Accidental Artichokes For Tea

We ate this years crop of Artichokes last night and mighty delicious they were too.

Dad had not intended to plant any of our own, put he threw the few remaining pots from the selling beds into the ground and ignored them from then on. The heads were large, the meat melting, the lemon and garlic butter a perfect accompaniment, I have urged him to plant a whole bed of them next year and perhaps with a little more love we may get an even larger, even more delicious crop.

However, Mum declared that she was not that impressed and that it seemed to her the perfect food if you were on a diet as it took, "so long to eat the darned thing"

The Polytunnel Saga

At around 11.30 on New Year's Eve over ten years ago, while I rugging up in preparation for going out first footing on the Abriachan hill, Dad was in the bottom polytunnel tucking in some of the more delicate plants with fleece.
There was a hell of a gale blowing and the wind was roaring down the Loch and through the trees, whipping up the snow and slamming into the house. We have several huge fir trees that grow tight together in the wee Kilianan graveyard that nestles at the bottom of our garden, and they were being whipped back and forth by huge gusts of chilling wind until one huge breath caught one of the firs of guard and snapped the huge trunk sending the whole top half of over 30ft crashing down right on top of the tunnel where Dad stood.
He avoided being squashed like a pancake by only a few feet, the branches tore through the plastic of the tunnel and crushed the metal struts all around him, leaving him unharmed but a little surprised in the remains.
Years on, and the tunnel had been well patched up and repaired, though it was never quite the same again. This year, the hard wearing plastic was once more full of holes, though this time from age and weather more than sudden storm damage. So instead of replacing the plastic once again, Dad has decided to relocate the tunnel up the hill to a fresh sunny spot where he will be able to fill it with plants that require a little more light and warmth.
The trees in the graveyard now have a gaping hole where the tree fell, though as you can see in the lovely photograph above, it still looks rather grand.
So, for the last week, my fabulous Australian boyfriend and Dad have been flattening out a fresh spot, digging the required trenches and then rejigging the whole shebang to fit into the new spot.

Taking it Sloe

Every year we try to find the time, we try to rustle up some sloe gin, and it is unbelievably delicious. It is wonderful how such a sour berry with little initial promise can flavour gin so perfectly, taking away the harsh alcoholic edge and making the most mellow fruity scrumptious warming winter drink I have ever come across.
This year the crop is outstanding, I have never seen such an enormous amount of sloe berries on the trees and it makes for relatively easy picking. The long spines that normally slow the whole process down are less of an issue when you can grab a whole handful of berries in one go and substantially decreases the picking to swearing ratio. One of our oldest birches was brought down by Hamish and his chainsaw this week, it had sadly given up the ghost in the summer and we thought it wise to bring her down before the winter winds did it for us and perhaps damaged the shed and anyone standing close by in the process. So now we have a gap in the garden and a big pile of birch wood for burning.
Whenever something dies in the garden it is a great opportunity to look at the space that it creates and think about new ideas, and maybe a makeover for the area around it.

Autumn arrives at Loch Ness

Standing at the entrance to the garden and looking up into the lush foliage and native woodland, the changing colours of autumn simply make you smile.
There is the the Barbie pink of the Nerine set off by a backdrop of smoldering orange Acer leaves.
The Tulip Tree (Liriodendron) shows off its lemon yellow leaves, contrasting beautifully with the brilliant red berries of the rowan. And above the flashes of harvest yellow Rudbeckia, the shimmering mountain of white Eucryphia covered in dancing Red Admiral butterflies. It is just lovely.
We have had a run of mild sunny days, but with November starting to peek over the horizon it will not be long before the first frosts creep in.

At this time of the year Dad (better known as Don) has been propagating perennials, placing the most tender into the polytunnels for a little added protection.

With the help of our fabulous staff Jo, Shelia and Rebecca, He has also been doing the long and rather tedious annual stocktake, cleaning out some of the summer borders and doing what he calls 'General maintance and reflection'.
It seems to be a wonderfully abundant Autumn, the trees are all hanging heavy with berries, Rowan, Crabapple, the Cotoneaster, Pyrocantha, Hawthorn, Rosehips, Holly, Sloes and Elder have all got great clusters of fruit, still on the bough due to the late arrival of all the migratory birds who have normally stripped the trees bare by this time of the year. Although Daddy said he saw the blackbirds feasting today, so maybe by the end of the week there will be lots of fat birds and light branches.
Hamish has been attending farmers markets all year from Dingwall to Dundee. Next Saturday (the 24th Oct) we will be at a Highland Produce Market in Inverness Falcon Square as part of the Homecoming Scotland celebrations. We will be selling herbs to tie in with the theme of food and drink, and I have been painting terracotta pots with wee herb pictures that I will sell for people to plant their herbs in and keep them in the kitchens.

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