Saturday, 8 October 2011

24,000kWH and rising

The promise of an Indian summer would perhaps have more aptly described as a monsoon. This is the burn next to the farmhouse. It has been running full blast for days. Luckily a little trench digging recently has meant we have not flooded the house again.

This is where you realise what a very sad individual I am. I wouldn't say I am academic enough in my approach to merit the term 'geek', but I do enjoy watching how our turbine performs. Our Proven 6kW wind turbine was installed around the 18th of October 2009. As part of the application for SRDP funding we had to submit a budget/business plan. This needed to show that the turbine installation was viable. We based our plan on producing 10,000kWH per annum and so we were very pleased at the end of year 1 to have generated just over 12,000kWH.

Earlier this summer when we discovered that a set of springs needed replacing (found one of the springs embedded in the ground near the turbine base, having blown off in a late May gale), we had to put the turbine brake - and wait. It took 2 months for our installers to get the okay from Proven to come and replace the springs under warranty, and as a consequence, we didn't produce any electricity for those 2 months. During that same 2 month period the year before we had generated 1,700 units. So for the second 12 months, date to date, we were bound to be down on production.

It was mid August when the turbine was repaired and spinning again. And I have been watching the generation meter and wondering whether or not we would catch up and amazingly - this week 10 days ahead of its second birthday - we have passed the 24,000 unit mark - short of the mid October anniversary - and in only 10 months of full working mode. Suffice to say, we are delighted!

The weather has been very unsettled and varies from one day to the next - in extremes! Yesterday we woke up in Glasgow to brilliant sunshine and had the most beautiful drive up to Oban with Farmer laid out in the back of the car. Autumn colours and brilliant blue skies. This morning woke up to low mist, dull sky, warm still air. Cobwebs dripping with misty droplets. Everything still and slightly dank. Now the wind has picked up again and it is raining hard. The rain does interesting things to the colour of the bracken.

Farmer's operation was a success, and now the challenge for him will be to do what the doctors order, and rest accordingly - for the next 6 - 8 weeks. So the focus in the farmhouse is definitely on convalescence and recovery. School holidays started yesterday so it could not be better timed.

On the farm, life must go on though and thankfully we have good help and support. On Monday the Dervaig Contractors brought the cows and calves in to the cattle shed in order to separate them, as the calves were going to market the next day. Cattle have extremely strong maternal instincts and taking the calves away is heart-breaking to watch. They take several days to calm down once the calves have gone. Lots of calling and mooing and searching. From past experience of post-weaning calves (and several destroyed fences) Farmer now leaves all the gates open from Haunn to the farm which allows them to rove.

This year somehow, a gate was closed by mistake and one cow was accidently left in the Haunn field whilst all the others were up at the cattle shed - Jamie managed to get her back to the others and brought the bull and No 63 up from 'the bottom' so the whole herd was back together. And another - just as I was leaving to go and catch the ferry in order to go and visit Farmer in hospital - got caught between a fence and a wall. Luckily both Dervaig Contractors and Jamie were able to sort that out for me.

The Dervaig Contractors took them to Oban Mart for us, and they were 2nd or 3rd through the ring. Prices were better than last year, but still down on the year before (the last year of our organic status). It is not a great feeling to know that your quality animals have not reached the price they deserve, and there are many possible reasons for this. Whilst not being pedigree Aberdeen Angus, they are nearly all pure Angus, where most of the west coast cattle are continental, and perhaps this is what the buyers who come to Oban expect, or to that particular sale, expect. It has sharpened our resolve to try and forge a relationship selling direct to the same farmer each year. We did this in the last years of our organic status, and it meant the animals went directly to a farm, missing out on potential trauma in the market, and that we knew what price to expect before the animals left the farm.

Anyway they have gone now and usually the cows would be enjoying the aftermath of the silage ground. But we still haven't finished silage making yet! I think we may have to abandon it though. Walking across the fields with splashing underfoot. The mess of taking a tractor into the fields just now would be unthinkable.

Good to see smoke coming from the Heating Station again. We have had a few issues with a pump recently and are grateful yet again for the oil back up boiler so that at least the guests can be warm - we really hate having to resort to it but we don't feel that we can expect our guests to give up their warmth whilst we sort out the tiny occasional niggle in the system. (There are vague but exciting plans afoot to lessen our dependence on wood-chip..... more of that later in the year....) The nearest panels to the Heating Station are the solar PV (Photo voltaics) and the ones on the farmhouse roof are the solar hot water ones.

Patterns in bi-annual foxgloves. Loved how these leaves almost spiral out of the ground. When so much vegetation is going into its dormant and dying off stages, it is lovely to see the beginnings of next summer's flowering plants already.

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