Ali's Contributions

What will 2018 bring?

2017 saw the completion of the barn, the rebuilding of the superyurt, more tree planting and the near completion of the shed that will house our electricity supply when it arrives in March. All of this cost us a fortune and the quotes for getting our detailed plans and building warrant totally floored us – we won’t see any change out of £5000 just for a few bits of paper! I have had to take on more work to try and build up our pot of money to afford the aforementioned bits of paper and Mick’s hip has deteriorated to the point where he was questioning his ability to take part in the build at all. On top of everything else, Mick lost his mum in January and his Dad in November. It’s been a dark time and we have spent many long nights considering our position and whether to jack it all in and move to Ullapool. We have been generally uncommunicative with a lot of people as we were fed up moaning about stuff and for those of you who are interested in our progress I apologise for the lack of updates here. Thankfully, we have some fantastically supportive friends who have seen us through with their technical know how, kind words, generous deeds and the occasional bottle of whiskey – you know who you are and we are very grateful to have you in our lives. On balance, we have decided to carry on with our project and make some thing beautiful and productive in Badrallach.

We are currently spending a cosy winter in a little rented cottage in Leckmelm as the prospect of another winter with no electricity was a bridge too far – what we save in diesel is pretty much paying for the rent 🙂 We will return to Badrallach in April with renewed vigour and are hoping that Mick will have begun his transformation into the Bionic Man and be sporting a shiny new hip by then – we’re still waiting for a date but it can’t be long now.

Which brings us to now, the beginning of 2018, our plan for this year is to get those bits of paper, install some electricity and rabbit proof our planting beds so that we actually produce some edible goodies this year, we also plan to plant significant wind breaks and stands of bamboo to provide us with plant supports as well as being beautiful when the breeze blows through them. We have a preference for black bamboo (Phyllostachys Nigra) like we planted in Ednam but it has been very hard to get hold of so far.

Our goals for next year are fairly modest but given that Mick will be recuperating and I’ll be working more, we think they’re realistic.

So to all our friends, near and far, we send you lots of love and hope that you have a wonderful 2018.

Bring on 2018


Ali's Contributions

Connor The Destroyer…

Well that was an exciting if devastating Christmas break. We had a lovely Christmas Day with Mick’s family in Barnsley then had a phonecall from a neighbour on Boxing Day to tell us that storm Connor had damaged the yurt and that our clothes were visible! Cue a mad dash back up the road to find that our home had been destroyed by the winds that had somehow managed to detach the roof straps,get under the cover to lift the whole yurt up then drop it, which collapsed the roof  and trashed it.

Thankfully we actually lost very little other than the yurt, our mattresses and some paperwork which is in a big soggy pile. Our friends have been absolutely amazing and provided Mick and I with a place to stay whilst we cleared the site and for a few weeks until we are able to build somewhere else to live until we build our house. Our clothes have all been laundered by Trish and Rob at The Dundonnell Hotel which led to a few raised eyebrows 😀 and their generous application of TLC made a horrible few days bearable.  Joe and Star have also been looked after by friends so that they haven’t been around to see the distress and the mess and for that we are eternally grateful.

People have been so generous with their time to come and help us finish off the barn so that we now have a space to dry out the remains of our stuff.


We are so lucky not to have been inside when the yurt was destroyed, it could have been so much worse. We took a chance when we decided to live up here in the lovely space that was the yurt and we have paid the price. Still, we will build something stronger and more resilient and get back on track. It’ll be interesting to see what this year brings. Happy New Year to you all, we wish you more highs than lows in 2017.

Ali's Contributions

Thank you Mr Shephard and Mr Grant…

The aforementioned gentlemen have both nudged me in recent weeks pointing out that I haven’t been very assiduous at updating you all on our progress this year so here it is.

With the generous help of Luke and Alan, we took down the yurt roof, remade it with our new roof crown and then added our lovely, new, muted green with stylish dayglow orange trim, waterproof cover courtesy of Moggy at


Thanks to a grant from the Woodland Trust our very own forest garden / shelter belt in a box arrived and we managed to plant  400 or so trees over the course of a couple of days – poor Mick spent weeks in fevered preparation digging way too many, way too deep holes. Still it keeps him fit and active! Added to that there were wonderful gifts of trees from Matilda’s garden and the Millennium Green, that Andrew is a trustee of, and various rescued branch trimmings that were stuck in the ground with naïve enthusiasm and have surprised us by actually sprouting leaves and even a few flowers – I am seriously impressed by the tenacity of these plants.


Planting the last tree with help from the Starry Pup.

After the tree planting marathon, the diggerman dug a massive hole on the east side of the burn that will eventually become the location of our barn and access track. The depth that he had to go to, to find solid enough ground from which to refill half of it with tonnes of aggregate took us and our savings account by surprise. One of the extra costs we hadn’t considered when deciding to live out here was the delivery of materials.


We had a wonderful visit from Rod and Andrew who helped us build a dam in the burn and make a water supply so that we now have a tap with real running water just outside the caravan; it still makes me so happy. Rod also started us off on our second lean-to which is now complete and has allowed Joe to have his den back.

Susana and the kids came and we made a washing stone under the tap so that big pot rinsing is less of a strain on the old back and fills me with gratitude every time I use it.

