Category Archives: Gardening

Tatties Galore 2017 – a Poem

I first dabbled with poetry for a pleasant distraction from working twelve hour shifts as a plant fitter in the dangerous hard rock tunnels being cut out of the hillside for the North Bank Power Station at the Kariba Dam on the Zambezi River from 1969-72. As if the fissured rock we were tunnelling through leading to deaths of colleagues wasn’t tough enough – the fact that the dam itself stretching 173 miles along the border between the warring nations of North and South Rhodesia brought extra friction to life including an unwanted introduction to landmines.

Current day life on the Isle of Luing is peaceful in comparison – most of the time – but the physical effort required to prepare the neglected garden at Bardrishaig for cultivation was going to be a real test for the old body.

Tatties Galore 2017 – a Poem.

Spring is viewed with trepidation – choose enough seed to feed a nation

Weeds in abundance get there first – thistles – docks – briars are the worst

Garden fork – spade – a mattock too – times when nettle stings turn air blue

Blackbirds – chaffinch – robins arrive – birdsong brings the garden alive

Weeds all gone – I’ve flattened the lumps – leave slate blackened soil without any humps

Cakebreads calling – seed potatoes stocked – fertiliser scattered – growing season unlocked

King Edwards – Kerr’s Pinks – Home Guards – names to thrill –

Marris Bards – Marris Peers – Golden Wonders fill each drill

In two weeks or three – green shoots appear – bring joy to a gardener full of good cheer

Earlies – Seconds – Main Crops all show – cover them up – bring out the hoe

Spend many a day the straight drills admiring – leafy shaws blot them out – flowers arriving

King Edwards crop first to the gardener’s surprise – Marris Bard by the bagfull are next to arrive

Knobbly Pinks – Marris Peers – Golden Wonders spill to borders

Dig tatties – fill baskets – bring chaos to order.


Don πŸ™‚

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Posted by on October 31, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, out and about


Bardrishaig in Bloom

Well bits of Bardrishaig are in bloom – it has been a tough task – what with the persistent roe deer on their nocturnal visits – the gales blowing from the Sound and the vagaries of the slate soil here on the Isle ofLuing but Helen and I have persisted and we have a few blooms to show for our efforts —

The blue anemonie is one of several bulbs I planted which in the main came to nought – if I knew what I did different with that particular flower I could have a garden full of them next year.

The dahlia was also a success and a surprise having forced it’s way upwards to shine above the invasive dockins.

The pink rose survived the greedy roe deer and does well in the shelter of an aster and a fuschia.

The border plant above will remain nameless but it is just one of a variety of ground cover plants Helen and I have planted in an effort to subdue the prolific weeds.

I’m particularly proud of this agapanthus having grown him from a single bloom – a gift from a friend who had connections with the artist Hornal’s famous garden in Kirkcudbright where I spent some time as a guide to visitors. It has surpassed all our expectations – having been transplanted from my previous cosy garden and survived the salt laden gales up here at Bardrishaig to produce a myriad of beautiful blooms in a fairly exposed position at it’s new home.

Yet another flowering perenial which should spread through the border by the kitchen door from it’s sheltered position by the pale pink but vigorous fuschia.

The geranium in a pot by the kitchen door is another healthy specimen with it’s lilac shade of pink flowers.

My first attempt to form a border under the downstairs bathroom window with a double row of pretty stones from the beach with lilies was a sad failure but we are hoping for better luck this time now that Helen has refreshed it with the central herbaceous primula – a creeping thyme which should form a red carpet and a ‘Red Dwarf’ dianthus to give a bit of competition.

And – when all else fails there are always the potatoes which have been a resounding success with six varieties – Marris Bard – Marris Peer – King Edwards – Home Guard – Kerr’s Pink and my favourite – the dry and crumbly Golden Wonder all doing well.

Not bad really for our first year in Bardrishaig – the state of the garden area when we arrived twelve months ago was not for the faint-hearted but Helen & I have persevered and hopefully next year will be easier – especially if we can bring our six new fruit trees through the winter safe from the maruading roe deer. We had a single puny Braeburn apple to show for this year’s efforts but at least the two gooseberry bushes that came with us from my old garden down south produced an abundance of fruit.

Who knows what the future might bring – perhaps it will be a postcard from Australia to say ‘Thank You’ to Helen for the rhubarb she planted by the kitchen wall. There is no sign of it above ground and I can only imagine it’s heading south instead of north πŸ™‚

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Posted by on August 29, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing


Weekend Wandering

With all that’s been going on since the wedding – flitting – trying to fit furniture from two houses into one and various bits n pieces – it hasn’t all been about counting spuds from the garden at Bardrishaig – or watering the sweet red pepper plants that appear to be flourishing on an upstairs – south facing windowsill —

Helen and I have spent a few hours out and about this weekend —

From a weather point of view Saturday was the best day and a couple of shots from Helen across Oban Bay set the tone —

On Sunday it was back to rain and reduced visibility – nevertheless we were on the road again – this time to the picturesque Glen Orchy which I have promised to show H for some time.—

Still very beautiful but I did struggle to remember it from my many previous visits by car and motorcycle over thirty years ago —

Probably down to the tree growth – as I seem to remember the river as being more accessible back then —

No worries – I did get a chance to wave to the camera —

Here I am – over here – the ijit in the green jaikit πŸ™‚


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Posted by on July 9, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, out and about


Prolific Potatoes – 36-1

I’m like a kid in a sweetie shop when I go down the garden with my fork to dig up another shaw of my Bardrishaig Bard potatoes.

