Monday, 29 November 2010

Practically snowbound

The snow keeps on falling so I've decided to make the most of the time indoors and start work on decorating some of the Christmas cakes that I've got on order. I've wanted to try this Lorraine McKay design for ages but I suppose I was worried that it would be difficult. How wrong I was - easy peasy. Thanks Lorraine - you are so talented that I'll have a go at some more of your projects now.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Deja vu

And still it snows. Another few inches overnight and the weight of the snow took some tree branches down onto the power lines in the night so we woke up to no power. It was exactly the same power lines that came down earlier this year. To give the Hydro credit they were here really quickly and had it fixed by half past three.

Our lovely neighbours came down with their kids and one of their tenants this afternoon to clear the end of the track which goes in front of our house up to their house. Many hands made light work and they managed to do a great job so that they can get their cars off the main road. We had to dig the driveway out again but I think if we keep on top of it we should be able to keep the driveway open. It is still snowing as we speak...aaarghhhh :(

The best laid plans...

A snowy Speyside sunrise
OK so the weekend isn't going quite to plan. Roy's visitors were coming by private jet from Germany but couldn't land because Inverness airport was closed due to snow. Roy had battled to get there to pick them up only to be told that they had had to divert to Islay.

I spent the whole day shovelling snow so that we could get in and out of the house and have somewhere to park as well. As soon as I cleared to the end of the driveway the b***dy snowplough came along and piled it all up again - more than once. It has snowed on and off all day and added another foot to the snow we had yesterday. The drifts are waist deep. I'm seriously thinking about getting some snowshoes or just emigrating.

There's some patio furniture under here somewhere
Needless to say there won't be any walking getting done anytime soon but I must have burned thousands of calories today and used muscles I didn't know I had. It's still snowing so I'll probably have to go and do it all again tomorrow. Yes it's pretty but only when you don't have to go anywhere and people aren't relying on you.

At least it gives me time to be baking all of the Christmas cakes that I've got orders for and experimenting with some great designs by the incredibly talented Lorraine McKay. We'll see what tomorrow brings.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

The arrival of winter - brrrrr

Winter arrived on Tuesday night and I'm already fed up with it. It's OK if you don't have to go anywhere but if you absolutely do it's a bit like mounting a military operation to prepare for all eventualities. Obviously I was never a boy scout (or even a brownie) but I reckon they knew what they were talking about with that motto of theirs.

Hopefully we'll be able to get out and about this weekend even if just for a wee jaunt so let's hope that the snow has done its worst for now.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Walking gear

I'm thinking long and hard about the stuff that I'll take with me on the walk. I did think originally about staying at hostels and bed and breakfasts all the way but when I added up how much it would cost I decided against it. It's the single supplement that adds up and the fact that you are absolutely tied to staying at A, B and C means that there's no flexibility in your day. So some nights I'll YHA it and some nights I'll B&B it. Some nights I'll camp, either at proper campsites or wild camp in the hills. It makes sense because I've already got all of the gear except for a tent which is big enough for me and my gear but light enough for me to carry. We've got several tents: a massive one that we use when we go car camping, a middle sized one that we found on the beach at Culbin sands (long story...) and a lightweight one that we use when we go hiking and wild camping. The lightest one is a fabulous tent from a great company called Lightwave and we love it because it has a huge vestibule which is great for storing your gear and cooking in if the weather is crap. We took it when we walked the John Muir trail in the Sierra Nevada a couple of years ago and it didn't let us down. This is it pitched on the then unfinished campsite opposite the Fuaran Bar at Altandhu in August this year.

The campsite at Altandhu will be great when it's finished, the only problem with it is the midges. When we were there in August it was absolutely miserable. I can't begin to describe the abject misery of trying to pitch a tent and then cook a meal when there are literally millions of midges trying to get in your eyes, your ears, your nose, every exposed nook and cranny of your body. I can't understand what on earth we were thinking - camping on the west coast in August???? Doh!

Anyway, this tent is great if it's divided between two people carrying it but it is also quite awkward getting in and out of it because it's quite low. That meant that I had to look for a new one that wasn't going to cost the earth. I looked around and found the Vango Apex 200. It's marketed as a 2 man tent and it weighs 1500grams. I like it particularly because of the shape and the fact that it has a big opening door that would be easy to get in and out of when the muscles are aching. A lot of the lightweight tents that I looked at were long and low and I discounted them because I get a bit claustrophobic and didn't fancy having the tent fabric so close to my face. I like to be able to sit up at least and am willing to carrying some extra weight so that I can be comfortable.

Vango Apex 200

I found a practically new one on Ebay and won it. It has a wee vestibule at the front but I have to say that it would be very snug inside for 2 people. For me on my own with my boots, stove etc etc, it's perfect. I haven't had the chance to spend the night in it yet so we'll wait and see but I hope it will be just the job.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Feels like winter

Was certainly glad of those fleecy lined trousers today. Had a quick dash up to the mast at Knockmore and back. Got to the top, took the wee stove out to make coffee and the darned thing lit and then died. There was gas in it but not loads and it was so cold that it wasn't co-operating. Nothing for it but to have half a bounty bar and walk down the mountain bike trail and back to the car. Great to be out - always cheers me up if I'm feeling a bit low. There is definitely something to this Seasonal Affective Disorder thing. Think I might get one of those special lights that you switch on in the evening.

Finally feel that I'm getting to grips with the super sophisticated Satmap GPS. Great piece of kit if you're an astrophysicist but it's taking me a bit longer to work it all out!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Breakthrough Breast Cancer

I've created a page at Just Giving for sponsors to donate money. You'll see a link to it on the right hand side. Please give whatever you can. Although I hate to steal a catchphrase - every little really does help.

The aim is to raise £2680 - £10 for every mile I walk. Of course you may want to wait until I've done my walk before you donate - after all what if I don't finish it??

Well I can assure you that I will finish it, even if I have to do it on my hands and knees! Why not donate half now and half when I've finished, that way it gives me even more of an incentive to keep putting one foot in front of the other when all I want is a hot bath and a gin and tonic!
These are the boots that I've worn out over the past few years
I'll be doing more fundraising through the year including one of my famous bakesales and raffles so check back often to see how it is going!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Topping out at the mill

Yesterday we were invited to the topping out ceremony at Knockando Woolmill. It marked the completion of the first phase of restoration works after a 10 year campaign by a very dedicated group of people headed by chairwoman Jana Hutt. The mill is one of the few surviving buildings of its kind in Scotland and was close to falling down completely. Hard work and sheer bloody mindedness managed to raise over £3 million and work started earlier this year. The Conservation training workshop is now finished and the machinery from the mill has been dismantled and decanted into the new building ready to be conserved and reassembled.
Inside the new conservation training workshop
The next stage is the careful conservation and stabilisation of the mill buildings, ready for the machinery to be re-installed and for the whole thing to be reopened in 2012. There will be a small visitor centre, a training scheme for a new generation of craftspeople to learn all of the skills involved with producing woollen cloth from fleece to finished product and a commercial weaving workshop to generate income. This includes of course all of the engineering expertise necessary to keep the machinery working. Quite a feat considering some of it is well over 100 years old!

Much of the machinery originated in the north west of England
It was a great landmark celebration, marred only for us by the fact that my car broke down and died on the way and had to be recovered home. It's now headed to Inverness for major surgery..oh and I'm suffering with a major bout of acute sinusitis so feeling pretty miserable aaaghhh poor me!