Denise: Just back from painting the north gable at 8 Askernish. J opened a 10litre tub of Sandtex masonry paint to find a a puddle of thin white liquid over a solid cylinder of hardened paint! We’ve had a number of unopened tubs in stock for some years now – mostly from when we first renovated Askernish in 2006, but possibly some dating back to 2004 when we did some painting on our own house. But this is the first tub which – though unopened – had anything wrong with it. So it’s been more of a surprise that despite deep frosts penetrating our store in both recent winters, we haven’t lost more! Definitely a surprise: when we opened up another ‘new’ tub to find that instead of it being brilliant white, as marked on the outside, it was a creamy white! But at around £25 a 10litre tub (and that was 2006!), we can’t afford to waste it: we shall blend it with the others and use it on the south gable only: hopefully no-one will notice the difference!
Jonathan: Just back from Carrick, switching on systems, reading the meters and setting everything for guests arriving this afternoon for a fortnight’s stay. This is now the start of continuous lettings – currently through to September but almost certainly on into October. So for the next 7 months any bigger tasks on the to-do list (and there’s still quite a few!) will just have to wait! The photo here shows Askernish with repairs to rendering finished and ready to start painting: this time next week we’ll have finished painting and the first of 30 or more weeks of guests will be on the ferry to Uist. But with so many things to do in the garden and on the croft – many important things neglected as we’ve pulled out all the stops to meet our deadlines – I’m not sure there’ll be much of a rest. We shall have to see!
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!