Autumn

September has treated us to some great and latterly not so great weather. Today is definitely one for indoor activities and blog writing. Fortunately, when Murdoch visited earlier in August the weather was much kinder and he has recently sent me the fruits of his labours.

The Old Manse looking great externally now..
.. set in a beautiful part of the world. The photo also shows the progress on the walled garden.

A trip to Glasgow next for the wedding of Maria and Euan, a lovely event to be part of. The McGrorry family made us most welcome throughout and the venue for the reception of The Cruin provided a beautiful backdrop to a lovely weekend.

Always making the most of our time back on the mainland we transferred quickly to the East coast and Coupar Angus. Our friend Steve and his family have renovated a farmhouse that has been in their family for approximately 100 years and what an excellent job they have done. We spent the days admiring the workmanship and stealing ideas for our own build,

I particularly liked Steve’s tartan carpet

Back on Gigha and some good weather allowed us to turn our attention to the garden. Our niece, Hannah, had donated a polytunnel to the cause and the 2 days it took to assemble and carefully bury the skin underground seemed worthwhile. Well, until today, when it was undone by wind gusting at 50+ mph. Back to the drawing board and a repair job tomorrow (maybe).

The frame assembled before skinning and de-skinning by the wind today
We were quite pleased at this stage

A more pleasurable pursuit though has been picking the fruits of our labour, quite literally. The brambles have provided a plentiful supply of blackberries and the orchard is heavy with apples. The first picks have been made in pies and around the island apple and chili jam. Cider making is also planned.

A few windfalls from earlier in the month

Completing the social activities for the month we went back to the mainland to see the Book of Mormon. An event placed on hold by covid but lovely to be back in a theatre again and good company provided by Elaine & Graham

Great night, good friends

Holiday

Looking back at the blog after a return from holiday I realise that I haven’t made time to commit words to the page since early May. Plenty to tell you about but much of a distant memory so I’m relying upon the photos on the iPhone to prompt me of topics to write about. The routine of desk work and renovation at evenings and weekends is my excuse, that and a (well deserved) holiday too.

Chronologically as things appear on my phone then and back to early May. Focus needed to shift to the interior of the Old Manse and the rip out of the kitchen commenced. Dan visited and was, as always keen to lay his hands on power tools and start the demolition process. He is however, not so clean on the tidy up. The baton was handed to me for some of that but with the desk calling Karen took the lead on bringing down the lath and plaster ceiling. Not an easy job and have to give wifey a lot of credit for doing this – the room being transformed and starting to see the potential of the space we have for the kitchen and dining area.

In tandem with the interior rip out the plan was to keep the garden under control by continually mowing the meadow and walled garden. Still areas to clear to ensure that the lawnmower comes across no significant rocks or hazards still being uncovered from previous ownership. However, punctures to our new lawnmower and the pace at which nature fights this process mean that the pictures from mid & late May have seen significant growth again and on return from holiday there is work to do once more.

It wasn’t all work in May though, we did manage to visit Achamore with the rhododendrons in full bloom and walk the newest of Gigha’s path network to be opened. A night with the Gigha food group taught me to fillet the famous halibut and I also managed a few oysters from dinner at the hotel that are very much in season. The final photos in this section demonstrate more of the natural beauty of the island with a couple of sunsets from the end of May.

Preparations of clearing rubble from the building paid dividends this month as Michael Ross returned for a week of pointing. The exterior of the build is pretty much ‘chipped out’ and estimates tell me that Michael needs a further week to complete the task. Lewis, our joiner, returned also to snag the windows and all is running smooth now. The exterior of the build is certainly looking more as we expect.

An unexpected distraction during the pointing came from the bees who decided to swarm. Quite an experience for me as new to beekeeping but guided by Karen we managed to shepherd the ejected queen and swarm into a second hive.

And finally to the holiday, a week of luxury in sharp contrast to the caravan living we experience at the moment. A week aboard P&O’s Iona, food and drink plentiful and better still no washing up! A lovely week in Norway cruising through Fjords with time to read books (Richard Osman’s excellent second offering for me) and to see some live music. A lovely phot of Mum, Karen and I to finish, hope you will agree we don’t scrub up too bad?

Old Man Problems

Another month behind me when I look at the last blog date and will try and take things chronologically, jogging my memory from iPhone photos – first OMP (Old man problem) to note memory loss. That wasn’t quite what I had in mind though when titling the blog entry, another birthday has passed and the hernia I acquired through heavy lifting in the summer has been dealt with, but more of that later.

