A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

The Spring Winter Battle.

Was going to post this a little earlier today but Dougal was looking a little sad

so brought that part of the day forward. He is now suitably filthy after a wee trip down to Toscaig where he went digging for rodents and tried to consume some afterbirths. The walk always includes other activities such as the wood gathering and the odd shore retrieval. Last winter I was alerted to some salmon farm floats coming ashore just out from Cruary. Had my eye on them and planned a salvage with the Varuna on a high tide and north wind. One however came a floating into the Bay and is now in the garden to be used as a raised bed after having the top cut off and the polystyrene disposed off. Garden is very unkempt but my excuse is I am waiting for the dandelions to seed as there are no end of bees and other pollinators on them.

It being Spring there are signs of growth everywhere.

Where does one start with all the political turn arounds, swings both local and national. Another election which closely follows our local Highland Council elections. I probably would have done anyway but certain that my number 1 vote is going to Topher Dawson, who resides in the west just up the coast, is standing for the Green Party and so far has been the only candidate to visit Applecross. He is a very self-effacing chap who has visited 15 community councils and not once asked for anyone to vote for him. (One of those weird co-incidences has just occurred, a second candidate, Biz, has just been to the door with a leaflet!!) Topher, as well as attending our CC, came up the next day to the Hydro Scheme and up to the Head where he gave me a hand in cleaning the screen, this can be seen in his election leaflet. Then we have Andy Wightman contesting a defamation case in the courts and having to crowd fund for his appeal. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/awdefamation This is an appeal that we have contributed to, on two counts, if he goes broke as a result he loses his seat and would be a great lose to the Scottish Parliament, and we need people like him to speak up and out for the many issues that affect us all locally. And finally our neighbouring country has decided to call yet another election, but new UK immigration laws are already having an effect in the Highlands as is seen in Lagan. A family who emigrated to Scotland from Canada in 2008, were running a local shop and coffee shop, are being deported despite petitions, letters, MPs protesting. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-39657447?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_scotland_news&ns_source=twitter&ns_linkname=scotland People wonder why we want to have our own country, well not deporting residents who are part of a rural community and not having our MSPs taken through court by directors from a company based in an offshore tax haven would be a start. The local news just broken today is that the Kishorn Yard is now going to be used for building a floating offshore wind farm. Two hundred jobs for a worthwhile cause and all appears well locally. Hopefully it will fit in well with the local economy providing orders and employment for existing local businesses. I am sure there will be unintended consequences in the future but we will wait and see. http://www.kishornport.co.uk/2017/04/floating-wind-farm-to-create-up-to-200-jobs-at-kishorn-port/

The season is well underway although it appears that there is still a battle going on between Winter and Spring. Winter is forecast to win back some more time at the start of next week, but there are days, like today, when the bees are loading up with pollen.

We are caught a bit in the middle of it as we are not getting to sea as much as we would like to. Last week and again earlier this week the catches have not been too bad and for the most part the Inns I supply have them on the menus. The gear mending and washing season is already upon us and yesterday I was along-side the Pier loading up creels that have been clogging up the jetty for the last few months. A bit more activity around the Pier and had to wait while other users landed scallops and the Marine Scotland boat which is working on salmon smolt research.

Cleaned, baited and stacked on board for tomorrow. Getting a little busier on the water

although I am as far west as I have been for quite some time. The bonxies are arriving in ever-increasing numbers

and one or two are looking particularly bright

with a variant of colours on their feathers.

