Be part of it

You may or may not have noticed the recent addition of a little yellow button on the right hand side of the blog.

Subscribers to the WW newsletter will already know what this is about (if you’ve not signed up to receieve them and would like to please click on the tab along the top that says ‘wondering how to join in’.

Our long term vision for our croft is to create a place we can share with others. Share with family and friends as a place to come and visit us. Share with WWOOFers as somewhere they can come and gain the amazing WWOOFing experience that we enjoyed last year – learning new skills, meeting new friends, discovering different ways of life. Share with visitors to the island – either as campers or day trippers or tourists who are interested in learning a bit more about us and our way of life. Share with people who want to learn more – as a retreat, an educational centre, somewhere to come and see a different life in action.

We would love to create a model of self sufficiency here – as close to growing / rearing all our own food, living an off grid lifestyle with regards to energy and water. A sustainable and low impact lifetsyle with permaculture principles, ethically reared animals, sitting alongside the National Nature Reserve we live in. Setting all that up from a bare field with nothing on it is a pretty big task however and there are times when it all feels rather overwhelming and working out what has to happen first in order for the next thing to happen can be quite tricky. Especially if you are impatient and want it all to be there and sorted and up and running as soon as it possibly can be!

A friend recently explained Critical Path Analysis to me, something which he rightly said I was doing anyway, just not in a very measured and aware way. I’ve since done a bit more of that sort of thinking and together with Ady, Dragon and Star we are coming up with a list of various options for things to focus on first, next and later. We have a lot of projects here that we think WWOOFers would love to get involved in and we have a lot of contact from WWOOFers asking to make arrangements to come. The trouble is we are not set up yet to have WWOOFers even though some of the projects that we’d love to get help with are the very ones we need to do in order to get ready to have WWOOFers…. We’d also love to offer camping here, it would bring in revenue, help with the lack of accommodation on the island, start to create a target market for the other things we want to offer. But again we are lacking even the most basic facilities to offer campers.

When we first planned our start up of the croft it was with the idea that we would have sold our house and be using funds from that to set up. A dire housing market and no interest in the house when it was on the market meant we chose to move here anwyay and start up on a much smaller budget.

I’ve been looking at various options for raising funds in order to start the projects here to get the croft up and running and in a position to accept WWOOFers and progress with our plans. I had heard about Crowd Funding and learnt a bit about it as a concept and with some thinking it through we have come up with the following idea.

Currently our facilities are about as basic as it gets; but with injections of cash and willing hands to help we plan to put in a compost loo, solar powered rainwater harvested shower block, earth oven and fire pit, storytelling circle. Woodburner fuelled open air bathhouse. A visit to Croft 3 promises to get better in terms of what we can offer the longer you leave it before you come.

So here’s the deal – you contribute now and your money goes towards making all of the above happen. You get to decide when you cash in your contribution against a visit here. Come this year or early next year and muck in with making stuff happen – perfect for the more adventurous types who are happy to live alongside us as we do. Wait awhile and have a more luxurious stay or hang back until we are a way down the line and come for a feet up, tea brought when you click your fingers type experience!

We promise that all donations go straight to the pot for Croft 3 visitor offering improvements. You will recieve a voucher for the value of your donation to be redeemed as and when you want subject to booking availability and if you volunteer your time while you’re here you automatically double your value.

Our first funds will go towards a compost loo. We have sourced this from the wonderful and are very excited at the prospect of working with them to create a loo on the croft. That will enable us to take on WWOOFers and start taking camping visitors and day trippers. The cost of that is £1800 approx.

What you can spend and what you’ll get for it:

£10 gets you a day trip visit to the croft. We’ll spend time with you between boats on a day trip to Rum. Show you round the croft, make you a cup of tea (and maybe a home made cake!) and share whatever is going on at the Croft with you that day. That may mean feeding animals, sowing or harvesting crops, a spot of green building or simply enjoying the sunshine and the view.

£25 gets you a weekend camping on the croft – we’ll give you all the information you need, meet you from the ferry and bring you to the croft. You’ll need to bring a tent and sleeping bags / camping stuff. We can do you a stonking deal on Croft 3 produce to eat while you’re here.

£50 gets you a week camping on the croft – as above but for longer!

£100 gets you three repeat camping trips – perfect for those wanting to experience the difference between visits.

We’ve already had our first contribution – I know you’ll probably never come here camping but I hope to bring you breakfast on a silver tray at some future point when you visit, thank you for kick starting us off.

The art of saying no

I have a friend – she knows who she is, who is rubbish at saying no. No matter how many times she tells the rest of us she is not going to take things on any more, no matter how many times she practises infront of the mirror looking regretful yet resigned to being unable to help she simply can’t pull it off and prevent herself from putting herself forward and offering ‘I can do that’.

