Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Christmas skies and boiler house blues

Last year we had Auroras over Christmas - this year we have had the full moon over Christmas!   The full moon was stunning both on Christmas eve night and on Christmas night itself. There have been clouds too, but enough clear skies to get some wonderful winter sky landscapes.  The winds at times have been quite ferocious, but also at times blissfully still.

We had a lovely Christmas despite the erratic behaviour of the woodchip boiler, which stopped working on Boxing Day morning.  That was okay though, we turned the oil back up on, which meant the cottages would still be warm, but not the farmhouse.  (We have a woodturning stove similar to the one in Studio, which is amazingly warm so we were not cold!) 24 hours after we turned that on, a mixer valve stopped working, which meant no heat was being delivered round the system!  What a nightmare!  Through more luck than anything else, we tricked the valve into working again by turning the woodchip boiler control panel on!  No idea why that worked but it did!  

The boiler is 6 years old now, so finding a new mixer valve might have been difficult were it not for the wonderful ESBE website which provides a table pairing discontinued parts with new equivalent parts! Hey presto!  Minutes later, we knew there was one in Glasgow.  A friend of Treshnish came to the rescue through Facebook, and this morning picked up the new part from Bellshill, and will deliver it to us tomorrow!  We can now relax knowing we have a replacement.  Thank you M.

Resorting to using oil is not good for our carbon footprint, but luckily it has only happened once or twice in 6 years.  We are grateful, however,  to have the option in an emergency so that our guests can be blissfully unaware of any issues behind the scenes in the boiler house!

Yesterday, D came to have a look at the wood-chip boiler - he is an exceptional engineer with an admirably inquisitive mind. One of the faults appearing on the wood-chip control panel was the fall chute switch, so he was going to test it for us.  He had a look at all sorts of things, and by gently nudging the tipping grate motor, which moved back into position. They turned the boiler back on and it started working again!!  Thank you D.   For a few hours we wondered what was going on as it seemed to be in a mode that we had not used before and we couldn't get it to stop!    A phone call to another Froling boiler owner in Tobermory helped over the phone with that. Thank you A.  We did as he suggested and finally got it back in in the old default Trans Operate mode.  Farmer stayed up until midnight to keep checking on it, and up again at 6am to make sure it was still on.  Thank you Farmer.

Farmer has opened up all the gates now, so that the hill ewes are no longer confined to the Point.  They can range all the way through the Haunn fields and the Black Park.  There are quite a few walkers around at the moment and we don't want to risk losing sheep over cliffs because someone has let their dogs run wild, and the sheep have fled without looking where they are going.  (Sadly it does happen...)

The Christmas guests have either departed or are departing tomorrow.  New Year guests started arriving this evening after a storm disrupted route, and more arrive tomorrow and Wednesday!

We all joked when the Met Office starting naming storms at the beginning of December that we would be through the alphabet before the end of the year.  I think Eva has just past and Frank is due tomorrow!  So far we haven't had many winds above 60MPH but tomorrow night they are forecasting gusts of up to 80MPH, which is when we start losing bits of polytunnel and worry about what other things might move or blow.

After New Year Farmer will gather the ewes to take the tups off.  He will keep any back who don't seem as fit as the others, mostly the older ewes probably, and put the others back to the hill, once they have had a Co-secure bullet and any other treatment needed.   There are one or two tups which need to go to market - there is usually a sale mid January for them.


A Christmas Day Primrose - albeit a little nibbled around the edges.

It would be wrong of me to imply through these photographs that we have had nothing but sunshine over the Christmas period... as it has been very very wet too.  This was taken yesterday as I drove from Calgary back to Treshnish, through the windscreen as I wasnt going to risk getting my camera wet!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Happy Christmas

To all our visitors, blog followers and friends of Treshnish,

We wish you a very Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Just in time

I had been watching the forecast as avidly as ever, with the prospect of the Geminid Meteor shower, and didn't hold out much hope that we would see much as it looked as if we would have a lot of cloud.  

A sudden burst of aurora activity took me by surprise on Monday night, just as I was getting ready for a meeting. We had thick cloud, but I did a test shot anyway.  There was a tiny thin line of bright light running along the horizon to the north, peaking out from under that heavy cloud.  Fantastically vivid photographs on Facebook made me feel quite green with envy.  After the meeting I did a test shot and the sky was so pink it was reflecting purple on the sea.. wonderful! 

I went off down to Croig to see if the sky was a bit clearer there, it was about the same but the aurora was fading.    Back home and the sky was clearing - sometimes a strong wind can be a good thing.

I didn't get any photographs at Croig that I was at all pleased with, but when I got home the sky was still showing some lovely colour.

There were lots of shooting stars as I watched - the wind was roaring through the trees and it was cold.  

I went to set the time-lapse up before going to bed, and saw that the light had got brighter in the north sky, with even less cloud.  The colours picked up in camera were rich and lovely!

The time-lapse caught some great activity while we were all asleep!  Do have a look if you have time.  It is here

Last weekend Farmer and family headed out for the early ferry on Saturday morning - this meant leaving home at 5.15am!   Take about bleary eyes!   The Isle of Mull boat is off in dry dock and we were on the Isle of Arran instead.   There is always a different atmosphere on the ferry when it isnt the Isle of Mull boat.   The Isle of Arran has a smaller cafeteria and so it always feels very cosy!  The regular boat change at this time of year also becomes almost part of the Christmas ritual.  Foot passengers with heavy bags of shopping, families like us disappearing off for a pre-Christmas trip somewhere - an anticipatory feeling in the air!   