The Inn is busy but apart from Good Friday, when it was off the scale with 534 meals served throughout the day, it has been manageable. The Dream Machine also in operation would have put the figure over 650. I do not work Fridays but the rest of the shifts have been busy enough. Only when people like the Truckers come in from Sheildaig for their weekly band practice do you realise how busy it is. You are just doing the normal job of finding tables for people to sit at and eat the great food. They just shake there heads at how busy it all is. Last week and it could only happen in Applecross Inn but when you have to deal with a booking for seven that was not written down, you take emergency action. Hopefully Geoff and Maureen did not mind too much when I moved their table, yes their table, with their half eaten meal on it to make way for the seven. Knowing the regular customers really well has its benefits as I would not have done that with 99% of the other visitors to the Inn. The Good Friday session was topped off with a three coming in at 10.15pm and looking at the menu.They were told it was all over but checked the fryers were still on they asked if they could have their own chicken nuggets cooked. Okay was the reluctant reply so out one went to come back with nuggets and drumsticks. the kitchen staff duly obliged and as a wee something arranged the drumsticks very artistically in lines like a rack of lamb. Was looking good until the next request was can we make it a takeaway. There is no real answer to this and so off they went, more happy Applecross customers, the Inn caters for all. Last night was a little different as there were lots of twos coming in and we have a limited supply of tables for two. The Boss was getting a well-earned rest so I was on the mix and match. Managed four tables and it gives extra pleasure seeing two couples leaves the table and saying sincere Cheerios outside with handshakes and hugs. Three hours before they had never met. Some people prefer not to share and if they are prepared to wait just a little longer then that is perfectly okay as well. Good food is not exclusive to the Inn and when convenience food is needed to assuage a fierce hunger there is nothing better than hot fried langoustine tails in sea salt and wild garlic leaves from the garden.

The brown bread should be home-baked but the day is not long enough.

To finish I managed a trip to Inverness with langoustines for the Loch Ness Inn and coming back through Glen Torridon on a wood scouting mission by our local tree surgeon, the view looking down on Loch Maree is often worth the stop. One of the iconic views in Scotland.

Zones,Ice Cream Medals and History in the Living Room.

In the zone, that where we were tonight, I think I may be using the royal”we”. Made it with a couple of minutes to spare and very quickly in the deep end. Jack, Heather, and I. Eighteen booked in at the top end of the bar for 7pm so the four tables to the north gone for the night. Residents and walk ins made for a busy, busy evening. But first the hot news from Ingilston was that Aron had won eight, yes eight, bronze medals for his ice creams. He had put in twelve flavours  and honestly hoped for one award. This was the kick off for the evening. As soon as I heard the news I wiped the board outside and was going to write-up his achievements. My writing is eligible but does not compare to the Boss’s……in fact no one’s does.


So just asked the two visitors approaching the door if they could write. Got a wry smile from the Mrs who said that believe it or not she could and not only that she could do joined up as well. Thought I had come across a teacher. All just good craic which set up for the evening. Seems the other news from the Royal Highland Show was Aron’s shirt, so loud it was heard at Edinburgh castle, ten miles away, and yes even he has now been interviewed by Dougie Vipond, almost tempted to call him Our DV. Bit of a late shift as we had twelve people waiting for tables around 8.30pm. As usual it all works out and there were many happy people leaving the Inn. From start to finish the customers were special, appreciative, interesting and great company. They came from Maine, California and the mid west, France and all parts of the UK. Humour levels high as was intelligent conversations. At one time in between a retired Met Bobbie and two French journalists. Very different opinions on Scotland, England, France and Europe. And that was without going into the Ref, Salmond and Sturgeon. A couple of mistakes tonight in the ordering but even they were okay, lamb for a crab and a curry for a linguine. The mood and atmosphere were so good that the lamb and curry were eaten, complimented and were no longer regarded as mistakes. Nights like these fly by and the ten o’clock quiet descends on the bar. A dozen people left down stairs as I spend my second night sleeping in. Morning up earlier to get away to do some fishing as the weather has settled down again and met Berry, the Californian with this family getting ready for breakfast. Another good chat, this time he expressed surprise at hearing Iris Dement on our playlist, always back to music. Abiding political theme is not if but when the next Indy Ref is going to be. Hope there is not too much anti Jock sentiment stirred up by the more basic press. I suppose we have a job to do in continuing to welcome one and all as guests first and foremost, an easy thing to do in an evening like last night.