I am not like that. I am very clear about what my priorities are – first and foremost comes my own happiness, health and wellbeing. That sounds rather selfish given I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, yet I can qualify it. The people I love and care about are very important to me and therefore I am only really happy when they are happy and so helping them to be happy keeps me happy and it’s not quite so selfish after all. My next priority is my family – my children and my husband. We have risked plenty, given long hard thought and careful consideration to what we do and don’t have time for in our lives. What enriches our beings, feeds our souls and is important to us, what we are prepared to sacrifice and what we are not. Our choices, although  not necessarily obvious to the casual observer are the results of long hard thinking, careful prioritising and constant re-evaluation as to what is and isn’t worth our time, energy, enthusiasm. We all four get very resentful of things that take us away from the areas we have decided are important to us and while we have plenty of extra time on our hands these days that is careful carved out and at a cost of various other things that we no longer have.

This week I have scaled back a few things – things that on reflection I could see were not important enough to us to be getting involved with, ideas that on further consideration I could see were not the right path for us. I may not have been as diplomatic and articulate with my refusal to take things on as I usually pride myself on being but it felt good to say no, to mean no and to walk away knowing that instead of denying someone something I have infact gifted myself and my family something instead – more of my time, focus and attention. And it feels good :).

Today has been precisely the sort of day we had in mind when we moved here. This morning everyone got up in their own time, sorted their own breakfast and pottered about doing their thing. Ady fed the animals and collected not just the chickens eggs but the second of our finally-started-laying ducks eggs :). I checked some emails and did some paperwork. Then we all donned wellies and went out onto the croft. There has been rather a lot of faffing with regard to the actual east side boundary of the croft which I am still not convinced is over yet. It has been frustrating, wasted our time and prevented us from getting on with things not to mention meaning that our own time and that of some helpers getting the community polytunnel up and running has been wasted. It is issues like this which frustrate and irritate me, I lack patience, tolerance and the ability to hide that very well. There are other political nonsenses here just now which also serve to get my hackles up and show my less than lovely side. Ah, people…

Anyway, armed with notepad and pen we ventured out and ignoring the whole area which may or may not yet end up being part of our croft we sectioned the land into nine plots and started working on designating what might go where; house plot, camping, livestock, polytunnel, growing areas, orchard, facilities, social areas etc. All very exciting :). We spent some time down beside the river taking in the gorgeous views and reminding ourselves why we are here – because it is beautiful, magical, destination of our dreams.

Back to the croft for cups of tea / coffee / hot chocolate before packing up lunch and heading down to the village (via the castle to put a load of laundry on) to meet the Sheerwater boat cruise. We were joined by several other Rumics and chatted to another couple on the pier – one of the things I do love about being here; friends and neighbours always on hand. The boat trip was uneventful in terms of wildlife spotting but enjoyable just the same, not least because I spent a fair chunk of the time chatting to Dragon and Star which remains a favourite pasttime of mine.

Back at the croft, via laundry collection and hanging it out to dry we embarked on moving Tom and Barbara Pig. They had reached ‘potentially losing your welly’ status in their patch which is the official sign that it’s time to move them so much electric fence wrangling and strimming a perimeter to put it up into ensued. We were rained off twice and ended up completing the task in very very midgey conditions – trying to unravel a knotted section of electric fence wire while being midged and conscious of hungry pigs not being penned in makes for a slightly less than relaxing 15 minutes or so… 😉

All that done and pigs very happily installed into their new area we called Beer O’clock and headed down to the shop for a drink before dinner. A selection of our favourite people were there too so we had a very lovely hour or so with them before walking back up the hill home again, Bonnie at our heels, for dinner, watching a deer drinking at the river for a while on the way.

These are the precious experiences that I have said no to other things for. The list of no can go for some time and started about 10 years ago. These days I don’t have to say no too often, the things I don’t want to do don’t factor that heavily as options of things to do anyway.

Here in the static we have a ‘what’s happening this week on the croft’ white board which we fill in each weekend for the coming week. I try to refrain from turning it into a job list but inevitably it has shades of that as I write down what we have planned to achieve this week. It is in saying No that we are able to keep that board looking so healthy by allowing us to focus on all the yes things we have decided are part of our lives this week.

Try it, say No. You may find it far more liberating that limiting. And if you don’t, well you can always go back and say yes again next week!

I’m a season already changing

The clock ticks by. On Saturday we’ll have been on Rum for four months – a third of a year. We’ve celebrated the first births on the croft with hatched eggs, today we found two ducks eggs (finally!) – one intact which Star plans to breakfast on tomorrow, another already in ruins probably fallen victim to the hoodies (hooded crows) or perhaps just a soft shelled first lay.

