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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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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The paddock (May 20)

We’ve been mulling over what to do with the paddock and while we mulled, wild flowers started to grow.    Wherever we ended up we’d always hoped to have a wild flower meadow so we decided not to mow the paddock and see what happened.   Already we’ve had bluebells, birds-eyes, campions, wild primrose, herb robert and pignut – and around a dozen more flowers we’ve still to identify…

_MG_9547 meadow

But as the flowers have grown the grass has grown too and now it’s taking over, along with the nettles and docks.    A bit of research tells us that wild flower meadows come up in fields that are left to grow where animals have been grazing.     We have rich soil here (you can tell by looking at it and lots of nettles are also a sign apparently) which is great for grass and veg’ but not so good for wild flowers.   If we put animals in there they would take a lot of the nutrients out of the soil by eating the grass – and at the same time create a good bed for next year’s flowers by churning up the ground.

So animals sound like the answer.   Oh if it was that simple.  Much of the fence needs to be fixed and there are rhododendrons creeping over the sides which are poisonous to horses, sheep and cattle.  As always here, nothing is ever straight forward.   An alternative would be getting in a JCB to take off the top layer of soil in the paddock which is way out of our budget.

So if we want a meadow next year, we’ll have to fix the fence, prune the rhododendrons (which are running rampant everywhere but that’s a whole other story) and then find some animals before the end of summer.  As there are other more pressing jobs to get done, it looks like our wild flower meadow is going to have to wait.