Life at the end of the road

May 26, 2008

Pure wrecked

Filed under: boats, daily doings, life off grid — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:58 pm

This good weather’s killing me it’s 9:00pm and I’m wrecked, first thing I did was unload my 600lts of very expensive diesel into the tank. Fortunately since we got the wind turbine I don’t have to do this anywhere near as often as I used to even so it’s a pain. The oil tanker won’t come up to Arnish, why not is one of life’s great mysteries as the bin lorry comes up and the snow plough, even the coal lorry will come up if you buy a ton but the oil tanker won’t. They came up twice then decided it was dangerous so now I get my oil in 200lt barrels which I leave down at the ferry terminal, they fill them there then I drive up home and pump the oil into my tanks now you tell me which is more risky. Anyway I’m quite well organised (well i should be by now) I’ve an electric pump which screws into the barrel and I just pump it into the tank. With my tank filled and the trailer cleaned it was time for some major cutting of bedding.

The galvanized steel trailer that we got a couple of years ago from W D Macrae of Blackpark farm Inverness is worth it’s weight in gold and we use it for many things from oil tanker to pig ark but today and for the next few weeks it will be our bedding store. With a couple of pallets on the floor to let the air through and it’s lift off roof re fitted it makes a fine place to dry bedding as you can hinge the sides down to let the wind through (not that it needed drying today. on my way round to my bedding patch I spotted this cruise ship heading for Portree. She’s the MS Deutschland and a regular visitor to these parts in the summer.

Built: 1998
Country of Registry: Germany, Neustadt in Holstein
Dimensions: Length:175 m/574 ft.
Width: 25 m/ 82 ft.
Draft: 5,6 m/ 18 ft. 4 inch.
Gross Tonnage: 22,400
Speed: 21 knots
Passengers: 513 persons
Staff: 260 persons

Aimed primarily at the older luxury end of the market she’s all cut glass, marble and mahogany and was built in 4 sections at 4 different shipyards then the bits were floated to the final yard for assembly and fitting out. And I apologise to Colin the Portree harbour master for phoning him up at 10:00pm and waking him up to glean that piece of information! Anyway after getting distracted it was back to cutting rushes for bedding and I had some willing help from Braken, our only pig who has not yet farrowed. She’s a lovely pig but tends to be a bit bossy in a group and is most definitely top pig (apart from Ginger the boar) as all the other girls have piglets she’s out on the hill on her own so came rushing to see me when she heard the brush cutter.

After a couple of hours we had the trailer filled with tightly packed rushes.

I then spent the rest of the day clearing up my mess from four days Land rover fixing, cutting the lawn and after dinner a spot of lobster fishing. Though no day would be complete without a bit of quality ‘pig time’

This is wee Arthur and at 3 weeks she’s a pure softie who will seek me out after a feed for a belly rub and ear scratch which is unusual for a pig so young. Our three litters have completely different temperaments, this litter of 11 has been bonkers from the word go. They rush around in and out of all the fields mixing with all the pigs (including the boar) they chase the hens and today I caught 2 in my workshop! Bramble’s 11 who are 9 days old today move around like a shoal of fish almost always together in a little ginger bunch and Shona’s 7 wee bruisers always have to be dragged out of bed in a morning like their mother. which is just where I’m going right now, Knackered!

You think your oil’s dear!

Filed under: daily doings, Land Rover, life off grid — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 7:51 am

The trouble with this weather is, well it’s just so good that I get in a bit of a flap deciding what to do and if your reading this on a wet bank holiday in the south of England then I’m really sorry for rubbing it in. I really can’t remember the last time it rained properly, I mean the proper west coast rain that comes at you sideways like a power washer. We’ve had a couple of showers right enough but no proper rain now for 6 or 8 weeks. The trouble is we’ve had no wind either so ‘Harry’ our Lister HRW2 diesel back up has been starting up every couple of days to top up the battery bank. It’s all done automatically and seamlessly but he is a bit of a noisy brute and whilst you can’t hear him at the house he does ruin my peaceful tinkerings under the ‘Old girl’. Which is where I stated my day, well after feeding the 34 hungry mouths of our darling pigs.

Twin shocker mounting kit

I’ve done major surgery on the front end of my Land Rover this last few days in preparation for the MOT but the main modification has been converting it to 4 shock absorbers on the front as I’m trying to make the ‘Old girl’ ‘Calum’s road’ proof. I purchased a kit from

Paddock Spares – Land Rover, Range Rover Parts & Accessories – Discovery, Defender and Freelander the mounting kit was around the £70 mark and the shockers £30 each. As with allot of Paddocks kit the quality of the mountings was pretty poor and there were no instructions but it was well galvanized serviceable and half the price of anyone else’s though I don’t suppose it would stand up to any serious off road use. I managed to get the kit fitted along with all the rest of the front end work, the only snag being a horrible knock which became apparent on the road test.

A quick look under the vehicle found the culprit, the panhard rod mounting bolt nut was hitting the bracket for the extra shocker on the O/S. This was soon sorted by removing the bolt and turning it round but it would have been much easier to do before hand with some instructions.

With the front end sorted and me just about sick of Land Rovers we went out and cut some rushes for bedding.

Abley assisted by young Ryan who just like his dad ‘the happy digger driver’ is most at home on a piece of machinery or at the helm of a boat.

Then I cleaned out the arks and just piled the new bedding at the door for the pigs to sort it out, well apart from Bramble who couldn’t wait and started pulling great mouthfuls out from under my arm in her rush to make a new nest.

Doubled in 12 months!

The dry windless weather prompted me to check the battery banks, the main one consisting of 24 2v traction batteries wired to give 1000ah at 48v. I used to check them religiously every 2 weeks and log the readings but I’ve now started doing it monthly and only logging any variations between the cells and so far in the last 3 years they’ve all been within 10% of each other so I gave up writing it down.

With the 48v bank topped up with distilled water I turned my attention to the 12v 500ah bank. This is charged by a small ‘Rutland’ wind turbine but is also topped up by 30amp charger when the back up genny is running and as it’s been running allot recently and has no over voltage dump on it I wanted to make sure it was topped up and not over charged. All the cells were reading in excess of SG 1.25 so the bank was fully charged and I made a mental note to switch off the mains charger.

With the ‘Old girl’ back on 4 wheels for the time being I took my little helper Ryan home in the Land Rover and picked up the 3 barrels of red diesel that had been left for me at the pier last week when the tanker was over. I’d only just recovered from reading the invoice 70p a liter!, the last delivery I’d had was 50p, 12 months ago it was 33p and 4 years ago (pre wind turbine) when we were burning 100lts a week in our genny it was 30p. I’m so glad we took the decision to borrow the money to invest in our turbine as we’ve almost finished paying for it and at these prices our monthly saving is repaying the loan and we now have 24 hour reliable power (more reliable than the grid on Raasay). Our yearly diesel consumption is now around the 2 to 300lt mark though it will probably be more this year unless I get our wee hydro scheme up and running. Solar panels are well up my wish list and I’m sure if we’d had them this last month the genny would not have come on at all. Unlike most electronic goods the price of these has not fallen, though for the last three years everyone keeps saying it will though I have my doubts as demand is still far in excess of capacity.

An exceptional May

Every year I’ve lived here has been exceptional for something, wind, rain, mushrooms, plums, rowan berries or whatever, this year will be remembered for this good spell of weather and for me as the year of the ‘bog cotton’ I’m not even sure if that’s it’s real name but the heather has been dusted with this sea of snow like fluff for a few weeks now and it seems to get thicker every day.

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