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How low can you go?

Or life as a limbo dancing. As in we’re living in limbo but still dancing.

This week we learnt that our tenants are leaving our house back in Sussex next week. That rather throws our finances into a bit of a fix as it will mean we’ll be paying the mortgage for our house again. Oh the irony – while we live our off grid lifestyle with no bath, no shower, no central heating, washing machine etc we’ll be paying each month for a fully fitted house back in our old life we’re no longer living in!

They are leaving because the house is on the market, it is us that have effectively given them notice by trying to sell the house even though they were welcome to stay there til it sold. We’ve already dropped the price once and it’s been on the market for a few months now but with no real interest. I am ever hopeful (you know me, mistress of optimism!) that it being vacant will make it more attractive to potential buyers and have fingers firmly crossed for a speedy sale now. We’ve talked about the house a lot these last few days and have all four made our peace with the fact that it is no longer our home, just a house we used to live in once upon a time.

So as ever more uncertainty clouds our here and now with us trapped right here unable to move further forward with building a home or investing in the croft fully until the house sells and our capital is freed up we find ourselves desperate to move forward with things. I was taking to our neighbour this morning and we were discussing grants and subsidies and whether various hoops are worth jumping through. We discussed how living so close to nature means the spring makes you feel precisely like a coiled spring – full of promise and anticipation, expectation and the need to expend energy, make things happen and more things along. All around us buds are bursting into flower, seeds are sprouting, animals are pairing up and building nests or rearing their young. Life is starting over again for this year and it allows us to wipe the slate clean and do just the same – start afresh for this year, work out what we want to give birth to for this season and how we’re going to do it. Ideas are germinating, visions are clearing and the little things are begging for our attention.

It’s time to resign ourselves to some things being beyond our control and let them take care of themselves while we focus on the here and now, the stuff we can control, the bits we are in charge of.

So turn up the music, lower than rope and lets dance!

8

Crofters R us

Our first year done. Every month on the calendar marked off, every season survived, every birthday and annual holiday celebrated, every extreme faced, every emotion felt, every weather experienced, every challenge survived, every box ticked. From a bare field with thigh high reeds and rushes, boggy patches up to your knees in places, no water,…
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365

When we went off WWOOFing we took with us a bottle of fizz. We had a party just before we left Sussex and as is the norm with parties you get left with random bottles of alcohol afterwards. We had a few random bottles of post party drink plus the contents of our own drinks…
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Anniverary Eve Eve

A year ago tonight we were at friends in Sheffield. We parked outside their house many nights over the years – first in fuel paid company cars, then in Willow the campervan and finally in our Pajero and horse box. When we arrived in their cul de sac with the horse box we messed up the reversing with a trailer thing and had to un-hitch and re-hitch and drag it around by hand. A year ago today we were doing a big supermarket food shop trying to think of what we’d need and not be able to get on Rum. We were buying jerry cans ready to send off island regularly to get filled with red diesel or petrol. It all seemed such a novelty prospect back then, now it’s just a fact of our lives.

A year ago tomorrow we got up super early and drove from Sheffield to Fort William, collected Bonnie, drove back slightly south and stayed in a camping pod for our last night on the mainland. A new puppy, all our lives packed up in our horsebox behind us and the adventure of a lifetime all ahead of us. In some ways I can’t believe it’s already a year ago, in others it feels like a whole lifetime ago, almost as though that happened to different people rather than us. In many ways I guess it did – we are not the people who once lived in a house and had regular jobs. We’re not even the people who spent a year WWOOFing and living in a campervan. When you live somewhere like Rum, where the longest serving resident has still only been here a decade or so you are merely the person you are today – who you have been since you got here. It’s the shared experiences with the rest of the community and what you do right here, right now, today that make you who you are. It doesn’t matter what you used to do, who you used to be, what you once had. It’s a face value existence here where you can reinvent yourself and decide afresh what you want to do and how you want to play it.