Knowing that the Manse needed emptied for imminent arrival of workmen we employed local joinery services to reroof the shed. A good solution to storage problems in the short term supposing we could make it waterproof. Very pleased with the new tin to keep out leeks and further application of sealant to the window seems to have done the trick.

Over the last month we have got back to walking, not as regular as I would like but the next photos on my phone remind me that at the start of the month in relatively good weather, we found the path from Ardailly Mill to Springbank. I say found as on at least two occasions we lost sight of the next waymarker making it difficult to navigate in a straight line. The walk though provided good views of the West Coast of Gigha and one I shall repeat with knowledge provided OMP#1 and my ever failing sense of direction doesn’t impede that.

OMP#2 lifting heavy things in your fifties can cause damage. I am very thankful though to the local health services that have speedily put me back together. A diagnosis of hernia in the summer was resolved on the 6th October with an outpatient visit to Oban hospital. The visit gave me the excuse to buy Richard Osman’s third book ‘The Bullet that Missed’ and read it in 48 hours of pre-op and post-op recuperation. All went well and, for the main, I have regarded the advice to ‘take it easy’ for a few weeks.

Pleased to report though, that I was in rood health for my birthday 9 days later and did the things I enjoy. The weather was less good for the scheduled walk of the new Southern loop but we managed all the same. A few difficulties again due to finding markers, but more to due to lack of strength in my core to clamber over slippery rocks. Came back very wet but a shower, bottle of good red wine and a steak dinner concluded birthday celebrations nicely. OMP#3 too many birthdays makes it difficult to buy for. However, I’m pleased to report new walking trousers, a new toy for the camera and a Scotland rugby shirt made for a pretty good day!

The week following my birthday saw the last week of our caravan summer. We are moving back to solid walls for the duration of the winter months but feel I should pay tribute to the steel box we leave behind as it has served us well this summer. Lately, also, the walk back to our home has provided great views of the night sky and when the skies cleared I was able to test out my automated shutter release birthday present (photo below). More of a concern in the Manse garden was the first mink attack on the chicken coop. Karen dealt admirably with the predator but a new chicken coop and mink trap had to be ordered as a consequence.

Last of the three walks this month I want to mention was the path to Fisherman’s cave. Another wet October day saw our mission to find the cave on the West Coast and after the first boggy field to reach the stone path, the effort was worth it. Some lovely views when you find the entry point and again a walk to be repeated on a summer day. I can tick the walk of the list I have from the book below that I would highly recommend to any visitor to Gigha.

So a flurry of moving into the cottage, attempting to pick any remaining apples and turn them into something worthwhile, building a new chicken coop before a weekend off-island fell largely to Karen. First batches of (experimental) cider underway and a complete coop below are evidence of what a tremendously hard working wifey I have. All of this set us up for a lovely weekend of seeing friends and family just gone. A chance to indulge my passion of rugby watching with our good friends proved an excellent highlight to start the weekend. A trip to the concert hall in Glasgow to see Squeeze book-ended a great three days of good food and the odd indulgence. But I don’t miss Edinburgh / Glasgow traffic.

See Food

It’s been a long while since the last blog, my apologies to my readership, it’s been busy. So I’m first going to talk about one of my great loves food before giving a more chronological account of the last couple of months.

We are blessed on Gigha to enjoy three fantastic food eateries who all thrive on the fantastic seafood this island offers. Before posting pictures of those I want to talk about the community on the island and how blessed I was to find a knock on the door asking if I could use a couple of lobsters. A swift yes to Ben B allowed me to make lobster, asparagus and pea risotto the following night and boy was it good!

Lobster courtesy of Ben
Lobster, asparagus and pea risotto

In no particular order I’ve had the pleasure of eating at the Gigha Hotel, The Boathouse and The Nook in the past fortnight. I’m a regular at the Nook for their Fish and Chips but enjoyed the pickled fish platter today to celebrate finishing the deck (more later). I treated the deck builders to The Boathouse last night and enjoyed the Linguine Vongole, highly recommended. And the Hotel last week for a visit from a good friend, thoroughly enjoying Gigha oysters before a well cooked burger. Again more of this later but look out for the food in the stories.

