Wednesday 24 February 2016

Evening sun and tide on Kilchoan Bay

It's been one of those magnificent W. Highland days cold but sunny, no wind and barely a ripple on the sea .

So I took myself off to the shore to sit and watch the tide come in with the evening light. Hence the fuzzy pictures taken with a long lens in low light. I like the watercolour effect.

The heron was standing on the reef when I arrived, it didn't move and was still there after and hour along with a raft of widgeon.

Ben Talla could have been a peak in the greater ranges; the Rockies, Himalayas or Andes if you half closed your ideas and imagined. You would have to remove the Tobermory lighthouse too.

I had hoped that there might be an otter at low tide but no; the cockle gatherer in his high vis jacket must have scared them off.

The oystercatchers escorted me back the way I came just practicing for when they nest next month when they will be dive bombing and shrieking at anyone near their nest.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Next winter's renewable heat arrives

The last five tonnes unloading at Cruachan
Twenty five tonnes of firewood arrived this morning in one load shared between three of us, If I had collected my ten tonnes from the Forestry commission at Torlundy it would have involved 1000 km  (600 miles) of haulage and a lot of heavy lifting. Having the logs delivered avoids wear and tear on me, the truck and the trailer.

Heating the house and hot water with wood is an attempt to reduce my carbon footprint. During the last twelve months it must have worked as it's all been done without coal. In winter I cook and bake on the Rayburn too. In a normal summer the central heating goes off in May and stays off until September. because a wood fired range cooker in summer makes the kitchen unbearably hot. This is when my electricity bill is highest for cooking, hot water and the shower.

Then there are the "wood miles" to take in to account, they've been cut by eighty per cent because it only travelled 100 km (60 miles) instead of 1000 km.

Of course it now has to be cut, split and stacked which is mostly manual labour plus a bit of chainsaw fuel.

Monday 1 February 2016

Fresh organic vegetables in February on the Atlantic shore

Try to cultivate a vegetable garden here on the edge of the Atlantic and you will soon find that it's not the rain or the thin stony soil that is your biggest problem.... it's the wind.

Even where you have a dry stone wall as a windbreak, a fence or hedge the eddies curling over the top will stunt growth, but a few millimetres of clear plastic make a huge difference.

Step into my polythene tunnel out of the wind,at any season and the climate is transformed. In mid summer it could be the south of France in mid winter it's still warm and sheltered like growing in the Scilly Isles 800 miles south of here.

Today, 1st of February, I was able to harvest fresh carrots, beetroot, leeks and kale. These crops were sown last summer, they grew well through to late autumn. As the days shorten growth slows then stops but the crops, left in the raised beds have been preserved with bright green leaves just as they were at the end of summer.

It's time to eat more veg, to clear out the beds, sow salads, leeks, early carrots and garlic cloves.

Storm Henry - can't get my eyes tested because the sea is too rough.

This naming of storms is just feeding our obsession with the wild weather. There are huge waves out in the Sound, I can barely see out of the window and I'm expecting another power cut  - situation normal here.

On the AIS ( the shipping movements website) there is one brave skipper fishing west of the Uists, everyone else seems to be sheltering in Stornoway harbour and there isn't anything at sea in the Minch. All that needs it is battened down, there isn't much else to do except wait for the inevitable power cut.

You do get a few minutes warning of a cut, the lights flicker, come back on, flicker, then they are off. On Friday night they were off for twelve hours. The power cut kit is all at hand, Tilley lamp, oil lamp, portable radio and head torch. The house stays warm and I can cook because the Rayburn is wood fuelled. So my immediate needs are met..... but it can be boring.

Power cut kit
The router goes off so no Guardian website, no surfing, no email, no land line. The plug in phone works and the mobile. Hot water isn't a problem, wood firing again. Each time I have wanted to go to Oban for an eye test since December the sea has been too rough so no ferries when I wanted them.

At this rate we should soon be hit by storms Xavier, Yvonne and Zarathustra.