Life at the end of the road

April 11, 2014

Two days work :-)

Filed under: daily doings, shed/house, wind turbine — Tags: , , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:52 pm

Well, I made up for Wednesday on Thursday right enough so the gloom has lifted Smile Yesterday wasn’t exactly the wall to wall sunshine as was forecast but it was pretty good, and after Wednesday it was positively summery.

The cider that ‘Green Van Man’ had donated to my ‘liver fund’ had me arising a little later than I would have liked but the ‘wee dug’ and I were still out of the house before 7:00 to do the feeding. Rather than taking the quad like I usually do we walked down the road to Rocky and Jamie Lea then cut up the wee burn towards the new house. This area was once well cultivated, the ark is actually on ground that still bears the heaps and furrows of long abandoned ‘lazy beds’ .


The two pigs were already out and came charging towards me from a patch of bracken near their insulated home. I dunno what it is about certain areas of bracken that attract them, but when they find the ‘right spot’ they’re like a pair of excavators. They’ve barely touched the stuff by their ark but just above that ‘passing place’ sign where the two of them are eating, is an area of hill that looks like it’s been shelled with artillery . Also, in the foreground is a spot that has received a good deal of attention yet just to the right it’s untouched.

Further evidence of previous agriculture can be found in the dry stone dykes that cut this little valley off from the rest of Arnish




and what could only have been a hen house at one time.


OK, it doesn’t look much like one now but at one time it would have been a neat circular affair with a turf roof.

The Raspberry frame.

The next task after our sojourn around Arnish and breakfast was not on my ‘to do list’ for the fortnight at all. However wifey had spent her Christmas gift vouchers two weeks ago at Skye Shrubs

and come away with some raspberries that needed planting. With a hundred and one things on ‘the list’ it hardly seemed like a priority to me but in the interests of a quiet life I got on with making a frame for them.


By my reckoning it was still far to wet and boggy for this kind of task but I made a start anyway,


carefully marking out the ground fro the eight square ‘deer posts’ that would constitute the uprights.


A step ladder would have been better for putting the 8’ posts into the ground but the garden was far too soft for that so I made do with a milk crate.



They could actually have been doing with a little more height for raspberries, around 7’ instead of the 5’ 6” that I did these at but the peaty ground is quite soft at the best of times. Consequently the posts were hammered in almost 3’.



A length of 90mm fish farm blower pipe on top would provide some rigidity and also enable a net to be put over them, but that’s as far as I got. It was my lunchtime now and time to drag my son out of bed for his breakfast and to give me a hand.



We had lots to do over a very large area, from Brochel to the top of Meall Dearag Arnish and you can only get so far on a quad.



Obviously I was struggling to keep the camera still in this blurry picture of the Tarbert sheep fank and Rainy’s wall taken from ‘the Hill of the Hind’. From here we descended on foot the steep slope to the shore and then back on the quads towards Torran and the ‘Pipers rock’ where we dismounted once more and walked eastwards along the fence to Loch nan Dubhan.

The loch was as high as I’ve ever seen it but we didn’t linger, a shower looked imminent and I wanted to get to the wireless broadband masts before it struck.


This little wireless network has been reliably providing us and parts of the Applecross peninsula with fast dependable broadband for over six months now and I wanted to make sure it was all OK.

This system installed by Simon Whitehead of Eigg and Ian Bolas of Rhum from   has revolutionized our internet

 021 and the sturdy mast has come through the winter virtually unscathed.



I did say ‘virtually’, but one loose clamp after the wildest winter for years aint bad, and during that time this mast has remained ‘powered up’ when the rest of the countryside was blacked out. We have NEVER been without the internet since the system was fitted apart from two nights, once when the UPS failed at the Aros after a power cut and once when my Linksys router had to be ‘rebooted’ through no fault of the ISP.

This wireless broadband is just streets ahead of my satellite based system which quite often failed in bad weather, suffered from pathetic data allowance, extortionate fees and slow speeds. Satellite broadband is really only for when there is NO OTHER option, compared to a good wireless network it’s pants.

We fastened the clamp up just before the shower arrived and managed to get soaked on the way home Sad smile


Considering the wind and rain at the time I can’t believe that picture turned out so well, first time I’ve seen our slated roof and the hen shed from so far away Smile


Of course by the time we got home the sun was out again, this lovely ruin is actually in the other picture but you’d be hard pressed to find it. When I moved here in 1989 it still had half of it’s turf roof on, Oh how I wish I’d have taken some pictures of it and it’s beautiful pegged timber supports. Apparently it was a barn and where seals were boiled up for their blubber or something equally smelly, or so I was told. Mind you the man who informed me of that also said that I must where a green jumper when fishing for lobster Smile


Not quite so ‘peachy’ today, in fact it was pretty damp and whilst I’ve been outside for pretty much all of it I’ve not got a lot to show for my efforts. Four holes in rock and two in some angle iron is all I’ve achieved today. Right enough I did have a few snags along the way


like a broken drill bit, fortunately just as I’d finished the last of the 28mm holes for the 24mm high tensile steel bar. The extra ‘bridle’ that I made up from an old hydro pole ‘cross tree’ was drilled 30mm.




