Two words – the weather ! We’ve welcomed the New Year with gusto here at Erskine – we’re feeling refreshed and full of new ideas looking and planning ahead for spring. Howling gales and rain then snow (and more snow) hasn’t hampered us too much. We’ve had some breathtakingly beautiful sunny days with the bluest skies but other days the snow has been a wee bit problematical with trying to get veterans picked up and returned home.
The pond and the small frog ponds have been completely frozen so we’ve had to keep a close eye on that. Even the salt barrel was frozen for a few days but our friends at Erskine came to the rescue, not only bringing us some fresh salt but helped do the paths and steps too. As you may have seen on Facebook, the biggest of our greenhouses frame was flattened (literally) with the high winds we get here at Erskine. Fortunately, after last year’s damage and subsequent replacement cost of the glass, we had taken the glass out and stored it safely, so Phew !
Before the Christmas break, we had a ‘winter blitz’ in our woodwork workshop and it’s looking wonderful. We’ve been clearing out, re-organising and having an early spring clean. So it’s been a much nicer space to get on with lots of inside jobs in the worst of the weather. The veterans, guided by our lovely woodwork volunteer Bob, have been making very posh compost bins with wood donated by Erskine Hospital. They’ve been clearing out an old storage workshop and very kindly gave us permission to use some of the wood. The site for the new bins has been cleared – they will make our composting more pleasurable and efficient. Looking ahead, we’ve also started making bird feeders and bug boxes for our sales. Splitting our waste wood is a favourite task for some of the veterans and selling it for kindling has been a good way of keeping warm too. Bagged up in sandbags tied with a bit of raffia, it looks quite seasonal and attractive.
We’ve been busy looking after the birds too. At this time of year our feeders need re-filling every other day. And our feathered friends (not just the woodpeckers) are loving our new suet feeders. We took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch on 26th January and Wendy e-mailed the results off. Our bird numbers and species seem to be on the increase which is lovely.
Our CPN here at Erskine, Grace, has been busy with new referrals amongst her many other tasks. As a result, we have some new veterans that have started with us and more moving through the assessment process. Speaking of moving on, some of our boys have been relocating to the fantastic purpose built accommodation that has been built specifically for veterans in Cranhill – there is a mix of supported accommodation and unsupported flats. We’re going to go over for a visit soon but the photos look great and the boys are excited by, and proud of, their new digs.
In this last couple of weeks we’ve been making warming soups to carry us through the snow and gales. We’ve also been trying a bit of baking – fruit and plain scones aplenty ! We’ve been having them warmed slightly and served with our leftover home-made jams – a lovely treat. We’ve had some visitors to our site and have kept a stock in the freezer too for sharing.
You may remember in the summer, the lovely Cadets from 383 (Alloa) Squadron, Air Training Corps came to help in the garden. Sergeant and Mrs Ross came in to present us with a cheque for £215.00. The cadets held a raffle at their Christmas party and wanted to donate the proceeds to us ! They are coming in again at the start of the summer school holidays to do even more work in the garden. Again you may have seen the photos on Facebook – Derek our smashing chef from ISS/Hewlett Packard came over and cooked our lovely Burns Lunch with the veterans. We had the traditional Haggis, neeps and tatties and Cranachan for dessert. His next visit is planned for Shrove Tuesday – wonder why we’re looking forward to that so much! Also getting back to our usual timetable, we will be re-starting our fortnightly sale over in the main hospital. So we will be getting back to making our jams, chutneys and piccalilli which sell very well. Held at Auchincruive, we had 2 very successful staff training days – this also gave us the opportunity of catching up with colleagues from all of the Gardening Leave sites which is always nice.
Forward planning is the order of the day now – spring and summer events, planting schemes, the overall annual plan for the garden, followed by monthly and weekly breakdowns. The snowdrops, the sprouting narcissi and a few very pretty emerging primroses will get us through the next few weeks.
Wendy and Karen