Back to late July to pick up the story from the last post. We continued to remove parts of the first floor that were to no longer remain in the new version of the Manse. Ceilings came down and more lath and plaster were placed in front garden and wood piles respectively. Surprisingly one of the two bedrooms yielded three ceilings, one above another that was hidden at first look. It does give the height back to the room though.

Ceiling removal
When you take down a ceiling and find another ceiling
One of two rooms on the first floor now stripped of lath and plaster

We then tackled the last of the living room on the first floor. And thinking that was most of the demolition, we set about emptying the house. The decision prompted us to move the caravan to a location we could construct the awning. After a couple of false starts (to move behind the house) we settled on a sheltered spot in the front garden. As long as we don’t sink after the weekend’s downpour it will remain home for a while.

Karen became an expert with the motor mover……
…. but even with her skills it wouldn’t make the corner
So to the front garden it went….
…. and was adorned with awning

We have been blessed with visitors and a great social life too of late. Delighted to host Andy & Emily Peake for a couple of nights who both played a part in cutting the meadow. Their timing was perfect to join us for a great party down at Liem too, so much so I cannot recall the following picture being taken. Nedless to say we had a good time (and plenty of red wine).

Andy, Emily & I post red wine

I have also been working throughout August. And whilst I make no secret of attempting to transition away from the IT industry I am grateful for being able to work from home and earn a decent wage that all is going on with the cost of living at the moment. What makes the day at the desk easier is that I have moved into the shepherd’s hut and have some great views from there.

View from the desk.
And our own standing stone when I open the door

I got to indulge another of my passions as the days grow shorter, that of stargazing. Some lovely night skies and I managed to capture a moonscape of which, I am quite proud. Though not as good as my friends at Argyll Auroras who produced the latter stunning image that was then annotated by my good friend and Dark Skies expert Keith.

Moon in the meadow
Delighted to get the Nikon out again
Keith’s annotated photo whom I must credit to Robert Laing ( can you spot the Manse?)

Our social month continued with visitors aplenty. Murdoch and Rhona arrived by (push) bike as did Steve a week later. But the prize for most stunning travel to the island was taken by Julian who upstaged all by arriving by plane. Steve put in a great shift emptying the Manse and Murdoch has returned to photograph the estate for us. I think I need a whole blog on what he has produced……

Rhona meeting other Gigha residents
Arriving in style
My good friend Julian and I
We started with the oysters – Gigha has the best from anywhere I’ve found
A view from the plane – guess the island.

Either side of our wedding anniversary we spent time on the garden, something we both love. Whilst I dont put these pictures on to say look how great it is looking I’m still pretty chuffed that we are holding back the weeds to keep the canvass looking ok. Hoping for big things next year if we can keep control for a while longer. I must mention the wedding anniversary and a cheeky lunch at Skipness Seafood Cabin – a great way to celebrate with the woman I love more and more each year xx.

Happy anniversary xx
The not so formal, formal garden

And back on the house front there were decisions – again prompted by food – choosing the kitchen components. The layout though is still up for grabs so will talk about that in later months. We did come up with some novel design tools mind, or archaic possibly? We concluded we would order from Wren and do so now before prices escalated further.

Envisaging design into real life
CAD drawing?

Now bang up to date the bill of fare for this weekend was to build a deck in front of the shepherds hut. Lots of pictures on Insta for this one and a hearty thanks to our friends Kathryn and John who endured the wettest day of the year to build the frame. The weekend ended in glorious sunshine for me to screw down the last remaining boards and enjoy that decadent pickled fish platter from the Nook washed down with a glass of champagne delivered by plane earlier in the week. We have some great friends!

No worries mate, it will all fit..
Weather warning, not going to stop us
Sunny Sunday
Decadent afternoon to celebrate finishing
And what better than The Nook’s pickled seafood platter washed down with fizz?

The walls came tumbling down

On return from holiday the race was on to take as much of the Old Manse back to brick as was humanly possibly between the three members of the family. Son, having finished all University commitments, was free to visit as much as his social life allowed and to be fair he has prioritised us over other more fun activities. So this post is probably going to be as interesting as paint dry but very much a document of all recent renovation activity.

First week back from holiday saw attention to the ground floor and the room that will become an ensuite bathroom to a ground floor bedroom for mum. Other than the salvation of a period fireplace the room exemplifies what we are attempting throughout the property. First pic shows that when the first layer of framed plasterboard is removed the stonework itself is plastered and needs stripped back. No insulation to the walls has yet been found, Using the chipper the original stone is revealed in the second picture, with the third showing the lath and plaster finish that came after the original plastering of walls. Finally an empty room clear of rubble.

