Life at the end of the road

January 11, 2017

One hundred plus!!!

Filed under: daily doings, weather — Tags: , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:28 pm

Well, it’s been a pretty breezy day today, that’s for sure, the first ‘full’ day at work turned out to be a short one as we ‘pulled the plug’ at 17:00 on account of the wind. To be honest I was surprised we ran so long, pretty much every other Cal Mac ferry had tied up long before we did. It was even worse up at our end of the island with a gust of 100MPH during the night and one of 108MPH at some point in the day.


It’s been a pretty steady 50MPH all day here at Sonas but it was much more squally at Sconser where we seldom had a straight forward approach to the slipway today. The west north west wind arriving in great big chunks every time the ferry turned into Loch Sligachan. So much so that most times the skipper had to hold off in the loch until they’d passed safely by, trouble is you just can’t see them coming in the dark, hence the early finish.

Still, this is a great direction of wind for the Proven/Kingspan KW3 which just soaks it all up and turns it into valuable electricity for our house.


The steady 50MPH wind with its gusts to 100 plus had taken our energy production to a record breaking 101kWh in a 23 hour period. It’ll be more than that now but there’s no way I’m going outside now to check it Smile Our previous best being 90kWh in August, on what must have been on an unusually windy and sunny day. Those are annual production figures above, 11658kWh for the year, which at the average UK unit cost of 15.4p per kWh is £1795.33 Smile Of course I don’t actually pay or get paid anything for it and if I did have to buy the stuff then I’d certainly not use that much. However it’s a hobby and passion as well as keeping us in better than grid quality and reliable power. Just wait until this time next year when I have some figures for the 6kW Proven/Kingspan that’ll be going in the ‘ole.

What am I going to do with it all

The thing is, this new turbine is presenting me with a bit of a dilemma, what to do with the power? I know from a friend who has the same turbine that it is, as you would expect, going to produce around double the energy. So, on a day like today I’m gonna have approaching 200kWh of energy to use which is around five times what we need to run the house. However, on a day like the 7th it’s only going to push my wind energy production from 1kWh to 3kWh Sad smile Sure my battery bank can take care of the shortfall for a couple of days but you get my drift, to increase my ‘energy independence’ over the year by a few days means there are going to be many, many more when I’ve excess. Now this is a great position to be in but I do have to ensure that I have ample means of either using it or dumping it and at the moment that is very much ‘work in progress’. Hot tub, EV or hybrid car, air conditioning are all schemes I’ve considered so, just ‘watch this space’ Smile

The turbine base

Well, that’s the ‘ole pretty much ready for the concrete, sadly it didn’t happen this shift and I was hoping to accurately measure the volume but that never came to pass. Figuring my best chance of actually getting an exact volume on an irregular ‘ole filled with steel would be to fill it with water to the brim them pump it out at a known speed in litres/min. To that end I made up a 90mm to 32mm adapter and stuck it in the burn behind the house. I installed a small dam here years ago with a 90mm pipe through it to measure the water flow to asses its viability for a small hydro turbine. Just another one of my retirement plans like the Range Rover and taking it easy Smile

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That seemed to go quite well so we turned our attention to laying a duct for the cable.

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Luckily the cable was already laid for most of the way as it was the 6mm square supply to the caravan which I’d fortuitously left in place.

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Sadly, apart from finishing the shuttering and putting a small drain through it, this is a far as we got.

Gone to a good home

The sad demise of my trusty Honda TRX 350 kinda left a lump in my throat the whole family owed that Honda a huge debt of gratitude. My son had grown up driving it, it had been part of all my crazy renewable energy projects and had carried us home drunk from Torran after many a boozy sesh. Consequently I was loathe to send it to the knackers yard or leave it rotting in a corner of the croft. However during my search for a replacement I came across a wanted add on Gumtree.