We were in Perth before 10am so the early start was definitely worth it.  We were in and out of B&Q within minutes, having found everything we needed - those little things that you just cannot get on Mull, but desperately need - like an 'inch and a half stop end' for West Cottage bathroom waste pipe - neither builders merchants on Mull had them!  We were out of Perth, Christmas shopping gaps filled, within an hour!  The Angus Glens were dusted with snow as we headed east.  We had lunch at the Drovers Inn pub in Memus, a few miles from where I went to primary school. Memory lane! 

The sunrise on Sunday morning was beautiful - a heavy frost and clear crisp air.  We don't get weather like this very often, and so it was a treat to walk through crunchy frosted fields and watch the light and colour in the sky change as the sun rose.    There was a loch near where we were staying and we could hear the geese.  A huge skein flew overhead, pink foots, heading south.

We stopped in Forfar to do some visiting, and then headed back towards Oban.  A low midday sun peered through the dappled clouds every now and then - wonderful reflections all along Loch Earn, the air was so still, the water so mirror calm.

The work is very nearly done in West Cottage. Farmer and I moved the furniture back in yesterday.  I am off out there to hang pictures whilst he puts new fire bricks in the stove, and does a few last minute odd jobs.   I think the new look in the bathroom is great, and I hope everyone will enjoy the new insulation and the new bedroom floors! 

Monday, 7 December 2015

Intermittent news

There has been little news to report on the blog recently and with the wet and wild weather I haven't been accruing dozens of images to share with you either. 

This is one of our neighbours tups with a couple of ewes along the road towards Calgary. 

The hoggs in the cattle shed are hungry for their ration now, and not nearly as flighty when you walk into the shed.  Farmer catches a few every now and then to 'condition score' (see how fat or lean they are) - this one was nicely plump! 

There have been lots of trips up and down the track to Haunn to check on the renovations in West Cottage.  Today we had a full house of builders and electricians and even our friend A doing some painting.  The new heater is fitted in the bedroom, the new ceiling is done in the bathroom and the chimney was being re-leaded.  It is going to look good!

We have some spaces left over Christmas and New Year. Please do get in touch if you would like to make a last minute decision to escape the madness of a mainland Christmas! 

Monday, 23 November 2015

The weekend

Farmer did some painting on Friday and now the tups are all out with the ewes.   He was watched by the 'spare' tups who stood in a line by the wind turbine field fence looking down at the fank.   It is not their time yet, they have a further 17 days to wait, until they get painted and put into the fields with the ewes!

We needed one more tup, so went off on Saturday morning to Knock Farm to look at the tups they had for sale.  We selected one, and after a cup of tea with Donald we headed home via Loch na Keal and Ulva ferry. Torloisk were gathering the hill at Kilbrennan so we stopped a while to let their ewes get in to the right place, and watched the already gathered ewes who seemed to be watching this gather too! 

Sunday dawned bright and clear, and remained so all day, until a truly beautiful sunset sky.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

A mixed week of weather and activity

I am not sure that naming a storm is a particularly good thing.  It imbues an impending storm with a sense of drama which it can well do without.  We know to batten down the hatches, we know to make sure there is nothing lying outside that might 'move', that windows are tightly shut and shed doors firmly closed.  All the name does is give it a sense of importance - and that creates fear and expectation which just wind us up.  As it happened, happily for us, Storm Abigail was not as strong as forecast.  It was windy, and ferries were disrupted, but we didn't suffer any damage.


Farmer went out to gather the Sitheans yesterday afternoon, as he is planning the main hill gather. They were going to go out tomorrow but the winds are forecast to be high again, and it would be too dangerous.  Yesterday the hail storms were so ferocious he had to lie down in the heather to shelter from the blows of the hailstones!  The dogs thought it was good fun, but he said it was absolutely freezing and very windy.

We still need one more tup to complete the team, and Farmer is going to get in touch with the farm we bought a couple from last year.   The cattle shed is home to the hoggs now.  They are learning to feed.  There is something quite peaceful about going in quietly and listening and watching.

We have had a trickle of visitors staying over the last few weeks, enjoying the cosiness of the cottages given how poor the weather has been!  One couple arrived this afternoon, a day late, as the ferries were cancelled. They had anticipated the possibility and booked into a hotel at Onich for the night, which they said was very nice.

The night skies have been dark.  Mainly cloudy and mostly wet, but every now and then a glimpse of stars and aurora.

This Croig pier shot was taken in the pouring rain!  Thank goodness for the umbrella.

Down at Haunn things have been moving on apace.   For the first time ever, a cement lorry, known as a jaeger, made it down to Haunn.  The bedroom and alcove floors are now insulated and set in concrete.  We have bought reclaimed beech flooring (uplifted from Hermitage Academy less than 2 weeks before) and this will be laid next week.  Then we can start redecorating!!  The bathroom needs a bit more time, but it will be so much warmer, with all the outside wall insulation.

Occasional bursts of sunshine have been much appreciated. 

The cattle shed hens are settling in fine, always keen to get into the cattle shed if they can. I wonder why!  The brown hen and cockerel are Cream Legbars - the darker one is a Cuckoo Maran.

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