Sunday, 25 November 2012

Winter feeding and energy planning.

It is always a bit daunting when winter feeding starts. It is not a job that you can not  stop once you have started - until the weather improves in the spring and the grass starts coming again. But the cows are in good condition and Farmer doesn't want them to lose condition as winter gets underway.  

So earlier in the week, the cows got their first feed of the winter - a bag of Hill Cow Cobs.  This means they can be fed on the ground, in a different place each day, no need for the troughs (better for Farmer's back) and with the ability to move the feeding spot each day there is less chance of poaching the ground when it is wet underfoot. 

They run for the bag!

Time to stand back and check how they all are.  

This cow was very ill as a heifer, and didn't go to the bull until she was a year older than the other heifers.  Since then though, she has had successful calvings every time. She is very calm and having been so ill, she is quite used to being at close quarters with humans.

Coming to have a look.

The weather has dried up after a week of fairly grim wet weather.  It has been lovely the last few days, and particularly good sunsets.  Calgary Tearoom was open this weekend for a Christmas sale, so we headed down there for tea and cake - and a walk at sunset on the beach.

This view of Treshnish Point is at the corner just beyond Calgary tearoom, before the road drops down to sea level.  When we first moved here, my stomach would turn over as we caught sight of it, in a sort of ' oh god what have we done?' way.  It still catches me now, 18 years later - no regrets at all - but still moved by the headland's powerful shape and drama.

The sunset. 

Calgary headland.

And Treshnish headland again.

The moon and the T LEC CAB sign.

Lichens at Haunn.

Another view we cannot tire of.

I went to a Visit Scotland energy saving event at the Tourist Office in Craignure earlier in the week.  I took leaflets from the Green Business Tourism Scheme to hand out to anyone who was interested in joining.  It was a horrendously wet day and not very many people ventured out, even though Brian from Energy Saving Trust was there with lots of information.  He and I know each other from the school closure threat days, so we chatted and he gave me some very useful advice about interest free loans for businesses (including farmers).  This was good to know as the last time we tried to get one we couldn't because we farmed.   More form filling though.  We are going to have one of their energy audits done. This will give us a chance to apply for the interest free loan. We will be especially looking at Toechtamhor which is a higher user of energy, being bigger and of a different construction than the other Haunn cottages.    We have plans to put better windows in, using the same airtight method as we used in the farmhouse - and possibly an air to air source heat pump to reduce electricity consumption.

Studio is already for the builders to arrive to do some eco-improvements in the living room and downstairs bedroom - we are increasing the wall insulation and putting in a wood burning stove as well as a window in the north wall of the bedroom.

We have had kindling supplied for the last 10 or more years by a sawmiller from Salen.  Unfortunately he has just told us that the next 10 bags (for our Christmas and New Year guests) will be his last delivery.  This is because of the difficulty he is having in sourcing dry wood.  So now we are looking into what we can do instead.  If the community woodland supplied them we could buy them from there, but I don't think they do them either.  So if we cannot source them on the island - what to do? Do we stop supplying kindling altogther, and get guests to bring their own? Do we supply firelighters instead? You can get eco ones, but we are having problems finding out where they are made and where they come from.  Do we provide an axe and allow guests to chop their own kindling?  

The hoggs are doing well on learning how to feed, and they will be able to go out again soon.  The field in this photograph is one of the fields Farmer is finding it difficult to put the hoggs in - because of the brambles. Hoggs will often get 'caught' in the brambles and whereas the stronger ewes can pull themselves out of them, hoggs tend to get stuck. This is a side effect of our environmental management agreement which prevents us from grazing cattle at certain times when the brambles are growing. In areas where the cows can graze during high summer, the brambles are kept in check.   So the Black Park is one of the fields where the brambles are spreading, so there is an increased risk if the hoggs are in there.  Even with daily checking. 

Farmer has been out checking the tups.  The blackface ewes and tups are on the Point - so he goes with Jan and walks quietly through them, spying through his binoculars to make sure every one of them is present and correct. 

Farmer used his new livestock trailer this week. He took some left over lambs and cast ewes to the sale in Oban.  We managed to get an all-time record price for one lamb - but not in a good way - £2.  This would not have even covered the cost of getting it to market. 

We had 3 nights this week when there was no one staying at Treshnish apart from us. This is the first time since early March.  It feels very different when there is no one here, but this weekend some regulars have come across from Edinburgh for a long weekend, having seen the weather forecast (good here for the next few days) and other regulars are staying in West Cottage for a week - they only ever come in the winter!  

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

And up it goes.

It was a wild, wet and windy day for most of the day, not quite as dark as yesterday but with some interesting tropical downpours at times.  

The installers - Border Hydro - did a fantastic job of ignoring the wet and cold conditions. They just got on with what needed to be done, as did Jim who was standing by with his digger, as did Farmer who dug out the cable close to Shieling by hand.  

SSE provided John and Ian to connect the new electricity supply to the house. 

The Proven 6 in the background. This new one is a Kingspan 6 - only different in name - essentially the same machine underneath.

And thankfully, the wind dropped in time for the turbine to be raised into position, so that she could be commissioned.

She looks great standing up there, and in satisfying visual proportion to the electricity poles that pass her in their regimented line.  

An exciting step towards Treshnish becoming an equal supplier/user.  I cannot believe it is 7 years since we began on the quest to get to this stage - nothing is ever straight forward but it was worth persevering.

Sincere thanks to Border Hydro, SSE and On Site Generation - and to Farmer.

Leaves, hoggs, sands and turbines

Some sunshine and lovely autumn colours - lengthen the days and shorten the winter feeling.

The track verges are closing in with the growth from the regeneration. Stuart from FC came to survey for ash die back, thankfully he didnt find any.   The only saplings we have bought in the last 10 years have been from a nursery near Oban who collect and grown their own seed from Argyll, and hopefully that means we have a lower chance of getting it, though as each day goes by it seems that it is more widespread than originally thought.   

Feeders filled and rainbows, but the waxwings Prasad saw over the wood didn't grace our garden.  

The 2 new tups from Knock.  No need to paint these guys.

The hoggs are in the cattle shed learning how to feed.  One old ewe (head down) is their teacher.

And 4 lovely new heifers arrived from the east coast of Mull.  They are pure Aberdeen Angus.

This is No 63 - she was one of the first AA heifers we bought back in 1996.  A favourite.

So enjoying the walks on Calgary beach. These geese have been here every morning this week.

The moon one morning.

The weather today got worse and worse. It was almost dark at 4pm when I collected Daughter from Calgary! So not the best weather to put up a wind turbine.  Border Hydro arrived at midday - see above.  

Back in October 2009 when we put up the first turbine, we were blessed with dry weather and hard ground underfoot and under wheel.  This site is boggy  hill ground rather than grassy field, and with the rain we have had over the last few weeks it looks like a battle ground.  It will heal but it looks horrendous just now.

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