Sunday, 23 January 2011

A downsized upgrade AKA the temporary house move

Farmer and family are living it up in the Studio, enjoying bright sunshine in the sunroom (above), its lovely views, adjustable cosy central heating, comfortable beds and the unexpected feeling of 'being away' without leaving the farm. We have internet in the Studio but not a phone.

Having lived without central heating of any sorts for nearly a year, through no fault of our highly efficient wood chip boiler, it is total luxury to be warm at the touch of a button, rather than as a result of Farmer carrying basket loads of logs into the house constantly. Alot of time during the last couple of weeks has been spent packing our things and moving furniture so that the plumber and builder could move in...(well, I think that was why we did it). Weren't we supposed to be installing a new central heating system with thermostatically controlled radiators? And at the same time, eco-insulate roof spaces and cut down heat loss through blocking up drafts round windows, floors and doors? Only... yesterday morning, the expected start date (2 weeks after the first start date), no one turned up...a sinister stillness and lack of activity within the chilled house....And no one today either! Oh well...

The same cannot be said for feeding time. Everyone turns up here! The hoggs, led by the tame 'Zwarties', mob Farmer when he goes to feed them - almost tripping him up in their eagerness to get to the line of troughs.

And the tups wait their turn in the wind turbine field.

Radical steps taken last weekend, after months of research and deliberations, to do a bit of machinery upgrading. Sometimes it has to be done in order to pre-empt aged machinery and inevitable breakdowns. First to go was the old digger, which has helped with all sorts of jobs over the last 10 years. To my inexperienced eye it looked pretty knackered, but it may just be the rust on the cab and the fading paintwork. Photographs of our digger were sent off so Farmer and Dealer could agree its value before it left the farm. Satisfactory deals were eventually done and on Saturday a younger (and much smaller) digger appeared to replace the older one.

This is the old digger being loaded up onto the lorry.

And this is the newer one. Much smaller tracks, and not so many rusty bits.

It has already been put to use, by a neighbour who is helping us out when he can - putting a new layer of fine 'dust' on the farm track.

The schools issue rumbles on. We had a visit from the Education Spokesperson yesterday, who was on a fact finding mission. Looking at every school. I hope she enjoyed the time she spent - they arrived in time to join in on the school Burns Supper, another of those special 'school in its community' events when the school was packed with family and friends of the school enjoying a traditional Burns Supper cooked by the Boathouse girls from Ulva. The children entertained us confidently with Gaelic songs and Burns poetry as well as some poetry of their own. After her visit we were none the wiser as to what she thought about the school, and we have no more idea about our chances of survival.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Looking back, looking around, looking forward

Happy New Year! Farmer and family spent Hogmanay at a ceilidh cum party held at Ulva School - though we did get home before the bells as Daughter was totally exhausted and was not going to make midnight! Members of the community of all ages from 5 weeks to 70+ years turned out on a cold still night, and it was a lovely evening. The snow before the end of term cut short the usual Christmas greetings and parties so it was good to get together and celebrate.

A great demonstration of Fire Poi by Ellie.

Farmer has brought the cows in off the hill. One morning last week when he went to feed them on the hill above Toechtamhor, they were not hanging round the feed troughs but were waiting at the upper hill park gate as if to remind him they needed some more shelter. So now the weather can do what it likes, whilst they wait for their calves to arrive in the dry.

The hoggs had been indoors throughout the last spell of cold weather and snow but they are now turned out into the field beside Shian and Duill. And heads up rushing towards the gate as soon as they hear quad, buggy or Farmer's voice - so they would seem to be well trained to the bag (of food). In the morning looking out of our window these earnest brown faces look up at you imploring you to hurry up with the food.

On Wednesday 5th January the schools story turned a corner - not a full stop, more a pause. A Special Council Meeting called by 9 Councillors (SNP and Independents including Mull's Mary Jean Devon and Gordon Chalmers) brought nearly all of the Councillors into the meeting at Kilmory. The Provost declared that information made public by SRSN (Scottish Rural Schools Network) made a Material Change to the Council Vote on the Proposals in November 2010, and therefore the Consultation period should be halted, the Proposals withdrawn.

There followed some disappointing politicking and posturing but the end result was that new Proposals will be prepared following a review of the entire school estate, not just the 25 schools on the initial closures list. So we are in a time of suspension. We don't know if we will be on the next list or not. We won't know until March 3rd at the earliest, and the uncertainty is exhausting, but at least the 'dodgy dossier' has been ripped up, and for now we can catch up with other chores - like looking for eco paintfor the bathrooms at West, Middle and East, and changing East living room around a bit! Looking, too, for a shower over bath for Duill, though whether that will happen this winter depends on whether the plumber has time to install it or not before the bookings start again.

Ulva School and the turning to Ulva Ferry (where the ferry crosses to Ulva and where the Turus Mara trips leave from).

Still lots of starlings on the bird feeders in the garden. And we have acquired 2 handsome cock pheasants who join the hens at the base of the tall bird feeder waiting for dropped seed from above. We didn't see any bramblings here but have been enjoying lots of golden eagle activity - see Prasad's blog for photographs.
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