Jonathan: Frost on our bedroom Velux roof lights this morning. The window is triple-glazed, so Jack can frost up the window as much as he likes, but we’re snug inside. He’s already starting to give up the attempt to break in: as the sun rises and the air warms, Jack withers away from the edges.
Jonathan: After windy night with heavy rain, a Severe Gale in now progress. Not cyclonic, just a head -on onslaught out of the west. Thankfully it’s dry – and in fact the sun is shining. Normally a straight westerly is no problem to us at An Garradh Mor, but alas Abigail, which was categorized as a Storm, and presumably the Hurricanes, Severe Storms and just Storms of last winter must have taken their toll on the house, because I’ve just heard something go rattling across the roof tiles. On going out to investigate there’s two gutter brackets at the back of the house, and a length of gutter on the office dormer flapping in distres – which could wreak much more damage. Alas can’t do anything about it until tomorrow afternoon, as I’ll need to put up ladders and scaffold towers, and the severe gale continues through the night until late tomorrow morning. Should have some spare brackets somewhere – I’ll find them out ready. As if I don’t have enough to do! Island Life!!
Jonathan: This evening we can hear, outside, the build-up to Abigail – the first storm that the Met Office has named. Thankfully – well, for us in Uist, the strongest winds will be further north, in Harris and Lewis. In South Uist and Eriskay we’re expecting gusts to reach about 70mph. Buildings that are neglected, and objects left lying around, are where the damage will be worst. Here at An Garradh Mor, we find that – because of the layout of the garden walls and the house, a severe gale will be strongest when from the west, yet least likely to cause us damage: it’s often less powerful winds from the SW or NW that do more damage, and a wind from the NE – coming down from the heights of Eisebhal and across it’s southern corries, resulting in turbulence that make it unpredictable and violent. (Thankfully storms from that direction are extremely rare: in fact, I can’t recall one in all the time we’ve been here). For the same reason, Carrick is very vulnerable to a SE gale: Mother Nature seems to have designed Beinn Sgiathan to stir up the wind into a frenzy of extremely violent twisters that you can hear whistling across the ground towards you! At Eight Askernish, it’s winds from the SW that seem to do the most damage, due to their frequency and sheer brute force. In short, whatever the weather, we have to prepare for the worst – don’t chance it!
Every autumn we re-fit to the extraskeleton of each greenhouse boards that keep the worst of the wind-pressure (and flying debris!) off the glass and the aluminium of the greenhouse itself.
Although built only of softwood, the extraskeleton is much much stronger than the greenhouse, and more resilient: the whole thing is designed to disipate wind energy and take any physical impacts. At worst, even if the glass broke, the aluminium frame should remain intact and in shape. Though we have occasionally suffered damage to the cladding boards – on one occasion cut through like butter by a flying piece (maybe 1.5m x 0.5m) of metal roof sheeting – neither the greenhouses themselves – nor even the basic extraskeletons – have never been damaged in a storm. The timber frame of the extraskeleton and boarding together give about 50% coverage (horizontally – there’s no boarding across the top), but measurements show that this reduces light only by about 20% at most.
Denise: Talking over an autumnal lunch of delicious home-made soup with home-baked sour-dough bread. The kettle starts to whistle, lazily and unevenly at first, then working itself up into a very good impression of The Royal Scotsman. J gets up and lifts the kettle off the Aga for our first cup of Aga tea since the cold and wet of spring – it seems an age ago. We flicked down the switch this morning at 7am, and certainly by noon it was up to full temperature, and now the kitchen is cosy, and we could cook, dry, bake, fry, roast, simmer, warm, dry herbs – anything we like, any time, at no more cost than keeping the room warm. A bit too warm, to tell the truth – certainly since we completed the renovation of this part of the house, with the house now sealed, insulated etc. Ironically, it’s at this time of year that we have to keep the butter dish in the fridge. This is – by far! – the latest in the year that we’ve switched the Aga on for the winter. It’s nearly mid November … and it’s still not even cold outdoors, with night time temperatures still in double figures. (There’s no other heating on – just the Aga.) But it’s the wind: because houses suffer wind-chill just the same way as we do (or so J says – and it’s been his business to know such things); and believe me it’s windy!!!
Jonathan: Today, as we made the final finishing touches to the re-surfaced drive down to the house, we also finished – after 4½ years of worry and hard work – the renovation of An Gàrradh Mòr – house, drainage, outbuildings, drive – everything! Well, there’s odd jobs to finish, and a few refinements to make, but nothing requiring the help of anyone else, and only the sort of thing one might tackle when the mood takes one, and ticked off after an hour or two – or perhaps a couple of afternoons – of pleasant busy-ness. (Well to be truthful I’m kidding myself – some tasks will take quite a bit more than that!) As anyone with building experience would know – the drive is the first thing to get messed up and the last to be put right (or should be): so now, after pick-axing away the 4-year high mound of cement where the mixer stood, laying drainage, regulating the old beach-gravel surface, and finally dressing with 17 tonnes of 20mm-size crushed gneiss (and all that by hand I have to say!), we can now arrive at our own house, or invite others in, with style and satisfaction. We no longer live on – or in – a building site! We no longer have any building work -anywhere, not even for clients! Here’s some photos of the drive taken over the years: January 2003 – a few weeks after moving in ; 2004, re-tiling the roof (we broke up all the old tiles, by hand, with hammers, to form soakaways and the base layers for paths and parking) ; 2009 – when we were busy building Carrick, in Eriskay ; 2011 when we’d nearly finished the extension and just started the renovation ; 2013 during a lull in renovation work (look – no mixer!) ; 2015 – the final phase, completing the new front ‘sun-room’ and finally the work on the drive itself. Goodness, it almost makes me feel nostalgic!