Plasterboard removed, left side plaster direct on stone wall, right side stripped
Chipper laid to rest having removed plaster from lower sections
Examples of lath in wall and ceiling when first layer of plaster has been removed
Platform used to remove ceiling and higher plaster – room ‘back to brick’

Similar process again for ground floor bedroom. Though I will mention that we have been separating out lath for use as kindling later and dumping all of the discarded plaster onto the front garden of the Old Manse to provide type 1 for dressing later.

The ‘murder room’ getting a makeover, one wall done
Lath – on offer for kindling around the island
The front garden, to be transformed for car parking. To be dressed when he have the money!!

Before I tell you about the progress on the first floor (I promise I will keep it brief) the other momentous event this month was Dan’s graduation. I am immensely proud of both our children’s achievements and it was no mean feat for our son to graduate with a 2i in Networking and Cybersecurity. After a number of job offers he starts a new career on the 1st August and we wish him every success as I know it will be. His sister also began a new job in New Zealand this week after being head hunted from her previous role, also on the up for her.

The three man demolition team in a parallel Universe. Very proud of this one.

Back to the reno. The first floor presented the additional challenge of gravity. Having hauled rubble from the top floor last year we were keen to avoid doing this again in volume. Fortunately, we managed to borrow a ‘chute so the race was on last weekend to break / chip / clear as much plaster from the walls as was humanly possible in 3 days. The room that will become the living room and the two bedrooms were targeted and I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story (I said I would be brief).

Gravity is our friend. Much of the first floor left via this window
More lath – it seems such a shame to destroy workmanship like this but needs must for insulation to be added
A speck of light between the once dividing wall of the bedrooms
Mother and son still hard at it when dad had to go back to the day job
Bedrooms largely complete as is the main room leaving ceilings to finish in slower time

Chicken Run

Since I last wrote, the weather has been unpredictable to say the least, but our caravan home remains cosy and we have survived to date. The small living space has tested our patience more than a couple of times, but thankfully the respite of mum’s new home allows cooking and tv as home comforts during the evenings.

Caravan originally positioned to the side of the house

Back during the second week of April we took to demolishing the last structure in the walled garden that had remained from previous ownership. We had planned at some point to own hens and the opportunity to take some from friends on the island prompted us to rebuild the chicken coop. The mail order hen house arrived just in time to accommodate two black hens that we have re-christened Mavis & Mabel; M&M were shortly to be joined by a further four hens and a cockerel. The cockerel remains Rhubarb, as he was originally named, but is now king over Blondie, Rosemary, Sage & Thyme (the former being a white hen, the latter three brown hens that I still find indistinguishable).

The old and somewhat rotten structure that used to house hens and ducks (we think)
The newly built (& improved) hen house

What I do know however, is that however much we attempt to constrain hens with a six foot fence, netting, and walls they still manage to escape the coop. Well, M&M still do at least, Blondie seems to have stopped now with latest amendment, whilst the other three brown hens were always content to stay put until released. Since the relaxation of rules around poultry concerning avian flu, we have let them roam the walled garden during the day. This has only been a problem once, most out of character Rhubarb decided to try and assert his dominance over Karen and myself. The latter involves an amusing tale of the cock sneaking up behind me and screeching as loud as possible causing me to jump feet in the air!

The flock? Brood?
Escape committee prior to netting over the top of the coop

We must thank John and Kathryn for their help in the demolition of the original structure and John for a repair to our original garden tractor come lawnmower. Paul joined us for the construction of the new coop in what was a busy month for guests. We were delighted to be joined by family members en-route to Islay and an old work colleague & his partner who joined us for a day. The latter were treated to a walk to the South shores on a glorious day of weather.

John & Karen discussing tractors and how to start them

The garden is again advancing at us after much cutting back in the winter months and we need to be alert to not allowing the control we have gained slip back. There have been glorious sights of daffodils early in the season now replaced by a forest of bluebells. We learnt recently on a guided forage walk to hunt for Spanish bluebells diluting the crop of native bluebells – so I’ve been watching for that! To that end I bought a new (smaller) ride on lawnmower that is intended to run around the walled garden but there have been a few technical issues with it preventing me doing so to date. I did manage to mow the meadow this weekend on a glorious sunny Sunday but I am again trying to figure how to restart it after it failed near the end of that cut.

