Bad, Good, Learned in lock down.

I do not need to introduce this blog post really. 2020 has been the most dramatic year the world has seen in any of our lifetimes. We have lurched from one gripping news story to the next. Every single life has been affected in some way, some forever changed, some beginning to return to some semblance of normal. Whatever normal might be.

For the five of us living here it has been collectively and individually as massive a year as it has for everyone else. For Ady, who has worked throughout, his life has felt unchanged while all around him altered. For Scarlett life has felt mostly the same but with blockbuster movie worthy news stories spilling from the TV and radio to make sense of. For Davies it has been more about the lost opportunities and planned adventures that have not happened than anything which has happened. For Megan, spending most of the lockdown in America it has been both a different and a parallel experience to our own. For me it has had shades of change, shades of returning to a life I knew back on Rum, new frustrations and new opportunities.

We have decided to document our experiences – so far, with an appreciation that the changes and challenges are far from over, the new normal is far from set and everything could alter in the time it takes me to press publish on this post – in our usual collaborative post style of what has been bad, what has been good and what we have learned during these strangest of times.

The very obvious realisation of how little faith we should have in those who hold positions of power. Governments in the UK, US and worldwide have failed to do what their job is in running countries, keeping people safe and making the right decisions on our behalf. We did not lockdown soon enough, we are coming out of lockdown too early.

This will also count as a good in as much as it has been bought to people’s consciousness but it has been bad to realise how far we still need to come in civil rights and fighting racism.

The riots have been disturbing to watch on the news. I believe that if we work on the idea of an eye for an eye all that will happen is the world will go blind. Violence and fighting does not feel to me like the way to solve problems.

The amount of litter which is appearing now that visitors are returning to the Highlands is really sad. It is even sadder to notice how many face masks and disposable gloves are being added to the litter. It feels like we all pulled together during lockdown but we have not learned anything and as soon as life returns to something like normal we are back to our old ways.

It was so nice to see less traffic on the roads and in the skies but I feel like we are just catching up having delayed that impact because people are just going back to work in their petrol cars and booking flights to go on holiday, rather than looking at alternatives.

Communities pulled together during lockdown. Doing things like shopping for each other, checking on neighbours.

The Black Lives Matter issue is now one that can’t be ignored or swept under the carpet any more. People have to talk about it and confront it.

TV scheduling has been different to normal times with lots of repeats and lots of factual documentaries airing. This has been good for me because I love watching those sorts of things so I have had the opportunity to learn lots about various interesting things including historical documentaries, abandoned architecture, the world wars, conspiracy theories and some nature documentaries. I have also watched a lot of true crime documentaries and learned loads about how long cases can remain open and how slowly they can be solved.

I have learned lots about how people reacted differently to the pandemic / lockdown. I have seen people be really scared and fearful, some very upbeat and pragmatic and some utterly deny it and focus on conspiracy theories.

I did not fully understand how much of an issue racism still is. My eyes have been opened to that.

Summary: While our day to day lives didn’t change much as we are used to being cut off a bit and having a quiet life it was hard to not be in control of that or step out of it and have plans.



The fear of the unknown has been really hard. It’s been hard for me and my family and it was very hard for my clients and people I saw.

Having choice and control taken away was hard. Worrying about running out of supplies like loo roll or flour did make me feel panicky.

Wearing PPE for work. It is uncomfortable and makes it really difficult to communicate with my clients, particularly those who rely on lipreading due to hearing impairment or are confused and upset by the masks and visors.


The rhythm of days during early lockdown were something I will remember fondly. We used to have a Boris Biscuit while the daily press conferences were on and all watched Gareth Malone’s daily choir practise together.

People pulling together was heartening to witness. The local volunteer groups and other initiatives. The local ferry became free during lockdown as it was only being used by locals and key workers. Key workers and vulnerable people were really looked out for, people in the shops were sharing and being considerate.

The empty roads! Both for ease of driving but also observing wildlife starting to be more obvious on quieter roads.

