Life at the end of the road

February 21, 2019

Back to the shed :-)

Filed under: animals, Avon Searider, daily doings, life off grid, listers, pigs, shed/house — Tags: , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:45 pm

OK, it’s not actually a shed more of a ground mount PV array that I can park the Searider under to keep the sun and weather off it. Sort of a car port on steroids I guess, whatever you call it, it’s certainly gonna be man enough to stand up to the West Coast weather that’s for sure. Callum Findlay, sole proprietor of the Raasay Sawmill and shed designer/builder extraordinaire has seen to that. Me, I’m just the apprentice in this project Smile I guess it’s been three weeks since we got the sturdy frame up and in the intervening period I’ve gotten 12 x Trina 300W solar panels and all the mounting hardware to go on the roof whilst Callum was busy cutting rafters, purlins and boards for the roof and sides.

  Pigs and Listers

Anyway, I’m getting a little ahead of myself, the shed was today, it was pigs and a Lister yesterday, oh and rain, lots and lots of rain. A friend had needed help removing his pigs from a croft they were busy rotovating and myself and A, N, Other had offered to help.

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First thing I had to do though was remove the 12 solar panels from the trailer, easier said than done in a gale of south wind on your own Smile

That done, the trailer sides and roof fitted we set off south to try and get the two beauties into the trailer.

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The girls were not impressed and to cut a long story short my neighbour went for a mud bath, we all got very wet and the two pigs, as far as I know are still charging about the field Smile

After all that excitement I found myself a nice leisurely job on Harry, my trusty Lister HR2 15kVA generator. Truth is, Harry is much larger than we need, a 7 or 8kVA would suffice, but he was dirt cheap and had only done 50 hours running when I bought him despite being 20 years old then. He is over 40 years old now and has still only done 3300 hours so still a ‘spring chicken’ in Lister terms.

Lister fuel solenoid

If I’m honest the fuel solenoid stopped working properly over a year ago which effectively meant that Harry wouldn’t start unless you helped him. Sure he would stop fine but the fuel solenoid needed help to energise. This was never really too much of a problem as the generator doesn’t run much and we have a meter in the kitchen that tells us if the batteries are low.


Anyway, I thought it was about time I fixed it, especially with me going away next shift for a couple of weeks. The Hallaig will be covering for Lochinvar again at Lochaline so we may have house/dog sitters in. The solenoid is just an electro magnet that once energized lifts up a lever on the fuel pump allowing the fuel to flow to the injectors. It was working but needed a little help to operate.

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The return spring seemed to be too strong for a start so I replaced that for a weaker one as it looked like it had snapped at some point and been shortened. I do have a vague memory of doing this but the main issue seemed to be that the plunger wasn’t in line with the operating lever so it was binding as it travelled upwards. Not sure how this could have happened but a little adjustment with a 5/16” and 7/16” spanner plus some WD40 soon sorted it.


Plunger off.


Solenoid energised and fuel on Smile

The shed

Today was a vast improvement on yesterday weather wise, OK, it wasn’t absolutely dry but near enough to not need oilskins and no where near as windy as forecast.

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Callum and Jay arrived around 9:30, just in time for ‘second breakfast’ of eggs fried in nduja and a fresh pot of coffee. Sure the muesli and banana I’d had for breakfast number one had been healthier but home grown eggs, pork fat and chili beats the carp out of it for ‘hitting the spot’ Smile

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Callum had pre cut the rafters and purlins and just like the rest of the construction they fitted perfectly.

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I concentrated on fitting the rafters whilst Callum got on with the purlins.

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After 17:00 I ‘broke out’ the Magners Smile

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By 18:30 it was getting to dark to see the ‘bubble’


so I ‘called it a day’ Smile


December 12, 2018

More nduja :-)

Filed under: daily doings, food, pigs — Tags: , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 5:06 pm

Well, that’s it for another year, the annual ‘pig fest’ is by with and Christmas just around the corner, by the time I finish this two week shift the days will be getting longer. Can’t wait for that right enough, it barely got light today and my 4.75kW of solar PV has been generating precious little of late. Not that that is a problem, our all electric ‘off grid’ house is still kept toasty with the wind and hydro.


So, whilst solar PV has averaged less than 1kWh per day in December and solar hot water has been zilch, we have still averaged over 38kWh of energy per day, more than enough to heat and run our super insulated house. Still, a little more sunshine would be good for the soul, not to mention vitamin D and SAD (seasonally affected disorder), I’m sure the most effervescent of people even get a touch of that.

The main task for this fortnight off, apart from Groove Armada, digger tracks, VW alternator conversion, dumper fixing, Christmas shopping and the course in Glasgow was the pigs. The two darlings would be getting turned into hams, sausages, cotechino, black pudding, brawn, salami, pate and my all time favourite, nduja . So the cast iron bath, 100lt boiler came out of storage, the floor of the shed got scrubbed and the knives sharpened.

