Properly Decluttering

And I thought we did a pretty extreme job last year!

We’ve spent the last few days going through our remaining belongings again. This time there are 4 piles;

  • Bring to Rum – this is a pretty small pile and includes clothes and shoes that fit us now and are suitable, practical and useful for our new lifestyle. Warm, waterproof and durable mostly then! Books we cannot bear to part with, a couple of boxes of toys each for Dragon and Star, stuff to kit out the kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms in the static. Our tent and camping stuff and not a lot else. This is currently looking like about 15 large boxes.
  • Leave at Mum & Dad’s until we have a larger, more permanent home. This is stuff like photo albums, home videos, first baby outfits, a few precious pieces of art work the kids have done, pictures we’ll one day hang on walls and not a lot else. This is looking like about 10 boxes.
  • Stuff to sell / take to charity shop / donate to friends (some of our best friends are about to move into a new house and are only too happy to have our old beds, sofas, table & chairs etc. We get to give them something useful and they get to have some stuff to furnish their new home with – win:win). The local charity shops have had about 15 boxes from us so far – clothes that are now too large or small for us (we’ve all got considerably bigger or smaller this last year!), shoes I’ll never wear again, toys, books and other such stuff we felt was too precious to get rid of last year despite the extreme decluttering but realised after a year without them don’t mean anything really.
  • Stuff for the tip. Fortunately a very small heap but we have done two runs to the tip, which given the vast percentage of stuff gets recycled is still liberating in it’s own way.

It’s not a straightforward process. Dragon and Star have been watching Toy Story 1, 2 and 3 the last few weeks so getting rid of toys has a heightened emotional impact with that in mind. It’s tough to be 9 and 11 and getting rid of most of your possessions. It’s quite odd to think that our four combined lifetimes of  over 100 years is now contained within less than 25 boxes, an old car, an even older campervan and the equity amounting to about a third of a house. How would that make you feel? How far away from that small level of ‘stuff’ are you and your family?

In other news we have debated and discussed and are about to take our house off the market for sale and put it back on to let again. We’ve had various agents round and listened to all sorts of advice and decided that for now this is the more financially astute option. We don’t need the equity from the house to build on Rum just yet so it makes more sense to take the ‘wage’ offered by way of monthly rent from a tenant and keep all the equity in the house. On that basis we’ll need to replace some carpets and then it will be up for rent from next week.

Ady is busy researching generators, I’m busy working out where our food will come from – we intend using the shop on Rum as much as possible but will also order bulk food supplies too, along with things like loo rolls, toothpaste and contact lenses. We’re looking out for a trailer and a 4 wheel drive vehicle to move us and our belongings and use as our island car and storage facility once we arrive.

The days are counting down…

A static to call our own

There’s not much in our lives that is static these days, but today we made the phonecall to confirm we want this particular static

We need to get the deposit (and then the balance!) in the post and they will be calling us back next week to confirm arrangements but we made a provisional delivery date booking of 12th April.

I know my new address, now I know what my first home there will look like!

Our Cunning Plans

Time to share some of our official business plan, as submitted as part of our croft application. The plan is already subject to tweaking but I’m aware we’ve not really shared it here.

To build our family home and make our livelihood on the island of Rum. To become part of the community and work alongside others to preserve the ethos of Rum as a wildlife reserve along with helping it to grow into an established and sustainable community for the future.

We will create a smallholding from the croft with land given over to growing crops and rearing livestock. Our aim is for self sufficiency in food for our family plus residual produce for sale or exchange in the community and to tourists.
We also plan to use the land to capitalise on the existing tourist market and help to grow it further from a campsite or other holiday accommodation (e.g. eco camping pods). Further potential revenue streams would come from cottage industry type arts and crafts, preserves and produce.
Our longer term plans include creating an educational centre for WWOOFers and a working holiday destination specialising in self sufficiency, alternative energy, livestock rearing and low impact living.

There, sounds like a plan doesn’t it?!

If I’ve learnt anything (and I hope I have) about ambitious, unchartered territory, rather crazy plans it is that the only way to approach them is one step at a time, ready to make it up as you go along and change your end goal as and when necessary! The key thing is to be getting as much if not more out of the journey than the destination, infact who cares what the destination is anyway, that’s the ending, let’s just focus on the ride.

When we were planning to head off WWOOFing we began with a mammoth task ahead of coordinating the whole thing but by breaking it down into smaller chunks it all became feasible – one challenge at a time. The same applies here. For now the focus is on packing up the last remnants of our mainland life and getting to Rum. One step at a time.

Today we returned to Sussex, spent some time opening the pile of post that had arrived since we left nearly a month ago, caught up with family, took inventory of the food in our kitchen and had a very nice curry for dinner. Tomorrow we start the task of creating a job list, pinning some dates and prioritising to it and starting to tick things off.

Long goodbyes

The limbo is almost over.