Although the evening shift goes like a dream there is still time to think of the Mackenzies and their extended family as yesterday they said goodbye to Mary. Big crowd and they came from far and wide to pay their respects. Always a catch in the throat as the coffin is lowered slowly down into the grave. The weather stayed off and a brief chat at the grave side meant I was one of the last to drift away. I never made it in time for the service but paid my respects at the grave. Went to the Heritage Centre and had a wander around for ten minutes waiting for the mourners from the Clachan church to emerge. Not sure if I am privileged to be on the Heritage round of photos as every one else I saw has passed away, just think that I am older than I look.

Tonight I was told that this summer/spring is the worst for 43 years.


Not sure what the reference is but good it is not. One day of decent weather


followed by four or five of miserable stuff. Even Dougal


and Eilidh are getting down about it.


So in between the fishing days there are still creels to mend,


prawns to deliver to the Loch Ness Inn,


where there must have been some serious celebrating last weekend, some cousins may have been partaking.


Also I picked up some boards from the sign makers at Inverness, did not know at the time what they were, but Alison had organised historical photos put on hoardings


with the intention of displaying them at the Filling Station.


And since the engineer has been here there has been no drop off. Seems it was a hardware issue and not our broad band.


Was back out while Alison unpacked


and spread them out in the living room.


They are amazing and will look tremendous on site.


Spread around the room you could not help but be transported back in time.

The garden is very unconventional and we no longer have any vestige of a lawn, the grasses being waist-high. The Aquilegia are looking fine


and the rain on the mantle always stays as drops on the leaves.


Selfies are Out.

Monday evening; Wednesday turned out to be windy, strong wind from the south so good to have a recovery day from the propeller dive. Was out in the evening at the Inn and busy but nothing untoward, Thursday was a long one when out fishing and followed up by closing up at the Inn. These are testing days as no matter how tired you are you have to cover it for the customers. Weather seems to have settled down


and there was a stunning sunset and I took off on the bike to take a few snaps along at Milton Pier


and the fence line as it goes down to the shore.


Timed it for the American friends coming from Mike and Helen’s. They have been coming over for years and you can tell what time of year it is when Eleanor, Stewart and Baba arrive along with various friends and family.


Friday was another beautiful calm day at sea and the squats almost overwhelmed me today.


Every minute I was not hauling and shooting back creels I was tailing mountains of squat lobsters. A few more small prawns on the ground as well as the squats so happy with catch. Day did start with a bit of a panic as I was catching a few minutes of Breaking Bad before heading down to the dinghy to get the Loch Ness prawns ready for transport, look d out the window and there was the transporter wondering where I was. Mix up on the times. Fastest I moved all day but they left only fifteen minutes late. Evening was spent in the company of aforesaid Americans and if I said fours hours passed as one that sums up the evening. Great food, company and conversation. Even had a little referendum talk, more and more of that lately and I am sure it will increase as the date comes nearer. Speaking to a lovely English family over the week and their attitude is they would be sad to “see us go”, but I just do not see it that way…..we aint going anywhere, that is just a perception. Saturday evening spent a half with a couple of Yessers from Aberdeen, involved in the oil industry where the general feeling is No. One in particular wanted away from his work but used a term I had never heard before he was trapped by the “golden handcuffs”. There are worse things I am sure but wealth and living a life style does trap people into not making the life decisions they want. Took a chance that the Friday fishing would last through the weekend and chopped wood instead of going fishing. The garden is looking not too bad and with the new policy of it looking after itself, seems to work. The hydrangeas are cuttings I took from Kyle and are a wee reminder of my Mum. Not sure how long she will be around as she took a fairly major turn last Friday.


Made it till Sunday evening with the prawns and left some very large prawns by the roadside for pickup on Monday morning to see the Inn through the day while I caught some more regular size. It just keeps on going. Took a couple of photos for a blog I have been asked to write for Volt Bikes. Euan took the one of me on the bike


and really do not like being in the picture. Selfies are definitely out.