I made my second batch of Rum jam last night – blackberry and lavender – foraged blackberries from around the village and some lavender we brought up from Sussex but has taken well here on the croft. As it was made with sugar I bartered with someone for eggs from the croft (due to a running out of sugar here in our kitchen and down at Jinty’s shop rather than by design but it still felt nice :)) and decanted into recycled jars it all felt very in line with what we are hoping to achieve here albeit still in baby steps. Tasted good for breakfast today too. I have a load of rowan berries waiting for the arrival of my jelly bag in the post to make some rowan jelly with. Ady is planning to harvest some kelp to make some kelp crisps and yesterday we spent half an hour fishing off the pier and caught two trout which we brought home for lunch – ocean to plate in under two hours, delicious with home baked bread.

Today I became the proud owner of email addresses and too.

This evening we looked out of our static window and saw three deer just outside grazing; beautiful and exciting, but also heartening given we can engage a stalker to kill deer on our land and they become our meat plus we are involved in a fledgling Rum Venison Processing community interest company and are attending a butchery training course in the next few weeks to become part of a small on island team processing the venison for sale.

It’s rained and rained and rained this week. Inbetween bouts of pure sunshine and sky splitting rainbows. The river is running very high and although Ady and I did get across it in the car today as we had lots of deliveries on the boat (food, nothing exciting) we took the car straight back across to the other side again as we know it will all too easily get trapped on the croft where it is little or no use if we don’t do so having learnt the lesson in the past.

I have a stash of crafty stuff ready to get stuck into through the winter for selling next season – today saw the penultimate Market Day of this year, we’ll do one next week and then wrap it up until next spring.

I am desperately looking forward to the autumn and then the winter. For so many reasons – not least that we can finally shut up the people keep telling us ‘yeah but you haven’t done a winter yet…’ when we tell them how much we love it here. It is true, but we have done winters before in the UK and yes we know the days are that much shorter up this far north, and the weather is that much wetter and we don’t have a proper house or a bath or a washing machine. But we do have blankets and hot water bottles and two gas fires. We have hot chocolate and a good stash of food (especially jam!), we have books and drawing materials and craft stuff. We have music and laughter and at least four hours of daylight to get out and splash in puddles, marvel at wildlife, throw snowballs, enjoy the wild rain and wind in – and we will! We have plans for ceildih lessons, film nights, book clubs, basket weaving lessons, planning events for next year, secret santas, celebrating bonfire night, halloween, Star’s birthday, Christmas, new year, Hogmany, my birthday, Bonnie’s birthday. We have getting to grips with paperwork, catching up on planning and plotting the year ahead.

Last year when we were travelling one of my personal greatest pleasures was for the first time since childhood really, really feeling the turning of the seasons. Properly feeling in tune with what month it was. Knowing that the nights drew in then lengthened, then drew in again. The light changed, the leaves turned on the trees, the sun got higher and lower in the sky, mornings got crisp, evening shadow grew long, the air tasted different in February to June, each season had a different gift to offer from Mother Nature. We are here not inspite of the way the flipping of the pages of the calendar has such a profound effect on the world around us but because of it.

We’re in that funny limbo of still being new and yet no longer feeling quite so new. We have set down roots, made friends and feel part of something bigger than us. If home is where the heart is then I guess we’vé found home.

This week in photos

Friends came – we managed to not take many pictures and failed totally to get a shot of one set of friends but happy times were had by all.

We fished for our supper! Seven mackerel caught in a mammoth fishing session off the pier fed all nine of us one evening. Delicious 🙂

New life – our first croft births. Two chicks hatched and are doing really well.

Home Education…

I’ve not much mentioned Home Education on this blog, mostly because it’s not really the purpose of this particular blog which was set up to chart our travelling adventure in 2011 and subsequent new life here on Rum in 2012. Home Education in our family is rather like having a nose, going to sleep each night, being called Goddard – it’s just what we do and who we are rather than something we think too much about really. Once upon a time it was a conscious decision as an alternative to school, these days although I constantly evaluate and consider the direction things take and can ably fit Dragon and Star’s lives into tidy little tick boxes if required to demonstrate their being in receipt of an education it has long since stopped being something I think about termly, yearly or even very much at all.

The intention of this post is to update where a previous Home Education blog of ours left off and to answer a couple of more specific comments about what we do and how we do it. As I’ve said before we are not anti-school and certainly don’t congratulate ourselves that we have discovered the one true path. In the same way as our whole current lifestyle would not suit everyone I am utterly sure that the way we parent and educate would not either. However based on all the current evidence – health, happiness and wellbeing of the four of us I am pretty confident that we have found the right path for us.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times that there are as many ways to Home Educate as there are families home educating. Some people follow curriculums, use tutors, refer to workbooks, work towards qualifications. Others focus strongly on certain areas such as literacy, numeracy, languages, musical instruments, sports if their children have a particular passion or talent for that. Some people Home Educate due to specific needs of their child – maybe a learning disability which requires them to learn at their own pace, use special materials or support or resources. Some families have strong religious beliefs which mean their learning takes a particular slant different to what mainstream education would provide. Some children have been damaged by the school system – bullied, excluded, otherwise phobic of the whole environment.