Native bluebells?
For me, no better place to mow grass with this view

At the beginning of May we committed to some major re-landscaping at the Old Manse. The render, stripped from the building, has been lying against it since last summer and we always knew we needed to find a solution. To that end, we decided to use it as a base layer for an expanded drive come car parking at the front of the Old Manse. Rather than do this ourselves we hired a man and a digger who completed that element of work within a couple of days.

A rubble free Old Manse for the first time since last summer
Caravan repositioned to front of house (unlevelled)

That left the dilemma of what to do with the remainder of the week. So attention turned to reducing the amount of blackthorn in the meadow and scraping back the area behind the Manse. We understood that at one time there was a path here so the challenge was to remove enough earth to reveal again the gravel path that was once a track down to the ferry. Donald, our digger man, had some degree of success but it doesn’t look as if the gravel path continues all the way back to the Manse itself. A good find made though in the external shut off valve for water and still time to remove both unwanted stumps from the orchard and unwelcome trees and roots from the outbuildings.

A big space created behind the Old Manse that we have yet to decide what to do with
An absence of blackthorn opening up the view

During the operation the caravan has had to move several times and we have had fun with both the motor mover and towing with the Hilux. We have realised the importance of a direct water supply to combat the heavy task of filling and moving a water barrel as a temporary reservoir. We have also realised the timely removal of waste for the equally heavy task of taking water away.

A chance to put our feet up and admire some of the work including a strimmed orchard

The last bit of news is that I am a working man again. Fortunately, the contract I have taken allows me to work from the Old Manse but it does frustrate me that I cannot spend as much time on the renovation as I would like. Needs must as Karen tells me. All a bit more mentally taxing, but I’m still making time for a brain workout of wordle, heardle, quordle & octordle!

A daily mental workout (still 100% on wordle since the change to the NY times servers)

4 Dwellings & a storage unit

Nearly a month has passed since I last wrote a blog post, so plenty to write about. Partly the delay has been due to using the warm weather spell that remained to commit to outdoor jobs, partly to moving homes, and partly to the return of the cold weather making it impossible to spend any length of time at the keyboard not wearing gloves.

During that spell of warm weather.

So first a story fit for a farce. For a time at the end of March our possessions were spread across four properties. The property now occupied by mum had been decorated mid March and after a couple of runs to storage had been fully furnished complete with mum who had moved in. Karen and I traded time between the winter rental and making good the caravan we now live in. The Old Manse still houses much stuff however.

What I have learnt during this period is that when in any of the four properties the thing I require to complete a job is in a second abode. I go to that location to search for said item, be it a screwdriver, pair of glasses, cooking utensil only to be distracted by a job that also requires my attention or a realisation that said item is not in this location at all. The job in the second location requires an item relocated in the first or third places – most likely the one I have just come from to start the search. You get the picture.

Anyway, without labouring the point, mum is safe in her new home, we are comfy in the caravan, the keys to the holiday home have been returned and the Old Manse, well some work to stripping out has recommenced.

It has been a while since I last wrote on the blog, as one avid reader has pointed out to me today, so I’ve needed to review photos on the iPhone to remind me of activity. The shepherd’s hut has seen a significant makeover of the roof making it watertight again. The addition of batons, insulation and finally the tin that arrived back in December make for a good finish. I have my friend Keith, and his confidence at height, to thank for a huge help completing the tin – a job Karen and I could not have done without him. We needed to freshen up the paintwork too, taking advantage of a sunny day.

Batons…
…Insulation….
…(Vapour Barrier) & tin roof.
Then a repaint.

We have spent many an enjoyable hour at Achamore Gardens and were recently treated to a guided to tour by Achamore’s head gardener. A few photos to follow but it’s hard both to describe and capture the beauty of the camellia walk when it fully bloomed in March.

Some stunning blooms at Achamore

An equally enjoyable morning was spent on a second guided walk by the Isle of Gigha Ranger service & Historic Environment Scotland. Gigha has many treasures for the those interested in history, I more enjoyed the walk and views!

The fantastic west coast of Gigha
A fortified area the target of todays walk

A first check this year was made on the bees. They appear to be in good health and, like us, were really enjoying the good spell of weather that occurred around the middle of March. The weather wasn’t to last though and our plans to revisit and further check frames and the queen excluder have been put on hold.

