Sunday, 27 February 2011

Good school news - for now...

Changeovers had to be done at Haunn yesterday, and Farmer's Daughter brought her ipod with her, so took a few photographs of West (results above). It was a lovely spring like day, birds singing, heron flying overhead, garden sheltered, warm and sunny, quiet, and when leaving the cottage ready for the next guests (who arrived on bicycles) we both wanted to spend the weekend there ourselves.

On Thursday morning the Agenda papers were published for the 3rd of March Council meeting (Argyll and Bute). This revealed the list of schools the Council are hoping to close. No Mull school was on the list so we have a reprieve. Good news for Mull schools then, and a huge relief, but the Council are intending to keep reviewing the situation which means we cannot think it is over. Our hearts go out to the 10 schools who are on the new list, including Ashfield, a school similar to Ulva in size and with a long single track road journey from the end of their catchment area to the receiving school. One new school is on the list - Clachan - which was a receiving school in the last set of proposals.

Closer to home, the building work on the house continues with an enthusiastic team of local independent builders, who are racing through the work. We should be able to move back in by April 1st when Studio starts being rented for the summer, but we may well be camping.... The woodfibre insulation should arrive this week along with the various tapes and seals that have been specified round the replacement windows to make an airtight seal.

Toechtamhor filled me with dread in 1995 when we first moved here. It was dark, cold and had way too many beds. It always cheers me now when I go into prepare it for guests, that it is not like that any more. Over our first winter we started to banish the dark coldness and took away many of the beds, and I remember a frantic panic trying to finish off the hand built new kitchen for the first guests of 1996. When they arrived we had to advise them not to touch the still wet paint. Over the years we made regular improvements, but the dread memory seems to have stuck, long after the cottage undertook its last transformation in 2005/6 to being bright, light and spacious! Above are Farmer's Daughter's 3 pictures - looking inviting, and below the less inviting appearance of the Farmhouse at the beginning of the week!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Calves, snowdrops, rubble and possible trouble

Snow drops in the farmhouse garden.

So much has been going on on the farm and in the farmhouse that it is quite difficult to think straight. Over the last few weeks the farmyard has been filled with different trades vans and delivery vans swooping in and out, feeding the farmhouse with building materials and builders' energies.

Farmer has been busy keeping up with winter feeding regimes: the cattle indoors, the hoggs in one field, the cheviot gimmers in another, and the tups in a field over by the Point.

And calving is well underway. 9 gorgeous healthy calves so far, and 6 cows still to calve. Three of our four home bred heifers have calved for the first time and without trouble! Sometimes they can be confused after the birth and not realise the calf is theirs. Alternatively they can assume someone else's calf is their own before they have actually calves themselves. Confusion in the cattle shed!

A little joke between builders and electricians.

In between checking that the cows are alright and the feeding regimes, Farmer is working as labourer for the builder brother team working in the farmhouse, wheelbarrows of rubble out, bringing materials in, sweeping up, taking out rotten beams, taking down ceilings, recycling whatever can be re-used. The original re-plumbing job has grown into rebuilding internal walls, rewiring, and goodness knows what else. And a deadline of April 2nd before we move out of Studio back into the house. Should be a fun few weeks.

The generation meter showing 2.3kW production around midday.

A week on and the PV panels are now registered, and the meter is running. Actually that is not quite true - the wind turbine has both Generation and Export Meter on it but the PV Panels only have a Generation Meter - the export to the grid is 'deemed' not measured by meter readings.

Toechtamhor sunshine in February - ready for half term guests.

Ongoing school issues mean that office work has gone awry recently. Closure proposals were halted on January 5th, but the new list of threatened schools is to be published this week. The amazing support locally for the school and the strong feeling that we had to DO something led to the formation of the Ulva School Community Association in January. Aims include actively supporting the school, writing a 20 year plan, encouraging sustainable development, increasing the number of affordable homes in the area... We have already embarked on a Housing Needs Survey, and 2 of us are off to a Rural Housing Conference in Dunkeld this week.

And the possible trouble? Jan, the collie we bought in the summer, is definitely pregnant! We think she will produce her litter at the beginning of March. So Farmer's Daughter is getting hopeful that we will keep a puppy...and that's going to be the trouble.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Hurray for the Array

Job done. 3kW of solar PV. When it was commissioned yesterday, it was generating 2.8kW (apparently good for February!) Full story to follow.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Hatches battened down

Stag and lone tree on skyline near Dervaig. (photo by Farmers Daughter)

Highland cow and calf on road near Ulva Ferry (for quite some time before moving on)

Wild winds whip round corners and move inanimate objects. Dustbin lids become flying saucers if not tied on to their base. Colourful buoys collected on walks taken in more clement weather blow and lurch along fence lines and back again as the direction of the wind changes. Wheelbarrow tips upside down by itself in the burn beside the house caught by a gust. Spare sheet of corrugated iron roofing must have flown across the stack yard by the cattle shed (now safely secure again).

The turbine is working hard, and as we are living in the Studio we are enjoying the direct connection to home produced power. This morning when I took this photograph it was producing approximately 4 kW/h.

Over the last 23 hours it averages 3.3 kW/h so we are pleased. And at times overnight it did step up a gear - with the usual associated concerns for roofs and slates, and things going bump in the night.

Today has not been quite as wild. But every bit as wet.

eXTReMe Tracker