Life at the end of the road

November 30, 2010

Better off than most

Filed under: daily doings, Land Rover, life off grid, stonework — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:24 pm

I’m not one for the TV and loathe newspapers, I listen to the news seven days out of fourteen on my way to work, which is more than enough to keep me up to speed on world events. Life I find is a little like ‘The Archer’s’, it’s been running for years, yet you can just pick it up again after a lengthy absence and things are just the same. Eddie Grundy will still be trying to work a wide move, people in woolly hats and rainbow coloured sweaters will protesting against something, Whitehall and Washington will be hounding the latest ‘bogeyman’ and if it’s winter the country will have ground to halt at the first sign of snow 🙂

Today however I did make an effort and switched the radio on whilst I was cutting wood, OK, I only caught wee sound bites in-between bursts of noise from my chainsaw but it seems we’ve got off lightly here with the weather. In fact here at the north end we seem to have fared better than the rest of Raasay, for at least we have running water unlike everyone who is ‘fortunate’ enough to be on a public supply. I received a phone call early this morning from an employee of Scottish Water who informed me that the water was off in the village. Now most people would think that that would be of no concern to one who was 10 miles away on a private supply but this individual had surmised (correctly as it happened) that school would be off and a twenty mile pointless journey in the snow  might not be on the top of my ‘to do’ list. Of course the school would phone us anyway but by that time we’d normally be half way there, as it happened one of the teachers did phone before our normal leaving time and I’m eternally grateful to both ladies concerned for their thoughtfulness.

I never got around to posting last night because I was frazzled and cold, frazzled because of trip to the dentist in Kyle with wifey and cold because our house was boodly freezing. Had not the previous two trips to the dentist not been cancelled through gales wifey would have skipped this one but it’s hard enough to get an appointment as it is so we loaded up and went. Of course the appointment was at such a time that it meant we’d be out all day, hence the lack of heat and it wasn’t worth driving up and down the road twice so we waited for my son to finish school before returning home.

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No fresh snow had fallen during the day but it was still beyond the capabilities of the snow plough and wifey’s Daihatsu 4X4 to get through.

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I know it’s not that deep but this is on the level, there’s quite a few 1 in 4s between our house and the south end.

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I had phoned the council during the day to explain that I’d be ‘abandoning’ my wife and child without transport for a week and they said they’d put us on ‘the list’. Which to be honest was the best I could hope for, from what I heard today on the radio they were hard pressed and I know from many years of living here that the local contractor really does try his best to keep the road open. I did offer to leave wifey the ‘Old Girl’ and head to dry dock in her wee Daihatsu but she declined, preferring to ‘stay put’, which to be honest was a relief because she can’t see over the bonnet 🙂 Not only that but grasping the intricacies of using ‘low ratio’, centre and rear locking differentials was just another thing for her to worry about.

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Normally I’d have set off for Bute today (Tuesday) in time to join the Loch Striven at on Wednesday but my employer had kindly allowed me to turn in late on the understanding that I’d stay on an extra day. The hope being that it would thaw or the gritter would get through soon, though that now looks unlikely, still it would give me a little more time to get better prepared for what looks like a lengthy ‘siege’ 🙂

When I said we were cold last night, I’m talking going to bed with woolly socks and a jumper on cold, so it was with a little surprise that I awoke to a relatively warm house thanks to our wood burning stove being in throughout the night.

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So as wife and child were likely to be in the house for the foreseeable future we ( the wee dug and I ) endeavoured to cut as much extra wood as possible. Quite why our 6 week pregnant Jack Russell prefers being out in the cold with me when she could be tucked up next to a hot stove is beyond me, and I don’t even like dogs 🙂

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As well as stocking up the wood shed I gave the Land Rover a ‘once over’ in preparation for it’s big trip tomorrow.

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Tightening up the alternator and power steering belts, filling the washer bottle with fluid, checking the lights and of course making sure the door locks and car alarm work, the last two not normally being required on Raasay 🙂 I then turned my attention to the ‘back up plan’ the quad, topping it up with fuel just in case wife and chid needed to ‘escape’ 🙂

After eating a late lunch we fed the pigs early and I drove down the slippery road yet again to take wifey to her Egyptian dance class at the village hall, a journey which was actually assisted by a light covering of fresh snow over the two icy furrows that I’d made over the previous few days.

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The snow plough had made another valiant attempt to clear the road but had to give up and reverse back at Glame. The village was still without water but at least Scottish water had sent over a lorry full of bottled stuff which was eagerly unloaded by thirsty locals 🙂

And that’s it now I must go and pack my bags, phone charger, camera charger, toothbrush etc, etc, ready for tomorrow’s trip 😦

November 28, 2010

Written off :-(

Filed under: daily doings, life off grid, pigs, stonework — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 11:10 pm

Worry aside it’s actually been a lovely and enjoyable day here, I think deep down I’d already written off Monday but the crisp white day that greeted me this morning pretty much sealed it. Though I’d not know for certain until I took one of the ‘three amigo’s’ home during the late afternoon, meanwhile we had ‘stuff’ to do, not the ‘stuff’ that I’d planned to do but ‘stuff’ nonetheless 🙂


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The first of which was the usual feeding round which may be a little cleaner due to the frozen ground but takes twice as long making sure that everyone has water.

