Life at the end of the road

December 16, 2017

Poor ‘wee dug’ :-(

Filed under: animals, food, life off grid, pigs — Tags: , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:11 pm

What can I say,


the ‘wee dug’ came out stalking yesterday and hurt her leg. Today darling wife took her to see Rhona,

who she’s never forgiven for giving her her first jag at Sconser 8 years ago The wee dug needs sedating just to go to the vet .


Whilst the wife was taking Molly to the vet I got on with preparations for the ‘annual international pig butchering’. That’s when several of my mates from various corners of the world descend on Raasay to butcher two pigs that I’ve raised for them. The English TV producer, the Swiss surgeon and the Russian art dealer were all due to arrive on Friday and I’d much to get ready.

They must have been visiting the North End almost as long as I’ve been blogging, usually in December and normally in a gale or worse. Still it does not seem to put them off as each year they return for more and each year we all learn a little more off each other and get more proficient in the process. Not just the pig side of things but the whole logistics of the undertaking.

First though, the pigs had to be moved into the wind turbine field so I wouldn’t have to go looking for them once their time came. This field is secure and very close to the barn where they’d be shot, yet far enough away that a bank would prevent the remaining pig seeing or hearing what happened to her sister. Whilst up there I fed the hens, most of whom were still roosting, just compare the size of the ‘table hen’ with the layers! By rights she should have been dispatched long ago but we figured she’s as well off here as in the freezer. OK, so we’re still feeding her for not much extra gain in weight and I suppose she will be getting tougher but she does lay the odd egg and, well she does look lovely Smile

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That done, I got on with moving the hardware.

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The cast iron bath is brought down from its storage place and set up in the shed. A drain pipe is connected to the plug hole and a mesh bag placed over the end to collect any hair and gunk from the bath.

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The cast iron 100lt boiler is put into position and its chimney fitted, then it’s filled with water and fired up using coal as a heat source. I’ve tried wood in the past but it just doesn’t get hot enough. The water needs to be at least 80 degrees Celsius and you need plenty of it for dehairing a pig.

Not for the feint hearted or vegetarians

I say this every time we do a home kill but I’ll say it again, if you’re vegetarian or worse still a hypocritical omnivore who does not realize that what you eat was once some cuddly creature with a face, then don’t click on the pictures.

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The first pig we did was Cilla, the largest, purely because she was the first one through the gate of the wind turbine field where they’d been kept. Being obsessed with their grub she followed the bucket right to the barn door where she was dispatched with the .243. A pig this size is a bit large for the .22 so it needs killing somewhere where there is no danger of a ricochet and with everyone kept well clear.

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The .22 on the right is just fine for pigs up to 50/60kg but methinks Cilla at least would be heading for the 100kg mark.

The Swiss surgeon expertly cuts the jugular and the blood is collected for the black puddings, salt is added to the blood and it’s constantly stirred to prevent clotting. The pig is then lifted into the pre warmed cast iron bath and very hot water is slowly poured over the pig to melt the fat in the hair follicles. The temperature of the water is pretty crucial and it needs to be 80 degrees at least but not much hotter or the pig will start to cook. When the temperature is just right the hair will come out in big handfuls with relative ease.

Once most of the hair is off she’s hauled out of the bath then hosed down prior to gutting, this is where the digger comes in handy. The guts are carefully removed so as not to puncture the intestine and contaminate the carcass. Heart, kidneys, liver and brain are all saved, the pig is then sawn down the middle and washed down once more prior to its trailer journey down the track to Torran. All three families who own the pigs getting actively involved in every stage, which I find very encouraging as they’re all from a more urban environment. Indeed it’s a very social gathering with great craic and well lubricated Smile

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That was both pigs killed dehaired and halved in just less than five hours, we started at 15:00 and the trailer took Lulu away at 19:40 which was OK considering the size of them. The very first ones we did in my old barn years ago took around 11 hours if I recall. And when I say ‘in my old barn’ it was quite often outside in the car headlights on account of the lack of room.

