We've suspected that a pine marten had moved into the area, in fact we thought that maybe be hole that had been made in our compost heap was his.
This morning our suspicions where confirmed, when this fellow was seen coming out of the heap and foraging around the garden. We'd left some scraps out for him and one by one he took them and carried them away into the undergrowth.
Strange thing was he was here in the morning, about 9.00. Thought they where mostly nocturnal.
This photo's not very good, will keep a look out for him over the next few days and see if we can get some better pictures.
We saw the first Pine Marten ever at Pottery House this evening. We were watching TV when we saw a shadow run past the patio doors. When we looked out the front we saw him rooting through our plant pots.
Didn't get a photo, will try next time as we've put out a peanut butter sandwich for him ( a Pine Marten favourite, so we've been told).
Our breakfast eggs are supplied by our chickens, out in the garden. However our last group of 7 hens where getting on a bit and had stopped laying. It was time to pension them off, so they were given to a lady in a near by village who has lots of space and hens of her own.
So we now have a new flock, of 10 hens this time. They are about a year old and came from a nearby farm shop who had bought hens to sell free range eggs, but had bought too many.
They're settled in now and are laying about 6-8 eggs a day between them.
They've not quite established their "pecking" order and there is a bit on in-fighting amongst them, but they will soon settle down.
Over the last couple of years we've started to develop of fruit corner of the garden. And today we've started to see the fruits of this labour. We've picked our first sizable crop of plums.
In addition to the plums tree we have two apple trees, a blueberry bush, a fig tree and a damson tree. Over this winter it is our intention to extend this area, we're going to dig out a large area, put plenty of manure in it and plant gooseberries, raspberries and blackcurrants.
We had an incredible rain storm this afternoon, it rained so heavily for a while that the guttering couldn't cope and was gushing over.
After the rain stopped we went out into the garden to discover that the lawn had started to bubble up in huge mounds with water trapped undernear. The water was then forcing it's way up through the paving slabs of our path, gushing into the pond, overflowing across the path the other side, running across our vegitable patch and then flooding the chicken run.
We've never seen this before at Pottery House even during the wettest times in the winter.
Luckily the worst damage it has caused is to wash away a few plants and remove a lot of top soil.
Water coming up through the path and running into the pond.
Water then overflows out of the pond, across the path and across the vegitable garden.
We've had two fledgling blue tits in the garden all day with their parents. They seems completely oblivious to us out there doing the gardening, the babies being more interested in the parents flying back and forth feeding them.
The garden seems to be teeming with birds at the moment: blue tits, great tits, siskins, woodpeckers, pheasants, chaffinches, cole tits and green finches. Don't remember there ever being so many about in the 3 years we've lived at Pottery House.
The siskins have made a welcome return to the garden at Pottery House, in the last few days. We've only seen a couple so far, there where many last year. Perhaps the others are still on their travels back from Africa.
When we moved to Pottery House in 2004 the pond was a bit of a muddy hole in the ground, devoid of life.
So we planted loads of oxygenating plants, introduced a few gold fish and started planting the edges.
Now the pond is teeming with life. There has been a big, writhing mass of tadpoles for the past few days on the edge of the pond and this morning we spotted 5 newts. There are also a few baby fish around.
The oxygenating plants are taking over and need clearing out, other pond plants such as mint are spreading healthily and the marsh marigolds have taken hold and are now in flower.
Much more planting to do round the edges but we're pleased with the results so far.
These things are never easy, there is always some complication not matter what DIY task you attempt (or is it just me?).
Today I finished all the outlet connections, these means that the water tanks are now connected to the shower pump and on to the tap on the outside wall. Hurrah.
Now to connect the tanks to the outlet pipe from the washing machines. First I ran one of the machines, went under the house and held onto the pipe to make sure I'm working on the correct pipe. The thought did occur to me that it's a little late in the project to be doing this, but as I'm getting to the point where I cut into the house plumbing and if it goes wrong we can't use the washing machines (which is a B&B may be a little of a problem), I thought I'd better check non the less. It was the correct pipe, phew!
Now it has occurred to me that if I don't put a U bend in the pipe between the tanks and the drains all the noxious gases will escape. It was then that I realised that the U bend pipe I had bought has a screw fitting on one end intended for connecting to the underside of a sink. Oh, no good for my tanks at all. So it's off to the DIY store.
It appears that all the U bends have the same fitting so the solution is to buy 4 x 90deg connectors and build my own U bend.
