Life at the end of the road

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


March 8, 2017

Pure ‘wabbit’ :-)

Golly gosh, feels like winter is over despite the hail, gale,  thunder and lightning of this morning. Sure it’s freezing outside in the biting westerly but the sun has a genuine warmth in it and it’s ‘light at both ends’ Smile That will be me arriving and leaving work for the first time this year in daylight. OK, not quite last night as it was a carpy day but it certainly felt that way.

So, that’s it, I am back at work and have spent the whole of my ‘rest period’ without doing any blogging. Sorry bout that but not only was I busy but I was feeling ‘pure wabbit’!!!! Twenty years I’ve known my Glaswegian wife and still she surprises me with her colloquialisms.

Half way through the fortnight off I’m struck with a virus that’s doing the rounds and floored with a sore throat that prevents me eating, sleeping and swallowing pain killers. The weather is amazing, I’ve a list of outdoor jobs ‘as long as my arm’ and I’m struck with my worst bout of ‘man flu’ in years. Of course ‘darling wife’ has already had it and gotten through it without a whimper. Not me, no I’m a guy so have to moan constantly, crave sympathy and think my own version of this bug is far, far worse than anyone else’s.

The most empathetic statement to come my way from the ‘egg lady’ was “you look pure wabbit” , needless to say I had to crawl to my computer and look it up.

Still, she was dead right, I was Smile

The first task

The ‘rest period’ started off pretty ‘full on’ with the annual visit from the ‘English Director, the Swiss Surgeon and the Russian Art Dealer’ who assemble from the four corners of Europe to do their yearly butchery. The two Tamworth’s we’d been fattening for them had come on nicely but it was time for them to go and I had to do the ‘prep work’.

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The 100lt cast iron boiler had to be put in place and the chimney installed. This is to keep a constant supply of boiling water for dehairing the pigs, though ideally you don’t want to be using it on the creature over 80 degrees. The idea is to melt the fat in the hair follicles but not cook the pig. The cast iron bath was put in position at the correct working height and a drain made up to take the waste water away. The cast iron bath soon knocks down the water temp and then a hose of cold into the boiler cools that down a little. Temperature of the water being constantly monitored with an IR thermometer.

As it was the ‘wee girls’ last day we let them in the garden to clear up after the birds.

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This meant that they were happy and content right up to being led to the barn door to meet their end.


The ‘end’ being a .22 bullet at point ‘a’, roughly the centre of a cross drawn between the eyes and ears but from straight ahead as in ‘a’ on the right. If you don’t you’ll miss the brain and the animal may suffer, unlikely if you are slitting the throat too to collect the blood but many folk don’t. If you are collecting the blood then get someone to hold the rear of the pig slightly higher and pump the forelegs. Please don’t click on the images if you’re squeamish.

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We had both pigs slaughtered, de haired and split down the spine in around three hours which is pretty good. That was start to finish with all the clearing up done too, a far cry from the first ones we ever did which took around four hours each. The secret is most definitely in having plenty of hot water to hand and having it at just the right temperature, too cool and it won’t come out, too hot and you’ll burn yourself and cook the meat.

I have to confess that when I do slaughter my own for my own consumption, which incidentally is all you can legally do, then my most ambitious project is usually sausages. Not these chaps though, they go the ‘whole hog’ so to speak, salamis, chorizo, blood pudding, brawn, cotechino, Parma type ham and a whole host of goodies.

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Here is my share of the proceedings brawn, sausage, cotechino and various salamis for hanging. They’d worked flat out the whole weekend to produce these delicacies, luckily they took a few hours off on Friday night and I went round for dinner of brain and humus, kidney and paprika, followed by a main of pork fillet and broccoli.

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All washed down with a fine Japanese single malt Smile

More chooks

I dunno whether we killed them all or if the arrival of the two girls we just slaughtered put them off but since last September we’ve not seen any sign of the dreaded mink that killed so many of the wife’s hens. Personally I’m convinced it was the two Tamworth’s that did the trick, for when they first arrived we kept them in section of the hen house until they were too large to get in and out of the hens ‘pop hole’. After that we kept them in one of the fallow hen runs for a few weeks prior to letting them out on the hill. I’m certain that their smell has kept the unwelcome American import at bay, so buoyed up by that belief we got some more.

Donald the Hen had a new batch of ‘point of lay’ Lohmann’s for sale so on Saturday we paid him a visit.

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After some of Katy’s fine home baking and coffee, we left Struan with 8 new chooks in a cardboard box. Donald ‘lives and breathes’ hens and not only are they very favourably priced he’s always on hand for advice and can also supply excellent hen house, feeders and drinkers. Donald can be contacted on 01470 572 213 or via Facebook.