Yup, we’ve all learned an awful lot since then, some of this years improvements being the use of the digger for some of the carcass movements and the Swiss surgeons ‘brine injection’ experiment.

Anyway, first task this morning was the big clear up at my end,


putting away the boiler and bath for another year, mopping up and burying all the guts with the digger. That done I once more went looking for a nice fat hind to add to the sausages but gave up when I saw this van.


It will belong to one of the French woodcock hunters who, like my friends also descend on Raasay during the winter for serious enjoyment Smile There would be no chance of catching a hind unawares with a couple of dogs and shotguns stoating about the North End.


So, of I went to Torran with the remains of last night’s ‘carry out’ to assist with the butchery.

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Tom had borrowed something from work to inject brine into the artery in the hope it would cure quicker.

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Me, I got on with sawing and cutting.

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Everyone got involved and as soon as the racks were out they were marinated and stuck in the oven.

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The sun started to go down, the younger hunters returned and I headed off to work to let my ‘back to back’ away, he being kind enough to cover a few days for me so I could go a butchering Smile


December 14, 2017

Twin ‘turbo charged’ ears :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings — Tags: , , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 7:55 pm

My ears never really stood a chance to be honest, I started riding motorbikes without silencers at 14, diving at 21, got a fire arm certificate at 29 then started raving and going to music festivals at 40. I’m now in my sixties so it’s no wonder my hearing is pure rubbish and part of the reason why I hate pubs and using the phone. Basically I can’t hear if there’s any background noise, or worse still, often with hilarious results, I hear something completely different. I was 25 when I went for my first hearing test and it’s been downhill ever since Sad smile 

I did try a hearing aid about 10 years ago but to be honest, it didn’t really help, it just made everything noisier. I guess I just got around this by speaking to people less, nodding my head and smiling a lot Smile

Anyway’s, today’s plan was to go visit me Mam then go and get a hearing aid, apparently they’ve come a long way in 10 years. So after feeding the animals and hitching up my trailer we headed for the 8:55 ferry, seemed like a good idea to collect a couple of tons of concrete mix on the way Smile

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We were at the ferry early so Molly and I went for a walk and hop, me using two legs and her three Sad smile The ‘wee dug’ seems to have hurt her rear right hand leg whilst we were out stalking deer yesterday.

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Darling wife was driving so Dun Caan on Raasay and the Storr on Skye were taken at 50mph through the passenger window, it really was a beautiful morning.

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Timber operations at Ratagan village, beats me why they plant trees so close to the road and power lines. Sure, I know it’s to use up every inch of ground but does it really pay in the long run? When you take in all the lost revenue and inconvenience of road blockages, power cuts and accidents. The trees are so close to the roads that they prevent ice from thawing in the sun, roads have to be closed to harvest them and people have died as a result. If there is ever a power cut on Raasay and it’s not caused by a clam dredger then it’s caused by a tree over a powerline. It’s ‘rocket science’ is it!!

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Pretty amazing views of the ‘Five Sisters’ and Loch Duich though, so the hold up wasn’t that bad.


Nice day for fishing too but this wee boat wasn’t out for some reason.


Loch Duich again, this time from me Mum’s,


it was an awful lot colder there than at Arnish.

It was only the briefest of visits, just a spot of lunch and walk with the dog as I had to be in Portree at 14:00 for my new hearing aid. Only when I got there, much to my surprise, I got two Smile They certainly seem much better than my old one, trouble is I can now hear every bump, squeak, rattle and whine from the Land Rover!!

Men at work

Taken in August but only just received today, my son and I moving a ‘wandering anchor’ and re laying it near Port Arnish for my mate’s boat. The anchor is a pretty standard fish cage anchor of around 100/150kg and the fluke is dug in with some compressed air. That’ll be my son in the red, he only started diving in June but he’s a natural. Of course I would say that wouldn’t I, but I’m no kidding, in my ‘club days’ I trained and dived with loads of folk and the Dude is ‘cool as’ Smile

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