Life at the end of the road

January 8, 2011

I almost like it part II :-)

Filed under: daily doings, Raasay road signs, stonework — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:24 pm

So where was I before the chilli ? which will of course make no sense whatsoever to anyone reading this post before but here goes 🙂

So, the ‘One armed bandit’ and I arrived at Arnish around 17:30 and after making dinner and then falling asleep on the couch I went to bed before anyone else. I was up this morning before anyone else too but it wasn’t because I was particularly early, in fact it was after 8:00 when I arose.

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My heart sank when I saw this from the front door, and knowing that the pigs would feel the same way I gave them extra rations to help ward off the cold. Well not so much the cold as the outside taps had not frozen but they’d not be doing any foraging in this weather.

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The first task after the ‘breakfast round’ was to give the trailer a good power washing out, re fill it with fresh bedding then tow it back out for George, Ed and Bee.

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Utilizing a couple of pallets for steps and jacking it solidly in position just in time before the three tenants returned to check it out.

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They went straight in and wasted no time in making a nest ‘at the end of the road’ 🙂

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It really was a miserable start to the day and at after 10:00am with no sign of the snow plough we had a run down the road a mile or so.

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The visibility being so bad that you could barely see across Loch Arnish

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and a quick look down ‘Calum’s road’ made me think that we’d be unlikely to see the gritter before Monday 😦

I really do hate the snow, this is the third time we’ve been ‘cut off’ this winter and it’s only the beginning of January. I know that I can get up and down the road in the ‘Old girl’ so we hardly stranded but it means using the trailer to move pigs is out of the question. The Land Rover uses twice as much fuel as wifey’s car and must be used for every journey 😦 the pigs need more feed and the water is usually frozen, I FRIGGIN HATE IT 😦 And if anyone who has nothing better to do than watch TV all day tells me ‘it lovely’ I’ll thump them 🙂

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After a late breakfast of our home made bacon and the Co ops eggs 😦 the day took a turn for the better and the ‘One armed bandit’ and I went up to the shed site to cut wood. Now I knew that wood cutting was a little optimistic in weather like this but I’d left a quad and trailer up there on Thursday and was blowed if I was going to bring it down empty.

A respectable load back on the croft and a good pile of logs that had been stored dry, split, we set off for Torran to check over my mates hydro turbine and clear the snow off his solar panels.

Feeling all nostalgic, probably after seeing Gary’s fantastic aerial images

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we left the quads there and walked along towards Fladda .

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For a couple of years I, and my fellow fish farm workers would walk this track daily,

Smolt bin

though it wasn’t every day we had a helicopter visit 🙂 Only once every two years, usually in April, the smolts would arrive from the hatchery slung under a helicopter in that specially made aluminium bin. The pilot would lower the bin into the cage and the orange float on the side would stay on the surface and release a catch that tipped the bin and opened the lid. Once the bin was empty of its precious cargo the bin would be carried to some nearby spot to have the lid closed and the oxygen turned off before heading back for a refill.

I can’t remember how many trips the chopper or even sometimes choppers would do but it was allot, this day the operation was straight forward as it was done on land but sometimes we would do it on the cage on a platform barely 2m square. The pilots skill was amazing for they could only see you through a mirror for a good deal of the time and in all the times we did this it only went pear shaped once. I say pear shaped but what I should have said was ‘the only time it did not go perfectly’. It was on a cage and he misjudged it slightly so the bin landed in the wrong position, as he lifted off for a second go I clearly saw his face in the mirror saying ‘whoops’ :-) 

It was only fifteen or so years ago, imagine doing a ‘risk assessment’ for that nowadays 🙂 Well we walk along this two mile long rough track to our work with no communication with the outside world. We then scramble down a cliff to our place of work and some dude comes along and drops a big metal bin out of the sky several inches from your head 🙂

I can’t remember how many years it is since I last walked the next section but it must be five or six at least, and what a deterioration.

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The ancient holly tree is still bears DNs scars, I wonder if that’s a certain Donald Nicolson who celebrated his 60th recently 🙂 The narrow and precipitous track that Calum MacLeod built between 1949 and 1952 is now so overgrown in parts that the heather is knee high.