The tubers are filling out daily and the count this morning was 36-1. Yup – thirty six spuds from one seed potato.Perhaps that’s normal nowadays but I can’t remember getting anything like that when I was a schoolboy picking his ‘stint’ in the field while on his annual two week October Tattie Holidays.

Yields were undoubtedly lower back then but there was still enough to give me many a sore back from being bent over while trailing a heavy – sodden – mud covered wicker or wire mesh basket between my legs as I gathered the tatties that had been uncovered and scattered by the spinning wheel on the tractor-drawn tattie digger before it came round on it’s next circuit.

The quicker you could pick your stint – one of twenty or thirty marked out by the frightening foreman with pieces of broken branches across the drills depending on how many pickers there were – the sooner you could stretch your aching back.

It was all worth it when payday came at the end of the two weeks. That new pair of rugby boots might be achievable now or some other item of school clothing – anything to get away from the continual wearing of worn-out ‘hand-me-downs’ that came from being number three of four brothers in the family.


Ah – 1948 – the year after the ‘big sna’. I started school at Blair Athol that year and made the front page of the Scottish farmer while my dad was competing in a ploughing match with his two Clydesdale horses up by Blair Atholl Castle.

But it didn’t lead to a career in modelling unfortunately πŸ™‚



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Posted by on June 29, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing


Tatties Galore at Bardrishaig

I expected the roe deer to be a nuisance in the garden in wintertime when food was short in the wild but our local population appear to have become domesticated and are regular visitors to our garden even now in mid-summer. They have trimmed our young Braeburn apple and Damson trees already and appear to be working towards our new – Pear – Plum – Cherry and Β Bramley’s.

Now with the wet season here any thoughts that our redundant snake-like water hose lurking in the shrubbery would give them food for thought has joined the pile of wishful thinking.

I should have left the orange glow Daleks around them – they may have been unsightly but they worked a treat while they were there.

The Tenderstem Broccoli patch barely slowed the roe deer down – it was gone in a night – decimated.

They have yet to show a taste for gooseberries but I have it on good authority that the birds are watching these fellas and unless I net them they will be nabbed by our feathered friends as soon as they ripen —

They may be sweet and tastybut these few brave berries won’t go far – so it’s just as well we planted some spuds.

They are growing great guns with the Marris Bard in the forefront —

The King Edwards aren’t far behind and we still have drills of Kerr’s Pinks plus another three potato varieties showing good growth —

The deer will need to be hungry before they make a dent in these fellas and unless someone introduces wild boar to the island —

we should be eating tatties from our own garden till Christmas at least πŸ™‚

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Posted by on June 27, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, Wildlife


Honda CRF250 Rally Owner’s Club

I got tired of looking out the window for passing ships —

and sitting under a tree at the bottom of the garden reading a magazine —

So – when the opportunity arose to get my hands on the new CRF250 Rally I was right there —

She is a little beauty – especially now that I have her singing her throaty song on the Isle of Luing —

With lots of nice touches – she is much better than I expected —

Suspension feels plush —

Her six speed box has a gear for every occasion both off and on road where 6000 rpm in 6th gear equates to 60 mph and without a motorway within 100 miles we should get along just fine —


Possibly first on the road in the country as the Rally has yet to be officially released for sale in the UK – she won’t have anything like the poke of the Dakar racing 400cc version she is cloned from – but she’s sweet and should suit my old bones just fine —

thank you Mr Honda πŸ™‚


A Host of Golden Daffodils

Not quite up to Wordsworth standards but Luing isn’t the Lake District and considering how few daffodils there are on this island then I reckon we have more than our fair share of these early flowers around our home at Bardrishaig —

We had myriad snowdrops in February but they didn’t last particularly long —

The daffodils are later and appear to be sticking around longer —

I’m no expert but there appear to be different types of blooms —

Someone has obviously taken time to plant a few bulbs around the house over the years —

The fruit trees currently masquerading as Daleks to protect them from marauding deer have wintered well. Fresh shoots are showing and I reckon I have picked up enough seed potatoes to fill the bottom third of the vegetable patch —

The lower reaches will be the best place for spuds as they will have to suck up a lot of water if they are to provide a respectable crop and the light slate soil higher up the slope will be prone to drying out quick – particularly later in the summer and I do have six varieties of seed potatoes which should give 1st early – 2nd early and maincrop —

My oldfashioned ways come to the fore where tatties are concerned and I couldn’t resist these names when I came across them at Cakebread’s Garden Centre in Oban. There are Marris Bard – Marris Peer – King Edward – Duke of York – Kerr’s Pink and my favourite – Golden Wonder. Not all are the heaviest of croppers compared with some nowadays but I do remember the names from helping my father in the garden as a boy —

At the moment they are chitting away (growing shoots) out in the shed but providing we get some decent weather I would hope to have them all planted out by the end of March. My birthday falls on the Solstice (21st) and the ground should start to warm up after that – it’s too cold and wet to plant anything at the moment and there’s always the chance of a late frost well into April. Maybe I should invest in a polytunnel πŸ™‚


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Posted by on March 15, 2017 in Gardening, Isle of Luing, out and about