Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Freeze a Jolly Good Fellow

By now I'm sure the whole world knows that the UK is having its hardest winter in decades. How can they not?- there's plenty noise been made about it.

Up here, we're more accustomed to wintery weather and it's more a matter of degree. Or lack of 'em.

Today, for example, the highest daytime temperature I saw was -8C. When I got home, just on darkness it was -12C. And now? Who knows, but the house is losing it's heat so quickly it feels like a door has been left open. I'm worried enough about burst pipes that I'm contemplating turning off the water supply and draining the system for tonight.

And, after only a handful of days respite, the snow is back with a vengeance. Not in the quantities we had earlier but still the best (or should that be worst) part of a foot.

And in the true spirit of British Rail, it's the wrong sort of snow. It remains light and powdery and totally useless for all these machines that we have for driving ON TOP of the stuff.

Here's a case in point:- in desperation I took the snowtrac out for a short foray. Upon our return I ran 'smack' into a gate. It turns out the last of the brake fluid from the mid-70s had evapourated away.

Next day I spent a rather cold morning flushing and bleeding the bleedin' system. But (and here comes the cruch) (another one that is!) when we came to take the blessed machine back 'oot the hill' we found we had not one but TWO punctures. I can only assume that in our previous flounderings, the track got a twist and the guide cleats on the track fouled the walls of the tyres.

Looking on the bright side, I am getting quicker at tyre changing/ track adjusting. Getting plenty of practice, aint I? (See 30.1.10, 1.12.10)

It was fine to get away from the sorting and spannering today. I managed to spot a wee group of deer in a not-too-excessive-for-extraction place. (Normally it's a place you'd boat them home from but, as you'll see in the photo, the loch is completely frozen; wouldn't you know it!)

It was a terrible plunge to get to them, and a horrendously broken and steep bit of ground to drag them out of but at least it bumped up the tally by another 3.

In my 20+ years on this estate, I've never seen our working lives as effected by the weather as this. And there is so much of the winter still to come.

We've culled just over half the number of deer we would normally have by Christmas. And there's no sign of things improving in the immediate future. We're only able to work a fraction of the ground we normally would, and the deer are quickly learning to avoid these areas. Woudn't you?

However, all might be changed by the time we've returned from the festivities.

'And a voice in the darkness said "Smile! Things could be worse." So I did.....and they were.'

In the meantime, here's wishing you all a Merry Christmas and I hope you'll be joining me again in the New Year.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Melting Moments

It's nearly a week since my last post and it's only now that we've had a let-up in sub-zero temperatures. And this thaw has meant that over the last 24 hours, our snow has been seriously reduced in depth. So now we only have a foot to stand in.

And it can't come soon enough for some of the local wildlife, I'm thinking. I'm seeing signs all over that this cold snap has pushed many of them to their limits.

I've noticed over the past few days, for example, that I can't leave a house or shed door open without some small bird coming in. Rabbits are already chewing bark off trees- but they've got to be getting desperate when they're chewing at a 150 year-old Larch near the house. What few deer that are accessible to us are dour to move unless they're absolutely certain danger approaches.

All these are signs that I've seen before BUT never at this time of year. In the past, it's always been at the end of a long winter. All I can say is that, unless there is a considerable let-up in the weather, I reckon there will be a lot of mortalities amongst the local fauna.

As it transpires, I've been unable to get to the hill over the last few days. I'm looking after our young son while Louise, my wife, is away on a family matter. From what my colleagues are saying, I'm not missing much.

The pics are from a 'quick' jaunt I took yesterday. I went after some hinds while Jack was being baby-sat. What should have taken an hour took 3, with every step a plunge in thigh-deep snow. The result was 3 beasts which had to be dragged 500 metres to the land-rover. That was bad enough but one fell down a bank and into a burn. Hauling it up the 5m bank which was piled deep in drifted snow just about beat me.

By the sound of things this thaw is just a brief respite with more snow and frosts due at the end of next week. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to gird my loins.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Periscope Depth

What do you get if you cross a couple of feet of powdery snow with a strong Westerly?


I was out in the snowtrac yesterday afternoon. I was helping a local farmer who was concerned for a dose of his sheep that were still 'oot the hill'. We located a good lot of 'em and they appeared to be doing fine. However, said farmer is resolved to get them home at the first available opportunity. Here's hoping it ain't April.

It was a cold clear day and I took some pics for you.

Compare that with today. Overnight 2 things happened. Firstly, the thermometer dropped to -16, secondly the wind got up.

It was certainly no day for the hill so I busied myself with indoor-maintenancy-jobs at HQ. At midday I decided to beat a retreat- and only just managed to get home on the road that had been snowploughed 20 minutes earlier. The picture of the road drifting in was taken in a lull. Otherwise all you'd be seeing is white.

The world has seen nothing of us Glen folk for a week. I wonder when they'll come looking for us in a snowtrac!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Going off the Rails

In the words of Mr M Loaf; the snow is really pilin' up outside.

This morning I was sent out to see if I could find some 'handy' deer. So Eric (my ghillie) and myself set out in the snowtrac.

About a mile out, I found even the snowtrac was struggling in the deep, heavy snow. "I'm going to get stuck here if I'm not careful" I thought to myself. "Time to pull the plug!"

Then I drove straight into a ditch and threw a track.

Digging the snow from all around and underneath the blessed machine was bad. But not as bad as the mile slog back to the landrover for the hi-lift jack. And that wasn't as bad as the slog BACK up the hill, carrying said jack.

It was 3 hours before we got 'roadit' again. And all the while, the snow showers kept rolling through.

If you carefully at the pics, you can just make Eric out underneath the snowtrac. It was taken about 15 seconds after I said "Someone will have to go back for the jack."