curiosity about the ways of the world

Author: fay (Page 2 of 39)

Blowing in the wind

I have a windmill in my backyard and I am very fond of it. On calm days swallows have been known to sit on it. When the wind blows hard across the fields we know our batteries are brimming with beautiful clean energy. But oddly enough, with all this power surging freely into our house, we are now much more reluctant to waste energy than we used to be in the old days of electricity bills. Owning a windmill can change your outlook on life.

This was the message I wanted to get across when BBC Scotland came to call but it seems our wires were crossed. 

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The warm heart of the Hidden Gardens

“Where would you like to start?”  The question, presented with a smile, is a good one. Looking at the map I’ve just been handed there’s plenty temptation. The Hidden Gardens of Kingsbarns offer no fewer than ten gardens open to visitors ready to explore nooks and crannies of this handsome village.  But the tantalising trail is just part of a remarkable story which winds a long way back.

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Welcome to the Pond Garden and a splash of sunshine

This year our Scotland’s Gardens Scheme openings at The Pond Garden are supporting the extraordinary work of Children’s Hospices Across Scotland (CHAS).

Sunshine and showers

I’ve been walking round the garden through sunshine and showers.  Mostly showers, it has to be said, some of them torrential. The sunshine blooms in borders at the top of tall stems. So tall you have to look up. Even when grey clouds are glowering, the sight of Inula helenium smiling down at you can make you smile right back. Better still on a bright day, that sunny splash of yellow is spectacular against a deep blue sky.

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The Pond Garden in June

Blue skies again. Sunshine sparkling on the pond. A friendly breeze ruffles new leaves and turns the wind turbine merrily. What kind of killjoy would complain about the promise of yet another glorious summer day?

It does seem perverse. How often have I moaned about waking to endless cold, wet midsummer days? Now, we open the door to Mediterranean mornings – it feels heavenly but strangely disturbing. Heavenly if only it wasn’t for daily visions of hellishly soaring temperatures elsewhere. And is there another heatwave on our own horizon?

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Sunshine on Rachel House

It’s Thursday morning. Sunshine is bouncing off the walls and windows of Rachel House. Birds are singing. After a long, cold spring, flowers are bursting with pent up energy.

“You chose a good day to visit,” a smiling Lyndsay Stobie opens the front door to the Kinross hospice for children. 

As welcomes go, it could hardly be warmer. Yet many people (including Lyndsay herself) admit to feelings of uncertainty on their first visit. That word ‘hospice’ casts an end-of-life shadow.  But, as I’m about to discover, the building, the blossoming garden and the dedicated staff and volunteers who work here, are full of cheerful life. Like the children whose families enjoy comforting respite here, some of them for many years to come. Defying stereotypes, their stories are as uplifting as they are moving.

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In Memoriam – a spring song in late summer 

Early morning. Flickering light through the leaves of the cherry tree where the blackbird sings in May.

A wayward branch of struggling winter flowering tree that never bloomed until spring and then only on this one limb which had found an escape from the westerly winds.

But sadly, it has had to go.  Or, to put it more precisely, to be taken away. Removed to make room for the external insulation cladding that will make the cottage fit for winter months, better equipped to meet the climate-changing challenges of extreme hot and cold.

When the work is done, we will plant something new to cast dancing shadows through the bedroom window. And lure another young blackbird to trill another tune, practicing his mating calls in May.

Let Nature Sing: Our Blackbird Sings the Blues 

A branch bearing pink blossom peaks through our bedroom window at Pond Cottage in spring
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Rebellion in the garden

“What,” I asked, “are we doing here with a lifetime’s work ahead as we rebuild a derelict cottage and learn how to restore 10 acres of silted up pond and rundown woodland?”

Looking back, at forty-something we were mere babes in the wood. But I had an answer: “To understand why, you need to see the pond on a frosty winter afternoon, or catch sight of the heron fishing in the sluice stream, to find a bank of primroses above a pile of rusting corrugated iron, or sit on a starry summer night with family and friends round a bonfire in the new clearing while bats flicker above the ghosts of the old neighbourhood dump.”

I wrote that nearly thirty years ago. As journalists often do, I dug the words from both heart and head. 

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Wanted: a deep mulch of money

”Pond Cottage is an acreage of weed, rot and litter but Fay Young intends to turn it into a Scottish horticultural paradise”.   That was The Herald almost thirty years ago in a quirkily offbeat introduction to my new dream commission: a Weekend Extra series about Scotland’s gardens and gardeners on a trail following my own discoveries. It was a happy year, leading to an unforgettable spell with Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as contributing editor and writer and ultimately to membership of Scotland’s Gardens Scheme. But back to the beginning…

Flashback to October 1995

Here, republishing my first Weekend Extra column in The Herald (don’t take that bit about horticultural paradise seriously!)

If you squint, the garden round Pond Cottage looks almost planned.

The stone path to the front door is lined with catmint covered with butterflies and bees. Hastily sown Alaska nasturtium seeds have grown into a convincing hedge around the vegetable plot. Red-stalked spinach contrasts cheerfully with yellow spaghetti squash plants and (as long as you are still squinting) a fresh green semi-circular lawn is marked by newly planted rowan and cherry to light up autumn and spring.

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Snowdrops greet Pond Cottage spring in a hard hat

I did not expect to survive,

earth suppressing me

Snowdrops: Louise Gluck

They sparkle. Even on dull days they light up the ground beneath our trees and this year they are putting on a particularly heroic display, defiantly poking through hard ground compacted by our long winter of construction work.  They survive!  Do not be deceived by their dainty, demure flowers, dear garden visitor: snowdrops are a truly tough bunch. 

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