Jonathan: D is right. So much done, but when, and what? It’s all a blur! Let’s think now: Indoors repairs, maintenance and decorating finished at Askernish, and some guests – ah yes the first night of their 4-night visit was spent in a B&B in Oban due to bad weather, and once they’d eventually arrived it was wet, grey and windy all the while – until they boarded the ferry back to the mainland! Coming off the same boat were guests for Carrick, who enjoyed a week of fine sunny days, with the daffodils in bloom and the birds and bees all a-stir with the excitement of spring. Before these guests arrived we’d completed all the indoors tidying up, re-decorating and deep-cleaning after all the work on the doors, but didn’t manage to get all the larch cladding back around the windows – there’s a few difficult ones still to do and then all the disturbed cladding to repaint. I’ve given the high hen house a ‘deep clean’ with pressure washer, and altered the layout so that the straw on the floor (and the nesting boxes over that) is now where the wind doesn’t drive rain through the rubble stone wall – so I won’t need to change the straw so often. In the same hen house I’ve added to the three-year occasional series of failed attempts to stop the birds perching in the roof trusses from where they can crap over anything and everything, including me – especially me!: a plastic mesh (ususally used to protect fruit bushes from birds) was simply torn to shreds. (The milestone in this case is that I’ve concluded finally the only way to deal with this is to modify the trusses so that there’s no horizontal perch rail to perch on at all!). The doors we removed from Carrick have been collected and gone back to the supplier – almost two years after Carrick was first ‘completed’! – and that frees up at long last a huge part of the workshop floor!). We’ve planted trees at Askernish, Carrick and our own garden: here we’ve also moved huge New Zealand flaxes to create a new planting layout around the new shop, I mean studio. We’ve cleared out the old shop ready for eventual demolition/dismantling for firewood. D has planted the first potatoes of this year, and we’ve been carrying trays of tomatoes seedlings evening and morning between greenhouse and the warmth of our own house. There’s more hens eggs in the incubators for hatching, and in other folks’ incubators as well, as we’ve continued selling hatching eggs on ebay, though this weekend will be the last of these for this year as demand has now all but fizzled out. At Askernish I’ve spent days picking away at loose masonry paint and render, and making good the render (the traditional form here is a single coat that is really just a fine-aggregate concrete. I’ve updated websites, refurbished all hive components, repaired a leaking exhaust pipe on my car, sawn up wood for the fire. Denise has finished my Eriskay gansey – and I’ve worn it to three public meetings in as many days (not that anyone took any notice); today she’ll finish her own also: photos will follow soon! In and amongst all this I’ve somehow found the time to continue working on the design of Burnt Mill Roundabout on the A414 in Harlow, Essex, advising on the condition of the bridge on the machair track at Kilpheder, and continuing discussions about getting involved in a major engineering project not far from here – but more on that in good time. Phew. All this in just a fortnight – and yet my back has got better, not worse (thanks in good measure to daughter Catherine’s remonstrations on good posture). My, I could do with a mug of coffee!
Denise: Over the past four to six weeks we’ve made our first forays into selling eggs for hatching on ebay auctions. Generally offered as half-dozens, sent in specially moulded polystyrene ‘boxes’ – so-called polyboxes. From a starting price of £3.99, Welsumers have reached as much about £5.50; Buff Orpingtons do better at up to £13.50 (both plus p+p). The season for such sales is very short, as laying in numbers only really starts in mid January, and by now (late February) even the laziest ill-fed flocks are starting to feel a spring in their step, and the market becomes flooded. Even so a sale at the starting price of £3.99 is still twice what we get for ordinary egg sales, though for quite a bit more work. The same works for the geese: these eggs are sold in 4s, and our Embdens have reached £20 for four (plus p+p). But again the window of opportunity between demand and supply is very limited both in numbers and time. The extra income (perhaps £150 to £200) is very welcome – especially as feed has gone up by more than 35% in six months!
Jonathan: After the great hurricane of January 2005, we rebuilt our greenhouses and then built our potting shed and workshop/store; though by then money was getting low and we didn’t install electricity. It would have been difficult and expensive – certainly if we put the cables underground. I do also recall some ideal or our outdoors work being in tune with nature – putting away our tools and tidying up as the sky darkened; and the disturbance of the natural dark by vulgar electricity. What romantic tosh!!! Anyway, after several days toil, we now have electricty. Alas, due to lack of money and time, it is only lighting, but now we have been able to move the young chicks from their cardboard box in the dining room into a cage in the shed – with the infra-red lamp over them. For power (eg for tools in the woodstore or workshop), I shall soon install an outdoors electrical socket at both front and back of house so we don’t have to have a house door open – letting heat escape -when we use an extension lead. When eventually we get round to renovating our own house, we can make a better job of all this: but for now, it’s safe and it’s progress – albeit budget style! [Photo – Welsumer and Buff Orpington chicks in their new cage.]