We quite literally started with nothing a year ago, arriving to a bare field. On Saturday we celebrate a year since we arrived. For tonight I’m looking backwards to a year ago, come Saturday we’ll be looking forward and deciding what the next year will bring, where we’re going and which direction to head off in next.

3

More visitors and some rain

After eight dry weeks we have had almost 24 hours of solid rainfall. Accompanied by some very gusty wind. It’s south, south east in direction which is fairly untroubling for us on the croft or in the static although it does mean our bed gets rocked a bit, a slightly unnerving experience when you are trying to sleep in it!

We had more day tripping visitors yesterday, friends who have been with us at every step of the way on our adventures so far and ones we have missed dearly having not seen for a year. It was very special to share Rum with them yesterday and catch up over tea and venison sausages. They got a great 10 hour between boats overview of the island, the village, the croft, what’s happened over the last year and what we plan on happening next. It was all too brief and the only down side to the day was waving them off on the ferry yesterday evening.

No new birth or seeds popping their heads out of the ground news just yet and the rain has meant that Barbara Pig’s maternity pen is rather a mud bath so we spent the dry spells in between showers today collecting some strimmed reeds (ah the benefit of 8 acres of croft land which is mostly reeds is that you have ready made straw to strim and collect when it has been sunny and windy for weeks having turned the croft into a big field full of animal bedding. Who says we don’t have crops yet!) and throwing them into her pen. We chopped some wood and checked on the broody hen. We got all five duck eggs today so overnight penning of the ducks and drakes has proved the right move. Mice have been raiding our planted seeds and stolen all the sunflowers and some of the more tasty herb seeds so we need to pay some attention to the holes around the foot of the polytunnel and install some frames or staging inside to keep our crops off the ground – a next dry day job that one. I chopped lots of firewood so we have a few days supply incase the rain sets in.

We used the weather to give us a reason to take most of the day off though and watched a couple of films – War Horse and a re-watch of Nim’s Island which is a bit of a family favourite, ate popcorn and had a lovely Sunday roast. The weather has meant nobody walked the nature trails today so we’ve not seen anyone at all or left the croft. One of those days when the four of us was enough.

1

one minus eleven

A fabulous crofting day today. A fabulous day all round really. I meant to do a photoblog day when I realised it was April again and today would have been a perfect day to do so as it was all the very best bits of our lives here.

This morning Ady was off putting the finishing touches to a pen to keep the ducks in overnight. We are losing all five of the duck eggs each day (retail price at least 50 pence each) due to them roaming so much and ducks being a bit rubbish at laying their eggs in a consistent place plus the hoodies (hooded crows) being very shrewd about watching them and swooping down ready to grab them as soon as they have laid. So we’ve decided to pen them when they return to the croft for their evening meal and then let them loose to free range and swim up and down the river all day again once they have laid their eggs. Ady did make the pen last week and very successfully lured them all in with their evening feed then watched in dismay as they all just waltzed through the gaps in the fence he had assumed were too small for them to get through! So today he has staggered the fencing and put some netting over it and they are all safely in there tonight with high hopes of five freshly laid duck eggs tomorrow to put on the honesty tables for sale in the morning.

The honesty tables have already netted us over £20 since installing them five days ago – hurrah for produce selling from an unmanned shop front!

Meanwhile I was making dough for bread rolls for lunch, chatting to Dragon and Star while they breakfasted and clearing up the kitchen from having our new neighbour Gav over for dinner last night. We all reconvened for Popmaster at 1030am for a mid morning cup of tea and family pop knowledge challenge.