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My favourite part where it snakes between a buttress and large rock however just looked the same, well it would really wouldn’t, not even the hardy highland heather can grow out of solid rock 🙂

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Just before the track passes through the gap is this amazing little shelter,


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not only does it utilize the natural overhang of the rock to make a fine roof and its base to make a bench but from inside it you can see a little narrow reef just to the south of Fladda. The drying of this reef coincides with the drying of the causeway to Fladda itself some half a mile further on. If, on a poor day you were walking to Fladda with a sack of mail or in your Sunday best you could wait here in relative luxury until you saw the tide ebb clear of the reef  🙂

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We pressed on only as far as the highest point before you start to descend the steep path to the causeway  itself.

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Lewis was clearly visible in the distance,

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as was the old fish trap or ‘caridh’ just before the causeway. These old stone fish traps were a common enough sight on the west coast at one time but this one is a particularly fine example. At one time fish were so plentiful that they would get trapped by the out going tide in these drystone constructions and be harvested by the locals. Whilst they have long since become useless by lack of fish and breached walls I once caught several salmon in here, OK it was almost twenty years ago and they were most certainly escapees from a farm but they were good 🙂

The walk back took us nicely up to feeding time, and sure enough by the time we arrived back at Arnish everyone was waiting for us 🙂

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All in all it had not been a bad day and after the crisp walk I felt that I ‘almost liked the snow’ 🙂

I almost like it :-)

Filed under: daily doings, pigs — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 6:51 pm

No posting yesterday due to an early night after a hectic day, well hectic by my standards. When I look  back on what I actually did I can’t really understand why I’m so tired, especially if I read my diaries from 20 years ago and see what I used to be able to achieve in a day. Still, I suppose  just like the hair loss, glasses, and poor memory it’s a sign of the inevitable old age. The ‘beer belly’ will gradually subside as the days lengthen and I become more active, but people will still ( to my hearing ) be mumbling no matter what time of year it is 🙂

The busy day was made even busier because my brain was indisposed, my brain being the wife who deals with all the paperwork associated with pig movements and the like. Wifey was clearly unwell yesterday morning so it was left to the boys, Molly and I to sort out the four Tamworth piglets for delivery to Skye.

The first task being to steal George, Ed and Bee’s house so we could use it to transport the pigs. They’ve been living out on the hill this last few weeks and sleeping in the galvanised stock trailer. There are other shelters on the hill but they seem to prefer the trailer, probably because it’s less draughty and has a dry floor covered in deep bedding. I quite like them using it because if necessary I can feed them in it to stop the sheep and crows eating their grub and it’s also much less stressful  taking them to the abattoir in their bed 🙂

This CLH trailer that I got from WD McRae of Blackpark farm Inverness is the ‘dogs danglies’ for the smallholder. Once I’d towed it back onto the croft I removed the roof and led the six gilts inside it with a few sow rolls.

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Closing the ramp behind them I trapped them at the other end with a steel dividing fence that comes with the trailer. The piglets nicely squeezed at one end I injected them one at a time with .5ml of ‘Panomec’ a broad spectrum ‘Ivermectin’ based wormer. Me doing the jagging, the Dude spraying each one with purple paint once done and ‘Lightning MacLennan’ passing me the needles.

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That done we released two back onto the croft to fatten for customers, put two in that crate, left two in the trailer and went in for breakfast 🙂

Paperwork sorted we sauntered down to catch the 10:55 ferry, then on to Harbro in Portree to drop off the first two. A straight forward affair as it was just a matter of lifting the crate out and depositing it in the back of a Ford Mondeo as the other two were safely behind bars 🙂 Two piglets lighter but half a ton of feed heavier we headed for our second ‘drop’, this time in Portnalong

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where the two girls had some luxury accommodation waiting for them over looking Loch Harport.

Next it was off to Kyle of Lochalsh to deposit the boys in the Co op car park, well more to meet my mum there who would be taking them to the panto in Inverness today. With the boys away I returned home on the 16:15 and arrived home somewhat shattered an hour later with a ‘stray youth’ that I’d picked up along the way 🙂 He might have a broken arm but I’m sure I’ll get some work out of him before the weekend is out 🙂

Anyway that’s it for now, it’s 18:50, the chilli is nearly ready and  I’ll finish this off after dinner 🙂

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