M74 Bike Ride

Today we joined the M74 Bike n hike ride along the new link road joining the M74 to the south side of the Kingston Bridge section of the M8. The contractors opened up a stretch of the new road to cyclists, runners, wheelchair users and families with kids on scooters, in buggies and in trailers to raise funds for a combination of 8 charities. Good PR on their part, nice bit of fundraising and good fun for us.

West Highland Way Day 2 - Drymen to Rowardennan

Day 2 (yesterday, Sunday) - an earlyish start of 8am for us, not because we're awfully diligent but Kath's husband's offer of a lift to where we ended day1 fitted with tee-off time at Strathendrick golf course. The forecast for the afternoon was heavy rain so it seemed like an ideal chance to get a few miles under our belts before the rain set in. Weak sunshine and very light showers barely penetrated the Garabhan Forest, the first section of today's walk, but it was lovely to be amongst the silence and calm of the trees and clearly hear bird song as we warmed up the muscles for the 15 mile section to Rowardennan.

West Highland Way - Day 1 Milngavie to Drymen

One winter's eve, in front of the stove, with a glass of wine to hand my friend Kath and I decided that 2011 would be the year for us to tackle a long distance footpath. Not just any route but our local West Highland Way, a 97mile wander from the outer 'burbs of Glasgow through lowland valley to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond and then north through the beauty of Highland Scotland, across the wilds of Rannoch Moor to the edge of Glencoe and then finally via the Devils Staircase and on to Fort William and the bottom of Ben Nevis, our highest mountain. Today we took the step from fireside ramblings to real ones.


New Beginnings

What do you mean that doesn't look like the sort of holiday place you're thinking of for a dream vacation in Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park? The patio areas certainly need a good sweep and, if there were any windows, they would need a good clean so that you could see the splendid views.
The sun is shining and we are very excited at the prospect of renovating these lovely but very very tired buildings and creating two tip top holiday cottages for visitors.
The plan is to create this. As you can see by the date of the archive entry this has been 'work in progress' for a long time. Lots of unremarkable reasons for that - life work family balance - but we are really keen to see these buildings brought into vibrant and viable use and to share this lovely part of the world with a few people. We'll post more detail on the design and construction approach in due course but, yes, they will have the same high standards as the house we built 3 years ago (can't believe its been that long!). We'll be adopting the AECB silver standard as a target for high levels of thermal efficiency and air tightness to ensure excellent comfort levels for our guests and to promote a more environmentally conscious approach to renovation and building.

Not so much a blog as a weather report! Lots of fog, freezing the air and the ground, weakening the already weak sunshine. Creating a big fat inversion layer above Loch Lomond but allowing the grandeur of the mountains to rise above.

Frost and Fog on Snow and Ice

Morning sunrise, deep frost, nippy on the skin, beautiful to view. Then engulfed with fog which has ebbed and flowed across the landscape. As the blackbirds retrieve haw berries from the tree and the ground I wonder if its liking eating frozen peas, do they chew them somehow to extract the goodness? Wondering how that works. I've put more seed out for them. There's a weak sun trying to break through to warm a few parts of the ground but there are some areas which never catch the light at this time of year.

To the south and east we have blue sky, to the north and west there is deep fog, wonder which will win out today? Loch Lomond is immediately north of us and the moist air above the loch often creates a dense inversion layer, very pretty to view from the Dumpling (hill pictured below) when you see the hills in full sun rising out from the dense white/grey fog.

Yet more snow....

At 6.30am I woke to the sound of heavy rain on the window, and smiled at the thought of the slight warming outside which must have lead to this phenomenon. It didn't last long as next time we looked out of the window there were huge, fat snowflakes falling in swathes. Within a couple of hours we had fairly deep fresh snow, school was closed as none of the staff could get there and the roads were impassable for a period as the snow had fallen on top of ice which made the inclines too tricky. Another day at home - nice in so many ways but becoming a real problem for workers. The football goal with the extra bit of snow clinging to the net.

We topped up the bird feeders and sprinkled some seed on the top of the snow. The blackbirds were budging each other out of the way to get to the seed and we also had plenty of starlings, blue tits, robins and chaffinches.


Last Saturday night the first, and unusually early, snow arrived. Its truly beautiful and very very deep. As its immensely cold theres not much likelihood of the snow disappearing very soon. Bit tricky to get out and about.
Snow clinging to the branches of a corkscrew hazel, quite earie and its quite amazing that such a depth of snow can cling to skinny twigs.

Autumn sunshine and a wonderful fine weekend at home. On Saturday morning when the clouds cleared from the sky there was a light covering of snow on the hills, a visible change in the season. The snow soon disappeared as the sun warmed the ground. A perfect couple of days for gardening, cutting the final sweet peas, picking the pumpkin from its exhausted plant, feeding the last caterpillar ravaged broccolli to the chooks. We also had an abundance of outdoor time and restorative fresh air and sunshine. Fabulous.The colours of the leaves have such immense variety, the changing light throughout the day always emphasises this wonder of nature. We made time to play.