I felt really fortunate to be living where we are during lockdown. We were close enough to shops to get what we needed but felt safe.


That in times of adversity people do generally behave well and it brings out the best in them.

Summary: It felt quite momentous and exciting to have lived through this era as a family unit watching it all unfold.



I was really disappointed at how poorly people responded to everything to do with the pandemic. Although I saw it coming seeing world leaders fail so badly was hard to witness. I am especially disappointed in how badly the US handled it. In America it feels as though everything has opened back up while here in the UK it still feels as though things are being taken slowly and carefully.

When Coronavirus first hit I had just started a new semester at school and it just ended. I had also just joined a new club at school and made new friends, I liked my new teachers and was hanging out with some interesting people. I did not manage to even get contact details for some of those new friends and I will not actually go back to that school so those potential connections feel lost for ever.

All of my life outside of my home and family was shut down completely. I would usually visit the library, athletics clubs, friends and all those things just stopped. All of my progress in things like studying and exercising was lost. Time spent with family felt more intense without any of the usual other pursuits.

During Coronavirus there was a lot of drama and diversity. It felt like you had to pick a side on some issues such as lockdown. I know of people who fell out and stopped talking and it felt uncomfortable to share your views on things in case you had an alternate view to them. It felt like walking on eggshells trying to decide what to share and say. Everyone was so passionate about their views it was impossible to be calm about things.

My summer plan to travel around the UK with Davies has not been able to happen and although I am actually here now there was so much uncertainty about it happening.

When the numbers went down for the virus I was so hopeful they would stay low but they rose again.

People are still not listening about the environmental issues even though it seemed that they might.

I really struggle with the uncertainty around everything. Not being able to predict what is going to happen and when is really hard. Not knowing what normal might be like is really hard and worrying.


I have gotten to see Davies and due to lockdown and the changes this year has brought I have ended up here for a longer visit. This means I am getting to actually properly get to know Davies without the pressure of a time limited visit or via online / text. It feels more authentic to be here together for a long period of time and to get to know each other really well.

It has been nice to pause and take stock and think about what I really want. I feel less pressure to be doing things and that when I do make a productive choice it is because I really wanted to do that thing. It feels a bit like I’ve had a second chance to be a child again with less responsibilities and more free time but with a bit of experience of already being an adult.

Hopefully people around the world may have learned from this time and make positive changes in their lives. I hope that people are better prepared for something big like this happening again. Although this has been a bad time it has maybe prepared us for the future a little.

It was really good to have school work move online. The pressure of the exams was taken away and I really shone during online work. I was able to contribute and often lead group discussions without the pressure of being in person and I found self directed learning really suited me. I got excellent feedback from my teachers about how well I was doing and that made me really proud.

The pause of the world gave the environment a short break.

Although it is tragic what is being highlighted I think it is really good that people are now more aware of Black Lives Matter issues. I had no idea of how bad things were and I have learned so much. I think it is good that people are more aware and are talking about it.


That I knew people in power were not necessarily going to get everything right but I was still shocked to witness how badly they did and how they continued to get away with it. Particularly in the US where Trump handled things so badly but his supporters still continue to sing his praises and support him.

Worldwide pandemics in modern society felt like something which should not actually happen. I feel like we have all learned that things like this can happen and could easily happen again and we don’t have the right tools to fix everything.

I have learned to trust reliable sources and consider where I get my news. Mainstream news, the general public and even our president were not taking CV19 seriously or giving it focus but there were online sources telling us to pay attention.

I have learned that when I used to wish for a long period of time at home with no distractions and that as an introvert to want to have time without people it is only ever nice for a time and that I need the balance of both busyness and down time to appreciate both.

I learned loads about civil rights and BLM. I learned about the movement, the need for the movement and the background. I was not aware of the level of the issues. I wish I had been more aware and I feel I have really learned a lot. There are a lot of movements which are talked about and I think this is one of the most important ones to come to light.

