There are old crab apple trees lining the streets in this part of London. They’re well established, probably twenty metres tall, and planted closely enough that their crowns touch in the wind.
At this time of the year they drop their fruit – tiny, hard, sour crab apples that crunch underfoot in the leaves as you pass by. I walked through them at the weekend, smelling autumn in the air, and it made me crave the apple and blackberry pie that my mother used to make.
This was one of my mother’s specialities. She made it infrequently enough that it was a treat, which considering her busy life, it was. Her pastry was crumbly, sweet and slightly biscuity, with a hint of lemon zest.
The blackberries were never bought from a shop in those days. When the season was right, we kids were dispatched out with a bowl to collect them from the bushes, bribed with promises of pie, crumbles and turnovers. We’d return with purple juice-stained fingers and mouths, and enough pickings to fill the kitchen for a week.
Served with a spoonful of good cream for richness, this is the taste of autumn for me. I can’t wait until we’re picking our own in the hedgerows on the island next year. Bring on the pies, the jam and the blackberry wine!
Progress is at last happening with the building warrant submission, and we’ve been busy with power points, drainage, guttering, flooring and window specifications. We are almost there, and with a following wind and a call with the energy consultant we should hopefully be able to submit final warrant drawings in the next week.
I think that the hardest thing about this time is stopping myself going crazy trying to make this home perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
It’s our home.
I need a serious dose of pragmatism and a bit of a reality check at times. This is difficult whilst being constantly bombarded with images of stylish, deceptively simple design, which is usually fiendishly expensive.
Actually, my husband doesn’t suffer with this – it’s just me. I want to reuse, simplify and recycle, but I’m often conflicted because I buy into the aesthetic. I want our environment to be restful, and natural, and beautiful…
Every time I see a gorgeous wood floor (the latest one was wide-board limed Douglas Fir) .. it’s way over budget. I need to keep telling myself that there’s no need to spend that kind of money. What we think is reasonably priced is perfectly fine. It really is.
It’s even worse when it comes to furnishings. For the most part, the furniture that we have is perfectly usable. However, it’s a bit of a mash-up of styles from many previous homes, and the temptation to sell it all and start again with a clean, new, streamlined home is very strong.
This is both unnecessary and potentially financially ruinous, so we’ve been looking at a few key things that we may need to change (sofas, rugs) and are working out how we shed the rest via eBay or charity shops. We can always recycle some of the other things like side tables with a lick of paint. Repeat after me, you do not need that designer birch strip side table. You really don’t …
I don’t want to be part of the consumer bubble replacing perfectly good things for the sake of it. We already have too much stuff.. and it’s key that we resist the constant and insidious pull of commercial consumption.
We took the ferry from Armadale across to Mallaig to check out the local shops. Being so close to the ferry means that Mallaig is actually closer than our closest town on the island as the crow flies, so it was useful to check it out from a supplies perspective.
There is a fabulous bakery and bread shop in Mallaig called the Bakehouse. They bake a great selection of sourdough breads, scones, cakes and other pastries. The local community stores on our southerly part of the island get bread deliveries from them each week. Alongside a great focaccia we sampled what must surely be the best cheese scones on the planet!
Mallaig is also an active fishing port and here you can buy locally landed fresh fish, langoustine and shellfish. Good to know when the cravings come upon us. It’s getting better, but there aren’t as many outlets for locally caught fish on Skye as you’d imagine.
On the way back to the ferry terminal we took a detour along the coast. Not knowing this part of the coastline at all we were astonished to discover that there are glorious white sand beaches all the way along a ten mile stretch or so. Quite stunning.
We were lucky with the weather. Despite enjoying a mostly dry, breezy day whilst we were out, once we turned for home the rain started in earnest as Storm Dorian swept in and clipped the coast. The crossing was very choppy and visibility almost zero with the rain.
We watched the storm lashing Knock Bay from the warmth of our cosy cottage on the hillside, glad to be home and dry. And thinking, not long now 😊…
When the sun shines, everything changes. The storm front moved across the island and left a freshly washed world of brilliant blue behind it.
This is actually the first picture that we’ve managed to take from the croft whilst the sun is shining!
The big blue. No filters needed.
We spent a happy few more hours on the croft in the sun earlier last week measuring, planning and dreaming.
Perhaps because it’s the only building on the land, we find ourselves always gravitating to the barn.
It’s clear that we will have to build a modern metal shed/barn for our croft equipment and storage, as our very picturesque ruin will need mammoth effort and cost to restore. We won’t have the money or the energy to do anything with it for a good few years.
As things stand at the moment, other priorities such as the house build, deer fencing, the access road and tree planting will have to take immediate precedence.
But that doesn’t stop us sitting with our mugs of tea and cake planning for possibilities.
A coffee shop? A library for our spare books? A bread barn? Spare accommodation for visitors? A studio? In between building warrant discussions for the house we skittle between ideas that we know may never come to reality, but are fun nevertheless.
Everything seems possible whilst the sun is shining.
It’s been a week of squally showers, high winds and at times, torrential rain here on the island. The rivers are full and the waterfalls are torrents of white water tumbling down the hillsides.
We don’t mind the weather at all. It’s lovely to sit in front of the windows in the cabin and watch the weather fronts scud across the sky. There’s a change every half hour or so, and we dodge the showers as best we can.
In a break in the rain we made it up to the croft. Here it’s very much seize the moment!
The lower ground is waterlogged and boggy, although the higher reaches of the land are better drained. We hopped from clump to clump of rushes to avoid sinking too deeply into the mud.
The tiny burn that we saw trickling sedately through the croft in February is now a raging plume of water plummeting through the channel that it has cut for itself.
We headed for the copse of trees on the western boundary and scattered bluebell, wood anemone, pignut and wild garlic seeds as we’d planned. We’re hoping that at least some of them will take.
Although the wild flowers are more or less over here on Skye, we found more than we expected in the ditches and springy turf on the croft: and with our trusty plant identification app we think we’ve recognised black knapweed, common vetchling, broad leaved clover, buttercups, crowfoot, downy vetch and willow herb.
We were delighted to see that we had a hazel tree already established amongst the birch trees – bodes well for more nut tree plantings once we’re established!
Excuse the bad quality of the photos – these were hurried snaps taken with an iPhone.
Things have been very quiet on the house build front recently.
Once we’d hit two months post the receipt of planning approval and still hadn’t seen the building warrant drawings, I couldn’t contain my impatience and frustration any longer.
Even with the inevitable summer vacation delays, it simply seemed too long.
It seems that our architect is leaving the company. This week.
He has apparently been in the process of handing over our build plans to a new architect in the practice who will need to pick everything up, and who has promised that she will finalise the building warrant drawings next week.
It’s not the change of staff that frustrates me. It’s the lack of communication. What does it cost to phone your clients and tell them the news? Surely that’s much more reassuring than them discovering that they’re losing their key person after weeks of hassling for a response?
We make contact with Lara who we discover has not been given everything necessary in the transfer – of course – and will need our help to ensure that everything we had agreed with her predecessor is made known.
Poor husband now has a growling woman in the house who is not looking forward to losing a precious Saturday re-marking up plans with changes that should already have been incorporated.
We’re on Skye next week though. I don’t care if it rains and we get midged to death all week. It will just be so good to be back on our little plot of land on the island for a bit.