Life at the end of the road

May 11, 2013

Fourteen ‘Black Rocks’

Filed under: boats, daily doings, shed/house — Tags: , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 1:18 am

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 Smile well unless you can get a head of 50m plus Smile 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.


001  002


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 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 Sad smile 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 Smile



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 Smile


010  011

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

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.


013 014

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.


015  016 017

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.


018  019

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 from 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 Sad smile 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.

More sleeping

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 Smile


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 Smile

Five minutes on the gangway

 043 045 047


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 Smile



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 Smile



Anyway, that’s it, it is 2:00am now and time for my rounds.


  1. Is 14 Black Rocks equal to a “Donald’s Dozen”? In the same way 13 doughnuts constitute a Baker’s dozen?

    Comment by drgeo — May 11, 2013 @ 3:54 am

  2. Morning, Paul

    Lovely to read about Raasay, chooks and pigs again. For how long are you on the Hebrides? You won’t know what to do on such a small ship as the Loch Striven!



    Comment by Sue — May 11, 2013 @ 7:12 am

    • I’ll be away until September Sue and I’m seriously getting pi55ed off with it 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 12, 2013 @ 6:02 am

  3. Paul,

    I must have been at Staffin fishing and just missed you on your way back to Uig. Nice looking Black Rocks.
    Nothing worse than when folk pull into the passing place on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, fist time you see it, it comes as a bit of a shock. At least there are not as many sheep on the road compared with previous visits.
    Although the crow population is expanding.

    I am up for another week and will be getting over to your EOTR, would be good to catch up & will have a dozen eggs from you or Raasay stores which reminds me they need a picture of your chickens & eggs on their website.
    When are you off the Heb again? Hope to catch up soon.


    Comment by Arthur T Bomber Harris — May 11, 2013 @ 8:03 am

    • “Nothing worse than when folk pull into the passing place on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, fist time you see it, it comes as a bit of a shock.”

      I do that quite often to let a LGV or motorhome get a straight run, especially when they are going uphill. I always make it obvious what I’m up to by using my indicators.

      I’m not sure I like the new signs (being used to the diamond ones) but perhaps they have missed a trick by not putting this on them.


      Comment by Phil Cook — May 11, 2013 @ 8:47 am

      • I agree, there’s nothing wrong with pulling over to the right to let people by, particularly when they have a trailer or something which means they’d have to slow down a lot to wiggle by you. Around here (Caithness and Sutherland) the timber lorries really appreciate you doing that. I usually use indicators whichever side I’m pulling in on as it’s most peeving to stop yourself then realise that the other person is also stopping – you usually both give up and pull out at the same moment, too.

        Comment by Ed Davies — May 11, 2013 @ 11:06 am

      • Morning Ed, wondered where you’d been, heard that your own build may be happening soon over Golspie way, or did I dream that 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 12, 2013 @ 5:55 am

      • Fraid it really pi55es me off when people pull over to the wrong side, but then we seldom get timber lorries, LGV’s or even camper vans here, just eejits that can’t reverse.

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 12, 2013 @ 5:58 am

    • I’m only home Saturday and Sunday these days Michael and can be found rushing around the croft like a ‘blue ar5e fly’ trying to catch up on all the jobs 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 12, 2013 @ 6:02 am

  4. I sometimes find I make better progress on the single track roads because people do pull in to let you past. I wish people would do that on the road between Dumbarton and Fort William!

    Comment by Nick Bennett — May 11, 2013 @ 10:48 am

    • I sometimes find I make better progress on the single track roads because people do pull in to let you past

      Funny that Nick, I only find they let me past if I drive right up their ar5e with my lights on 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 12, 2013 @ 5:56 am

      • Strangely enough, I tend to make the people who drive right up my ar5e with their lights on wait until I am good and ready but then I’m getting old and crabbed! I do agree about you on using passing places to allow overtaking but fervently wish that heavy vehicles would return the compliment on the A9!

        Comment by Anne Macdonald — May 12, 2013 @ 11:04 am

      • Strangely enough, I tend to make the people who drive right up my ar5e with their lights on wait until I am good and ready

        But then you’re probably polite enough to let someone past you Anne, I’m talking about the plonkers who keep you behind for two miles at 10mph when you’re heading for the ferry. It’s a very brave person indeed that drives for long with two tons of Land Rover up their rear end on the Raasay roads and I have been known to pass them stop in the road and give them a damn good ear bashing 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 12, 2013 @ 1:46 pm

  5. well thats me ensconsed in Dornie for the week. looking forward to having some good days out and about, and yes to all you folk who know what a passing place is, although i’m a tourist up here we tohave the same problem in

    got a cracking story to tell you, regarding passing places and the pirelli rally last weekend… hen disease, myco plasma is one and merek’s both passed on from wild birds

    Comment by The Peoples Republic of Northumbria — May 11, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

    • Enjoy Dornie Steve,

      unlikely to see you unless you come over today as I’ll be off to the Heb again tomorrow 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 12, 2013 @ 5:53 am

      • if there’s space on the ten oclock ferry we will be over..

        Comment by The Peoples Republic of Northumbria — May 12, 2013 @ 7:16 am

  6. “She’d decided to try the Black Rocks as they’re a much meatier bird and good for the table…” Made me choke on my tea!

    My Peter Siddons bred Black Rocks are very well-feathered; at nearly 5yrs old they still look large but there’s not much meat on them – they are prolific laying machines though! Mine, being June hatched lay very well through the worst part of the winter… My understanding is that winter laying ability – or lack of it – depends on when hens first come into lay and how they cycle through their first year in terms of day length/light leading to first full moult (but I could be wrong). Splendid birds though.

    Interesting information about pigeons as vectors of disease:

    Comment by Carrie — May 11, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

    • “She’d decided to try the Black Rocks as they’re a much meatier bird and good for the table…”

      Well the last one I ate certainly had far more meat on it than an ISA brown Carrie 🙂 You’re lucky to get a pot of soup out of one those 😦

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — May 11, 2013 @ 8:19 pm

      • Good. I hope your BRs lay to perfection and reward the work of the hen-mistress by becoming suitably plump and tender.

        Comment by Carrie — May 12, 2013 @ 5:58 pm

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