I learned about the people I know in real life and how their responses to the pandemic have shown their true colours.

Summary: This is the biggest event of my lifetime so far, affecting the whole world. I have learned so much from this time and it’s been fascinating to have lived though something this big.



A disruption of plans from me going to the US and then spending the summer travelling the UK. We also had various visits to and from family and friends planned which didn’t happen.

In the early days I was worried about family members catching coronavirus and then worried about Megan getting here at all. Then when Megan actually was going to come I was worried about the logistics and safety of her travelling here.


I feel like this period will be remembered forever and for all the downsides I am glad to have lived through it and experienced it all. It has been fascinating to watch the whole story unfold.

I was in the early stages of adult stuff like visits to the job centre, which I found stressful. It’s been nice to take a break. My end of module assessment for my studying was cancelled and an average score based on my assessments throughout the year dictated my final grade.

The highlighting of civil rights and Black Lives Matter coming to the fore and getting spotlit with attention.


Early in lockdown I bought an online piano tuition programme and have taught myself the basics.

I was aware that racism was still an issue but I had not fully appreciated the scale and prevalence of ingrained racism. Hearing the different stories and views that are now being openly talked about is very enlightening.

With so much of the world stopping certain things have been given a spotlight. This includes social issues including the environment, wildlife, consumerism. It also includes celebrities still finding a platform on the internet but without directors and producers to manage their representation and more eyes on them.

It’s been really interesting watching how people have reacted and responded to the various points of the last few months. Pretty much everyone has behaved as I would have expected, but it has still been interesting to watch it unfold.

Summary: I feel fortunate to have lived through what has been a fascinating period in history.

Collaborative good / learned from Scarlett, Megan and Davies – Animal Crossing. Which they tell me is an example of new ways of connecting with people without real life opportunities. They have connected with friends, made new potential connections and explained that a whole world of virtual interactions have been created including attending weddings, tours of aquariums and virtual protests. They have all taken up playing during lockdown and it’s a big part of their lives just now.



In the very early stages of the pandemic my fears were entirely around the powerlessness of the situation. I was worried about my family down in Sussex and unable to help in any way. What if they got ill? What if they died? What if I couldn’t get to them? What if I never saw them again?
I was worried about Megan in America, about friends scattered about the country and the world. I was worried about Ady out at work, about Davies and Scarlett if Ady caught the virus and bought it home to us. I was worried about our distance from the hospital. I was worried about me dying and what that would mean for the rest of them left behind. I suspect that is the same panic and fears which kept most people awake at night. My personal way of dealing with that was to rationalise as much as possible, put as many safety buffers in place in terms of vocalising (only to myself a lot of the time) my worse fears and then doing logical ‘and then what?’ type thinking through. This meant I tidied up a lot of our family admin, ensured everyone was informed about more things so if something happened to me it was not such a logistical nightmare. I ensured that if it was the last time I ever saw anyone I loved I had asked any questions, said anything I wanted and made sure they knew how important to me they were. None of these things negated the risks or the chances of bad things happening but it gave me back some feeling of control and power in the situation. But fear, panic and sense of powerlessness have all crept back in at various points during lockdown in greater degrees than I have previously ever experienced.

Which leads me to anger and frustration – the other emotions which have run high during this time. While I concede that the very fact I am writing this post acknowledges the unprecedented times we have lived through and are still living through we do have power systems, elected and well paid authority figures and a society which is actually set up to anticipate, mitigate and prepare for disasters, unexpected emergencies and crises. We had a heads up from China, a further example of how not to deal with Covid from nearer European countries and yet still we failed to make the right decisions at the right times. In the early days the general public were compliant, eager in fact desperate for guidance and reassurance from government. They failed us. So, so badly. The stand out moment for me of the whole period is the Dominic Cummings debacle, which as far as I am concerned remains entirely unresolved. At the time it has most mattered we have been let down. I am still coming to terms with that and working out what it means going forward.

