Life at the end of the road

December 19, 2017

They’re gone and he’s back :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings, food, pigs, Trucks and plant — Tags: , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 5:05 pm

Well, that’s me back at work as of Saturday evening after that epic pig dispatching and butchering session. Though I must confess to having done less than I’d have liked and nowhere near as much as the rest of the team. I left them some time after 15:00 on Saturday and they didn’t finish until 21:00 on Sunday!! Well, I’m guessing there will have been a little sleeping and eating in between right enough but even so it was a lot of extra work for them.

Me, I had the much easier task of being the motorman on the MV Hallaig for the remainder of the year, they had to back to their regular jobs in London and Europe. Saturday evening being a pretty easy day to go back, with just 3 sailings and then the late start on Sunday. The Sunday being a little busier than usual as we did two weeks maintenance on account of next Sunday being Christmas eve.


Though I did do a little more physical work than I’m used to these days in delivering  a couple of hundred kilos of coal to Balachuirn for Skye Coal at Sconser. The pre Christmas rush had meant they needed to bring the larger lorry over on Friday. This particular lorry cannot get turned at the end of the single track road so they’d asked me if I do the honours. As they’ve helped me out a time or two in the past I don’t mind one little bit, though I usually use the Land Rover, not my son’s car Smile


Dun Caan from the top of the road down into Balachuirn.


The houses at Balmeanach from the same place.


My destination from the bottom of the European funded road, prior to this it was a bit of hike over the top I guess. That’ll be the Storr on Skye in the background too. So, that was it, after a couple of anchor drills, a boat drill, fire in the engine room and blackout drill, not to mention going to Sconser and back twice, I went home.

Monday, the first ‘proper’ day back got off to a very promising start,

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a nice sunrise, a shipping container on Jan’s Volvo 

and the Lywrra Bay heading for Portree.


The four hire cars containing the pig butchering team and their families departed on the 15:30 with the Swiss surgeon’s ham in his airplane ‘hand luggage’ bag Smile I kid you not, these would be the biggest pair of pigs we’ve butchered by far, sure Ginger was much larger but I skinned him, just saved the hams and cut most of the meat off the bone. These two got the full treatment, sausages, black pudding, hams, cotechino, chorizo, salami, brawn and of course my favourite the hot and spicy sausage type thing made of pork fat and chili. Methinks it’s called oodja, whatever it is it’s boodly delicious with anything from toast and eggs to fresh scallops.

Well they’d managed to get everything done and packed, leaving me a selection back at home, which I dealt with after work.

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Most of it I hung in the barn but some went into the fridge and that will be a sausage casserole for dinner tonight Smile The ham was so heavy that I couldn’t lift it with one hand Smile

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That was it really, today was pretty quiet on the traffic front, Bonzo and I went out for our lunchtime walk and my studious son arrived back from university Smile


December 16, 2017

Poor ‘wee dug’ :-(

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

What can I say,


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 The wee dug needs sedating just to go to the vet .


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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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.

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,


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.


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.


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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