Then Dragon joined Ady down by the heap of potentially useful stuff we have acquired since moving here which includes pallets from Calmac ferries which were being used as bridges across the mud on the croft but as we have now hit week seven without rain and the croft is as dry as a desert are no longer required, various pieces of wood from the castle renovations, off cuts from various carpentry projects of other islanders, old fence posts rescued from being burnt, cast off tools and screws from people clearing out their workshops and sheds, a variety of plastic containers, buckets, dustbins, washed up fish boxes beachcombed after storms and a water butt that got blown across the croft and split, catering sized food containers from the castle kitchen and the teashop. Dragon got busy with the hammer, saw and some scrap wood and made two wooden swords for play duelling with Star. He has decorated them and bound the handles with garden twine for decoration and comfort. That was his morning’s work.

Star spent some time with Bonnie while I put down the black ground sheet matting in the polytunnel, carried across some fish boxes, collected some small stones to create drainage and carted across a bag of compost, gathered some seeds and a pen and some eggboxes and then she joined me for some sowing. We planted up two fish boxes with lettuces and other salad, one with spring and salad onions and Star sowed a load of herbs in old egg boxes.

Back to the house for lunch which was a feast of freshly baked bread rolls, leftover roast chicken, salad from last night, cheese and crisps and we were joined by neighbour Gav in an impromptu manner as he happened to appear as we were about to eat. Gav left and fellow Venison Processing Company director Neil arrived bringing some paperwork and venison business news so he joined us for cups of tea and chat on the sporran.

I then put the finishing touches to the Rum community monthly newsletter which I edit, replied to a couple of emails and we all walked down to the village together. I popped into the Community Trust office to set the newsletter printing (I had planned to stay but the printer was too slow for my busy day!) and Dragon and Star went home with Bonnie while Ady and I caught up with more fellow islanders for cups of  tea and chats at their house. These half hour social calls with visitors calling in at the croft or us popping down to the village to catch up are what makes Rum feel more like home than anywhere else I have ever lived I think. Everyone is a neighbour and a neighbour in the style of a soap opera where everyone is in and out of each others houses, involved in each others lives, helping and supporting and living alongside each other rather than exchanging brief nods at either end of a ten hour working day or arguing over boundary hedges and fences.

Back home again for Ady and I and the children rushed down to greet us. Dragon joined Star and I for a while sowing some chilli, pepper and tomato seeds in the polytunnel then he went off to help Ady get the animals fed and the ducks penned. Star and I sowed some herb seeds and plan to create a couple of herb spirals on the croft once they have taken – nothing beats freshly snipped herbs from just outside the kitchen door when cooking.

Barbara pig is definitely pregnant so we’ve been refresher reading the relevant pages in our pig keeping books and checking online accounts of other pig breeders. We already have new homes for at least four piglets, Dragon and Star want to keep the runt and we always planned to rear several for food for ourselves but that’s all a way off just yet anyway – don’t count your piglets before they’re born… On the subject of new life Star marked five eggs under a newly broody hen yesterday and she (the hen, not Star!) is still ferociously guarding them today so we’ll mark another five or so tomorrow and let her hatch them. Along with the additional geese and new turkeys hopefully on their way soon and fertilised duck eggs we should now be getting thanks to the drake and the duck pen hopefully it won’t just be our new seeds that mother nature lends a hand to getting productive and bountiful!

At 7pm (7pm!! A matter of a few weeks ago it would already have been dark for two hours by then!) Star
 and I closed up the polytunnel and came back up the hill where Ady was making the last cup of tea of the day (before wine o’clock is declared!). More bread dough, this time some for roasted garlic bread to go with dinner and some for three loaves to see us in morning toast and lunchtime sandwiches for the next couple of days and dinner of spaghetti bolognise. I can’t wait til the herbs, garlic, tomatoes and onions are those grown by us, not to mention the chorizo lacing the meaty sauce being from our own processed pigs one day.

On days like today self sufficiency and the Good Life feels but a hop, skip and jump (in the sunshine) away.

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To every season…

Sure I’ve had that title before on this blog. But the turning of the seasons and the pages of the calendar continue apace and we are now just days away from our first anniversary. What a year!! But I’ll save that for a specific anniversary post. Since last I blogged we’ve enjoyed our first two…
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