As the others have mentioned there have been disrupted plans, cancelled and postponed events, periods of uncertainty about what may happen. I am fairly sanguine about that and I don’t massively struggle with unknowns and upset diaries. However I really, really missed people. I missed the people I love, my family, my friends I see regularly, my work colleagues, my swim buddies, I missed all the times we had been expecting to spend time with people. I missed chatting to the woman on the checkout in the supermarket, chance bumping into someone as you walk through the town, I missed the people who annoy me. I missed human contact and all it’s joyous, irritating, wonderful, dreadful, peopleness.


I loved watching people find their place. Watching the worriers calm down, the stressed out people stop. I loved watching people find the ways to help, to be their best. I loved the creativity – the hastily cobbled together cooking shows Jamie Oliver did using tins from the back of the cupboard while his wife filmed him on a phone and his kids barged in while they were recording. I loved the adverts on TV that never failed to make me cry for banks and building societies, supermarkets and TV stations. I loved the radio shows phoned in from presenters spare bedrooms. I loved the rainbows painted everywhere and the genuine gratitude for the NHS, for the bin collectors and the supermarket staff. I have loved seeing how many people have found volunteering, helping and supporting opportunities. I have also been pleased to see the flip side of people accepting and asking for help too. I have also loved seeing the very human side of people and their kindness, compassion, humour alongside the darker sides.

I have grown things in our garden / allotment / croft for over a decade. It’s why this blog exists. I have long since baked our own bread and made cakes and cookies, we have cooked from scratch forever. We have never sent our kids to school and we have always spent most of our time all together in the house. It’s been good seeing other people have a go at that lifestyle. It’s been lovely to offer help from a place of experience in some of those areas. It’s not been for everyone but for those who have had lightbulb moments and said to me ‘oh… I see why you did that’ it’s been wonderful. And we have had a fabulous display of flowers on our decking, a huge harvest of peas from our raised beds and an array of splendid cakes ourselves too.

A huge highlight of the lockdown for me was the Great British Home Chorus. Having been casting about for a place to sing for all these years I suddenly found myself in a choir with thousands of others, all joining in with a daily weekday choir practise at 530pm with Gareth Malone. Then we recorded our parts and sent them in. Then a CD of our efforts was released which made the top 10 in the charts. A song to say Thank you to Gareth was also recorded and I made the video for that. The CD and the video are a fab reminder of one of the many wonderful projects which came about during the dark times of the pandemic.

Two other personal projects which have been lockdown inspired are the swim sketch book exchange which I have been involved with. A project of wild swimmers around the UK who have been contributing to and then passing on sketchbooks. We are coming to the end of the project and will all finish with a book containing the collaborative art work of 9 people to keep. I have experimented with all sorts of art materials, tried many new art techniques and really enjoyed the process of each piece of art, the group nature of the project and and connections formed from sending and receiving the books. The other project is my shell art on the beaches which I have done throughout the lockdown. It has been something which I have enjoyed as a creative and thoughtful process but have also connected with others by sharing it online. I have also had local people tell me they have seen and enjoyed my art in real life on the beaches too.


Like the others I have also learned more about racism and Black Lives Matter. I would have considered myself pretty well informed and already had a couple of books either on my bookshelf or my kindle. I have to confess to not having read them or been as aware as I thought I was though and the deeper I have delved the more I have learned and the more I realise I have to learn.

Having watched lots of ‘after people’ type documentaries and having seen nature reclaim very quickly in real life too I was not at all surprised by the return of wildlife to unoccupied by human spaces during lockdown. In fact I was possibly more surprised by how little others had realised the huge impact humans have. Also that it really is as simple (on the one hand) as just stopping. I share the disappointment of the others than there seems to be a keenness to starting up again rather than treading a different path. However, I am an optimist and sitting with the three young adults to write this post I am massively heartened by what they have learned and had to say and I truly believe that while it feels as though the world is starting back up again with a throaty, fossil fuelled vroom the seeds have been sown for things to change. Maybe not overnight, certainly not as quickly as they should, but in small and important ways with the next generation understanding and feeling ready to make changes and beginning to find their voices, their passion and their anger to make real change.