Once home the chooks were put in a section of the hen shed adjoining the current five we still have. The various 8’ x 8’ sections of the shed are separated but have mesh windows between them so the hens can see each other. This gives them chance to get used to each other and vastly reduces bullying and ‘hen pecking’ when they are finally mixed.

The Mitsubishi MM30SR 

One of my main preoccupations this last fortnight has been Lachie’s 3ton digger

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which has been taxing me to say the least. Basically this far eastern ‘grey import’ is far too complicated for its own good with sensors on the bucket, boom and dipper, two electronic joysticks on a CANBUS network to a large CPU under the seat.

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My initial optimism at finding this dodgy connection on the unloading valve solenoid soon faded.

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Replacing the plug made absolutely no difference and many days of tracing wires, checking sensors, plugs and connections proved fruitless. Of course having absolutely no information, wiring or piping diagrams didn’t help and the greatest help I got ont tinternet was soon exhausted.

This left me with three options, 1 to buy a proper ‘plug and play’ kit from IM Dynamics  in Australia at $2000 AUD plus taxes and shipping. This would bypass the CPU and interface directly with the original Kawasaki joysticks. However IMD recommend sending the joysticks to them for checking and or overhaul, another $40 – $400AUD plus shipping and taxes. Option 2 was to try and make my own electric kit up using new electrical joysticks and ten relays, doable, but without a wiring diagram I couldn’t figure out what each of the six wires on each of the five spool valve solenoids did. I guess I could have worked it out with ‘trial and error’ but they were not easily accessible and I’d have had to do an awful lot of wiring and cable crimping. Which, lets face it isn’t ideal on something that has no cab, sits outside all its life and operates in mud and carp. So, I opted for making up a cable operated and joystick system from . That’s been ordered and with a bit of luck will be here for the start of my month holiday Smile Can’t wait Smile

Meanwhile I made up a tool to manually operate the Nachi spool valves

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from a sheet of 3mm steel and some M6 bolts.

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The spacing between the fulcrum and spool valve is 25mm but I slotted one of the bolt holes slightly to allow for it moving through and arc. The spools themselves are 14mm and the spacing of the retaining bolts is 35mm.

The tool works really well and allows me to easily move the machine now without danger of clattering myself with the boom or cab.

Yamaha YFM350 Bruin steering column bushes

Having abandoned the digger I turned my attention to the Yamaha quad and its worn steering column bushes and bearings. The top bearing is just a plastic bush that I’ve previously replaced, often greased and occasionally ground down to reduce the play. This time however I got a full kit that included the bottom ball bearing set and seals.

First of all the whole front plastic panel and handle bars need to come off, all straight forward, just a few bolts and electrical plugs, none of which you can mix up. Then a 22mm nut and split pin off the bottom of the column after which it should lift out and present you with the bottom bearing carrier.


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The top seal can just be prized out with a screwdriver, the bearing itself presents a problem as it’s held in with a large fine threaded retainer which is 30mm AF. I overcame this by ‘double nutting’ an M20 bolt and using an 30mm spanner.

I had to make up a puller to remove the bearing after prizing out the lower seal but the bearing broke Sad smile

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Luckily I had a small grinding stone and cut through the hardened race with a die grinder.  Built it back up with plenty of grease, job’s a good un Smile

Persian rug anyone

At some point during the fortnight off I’m working away in the barn when this chap shows up selling hand made rugs from Iran.


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I kid you not and they were lovely rugs too Smile Now we rarely get the ‘door to door’ types here, the Jehovah’s witness’s every couple of years, the Mormons every decade and one kitchen salesman in thirty years so there’s no need to be impolite. Indeed I seriously considered buying one off Asa, who hailed from Skipton in Yorkshire, not a lotta miles from where I was born. Still, I took his phone number and promised to give him a tinkle if we ever got fed up with our concrete floor Smile Well, you never know, I gotta say though, it’s unlikely, I do love that warm feeling from the UFH as you wander over the industrial flooring.

 What else

Well, it’s been a while and me memory is carp but looking through the pictures it looks like the ‘pirates’ were out scratching away.

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The ‘seven a side’ clam dredger Novante was busy ploughing up the Raasay Narrows again

We’d also a good few commercials delivering to the new distillery.


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Ian S Roger’s Scania delivering plate heat exchangers and JG Stampers MAN bringing in a 22000lt water tank one day.

The turbine base

I had hoped to get more work done on the wind turbine mast but my ‘man flu’ cut that short and the best I could manage was fitting the winching anchor point.

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The positioning of this is quite crucial and it took quite a while to bore a 32mm hole some 300mm down into the bedrock so I could bond some M30 stud in there.

Anyways, I got all that done as well as almost doing my VAT return, so not bad really.

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