Life at the end of the road

December 23, 2017

The longest night

Filed under: animals, boats, daily doings — Tags: , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 7:12 pm

Friday here and we’re Internet less again so this will be coming from my 3 Mi Fi device anywhere I can find a signal. Well, it’s been a boodly windy day here on the ferry for sure.

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A good steady Force 9 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_scale from the south west on the Beaufort scale when we arrived on Hallaig at 7:00. The Captain took the wise decision not to sail as it looked like there was more on the way, no point taking risks in the dark but we did sail at 8:55.

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The squalls off the Cuilin down Loch Sligachan regularly topping 60 knots !!!! We did one more sailing then ‘knocked it on the head’ until 14:30. At lunchtime I went to see my wee pal Bonzo

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but by then it was pure pishing down and I couldn’t drag the ‘wee dug’ out of the house. Instead I had a bowl of ice cream with his master Peter and we looked through some old pictures together.

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This one of ‘The end of the road’ must have been taken before I moved there in 1989 as I planted some trees there and now they’re about 20’ tall. That’ll be my boy at the same sign and he’s at university now!!

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I had to smile at this though, a book of knitting patterns from WWII specially designed for the Merchant Navy. What made me smile was the fact that I used to a very similar book for the army from WWI Smile Something along the lines of ‘Knitwear for the trenches’ complete with Balaclavas and my favourite, the knee warmers.

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Just like this pair, I did have a pair but they kept falling down Sad smile

The solstice has past Smile woo hoo

It’s easy to see why our ancestors got so excited about the winter solstice and built the likes of Callanish and Stonehenge. I truly hate this time of year with the short, short days and unpredictable weather. Illogically I see the passing of the shortest day as a sign that things will improve, yet I know that isn’t the case, there will be much worse to come before the spring equinox. Still, it is one of the year’s milestones by with, just like the snowdrop, wheatear, clock change, cuckoo, mayflower et al. Then of course there is always Christmas, the festival the Christians hijacked, I love that Smile The early church set the date as 25th December so it would coincide with the Pagan solstice and Roman Saturnalia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia  . No one is actually certain when Jesus was born but it certainly was not December the 25th or AD1. General consensus is around AD 4 to 5 and somewhere between June and October. A classic bit of early corporate rebranding I would say. Whatever the reason it does come at a time of year when lots of people in the Northern Hemisphere do need cheering up.

Me, I can’t wait, the Aldi wine arrived yesterday, the home grown chicken is plucked and the presents are under the tree.

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Well, they are now, that pictures a week old,

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as is this one of the extra crewman, he’s now got a puncture and is lying in a heap Sad smile Job for Sunday methinks.

They gotta be kidding

One thing about boats is that everything is expensive but this simple ‘limit switch’ that we got a quote for recently really is the limit Smile

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There are around 9000 similar switches on eBay between £1.99 and £128 but this is a quality German one made by http://www.schmersal.co.uk/home/ so I’d expect to be paying up to a couple of hundred quid for it but check out that quote from Survitec UK http://survitecgroup.com/ £1092 !!!! You could not make it up really could you, I bet one for the space shuttle wouldn’t be that expensive Smile

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Sun rising over the Moll fish farm on the 20th.

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Raasay’s only commercial fishing boat, MFV Lustre at the end of long day.

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A fine start and finish to yesterday, though ‘red sky in morning sailors warning’ didn’t happen and yesterday’s ‘red sky at night shepherds delight’ proved a little optimistic, we missed four sailings today.

Still the four missed sailings gave me chance to spend hours interrogating the data we’d logged over the last couple of days from our 216 LiFePO4 battery modules.

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After four years of daily usage, around 1400 cycles to 80% DoD (depth of discharge) our European Battery modules are holding up very well, shame the company went bust Sad smile Still, we do get excellent support from the company that fitted them. The graph represents one charge cycle for 54 of the modules from 20% SoC (state of charge) to 100% , the spike and tail off at the end is the last hour and is the cells being balanced by the BMS (battery management system).

Bonzo chasing a plate cos he didn’t go out for his usual lunchtime walk.

Someone who did get an unexpected walk was this two tentacled octopus the the ‘Wilk Maester’ found on the slip at 18:00

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With six of his legs missing he was hardly worth eating so we threw him back and off he swam, the ‘Wilk Maester’ reckoned that he’d been dragged up the slip by an otter. Probably right as they are often seen playing round here. He swam off pretty sharp right enough and there was plenty of suction left in his tentacles but they usually change colour to match there surroundings and this one didn’t, or at least not very well. Mind you, I guess that if I’d had six legs gnawed off I’d not be feeling 100% but normally it’s amazing to watch them. If I caught one in the creels whilst fishing I’d put them on the grey deck they’d turn grey, stick them to a buoy and the creature would instantly change to red, almost like a traffic light.

