Friday, 26 February 2010


Well, you may have heard. More snow fell at the Glen Coe ski area this week than at any other ski resort in the world. There was a metre of snow in the car park apparently. If that doesn't make you worry about climate change, what will?

The weeks of wonderful bright sunny cold weather with snow deteriorated mid week into grey slushy wet blizzard weather, and this is (see pic above) what Farmer was forced to wear when out feeding his stock.

Our electricity went off Thursday afternoon, (which was a good reminder of how much we depend on it), and when it was restored late morning today, what an amazing job 'the Hydro' do. 'The Hydro' refers to the team of resident employees of SSE who look after Mull, Iona and Ulva electricity, whatever the weather. They brave blizzards to fix our supply. And this was no exception. The weather was formidably wild and still they worked away to get our power going again.

Irony though, as the previous few cold clear weeks, prior to Wednesday, were not great for wind generation as there was very little wind. The wind picks up, but at the same time the grid goes down so the G83 switch turns the generation off and despite the turbine blades cutting quite a speed during the high wind over the last 24 hours, whilst we had no grid connection, the turbine was not able to translate that spinning into generation....! But now thankfully - mains restored and turbine generating, so all well again now.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The snow, the sea eagle and the stone

We have more snow. By the rest of the UK's standards not much - but for us, enough. Enough to turn shadows blue white and for contours to leap and sparkle in the brilliant sun. But not enough for the sheep to be hungry as it wasn't that thick. The sun has been warm, and south facing slopes of field, hill and road melt by mid afternoon. And this evening as dusk fell, the temperature fell with it, and snow crunched again under foot.

Rounded stone wall above Crackaig, looking into the low winter sun at Gometra with the Ross of Mull in the distance.

Earlier on today walking across the hill, following the occasional deer track in the snow, finding a place where a deer has lain over night, sheltering from the snow, coming upon footprints of hares and wading through heather covered in powdery snow.

Treshnish Headland this morning.

From the Sitheans, over Calgary Bay this afternoon.

And on the hill, one could almost hear the quiet, lonely, stillness of snow - but suddenly disturbed by a large bird of prey taking flight across our path - a sea eagle, close enough to see its wing tag with naked eye. It flies low and slow, away from the Sitheans eastward.

A little further on, we find delicate spiky bird tracks, and follow their sharp edges along the path of a turf dyke covered in snow, to their (unanticipated) conclusion in a pile of delicate feathers strewn bloodless on the ground. All that remains.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Mid February and daylight hours increasing

We have 6 new calves so far - and they do seem to be up and drinking very quickly which is excellent, just as we were promised. 6 cows still to calve. The bulling heifers are out in Scoma, enjoying the good weather and the hoggs are still mobbing Farmer each morning when he goes to feed.

Scoma is a field in between the Point and the Haunn field, with remnants of early medieval settlements and turf dykes, which in early summer are covered in birds foot trefoil, burnet rose and wild thyme - one of my favourite sights/sites at that time of year. Nearby on the Point is a good Six Spot Burnet Moth hunting ground.

Hoggs wait for their daily feed, with Tiree in the distance.

By the beginning of February we start noticing the longer afternoons, the shortest day being a good 5 weeks behind us. No longer pitch dark at 4.30 pm, and with the recent cold bright sunny weather it feels even brighter later in the day. Dry ground conditions and settled good weather has enabled Farmer to spread the 3 year old and well rotted dung from the midden in the Haunn field.

Our 'half term' visitors are all leaving the holiday cottages today, having experienced Mull at its winter best - the island showing itself off with clear air and blue skies, quiet beaches and masses of wildlife. Sea eagles, golden eagles and otters being the star sightings, but amongst lots of other birds and the not very popular mink.

Below: Sunlight at 8 a.m over towards the Isle of Coll yesterday.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

First calf, first service, last oyster on a picnic.

This calf was about 45 minutes old.

In February last year, we took a day trip to the Isle of Bute to buy a new Aberdeen Angus bull called Equator. Being a closed herd, we breed our own replacements and therefore have to change bulls when we keep heifer calves back for breeding which we have done this year. The bull we sold (their father) went to the Isle of Islay! We were assured that Equator would 'throw' good easy calves so we were waiting with bated breath for calving to begin to see if this was the case.

Equator's first calf was born just the other day with two more since and they have all got up onto their feet quickly and started drinking, which is just what Farmer wants - far, so good. They are all leg at this early stage - bonnie and fresh-faced but wobbly on their pins. In this prolonged cold dry spell we have been able to let the cows out during the day.

Outside in the good weather.

The other day, Richard (the man from On Site Generation) turned up to give the wind turbine a check up. This was after 3 months of generating. He put the brake on, which slowed the blades down to a full stop, inspected (through binoculars) the blades and the springs. After that, back at the steading, he checked the wiring inside the control panels. It all received a clean bill of health.
The first service.

At the risk of becoming a geek, I have been recording the generation figures to see how the turbine is doing in reality against the budget figures. Between 14th October and today 8th February, during 2593 hours of wind strong enough to generate, we have generated 4,895 kW/h. This is an average of 1.88 kW per generating hour thus far during this prolonged period of low wind speeds. All the lovely cold crisp wintery weather has been great for us, but has not been good for wind speed. But I am hopeful we will make our target at the end of 12 months.

The oyster, the lemon and the fish box.

Totally unrelated to wind turbines and calves... a random picture of a local Croig oyster from a winter picnic on Kilninian beach. Shot glasses of someone's home made sloe gin. Lemons from Dougie's shop in Dervaig. Fishbox table found on beach.

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