I think my overwhelming learned is that this strange time has been a super concentrated version of real life. We have all had to confront our vulnerabilities, insecurities, priorities, relationships, place in the world, views and beliefs and they have also all been held up for others to see too. We have almost become caricatures of ourselves, but our true selves rather than who we might have thought we were. This has meant that those who were struggling have really really struggled, those who were on the cusp of going under may have sunk. For me it has cemented that I am happy with the choices I have already made in life and the places I have put most emphasis. It has also highlighted to me how very fortunate and privileged I have been to be able to make those choices though. And I have had to acknowledge that with that privilege comes a responsibility which I will endeavour to step up to even more. This period of history has shown us that there are more iniquities in our world than ever and worse than that we have been in denial about it. The time has come to change that.

Summary: My memory of these times will be of the very best of humans and the very worst of society. My hope is that we can balance that out and come through it battle scared and better.

Coming out of lockdown

Along with most of the country / world we have begun to tentatively come out of lockdown. Adhering to the ever changing guidelines, and sometimes even deciphering them has proven quite tricky at times so like everyone else we have been using common sense and our own risk assessments to decide how and what is safe for us and those around us. This is also balanced with understanding that we don’t (collective we rather than personal we) know enough about the virus to make fully informed decisions every time but that there are some choices which feel the lesser of two evils as well.

Our very first meeting up with people was with some local friends on a beach part way between our two homes. It was all four of us and all four of their family but just two households. We drew a literal line in the sand of the beach to maintain social distancing and all bought our own picnics and beach day supplies and had a wonderful time swimming, chatting and just catching up. We finished the day with a game of pebble bowling.

That was the cue for managing to start small groups of our regular Sunday swimmers meeting up again. Also maintaining big distances between us as we swam – the benefit of swimming in enormous lochs is there are no lanes! It was weird not to hug, to offer a shoulder to balance on while getting changed again, or to accept a swig of each other’s hot drinks post-swim, or to share a car when we decided there were too many jellyfish in our usual sea loch and decamp to a slightly further away freshwater loch for the peak of the hot weather / jellyfish season. But we adjusted and it was just lovely to be back in the water properly and sharing it with friends again.

We did have a slightly surreal breaking of lockdown with our first visitors to our house (all within guidelines, maintaining distancing and wearing masks) but one we are as yet not able to talk about. All will become clear there in due course but it was a lovely catch up with some old friends.

We had been poised on both sides of the Atlantic to get Megan here to us as soon as we could having had her and Davies’ summer plans involving some time for them both in the US, some time for them both in the UK and a large amount of travelling around together utterly scuppered. We decided that the best way of them having any time together was for Megan to come here for a long stay. That allowed for a 14 day quarantine post travel for Megan leading to her being part of our household. The travel for Megan was not without drama, not in any way of Megan’s making and a disappointment in our authority figures and people who’s job it is to keep us all safe rather than intimidate and bully not quite being their best selves, but on an afternoon in July Davies and I finally scooped her up from Inverness airport and bought her home. As with both her previous trips it is just lovely to have her here with us, part of our family and here for a good long stay including several seasons and lots of celebrations.

We had a ‘late’ 21st birthday celebration for her once she had settled in with all her favourite foods and over a month it it feels like she has been here forever.

One of the most sadly cancelled events during lockdown had been a trip to Northern Ireland at Easter. We usually manage to see our friends there 3 or 4 times each year. We had been with them in London in February but had housesitters lined up to come and stay at our house giving them a small holiday while we all went to Northern Ireland. Everyone’s plans were being cancelled at that time but we kept a close eye on how we might be able to make that trip happen again as soon as it was safe to do so. In the end we were not able to safely arrange house sitters and Ady was not able to take the time off work so Megan took his deferred ferry ticket and I took Davies, Scarlett and Megan for a week in August.

