A Castle in the Sky

In March 2013, after years of talking about it we eventually sell up and move out of the city with our 2 year old, Gracie. We both grew up in the countryside and this is what we want for our daughter. So we swap a 2 bed flat in London for a small country pile on the west coast of Scotland that needs a lot of work. I've done a bit of interior design and my partner, Ed has a good knowledge of the outdoors – but we're on a tight budget and we've both got a lot to learn. It's a life time's project and this is a record of our adventure…

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Veggie patch guinea pigs (Jul 22)



The veggie patch is now looking much more professional.  The new wooden posts arrived a few days ago and Ed put them in with the help of Mr C and his digger.  Mr C is also an expert on leeks – and apparently ours weren’t deep enough – so Ed replanted them.  Ed ordered a huge piece of net to cover the whole thing which will keep out the birds. The carrots (in the front) have a finer net over them to stop carrot root fly – put together by our friend Dan who came up from London last weekend.  Clearly we need all the help we can get!

We’ve offered the patch next to us to Mr C but as it all needs digging over he’s going to start on this next year    I think he’s keen to assess our results first…

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The paddock cont’d (Jul 18)

Ed’s concerned about the paddock.    The docks, nettles and brambles (a recent discovery) are all really hard to get rid of once they take hold and are turning the paddock into impenetrable bush.  If we don’t cut them back our plan for a wild flower meadow will never come to anything.

We’ve been discussing getting a couple of goats (Ed had them when he was growing up)  or finding someone with a shetland pony (we’ve seen some in a field near here and I’ve been asking around) but we still haven’t managed to sort anything out.  So in desperation Ed started on it this morning with the strimmer.

It was looking like an extremely long day  – the paddock is 2 acres – when Mr C turned up like a knight in a shining tractor.  It took him, his tractor and his mower less than an hour to do the whole lot.  We owe him dinner.

While we don’t have any animals and I’m sure Mr C has better things to do, we need to find another solution.  A new tractor is out of the question so Ed’s now intent on trying to fix the mower attachment for the mini-tractor that the previous owners left us.   It’s rusting away in the grass – and looks like it’s been there for years.   It seems he can turn his hand to anything as he’s already re-modelled the rotting trailer (also abandoned in the grass) so hopefully he can work some magic on the mower too…

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Adding up radiators (Jul 16)

We have a mishmash of radiators here and as part of our heating overhaul we’ve worked out that some of them (all the ones from the 50’s) have either no impact because they’re not big enough or they’re rusty and leaking.  We need to replace just over a dozen.

However the handful of Victorian cast iron ‘column’ radiators we have, work well and look lovely.  So our plan is to get more – as cheaply as possible.

Working out what sizes we need has involved a mind-blowing set of sums;    I’ve had to work out the heat output (in kilowatts) we need in each room based on the room’s dimensions.   I’ve then had to deduct the heat supplied by any existing radiators to establish what’s missing.   All my kilowatt figures then have to be converted to old fashioned BTU’s – as this how the heat output is measured in old cast iron radiators.  Once I know what heat output I need I then have to find the right size of radiator with the right dimensions so that it will fit into the space (often under a window). At this point my eyes are squinting as there’s a number of options depending on how the columns in each radiator are arranged  –  from tall and thin to short and fat…Much like the 2 different plumbers who reneged on doing the calculations for me.

It’s all going to be worth it though as I’ve worked out that reconditioned salvage is going to cost us at least half the price of new (a whole other set of calculations) – and hunting around for them is obviously much more fun.

So I’ve been scouring ebay, gumtree and the local flea markets and I even found a farmer nearby who sells stuff that’s been thrown out of old farmhouses.  I’ve found 4 on our list this way.  But the most obvious place is salvage yards and as there are two near here we headed over today with my copious notes in hand.


Several hours later and I’d ticked off another 8.   So we’re nearly there.  They will all need to be sent off to be pressure tested, sandblasted and painted (colour still to choose) and given that this is a 6 week turn around (with a round trip to Edinburgh) they should arrive in time to coincide with the installation of the new boiler…

Surely this can’t all go to plan….

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Morning dew (Jul 12)

The early mornings are so lovely here at the moment, Gracie and I go out in the garden when the day starts.   We don our wellies and I sit in my dressing gown drinking tea on the garden bench while Gracie runs around naked (aside from wellies) in the morning dew.   Today the lawns are covered in these tiny cobwebs….


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The Vegetable Patch (Jul 6)

There are 3 huge old vegetable patches in the walled garden that are overgrown with grass and weeds. Ed’s been working on one of the patches this week – and this morning he turned over half the soil ready for planting.

It was sunny and hot so we had a picnic lunch under the apple trees before getting down to some planting.


We put in several seedlings; sprouts, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and leeks (as we’re a bit late to plant these from seed). Apart from the leeks I’ve discovered that these are all ‘cruciferous’ veg from the ‘brassica’ family.  We also replanted what we think might be some ropey old courgettes (that were already in there) hoping to save them.  From seed, we’ll plant beetroot, carrots, lettuce, spinach, turnips and beans (currently germinating in the kitchen) in the next few days.

We’re building up our knowledge of brassica growing as we’ve discovered birds have a particular fondness for them; apparently wood pigeons like sprouts. So the whole patch needs to be protected with net. We also need to get some flat disc ‘collars’ that go round the base of all the stems to stop cabbage root fly laying their eggs down there.

So Ed made a frame from various bits of wood that he found in the old green house and lean-to’s and then managed to cobble together enough pieces of random net to go over the top.  He doesn’t think the net will last a windy day though so it will need replacing in the next few days.


The upsum is that out of an acre of walled garden we’ll have cultivated just 6 by 12 meters – but at least it’s a start. If we’re successful with our beginners patch then it should supply us with nearly all our winter veg.