I know of families where school simply would not fit into their lifestyle – they travel, work weekends but are around in the weekdays, spend time visiting so many interesting places and attending different workshops that to send their children to school in favour of their rich and varied lifestyle would be to deny them the very best childhood and educational experience possible rather than to deliver it.

Then there are the more alternative folk, those who challenge and question the reasoning behind formal education, which is actually a fairly new concept, one that doesn’t really work properly and fulfil all of it’s own aims and missions. Should a system that works towards gaining qualifications have an end result where not everyone achieves that? For a lot of people home educating in an unstructured, flexible, child interest and passion led manner what happens is schooling as we know it in terms of education becomes irrelevant. Our children are not schooled they are educated, education is, according to wikipedia:

Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people sustain from one generation to the next.[1] Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts. In its narrow, technical sense, education is the formal process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, customs and values from one generation to another, e.g. instruction in schools.

As an adult I know I never stop learning – what I know today at 38 is less than I will know next year at 39, more than I knew last year at 37 yet totally different to what Dragon knows at 11, Star knows at 9 and Ady knows at 48. My motivations for learning remain constant now that learning is of my own free will and not because I am ’caused’ to recieve it. I learn because I am interested, because something is relevant or necessary to me. I learn both deliberately and accidentally due to what I set out to do and what happens to me along the way. I learn best when I feel supported, encouraged, safe, able. I learn different things in different ways – some best through instruction – listening to others who already possess knowledge and are able to impart it to me in a way which makes sense to me. I learn through reading books or researching on the internet – finding a style in which I am able to comprehend something and apply it to my own needs. I learn well through doing, by getting stuck in, by experimenting, making mistakes along the way and reassessing and picking up expertise as I go.

The way we home educate is an extension of all of the above. We encourage, support and provide opportunities for Dragon and Star to find their way. We don’t limit or prioritise one skill above another. Play is as important as reading, sowing seeds as vital as mathematics. A knowledge of who sang ‘Love me do’ as relevant as identifying Beethoven, creating a plasticine work of art of their own as worthy of applause as knowing Van Gogh’s greatest art works. Learning is everywhere, every day and never stops.

Dragon has learnt to read and write employing a vast array of resources and skills. Snuggled up with me looking at towering piles of books since babyhood, a burning desire to create his own stories and commit them to paper. Needing to know the instructions on a DS game, wanting to write out a label to sell his produce ( D& S used to sell lavender sprigs over the garden wall to passers by when they were tiny. These days they collect treasures off the beaches and create little works of art to sell to tourists – an entrepreneurial spirit has long been present in both of them despite my ranting about consumerism and refusal to dish out pocket money!).

Star has learnt to identify countless birds and animals from books, DS games, wildlife documentaries and spending time outside with binoculars, camera and spotter books.

We are currently not working towards qualifications but at some future point if the children decide they would like to do so then we will continue to support them in that. Their current intention is to travel the world together in a sailing boat (an ambition that was born when we read a Michael Morpurgo book while travelling the UK in a campervan), both adore Rum and intend making their way back here at some point, both feel keen to leave and explore the wider world before settling down anywhere.

Day to day Dragon and Star spend their time with us building our new lives. They are engaged at every step of the way with rearing the livestock, planning what happens next, getting involved in the community and collecting new skills. They are both working on a series of projects of their own creation – Dragon is spending time with a member of the community learning about creating games, casting models and designing sets of rules. He is writing and illustrating two different stories and working on various craft projects for selling to tourists.  Star is busy with a self set challeng to draw a different animal every day, monitoring wildlife on weekly boat trips and daily visits down to the river. This last week has seen her get involved in soap making, baking and spending time in the local shop. Both are involved in training our dog and learning alongside us about alternative energy, green building, croft planning and design. We have recently been discussing our next livestock projects and deciding the long term fate of two chicks that hatched last week – whether they should join our flock, be fattened for the table and what impact on blood lines keeping them might have.

As time goes by I would anticipate their projects and interests flourishing ever more and encouraging them further to explore what hopes and dreams they have for their own adulthood and what steps they need to take towards realising them. This could well mean college or university, apprenticeships or training courses, helping them create business plans and work out the necessary resources and finance.

I think the way Home Education works for us in our family is that all four of us continue to learn alongside each other all the time. Sometimes we are learning from each other, often from other people, even more often just from life itself.

Facilities, amenities, what we do have and what we don’t.

I’ve just sent a very long email to a friend, in advance of their impending visit laying out precisely how stuff works here at the moment. It also answers a question in a comment  below about water, sewerage etc.

