Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Last Cut of the Season

Throughout my career mowing lawns, I have run over many things with various types of lawnmower. I must say however that I tend to kill more things with a power mower than with an old fashioned push mower.

Here is a nice picture of the non-lethal type of lawn mower. If one uses this, you will kill fewer things, it's quieter so that you'll disturb neighbours less AND it's more environmentally friendly. Sadly however it takes ages to cut the lawn with this device and you can 't let the grass get too long or the job will be murderously difficult.

Thankfully, I've been lucky enough to use a lawnmower with an internal combustion engine. No, I've not got a ride-on lawnmower. That is just a dream that may never come true

I've got a regular, 4.5 horsepower push it yourself lawnmower. The same sort of machine I've been using my entire adult life to cut grass.

As mentioned before, I've run over a few things in my lifetime with the said lawnmower. Here is a partial list:

Garter snake - They smell terrible when you hit them with a lawnmower. There is a sort of musk stink gland thing going on with these snakes. Plus, they don't run away from a lawnmower. I wonder if the vibrations that the machine gives off attracts them.

Assorted beetles, frogs and toads (no photographs due to the sensitivity of readers who may already be freaked out by the picture of the snake)

Dog poo - I usually go around and pick the stuff up first, but there is ALWAYS a lump hiding in the grass somewhere. The hidden lump will only be found by my foot or the wheels or blades of the mower.

Frisbees, tennis balls and other toys -The blades of the mower are pretty unforgiving to these items. I don't just run over them on purpose. It is always an accident and my first reaction is to feel bad. Then, it dawns on me that the person who left the toy out on the lawn is really at fault, it is never the person stuck doing the mowing that left stuff out on the grass.

Today, I ran over an egg. I never thought that there would be an egg in the grass but one of the hens must have laid it there at some point on a day when I had let them out for a bit. I think this is indicative of how desperately I needed to cut the grass.

At the end of the job today, I decided I'd tidy up a tiny bit in the back garden that I had missed yesterday. It was then that I had some neighbours take an interest in what I was doing. They crowded around by the back fence. I bet you didn't know this, but cows are nosey! It looks to me like they're asking if I've got any cookies for them.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Still Stuff Going On

My Saturday didn't end with my earlier blog entry. I have collected my new hens and installed them here at Whitelees.
I also drove over to my friend Margaret's house. She and I picked the apples that were left on her tree and I took them home. I'll be making apple butter with them in the next couple of days.
Then I mowed the lawn in the back before it got too dark. If it's dry tomorrow, I'll give the front lawn its final cut of the year.
Here are my six new pullets. You can tell they are not "in lay" just yet by looking at their combs. The combs are still pale and shriveled looking. When the hens start to lay, the combs will plump up and get nice and red.
The boys are just returning home from the fitba. Score: Sunderland 1 - Blackburn Rovers 2. *sigh*

Busy Saturday Morning

The hedges were cut this morning. I love it when this time of year rolls around. We get all our hedges cut in a very short space of time (less than an hour). It's just a big rougher on the hedge than the slower manicure we can give them. The time and labour saved is so great however that we go for the tractor driven hedge cutter every time.

Hedge cutting in action
Hedge cutting dude posing for photo

The spare television that was in George's room and was upgraded to family TV after the one in the front room died is no longer working. We are a 21st century home with NO TELLY for a while. One of the things that young George did this morning was to crack open one of the books he received for his birthday. From where I stand, this is a great incentive to NOT get a replacement TV.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'll Go Use the Other Bathroom

"Henry come here! You gotta see this!"

"What is it?"

"Something in the bathroom. Just come and see!"
"I'll read about it later on your blog."

Now he will know that there is a big spider in the old bathroom toilet. Sadly he won't find out until tomorrow when he's at work and I will have flushed the thing.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Scruffy Chicken

I have one hen that is STILL moulting. She looks more pathetic than any of my other hens did when they were moulting. You can see her standing next to one of her sisters who is finished with the moult.
These chickens are getting pretty tired. The Maran hens are about three years old and the Welsummer (yellow necked) hens are at least two years old. They may be older than that, but I haven't actually kept records on them. In any case, they are laying pathetically few eggs these days. During the summer the peak laying season was very brief and I am getting NO eggs from the hens now. The thing is, the chickens still eat even though there is no egg production. I don't think that is how things are supposed to work.

This means that it is time for fresh hens. I am due to pick up six hybrid layer pullets (young hens) on Saturday. The pullets will be 17 weeks old and are due to start laying eggs at 20 weeks. I'm wondering if I should cull the old gals now so that they don't bully the new gals.
On the other side of the house, there is a mole or family of moles making short work of our lawn.

