Life at the end of the road

May 27, 2011

Shona’s gone :-(

Filed under: daily doings, Land Rover, pigs — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:27 pm

Well at least it didn’t start pishing down today until we left Raasay, though that wasn’t on the ferry I’d planned. The day actually looked quite promising and I even reverted back to the early rises of two or three weeks ago, abandoning my bed two hours earlier than of late. For today was the first time in weeks that I have not been woken during the night by the hammering of rain or hail on the bedroom Velux’s.

Encouraged by  UKWind promising a dry morning and afternoon I arose eagerly and got on with the paperwork relating to transporting Shona to her new home, a little plonking away on the laptop and then feeding the pigs. I was feeding them early so that I could catch the 8:55 ferry, a task that required us to leave at just after 8:00 so as not to stress the pig, deposit boy at school, wee dug at Jessie’s and the ‘beetle man’ at School Park.

Until leaving the croft all had gone like clockwork, Shona had been removed from the field that she was sharing with Bracken and Rocky the previous evening. I had removed the roof from our trailer so that it would encourage her to go inside after the food that I’d deposited in there. As soon as she was in I closed the door and replaced the roof, had a bacon lettuce and tomato sandwich for breakfast, gathered my passengers started the ‘Old Girl’ and headed south.

There was a little less blue smoke than usual but nowhere near as much improvement as I’d hoped for after spending all day yesterday replacing the valve stem oil seals. The long steep hill that exits our croft however did not produce the usual blue haze that had been following me of late, so result there 🙂 The glee of that was however short lived, for the first steep hill we came too saw me firing on three cylinders and smoking like a Lancashire mill chimney. Yes I really am old enough to remember mill chimney’s smoking before Fred Dibnah demolished them all 🙂 I even remember seeing himself driving about town,


and like a true ‘anorak’ he was driving a Land Rover 🙂 though I lifted that image from

Anyway with Landy full of people, pig in trailer and having to engage low ratio to get up the hill you can imagine that I was not best pleased. Only one thing for it, unhitch Shona, return home, let wifey take the ‘beetle man’ and boy south in her car and try to fix the ‘Old Girl’.

The problem with the Land Rover turned out to be the inlet valve on number 3 cylinder stuck open and absolutely no clearance between the valve and rocker arm !!!!. This puzzled me greatly as I’d set the valve clearances twice after doing the seals. What perplexed me even more was that when I set the clearance again the valve was hardly opening, suspecting a bent pushrod I took that out for a gander only to find it straight as a die?  Replacing that, resetting the tappets yet again I started her up on three and a half cylinders, well it was a big improvement 🙂 It might have been better in the power department but is was now pouring out smoke like that Icelandic aeroplane stopping volcano with a slightly more pronounceable name than the last one.

And what’s all that about hey!!! I know I’m a little out of touch with the media but from what I recall from my previous existence of being chained to a proper job and watching the news I don’t recall any flights being cancelled in the 80s and 90s. Jumbo’s have been flying since the 70s, volcano’s have been erupting since the beginning of time and only last year they start cancelling flights? I think it’s something like the ‘nut allergy’ thing. Unless you’re a creationist, man has been on this earth for somewhere between 50 and 200 thousand years and your telling me that we’ve only just discovered that some people are allergic to nuts, the very thing that we survived on for the first several thousand years 😦

Sorry for the rant, where was I ?? Oh yes, the first hill, well half way up it there was a small rattle, the smoke cleared and the Landy was back on all four 🙂 So instead of hitching up Shona and returning home I decided to try and make the 9:55 ferry and take her to her new home on Skye with Sarah and Dave.

They’ve been gradually expanding their organic allotment in Staffin now for a couple of  years and buying weaners off us regularly. When Shona came up for sale they jumped at her, having been very pleased with some of her piglets in the past. It’s probably almost a year since I was last there and their croft now boasts a large new Polly tunnel which they just managed to get up recently between gales 🙂

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Dave is also now the proud owner of a 1963ish ‘Fergie’

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which I think would be much more at home at Arnish 🙂

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Whilst we’re on the subject of tractors, here’s what 48 years of evolution can achieve, a Brand new Fendt 936 arrived on the ferry to Raasay this morning for the timber operations. I wonder if it will still be going in 2059 🙂 Now what puzzles me about these marvellous machines is this, why does something that weighs several tons and belong to a company that advertises ‘low ground pressure’ timber extraction require those friggin huge weights on the rear wheels 🙂


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Shona seemed to approve of her new temporary accommodation and I’m sure she’ll go on to produce many fine breakfasts for the ‘Dunmar’ B&B at Staffin 🙂

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After exchanging paperwork and pig for money and  demolishing some of Sarah’s fine chocolate cake we turned back to Portree for shopping and lunch.