Dead or alive
Something needing money spent on
Winter project
Ideally honda big red or foreman
Kawasaki 4×4 klf
Mail me with any pictures an info
Cash waiting

Well, I emailed Neil and said “have I got a winter project for you” Smile I also sent him a link to the blog post and said “the only good thing on it is the rear tyres”. To my amazement this did not put Neil off and he made me on offer, which I turned down cos it was too much Smile Not only that I said I’d deliver to Kintail as my mum’s not far from there and it would give my son and I a good excuse to visit, not that a devoted son should need one Smile

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True to form the indestructible Honda fired up first time and I just reversed it straight into his van, he was mightily impressed with both the quad and the ‘wee dug’ who leapt aboard  as soon as the starter was pressed. Neil handed me a wad of cash and a fine single malt, I then gave him forty quid back. Sure I could have got much more money for it but it owes me sweet FA, I’ve had seven or so years hard labour out of it and was given the thing in the first place.

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The bottle I’ve passed onto Bill and the cash, well, I’ll find a good home for that, ‘what comes around goes around’ as they say Smile

Once we’d left a very happy Neil we went onto spend a good few hours at me Mammy’s doing we jobs.


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The ‘Five sisters of Kintail’

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and the fishing boat Te Bheag in Loch Duich.

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Sunset, Glamaig and the Sound of Raasay on the way home.

Of course, as we had an empty trailer I filled it with old sheets of corrugated iron from the old roof on me Mums house.

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The mushroom farm

Truth be know, it was the ‘mushroom farm’ that prevented me finishing the turbine base. This corrugated iron sheeting was a bit of a bonus and one of my things on the ‘to do’ list was just about to get ticked off.

When I built the ‘solar powered hen shed’ a few years ago I made a serious error, I painted the OSB with gloss paint to protect it from the weather. Now this was fine for a couple of years but gradually the water, driven by the gale force winds has found its way through the paint.

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The resulting dampness on the inside has turned the OSB into a fabulous mushroom farm. The plan being to clad the outside with the old corrugated sheets from my mum’s house.

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They kinda look a bit tatty and rusty but the rust is usually only on the last 6” or so and can be easily cut off.


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Trust me, when it’s finished and painted it’ll look lovely.


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I did actually get the whole side done before Monday was out but it was pitch black by the time I’d finished.

DIY gritting

So that was it for the ‘rest period’, I finished work in 2016 and started back on a fine Tuesday evening. The forecast was carp for today with snow predicted so I set off early and did some DIY gritting on the way to work and the way back.

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The council had at least left some decent salt piles at the side of the road after my son’s wee incident last year .

However, I need not have bothered, for just two hours ago I saw the gritter’s flashing yellow beacons at the end of the road Smile 


Of course this inevitably means that it will not now snow or freeze!!!

January 5, 2017

I love the smell of napalm in the morning :-)

Two dry days in a row!!! boodly marvellous and I managed to get all my welding done in the dry. Sure enough, as predicted Wednesday was the good day that I was counting on to get some work done down the ‘ole.

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After pumping it out I was down there at first light as planned, but that wasn’t until almost 9:am in these parts with the much heavier cloud than predicted. I certainly wasn’t convinced that the rain would stay away, but much to my relief it did. What a difference it makes on a job like this being dry, using a welder, grinder, cutter and any amount of tools that don’t particularly like getting wet is so much easier. Despite this and even with the help of my son we still didn’t get all the welding finished.

My effort bears no resemblance whatsoever to the base recommended by Proven/Kingspan for their 15m tower but using what I had at hand I’m confident it’ll be far stronger than the specification. It’ll also be all my own work and have cost me a fraction of what I expecting to pay. When I planned this second turbine I’d always intended getting it done professionally. The last thing I wanted was a large lump of metal crashing through the roof of the house in a winter storm.

 The right tools for the job

I’ve always been one for buying tools, even before I lived somewhere were you just couldn’t borrow or hire them. Having the right tool for the job makes life so much easier and this job in particular has proved that to be the case. I purchased two specially to do it, a magnet drill and a die grinder.

