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Tuesday, 27 December 2011


A few weeks back we hosted another Balvenie Whisky tasting, this time up in the house and attended by the UK, global and French brand ambassadors and local friends of the distillery. We had some tunes courtesy of Charlie McKerron and finished up the night in indulgent style sat in front of the fire supping drams of their new Tun 1401 edition with chasers of 21 year old Portwood.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Wood pellets (& Solar part II).

Its not easy undertaking major works here at this time of year and if our winter of renewable energy starts to sound like a comedy of errors can we please attribute that to our limited budget, time constraints and environmental difficulties rather than slapdash project management, festive distractions and a penchant for 1950s machinery.

Phase 1 of phase 2 was the fuel store for the new wood pellet boiler. We had to lay a 3x3 metre concrete slab for a hopper that will contain 8 tons of wood pellets, then dig a trench to the house for the vacuum transfer. Sounds simple, except that pouring concrete below 4 degrees isn't recommended and it was nigh on minus 5, the concrete truck is too wide for the gates and mixing 5 tons of concrete by hand would have been ridiculous. Oh, and the Land Rover was out of MOT and we don't own a sensible trailer. Cue major head scratching and more delays.

Enter big Jack, ace dry stone waller, armed with with a pick up and a borrowed trailer and enough humour, experience and resourcefulness to pick the concrete up from the plant (in 4 runs), slide it down a tin chute into the shuttering, tamp it down nice and flat (in the dark) and improvise a shelter we could heat so it would go off. Bingo. Phase 1 complete. Phase 2 happens in January when the old oil boiler gets ripped out, no doubt in the middle of some biblical weather situation.

There is a second chapter to the solar saga which may constitute something of a record. We were always cutting it fine by taking on our installation on the Sunday of the deadline but we confidently came down from the roof with just the paperwork left to scan and submit. Then at 9pm the scanner we were using gave up and by the time we had driven to and fro along a very icy B970 to get another one, then sorted and rescanned everything page by page, we finally hit send with 24 minutes to spare.

Phew again.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Inshriach has a huge flat roof ideally suited to solar power and part of our winter renewables drive was a scheme to reduce our hefty electricity consumption. Then a month ago the government announced it would halve the tariff available and the entire solar buying world went hell bent on catching the higher rate. That rate expires tonight and for the last fortnight there has been only a thin veneer of calm across Inshriach. On Friday we hauled 32 paving slabs up to the roof, yesterday we installed new circuit breakers and the inverters and early this afternoon 32 solar panels and lots of aluminium framing turned up courtesy of our friends at Enviko. By 5 o clock tonight (Sunday) it was pitch dark and being 3 floors up on an icy roof scattered with paving slabs, frames, skylights and the equivalent of 16 flat screen TVs was decidedly hairy but we got it all up there and now, with only 5 hours before the deadline, we just need to send in the paperwork and come back tomorrow to connect it up and point it at the sun.

Down the hill we decided that the farm ought to be solar powered as well so we installed another inverter and meter in the barn. The other 16 panels will be spread across existing farm buildings over the next few days and the 4kw they provide should cover all the power demands of the farmyard, the workshops and the yurters shower and be the foundation for a sustainable barn conversion which we are going to take on when funds allow.