Saint Island

Quick photo post from Son No3 who went to St Island by kayak yesterday.Passing the Street and coming up to Milton. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Lovely sunny day but before that I missed a photo out when I was talking about the lilac tree and here it is, Margaret with some of the Flensburg guys when they went down to do a little spinning at Camusterrach when they were here in February. 10148528_10152371691548530_381425657_o 10148596_10152371684308530_1085609131_o At this time of year the gulls are hatching their chicks and the date is passed when the men used to go and pick up eggs for themselves. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Eggs now being to far gone in the growing stage. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I think I remember being told that the 22nd of May was the last day that they would pick up the eggs. Gulls dive bomb any one ashore on the island to protect their eggs. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Michelle coming in in the distance. The island was supposed to be the first landing point when Maelruabh came ashore in the seventh century. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Not for Every One.

Three days into the week and no fishing yet, must be official, I am part-time. Have to watch that I do not get caught up in any new legislation regarding limiting part timers. I have a decent recorded landing history that should stand us in good stead. Plan to haul a few pots over the next couple of days to keep the Inn going over the weekend. Vehicle complications at the moment, last week lost the oil from the steering gear. Nothing obvious from the reservoir or top pipe but turns out the pump had blown out the O ring and could not be replaced, so new pump. Got the van back that day and no fun hauling the wheel round the hair pins on the Hill with no power steering. The Inn had prawns over the three days as I had a few hanging over the side




and took some ashore each day. Organised a trip to Inverness as the car was already at the garage passing it’s MOT so the idea was to leave the van there and take the car through, first to Loch Ness Inn with more prawns, stopping to watch now resident geese grazing at the Caman,


then to Inverness to pick up boat stuff and Wholefoods. All going swimmingly until I got back to the garage where the wrong pump was sent through and now with the gear stripped down there was only the car to get back home. Things did not improve as I was told Alison was coming back up the road, well train, and needed picking up at around eight.  There is no night club open in Lochcarron on a Tuesday night there was nothing for it but to drive home , take the pooches out and head back over the Hill. At least it was the car so better steering and timing was immaculate as the car pulled in as Alison came over the bridge. And it was good viewing there


and back.


So tonight’s. little epic is getting a lift over the Hill to pick up the van. Complicated reason but I will try to explain, involves the Community Company. Monday a trip to Rona is planned to roll out the next stage of the broadband, setting up a dish in Lonbain is the plan tomorrow and the schoolhouse has been inundated with boxes, dishes, cables, poles etc, some of which I have taken down to the pier in preparation for Rona. However some of the kit may be there that is being used for Lonbain. The key to the padlock is, yes you’ve guessed it in the van in Lochcarron. So tonight’s trip is really for a key and the van is incidental. I am very happy to volunteer for the Company and Community and do not really do it for anyone else but the community as a whole, so hearing a wee story tonight about a guy casting aspersions on the Company, even suggesting dodgy practices made me smile after the initial short-lived peed off feeling passed. There are always going to be some people who do not get it and I suppose they have my sympathy.

In amongst all the running around, all the bought seed tatties have been planted with the lovely mature silage compost. The sunset over the last day or two have been pretty decent,


every one different and although tonight’s was okay it was still special in its own way and drew most customers out for a few shots so I took photos of people taking photos.


The bike up the road was not too bad either.


Although seven people waiting for tables at one stage it was an easy flowing evening of the usual great food and good banter.

As it is now Thursday morning  I got a lift over the Hill from Kenny to pick up the van and the key. May not have needed to but good to get the van back. Toilets are going well with donations box being emptied every night, after our break in. It is a shame that happens but it does, box now padlocked by Sean and only way to keep thefts to a minimum is make people aware that it is emptied every day so not worth it for a few quid. Lots of nice comments from the users, that and local power, possible housing and refurbishing our refurbished Filling Station, not to mention the broadband, there is plenty to do.