For the soft-hearted among my readers, please don't worry. I won't kill the chickens unless they prove to be too violent toward the new girls. The new hens will be put in a separate cage next to the big chicken run for a couple of weeks until everybody has decided that they can be friends.
There seems to be an abundance of berries or haws on the hawthorn bushes this year. Now that we've had a couple of light frosts, the colours are getting very pretty.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Birthday Hedgehog

Mr Prickles wishes to extend a very happy birthday to Peggy's sister Sally AND to George.
This little creature was saved from getting squished on the road by the heroic Man of the Place.

It is one of this year's babies and it is SOOOOO CUTE!. I love hedgehogs and their snuffly little ways. They really don't come into our garden as much as they used to.

Before we had a dog, I used to feed the cats outside. Any left over cat food was snuffled up by roaming hedgehogs. One year, I lifted some black plastic to find a momma hedgehog and four small babies. Now we've got a dog and there is no more free food for hedgehogs.
But tonight this little flea filled visitor is safe from being run over.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Doughnuts on the Brain

Sometimes if you've got an itch, the only way it will go away is to give it a good scratch.
There really was no other way I was going to exorcise the doughnut craving from my system. I was going to have to make doughnuts. Either that drive to the South of England where Krispy Kreme seem to have been taken up. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my old pal Joe for taunting me with Des Moines doughnuts.

George woke us up in the early hours of the morning with a thumping headache and a very runny nose. I got him some cold and headache medicine and tucked him back into his bed with a damp folded face cloth across his forehead. It is the start of the back to school cold. I guess that Henry and I can look forward to this cold shortly.

George didn't go to school today and stayed at home, wrapped up in his duvet. When I phoned him at lunchtime he said he was fine but felt a bit shivery. That was my cue to turn the car around and make my way back down towards the house. Things were slow up in Ayrshire anyway. All the clinics were shut for Glasgow September Weekend (the reason the ferries were so busy on Friday).

When I got home, George asked if we could make doughnuts. How did he know that I've been having serious doughnut cravings? This child and I are connected in ways that I cannot fathom.

As it is his birthday tomorrow (the 25th) and he will in all probability be home with this rotten cold, I couldn't deny him. We set about making some doughnuts.
(some of the following photographs were taken by George)
Kneeding the dough.This is the dough before it starts to rise. You have to let it sit for at least an hour. A game of Mario Kart helps speed the time along.The risen dough!The dough is then cut into shapes and left to rise for another thirty minutes.Its frying time again.It took a while to fry up all those doughnuts.Some were glazed and some were rolled in sugar (George's idea to roll some in sugar).The proof of the pudding is in the eating. We sure have a lot of doughnuts in the house. I sampled a few of the doughnut holes, but I'm looking forward to tomorrow and having one with a cup of freshly brewed coffee.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Another Trip to Arran

Friday was again, another day out to the Island of Arran, one of my favourite days on my territory.
I was due to catch the 09:00 crossing from Ardrossan to Brodick so I left the house at 05:30. That gave me three hours to get up to the ferry port plus extra time for traffic or roadworks. I got to Ardrossan just before 8. I went into the ferry offices and got the tickets I had reserved then made my way over to the new supermarket that has popped up since my last visit.Photo of early morning rainy car park (parking lot).
I didn't see anything that I wanted in the supermarket, so I just listened to the radio until it was time to get in the queue for the ferry.
This wasn't a normal trip to Arran, I had more than Polly for company. A new medical sales representative, Barry was coming along with me. I am in the role of mentor to this bright young man.
Barry has grown up in Scotland's central belt and has never been out to Arran before, so he was very excited. His excitement was probably the reason that he had forgotten his wallet and had to turn back when he was already halfway from Ardrossan from Paisley. He made it back to the ferry JUST in time. He was the last foot passenger to hop onto the boat. It was good that we had time to sit down and have a cup of tea for a bit. It gives the nerves a chance to calm down before we get on dry land again.
It was a gray and wet morning as the ferry chugged across to the island. The ferry we took was a lot smaller than the ferries I've taken in the past. The reason I was given for the small ferry was that this was an extra boat that has been added into the ordinary schedule to help with the additional traffic that a long weekend in Glasgow was going to create.
You can certainly feel the sea a lot more in a smaller vessel. I was worried that seasickness that I can be prone to, was going to show up. As the crossing was so short, seasickness wasn't a problem.

Here is one of the other passengers on our trip out to the island with her wee dog, Donnie.These are the wind turbines on the hill above Ardrossan as viewed from the ferry.The other ferry coming past us - the one I normally take.

Before and after our appointments on the island, I showed Barry around some of my favourite bits on the island. We went to the brewery where we both bought Arran blonde beer (one of the favourites of The Man of the Place). Then on to Arran Aromatics , then the cheese company. They had a vast display of samples of all the different flavours they've added to the exquisite cheddar. We could watch through the big glass window into the factory as the little rounds of cheddar were dipped in wax. I bought a few rounds; cheddar with chives, cheddar with Arran mustard, oak smoked cheddar and cheddar with herbs. Next time I think I'll try the cheddar with claret, with whiskey and with garlic! I should be admired for my restraint at only buying four flavours.We also hit the chocolate shop. Sorry there are no photos available of the chocolates I bought. I ate them in the car. (note: I only bought four little pieces - MORE restraint)

Me and Polly with the larger ferry in the background.

