HEBRIDEAN SHEEP, BENBECULA
What a change in the weather. We're up to about 10 degrees outside most days now and I've turned the central heating off this weekend, because the house is warm enough with the solid fuel stove ticking over in the lounge.
A few days ago, I noticed that Scottish Hydro have reduced my monthly standing order for electricity to £20. When I phoned them to query this, they said my electricity usage is so low that I've been accumulating a credit balance and they have lowered my payments to correct this. I'm not conscious of making any particular efforts to economise, so I think I'm reaping the rewards of having installed lots of expensive insulation in the walls, floors and roof spaces when the house was renovated. Every light in the house is low energy and that helps too, but I do hate the poor light quality of low energy bulbs, which still take ages to reach full intensity and are difficult to read by.
A house nearby is having a wind turbine installed in the garden just now and I think I will probably go and see if the owners will talk to me about the pros and cons of domestic wind power after it's been up and running for a while. I like the idea of having wind and solar power providing some of my energy but the current costs, payback times and unrealistic claims made for their efficiency make installation uneconomic for me at present.
Went to the cinema on Friday for the first time this year, with a group of friends. Saw True Grit, which turned out to be a boring remake that added nothing to the original, but it was still good to get out. I've felt quite cocooned and insulated from the real world here at the Chateau during this harsh Winter and have to make a real effort to go out and mix with other people, especially at weekends.
I have finally decided to get a contractor in to replace the worst of the croft fencing and I'm now waiting for him to come and provide me with an estimate. I think that I've also made the decision to keep some sheep of my own and I'm going to see if I can find a small flock of Hebridean sheep, like those in the picture above, in the near future. If I do decide to retire next year, I want to ensure that I've got plenty to do with my time and I'm very conscious that this croft is underused. A few sheep, some hens and taming of the garden ground should keep me occupied for a while.
The first of my yearly visitors arrives in a couple of weeks and I'm hoping that the weather will be good enough for us to go out on the moor to cut some peats. I've now run out of wood and peat from last year, so I'm currently dependent on coal and oil for heating. I'd like to have a bigger peat stack dry and ready to use next Winter and there will also be lots of wood to burn from the rotten fence posts that are about to be replaced. Only the base rots, leaving four foot of good burnable wood that would cost me lots if I had to buy it.
We have two ferries providing our daily lifeline connection between Stornoway and Ullapool on the North Western mainland of Scotland. The 'Isle of Lewis' is the passenger and car ferry, while the 'Muirneag' carries articulated lorries bringing freight to the island overnight. Both vessels are reaching the end of their useful lives and discussions are now taking place about replacing them. The company that provides the ships for Caledonian MacBrayne, the ferry operator, favours building a single boat costing £49 million, which will carry passengers, cars and freight vehicles and will be about 25% bigger than the ' Isle of Lewis.' It will be a 116 metre roll on roll off ferry, powered by four diesel electric engines and will make the journey across the Minch in two and a half hours, reducing the current crossing time by 15 minutes. The proposed new boat would make three crossings every day and would effectively be running a shuttle service. If the plan for the new boat is approved by the Scottish Government, building it will start sometime next year.