Tuesday, 21 December 2010

'Earth as hard as iron'.

Here we are at the mid winter solstice the shortest day of the year, and I must say that the sunset was spectacular this evening, as the sun slipped below the horizon of hills, and the moon rose into the heavens.

All at Burnside is frozen, 'Earth as hard as iron. Water as stone', to quote the great Gustav Holst. The smoke from the hearth rises unhindered into a starlit sky, and the mercury has plummeted.

In spite of the bitter conditions, good use was made of the day, by topping up the freezer with venison. At the very least Christmas dinner is now assured!

The mid winter sun at 1.10 p.m. today, as it skims through the frozen birch woods. At this latitude daylight is a privilege.

The deep mid winter. 'Earth as hard as iron. Water as stone'. The view north from Burnside.

Christmas dinner assured. Come what may, we shall eat!

Stay warm. Stay safe.



Wednesday, 1 December 2010


The weather forecasters do not always get things right, but my, they did this time!! When they spoke of heavy falls of snow on high ground they meant it..........and we got it!

As I sit here typing, the view from the office window resembles that of the Dacha scene, in Dr. Zhivago!,( the sparkly frozen one, at the cottage in the Urals). We have -10 C, and a level 18 inches of snow.

Last winter was the hardest in thirty years, and it all started in mid December. What we wonder does this winter have hidden up its sleeve, if we are experiencing these conditions in late November?

It is said that a pictures says a thousand words. So here goes.

                                                    Digging in to the steading.

                                          The Urals? Eagle Creek, Alaska? Nope...Ballintomb!

Ice anyone?

                                                                   Buried again!

                                   Monty wrapped up like a sausage roll, and as warm as toast.

                                                                 Got any carrots?

Stay warm where ever you are.


Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Ready for the Great Lakes.

The weather forecast told of snow on high ground last night, and although they often get such things wrong, they didn't this time.

We awoke this morning to around an inch or so of the white stuff, which has increased to around four inches over the day. Not much for this part of the world, admittedly, but after the hardest winter in thirty years,(and some say longer) last year, everyone is wondering, just what nature has in store for us between now and Easter.

Perhaps the animals have the correct approach, as the dogs lie sleeping in front of the fire, and the horses are rugged up in the shelter of the trees, eating haylage. Clearly, what will be will be!

On the upside, the carved house sign destined for Lake Michigan is now finished, and will be shipped out to the Great Lakes, some time over the next week or so.

See what you think.

Carved house sign ready for the Great Lakes.

Snow driving in from the NE.

Stay warm,


Monday, 22 November 2010

Lake Michigan house sign.

Here's the Lake Michigan house sign, on its way to completion. Amazing to think that something hand carved on top of this hill here at Ballintomb, is to spend its days facing the rolling breakers of the Great Lakes. Isn't life strange!



Weeks flying by!

The weeks are flying by, and before we know it we'll be entering December, and facing Christmas! The weather over the least few days has been mild and wet, and certainly isn't helping the ground dry out. However, snow is forecast for tonight and the rest of the week, and we can only hope that it will confine itself to the hill tops, and not lower levels.

Myself and Emma have been packing in the beating recently, and the dogs are really starting to get fit! Most of the shoot days have been under the 100 head mark, but on Saturday we were working the dogs on a 250 bird day, which combined with steep ground, to make for hard going.

The present full moon and NE wind ought to bring the winter's first fall of woodcock, and whilst driving early this morning, a woodcock jumped up off the grass verge where it had been feeding, as my car headlights approached.
Of course, I can't be sure that this bird was a recent migrant, but I rather suspect that it was.

On the work front things are fairly busy, with a carving of a Black faced ram in spalted beech, recently finished, and a house sign in sycamore, bound for a property on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin, USA, very need completed.

See what you think!


Ram drawn out, and the carving begins.

After! Carved ram's head complete.

The girls out beating!

Steep, wet ground. Hard going for man or beast.



Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Arab & Cocker.

Featured below are two recent carvings; one of an Arab horse in Cedar of Lebanon, and the other example a working Cocker spaniel in Beech.

The Cedar is so soft and carves like butter. The Beech, although much harder, has a short and even grain, and so yields to the chisel well.