The current state of play is that we have an area ready to receive £3000 worth of concrete in it which will provide the base on which we can then erect the barn that is sitting there waiting however the Council Roads Department has just refused to grant us a licence for the large concrete waggons to come down our road and Breedon Aggregates have refused to deliver the loads in smaller waggons as it’s not worth their while…..pause while we gnash our teeth and tear out our hair at the unfairness of it all as it appears to depend on who answers the phone on any given day as to whether you get the licence or not. The diggerman is currently trying to arrange for another concrete merchant from Gairloch who will use a smaller waggon to deliver the stuff we need but it means further delays to an already long delayed project. We had hoped that the barn would be up by the beginning of summer, at this rate we’ll be lucky to have it up in time for winter.


I know that what we have are first world problems and things could be so much worse but it’s still so frustrating at how long you have to wait for stuff to get done up here, oh and of course all the bureaucracy that makes it near impossible to do anything that doesn’t fit into a nice neat little box.


Ali's Contributions

Progress of a sort…

Well I don’t know about you all, but we will be very glad to see the back of this winter. We have withstood some pretty extreme weather and the current intermittent snow showers are child’s play. These last two weeks we have been on a mission to clear the tons of woodchips that have been kindly donated to us and get them up onto the croft. Whilst it’s incredibly labour intensive it feels good to be outdoors doing some hard work instead of cowering indoors and feeling gloomy about yet another storm front coming in.

Thanks to Mick’s fledging drystone walling skills, we now have two beds ready to plant. There are 56 bags of woodchips in there. As a result, we have decided that we are not going to be planting any veg higher up the croft than the fank (ruin) – higher up the hill will become poultry park and the lower areas will be fruit and veg heaven.

Mick has also planted all of the trees that have been donated to us so far (thank you Matilda and the Leckmelm boys) and some have started to throw out leaves so we have a real sense of new beginnings.

Ulysses, our ancient cat finally shuffled off this mortal coil a few weeks ago and is now fertilising a weeping willow by the pond. A fitting resting place for our fiercely independent, semi wild companion for the last 17 years.

Today has been spent filling more bags with woodchips to be humphed up the hill when I get home so must dash and get them done before the light goes. Toodle pip for now.

Ali's Contributions

Phew! That was exciting…

Well dear friends and people who think we’re nuts….

It’s been a busy few months up here in the wild wild west. The deer fence is up and the first trees planted – mainly birch, holly and oaks. We’ve been turned down for a grant for the barn we needed as apparently what we want to do with it isn’t sufficiently agricultural and they think it’s a bit large for the land we have – so much for the “Crofting has to diversify if it’s going to survive as a way of life and let’s encourage lots of new young people to become crofters and rejuvenate the Highlands” message that is spouted by the Scottish Government (insert colourful and numerous expletives here…….)

Despite this enormous disappointment, we have been thinking creatively and have come up with a cunning plan that involves building our own barn that looks like an up turned boat attached to a polytunnel and painting two very large fingers on it in muted green paint for all the world to see. Watch this space for photos as we have to have something up by the spring.

After much hatch battening over the past few weeks, we and the yurt survived the storm known as Abigail last night. It was very loud and I don’t actually ever remember being that scared before, but once we realised that, despite the noise and the shaking, the yurt was sound, we were able to relax a little bit. I have now bought some ear plugs for the future and we will hopefully sleep through the next one.

We are in the process of adding lean to’s to Joe’s shed which will provide us with a log and tool store and a drying area of our very own – it’s the little things that please me these days. Apologies for the lack of pictures but I start work in about 5 minutes. I will be more industrious over the next few days and get some up…

Ali's Contributions

The Yurt is up!

That’s right folks, our temporary accommodation is now gracing the Badrallach skyline. Thanks to the help of some lovely neighbours who all came to our aid, we all managed to work out how to put it up and make it weather tight. We still have much work to do to turn it into a gorgeous living space but the grunt work is done. Yesterday we bought carpet and today we will be making bed bases from spare pallets. Fairy lights have been strung and we are soon to raid the storage container for suitable furniture to make it habitable. At last we feel like things are moving forward. We’ve been living in places that aren’t our own in one way or another for nearly two years now. It feels wonderful to finally be moving into our own space. There are wide grins a plenty in the Skelly Bairstow household just now 😀

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Ali's Contributions

A designer postbox

Little did I know when I asked my dad to help me build a postbox for our croft that it would be such a mammoth task! I had envisioned putting a box together with odds and ends of wood that were lying about the place. I should have known better. My dad has enlisted the help of his friend George and between them they are planning to build us the big daddy of all postboxes.

First there is the design phase….

Dad the designer

We have had many serious discussions about whether the supporting structures should be stone lions or marble pillars, whether or not to titanium plate the outside in order to make sure it’s strong enough for the local weather conditions and, most importantly, what sort of lighting and electric opening mechanism is required 😀

The materials have been purchased and the execution of the grand plan is about to begin. We can’t wait to see the finished article.

The first cut is the deepest…

The first cut is the deepest

The workers

And now, for the finished article, I present to you the mother of all postboxes, the envy of Badrallach, with bespoke artwork by the renowned flower painter Jojo de Allanton….