As the day progressed, it got prettier, brighter and drier. It was gorgeous when we got onto the 15:45 ferry.

I get PAID to go there!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Doughnut Mirage

Yesterday before a lunch meeting as I was walking to the doctor's surgery (clinic) I could smell doughnuts and I thought I saw the corner of a Dunkin' Donuts sign. Sadly I was mistaken. No doughnuts.
For those of you who can casually walk into a Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme any day of the week, I hope you appreciate the glory of an American doughnut place. If I was able to, I'd get a glazed raised doughnut and a cup of filtered coffee with milk and one sugar. Classic.
I am uber-busy with work lately. Things just aren't going to let up until I finish late on Friday. By the way, Friday is another day out on Arran!
I have booked a lot of time off in December. Roll on Christmas!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Temporary Repair

The road repair dudes have just left, leaving behind the new road repair.

I knew they were going to be fixing things today as they showed up just as I was pulling out of the drive. As I left I said that they were welcome to use the drive if they needed to and were more than welcome to use our area just off the road.

When I got home today, they were waiting for more asphalt to be delivered as they had used up all the stuff they had brought with them. (I guess it was a bigger job than they had anticipated.)

They had to move a huge digger out of our drive so that I could pull in. Julio was out on the road, inspecting the new asphalt. One of the workmen scooped him up and placed him on the stone wall next to the drive, stroking his fur as he did so. I wish that I had the camera for that lovely scene. Apparently Julio found his way into the workmen's truck. I bet he smelled tuna.
I came out, camera in hand to document the new tarmac. One of the guys was clowning for the camera. He did a little dance with his rake.
Because Julio couldn't really help with the pot hole repair, he has decided to be blog quality control. Frankly, he doesn't look impressed with my efforts so far. BeforeAfter.
The digger as seen from our back drive. Remember the tree that had the bees?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rough Road Ahead

Our house is on a small country road. When we moved here the road was really only used by us and the people who actually lived here, with the exception of cattle movements and deliveries. Grass grew in the few cracks and when you looked up and down the road, it seemed as though Mother Nature was trying to claim it back. Recently however, it has been very busy. So busy in fact that it is not safe for me to walk the dog along our road. There are too many large lorries (trucks) rumbling along.

About two and half miles north of us is a gravel quarry. When we first moved to Whitelees Cottage, the gravel quarry was inactive. Then the owner of the quarry retired and passed it along to one of his sons. The son, full of the enthusiasm of youth, got the required permission and re-opened the quarry. For us this meant that hulking great gravel lorries up and down our quiet little lane. It wasn't as bad as it sounds though. There were just a few lorries a day and they were extremely respectful of the road. They slowed down near houses and waited in passing places for us to go by with our cars so that the soft mud verges of the roads wouldn't be ripped up with their big wheels and tons of weight.

Then a couple of things happened. First, there was a landslip near a bridge on the back road between us, the gravel quarry and Lockerbie. This required the lorries to do all their trips back and forth on our road.

Secondly the work began to install some new wind turbines on a hill near here. All the heavy equipment, gravel, and concrete is going right in front of our house along this narrow country road.

The other non-local drivers are not nearly as courteous as the gravel quarry drivers. They barrel along our road at top speeds. The sides of the roads are a mess and they start SO early! Sometimes they can be heard rumbling by as early as 05:30! They're using the area in front of our house as a passing place, right in front of George's bedroom. It's just not on.

You can see the red lorry from the local gravel quarry coming down the road. It was a driver named Kenny who always smiles and waves to us.

Also noticeable is the fact that every time they do a patch job on the potholes, the road seems to get just a little bit wider and closer to the house.

We've put up some painted concrete blocks along the verge here to prevent our grass from being reduced to a unusable muddy mess and now we've put a plastic barrier to prevent them from using the front of our house as a passing place. I know it seems mean spirited, but that's where our son sleeps.

The other day, just as I was pulling out of our drive, I spied a Roads Department guy walking around looking at the damage on the road.

"Is this Whitelees Cottage?"

"Yes it is. Can I help you?"

"We've had a report of big pot holes here and I've come to have a look at them."

After a discussion about why the roads are so ripped up, the Roads Department Guy has said that by next week, the bridge will be back in use and at the end of October, the wind turbines will have been installed and no further heavy equipment will need to come in front of our house for that.

The Roads Department are then going to be repairing our road properly and restoring the road to its proper width as well. Lets hope that is an end to it.

George learned to ride a bike on this road. His older brothers used to play football and Frisbee on the road as it was so quiet. We could hear cars coming from a long way off and the cars would be driving at a normal rate of speed. It would be wonderful if things could get back to that.