We currently live totally off grid in terms of mains water, gas, electricity and landline, however we manage to have plenty of home comforts and should we want it there is supplies of everything down in the village that we can tap into and contribute towards. For example we have an arrangement where we add money to the electricity meter in the community boat shed and keep a running tally of what we use and can charge up our batteries and power pack if our solar panels don’t quite keep up with our usage.

But we are pretty close to self sufficient up here on the croft and although we have longer term plans for fine tuning what we do which include dreams of a washing machine, bath-house and wood burner for cooking, heating and hot water in the future we have a pretty good set up which seems to work well for us just now.

The static has 12v lighting and water pump which runs off a leisure battery which is trickle charged by a solar panel. We sometimes need to boost it with a charge up down at the boat shed and I think when the daylight hours become less in the winter and the need to have lights on increases we will need to re-look at this. Our current intended solution is more torches, candles etc. The kids have solar lanterns and lights which they put out each morning and soak up enough solar power to light them for the hour or so they need at bedtime for night lights before they go to sleep.

Our electric needs are mostly met by a five bar connected to an inverter attached to a 12v leisure battery trickled charged by another solar panel. This powers our internet nanostation, wireless router, vonage landline phone, charges my netbook, our mobile phones, cameras, kids games consoles etc.

We have a power pack which we charge at the boatshed once a week and this is used to listen to music or watch dvds three or four times a week. We have a little battery powered radio for listening to Popmaster 🙂

Water is collected from the river (perfectly safe for drinking – us and the livestock are all fine on it, we could boil it first if we were worried), sometimes down in the village if we are down there anyway and the river is running particularly high (dangerous to get too close to) or particularly low (tricky to get water from, tend to scrape the river bed bringing up mud and silt into the water) or as of our delivery last week from the water butt attached to the guttering on the static. As one of the rainier places in the UK rainwater harvesting is probably our very best bet for most of our water needs. This morning I had a super long and luxurious shower based on the overnight rainfall – we have a hose leading from the waterbutt into the jerry can that fills it back up as the waterpump empties it for the shower. Infact we’ve been so pleased with the success of the waterbutt that we have another one on order :). We do have pretty minimal water needs and are conscious of being as sensible with water as we can. The fact we flush our toilets, wash our clothes and ourselves, water our gardens and fill our paddling pools and clean our cars with drinking water in the UK has long been something that has outraged me in the UK. I am very pleased to no longer be guilty of joining in with that.

Sewerage – our washing up water drains into a bucket which goes to our pigs – we use eco friendly washing up liquid and this means they get all of the dregs and plate scrapings in their water – delicious, nutritious and waste preventative. Obviously conscious of not giving them meat based stuff. Cooking water (drained from pasta or rice for example) goes the same way.

Toilets – the biggie! We have two portapotty camping loos set up in the bathroom – one for wees and one for poos. The pee potty gets sprinkled around the edges of the croft, wee is excellent deer deterrent and so helps stop the deer roaming around on the croft and getting too close to our crops, currently just some soft fruit bushes but hopefully next season a whole load of tempting looking morsels for rampaging deer! The poo loo gets it’s contents buried a couple of times a week in a series of holes being dug on the croft. Fortunately we have enough space to bury it away from water and anywhere we’ll need to go any time soon so that it gets to decompose down and even provide food for some of the little critters that like that sort of thing!

It’s definitely a different life, one that has large amounts of time spent just providing the basics for ourselves and viewing the strangest of things as luxuries. There is also something deeply satisfying about it. Anyone who has ever chopped the wood to build the fire, caught the fish themselves for dinner, grown most of the contents of their dinner plate from tiny seeds themselves will know what I mean by this.

Being Hosts

We’ve had lots and lots of visitors in the last couple of weeks. Last Wednesday saw the Loch Nevis arrive at Rum pier bringing seven people to visit us :). It’s never occurred to me before that once it is close enough you can yell to people. For some reason despite the fact we can clearly see each other and wave there is some sort of invisible force field between those on board and those on land that precludes verbal communication so we’ve only ever waved. Not any more! My lovely friend Jonathan disproved that by calling out from a great distance away :).

We were welcoming a family (minus one child, plus an additional along for the ride adult) visiting between boats and another friend and his daughter visiting for a couple of nights. None had met each other before being from different parts of our different worlds long before we came to live on a remote island but I guess having people like us as friends is enough in common for people to hit it off with each other fairly quickly!

We did the whistle stop tour designed to take in as much of Rum and our lives here as possible between boats which includes: walking to Croft 3, taking the path that the static took (apart from crossing the river) with running commentary from me as to the various landmarks along the way (‘here is where the wheels fell off’, ‘here is where I thought Ady might have a nervous breakdown’, ‘here is where we couldn’t see for midges’ ‘here is where I cried’), a speedy introduction to the animals on the croft complete with pause in my talking as we go up the rather steep hill on the croft. I like to pretend this is in order to give people the opportunity to take in the unspoilt beauty of the surroundings – the dramatic peaks and jagged skyline, the river, the sea view, the woodland complete with majestic red deer lurking, the skies whether blue with fluffy white clouds, grey with drizzly rain or somewhere inbetween complete with majestic eagles soaring overhead, to listen for a moment to the sound of silence, of peace, of feeling utterly immersed in the gorgeousness of nature and overwhelmed by how very lucky we are to be living here. The truth is that the hill is so very steep I cannot climb it and talk at the same time without collapsing into a wheezing heap so I have to shut up!!!