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December 16, 2017

Poor ‘wee dug’ :-(

Filed under: animals, food, life off grid, pigs — Tags: , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:11 pm

What can I say,

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the ‘wee dug’ came out stalking yesterday and hurt her leg. Today darling wife took her to see Rhona,

who she’s never forgiven for giving her her first jag at Sconser 8 years ago https://lifeattheendoftheroad.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/the-big-wide-world/ The wee dug needs sedating just to go to the vet https://www.rhonacampbellvets.co.uk/ .

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Whilst the wife was taking Molly to the vet I got on with preparations for the ‘annual international pig butchering’. That’s when several of my mates from various corners of the world descend on Raasay to butcher two pigs that I’ve raised for them. The English TV producer, the Swiss surgeon and the Russian art dealer were all due to arrive on Friday and I’d much to get ready.

They must have been visiting the North End almost as long as I’ve been blogging, usually in December and normally in a gale or worse. Still it does not seem to put them off as each year they return for more and each year we all learn a little more off each other and get more proficient in the process. Not just the pig side of things but the whole logistics of the undertaking.

First though, the pigs had to be moved into the wind turbine field so I wouldn’t have to go looking for them once their time came. This field is secure and very close to the barn where they’d be shot, yet far enough away that a bank would prevent the remaining pig seeing or hearing what happened to her sister. Whilst up there I fed the hens, most of whom were still roosting, just compare the size of the ‘table hen’ with the layers! By rights she should have been dispatched long ago but we figured she’s as well off here as in the freezer. OK, so we’re still feeding her for not much extra gain in weight and I suppose she will be getting tougher but she does lay the odd egg and, well she does look lovely Smile

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That done, I got on with moving the hardware.

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The cast iron bath is brought down from its storage place and set up in the shed. A drain pipe is connected to the plug hole and a mesh bag placed over the end to collect any hair and gunk from the bath.

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The cast iron 100lt boiler is put into position and its chimney fitted, then it’s filled with water and fired up using coal as a heat source. I’ve tried wood in the past but it just doesn’t get hot enough. The water needs to be at least 80 degrees Celsius and you need plenty of it for dehairing a pig.

Not for the feint hearted or vegetarians

I say this every time we do a home kill but I’ll say it again, if you’re vegetarian or worse still a hypocritical omnivore who does not realize that what you eat was once some cuddly creature with a face, then don’t click on the pictures.

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The first pig we did was Cilla, the largest, purely because she was the first one through the gate of the wind turbine field where they’d been kept. Being obsessed with their grub she followed the bucket right to the barn door where she was dispatched with the .243. A pig this size is a bit large for the .22 so it needs killing somewhere where there is no danger of a ricochet and with everyone kept well clear.

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The .22 on the right is just fine for pigs up to 50/60kg but methinks Cilla at least would be heading for the 100kg mark.

The Swiss surgeon expertly cuts the jugular and the blood is collected for the black puddings, salt is added to the blood and it’s constantly stirred to prevent clotting. The pig is then lifted into the pre warmed cast iron bath and very hot water is slowly poured over the pig to melt the fat in the hair follicles. The temperature of the water is pretty crucial and it needs to be 80 degrees at least but not much hotter or the pig will start to cook. When the temperature is just right the hair will come out in big handfuls with relative ease.

Once most of the hair is off she’s hauled out of the bath then hosed down prior to gutting, this is where the digger comes in handy. The guts are carefully removed so as not to puncture the intestine and contaminate the carcass. Heart, kidneys, liver and brain are all saved, the pig is then sawn down the middle and washed down once more prior to its trailer journey down the track to Torran. All three families who own the pigs getting actively involved in every stage, which I find very encouraging as they’re all from a more urban environment. Indeed it’s a very social gathering with great craic and well lubricated Smile

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Cutting

That was both pigs killed dehaired and halved in just less than five hours, we started at 15:00 and the trailer took Lulu away at 19:40 which was OK considering the size of them. The very first ones we did in my old barn years ago took around 11 hours if I recall. And when I say ‘in my old barn’ it was quite often outside in the car headlights on account of the lack of room.

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Yup, we’ve all learned an awful lot since then, some of this years improvements being the use of the digger for some of the carcass movements and the Swiss surgeons ‘brine injection’ experiment.

Anyway, first task this morning was the big clear up at my end,

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putting away the boiler and bath for another year, mopping up and burying all the guts with the digger. That done I once more went looking for a nice fat hind to add to the sausages but gave up when I saw this van.

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It will belong to one of the French woodcock hunters who, like my friends also descend on Raasay during the winter for serious enjoyment Smile There would be no chance of catching a hind unawares with a couple of dogs and shotguns stoating about the North End.

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So, of I went to Torran with the remains of last night’s ‘carry out’ to assist with the butchery.

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Tom had borrowed something from work to inject brine into the artery in the hope it would cure quicker.

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Me, I got on with sawing and cutting.

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Everyone got involved and as soon as the racks were out they were marinated and stuck in the oven.

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The sun started to go down, the younger hunters returned and I headed off to work to let my ‘back to back’ away, he being kind enough to cover a few days for me so I could go a butchering Smile

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