It is now exactly 2 years since we bought Oystercatchers and we are lucky enough to be here for the Sumer solstice once again.  I looked back at the photos from 2 years ago and out of the window at the 3 garden areas as they are now. Yes, we have worked hard – they might still be “works in progress”, but what we have achieved, considering we are only here for school holidays and the odd weekend, has been quite remarkable.

The bottom garden was a tip – full of old wire, lumps of concrete, a wreck of a kayak and tons of rock.

The top garden was a tip – full of old wire, lumps of concrete an old generator and tons of rock.

The middle garden was ….basic.  A narrow, ankle-turning step led down from the drive to the lower level, past a slope covered in weed membrane and a few rocks, then past a large expanse of gravel.

Access to the top garden was up a pile of rubble, through an old bush and then whack your way through the dock leaves and nettles. 

Access to the bottom garden was through half a dead tree, a load of nettles and some truly dangerous hidden rocks.

I would not like to calculate how many tons of stone I have moved around the top and bottom garden – last summer’s sorting stone out in the old bothan was a demonstration of what not to d as James and I sorted the stones into small, medium and I-can’t-actually-move-it piles, then realised we hadn’t allowed for putting the boats back so had to do it all again.  A nice semi-constructed low wall in the middle of the top garden was my next exercise in superfluous stone moving – no sooner had I made a pretty decent job of one end of it than the local sheep’s incursions in to taste our new honeysuckle necessitated taking that one down and properly re-constructing part of the wall above the stream.

I now have one long and one heaped pile of stones in 2 locations in the top garden, ready for the summer when I have to put back together the low wall I had originally started with.

Other half has dug out hundreds of dock leaves, heaved power tools in and out of the shed,

re-built a shed I brought back form Wiltshire in the middle garden, promised to build another shed to house the power (and other) tools that threaten to squash our wonderful housekeeper every time she goes in to fetch the clean bedding and towels.

James has proved that 17 year old boys have more muscle than 50+ fathers time and again and has manfully put up with his mother’s stone moving and his father’s non-shed building proclivities. He has swum (in the winter), towing a huge tree stump so that he could then sand blast it and mount it as a seating area in the bottom garden (his responsibility); he has planned, and re-planned how to fit his beloved jeep into the ruined bothan, while still allowing access to the stone stored there; he has negotiated with the local quarries for tons of aggregate and gravel; he has driven tons of rubbish up to the one and only dump in Portree – but at least now he can drive on his own he can stop for a decent cup of coffee; and he has horrified his parents by announcing his intention to host a post A Level holiday in the cottage next year!

Katherine has planted and directed her father in the re-furbishment of the top garden.  She has taken thousands of photos in and around the cottage and further afield on Skye – some of which I will put up here this Summer; she has attempted to make every Nutella recipe in her recipe book; she has insisted on eating Margarita Pizza followed by banana and chocolate pizza in Café Sia at every opportunity; and she has added to her father’s grey hair by announcing that braking gently when learning to drive is low on her list of priorities.

You can see that we have had various difficulties while carrying out the work over the last 2 years, not the least of which was the remarkable proclivity of the garden to turn into a veritable jungle if left alone for a week or two – hopefully the addition of Kevin, the Gardener, to our team will help with that in the long run.  The carefully hand made gate into the top garden, lovingly constructed by Katherine and her father soon proved to be a channel for the copious amounts of rainwater that came off the garden, so the boys had to do some serious construction works, re-routing the winter stream through the exisiting wall (and there is more to be done here to stop the road becoming eroded).

But look at the transformation!  There is still a lot to do in the top garden, but we have planted shrubs and fruit bushes and moved in some heavy duty furniture. It’s a lovely spot to sit as the sun moves around and you can usually catch a breeze to help cope with the dreaded midges.

The bottom garden is transformed – although again still with work hopefully to be done to continue – with firepit, benches, the now cleaned and sanded tree trunk all providing a great space for morning coffee or evening Smores.

The narrow steps down from the drive have been replaced and the weed membrane removed to allow grass to be seeded.  The additon of some paving slabs and pots of flowers have made the expanse of gravel much more attractive and welcoming  and encourages more meals aoutdoors if the weather allows.

Even the middle garden has been tackled – with shrubs beginning to thicken up, temprary sheep fencing installed (thanks to our lovely next door neighbours for allowing us in to do this) and we have spent a lot of time feeding the originally rather straggly lawn.  (The planned new shed will go along the back wall of the cottage …eventually … 2017?????)

So it’s not just all cosmetic.  I re-painted every room in the house this year and plan to do so again at Autumn half term and Christmas.  At least we won’t be replacing any more furniture as we are very pleased with the upgrades as mentioned in an earlier post. I have made curtains for all the bedrooms and added blackout blinds to all windows that did not already have them, as well as some cushion covers.  Sue, our housekeeper, continues to be an absolute treasure and acts as emergency point of contact if we are away – so she may well have an expanded role with our move to Wiltshire!  There is a window seat nearing completion waiting to be fitted into the upstairs twin room.  The contents of the kitchen cupboards have been added to (a fine dining set, box of spices and new mugs being the most notable additions).

Now, what just needs attending to?

Old vs New