Thursday, 30 January 2014

Between here and there

The headland from the road.

The rocks from the cliff.

 The reeds at Dervaig.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Do we? Don't we? in the kitchen

The kitchens in Shian and Duill were the first job we did when we moved to Treshnish in October 1994. With the help of my brother A, we ripped out the old kitchens with bulky dark larders and installed the best kitchen we could afford given the time and the money we had.  They have served us well.  About 10 years ago, a local carpenter extended their lives by putting tongue and groove on the fading doors and every now and then since then they have had a coat of paint.  Given that we had to take those units out in order to insulate, we thought perhaps it was the time to upgrade the kitchens.

So off I went yesterday in the sun, to Oban, to see if I could find suitable new units.  To be perfectly honest, I couldn't find anything I like as much as the painted T&G.  I asked about FSC timber. Silence. One kitchen designer had never heard of it.  By her own admission, she had never heard the terminology and certainly no one had ever asked her whether their kitchens were FSC accredited or not.  The other said she would look into it for me, and let me know.  What are the alternatives to non FSC timber doors?  MDF? I am not sure, doesn't that give off toxins?  

It began to sink in, that replacing the kitchens was probably not such a green idea.  Plenty more research required!

So now I am in a quandary as to how to make the kitchens nicer, without compromising on the environmental impact, all within 8 weeks.  We will probably put Shian's kitchen back in and paint it.  With Duill, we need to move things around as the kitchen sink is too close to the cooker for modern regulations, so we may end up replacing one or two units.  Time will tell. 

Duill's sunspace was framed up yesterday in lovely sunshine while I was in Oban.  J said it was in the sun all day.  That's good!  This one will feel quite different to Shian's sunroom. It hasn't got a door to the outside so it will feel more like a secret corner from where to watch the lochan wildlife unfold,  and it will extend the private feel to this corner of the shared garden.

I collected the missing cills from Oban yesterday afternoon so J and A were able to start fitting the new windows in Shian.

The twin bedroom waits..

The first one into the sitting room frame.

Today was one of those really clear days, the light was extraordinary, and from Shian we could see Macleods Tables (on Skye) through the gap between Canna and Rum as well as the Uists appearing above Coll.  Magical.

I had a meeting in Craignure this afternoon and with an errand to do at Torloisk, I decided to go the Ulva ferry way.  What a fantastic drive! I always want to capture the view as you get to the top of the hill at Reudle.  The 14% signpost, the cairn and Ben More behind.  I took these photographs on my phone as my big camera is away being mended.

And down beyond Burg the view was stunning towards Ulva Ferry.

What has Farmer been up to, you might ask? Well he has been fighting the lurgy, and after 4 days during which the lurgy appeared to be winning, he is finally beginning to feel better.    We ordered the ear tags for the calves last week. They arrive so fast, within a few days.  With our herd number and a unique number for each animal, and woe betide you if you don't tag them within a certain number of days...  Calving will probably start within the next week or so, and so it is a relief to have the tags ready so that new born calves can be tagged on time.  As our cows are inside this is a lot easier than it is for farms which calve outside.   The hoggs are down in the fields below the house.  The old ewes who Farmer felt needed a bit of TLC are in the Haunn field.

The meeting I went to in Craignure was a Sustainable Mull and Iona meeting.  Before Christmas I helped interview candidates for a job of Energy Advisor and today the job share advisors were present at our meeting.  They are undergoing training to qualify for Green Deal assessments and to give energy advise, as well as organising the next Renewables Fair, which will be in March.  I was late, guilty of enjoying the views as I drove, and even stopping to take photographs along the way.  The community hydro scheme deadline to invest is coming up soon, and we were all encouraged to spread the word and get more investors on board.   I was there to talk about our proposed local carbon offset scheme.. more of that later...

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Upcycling in the garden, protecting the hens.

The forecast for early this morning and today was pretty grim, but we don't think it has been as bad here as was expected.  Certainly no flooding, though the fields are totally saturated.

Unfortunately Farmer has succumbed to a cold, feeling a bit under the weather.  Feeding the animals and doing essential chores before coming in shivering and dosing himself with whatever he can find in the medicine cupboard.  

It was still pretty windy today, and I took the camera out between showers into the garden around the house.  The burn (our water supply monitor - when it runs dry we need to conserve; when it is in spate, we have plenty) beside the house is running fast and furious today.

The water gate has been washed away from further upstream.

Hebe cuttings. Thinking ahead.  R has taken them and in a years time they will be planted out in the cottage gardens.

It is not just the rain which has exposed these bulbs. It is really difficult to keep the hens out of the garden as they can all fly over the gate.

Nasturtiums in the dome, they look so beautifully springlike and green.

The snow drops have shown themselves this week.  It is refreshing to see them flowering despite the weather.

And at last safety for those hens.  Plus a bit of up-cycling.  R has used a sheet of tin from the shed behind the trough to repair the trough.  For a tin shed fanatic like me, it is just perfect.  It now means that the hens can shelter under the trough without the risk of the contents falling through the rust.