A year ago today we arrived at our very first WWOOF host, a year ago tonight we were sleeping in a tent. It got down to minus four twice in that first week, we were in bed by 8pm, having worked the hardest we’d ever worked before in our lives carrying wood up and down hills. We lived on vegan fayre, alcohol free after a life just days previously where we drank every night, ate meat every day and had baths, beds and sofas not to mention central heating, electricity and Sky TV. It was the biggest culture shock of our entire lives and yet when we left just two weeks later I cried because it was such a wrench. Dragon and Star still cite that host as their favourite and not a week goes by without us mentioning someone or something from there.

Fast forward a year and tonight we are sleeping in real beds. We’ve had a dinner of supermarket purchased food, lovely warm baths and a glass of wine after dinner. But this is temporary… and for all it is lovely to be enjoying the hospitality of friends we are all itching to get started on the next chapter of our lives. We are researching, emailing, phoning, writing in notepads and planning almost constantly. With every conversation with each other and everyone else we are coming up with yet more questions, more answers and more ideas. It is such an exciting, daunting and invigorating time for us.

We still don’t have firm timescales, we still have so much yet to sort out but we have some firm starting points to work from and I am very hopeful that within the next week or so we will have a leaving Sussex / arriving in Rum date to start planning everything else around. We have chosen a static but need to pay for it and arrange delivery. We have a list of things we need to get ordered and arranged ready to swing into action on. We need to make decisions on our house – do we engage another estate agent? Put it back on the rental market? Drop the price? We have the remainder of our belongings to start sorting through and make tough decisions on as to whether we should bring them to Rum with us, get rid of them or find long term storage for them. I don’t want or need my wedding dress in the static on a croft but I don’t want to get rid of it forever either. We are realising the need to stock up on some items (loo roll! toothpaste!) that may be costlier to get delivered to the island, working out what we can buy from the shop (which is excellent, well stocked and very worthy of our support and patronage). I know our new postcode now, just not our address!

We all have that ‘end of term’ type feeling I think – the end is in sight, we are excited and raring to go. This next month will be full on and intense and I imagine we’ll be in need of a holiday at the end of it. Fortunately we will have the most amazing destination to relax and get used to our surroundings in.

Question Time Again

Way back at the beginning of our WWOOFing adventure I put up a post inviting questions about our plans. It was really interesting to read and answer back then and it’s a post I have revisited a few times over the last 18 months.

We have spent a lot of time with real life friends and family in the last few months answering all of their questions but after a friend recently posed a load of her questions to me by email I realised it would be good to put up another post inviting questions on this next part of the adventure. So, on that basis, over to you!

Kay asked:

Will you continue to home educate on Rum? I remember reading that the island has a small school & wondered about your thoughts on that. Having made a big move ourselves from a very busy home ed community to living in the sticks with very little going on – we had to adapt. Though lots of friends came to stay, it does dwindle after a few years, as you become settled & make new friends. Are there other home ed families in the area?

Yes, it’s definitely our intention to Home Educate Dragon and Star for as long as they wish to do so. The school on the island is primary only, with children heading across to the mainland for school for secondary, boarding for two weeks at a time, home for every other weekend and school holidays. Dragon will be 12 in September so would only be in the school for a term before he’d be secondary age, Star would have two years. The choice to Home Educate has always been down to the children and should they wish to try school we would support them in that choice but it is currently not one either of them is considering.

In comparing a small island school to a larger mainland school there would be pros and cons for both. It is virtually impossible to compare Home Education to either for us because our approach is an autonomous, child led one which bears little if any resemblance to a formal, structured school environment – be it large or small.

We have discussed them attending the mainland school in a couple of years if they started to feel socially isolated or wanted more in terms of resources, education stimulation etc. For now neither of them are remotely interested but as ever we’ll continue to take such decisions one day / week / month / year at a time!

There is a Home Ed community (or certainly a handful of families doing it) in the Highlands and Islands so there would be the opportunity to hook up with others if we felt the need, although a ferry ride away isn’t exactly local. We have already got three firm bookings of dates for friends to come and visit us and the children have friends on neighbouring small isles who we will meet up with too. I guess as with all aspects of our new life this will be a ‘suck it and see’ one but in the same way as we have always had to work that bit harder as Home Educators to find social, educational and entertainment opportunities we will continue to do so from this new location.

Kirsty asks:

A question for you all 🙂 What are you most looking forward to in the coming year and what are you imagining will be the biggest hurdle to overcome?

Nic says: I am most looking forward to putting down some roots and creating a home for us again. After a year on the road I can’t wait to wake up to the same view every morning. I love the idea of having a front door and a sofa and a bed all in the same place every single day. I am looking forward to having my stuff around me in permanent places again and being able to cook what I want, when I want, have quiet peaceful time to myself and do stuff like baking, jam making and crafty stuff again. I also can’t wait to start growing stuff and keeping animals – I am particularly excited about the idea of pets aswell as livestock (cats! a dog!). Finally (yes I am being greedy with such a long list) I am looking forward to making friends. I love getting to know people, swapping lifestories,  sharing a cup or tea (or glass of wine) and forging new friendships.

I think the biggest hurdle will be the logistics of it all – what to do first, which decisions we can feasibly put off and make once we’ve got our heads round things and doing them methodically and sensibly and which we will simply have to jump in with both feet and make, mistakes and all, in order to get things moving forwards. It is all very daunting building a home, a business and a whole life literally from the ground up – looking at a bare patch of ground and trying to envisage it being our everything. I know we can do it but I also know there will be things we mess up and get wrong and then have to put right again.

