I am re-discovering winter light, as I probably do every winter, and then forget as the long days of summer take over. We have mixed weather, but this brings wonderful extremes of sky light - from dramatic sunsets to softly tinted cloudy skies - at all times of day. We have enjoyed a strong full moon with clear skies at night - so bright I could walk the dog without a torch.
Guests in Shian this week have been out enjoying still dry days almost every day, and one took his mountain bike round the headline as far as below Crackaig before deciding to return the same way rather than lug his bike up the zigzag path.
Yesterday morning - over Coll.
I dont know whether it is the price you pay for a designer mongrel, but Coco seems to have something up with her digestion. She is not a dog to eat 'hungrily' - she picks at the food and consequently has always been thin - so like a neurotic I have been trying her on all sorts of different foods, getting more costly each time! And with varying degrees of success - but recently she has not been well and so 2 weeks ago, she was put on boiled chicken and rice and has been undergoing tests to see if we can find out what is wrong. Yesterday she had an appointment with the vet to have a blood sample taken and her urine tested (it was clear).
There was quite a queue at the vets, so we stopped off for lunch at Arlenes in Craignure afterwards on our way to Mull Building Supplies for some pipe. It was quite busy even though Wedensday is not a busy day for the ferry. The views up Loch Linnhe were wonderful.
On the way back we stopped to collect the last kindling Ali will be able to supply us. As I mentioned in the last post, hee is giving up doing the kindling as it has become so difficult to get dry timber. This is on an island where there are thousands of acres of softwood plantation, but it appears most of it is being cut and sent off the island in boats to supply inefficient woodburning power stations - not enough is being stored and dried for local use. Unfortunately for us the Community Woodland at Dervaig dont do kindling either.
Collecting the kindling always reminded me of the sawmill my father ran on the farm where I grew up in Angus. Coming from forested Polish mountains, working with wood was second nature to him, and one of the first things he did when he took over the farm from my grandparents was to plant small softwood plantations. His sawmill burnt down which was tragic but luckily no one was there - and consequently no one was hurt. He called it a day at that point and "Finavon Fencing and Garden Furniture' became a thing of the past.
The sawmill at Killiechronan which Ali used to run closed as a result of road restrictions a few years ago, as he could no longer have island timber delivered to site. But he continued with the logs and kindling, which he has been supplying us with for as long as we have been here I think. So it was nice to go and collect the last 10 bags, in lovely golden sunlight over Loch na Keal and enjoy the nostalgic moment of smelling the wood, the oils and the machinery one last time.
It was the Holiday Mull AGM on Tuesday, and we were shown the leaflets that they had printed and distributed over the summer - very pleased to see the view of Treshnish Point on the front cover!! I rashly volunteered to look after the Holiday Mull Facebook page.
The builders arrived to start work in Studio. I wish I could say that we were using sheeps wool insulation (below) throughout the refurbishment but sadly it was a choice between Kingspan (above) and improving thermal qualities of the building or sheeps wool and not doing it at all, because of the cost! However there is a tiny bit of sheeps wool being used, to improve the insulation around the velux windows! This apparently comes as standard with some velux type windows specifially to be stuffed into the spaces around the openings. It felt good enough to knit.
The tups are still out, and every few days Farmer and one dog goes off to check to make sure they are all still doing their duty, and that none have disappeared. It is a funny time of year because the hill is devoid of our sheep and left to the deer - walking down to Crackaig last week it felt empty without at least a few sheep dotted across the hill.
Ben More and a light dusting of snow.
Looking back towards Knock and beyond to the back of Glenforsa.
Gribun in watery golden colours yesterday afternoon.
Neil from Dervaig who helps us every winter is back in post. This is another sign of winter for us and his first tasks are down at Haunn, where he has been sanding and re-painting West Cottage bedroom floor - using Ecospaint and it is going to look lovely. As with many jobs it seems, suddenly now the walls look as if they could do with a freshen up again. Guests arrive for Christmas in 2 weeks so we need to hurry. The Bengal Rose paint which has been on the kitchen cupboards for the last 10 years has been painted over too. Felt a bit of a pang when I saw it had gone - I loved that colour!
Above the road to Reudle.
The cows are coming in for testing on Monday - for BVD, which is a horrible virus that can cause fatalities in calves. Our herd has been BVD-free so far, as has the rest of the island herd I think, so we should be fine. The BVD virus is spread by air, so there is a risk if you buy animals from a market, that even though they have been tested BVD-free prior to sale, they could pick the virus up from an infected cow in a neighbouring pen, and before you know it, with the best intentions you buy a tested animal but unbeknownst to all it has been infected during the sale process, and you unsuspectingly bring that disease home. This risk is unacceptable to Farmer, which is why when we bought heifers recently they came from a tested Mull herd - farm to farm, rather than through the market.
And over Loch Tuath to Ulva.
The new turbine is working away when it is windy. It is slower to get going from a windless standstill (yes we do have wind free days in the winter, when the air is so silent and the sea like mirrored glass) than the older one, so we are watching that - not sure if it is because there is something wrong with it, or whether it is just a slight difference in manufacture. Once it gets going though it generates just as much if not more than the older one.