Well it’s back on the night shift again so I’ve a little time on my hands between doing the rounds with the clock machine and checking on the water situation. The MV Hebrides is needing a drink and I have been burdened with the responsibility of putting some 30 or so cubic metres of ‘Scottish Water’s’ finest into her at the rate of around 3 cubic metres per hour, which should see me through the night. Mind you I’m guessing once everyone on North Uist stops showering, making cups of tea and doing the washing then it’ll go up to around 4 cube an hour. Still even at 4 cube an hour that’s just over 1lt/sec so hardly worth sticking a hydro turbine on the end of the hose pipe well unless you can get a head of 50m plus I can hardly pass by a burn or loch these days without assessing it’s viability for a wee hydro turbine, North Uist may have a great deal of water but from what I can see there’s not much height (head) to produce anything useful, though I’m sure there must be some good sites about the hills.
Anyway, some time after my last post, as dawn broke to the east of Lochmaddy on Thursday morning I went back to my cabin for two and a half hours of a blissful sleep as the rest of the ship and it’s crew came alive. I’d set the alarm, packed my bag and was ready to ‘jump ship’ at Uig as soon as we berthed. The trip I had planned for Friday to collect wifey’s hens now being on Thursday’s agenda due to my ‘rearranged’ shift pattern.
A fine day it was too as I drove leisurely around Skye, first to Portree for feed and then to Struan for the swineherd’s new hens. The 32 ‘ISA brown’ pullets we’d got from ‘Donald the hen’ last year had been unable to keep up the demand for ‘Arnish Eggs’ despite never laying less than 18 a day during the winter and 30/32 for the last month. The ISA brown is a hybrid hen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISA_Brown a cross between a Rhode Island red and Rhode Island brown, the name coming from the French Institut de Sélection Animale that first developed it for its prolific egg laying. Also known as Calder Rangers they are friendly and curious hens but only good for making soup with as they carry very little meat.
The Storr, who’s magnificent bulk dominates the view from our new house looks very different from here.
The single track road from Portree to Struan is well worth a ‘Sunday drive’ to soak up the views, but if you do can you please let the faster traffic pass by, that’s what the ‘passing places’ are for. Holiday makers seem unable to comprehend the fact that some people are not here to drive at 20mph, some of them actually work for a living and have to catch ferries The clue is in the name PASSING PLACE, it is not a park the car place or something to ignore and let oncoming traffic reverse back to the next one. It is to let people pass and can be used by everyone, not just the locals
Anyway, I wasn’t in a hurry and it was far too nice a day to ‘loose the plot’ with a couple of eejits unable to reverse 10’ and make me back up some 100 or so
Donald wasn’t in but wifey’s Black Rocks were waiting patiently in a crate along with the drinker and feeder she’d purchased from him. She’d decided to try the Black Rocks as they’re not such prolific layers in the winter when egg demand is lower, not only that but they’re a much meatier bird and good for the table http://www.blackrockhens.co.uk/
In my own bed
Even with the ten mile detour to Struan I managed to catch the 11:25 ferry to Raasay and follow my builder, Lachie Gillies of Staffin up the the house site where he was delivering some blocks.
His brother Donald busy putting the finishing touches to the roof membrane and Angus eating his way through the stack of blocks with mortar and a trowel.
After removing the hens from the Land Rover and sitting them in a cool shady spot I reluctantly went to bed with the sound of the cuckoo ringing in my ears. I was tired and knew it was the best option but the beautiful day and mountain of jobs would have to wait, until wifey woke my around four hours later that is.
Before the lovely dinner of smoked cod and pasta in a creamy sauce we had to move the new hen house that we’d built around to the place prepared next to the ISA browns.
They’ll be kept separate for a few weeks but with a common fence between them so that they can get used to each other, hens can be really vicious to newly introduced birds so they’ll need careful watching. We’re hoping once they get used to each other it won’t be an issue, especially as they will each have their own housing and plenty of space. It’s the same with pigs, confined and with little space boars will fight but given individual housing, room and large feeding troughs they mix quite happily.
The new chooks will be kept confined to their house for a couple of days at least just so as they know that it’s home, if you let them out any sooner some of them will start sleeping out. At least they will if given full free range in an interesting place full of trees, if you’re going to keep them in a small fenced area then it won’t be a problem but with the whole of Raasay to explore it could be (and has been) an issue.
During my ‘time at sea’ the swineherd had brought Ellie onto the croft as she’s due to have her second litter on the 14th but I wouldn’t be surprised if she was a day or two early. After feeding her on Thursday night she retired and lay down in such a position (not the one above) as to indicate she may not be far off. A squeeze of her teats revealed no milk however but I don’t think it’s far away.
An early night with a bottle of wine to aid sleep was the next thing on the list as I wanted to be up early to get a few jobs done prior to returning to the ‘Heb’.
A bright Friday morning had me up at the house early fitting the handles to the beautiful Internorm windows that had been supplied and so expertly fitted by Mark and Kevin https://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/job-dunn/ from http://www.dunnhomes.co.uk/index.html Most of the ‘swimming pool’ had been drained by Lachie, Donald and Angus but I went up there this morning with the hoover and threw open the windows to try and dry it out.
Still needs more work but I got an hour or so in after feeding everyone, shooting another pigeon and prior to setting off for work. I’m really getting the hang of this pigeon shooting lark now, sadly they’re the ‘flying rat’ type and not the clean country type wood pigeon. I have eaten them in the past but the last one I cooked, whilst tasting delicious gave me bellyache, and I have a stomach like a septic tank I don’t like shooting things and not eating them but they really are a pest, eating all the bird and hen feed but worst of all they can pass something onto the hens, not sure what it is but it killed our neighbours hens, or at least made them so sick the vet had to do it.
Reluctantly leaving the damp hoose I set off for work, catching the 12:15 ferry that would enable me to jump on the ‘Heb’ in Uig at 13:45.
Looking somewhat out of place against the backdrop of Sconser quarry was the ‘super yacht’ Hampshire
who I reckon had made a wrong turn at the Straits of Gibraltar
As soon as I was on board the Heb I made for my cabin, bed and a wonderful kip in readiness for the long night ahead, which at almost 2:00am only has four and a half hours to go
Five minutes on the gangway
The sky really does change that quickly up here, that was 20:57 to 21:03
this was a little earlier from way up high
The risk of getting cataracts from the radar usually means that access to the ‘monkey island’ is ‘off limits’ whilst at sea but I had a wander up there in my role as night watchman
Anyway, that’s it, it is 2:00am now and time for my rounds.