Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The white house

First we had the builders and no building warrant. Now we have the building warrant and no builders! It's a fine balance between having builders and not having them! I can't believe the building warrant has finally arrived! They have approved everything and agreed at last that the wood burning stove doesn't need a 75mm concrete wall behind it - yippee. Actually at the moment it barely has a wall behind it but that's another story! I'm updating the blog to show the progress. When I look at photos I can see it is coming on, but at times it seems unbearably slow
Last week the next consignment of plaster board arrived and was dropped off at the top of the drive. Both the joiners are elsewhere at present but will be happy to know that it not only arrived, but that we lugged it down the drive into the house...
with the aid of the trailer
and stacked it in piles
like so!
The ceiling downstairs and the outside walls have now been plaster boarded
The wood burning stove will go where the fridge freezer is standing
This is looking round the corner in to the sitting room

This is looking towards the downstairs shower room and the front entrance

Niels' study
and the famous heat exchange system
Having bemoaned the fact that we've had no workman - yesterday morning Hughie our electrician arrived at 8am and finished putting in all the wiring and cables upstairs ready for the joiners when they return next week
And yes, just look who else showed up yesterday! Lamb chop trotted up in the afternoon as if nothing had changed and had a digestive biscuit. She's been to the sheep's hairdressers and I wasn't sure at first if it was her or not. But of the four sheep that were outside the caravan, three sped off while the fourth came running up with a 'Do you have anything I can eat?' expression on her face. I also recognised her various body piercings and ear markings. Sadly there wasn't a mini lamb chop in tow, maybe he or she had to be taken in to care, I can't imagine Lamb chop would make a good mother; she'd be too busy rifling through the bins, but it was good to see her again.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Off path!

The mountain we see in the distance from the sitting room window is called Beinn Dearg. In Gaelic this means red mountain, because sometimes when the sun is setting it lights up the mountain in a warm red glow. We've been meaning to climb it for ages. There has been a week of inactivity in the house (more of that later!) and that combined with the good weather and feeling the need to get out in to the open spaces prompted the decision to put our walking boots on and get going.
We started at Inverlael just on the other side of lochbroom. This way takes you up through forestry commission owned land, up a long monotonous logging track through all sorts of mess and mayhem. As well as logging, there is a hydro electric scheme in the making and improvements being made to the supply of water to Ullapool and district
It didn't take Niels (I won't show him this bit!) long to lose the path and we ended up at a dead end with a concrete and pipe dam construction thing in front of us and a long way to retrace our steps further back down the hill.
But Niels being ever resourceful spotted, (a long way down) a blue rope tied to a tree going across the water which fortunately due to very dry weather conditions wasn't the raging torrent it could have been
Overboard with health and safety
Niels said it all looked very straightforward. We only had to get down the bank, get across the water, pull our selves up on the other side, carry on up the hill - about a mile upwards and we would be back on the path in next to no time! I wonder, does he crash on ahead in these situations because he believes me to be the capable wife? Or, does he simply forget he's taken his wife with him?!
This is my right foot feeling nervous and thinking that at least I have the lunch in my rucksack.
But eventually I made it down the slope on my bottom in a cloud of dust, hung grimly on to the rope, and got to a point on the other side where I could hang on and look up...
... at the mile upwards we still had to go. I'm of the opinion that old people should really stick to the foot paths!
After lots of hanging on to tree stumps and bracken to pull ourselves up, and being bitten by insects we made it out in to the open but the more discerning will notice there wasn't much path to speak of! And more importantly after 2 hours of scrabbling about, Beinn Dearg looked as distant as ever
It was hazy and hot and not the best day to have chosen for views
We walked on across vast tracts of moor which normally would be boggy and have you sinking up to your knees; but which were now dry. The lichens and moss were as dry as dust in places.
After what seemed an age of walking and the mountain only moving the odd half centimeter closer we began to home in
Its amazing that these pretty little flowers survive. They seem too delicate for this harsh environment
And these. When I first came to Scotland I thought this was sheep's wool that had come off and stuck on blades of grass - I probably hadn't got my glasses on! Is it bog myrtle? I thought bog myrtle was a green bush and good at keeping midges off. I suppose you could flap this around in the event of a midge attack?
At last we've got to the base of the imposing summit. It looks very bleak and a little hostile
but even here there are lochs with crystal clear water and a wealth of beetles and dragon flies and other crawly insects
and lots of frogs in all different colours and sizes
You can just see Niels in the distance - he's probably gone to join the quicker party
I (Niels has disappeared by this time) reach the snow line. Beinn Dearg is 1084m high - just a little higher than Snowdon. In parts of the Highlands they have asked people to keep a look out for Ptarmigan, a mountain bird normally found at 750m and above. Climate change is pushing the birds to higher altitudes. I know that Ptarmigan have been seen up here as earlier this spring one of our visitors who did this walk captured photos of them on his mobile phone
The last section of this walk is tough. There is a way up following an old stone wall, but it means climbing up over large rocks and boulders.