Outside of the actual travelling (in our own car, then on a ferry either outside or at great distance from other travellers wearing masks, then collected by our friends at the ferry port – it all felt very safe) we had not been in any risk filled situations and our friends work from home and had also not been in any high risk situations so it felt pretty sensible. Of course once there sensibility was not high on the agenda and a week of fun, laughter, singing, good food, plenty of drink and not nearly enough sleep was had.

As lockdown has eased further we have had two sets of houseguests ourselves. Regaining that human contact again with people sat close enough to touch and getting all of the joy of seeing real faces rather than zoom screen replications, hearing laughter without the time lapse and actually being able to talk all at once was just wonderful.

Our holiday cottage cleaning has started back up. With increased workload and new cleaning protocols, including PPE. It’s been good to dance with Henry again! It’s been perhaps less of a delight to be wearing masks while doing so.

There are more updates on new things we have been starting up but this is probably a long enough ‘coming out of lockdown’ post. Next up is a return to our tried and tested post formula of a bad, good and learned during this strange period of our lives.

In the garden

It’s been another whole month passed without a post. Oops.

Rather than one big long post of everything I’ll spilt up some of the updates into separate posts. So here is what has been happening in the garden.

After turning the spare room (south facing, large window) into a greenhouse during lockdown we actually needed the spare room as a bedroom again so the tomatoes, chillies and peppers which had been doing really well in there needed to be moved. My mini greenhouse which has been excellent for germinating all of my seeds since February but has required a fair bit of shoring up / repairing and TLC was finally emptied of everything except a couple of trays of salad and some courgettes.

I’d bought a replacement plastic cover as the original was in tatters after several repairs so Scarlett and I untangled all the tomatoes which had grown into each other, repotted some which had grown into monsters and then carefully moved them into the greenhouse. We created a criss cross of twine for the trailing stems to be supported on, put trays to stand the pots in and water from and removed some of the side shoots which were not going to be productive. There were several flowers and even one tiny green tomato forming. Since the move I’ve been feeding them and have lots more unripe fruits and lots more flowers. Hopefully the slightly more breezy location outside and the pollinating bugs who can get in will help with a bigger crop.

We did the same with the chillies and peppers although there are no flowers on them yet but the plants are looking nice and healthy. I can always bring them back inside if it starts to get too cold for them out there.

The first sowing of salad leaves which we had been cutting and harvesting regularly had finally gone over. Some of the lettuces had bolted and gone to seed so I left the flowers to form seed heads before I picked them off and left them to dry out. I bought them in and have had them in a paper bag on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks until they are fully dried out. They are now stashed away ready to try sowing next year.

The strawberries have pretty much finished fruiting and flowering. Whatever variety I have (they came from about 10 tiny plants I bought several years ago on Rum and let throw out runners each year, splitting and transplanting them many times.) are obviously early season ones. The plants are flourishing and have sent out plenty of runners here in their bed so I’m hopeful of a good harvest next year. This year has been a fairly small crop but we’ve certainly enjoyed strawberries and cream, strawberries and meringues and strawberries in sponge cakes enough to more than justify the space in the garden and the tiny amount of looking after the plants have required this year. There are a couple of small brambles making themselves at home in the garden which I am actively encouraging too in the hopes of some blackberries later this year.

I have enjoyed mixed success in my raised beds. One has a bumper crop of peas in the middle. I have already harvested about 10kg of mange tout, sugar snap and peas including the ones picked off by various people in the household to eat like sweets. The plants grew way higher than any I’ve ever grown before and my hazel twigs to support them were very quickly outgrown as a pea forest emerged. I had such good germination rates than I soon lost track of which variety was which and stuck all the different ones in together. Next year I would space my succession sowings out a bit more, be stricter about keeping sugar snap and other varieties a bit more separate and give them rather more ambitious stakes to clamber up.

