or fresh water. So I read while Fiona and Mum floated. The pool side beer was very acceptable. I did get the impression occasionally that the staff thought we had arrived rather earlier than invited, but were making an effort to keep up. Some of the tourist attractions were closed, but it was the scenery we went for, so that was no great loss. The only complaint I had through the whole holiday was that the hotel bottled water was charged for at a hefty mark-up, comparable with the price of the wine, and the restaurant wine was at British prices. After a short search we found a small supermarket and stocked up on water and wine at much more appropriate rates.
There were a few other small areas where the service was more expensive than I had expected, but as usual it’s a case of asking beforehand, and not as bad as Ryan Air.
We popped over to Corsica for a day. I never realised how much better my comprehension of French was by comparison with Italian. Not bad considering the last time I bought anything in a French shop it was in Francs and centimes. Although very rusty I was able to make myself understood. The Cafe staff, of course, were all perfectly able to speak English. Curiously they thought Scots were rather exotic, and mutual sympathy was expressed as the Corsicans, Sardinians and Scots that I know all want to stay in the EU and want rid of colonial status.
On returning we were delighted to see the back of Winter, the garden had run amok with grass up to here but everything had survived with no storm, flood or fire damage. The watering system in the poly-tunnel had functioned correctly, seen on the right at the end of April, and Errol the cat, although thinner was still alive and even more happy to see us. We checked him at the Vet's clinic and he just seems to have lost weight as he got older as cats do. The summer moult probably accentuated it. It’s a curious thing, when his very ‘human friendly’ mother was alive he barely noticed us. Now, escalating with each holiday, he follows us around usually complaining about the weather or something, and chats away at us in what sounds just like an infant in that stage before it starts using words. I’m not too sure about this dawn chorus development though, I mean, what does he expect me to do at three or four in the morning? Of course he is able to be awake in the middle of the night - he sleeps through most of the day, and is currently snoring, fairly quietly, on the chair next to me. He paused just then to stretch and stick his claws into my chair, but soon dozes off again. I was somewhat concerned before we left for the Med, that I’d have the new garage doors (Right) on and secure in time. It all worked out and withstood the promised high winds. I made these ones with galvanised sheet steel and a wooden frame. The central pivot sliding type I did last time wasn’t an option so these ones got heavy duty side hinges. Just the caravan shed to put doors on and that’s the south side done. It wasn’t a deliberate plan but the front yard is coming out like the traditional steading, albeit smaller. The large acreage of galvanised steel is a bit overwhelming but I might consider a mural. Nothing too sophisticated though, if it looked like great art I’d probably get pestered by the Louvre, or the Booker Prize people. Galvanised steel sheet is what we used to build things with on the farm, it's rather reminiscent of yesteryear, especially with a tractor behind the right hand end. It should be interesting to see it from above, something that is more possible now that I have put a camera on the quad-copter. There are two cameras actually, one to take high resolution images of the scenery and another to ‘see through’ for navigation. Called First Person Viewing it is quite difficult to get used to, especially for those of us with the Mk1 navigational skill set, but I’m getting better at it. My first flight, mostly without FPV can be seen back at the top of the page. I think it may take a while for it to become second nature, and I’m going to have to improve the sound track. On the way to Winchester and before going on to Sardinia, we stopped off at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire to look at the pleasure gardens. One part was a butterfly collection. The butterflies are quite large by comparison with our native ones, and used to wandering humans. Fiona had half a dozen perched on her, I had just one or two, but maybe the thing that attracts them is the same as attracts Scottish midges. A wee smear of honey might be interesting, but, I thought, probably not acceptable to the keeper, so I didn’t. The Maze was interesting and in good condition I was pleased to discover the secret. Quite simple, but I’ll not spoil it for you. Phone me if you get stuck. Overall that’s our third visit to the palace, and over the accumulated time, about 10 or 12 hours at a guess, we saw most of it. You could probably use double that and still be interested, though not all in one go. A little more on wildlife, there’s been a considerable increase in the number of thrushes in the garden this year, much to the annoyance of the snails, and it appears that the greater spotted woodpecker likes peanuts. The one on our bird feeder was rather indistinct, but here’s one in Hermand Birchwood a week later. (Thanks to Peter Baird for that one) It missed our on-site committee meeting by half an hour. The bird feeders in the garden have been a great success, although the crows have taken to massed pitch invasions when the peanuts appear. The wood is now bursting with birdsong, which has built up as it matures, I think it must be 25 years now since it was planted, and I suppose it will need thinning sometime in the next 25. The recently added apple trees are blossoming now, and will no doubt produce a few apples in due course. It still looks a bit odd having full sized apples on a tree with two times the actual volume of wood. Rather like one of those ‘enhanced’ starlets of the movie industry. Of course what was a starlet is now a superstar, another sort of inflation. There are a few more Sitka Spruce (picea sitchensis) to come out, being alien to our plan, but acceptable as firewood, and perhaps some more native trees to go in. One of my time hungry activities that has grown somewhat in the last few months has been the Midge Club (MOBC) activity, mostly the quarterly magazine which I now edit, this has slowed my previously relentless ‘Family’ Newsletters, no doubt to the relief and or consternation of thous...hundr...doz... OK, one or two. The online publication isn’t too onerous in itself, but one is aware of the ever-approaching next issue. The latest issue is at
Click that to look. Extra readers will be welcome, as they might turn into Midgers although re-publishing might run into copyright problems. The website, now run by your humble, is open to the public, but it’s not likely to be found unless you are looking for it, or a number of obscure organisations with the same initials. As with this latest domestic newsletter, it is possible to find out how many visitors there have been, but frankly it is a laborious and unproductive exercise. I can hardly call myself an author, but there’s definitely a compulsion to write, and/or publish so I rarely take any notice whether anybody is reading and just react to typo notification or fact correction. (Though it’s rather nice getting the occasional compliment.) Mostly I just listen for Fiona laughing.
My next project, although there are plenty of on-going ones, is to re-do the polytunnel sprinkling system supply. The current set-up is working well, but is rather complicated. I prefer to use rainwater but that requires batteries, pumps and multiple timers and is rather vulnerable to frost-burst and drought. There may be periods of warm sunny and dry weather, but as a rule there’s no shortage of water in Scotland, and Mains water would reduce the complexity to one timer and remove the clogging up of the spray nozzles from organic debris. Rain water can carry dirt which can be a pain and inevitably leads to water running down my up-raised sleeves because I can never remember which nozzles are blocked by the time I get back from turning it off.
I was thinking of making a back-flushing syringe, but with a bit of luck this will render it redundant.
In the mean-time the Tractor-shed waits for the next stage (hopefully the weeds won't start covering it before I get the base in) This is one of the areas where I could do with a large cash injection, although I confess that I quite often find that the raw materials turn up free when someone says "Jim, do you know anyone who could use a load of...." and off we go with almost no expense. The summerhouse and the recent garage extension were like that. Some material left over from previous jobs, a few free bits, some recycled stuff dumped in Hermand Birchwood car park, and a bit of lateral thinking, like building next to an existing structure and eliminating a wall or two. Still, it'll have to wait until I have felled a few trees, there will be nowhere to drop them once the shed is built.
See y'all, Have fun.