We found these wee fellows in some loose straw by the edge of a stack of bales this afternoon. There were two adults around as well so we are sincerely hoping we haven't overly disturbed them. The hay has been in the same place for quite a few weeks and is protected from the wet Autumn weather we've had this week. Although it seems a bit late for breeding apparently females can have two litters a year and these would be September babies. They must be over 2 weeks old as their eyes are open and their spines fully out (they are born with the spines under the skin to save the mother some pain!). Hedgehogs tend to go their own way at 4-5 weeks of age. There are loads of worms and insects around so we hope they and their parents are getting plenty of food. Hedgehogs go into hibernation when the temperature is cool enough rather than a specific time of year so all being well they've got plenty of time to grow and lay down fat stores before the weather turns chilly.

The Village Flower Show

Friday evening and Saturday morning were a flurry of village show preparation activity. We're pretty last minute and certainly in the rush I suspected that I'd forgotton to put baking powder into the banana loaf , sure enough when the judges sliced the loaf in half it was obviously veeerrryyy dense. So no prizes there then! Although it has all been eaten, tasted great and was very popular at home. Thanks KC for your comment on the last post. I happily managed to get a third prize for the Victoria Sponge. Most of all I was excited to get the first prize for my 'basket of plenty' as shown above. 18 months ago we didn't even have anywhere to grow veg and, currently, we're close to self-sufficient in veggies.

Welcome Back

I made you a cake in honour of the East Cambusmoon return to blogworld. Partly inspired by the new BBC2 series The Great British Bake-Off, which was easy watching TV last evening, and partly by some thoughts of entering the Gartocharn Flower Show this weekend, I used Mary Berry's Victoria Sponge recipe from the TV programme and it turned out a treat. Now if I get my act together and make another one for the show I realise that putting cream into the middle is not going to cut it with the judges on Saturday, apparently thats a big no-no, but today is the last day of our school holidays, we've had a bundle of people around and this sumptuous wonder is just about gone. The man of the house suggested more jam would be appropriate....but he caveated his comments in advance with plenty of praise. Hereabouts its traditional to use raspberry jam - is that the same everywhere? Here is another new project for us - 9 chicks, this photo was taken when they were about 3 weeks old. More of them another time.
Thanks for those of you who keep checking back in with this blog. Your patience has been appreciated.

First Day of Winter

The first proper chill of the season, -5 last night after a glorious sunny day. Its a great start to December. The frost provided a great view as the vivid pink sunrise spread across the sky. The brussel sprouts apparently become sweeter with the cold. I used to hate this veg but recently we've been stirfrying them with chilli and ginger or alternatively sesame oil, almonds and onions - gorgeous. We're planning to have some left for Christmas. Last weekend we finally saw the departure of our 'number two' caravan - aka our guest van, Tommy Boy's caravan, also the laundry and overflow storage. Its taken us ages to give this van away but at long last the space has been cleared. We've still got the caravan we lived in during the house build but hopefully that one will move in the Spring.

Walking by the Bonnie Banks

In the later part of Sunday afternoon we had a very refreshing and lovely walk down by the loch with our friends. Plenty of leaves to kick along the path and lots of great views of Loch Lomond and the hills through the bare trees. The water levels are quite high but in the stillness of a windless day the clarity of the water was very good.
and yes they did all get very wet feet with water flowing over the top of their boots, before we continued with the walk through the nature reserve. It may be November but a short sleeved T shirt seemed to suffice for one young man.We spotted an owl and a deer while we were walking back.

Glencoe revisited

We're on school holidays here so spent 3 days in and around Glencoe and had a thoroughly marvellous time.

Storms, the garden, the heat pump - bit of a catch up

Sunday morning was gloriously sunny so a couple of hours in the garden was fun. With work during the week and a wet n windy day on Saturday I've barely looked at the garden.
Behold - the ravaged spring greens aka caterpillar central. I've tried picking off the caterpillars and feeding them to the hens but in all honesty I don't think the hens like them; the hens easily demolish slugs and worms but perhaps these hairy black and yellow (cabbage whites) caterpillars aren't awfully tasty.

Ex Battery Hen - 7 weeks on

Apologies for posting this photo again of 'scabby hen' as she's known by the children. When we first got hens we sweetly named them individually but after a fairly short while to be quite honest it was difficult to distinguish one from the other so the practice was soon dropped. Anyway here is scabby hen 7 weeks ago, very pale, fairly bald and with a very red sore chest and undercarriage. ...and here she is now....with lots of new feathers and a good appetite for the worms, grubs and greenery in the recently cleared potato bed. Nice happy hen story but its still sad to think that 85% of all eggs used in cafes, restaurants and pubs etc still come from battery hens.
Glad they and we are enjoying some sunshine for a few days. We got 8 eggs today, hurray!

Apple Juice Pressing

Sunshine abounds, such a nice day for a change. Lots of solar warmth in the house too. So after work had ended for the day we spent time outside. Then we roughly hosed off a load of apples we'd picked at a friend's house last weekend and crushed and pressed them for apple juice. We used lots of cookers so the result is a rather tart sharp juice in flavour; we've frozen half unsweetened and added a bit of sugar to the other half - I think the lack of sweetness indicates the lack of sunshine here recently. The crushing is done in a big bucket with a drill bit which is like a paddle mashing the apples to bits and then the pressing takes place with the lovely Vigo press we've had for a few years now. The resulting apple juice has that cloudy homemadeness about it - doesn't look that appetising really! Tastes good though..and its an exclusive limited edition 'single estate' cold pressing.....

Check Availability