I hope that these two give as much pleasure in the viewing, as they gave to me in the carving!



November storms.

Geese have been piling over high all week, along with small groups of Whooper swans. In fact, I even saw a skein of Greylags going over last on Thursday, with a Whooper as part of the 'V' formation! Perhaps it had become separated from its family group, and decided on 'Any port in a storm?'

Threats of snow have come to nought,(except for the high hills) although we have been battered by savage autumn storms lately. As a result, the trees are now stripped of leaves, and looking very stark and bare. I hate to admit it, but it is going to be a very long time before we see them wearing their green livery again!

With all the stormy weather, the dogs have been making full use of the sofa and wood burning stove,(one has to!) but will be out again this coming Saturday, beating and picking up on a local shoot.
The two young lab bitches are really coming into their own this season, and have combined knowledge gained last season, with further training this Summer, to become a real asset.
Last time out, Rowan picked several runners from dense willow scrub, which would other wise have gone undetected, and been lost. The sisters are steady, biddable, and putting birds in the bag. Who could ask for more?

Stay warm.

Regards to all.


Thursday, 28 October 2010

Carvings complete.

A couple of photos here of carvings finished today. Thought you might like to see!

                           Highland Pony carved in Cherry wood.


                                   English Tudor rose carved in a lovely piece of quarter sawn Oak.
Surely either of the above would make a lovely Christmas present?

Best regards from a sunny Speyside,


First snow.

The first snows of the season fell last week, and thankfully, have now thawed from all but the highest hills. Winter has to come I know - but surely not in October!

After last winter,(the harshest for thirty years) there is something of a sense of impending doom, about what may happen between now and next April. Snow shovels are already flying off the shelves of the local agricultural supplier, and cupboards being stocked up in advance of Winter's seige.

Inspite of that, Autumn is still putting on a wonderful show for all with eyes to see, and the colours on Speyside at the moment would surely rival New England.

With the end of October comes the pheasant shooting, and myself, Emma, and the dogs, were out beating and picking up on a local estate last Saturday. The day went well, with only the odd snow shower, and Autumn sunshine in the afternoon. The Labs loved it, and worked so well for youngsters!

We will be out again this coming Saturday, and will hopefully avoid a soaking.

Best regards,


 Oak 'Stag' rocking chair. Completed this week, and ready for delivery.

Carving detail on rocker arm.

Carving detail from the top of the rocker back leg


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Harvest home.

Today Speyside rests under a blanket of thick fog, although I have no complaint, as it's not raining!

Yesterday was the most perfect, sunny, clear, Autumn day, and the weather over the past weekend was pretty good too.

Full advantage was taken of the wonderful weather conditions, by getting out into the sand school on Monty, as well as heading out for a marvellous hack on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately, I remembered to take the camera with me on this occasion, and Emma managed to take some pics of the 'Power Pony', as he both stood and cantered across the newly cut stubble.

                                          Farmer Turnip,(me) on his cob.

                                          Can you feel the ground shake?

                                          Yep, earth tremor recorded in Aberdeenshire!

Combined harvesters have been running almost flat out over the past few days, to make up for time lost during the recent wet weather. Just a couple more days will see all the straw bales in and under cover. A great relief for all concerned.

Things in the workshop move on apace, with the carved Oak rocker being all but complete. As well as that, I have a red stag carving in Sycamore that needs just one more coat of polish before it too is finished, and in addition, I am about to commence carving a head and shoulder study of a Highland pony, in Cherry wood.

See what you think!

Sycamore stag carving. Can you see the tracks?

Oak rocker glued and cramped.

Regards from a grey Speyside,


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Whether the weather.

As I type the rain pours down, and has battered on the workshop roof all day long. If it doesn't stop soon we will dissolve! I'm seriously contemplating doing a Noah, and building a boat ready for the flood!

Even the dogs have been driven into hibernation mode by the weather, and have slept the clock round.

                           Hazel, in her lair beneath the office desk,(known as the 'Bat Cave'). Rubber bone always close to hand.

                          Rowan snoozing on the rug, wondering whether to yawn, or just simply go back to sleep.

Hoping to try out the new saddle tomorrow evening, as the forecast promises better weather to come.