Friday, 24 January 2014


The polytunnel is showing signs of storm fatigue.  It has lasted well and part of the reason we think is because we have net ends rather than solid ones, so the wind can get through, but after each storm we expect it to be gone!  We have now regular help in the garden which is fantastic, and takes a bit of strain off Farmer.

R has moved to the area and is working for us a couple of days a week.  He has been tidying up outside the cottages and catching up with all the things we never have time to do ourselves.  The polytunnel is looking tidy, the sage is still flowering! 

This is Duill's sunroom base. It won't have French windows to the outside, which will give it a different feel I think.  But it will have the westerly winter sunsets directly across from the headland, not to mention the mid summer ones straight out over the fence.

A big leap today as the Shian sunroom is sheeted. The opening on the left is the size of the window looking straight out to sea.  It was the kitchen window from Toechtamhor which we replaced this time last year.  It seemed such a waste not to re-use them, and as these sunrooms are unheated and have external doors into the living rooms there would be no energy to waste!

It looks pretty messy just now, but in the summer when the ground has healed it will be just magical sitting looking out on that view.  Shian's sunroom is on the east gable of Shian, in between the wall and the car, in the summer photograph below. 

The old shop in Dervaig was catching some sun yesterday when I went to Dougie's to do some shopping, I know it will be gone one day, I must venture out again when my camera comes back from the menders. 

Loch Cuin, near Dervaig, is a good place for a bit of birdwatching too - as we stopped to enjoy the view for a moment or two on the way home.  

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The oystercatchers and me

Yesterday the tiles arrived for Shian and Duill sunrooms.  (I think I ordered too many, they weigh nearly a tonne and a half).  The concrete was poured for the foundations.  (I don't think they ordered enough as there was a bit of a fall-off at one end.)

Despite a few hiccups, there is still a huge amount of progress being made in various areas of the build.  It is at that has to look worse before it will look any better stage, but it is exciting to be talking about taping and filling in 10 days time...

The new bathroom insulation needs to arrive so that we can get the walls in the bathroom finished, and then that will be another big step.   We are using a new product for the bathroom as space is at such a premium in the already small room particularly.  It has extremely high U values but is wafer thin.  Thankfully the wall needing doing is not very big, as it is an expensive product.  When it arrives I will write more about it.  The other external walls of Shian have been wafered with thick slabs of insulation and it felt psychologically as if it were warmer already.

Farmer went to Oban to the cast tup sale yesterday.  We had 2 tups we needed to send away and our neighbour kindly took them for us, as he was going anyway.  He had never been to that sale before, so it was interesting to see who was about and what else was being sold.   Not having to transport our own animals meant that Farmer could go over on foot, and he even found time to get squatties (prawn tails) at the fishmonger on the pier on the way back.  (they were delicious).

The sun came out at lunchtime today, it was lovely to have patches of blue sky and a soft sunset.  The beach was empty of humans, but the gulls were enjoying paddling down the burn at high speed.

There has been a lot of rain.

But then we have been rewarded with this subtle sunset light.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Until scanning then.

A raven flew out of the tree by the garden wall this morning when I came out of the house.  I don't normally see them that close to the house.

The Cheviots and Zwarties were the last through the fank. Farmer took the last 2 tups off and gave them all their Cosecure (cobalt and selenium) mineral boluses.

Then he went to put the blocks out.  Up on the Sitheans. Up above Toechtamhor.  And down towards Port Haunn.  Daughter and I went along to keep him company.  It was lovely to be out despite the  damp weather. 

The next gather will be in about a month's time, when we gather for scanning.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Wondering about wool

Back in 2012 we took a car load of Zwartble fleeces to the Border Mill in Coldstream to have it cleaned, sorted and spun into useable fibres.  Farmer had a vision of happy people (himself very much included) wearing wonderfully home spun handknits and scarves made from Treshnish wools.

The first box of wool to arrive was so small I thought it was a sample, I didnt realise we would get so little knitting wool from so much fleece.  It still seems too precious to use, so sits in its box until we are brave enough to commit it to a creative project.  

In researching all this, it seemed we were entering a mysterious world of warps and yarns, weights and spins, ply and weave.  Different mills weave different weights/thicknesses/ply and we were not quite sure what we would end up with and which key would unlock the door to which weaving shed. 

But finally 18 months later, we have 3 boxes of yarn which the Border Mill had spun, with their own alpaca wool to make it softer, into 4 different blends.  They are beautiful, but now, what to do with it, what to make, who to make it..

First stop had to be Ardalanish Weavers, based on the Ross of Mull, to see what they could do for us.  We met the new owners (who have been there for 2 or 3 years now) which was really nice, and they showed us their beautiful tweeds and what they might be able to weave for us.   At this point in time though, we aren't sure that we have enough wool to fit their minimum requirement, and it may not be the right weight for their looms! Nothing is ever simple.  We left a box of yarn with them so that they can discuss it with their weaver, and we keep our fingers crossed. It would be good to have the weaving done on the island!

We did come away with some tweed samples, which we plan to use for making into throws for the cottages once we have chosen.

We couldn't go all the way to Ardalanish without walking on the Uisken sands. 

We had our first picnic of the year too.

And on the way home Loch Scridain was still still, with cloud lingering on the slopes of Ben More.

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