Over the weekend there were two new members of staff set up to start work on the Monday. They may have come at the wrong time, when we were running out of plates, but they seemed set up for the start of the week. That was when at 10.15am they did not appear for first shift. Emerged later in the day that they hitched out-of-town earlier in the morning getting a lift over the Hill from Ewen. Applecross it seems is not for every one.

Not Really Grumpy

Later start and hoped for a bit of a quieter afternoon and that was what happened. So after taking the broadband equipment earmarked for Rona down to the pier, a self powered unit,


passing the Grace Anne on the way,


it was out on the middle bank all day and it was not till the last two fleets that I came out of gear, meaning I almost always haul the creels facing into the wind and if there is a breeze and/or strongish tide against you, you have the boat ticking over ahead to keep her up to the gear. Always have to be alert for foul up or shoot overs as ropes are drawn into the propeller. Fairly uneventful day apart from missing one buoy and after going astern the rudder came around too far. Luckily the safety bars keep it from the propeller but it meant switching off the auto helm and heading down the aft hatch with the stilson to swing it back around with the help of the wheel. Not a very pleasant job in the swell but no damage apart from straightening the auto helm rod that is attached to the rudder. Although I get these things sorted eventually I do not have the engineering brain and began by trying to turn the rudder the wrong way but also I know I have not that type of knowledge so do not force things too much before taking time out to have a proper think about it. Last fleet I hauled had not been hauled for a while for various reasons and came up with half a dozen creels wrapped around my first couple of creels. Nothing else to do but cut them off and cut the other rope to get myself free. There will be a land delivery of the creels and hope I retied okay for the least hassle for the other boat. No blame just two fleets that had not been hauled for a while had come together.


Lovely afternoon and although sun arriving late it was an enjoyable day.


Only ashore you realise there is another ALPS meeting to go to, so it means, a take away fish and chips before heading back out the door. The project is coming to an end now and it is now the Gateway project to do and all these decisions are taken out with the Group so not really too much to say. I have stated that the pier option was the most carbon friendly but that has been turned down for several reasons which I can accept but not agree with. Taking timber out of Applecross by road is the least favourable option but that is the route we have gone down. Road upgrades and damage payments make the pier a better option financially but that is now history. Light looking even better ashore.


Today the weather came in albeit a little later but by 11 am was not bothered about not going out and got on with a pretty busy day of wood work, a pier tidy and landing some prawns to Spain via Ardheslaig. And by the time that was all over it was evening and time to make the sweet and sour prawns caught yesterday, which were bearable. Had to call into the toilets as we have a water problem, temporarily solved with a bucket but more needs to be done tomorrow morning. There always seems to be something at the moment. Bookwork, a long and intricate discussion on the future of rural west coast broadband on the email streams, Filling Station upgrade, and we thought it already was, and now the toilets. Hopefully it will turn out to be something simple like an airlock but it still needs to be sorted by some one who knows what he/she is doing. Slight relief in that we were not going to be quorate tonight at the CC meeting so cancelled. Bealach Beag has reared its head again, as said before it is tolerated here with not an awful lot of benefits but the organisers have decided in their wisdom to put the May event on on the May Bank Holiday. Businesses actually lose money on the day and losing a Bank Holiday payday seems a bit unfair for some people. When the organisers came in first it was to “extend the shoulder of the season” something that people in Applecross by September are wondering as necessary. But the opinion was that neighbouring communities may need or want this extension so we have shrugged our proverbial shoulders. The impact on the organisers will come from Shieldaig CC as we have been dismissed….we shall see. Good to have a grump and as we are on one then the situation with the Roads Dept regarding the undermining of the road at the bottom of the Craig Darroch is not the best, especially as they are putting a cattle grid on the Culduie road which as far as I know there will not be any fences round it. I am in a better mood than the post suggests but it is good to see what can be improved. Another way of looking at it is there is so much going on here for just a couple of hundred souls who live on the peninsula. When something goes wrong on the Varuna you fix it and no one knows, but when you have community problems like the Filling Station, local cards or running out of diesel, (that was me), you are a hostage to every one. It does mean there  a healthy and sometimes vibrant community, needs more people though. But as the trip round the coast shows there are sights and colours that keep you going,


a sign seasons are turning when you see the Seaflower 11


back on the water,




in the garden no exception. Wild bees choice but not the honey bee.