Bee maintenance…
… they seem well

JB visited us along with his drone producing some great video (can be seen over on Instagram @oldmansegigha) and photography. The latter is helping us to map out and plan the walled garden and beyond, increasing accuracy of plans started by Karen over winter.

The Old Manse and it’s walled garden

Outside the house we have been resident in the on-site caravan for a couple of weeks now. Karen has done a great job in making a small space warm and comfortable. There have been a few frustrations, namely making a tv point work only having it fail again days later but successes too. The oven has provided two Sunday roasts to date and draughts are excluded to a minimum! With a water connection and a battery recharging unit working as it should we are in a good place.

Cosy!

Inside the Old Manse we turned our attention to ripping out the kitchen. The room had become a bit of a dumping ground and was frustrating us both in the mess it had become. All units have now been delivered to the tip at Campbeltown and the removal of a stud wall has allowed us a vision of what might be achieved by opening the space up. More to do here, and in the garden when the good weather returns.

Demolition crew
A much neater space.

Time Flies

Hard to believe that it is now almost a year since we exchanged on The Old Manse. Equally, we have now lived on Gigha for almost 6 months meaning our time in Ferrymans’ is coming to an end. The latter means much of the next three weeks will be around our exit, with mum moving to a single bedroom bungalow on the Island, and Karen & I taking up residence in the caravan adjacent to the Old Manse. Let’s hope the storms have abated before that!

And those storms that I spoke of last time have continued into March. Strong winds have meant disruption to the ferry schedule and a couple of cancelled trips to the mainland. Not quite in chronological order since the last post, but the cleanup of the damage to the woods has started and I can now walk unbarred from the back of the walled garden to the meadow once again. Whilst I have some firewood there are a number of casualties in the tree population that we are really disappointed for.

Loppers ready!
And after, no still growing trees were harmed in this performance

The other repair that was really important to us was that of the shepherds hut roof. Crucial that we protect the interior from the elements and without roofing felt or tarpaulin for a couple of weeks water has been getting in. The temporary nature of tarp’s hasn’t been successful so we took the initiative to try and patch as best we could with leftover roofing felt from the initial work. Some scars in what’s gone on but a mixture of glue to patch those holes and batoning to prevent lifting will hopefully have kept it in place until we can get the tin roof on.

My wife says I take far too many pics for Instagram as perfectly highlighted here.
Paul has a better head for heights than I…
….as does Karen

With the storms raging we have had the opportunity for more planning and more administrative tasks. The move of mum has necessitated the usual move of electoral register, bills and council tax. All of these systems appear to have you wait in queues for hours or portions of hours at the very least. But Karen has also had the opportunity to start drawing and planning the walled garden and that is certainly more pleasurable.

First draft, The Old Manse & Walled Garden

And our other indoor task, painting. The colour scheme we inherited was not to mum’s choosing so Karen and I have been doing a makeover in simple white for now. I shall not be sad to see the back of this task that should be complete tomorrow. Then to storage for the furniture that wouldn’t fit into the cottage and hopefully we will have mum installed by the end of next week.

The green wasn’t to mum’s choosing
Andy getting vertigo at 5 feet off the ground

Not all work though. Paul visited, as earlier pictures showed, but as well as putting his skills to good use we had time to walk the Southern paths of the island with him. Coming back through Achamore gardens the camellia walk has started to bloom and is well worth a look. It certainly helped to walk off the fuzzy head gained at the previous nights pub quiz!

Three Amigos
Leim Beach
Calm between storms gave us a beautiful weekend
The camellia walk

Dark Skies

If I spent time praising the good weather of January last time, I need to start by describing the storms that February has brought with it. The skies have been dark with rain and winds have been gusting in excess of 80mph. So far this month it has been quite difficult to achieve anything much at all outside other than to repair damage that the storm, or more specifically the high winds have caused.

I mentioned last time that the roofing felt of the shepherd’s hut had become a casualty of the weather and we spent a comical afternoon earlier this week attempting to fix a tarpaulin to the top of the ‘hut, similar to that of the shed the week before. The shepherd’s hut apart from a damp interior has suffered no further damage I am glad to report.

Nicely tacked, and although this looks calm, it wasn’t!
Karen both thoroughly enjoyed the task and this photograph.

The woods have seen trees uprooted and many branches have been snapped. Another job of clearing to be added to the list once the winds have calmed, which isn’t in sight at the moment. In fairness the woods needed some attention and the damage has only prompted us to get in and start looking at what is required.

