Life at the end of the road

December 7, 2019

Job done :-(

Filed under: daily doings, food, pigs — Tags: , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:05 am

Well, that’s the worst of it over and I can at least stop worrying about having to get home and feed the pigs, for they are now at Torran in several pieces. As is often the case it’s very easy to get attached to pigs you rear for several months. Snowy and May being no exception, but they were at least spared a long trip to an abattoir and had a ‘full and happy life’ charging around the North End for far longer than your commercial breakfast bacon. Sure it’s far easier for me to just load them into the trailer, take em to Dingwall and let John Munro deal with them. They’re professional, deal with the pigs respectfully and will deliver them back to Sconser in boxes. Not only that but I can fill up with ‘tinned toms’ muesli and Greek yoghurt from Lidl at the same time as well as do my Christmas shopping Smile Still ‘where’s the fun in that’? Whilst ‘fun’ isn’t really the right word, the ‘teamwork’ required in the whole weekend operation I do enjoy. Every year it get easier, perhaps not emotionally but certainly operationally.

As with many things preparation is the key and that’s what I was doing for a few days before,

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getting the cast iron boiler in position and fixing it’s chimney. Even doing some work on the Torran track to ease the carriage of the carcasses to the butchers.

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It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve lost half a pig out of the trailer on the way over Smile Once all was ready on the ‘pig front’ I turned my attention to my wife’s Subaru Forester that was needing a new power steering pump and some belts.

Subaru Forester SG5 power steering pump

The power steering on Wifey’s 2004 Forester had been making a noise when cold for some time allied with heavy steering at the same time. Classic symptoms of a loose belt, but it wasn’t cos I’d checked that several times. Anyway, last week the belt (which also drives the alternator) snapped and examination of it seemed to suggest the pump or even alternator had been seizing or at least becoming so tight as to burn the belt. Both seemed free enough when turned by hand but I figured it was more likely the pump would be binding when cold than the alternator. With that in mind I ordered new belts and a pump.

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The pump does sit quite high up on the engine and whilst a little fiddly to change is quite straightforward. Initially it looks like you just need to remove the belt guards, pipes, wiring and three mounting bolts, 2x12mm and one 14mm. However, the long M10 (14mm spanner) pivot bolt will not come all the way out as it fouls the thermostat. To get round this you have to remove some but not all of the mounting bolts for its bracket. They are all 12mm, one at the rear vertically and two at the front horizontally. I found that by just removing two of them and loosening one there was enough movement in the bracket to remove the long pivot bolt and pump. Replacement was just the reverse and my wife now has a lovely quiet Subaru with light steering and no lights on the dash Smile

DON’T Look

The team arrived in the afternoon and like myself, they’re getting old Smile Normally they’d turn up in the dark after travelling in from Europe and London and we’d start on the pigs right away. Ten years on we’re all ‘older and wiser’, they arrived in daylight and planned to start work in the morning. This was absolutely ‘damn fine splendid’ with me and after shipping all that was required to Torran I joined them in some roast venison.

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This being a real surgeon sharpening his knives Smile

I mean it REALLY, don’t click on these images if you’re squeamish

So, after an excellent dinner and making plans for the killing I wobbled home with Molly, had a great night’s sleep then fired up the boiler.

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It takes around two hours to heat the 100lts up from cold to the ideal temperature of 80 degrees Celsius and it was just about right when the team turned up at 9:00am.

May and Snowy were very close by but out of sight so it was no bother to lead May out of the enclosure first and down to the shed where I shot her in the head at close range with the .243. Making sure she was on ground soft enough to absorb the bullet. For a normal sized pig of around six months age my .22 rimfire would suffice but these two were getting on for ten months and huge.

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Once shot a strop goes around her leg and up she goes, the surgeon makes a swift incision in her jugular and the art dealer and his son pump the forelegs to bleed her out. All the while the collected blood is briskly stirred to prevent it clotting. I then swing her round onto a ladder which is used to lift her onto the bath. This being an innovation we discovered last year, prior to that we always put the pig in the bath. Putting her above it puts her at a better height but more importantly prevents her cooking or you burning your hands.

The temperature of the water is really crucial and I think it’s just over 80 degrees, it has to be hot enough to melt the fat in the follicles that retain the hair but not so hot as it burns you or cooks the meat.


Theses ‘bells’ and the chain is what is normally used but since we started using the ladder above the bath the chain is no longer required. What you would normally do is pass the chain under the pig and use a sawing motion between two people to remove the hair. Having said that we found a rope was just as good and kinder on the bath Smile The ‘bells’ are just used as scrapers, the hook at the end has always been a mystery, we also found a scallop shell to be quite effective.