Ady: I am very excited at the prospect of a virgin piece of land to do whatever we want with. All the other opportunities we looked at were existing crofts or smallholdings with buildings, growing and rest of the infrastructure already in place. Croft 3 gives us the chance to put all of our own experience and knowledge into practise without any previous people’s ideas in the way!

Getting used to the challenges of having no amenities will be the biggest hurdle I think. I know that is only temporary as we will get all of those things sorted over time and we have lived without being connected to water, electric etc. for the last year so we know we can do it but it does add a further dimension of difficulty.

Dragon: I am looking forward to living on Rum because, obviously it will be pretty cool to live on an island. I am looking forward to having lots of animals, being part of a community, making new friends. The thing I am looking forward to most is exploring the island.

Biggest challenge might be living in the static but we lived in Willow and that was quite easy. From where I am now staying with friends it sounds hard but I think it will probably be quite easy.

Star: I am most looking forward to living with lots of animals and having my own bedroom.

Star laughed and said the biggest challenge is answering questions like this one! When pushed she says (with one of those cartoon lightbulbs appearing over her head and a huge look of relief) building the house will be difficult. And then she ran off to play.

Jay asked:

I know self sufficiency in food is also agoal for you, Nic. What grows well there? Other than turnips, swedes and raspberries 😉 it looks quite exposed and presumably has a shorter growing season than further south

It’s going to be an exercise in trying and seeing what works in lots of ways for food growing. The weather is fairly mild thanks to the island being within the Gulf stream so although it is wetter and windier than the south coast (where we used to be) the climate is not terribly dissimilar. There are few frosts / snow and thanks to being so much further north the extended daylight in summer makes up for the shorter days in winter. The croft is in a valley and on a south facing slope so a little protected with decent sun exposure. We will grow using polytunnels to help extend the season.

Plans are for fruit and nut trees – orchard and soft fruit and we will be researching good types for the climate, traditional Scottish apples etc. Tatties and other roots will grow well of course and nearby Eigg had great crops of berries and currants when we were there WWOOFing. Inside the polytunnel we’ll be able to grow tomatoes, peppers etc. Outside should be fine for garlic, onions, brassicas, legumes. We will be getting the soil tested once we arrive and finding out what treatment it will need in terms of making it more fertile.

We’ve been told stuff has been grown on that land within living memory and certainly historically the island supported hundreds of crofters. The ground on the inner hebridian isles seems to be mostly machair which is nice fertile stuff.

Joyce asks:

As you would expect (!!) I’m a little fixated on toilet arrangements. I know that you will be going down the compost route, but what happens meanwhile? Also interested in the water issue – as someone who got a horrific intestinal infection from an untreated private water supply on Harris, I’ve felt nervous about that ever since. That aside, how are you going to get water into the static – is it going to be carrying your needs in all the time?

Really? Fixated on toiletting? 😉

Long term plans are for very decent compost loos – we’ve been looking at some fab places such as free range design. Short term we’ll use the chemical toilet in the static to contain waste and adhere to Wild Camping principles for burying / dealing with waste. (clearly with no actual chemicals in the loo!)

Water will be brought in to the static daily to begin with, there is a chlorinated water supply in the village. We will begin harvesting rainwater from the start for uses other than cooking, drinking and bathing. Eventually we’re planning to either harness water from the land or rainwater and put in a filtration system for bringing it to drinking quality (fully tested!).

Where everybody knows your name

The Boston bar of an 80s TV show might be beyond our reach to go and live in but if the last few days are anything to go by life is about to lose it’s anonymity.

After a few days with friends down in Yorkshire (which we used to call ‘the north’, oh how we laugh at our geographical ignorance of the past…) we headed back across the border again on Wednesday, primarily for my crofting course in Inverness but also to sort out some finer details about our temporary home for the first year. Being so close (relatively) to Rum and with an unexpected free day when the ferry does a day trip we decided to head over for the couple of hours between the ferry yesterday.

Having talked to the lovely people at Mcleod’s caravans and looked at several of the statics they have for sale we knew what information we needed to gather before selecting the right static.

We were greeted on the ferry by the chef who remembered us from our crossing a couple of weeks ago and brought over the Highlands & Islands paper with an article about us on page three! We caught up with a few islanders as we dashed around taking photos and eyeing up the access track and very gratefully accepted a lift to and from the pier. All too soon we were back on the boat again hoping that next month we are on the boat again on our way ‘home’.

Today I have been on a crofting course run by Scottish Crofting Federation – day two is tomorrow. I walked in and was introduced to another attendee who has been reading our blog and also knows one of our previous WWOOF hosts. Always good to know it’s not just family and friends who read about our adventures 🙂 And it inspires me to get posting!

Day one of the course has been excellent – loads of questions answered and contacts made. Ady, Dragon and Star were off doing further research on getting the static sorted  and after lots of phonecalls and another visit to Macleods they have chosen one and all that remains is the phonecalls and emails to book delivery / make payments for that. Hurrah, a home!