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By now the weather was truly cold and miserable so there was little point in either rushing home or going for a walk down to Brothers point or the old Diatomite smelter at Lealt.


image lifted from

Diatomite is a white chalky substance that was in much demand in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries for the manufacture of explosives and insulation. It was dredged from a loch further up the valley, dried then taken down to here to be further refined on a small narrow gauge railway before being shipped out by sea.

So instead we opted for an excellent pub lunch at the Isles Hotel in Portree before returning on the 16:15 ferry,


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to find that half a house had appeared on ‘the avenue’, I’m sure that wasn’t there yesterday 🙂



  1. Sad to admit it but I used to work on flight systems so here goes…

    There have been a number of cases of planes going through volcanic ash in the 80’s e.g. so it’s not a new phenomenon.

    If I remember correctly they only started monitoring it in the 90’s (can’t remember if it was at the start or end of the 90’s though) and it has to be the right sort of ash to close down airspace.

    I’ll get my coat.

    Comment by Tony Giles — May 27, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

    • OK Tony,

      it’s not new and I hold my hand up. That’s a very interesting link and I’m sure that at least one or two people have also died from a nut allergy in the last 100,000 years but do we really need to mark everything from toilet paper to peanut packets with the words ‘MAY CONTAIN NUTS’ and do we really need to shut down so much air space ???

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 28, 2011 @ 5:29 am

      • When I first saw a packet of nuts with the label “may contain nuts” I knew the world had gone mad.

        I blame the no-win, no-fee lawyers for this, before they were allowed in the UK we didn’t have a lot of this type of rubbish but with the advent of ambulance chasers companies have had to protect themselves so they can’t be sued for not telling people that the packet of peanuts they’ve bought may contain nuts. IMHO anyone with a nut allergy who buys a packet of nuts is just an example of natural selection.

        Closing down airspace is more complex as certain types of ash don’t show up on radar but it’s a similar symptom – if there was an accident no-one wants to take the blame so it’s easier to shut everything down and claim it’s down to safety rather than the fact that they’re incapable of risk analysis.

        Comment by Tony Giles — May 28, 2011 @ 9:43 am

      • There was also a KLM 747 which lost, temporarily, all or most engine power due to ash and finished up in Anchorage. A friend of mine saw it there.

        I was told at the time that the airframe was sufficiently damaged that they replaced the front windows in Anchorage then flew it back to the Boeing factory in Seattle to re-skin most of the rest of it though that Wikipedia article only says the engines were replaced.

        Peanut packets probably don’t contain nuts – though the factory might not take enough care to guarantee that they don’t.

        Peanuts are not nuts – they’re legumes. Many people who are allergic to either are allergic to both but some are only allergic to one or the other.

        It seems to me that having a rule which says you must put “May Contain Nuts” on everything which could contain nuts is simple and harmless – much better than having 30 pages of regulations on when it is or isn’t “obvious”.

        Historically, people who were allergic to nuts probably just died without anybody working out why – their families probably just burned a witch or something.

        Comment by Ed Davies — May 28, 2011 @ 11:36 am

      • Hi Ed,

        I’m sure there have been even more ‘incidents’ in the last forty years, that’s a dozen at least and I’m sure that there are actually people that do die if they eat nuts but do we really need to cancel thousands of flights and mark millions of packets of things with ‘may contain nuts’ when we all know that 90% of the stuff has absolutely no chance of containing nuts and is just their to satisfy the lawyers.

        All this seems to do to me is increase paranoia and reinforce our ‘all rights and no responsibility’ society, as well as lining the pockets of ‘no win no fee lizards’

        Milk that contains a notice saying ‘contains dairy produce’, should we really be encouraging a society were people are so stupid that they have to be told that, and that ‘matches contain flammable’ material ????

        Perhaps it’s just me, I just put my faith in my ‘lucky underpants’ 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 28, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

  2. Those things on the rear wheels of that lovely big Fendt are not actually weights they are wheel spacers which allow you to double up the wheels for use on softer ground. They can be a bugger to fit and don’t weigh a massive amount so you may as well leave them on if there is a chance you will need them.

    Comment by ewaste — May 27, 2011 @ 11:42 pm

    • Morning ewaste,

      that really is a beauty of a tractor hey but as it’s sole purpose in life is harvesting timber the chances of it ever requiring double wheels that would make it impossible to fit through gates or travel on the road are slim indeed. As for their weight I’m sure they were marked with it and I’m sure that it was over a ton each, no wonder they’re a pain to remove 🙂 Thanks for pointing it out right enough as I know little about tractors and it could well be that a couple of tons over the ar5e end of that beast make little difference to the ‘ground pressure’

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 28, 2011 @ 5:35 am

      • I think the fellow “anoldtractorinasmallwood” might have the right idea wish I had thought of that makes quite a bit of sense especially on Raasay with the steep hills they need to negotiate. I had seen something similar years ago at a farm that was used to allow doubling up of the wheels for lower ground pressure on soft muddy ground or to avoid damaging crops.