Trying to dry out,


Tuesday, 28 September 2010

First frost.

The first frost of Autumn arrived with us yesterday morning, as I found the windows of the Jimny frozen white. Well, it had to come as it always does, but summer seemed to pass so quickly!

On the work front; the Aberdeen Angus bull carving is now finished, photographed, and hanging in the showroom for sale. It will be featured in an upcoming edition of The Northern Scot newspaper, something which I hope the readership will find interesting.

                                               Angus Bull carved in ripple Sycamore,(a few steaks on that one!)

The Oak rocking chair which I am at present working on is progressing well, the rails, legs, etc, being sanded and oiled, prior to gluing, cramping, and wax finishing.
The seat frame went away yesterday to be upholstered in a clan tartan, and the carving of a Red deer stag will commence tomorrow. That, along with carved deer hoof prints, should set the whole thing off rather nicely!

          Oak rocker in its basic cut out form. Shaping, carving and finishing, all to come.

Last Sunday saw myself and Emma heading down to Edinburgh, to visit Em's eldest, who is at Edinburgh Uni. The contrast between the capital and Speyside could not be more extreme, as we swapped golden, autumnal birches, for the buildings and bustle of the big city.
I am not a lover of cities, but it must be said that Edinburgh possesses some amazing architecture.

Picked up a super wide fitting saddle for Monty at the weekend. Synthetic, almost new, and indistinguishable from real leather, at six feet distance.
Monts will do a good deal of growing and changing shape over the next couple of years, so until then, there seems little point in buying him a good quality leather saddle. He would only out grow it!

A good many fields of barley have been cut over the last few days, and I am so looking forward to taking the boy for a canter over the stubbles! Then we'll see how the new saddle,(and matching brown numnah) really fit!



Sunday, 19 September 2010

When the north wind blows.

There has been quite a change in the weather and the seasons since last I posted, as by midweek the wind had swung around from the north, dropping the temperature here considerably.

Whilst unloading a trailer full of firewood on Wednesday morning, I could see my breath in clouds. This, added to the fact that the grey geese have returned from their summer sojourn in the arctic, makes me realise that whatever summer we may have had, is now past. I'm just relieved that the swallows all managed to fledge and get away to Africa in good time.

This week has been another one of carving, and I have also begun work on an Oak rocking chair, which will feature a carved red deer stag in its centre back panel.

The carved sycamore plaques below show a stag and an Aberdeen Angus bull. The later is to be featured in a monthly farming magazine, along with an article about my work. Should be fun!
I'm also to be featured in the October issue of the Knock News, so those in the locality, keep your eyes peeled for a copy.

If anyone would like to participate in one of our wood carving courses, please e-mail me at: Sballintomb@aol.com, then we can tailor a course to your individual requirements.

Monty continues to go well, and in between showers yesterday, we headed out for a short hack followed by fifteen minutes in the sand school.

With each session his confidence grows. Yesterday's new experience was encountering an upturned wheelbarrow on a farm drive.
I don't know exactly how many of Monty's ancient ancestors were attacked by upturned wheelbarrows, but clearly it was not to be trusted!,( one can't be too careful).

On the way home we passed the same object again, but this time he didn't bat an eyelid. Clearly wheelbarrows have been ticked off the 'It's going to get me' list.

A wheelbarrow proofed Monty walking over poles.

Apples are still to be found in abundance, so there has been a lot of peeling and cooking going on. The best are going into apple pies, with the bruised windfalls being enjoyed by the horses. This way there are no losers!



Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Another busy day.

Another busy day here at Burnside.

Below are a series of photos logging the progress of a carved sycamore plaque. The disk was cut out this morning, then the head study plus paw print of a Labrador retriever, were sketched out, prior to carving.

Sycamore is just about my favourite wood to carve, as it works so beautifully. Hope you like the results?

Plaques cut out and sanded.

Work finished for the day, I headed over to the forecourt of a local petrol station to pick apples. Whilst filling up there the other day, I had noticed the tree weighed down with fruit, and asked the owner if I might have some. She said, "Help yourself. If you don't pick them they'll just be wasted". This little lot ought to keep us in apple pies right through the winter!