A 1mm thick cutting disc makes short work of cutting these pieces of heavy steel and generates few sparks and even less heat, sure they don’t last as long but the cut is far, far neater.



Complications and the lack of a decent hoover meant that despite drilling all the holes I couldn’t actually clean three of them properly. Each one is 400mm deep and the other three had stones in the bottom that I couldn’t budge with compressed air or the power washer. Well I probably could have done it with the air had I had more of it but I’ve not wired up my diving compressor up at the new house yet. So, rather than rush that job I just set the one stud in the Hilti HIT RE500 resin, learning a few tricks from the last four I did.




Wrapping the threads in tape save a lot of time cleaning the threads and helps pull the excess resin clear of the hole.


There was more, like a hen invasion in my workshop


and the first frond of bracken, but it’s almost 22:45 now and time for my bed.

September 14, 2013

Just like old times :-)

Filed under: daily doings, life off grid, stonework — Tags: , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:55 pm

It was with great joy that I saw young ‘Lightning MacLennan’ arrive home with the Dude last night, I’d primed my boy to expect a busy day on the hill hauling cable and he’s obviously spread the word. I’d spoke to my son at the hostel on Wednesday or Thursday night and filled him in on progress with the ‘Applecross Broadband Project’ and all my shenanigans on Wednesday with Wifey and MiL . Having much more sense than I he’d managed to find another pair of hands to help haul the second cable across the rock and heather.

Anyway, there was no holding us back this morning, or at least Lightening and I, my son had to be dragged out of bed once we’d fed the animals and I’d put the bacon on. It must have been the sunshine that had all the pigs and hens out even earlier than ourselves awaiting fed.

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As I’d left the Honda up at North Arnish with the cable reel on its rear carrier I set off on foot leaving the boys with the Yamaha and enthusiasm to use it. Probably what had Lightning up here in the first place, proper ‘petrol head’ that boy Smile



Nothing like an early morning walk past the old garden and ruins at South Arnish after a bacon sandwich to set you up for the day. I was heading for the highest point on the horizon and very quickly regretting my salt laden ‘butty’, there isn’t much water once you get past the ruins of North Arnish.

I took the old path from South Arnish towards Torran, or at least I tried to,


deep grass and dew filled cobwebs making it impossible to find, and that’s by one who trod it daily for many years.


The boys took the regular route up ‘The Green’ or at least that’s what it used to be fifteen years ago, a green fertile slope rich in fungi at this time of year. Now it’s a tangle of bracken and scrub birch, kept clear only by my regular quad journeys to the North Arnish well.

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Once we were up past the ruins of ‘Donald’s barn’ and the old Post Office



we parked the quads ‘fore and aft’, heaved the 150kg roll of cable onto their carriers and lashed it on.

The plan was to haul out as much as was humanely possible before cutting it, then dragging the cut length up to the top of the hill which would support the mast. Support being rather a grand term and ‘on top’ not strictly true as it’s hoped to keep the 2x 600mm dishes below the skyline so they will in effect be invisible. Not that it bothers me a fig if they can be seen, however there are whole army of so called lovers of the country side that think any kind of development or infringement of ‘their’ view is a crime. It’s OK for them to have superfast broadband a road to their door or job in the toon, but just try building a house here near the sea or starting a fish farm and they’re down on you like a ‘ton of bricks’. Ruining the cultural, architectural and natural heritage and all that carp. Well if people can’t get jobs here or have decent lines of communication then we’ll all end up like North Arnish, Hallaig and most of South Arnish.

Anyway, where was I before I went ‘off on one’ Smile

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well, I was atop a cliff some 80m from the quads, just by that rowan tree. The two boys were a good 150m or so further on dragging the cable through heather and over rock.

The cable is marked and we started off a 2770 and by the time we got to 2970 it was getting hard going, even when pulling wee bights then working them up the hill. So, when we reached the halfway mark I broke out the hacksaw, much to Simon, Brian and Alan’s disgust Smile


That left us with 250m and 75kg on the drum , well worth ‘bookmarking’ that link if you’re into crackpot schemes like this Smile


Just makes you wonder if there’d been a fish farm in the loch, a road to Arnish before Calum built one and a sensible fisheries policy if folk would still live here. Just look at the place, it’s beautiful, Dun Caan far left, the old Post Office left, a small barn to the right of the sycamore tree, Camilli’s green roofed croft and barn in the distance and behind that the blue roof membrane of our new hoose.