Next is a refreshment stop – I was not the best host at this point and having realised we didn’t actually have enough cups to give everyone a drink I went without myself and then felt very bad for not offering some form of food – next time I’ll be better prepared with home baking or gorgeous things on doilied plates.

That done with a bit of a tour of the static and the croft and some general arm waving in the direction of things we plan to do in the future ‘house maybe here, compost loo maybe there, camping site in that area, polytunnel could go here, fire pit, earth oven, storytelling circle down in that corner.’ we made our way back down to the village. Visitor footwear, weather conditions and level of bogginess of path permitting we may take a different route to give a different perspective of the crofts, the views and the island.

Village centre next, taking in shop, teashop, village hall, wildlife garden, byre. Currently we have Market Day on a Wednesday where I am usually to be found joining in with the sitting behind a table groaning with wares from the village – gorgeous crafts, homemade baking, preserves, toiletries, home grown produce, some of which I can even take credit for making :). This week I just brought along customers 🙂

Stepping stones across the river mouth as it meets Loch Scresort taking in the wildlife garden and then a quick peep in the old dairy before walking along the coastal path through the campsite along to the visitor centre. We had enough time to walk the south side nature trail to the otter hide taking in the very different feel that the south side of the village has to the north side with more shady woodland and closer proximity to the sea.

Then to the pier to wave off the day tripping friends, extracting promises that next time they’ll visit for longer. I intend to hold them to those promises…

Back to focussing on the friends staying for longer. An evening stroll to the shop to meet some of the other islanders and have a beer in the early evening sunshine. Midges meant this was not quite as idyllic as it could have been but it was not far off.

The fuller island experience (48 hours rather than just 4) also took in the Sheerwater boat trip – not much in the way of wildlife out there that week but we glimpsed porpoises and saw a few seabirds. We took a car ride to Harris beach hoping to spot various animals but only actually seeing the highland cattle and a couple of deer from a distance. Our guests did the castle tour on their last day before we waved them off on the ferry.

Earlier on the same day we’d had another five friends arrive for a week, crossing over with leaving friends briefly. The weeklong experience is different again and this week our friends joined us on many walks, evenings sitting round the fire, the Sheerwater boat trip, walks around the island, a couple of fishing attempts including a very successful afternoon that saw us coming home with enough of a catch to feed ourselves that night. A few evenings down in the village, calling in at the houses of various on island friends for cups of tea or even cocktails!

I hope we gave all our recent flurry of visitors a real taste of our life here – the challenges and victories, the things that make us smug and the ones that make life tough, an introduction to the people, wildlife and history that we share this island we all call home with.

From our perspective it has given us plenty to think about. Having realisations of how far removed from our previous life we now are. What we used to take forgranted but now don’t miss, what we accept as fine but when seen through the eyes of others we appreciate as bigger compromises than everyone is prepared to make. The lack of plug sockets with electricity connected to charge up phones, cameras, ipods, games consoles. The challenges of quite where to put nine sets of muddy wellies, soggy raincoats and slightly damp socks. The logistics of providing breakfast, lunch and dinner without a working fridge let alone a freezer, a fruit and vegetable order that doesn’t arrive, getting through a weeks supply of breakfast cereal in the first two days and discovering that home made pizza for nine involves standing pummelling pizza dough for the best part of an hour and then a further two hours rolling them out, topping them, cooking them and serving them.

It’s tough to realise that in order for people to visit us they will be travelling for a long time, spending money on getting here and likely taking time out of their annual leave entitlement to do so. That our role in their adventure is to provide a gorgeous place to stay, with access to us and a sliver of our lives to take away and better understand what we are doing here. Not to provide a luxurious B&B style, fully catered five star experience because that is way out of our reach. In our previous lives we prided ourselves on being excellent hosts. Our house may have been small but we tried to cater and provide for everything, spending time on lovely food, snacks and drinks. This last week and latest rash of visiting friends has educated us that these days our responsibility is to merely be ourselves – to let people come, see quite what it is we are doing, share some of our plain lifestyle, simple food and very basic accommodation but maybe go away again feeling inspired, relaxed from the escape from the mainland ratrace, a bit more connected to nature, to food production, to us – their crazy friends. Hey if nothing else we get to send them back on that ferry marvelling when they arrive home at their flushing toilets, running water, plug sockets, landlines, 24 hour supermarkets and fitted kitchen appliances with a feeling of relief that it’s not them who hit a mid life crisis and ran off to live a crazy dream.