“Pardon my Tartle.”

The last couple of days has definitely felt like autumn and late autumn at that. The colours do not match that of the New England Fall but have their own understated beauty.



Nothing more to report on the Coal Shed Pier as our anticipated meeting did not materialise due to a couple of blown tyres. Was at the pier while waiting for Kenny to deliver fuel to the Filling Station and it certainly got a lovely sweeping line that looks even better when the tide is in.


Wandered over to the wee hydro river which was flowing well in the autumn rain.


“Challenging” was going to be the title of the post and it is, that is challenging living in a fragile rural “idyll”. A place where people come to visit, chill out, enjoy the atmosphere and hospitality and head off back to their slightly more frantic lifestyles. We do have a lot of discerning visitors who know how difficult it is to maintain services in places like Applecross, but a large number come and go thinking what a wonderful place to live. It is but the challenges are tenfold. If you let them they can become major events or opinions that can pull you down and for me this is an iffy time of year with the day light diminishing and motivation on the decline.

First challenge came around on Monday when we were informed that the Weekend Trials on the Range were extended for a further day. annoying when we were not told and further annoying that 11.15am to 1.15pm was chosen as a time for the requested 6 mile exclusion. Basically meant that after hauling in Applecross Bay was told that my presence was not requested on the Sound, back home with another day ashore. Simple calculation would show that several thousand pounds were taken out of the local fishing economy. Put it in its box but have to let some one know that this is not the way to go about things, especially as the fishing community had complied over the weekend.

Next challenge turns out to be health, laid out yesterday on the couch, weather not too good and today was worse so not too much missed. Only little bright spot was a dip back into Hamish Macbeth being repeated on ITV3 just now, just good fun.

Today was up the road, as mentioned before, to see Kenny our very friendly fuel lorry driver.


Keep saying it but it is always a light relief to chat to the outside, just pass the time of day. Mind you we were talking about Grangemouth and selling off the Royal Mail, just wee inconsequential things that do not affect us….more expensive diesel and a closed PO, maybe it will have its effect. But one of my challenges completed, we have diesel to sell again, trying to look on the bright side we have only been out of fuel for less than a week while the Company took over the then defunct Filling Station in 2008. so apart from a major refurbishment and trying to keep some dodgy equipment going the Applecross Volunteer Force has done ok.

So good to see Hamish again. Never have found out if it was just a good craic series to do or was there several layers of satire involved. Lots of little bits in it that you have missed first time round. A conversation about how enclosed a wee place like Loch Dhu can be, where anonymity is guaranteed not to exist. So true but the converse is, especially at sea, if you are seen in the wrong place or not at all then help, if needed, soon arrives so not being anonymous has its advantages. So the next little part of the journey through the challenges is tea before I head out to the evening shift at the Inn. Tea is consisting of home-made beef sausage stew, with carrots, garlic, beetroot and tatties from the garden, which the rowan trees incidentally are being stripped by field fares. There are flocks of hundreds flying around the south end of the peninsula.


Finally came across a great new word, “tartle”, one that I can use at the Inn. Often I am speaking to people that know me but I do not know their name or sometimes not a clue who they are. It is not a rudeness but if you watched and seated and ordered food for over 10,000 people a year, certainly feels like that, you to would not recognise every one. I can now say “pardon my tartle” as this is from the Scottish and covers a hesitation when you are introduced to some one whose name you cannot recall. Might try it out tonight, what a wonderful word.

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