The lost camera (again)

With the cable chopped we set off once more on our trek, initially quite easily because we weren’t dragging anything. At around the 150m mark I stopped and let the two boys go ahead so we’d all be dragging just part of the cable and not the whole 250m. It was here that I put my camera down on a conspicuous rock, rain was unlikely to happen, it wasn’t going to get nicked and I was sick of carrying it.



The ‘HTC Wildfire’ that I’d wasted almost an hour trying to download a GPS App on would take pictures even if it wouldn’t tell me where I was. I know I’m rubbish in the IT department but Lightning and the boy tried too, it just kept freezing whilst I tried to install it. Now I’m not incompetent but my memory is pish so when Phil suggested plotting the co ordinates of the joints I was most impressed with the idea, so I’ll try again later and if still no joy I’ll just take the ‘Tom Tom’ out of the car Smile

Arriving at the bottom of the hill we needed to climb we were confronted by what is in effect almost a cliff, however at its base is a flat grassy area that we used to pull the cable up to before Molly and I scaled it.


The ‘wee dug’ had a knack for it and managed to pick out a safe route for me and the boys


and here we are on the top, the dish’s I reckon, or at least one of them can go just below the boy in red Smile



Facing the Aros ‘backhaul’ in Portree.


The Trotternish ridge.


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Tying the end around a rock up there we headed back towards home and a late lunch, the boys had worked like Trojan’s and the progress beyond my expectations.

It was on the way back that I couldn’t find my camera!!! it had gone, no, I hadn’t forgotten where I’d put it, it must have been caught by the cable and dragged somewhere. After twenty minutes of fruitless searching we gave up, it wasn’t going anywhere, we were hungry and perhaps dragging cable number two would bring it to light.

A spectacular lunch rustled up quickly by myself, consisting of last nights pasta sauce, a rather spicy affair I’d knocked up with chorizo and Harissa paste served with noodles went down a treat. Though in all honesty we were all that hungry that we’d have eaten anything.



After an hours rest we returned to the quads and got on with pulling off the rest of the cable, getting it all out and next to the other cable in less than an hour!!! What a team, seriously though these guys have been doing this sort of stuff with me for years and need little instruction. I just need to start paying them Sad smile Once the cable was in position we started a fresh search for the camera and after less than 10 minutes found it in the heather, no doubt knocked there by the stray end of the cable. Returning to the other end of the cable we tied it off on a tree and discovered an 80m shortfall.



I’d thought as much on Wednesday when I laid the first section with only a couple of meters to spare, still it was a brilliant days work and Alison or Simon could order up the rest of the cable on Monday.


sea eagle

Just as we’d called it a day we got visit from a golden eagle, I say ‘called it a day’ but when we got home the post lady had delivered a box of these

There was nothing for it, the weather was perfect today, it would break tonight and I’d absolutely no problem convincing the boys that we should trek once more back up that hill.


Whilst we were going up again we lashed the aluminium scaffolding poles for the mast onto the quads and took some up.


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Hard to believe in this wilderness that once upon a time it must have been a well trodden path judging by this cast iron gate post and the heather indicating the line of the old wall and fence. You can see the line of the old wall better in that picture before the post, just behind the boy ‘bearing his cross’ Smile



Here’s one of the many holes labouriously  bored by hand into the granite like gneiss so that the iron posts could be ‘leaded’ in, what is the point of ‘heritage’ if it’s left to revert to nature with no people left on the land????




Jointing SWA cable

Despite all the flak I took about cutting and jointing it’s reliable, easy and cheap, far cheaper than a helicopter, powered barrow or squad of navvies. The joints are recognized by all manner of ‘certification’ bodies and insurance companies for under ground and underwater use. All you have to do is observe cleanliness, dryness, temperature, read the instructions and make sure the resin filling is ‘in date’.

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The instructions are in the packet so I’ll not bore you with the details just to say that the easiest way to strip back the actual galvanized wire armour is to score around it with a hacksaw whilst the outer sheath of the cable is still on. Then peel back the PVC and just bend the SWA armour by hand until it snaps. If you try and peel back the sheath first and cut the wire with snips it will look 5hite. It will hold every bit as good but look like its been done by an amateur.

That was it really, we got home, fed the pigs, cleaned out the chickens, had a mince pie and now I’m going to bed Smile It has been ‘such a perfect day’



OK, not ‘that’ perfect but it did involve a mountain and being very tired Smile

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