I can’t remember the name for this but it’s a fatty tissue that will be used for making faggots, a new item on the porcine menu this year Smile


That was it in the slaughterhouse, by 15:00 both of the wee darlings were done and off to the butchers down the road Smile


Molly and I cleared up then joined the rest of the team for a sumptuous meal of brain and kidney, I kid you not Smile


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Though not before the Swiss surgeon did some solo outdoor moonlight butchery Smile


After that Molly and I wobbled home once more Smile


December 5, 2019

Getting ready

Well that’s more like it, 4:30am and that’s me up around the same time I arrived in from work yesterday morning!!! I really, really could not handle shift work and how people working for the ‘emergency services’ and other institutions that function 24/7 is beyond me. Sure I’ve still not recovered from the ‘clock changing nonsense in October. Anyway, despite not getting up until mid morning yesterday I did achieve most of my objectives, though they did keep getting added too, much like the straws ‘on the camels back’, in short, I was left feeling a little overwhelmed by what lay ahead.

Patches of sunshine on Tuesday

Prior to the ‘over nighter’ aboard Hallaig with Renee from RH Marine I’d done the usual two or three 3ton loads of rock for the Torran track and latest home civil engineering project. The forecast being for thick cloud but dry.

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Well, they got that wrong, for the ‘North End’ at least, I was blessed with more than enough blue sky ‘to make a sailors trousers’ A phrase that I picked up from my wife, who in turn acquired it from ‘Granny Annie’ though I must confess at never having heard it until 20 years ago in my forties. Sure it didn’t look great over on Skye but it was a fine day at Arnish Smile


More than can be said for today if the forecast is to be believed and judging by the wind I hear outdoors it could be right.

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My first job, before it was fully light was to record the voltages on 35 Yuasa 40Ah gel batteries I’d saved from the commercial recycler they would have been destined for. Thought I’d repurpose them myself, though at the moment I’m not actually sure what for. Coming from a 15kVA 400V UPS system only a few of them would be ‘dodgy’ and by recording the voltages over the next few weeks I could ascertain which ones then pass those onto the recycler Smile What were left would go into some project of mine, electric vehicle, power for caravan, UPS for solar hot water system or something. Worst case scenario, I could use them as ballast to stop stuff blowing away in gales Smile

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Gave my butcher’s table a good clean too and gave the girls some extra rations, I’d not be feeding them much longer Sad smile After that and probably a lot more that I’ve forgotten, I headed to work and joined Hallaig at 18:00.


As soon as I’d got out of bed, done my ablutions and composed myself I headed off for Brochel. Kevin had telephoned me to say the parts were here for the Yanmar engine on the new generator there.

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The ‘clowns’ who ‘shall remain nameless’ who fitted this ‘off grid’ system may have been great electricians but they want severely reprimanding for the idiot mounting of the generator. Not only was there ample room where the old generator was mounted, had it been fitted there the exhaust would have pointed away from the house. In its current idiot location the thing is not only impossible to work on but the exhaust points directly at the kitchen door and an oil tank!!!!!


Testing the new injector and being satisfied with it I fitted it and tried to start it, she almost went before flattening the difficult to access battery. At this point both myself and Kevin decided to get the halfwits back who installed it, to move it to sensible position where it wouldn’t gas the occupants of the kitchen or melt the oil tank Smile 

After that it was home for the muesli then a little more rock moving, with help Smile

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I’d be needing ‘Calum the Kubota’ to lift the girls into the bath so got another load into the dumper before ‘tracking’ him home.

Then it was more preparation for the impending arrival of the ‘Three Amigo’s’ and their entourage. For it’s the annual ‘pig fest’, that time of year when the two pigs I’ve been fattening for the English Producer, Russian Art Dealer and Swiss Surgeon get ‘dealt with’. Me, I just feed em then ‘pull the trigger’, tis their good selves that turn them into sausages for their own consumption. Though dismissing the weekends charcuterie as ‘sausages’ is somewhat demeaning. The salamis, brawn, links, black pudding, cotechino, nduja, pate and prime cuts wouldn’t be out of place in the dearest butchers or finest delicatessen.

Bed with a good book came around later than usual at well after 21:30 but it’s good to be back in my routine of getting up at ‘stupid o clock’ Smile So, 6:30 is here and methinks I’ll get out whilst it’s still dry and start installing the chimney for the 100lt boiler, you need a lot of hot water for de-hairing a pig Smile

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This 100lt cast iron boiler is a ‘God send’ in the operation, prior to it’s arrival from Germany a few years ago we had to boil water in pans on the cooker and using an electric ‘Burco boiler’. It was a nightmare and we never had enough  hot water, one year resorting to lighting some gas rings under the cast iron bath. Well, that was interesting Smile elfin safety would have had a fit Smile The cast iron boiler may be heavy and a PITA to move and set up but it does make life much easier. All you need to do is keep it fed with coal and water, though judging by current wind turbine output an electric immersion would do Smile

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According to a mate in Loch Carron the Met Office weather station nearby only recorded 22mm of rain in November, the least in forty years. The next lowest reading was 97mm!!!!!!!!

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I do love this dry weather but it was good to see the recent rain put to good use in my hydro turbine Smile That’ll be the Stream Engine doing the best part of 800W this morning Smile

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