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No icebreaking with the base of a galvanized bucket today, today it was the four foot length of scaffolding that was required to break into the ‘water store’ 🙂

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The ‘egg store’ however required no such effort so I lifted two before going in for breakfast, which was of course the ‘full Scottish’, well apart from a dearth of black pudding. With our stomachs and arteries suitably lined with fat we set off back out to brave the elements. We, being my boys two pals and I, my boy being somewhat indisposed due to an accident on a stretcher last night! An accident on a stretcher!!!!! you may well ask, no kidding, we have one of those mountaineering basket stretchers with a plastic base, very little friction and goes like a rocket on snow with four people in. Only trouble is you can’t steer it and the boys had a wee prang last night resulting in a very sudden stop in a ditch. My son was in front and acted as brake for the other three 😦 they were fine but he’s out of action with a sprained ankle, I know it could have been serious and we’re in no position to call an ambulance but at least we have a stretcher suitable for the helicopter 🙂 Boys will be boys!

So with the Dude left sat in front of a roaring fire twiddling his Xbox his pals came with me over to Torran to give the Schoolhouse a once over.

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As you can see the solar panels were not doing a great deal of work 🙂 Still, the Harris Hydro turbine was doing its stuff and we fired up the old Lister ST2 for an hour or so whilst we wandered up to North Arnish to check the water supply.

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Leaving the quads by Donald Eyre’s magnificent curved roof barn, sadly the inner wooden lintel has collapsed taking a good deal of the inner section of wall with it.

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Right on top of the ‘Brae’ as it was known is the remains of another much older barn, or perhaps even house, it’s difficult to say. One thing is certain though it had some pretty large stones in the walls 🙂

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We continued over to the east side of Raasay where Molly encountered her first icicle, it was very amusing 🙂 Returning to the schoolhouse via the shore far below, where all the stores would have been carried up the ‘Brae’ by hand or sturdy back.

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After checking my own hydro turbine we returned to the croft and started cleaning out the pigs,

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tempting Bramble and her six piglets out of their toasty insulated pig ark with some feed. You really can feel the heat inside these .  They’re not cheap or even beyond the capabilities of myself to build one but the pigs really do thrive in them during the winter and I don’t regret purchasing them for one minute.

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As well as cleaning out Bramble we prepared the empty ark next to her for Jamie Lea, who is due to farrow any day. She’s actually due today but has of yet showed no signs of filling her udder, however we moved her anyway once we’d cut some rushes for her bedding and sprinkled some wood shavings on the wooden floor. Bee of course was never far from the action, especially when it came to worming the big pigs, we inject the smaller ones but use an oral ‘in feed’ wormer on the large ones.

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Not that Bee wanted the wormer or worming but she and Molly fought over the chunks that I’d removed from some apples to disguise the powder. I slice the top off an apple then hollow it out, pour a little molasses inside then the powder, a little more molasses then stick the apple ‘lid’ back on. The hardest job is getting your fingers out of the way when you give it them 🙂

That was about it really on the croft front, we went in for a late lunch before I took one of the ‘three Amigo’s’ home. It might not seem like the most sensible thing to drive twenty miles up and down a treacherous road when we could actually have done it on Monday but I really needed to see what the road was like. If there was any chance of getting these pigs away tomorrow it had to be seized. It’s not like I can take them next week or the week after, the next time they can go is 2011 😦 which means feeding them for another five weeks at least, and of course not getting paid for them until next year 😦

The first half mile or so looked promising, even the first steep uphill gradient after Tarbert would have been achievable with the trailer loaded with four pigs. The 1in4 downhill ‘S’ bend just before Brochel however would have been suicide or at least a jacknife into the ditch, even easing her downwards in first gear with two wheels on the verge had my heart in my mouth. The other stumbling blocks  would have been driving out of Brochel and the ‘horseshoe bend’ at Screapadale, even with the full days sun on the road our previous nights furrows were like icy trenches. Lord knows what it will be like at 6:30 am in the dark tomorrow :-(  Still, even despite the adrenalin rush it was a magnificent drive to Oskaig and back in the sunshine. There was never any doubt about us making it in the ‘Old Girl’, with the tyres dropped down to 15psi the centre diff locked and the  ‘ARB locking rear differential’ activated it takes allot to stop her, but 750kg on the back, no thanks 😦


Here it is at Glame, the crispy drifting snow almost covering my tracks in just 20 minutes, the first part is heading south to 808 State and the return journey a little later has Loreena Mackennit on CD.


Twenty minutes later and four miles further north we’re at ‘Calum’s road’ which, as usual has less snow on it

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