Come again soon, our lives have been the richer, more interesting and affirming for your visits. And if you’ve not booked to come and see us yet, please do.

To every season…

It is with a sort of melancholy that I read an email from a friend today who has returned from a travelling adventure abroad and is now setting up home again in England. But the same sense of yearning fills me when I read the blog of another friend who is the throes of planning their travelling adventure for next year. I question whether a wanderer ever really settles or remains forever a wanderer at heart?

By the same token as I embark on the relatively small task of planning a two night stay back on the mainland to attend to medical matters for child and dog, larder restocking and possible reintegration to the masses along with purchases of essentials such as underwear, charity shop rummaging and clothes we can try on before we buy them I am rather daunted at the prospect of leaving the island. The expense, the return to the rat race and schedules and clock watching, the thought of all the traffic! Maybe we’re better staying home 🙂

As I turned over a new page on our calendar last week and realised it was the fourth such page turn we’d done while here, therefore we are over the three month mark I thought I should mark the occassion with a return to getting the others to talk about how they are feeling, what we have achieved, how life has changed. This is probably a more than one post sort of topic really and indeed Ady has yet to come up with his contribtution but I can share Dragon and Star’s words along with my own summing up of what has happened in our first quarter of a year here on Rum.

Bad – The static move. I didn’t like it, it was too much stress for everyone. Just not very nice.
Good – Everything! I love having animals and experiencing all the different weathers and being part of the community.
Learnt – Loads from Mike (Ranger), lots about biodiversity and loads about different plants and animals like lungwort, maidenshair spleen wort. Learnt about red deer on Rum and bookbinding with Claire.

Bad – The static move was the only bad thing. It was horrible moving it with Daddy stressing.
Good – getting animals, especially the geese arriving.
Learnt – Loads on Rum. Jewellry making with Mumma for craft fayres to make money. Lots from Mike about nature, stuff from Claire about bookbinding and doing Teashop, doing shop stuff with Jinty, learning about Craft Shop with Fliss (can you tell she is spending lots of time with different adults?!)

I’ll post up Ady’s and mine in another blog soon.

I’ve been revisiting our original business plan, written way back last December at the end of our WWOOFing adventure on the basis of a 3 hour trip to Rum. At the time it felt like a useful exercise in spilling out all our hopes and dreams and trying to fit them into neat little boxes. To be honest it still feels rather like that and on a tough day it can feel like the whole mountain is all still infront of us to climb with no clear path and no suitable footwear or kendal mintcake in our rucksacks. We don’t have many tough days though really and frankly the view of that mountain is so breathtaking we console ourselves with it’s beauty instead!

But a quick round up of what we have already achieved in those three short months won’t go amiss…

Livestock. We have a cockerel (Dave), ten hens (I’ve lost track of the names but I know they include Mrs Nesbitt, Mumma, Chip, Pecky and Ginger) – one of whom is currently sitting on three eggs due to hatch this weekend, five ducks (again I’ve lost track of names), a goose and a gander – Margo and Jerry. We have our pigs Tom and Barbara (who have definitely been practising at being a breeding pair so maybe wee piglets will be with us before too long) and of course Bonnie the dog who is more pet than livestock.

This was all challenging, involving sourcing the livestock, getting it here (both here to Rum as in on the ferry etc. plus getting it from the ferry to the croft, specifically for Tom and Barbara who could not be carried along the rough track in boxes like the birds were). It also involved putting up fencing, creating houses / shelter, making feeders, digging ponds / wallow pits and coping with the inevitable mud that so many pairs of tiny feet create in wet weather.

Getting our home onto the croft. Again those six words can never quite sum up what a challenge that was. But look, here it is 🙂

Our house, on our hill, on our land. With the most amazing, breathtaking views in all directions. We watch Hallival disappear and reappear in cloud, sunshine and mists, we watch eagles soar over the peaks, gaze at stars as they twinkle in the inky black skies we are getting now the nights are drawing in and we have no light pollution, the moon wax and wane it’s way through it’s cycles, the sun climb high into the sky and then create shadows and gorgeous pink and orange skies as it sets away behind distant peaks. Our home with real beds, sofas, table and chairs, a shower, running water, our stuff around us once more.

We have made a start on living off grid, partly relying on modern technology – we now have internet, superfast speeds, mobile phone signal and I have just ordered a landline number using the broadband line. We have power in the shape of our petrol generator for running my Kenwood mixer for cake making, giving things a boost and seeing us through the darker days of winter. But we also have renewable, sustainable, greener energy by way of two large solar panels and inverters. We’re using 12 volt batteries which I know are not a green solution really but enable us to harness and store the free energy the sun chucks at us. We have the pigs electric fence wired up with a solar panel trickle charging it.