The reverse is true for my beans! No one other than Ady likes broad beans or runner beans here so I’d gone for fine green beans / dwarf beans / french beans. I had created a lovely arch for them which clearly gave them an inferiority complex and they are barely 10cm tall. They have been mostly eaten by slugs but I note a few flowers and tiny beans just holding their heads above ground level. So I may have sufficient harvest for one portion for one person as long as they are not too hungry!

The other crop in that bed appears to be inhabiting a cursed bit of ground. My early hopes for a chinese cabbage crop were dashed by them reaching for the sky and bursting into beautiful yellow flowers. Despite cutting off the flowers regularly the plants just kept throwing them out which was an obvious siren call to the slug population who came and ate all the leaves. I have since learned that I perhaps sowed them a little early, which coupled with the early heat wave meant they had little hope anyway.

I pulled out the sad remaining stalks and replaced them with some promising looking pumpkin and other squash plants consoling myself that at least I had space for them. The slugs heard me and laughed. Which is rude… laughing with their mouths full….there is no remaining evidence of my pumpkins or squash plants.

Ditto the cabbages I lovingly sowed, pricked out, tended to suitable established little plants and put out next to the peas. The same fate befell the first row of rainbow chard I had grown from seed. I bought some replacements from a friend who is setting up a gardening / plant selling business. So far there are still two small rainbow chard plants…

In the other raised bed I have about 10 cauliflowers. 1 has a head, none have many leaves but as we don’t eat the leaves anyway I remain ever optimistic that there may be some cauliflower yet to arrive on a human plate.

Then are several rows of leeks. We love leeks. I’ve never managed to grow them beyond spring onion size despite having tried in my allotment in Sussex, on the croft on Rum and now here. The current crop is the most successful I have managed so far. They look more like onions than spring onions which is a step beyond what I’ve reached previously. I have hopes for my leeks.

I have a small row of carrots next. Carrots are barely ever worth growing I suspect. They need so much spacing, are so vulnerable to carrot fly and sadly are so cheap to buy in the supermarket. But they are never as sweet as home grown ones and the smell of freshly pulled carrots is so intoxicating it’s worth it. You can see why carrot flies love them…

I have several rows of lettuce and salad next. That is not strictly true actually. I have the sad stalks of several rows of lettuce and salad next along with a marker telling me in my own fair hand that there should be lettuce and salad leaves. The slugs can obviously read my writing though. And they got there first.

Finally at the end of that bed is the broccoli. A firm favourite of Ady and Scarlett. The broccoli in much the same style as the Chinese cabbage has been shooting up tall stalks and flowers every single bloody day. And we all know who sees those pretty flowers and texts all their mates to come along and join the broccoli leaf eating party don’t we?

This is the first year for the beds. They are filled with rotted horse manure from our neighbours. I have a plan to add some additional material once the crops are done. I have some home made compost maturing, access to plenty of seaweed and may well add some more manure to mature over the winter along with some leaf mulch in the autumn. I will un-net the beds and let the chickens in to help turn over the soil gently and add some of their own weeding and manuring skills too through the winter.

I have experimented with a few new crops I’d not tried before and have been slightly scuppered by the extreme heat wave in early spring and the late frosts of early summer but I’ve learned loads and will have a better idea to start a sowing and growing plan for next year now.

The real menace though has been the slugs. I have previously not battled with them to such a degree anywhere else but there is a HUGE resident slug population here. It’s wet with high rainfall and just outside the garden is croftland with huge amounts of bracken covered land providing perfect slug habitat. I have tried heading out as dusk falls collecting slugs and regularly gathered in excess of 100 a night.

I have had a go at a few slug repelling ideas including coffee, eggs shells, copper and sheep fleece around certain plants. The only one which I would consider even slightly successful was the sheep fleece, fortunately I have easy access to more of that so may try that again next year.
I have also, after advice from lots of friends applied a treatment of nematodes. I’ll do another one in six weeks or so and then start again in the early spring next year.