   040117 002 Makita GD0600 240v die grinder 6mm collet 400w 3 year warranty straight grinder


The magnetic drill was just a cheap one as I figured that I would be using it that much after this task but already it has proved its worth on several other jobs. If you need a hole drilling in a piece of steel then forget the electric hand drill, this is the baby you need though I’m sure mine wasn’t much over £200. A quality one will set you back the best part of a grand but for what I need this is perfect. The Makita die grinder is something I’ve never used until we bought one for a job at work and since then I’ve used it more and more and in many circumstance where I’d have used a grinder in the past as it produces little heat, no sparks and can reach into the smallest ‘nook and crannies’.

Having got the ‘root’ carefully into position and level I tacked it into place using 16mm rebar and of course more of that 6” channel, which whilst being too distorted for most applications was perfect for this. To make slight adjustments I dropped three of the 1000mm long M30 studs down to the bedrock and screwed them up and down accordingly before I tacked more steel into place.

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I made up three ‘feet’ out of some old hydro pole ‘cross trees’  and used another awesome tool I’d purchased, some time ago. This Evolution ‘radial arm saw’ from Screwfix was bought for finishing jobs around the house, where it too proved invaluable. However it’s just as happy cutting  8mm steel as 75mm wood and made short work of the heavy galvanised steel.

Jacking up the ‘root’ got it almost perfectly level, it was just left to a heavy duty ‘ratchet strap’ to do the fine tuning.

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Once it perfectly level I got serious with the welder and more steel, at least I did until the power tripped Sad smile I’d forgotten to turn off the 3kW immersion in the house. Normally this never turned off, though in the summer I do lower the setting to 60 degrees from its normal ‘maxed out’ at 80 degrees. The solar hot water tubes seem to provide enough DHW in the summer for normal use. Even if I’m doing small welding jobs I leave it on, the SMA SI6.0H is rated at 4.6kW continuous, 6kW for 5 minutes and it can surge to 12kW for 30 seconds or something. I dunno what the 200Amp welder draws but it has to be more than 3kW cos it occasionally trips a breaker or blows a 13A fuse.

I guess wifey was having a shower and using the washing machine for the power went off after a while. It did however come back on after about 30 seconds so I went and switched the immersion off for the rest of the welding day. I have to say I was always a bit cautious about using a MIG or electric welder on an ‘off grid’ inverter. The truth is, until recently I’ve always used the generator when welding, having once read somewhere that repeatedly ‘striking an arc’ is bad for them. To be honest, I actually think it’s worse for the generator than the inverter, even at the high currents I’ve been using for this thick steel, (200Amps continuously) the inverter has never as much as dimmed a light.

Extra helpers

The wee pigs aren’t so ‘wee’ anymore and seem to really have ‘come on’ since they were turfed out of their muddy field. Strange because the gate was always left open for them to wander out on the hill if they wished. I think they too must have been well and truly ‘pi55ed off’ with the weather because they’re always out on the hill now.



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This will be them taking a wee nap out the back of the house,

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though as soon as we went for more steel they came to help my son chop up the girders Smile

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We just managed to get these three longer ones set in a triangle mounted through the 1000mm M30 studs.


Today it was another good day, better than yesterday in many ways as there was the odd break in the clouds but it was much colder and windier. The charts below suggest yesterday was windier but it certainly didn’t feel that way in the lower temperature.


Capture thurs

Wednesday’s west wind and relatively mild temperature.

 Capture thurs

First job was finally finishing off the welding, after which I started inserting my odd bits of reinforcing mesh.

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There’s smoke in them thar hills Smile

I love the smell of burning heather in the morning Smile

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It’s that time of year again Smile Probably a sign of climate change, don’t ever remember it being dry enough for the traditional ‘muir burn’ this early in January.

Can you see the piper

It wasn’t all work today, the wee dug and I went out for a wander too.

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Here’s Grian a Sgeir west of Fladda

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and the Pipers Rock above Torran, though I’ve never ever seen him.

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We also made a start on the shuttering but gave up when the light finally failed around 16:30. Looks like a bit of rain through the night so I’d better go and make sure everything is inside. Tomorrow actually looks a good day, not carp or pishing with rain for the third day in a row, but ‘I’ve got to see a man about a quad’ Smile

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