        Comment by ewaste — May 28, 2011 @ 5:17 pm

      • Hi Leo, ewaste,

        makes sense and reminds me of something that happened to a mate of mine some years ago. You may recall the old Rover 2000 which was was one of the first cars to boast inboard rear disc brakes. The only problem being that they were (as most things on that infernal car) a pig to change. Knowing this would be made much easier by lifting up the rear of the car, a friend of mine who was unfortunate enough to own one of these went along to another mates farm for a loan of his tractor and it’s front loader. They put the front bucket under the rear of the car, chained it to the tow bar and lifted away, all went as per plan and mate number one walked under said piece of cr4p from British Leyland to commence work. Mate number two staying aboard the tractor to ensure the bucket didn’t come down.

        It was going really well, too well in fact and mate number one after much struggling got a wee crick in his neck so asked mate number two if he could perhaps just lift it a tad further so he wouldn’t have to stoop so much. The farmer obliged, the rear wheels lifted off the ground and all four of them went careering down the hill until brought abruptly to a halt by a dry stone wall 🙂

        If only they’d been wearing their ‘wheel weights’ 🙂

        Cheers, Paul

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 28, 2011 @ 7:28 pm

  3. Hi Paul, I may not be an expert but have used a tractor and loader. That giant has a front linkage and carrying frame which may well carry a few tons. So am sure those actually are weights. Imagine moving down a 1 in 3 slope with further dips and ruts with most of the vehicle weight transferred onto the front axle. Then remember a tractor front axle pivots in the centre to allow all wheels to remain on the ground so in effect the balance point is similar to a robin reliant. You will be grateful for those weights. having a rear wheel lift on a tractor is unnerving and easily terminal. Any way all those hp and weight will churn it up whatever the tyres. Sorry to clog the comments. All the best Leo

    Comment by anoldtractorinasmallwood — May 28, 2011 @ 10:48 am

  4. You and Fred Dibnah having a chinwag together, there is something I would like to witness.

    Do any of your sausages or pork make to the butchers these days? I am in Mallaig all week and wondered whether you still sold stuff to Nevis Butchers. Might pop over on later this week if you are around:)

    Comment by Simon — May 28, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

    • Morning Simon,

      the weather looks like being great, or at least greater than of late and I’m back to work tomorrow 😦 Not sold any pork to Lochalsh Butchers for a while now, we’ve just not had any spare piglets.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 30, 2011 @ 5:58 am

  5. Hi Paul (& Tony), As one of those perfidious No-win, no fee former lawyers, I’d just like to set the record straight here: this inane system was forced onto UK solicitors by the government which then lambasted it! It was A hybrid from USA and they seemingly failed to anticipate the simple likelihood that US practices were likely to follow its introduction. It was introduced solely so that the government could scrap the provision of legal aid for personal injury cases in the main part and claim there was a suitable (!) alternative in place. Legal AId was actually a loan-based system, with a very high recovery of expenditure ratio from the losers, normally greedy insurance companies that didn’t give a damn! Thanks…..a rant but needed, I fear

    Comment by Iain — May 30, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

    • Morning Iain,

      nothing personal, we all have to make a living and yes you’re right, Thatcher and US TV have to shoulder much of the blame but you’re getting out of it that easily 🙂

      I’m sorry but if I die through smoking, get fat through eating junk food, trip over a crack in the pavement or slip on a banana skin it is MY FAULT. It is not the fault of Philip Morris, Ronald MacDonald, the local council or shopping center.

      The plank who thinks that they can blame everyone else for their own ineptitude requires a lawyer or solicitor to absolve them of this responsibility 🙂 In the end we all pay for it in higher insurance premiums and ridiculous HSE legislation.

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 31, 2011 @ 5:59 am

      • Hi Paul,
        Funnily enough, I agree wholeheartedly with the comments about inane signage, and a general inability to accept responsibility for own actions. It seems to be the norm these days – and is sadly increasing throughout the UK and Europe. In Sweden, they don’t bother so much. People have few legal rights but are expected to accept what we all used to see as normal risks. Although I consider Sweden to be little short of a fascist state, I do think they’re right in this respect. Anyway, we’ve highjacked this blog for too long! Hope the weather is on the mend for you over there. Hoping to get out to the Hebrides later in the year, will be a change from France!

        Comment by Iain — May 31, 2011 @ 11:59 am

      • Iain, feel free to highjack as many posts as you want as your input is most welcome, just don’t disagree with me 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — June 1, 2011 @ 5:10 am

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