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We’d grown particularly fond of these two so I wasn’t as enthusiastic as usual Sad smile I don’t think I’m going soft in my old age, just we’d had these for much longer than usual and they were a particularly friendly pair. Still, if you are going to eat meat then you gotta accept it comes from something with a face. At least these two had a full and happy life right up until they got the .243 Winchester in the head. I normally just use the .22 rimfire but this pair were close on 100kg apiece so I was taking no chances. Sure their heads wouldn’t be in great shape after for making brawn but the ‘wee darlings’ deserved a quick and painless end.

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The pair had been brought onto the croft earlier and the first one lead to a nice soft spot where the bullet would not ricochet, some food was put on the ground for her and then whilst she was munching away it was all over. A squeeze on the trigger, a strop around the leg and then I hoisted her up with Calum whilst the experts drained her blood for the black puddings, adding some salt and constantly stirring it to prevent clotting. At least I think that’s what they were doing, me I was concentrating on my job in hand which was operating the digger. It is far, far easier doing this with a digger than a block and tackle.

Don’t click on these images below if you are vegetarian or hypocritical

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Every year we get a little quicker and slicker at this and this year was no exception, instead of placing the pig in the preheated cast iron bath we placed it on a ladder above it. This put the pig at a better height and meant that it wasn’t cooking in the very hot water required for de-hairing. Getting the thick bristles off the pig is by far the hardest job in a ‘home kill’ as the water temperature has to be just right (around 82 degrees Celsius) and you need lots of it. However, lying the pig in the bath means you are in danger of cooking it or at least burning your hands. Having the pig on the ladder makes it easier to lift on and off the bath and pouring the hot water over the carcass is just as effective as soaking it if it’s hot enough.

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The first few years we did this the hot water was always a problem and we never had enough of it. A large cast iron boiler purchased from Germany by the Swiss surgeon a few years ago makes short work of heating the water now.


All four halves were left to hang overnight and after what had been a very busy afternoon and evening we all settled down to some wine and offal Smile I kid you not, there is nothing quite so nice brain, liver and kidney after killing and dehairing two large pigs Smile

Diedre arrives

That was all on Thursday which was a ‘pure peach’ of a day, Friday was not so nice, in fact storm Diedre arrived on Friday along with lashing rain from the west. Normally we do the butchery out the front of the schoolhouse as it’s too warm inside.

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This year we ‘set up shop’ around the back in the relative shelter, just as well, it got pretty wild with many of the ferries (including Hallaig) getting cancelled later in the day. There was a whole day’s work in boning the shoulders, ribs and removing fat plus skin and at 17:00 I left them to it. I had a chicken curry waiting and don’t think I could have handled another evening’s feasting with the rest of the team Smile

Saturday was a far better day and the ‘cutting table’ returned to its regular ‘room with a view’

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where it stayed for the rest of the day for cubing the acres of fat for the salamis Smile Me, ‘I abandoned ship’ around 14:00 to go Christmas shopping at The Silver Grasshopper’ and return the ‘Bug’ to the distillery

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Suitably laden with gifts from Fiona’s excellent wee shop we returned home.

On Sunday it was a morning spent vacuum packing all the goodies, some 72 salamis, 11 cotechino,  

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a box of my favourite nduja a gazillion sausages,


pot loads of brawn and some fine legs for turning into hams.

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Most of this headed sowf in the fully laden hire cars but I managed to come away with a few choice tubs, sausages, nduja and half a dozen salamis.

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The salamis and leg got hung in the bunker at home where the salamis would cure nicely, the ham I dealt with on Monday night after a trip to Inverness for all the brine ingredients.


The leg weighed almost 10kg and I used my own variation of one of HFW’s brines off his ‘Pig in a day’ DVD though I got mine free and signed by himself and Ray Smile Anyway, it’s basically 1.5kg of salt for 3.5lt of liquid and this is what I used.


3lt water, 4lt flat cider, 4lt apple juice, 1lt pineapple juice, 750ml white wine 2kg demerara sugar, 2kg soft brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and star anise.


I left it to cool outside over night then in the morning put the leg in a dustbin after power washing the bin and hacking a bit off the leg to make it fit inside.

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The ham was then sunk in the brine and kept there with a bucket full of diving weights, the hacked off bit went into a soup Smile I’ll keep it in there for a few weeks then hang it to dry in the bunker. The bunker whilst normally pretty warm is kept cool and dry at this time of year by the ASHP (air source heat pump) that helps heat our thermal store.

I’ve used this recipe before so know it works well.

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