Tuesday, 16 December 2014

All over Scotland

All over Scotland, in all weathers, and often long before daybreak, farmers start their working day.  Perhaps not every one has a Walter watching over them though.

Farmer at work indoors.

Farmer at work out of doors.

Once the sun rises above the hill, it is the outdoor cattle's turn to be fed.

And then the starlings turn up to see what is left on the ground in the cattle shed.   Their feet sound like rain drops on the tin roof of the cattle building.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Four seasons

I have lost track of when the ferry disruption started, but thinking about it, it must have been Monday because I did hear that people who were in Oban on Monday have only got back to Mull this afternoon. 

Some folk are saying this is the longest they can remember that the ferries have been off for.  I havent been further than Calgary this week so I haven't seen the empty shelves in the local shops, so dependant on supplies from the mainland.   Farmer went in to Dervaig to Dougie's shop for emergency supplies of dried milk earlier in the week.

The winds have certainly slowed down - the waves were more choppy than rolling this afternoon. Yesterday's weather was not as extreme here as in the Outer Isles, but the hail showers were painful on our faces as Farmer and I walked beyond Haunn.

Apparently there has been a power cut in Tobermory in the last few minutes or so, so I am going to stop now, in case ours goes off too.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Watching it come and go

And of course, I mean the weather! Thank goodness for insulation, airtight windows and wood chip heating, as we are warm and cosy while the wind is getting up and swirling round the gables.

We haven't had any snow yet, but it is close by. We have had thunder and rainbows and lightning.

I have attended 2 meetings today without leaving the house!  One via Skype and the other this evening, via a conference call.  This saved me 60 miles/2 hours of driving and a lot of waiting around as both meetings were in Craignure and I was going to have to work at the MICT office for 3 hours between meetings.   The roads are icy tonight and so I am doubly glad to be at home. 

On the farm, Farmer has been moving the tups around, putting in the 'chaser' tups now that the first full cycle has passed, they will hopefully catch any ewes that the first tups have missed.  The cows are still outside, and hopefully will be until New Year. 

Wild weather is forecast for the next few days with cancelled ferries and possibly structural damage.   There is no one in the cottages at the moment, the first week since March that we have no guests. I have to say I am quite relieved as we will only have ourselves to worry about. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Something to learn

There is always something to learn.   Especially with technology. 

We have had the Proven turbine since 2009 and the Kingspan once since 2012.  They have different brand labels because Proven went bankrupt and were bought out by Kingspan.  Underneath the wrapper they are identical. There is no difference in materials used or design between the 2 turbines.  However the Kingspan out performs the Proven dramatically - generating on average over the 2 years about 80% more power.  That is too big an amount to be attributed to site differences. 


Last winter N the Mull based turbine installer, who has his own Proven turbines, came to look at the set up and see if he could help address the issue.  He reprogrammed the inverter on the Proven but it didn't improve anything.  

Today D from Border Hydro, once they had serviced the Kingspan turbine, went to investigate the Proven inverter to see if he could pinpoint any thing.  He adjusted the levels slightly so that the Proven will start generating at low amps, which should harvest some of the slower wind speed.   

The other D mentioned the heater installed on the Kingspan, which takes the excess energy from the turbine once it starts to generate more than full power in high winds - the heater acting as a power dump.  The Proven doesn't have this system.  Instead it turns itself off so as not to damage the turbine.  

Aha.  We didn't know that.   Perhaps this is the explanation we have been hoping for. There is a blue light on the Proven generation panel.  If that is not lit during high winds, then the safety mechanism has turned the generation off.  

These 2 factors could explain the difference. Or some of it.   I have some windy weather monitoring to do, to see if we can get to the bottom of it once and for all!

There is a big storm coming in the middle of the week, so I will be rushing out to check on the blue light.

This old Blackface tup is waiting in the fank for Farmer to take him down to the Haunn area to join the hill ewes.

The day has been bitterly cold, but the light has played a dramatic game all day, with clouds moving across the sky, changing colours, bringing rain and hail and rainbows.

More and more starlings are gathering around the cattle shed.  It is a wonderful sight to see.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Service time

The weather this week has been changeable. Some dramatic clouds and colours, as well as verdant rainbows.

For several weeks we have been trying to schedule in the servicing of the wind turbines. Our installer is not local so it needs planning. For the last 2 or 3 weeks I have been updating them with the weather (wind) reports and it has been forecast as being too windy for taking the turbines down safely.  If it is spinning too fast you can damage the turbine when you put the brake on before taking it down.  

Today, finally, they made it! And the Proven 6, the one we installed in 2009, was taken down first.  It all seemed to be in working order and we talked about the differences in output between the two turbines, subject of many a previous blog, and what can be hopefully done to address the issue.  It is this turbine which doesn't perform as well as the other newer one.

It always surprises me how big the head of the turbine is when you see it lying on the ground.

The solar PV is serviced at a different time of year, and is not weather dependant in the same way!

The road from Burg down towards Calgary. There was a thin mist over Treshnish through which we could see a patch of sun on Coll.

Monday, 1 December 2014

An away weekend

Straw is a crucial part of farming cattle at Treshnish as we need it for the cows when they come indoors mid winter.  Our friend and supplier kindly gets our straw baled in large square bales (as opposed to round bales which most farmers make) because they are a more efficient shape for moving across Scotland on a lorry.  

It is great not to have to look around for straw every summer, and to know we have a reliable supply and that the quality will be as good as it can be. 

This winter's straw arrived on Friday morning.  Farmer unloaded it under the watchful eye on the 2 ponies in the turbine field.  As our wool bags hadn't been collected yet, we were keen that the driver took them away once the straw was unloaded. 

It seems to get difficult for Farmer to go away at this time of year.  There is a complicated feeding regime and as we get into January cows begin to look as if they will calve imminently and so he needs to be on hand.

So the weekend just passed seemed like a perfect opportunity to go and visit our straw supplier friends over in Angus.

For me having been born and brought up in Angus, it is a trip down memory lane.  And whatever the weather it is always nice to be there - though it was hard to leave Mull in such beautiful sunshine.

At the farm mill we were able to get a few things we cannot easily get on the island, watched by the lovely Leila.  And a trip to Harbro in Forfar before it closed at midday meant he could stock up on syringes, sprays and needles amongst other things.

The rest of Saturday was of an unfarming nature - thankfully the damp morning did eventually stop, and there were even stars visible as we went to bed.

Next morning we walked round the loch as the sun was rising. It was beautiful.  I had hoped to photograph skeins of geese taking to the skies or coming down to the water, but having left my camera bag at home, I had only one lens so had to leave that for another day.

We left after breakfast and drove home via a fantastic farm shop outside Perth.  The 4pm ferry was a little slow in leaving - something to do with the Isle of Mull ferry being away for its annual checkup with the smaller Isle of Arran in its place?

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