I have also established a small wildlife pond. It is an old shower tray from a friend set into some long grass with lots of stones around it. Flyaway grass clippings from the lawn have created a nice layer of sediment and a couple of lillies swiped from a nearby freshwater lochan have taken. We had rescued some frogspawn from a drying out ditch earlier in the year and been watching them grow into tiny tadpoles and then froglets in a tank in our bathroom before releasing them into the pond. There are all sorts of tiny creatures already attracted to it and this weekend Scarlett returned from a walk to the beach carrying one of her shoes as she had rescued a toad struggling on the shore of the saltwater loch and bought it home. It hung out in the pond for a few hours and although I’ve not spotted it since I am hoping it will choose to hang around the garden – there is plenty of food and shelter for it here.

We have lots of nice little wild corners where we may even attract snakes or slow worms all of whom will help keep the slug population in check too. Finally I will also look at some more companion planting or sacrificial crops next year. A working with nature, multi pronged approach to managing a balance between not all of my efforts being slug food and not destroying nature with too much interference either.

My garden endeavours have been far from all doom and gloom though. The end of a sack of potatoes which had chitted before we got to eating them got chucked in some more rotted manure in sacks on the decking. I have pretty much neglected them ever since other than earthing them up every time they peeked through. The plants absolutely thrived with us questioning more than once whether they were even potatoes as they took on triffid like proportions, growing ever taller and stronger but not yet flowering.

Eventually curiosity got the better of us so last week we emptied out one of the sacks. We were delighted to harvest a whole bucket of potatoes and have left the other two sacks to carry on with their mutant growing. We had a lovely dinner last week of eggs from our chickens (some of us ate them in the form of quiches, other purists just had them scrambled) served with our own tatties and peas.

Mutant potatoes and pea forests aside though my biggest success this year has been my decking project. The decking runs around two sides of the house and is a lovely place to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine, watch stars, sit around the fire pit or have a cup of tea / cold beer. We use the space most days and while the view is stunning I felt the environment could be prettied up a bit. I am also ever conscious of helping bees and other pollinators. So I have been collecting pots, planters and containers, some of which are new, some are recycled and others have been collected from the beaches on our litter walks. I’ve decorated some of them with shells and stones (with various degrees of success and entertainment value) and created a whole ‘wall’ of different layers, shapes, colours and sizes of containers. I’ve then filled them with a whole load of flowers and herbs. Some have been grown from seed like cornflowers, sunflowers, gerbera, borage, petunia, nasturtium, dill, basil, chives, coriander, sage, thyme and fennel. Some have been bought, either as tiny plug plants on online sales or reduced in the supermarkets as ailing end of season bargains including oregano, fushia, rosemary, lavender, mint. I also bought some nigella, cosmos and nicotiana from my friend.

I’ve done a lot of rearranging and moving things about but am delighted with how it looks and smells as the flowers start to burst into bloom. Even on a miserable day there is always double figure numbers of pollinators buzzing about feeding from the flowers, we are able to nip out and gather herbs for cooking and Scarlett and I gathered a load of the early flowers to sugar coat and decorate a cake with. Some of the pots will obviously be annuals so next year will bring a whole new opportunity for different colours, themes and arrangements.

Our chickens continue to entertain us and provide us with a very steady supply of lovely free range eggs. I think all 8 of the hens have taken a turn at going broody this summer but we don’t want or need any more chicks so we have so far managed to find any hen sitting on a clutch of eggs and evict her. They may outsmart us yet though and I would not be entirely surprised to look out of the window at some point and spot a proud mumma hen leading a tribe of fluffy little chicks.

The garden has given me a lot of joy this spring and summer. There are constraints to being in a rented house (not in terms of what I am able to do, our landlords are lovely and happy for us to do anything in the garden, just in terms of what I want to invest time and money into when I know it is not our forever space) and the climate both in terms of the local area and the planet have not always been on my side, not to mention those slugs. But staying connected to nature, being outside in the elements, staying active, celebrating the victories and eating the results more than make up for any of the small down sides.