Back home, under the house I start to build my U bend and tank connections........OH! The length of pipe I have and the 90 deg connectors I've just bought are different sizes, only by a few mm but enough to stop a watertight connection. This is why I hate these sorts of project, there's always something that doesn't fit, or a bolt that breaks when you're trying to undo it, or a screw head that shreds, or a tiny part of something that breaks and makes the whole item it used to be attached to useless.
We have a problem with the soil at Pottery House, in that it's not very good. So we had a delivery of manure today which we can feed all the flower and vegitable beds. However when it arrived (compliments of a local farmer) it's a much bigger pile than we expected.
It's a great deal of work to spread it around where it's needed.
It's been a while since I've had time to progress this project, but today I resumed work.
I've been trying to fit the outside tap on the wall and run the pipe through to underneath the house. First of all I found that the hole I had drilled was too small for a 15mm copper pipe, so I had to drill some more, through breeze-block, which is tough.
At this point I discovered that I couldn't find my pipe cutter, so this was my first trip to the hardware-store.
Once I had the pipe through I tried bending the pipe (using a spring) but the pipe buckled and I had to rip the whole thing out and start again. This time I left 18" of pipe protruding and bent it on my knee (again with a spring) and this time it bent correctly. But then I found that the bend was too shallow so I couldn't run the pipe down the wall to my tap. So that bend had to be cut off and I made another trip to the hardware store to buy pre-soldered elbows.
This time I soldered on the elbow and finally managed to get the tap fixed to the wall with pipe attached through to where the pump is.
Then back under the house, I discovered that the connector I have to connect 22mm pipe to 15mm pipe wont actually fit over the 22mm pipe. Don't see the point of that, maybe I bought the wrong thing. Another trip............NO!
At this point I'd had enough for the day as I'd been at it for 6 hours.
But I really do have to get this project finished in the next couple of weeks because the garden is starting to need water, plus my hanging baskets will be going up in the next few weeks and I'd really like to get an automated watering system connected to all them.
Spring has finally arrived in the Highlands, the sky has been clear, with warm sunshine for the past 5 days. A chance to get out in the garden and do some work and also time to get all that fuschias and geraniums out from their winter stored.
We've had the local electrician in most of this week helping us implement some changes at Pottery House.
We wanted to replace the bedside lamps in all 3 rooms with wall lights, to give better light when reading in bed and to give more space on bedside cabinets. We've also had ceiling lights installed into the two double rooms to replace lamps on the desks. Again for better light and more space.
The new shelves have also been installed in the ensuite bathrooms to give more space for personal belongings.
At Pottery House B&B all our jams and preserves served with breakfast are home made. In fact strawberries, raspberries and blackberries we pick ourselves.
This time of year, January/February, is the time the Seville oranges are in season, so it's time to make marmalade and today was the day.
I read a recipe somewhere that suggested that adding a tablespoon of black treacle to the mix just before putting in jars gives a lovely dark golden colour, so I gave that a try. Here's the recipe I used, it makes quite a lot of marmalade so you probably want to half it for home use.
3kg Seville Oranges (We used organic from Waitrose) 4kg sugar 8 lemons
Put the oranges in a large pot with enough water so they float. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1 - 1.5 hours.
Put a piece of muslin over a bowl. Cut each orange in half, put the pith and pips into the Muslin, and then slice the orange into strips and put in your preserving pan (or large heavy bottomed saucepan).
Add the juice from the lemons to the pan, and all the sugar.
Put the pan on a medium heat and slowly bring to the boil. While that's happening tie the muslin with string and put in the pan.
Once all the sugar has dissolved turn the heat up to full. When it has reached a rolling boil time for 15 mins. Put a small plate in the freezer.
After 15 mins take off the heat and put a teaspoon of the jam onto the frozen plate. Let it cool and then push it with your finger, if it crinkles up it is ready. If not put back on the heat and rapidly boil for another 5 mins, then test again. Repeat until the sample crinkles, for me this took try tries (an additional 2 x 5 mins). Be careful not to over-do and keep stirring otherwise the peel with burn on the bottom of the pan and the burnt taste will permeate your marmalade.
Allow to cool slightly then remove the muslin of pips. Squeeze as much of the goo out as you can and stir into the mix. At this point you can add a tablespoon of black treacle if you'd like a darker colour.
Put into warm, cleaned jars, and securely tighten the lids.