We have a rainwater harvesting set up on order and in progress and plans for various other water solutions in hand. We have a compost loo waiting to be ordered and a whole loads of exciting plans for projects including earth oven, solar cooker, solar showers and more.

We have become part of the community – we know who everyone is and they all know us too. We have had people round for coffee, beers, dinner. We have accepted favours and done them in return. We have helped and been helped. We are involved in weekly events such as the Market Day selling produce, we have crafts for sale, cakes for sale, eggs for sale. We are involved in community projects such as venison processing, events organising, community polytunnel. We have joined in with various community events including Beach cleans, ranger events, Jubilee celebrations, Midgefest, danced at ceilidhs and are part of in jokes and catchphrases. We have made friends, put down roots and feel properly involved in what is happening here with the community.

If I try and quantify the things I feel a bit sad about leaving behind when we stopped travelling it is adventure, possibility, new sights, sounds and experiences. When I round up our first three months and what a rollercoaster ride it has been so far and promises to continue being then I realise that 8 acres of our own and 8 miles across in each direction as an island is probably more than enough to wander for the time being.

Bring on the friends!

It’s been an odd sort of week ( is it only me who is put in mind of Arkwright doing his round up as the lights go down on Open All Hours when typing such a phrase?). We waved goodbye to Julie & co and theoretically had a lull between guests (mad week coming up, guests arriving on Wednesday til Friday, day trippers also coming on Wednesday and another set of friends coming on Friday for a week – social-tastic!) but have very much enjoyed being a bit ‘hosty’ to a couple of sets of potential crofters. Croft 2 – the other 2/3 of ‘our’ field is up for grabs in the current round of croft applications here on Rum. As newest crofters we have had various potential crofters come for chats or get in touch online which has been great. We are really excited at the prospect of neighbours, new friends and additional numbers for the community. We are in the luxurious position of having *no* impact on the decision making so are able to remain utterly subjective and have personal favourites within the array of potential applicants – both on and off island.

What we have most enjoyed though is giving people our take on Rum, on Crofting and on this lifestyle. A lovely slice of positive reinforcement for what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. The same applies to Home Education actually – a letter inviting us to make contact with the local education department of the council arrived within the last week and I have had a couple of conversations with people about education and our personal brand of it lately too. All very good for reaffirming our beliefs and committment to the way we do things here. Happy, healthy children with an innate curiosity and zest for life and learning, passions and interests, a really impressive ability to engage with people in a variety of situations and a reputation that precedes them for ‘being cool’. You know what – if I had that aged 38 I’d be proud, my kids have it aged 9 and 11. I can merely bask in their reflected glory – they are their own very amazing and awesome people but I might just snatch a wee bit of enabler credit 🙂

But back to Rum. This has been a good week for reminding us why we are here and love it so much. Ady has been doing a spot of Piermaster duty, seeing the big ferry in and out. I have been very embroiled in community stuff from Midgefest prep to baking cakes for the teashop,  manning the stand at the Produce Fayre, volunteering to take on stuff at the Residents Association Meeting, getting involved in Ladies Night (local women getting together socially after dark). We’ve had people up for dinner and enjoyed several putting the world to rights sessions. As I said to someone earlier this week, everyone here on Rum wears lots of hats, we are not defined by just one role. Personally I pull off mother, wife, Home Educator, cake baker. Midgefest Posse member, hostess, pusher of social opportunities, friend., crofer…. all while still trying to be a decent daughter, sister, sister in law, remote friend and my various other off island roles too. Most of the time I feel I do a half decent job  but like many other people I know a cloning machine might well come in useful if ever they are up for sale on ebay!

Exciting times – we are utterly cut off from the outside world really. News can take a day or more to filter through, The Olympics has brought home to us how remote we are without a TV as watching even a snippet has become an epic event. All that said we are throwing so much time and energy into making sure that we play our part in demonstrating how vital our community is that we seem to find little enough time for sitting down and checking emails, uploading photos, keeping the blog up to date etc. let alone slobbing out infront of the TV.

This weekend saw Rum’s first Midgfest – an intended annual event celebrating our smallest but most powerful Rum wildlife. We had kids crafts, ranger events, pebble painting, pinata, willow midge, parachute games, sea eagle spotting, barbecue and curry on offer at the teashop, a disco in the evening and plenty of bunting, flags and other fun and games. A fabulous day in the gorgeous sunshine with lots of community members participating and surprisingly few of the actual midges turning out to attend.

pebble painting and mask making at kids crafts

It’s the Midgecatcher! (some people know him as Ady!)

some of the fabulous painted pebble midges

raffle prizes – some top wins on offer

Midge pinata – fun for all the family!

We said the other day that just three months in this already feels more like home than anywhere else has ever done. Fantastic people, gorgeous scenery, living our dream as crofters, getting to grips with off grid and sharing our lives with friends old and new. What more could we possibly want?