It is amazing to go up mountains. However much it hurts and you want to sit down and forget you ever wanted to do it in the first place, it is such a brilliant feeling when you get to the top
And there it is just up there
And that old boy looks familiar
I would replace this cairn with a nice cosy cafe selling steaming hot mugs of tea and huge great slabs of home made cake.
It's an enormous empty area. We met people coming down as we were still coming up! I'm surprised I didn't meet Niels!
I'm not sure but I think this is a bit of very old rock
The cloud is moving in
and it's time to go back down - and I see Niels has already started!

It was a brilliant walk and on the way back down we even found the path!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


Today we got a floor upstairs! Tomorrow the plaster board arrives. That's the good news. The not so good news is that from Monday the joiner is working elsewhere for two weeks!

Monday, 14 July 2008

The toad and the hedgehog

The house we are presently staying in is built deep into a steep hill side of rock. Sitting having breakfast yesterday morning looking out of the window I noticed a very glum looking toad slowly and seriously making his way up the rock towards the top. I wondered why he needed to and indeed why he imagined he'd be able to.
What's at the top that isn't at the bottom? Why didn't he take the longer but much easier and less precarious route? The arrow's pointing straight at him. If you enlarge the picture you can see him - just. He looks like a rather worried pebble with legs!
He spent a long time contemplating the situation and thinking he may have misjudged it somewhat. Eventually he turned to come down, missed his footing and bounced back down to the bottom in a fraction of the time it took him to get up. He stayed at ground level for a while regaining his composure. Then he did what he should have done in the first place, walked away from the rock face in the opposite direction!
I don't know if this little hedgehog is a friend of Toad, but she too seems to makes life hard for herself. We see her often in the evening slowly (very slowly) making her way up the steep drive past our house and beyond. It takes her ages and she often stops on the way for a rest. It's gravely and stony and can't be very comfortable, but she keeps going until she disappears round the bend further up the drive.
We wondered if it was some sort of game she had like a helter skelter ride. When she gets to the top she curls into a ball and rolls down to the bottom. But a few days ago, I watched her walk down the hill in much the same weary fashion that she used when walking up. Do hedgehogs live in hedges? If so there are plenty she could chose from at ground level with nice views over the loch.
We had some friends staying recently. One evening, driving along the lane, we saw another little hedgehog, sadly it had been run over, and was struggling to get up. It was distressed and obviously in pain, and only the very hard hearted could have left it to struggle on its own. We managed (well, one of the friends mainly, an ex brown owl, who doesn't faint at the sight of blood!) to lift it into the car and drive with sirens blaring, to the wildlife hospital in Ullapool. Its chances of survival seemed slim, but we left it in the capable hands of Beatrice who gave an injection, wrapped it in a warm towel and placed it in a heated box overnight. That was two weeks ago. Yesterday I had a phone call from Beatrice to say that 'Hoffie' as he is now called had survived! For the first 10 days he had been very shaky and seemed only to be able to walk in circles (that sounds like a Hoffmann!) but had slowly improved and was now eating and walking normally, though still a bit shaky. He may not be released back into the wild but the hospital has a hedgehog village for just such casualties. I'm happy we helped him, but part of me wonders if we shouldn't just have left him to his own fate. Wildlife is very much about the survival of the fittest and we interfered with the balance. On the other hand he'll have a secure and hopefully, good quality of life in Ullapool, and it was simply impossible just to leave him suffering, on his own in pain.
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