Sunday 28 July 2013

Busy, busy times....

  Here we are at the end of July, the breeding season is all but over for most birds up here (Gannets will be the last to fledge - in September). I knew that once we started the roof that it was going to be a very busy time with some long, hard days. Having been in the building trade for nigh on 40 years, 12 or 14 hours doing manual work is a hard day and those that dismiss it, probably have never done anything like it.

  Once the scaffolding was up, we stripped the back of the roof over two days.  We started replacing any rotten sarking boards, then re-nailing all of the boarding and as we progressed, we re-felted the roof. Once this was done, the lead flashings to the skews (gables/copings) were fitted and then the brackets for the new cast iron guttering were fixed. 'Behind the scenes' so to speak, I'd also been punching nail holes in the new slates (over 4000 of them) and loading up the scaffold ready to put them on the roof. At the end of each day I'd move the 'cripples' and planks up the roof ready for the next lift and then load up the planks with slates ready for a good start the following morning. I have to say that we were very lucky with the weather. For most of the time when we were working on the back roof (the eastern side of the house) the wind was in the west. Also during that time, we only lost one day due to wet weather.

  We were pretty confident the back would go well once we got in to our stride, the front we thought, would be a different matter. On the back we were allowed to use new slates, on the front however, we would have to use slates we'd saved from both sides. These slates would then have to have the old rusty nails removed and, as was the case with most of them, be re-drilled for fixing. During the slating of the front, fortunately for us, the wind changed direction to the eastern side. While mostly this was welcomed, for two days we wished it was on the same side as us. This was because it was two of the warmest days of the year when the temperature reached the dizzy heights of over 20 degrees C. It gave me pounding headaches and Andrew really bad hay-fever, so much so, that on one of the days we finished at 3pm. The warm weather can stay down south as far as we're concerned! 

  The cast iron guttering was ordered from a company down in Northamptonshire and I must say they did a cracking job as far as delivery times, customer service etc. My only reservation however, was getting it delivered to Shetland due to the delivery cost (many because of the weight). This was overcome by having it delivered to Aberdeen (which meant we'd get free delivery) and then get Northwards to bring it to Lerwick. Also, knowing the nature of cast iron guttering, I had concerns about breakages but thankfully there were none - phew!

  At the time of writing (July 28th) we have one more 'lift' to slate to reach the ridge - which hopefully we'll do tomorrow. All in all, it's been less than a month to do most of the roof although we still have some pointing to do and other 'bit's and pieces'; I've also got the guttering on the front to put up this week at some stage. Once that's done, the scaffolding can be cleared of the remaining old slates and then it can come down. That will be a special moment for Ordaal as it will be the first time in over 70 years that the house has had guttering. The lack of it has been one of the main sources of damp in the house which, hopefully will be greatly lessened.

 Stripping the back roof

 Starting to re-slate

Half done (the 'cripples are the triangles with planks on)

The back completed (minus guttering)

 Some of the rot in the front sarking

 It's hard to believe it's July !

Just a few of the old slates to be 'processed'

  Away from 'house work', I've not had much time to 'get out and about'. During the last week of June, we had a much welcomed visit by my sister and some of her family for a week which I really enjoyed. I did get to go to Hermaness for a couple of visits, one on my own down the cliffs and one with Clive (my brother in law). I think Hermaness is a really special place and as far as I'm concerned is one of the the wildlife spectacles in the UK to savour, smell and 'drink in the view'. So personally, when someone stands up there virtually speechless, taking it all in, is a great moment - such as it was for Clive.

...... one from 'down the cliffs'

  ............and from the day there with Clive...

  Despite the really hot weather that has had to have been endured down south, we have only had a few nice days or evenings over the last month, so below are a few pics of those moments....

Sunset over Flugga from Saxavord

Baltasound sunset 11.15 pm 24th July
'Dollar Mist' over Baltasound from Ordaal 10pm 25th July

  The main interest migrant wise around Unst recently has been the influx of Common Crossbills to Shetland which has recently been followed by the arrival of two (possibly three) Two-barred Crossbills which were found by Brydon in Haligarth. and over 15 or so throughout the islands......

Two-barred Crossbill
  On the odd sunny, calm evening it was a treat to watch the Arctic Terns down at the shore fishing and doing the occasional food pass. It's not always easy to capture as it relies on the wind and light being just right in order to have them facing towards me at the shore at any particular time of day....

Arctic Terns

  The injured Common Crane is still surviving - although it it will have problems later in the autumn - and has now spent the last month in the same field on the south side of Baltasound. There are several opinions as to what should be done - if anything - regarding the future welfare of the bird. One side suggests it should be caught and maybe sent down to Slimbridge where there is a captive breeding programe - with a view releasing the offspring back in to the wild. The other is to just let nature take its course which would mean the bird starving once the autumn and winter arrives. My view is that if it can be used in the breeding programme, then that's fine, but I'd rather it didn't just go to a zoo and become an exhibit.......

Common Crane in Baltasound