Some examples of branches down
Last week this was a clear path through the woods at the rear of the Old Manse

I started writing the post before the weekend and before the third storm to hit us, Storm Franklin, appeared. The tarpaulin on the shed roof is no more and that was three hours spent in vane!! I know that Kintyre Firewood reported gusts of 90mph at Machrahanish so it comes as no surprise. I wont show pictures of more fallen branches but ivy has acted as a sail and brought part of a stone dyke with it into one of the hazel trees. A perfect excuse to coppice the first of the three though – be brave as the local gardening expert told us!

The Ivy pulled some stonework down with it
More Ivy removed to prevent further damage to the wall
Initial pruning of the Hazel tree
And after advice from Achamore Gardens, now coppiced down to a foot

The bad weather has allowed me time to indulge another passion, or at least some administration thereof. I belong to a talented group (them, not me) of stargazers on the Isle of Gigha. The Island has virtually no light pollution and registers a 2 on the Bortle scale (I hadn’t heard of it until months ago either). And the name of the group, Dark Skies Gigha.

The dark skies of Gigha

The group has been very active, especially for a small island community, and has attracted official recognition to being a Dark Sky Discovery Site in the last month. Also as a recognised Scottish Charity we are seeking funding and opportunities to link up with Glasgow University. No doubt, much more on this to come!

Fantastic recognition for this small isle

The wrong trousers

The good weather continued long enough for us to completely clear the orchard of brambles. No mean feat I might add! With Karen and I working in tandem we are pretty pleased with the result, all of this in preparation for (hopefully) pruning the apple trees in February.

Karen putting the finishing touches to the orchard with strimmer

Further proof of clement weather throughout the majority of January is the abundance of snowdrops and the early appearance of daffodils.

Not sure these will last now February’s storms are here

The weather also made for some excellent walking in January allowing us to find some new routes on this small Island. It may be small but the walking routes are plentiful and with advances in the paths project moving apace, it will surely encourage more visitors in the summer. The Isle of Gigha Trust and the Ranger Service (hope I have that right) must be commended for this initiative and the pleasure the paths have already given us.

The route we have walked the most is that from just North of Achamore Gardens down towards Leim beach through the Island’s wind farm. The first pictures are from earlier in the year with the sun splitting the winter sky, but I have a hazardous tale taken from yesterday’s walk. I dressed in waterproof coat, hat and gloves before setting out for my hour of exercise. On the most exposed part of the walk, which until that point I had enjoyed fair weather, the hail started. At which point I remembered that one shouldn’t walk in jeans as they are indeed the wrong trousers for bad weather. The hail did not take long to permeate the denim and the return leg of the walk had me carrying more weight and some discomfort from my saturated choice of legwear.

However, two new routes have been found. One to a beach on the East just south of and opposite the gardens and a second to the highest point on the Island. We braved the climb, which in all honesty is neither steep or of great altitude, but affords fantastic views to all coasts of Gigha and beyond. Some pictures taken from these walks below.

As often the case in these months we had the beach to ourselves
A bit of advertising for Kintyre Firewood who are keeping us warm with regular deliveries throughout winter
Down towards the Mill and Roundhouses
CREAG BHAN – The highest hill at 100m
Back towards the mainland

All play and no work makes Andy a happy boy, not quite the proverb but I need to talk about some other gains made however small in the house. The stormy weather that started just before February rolled in drove us inside and we re-commenced the rip out of the Old Manse again. Starting top down as we promised ourselves the stair well between first floor and attic rooms has been stripped.

We knew that the outer wall was prone to condensation as warm air hit the cold wall and it became apparent why when we stripped plaster directly onto brick. The decision has been made to introduce insulation to where it isn’t currently on the outer walls, the challenge is doing so without compromising the space. For now it’s about stripping back and the outer stone has been revealed and the internal walls stripped of wallpaper.

More of the roof revelead
Plaster removed from stone wall – insulation required

February’s storm have also thrown up some new challenges. The shepherd’s hut has lost the roofing felt we were so proud of applying in November and we have had to take emergency measures and the application of a new tarpaulin to the shed roof to stop water ingress.

Re-tarp’ed (not retarded as was spell checked on my Insta post)

Lastly, I have to mention it’s back to play today with the start of the six nations. February delivers a feast of rugby and starts with the Calcutta cup. I predict a close match accompanied by a couple of pints of Guinness!

C’mon Scotland!!!!!!!!