When we moved to Rum we knew that it was going to be an all encompassing new life. We knew we would not be making trips back to the mainland very often – cost and the ties of our animals and crops back here on the croft would mean we were effectively tied to the island. With that in mind we were very aware that Rum would have to meet all our needs. We categorised them as Educational, Financial and Social. There are more of course but these are the main three.
In the spirit of taking responsibility and giving as much back as you expect to take we also knew that in order to ensure Rum could provide all of the above we’d need to be doing more than our bit to make it happen. As Home Educating parents and lifelong learners ourselves we are pretty good at seeking out educational opportunities and making the most of them. From identifying and anticipating our childrens earliest interests and finding the right resources to help them learn, be they books, films, experts, museums, workshops or day trips I have nearly 13 years full on, full time experience in tracking down and extracting every last ounce of worth in the name of education and learning. Rum has proven a rich and varied teacher for Dragon and Star with a variety of resident experts, field trips, case studies, willing people with skills to share both as fellow islanders and as visiting experts. We have been on pretty much every event the Community Ranger has held since we arrived, every wildlife watching boat trip, every lecture given by a visiting expert on newts, worms, geology. We’ve been to every ceilidh, community event, visiting musician’s gig, spent time at the school, extracted every book of interest from the tiny library, been on the castle tour more times than I can count, talked to the deer researchers, the reserve officers and learnt about all the various small businesses, arts and crafts on the island. The kids attend Junior Ranger, art classes, have music lessons lined up, have been to bird ringing sessions, watched the red deer rut live, are booked up to take part in seal and shearwater surveys and help socialise the Rum ponies due to be born in the next month.
On top of that all four of us have learnt more in this least year than I think any of us have every learnt before. We know about solar power, plumbing, compost loos. We have learnt about pig keeping, breeding and rearing, about geese and turkeys (we already knew about ducks and chickens), about pest control (still a work in progress), about off grid living, about polytunnel growing (a new one on us), permaculture, island living. We’ve learnt about butchering and processing deer, winkle picking. I’ve learnt about building, grant funding, being a director, social enterprise, community interest companies, trusts and charities. We’ve learnt about island living, small scale politics, being part of a community, living close -oh so close – to nature.
Financially Rum is on track to provide. Our business plan is pretty much on track with our birds producing enough eggs to cover the cost of their feed and more. Not only are the birds producing we also have a market – selling in the shop, direct to the B&B on island and from the croft gate honesty tables. Our salad is selling as are our jams and preserves. Crafts are going slowly but surely from the Craft Shop in the village and I expect to do well at the Market Days through the summer. We have bred our pigs and sold half the litter. Livestock and crops are all performing pretty much where we’d have hoped they may be as we go into Year Two. We’ve a way to go but the potential is all there, we can make our living here long term.
Which leaves socially. We have friends here, good friends. Friends who care about us and know when we are struggling and try to help us through. We regularly have people up to dinner or for coffee. Rarely does a day go by when we don’t see someone from the village either by calling in down there or by having visitors up here. But the big gatherings, the intimate chats, the people we have shared history with and can just hang out with knowing they know us and we know them and we all just get each other is missing. With time I hope it will come, with greater numbers of residents it will improve, once we are more established on the croft with better accommodation we will be better placed to have guests to stay and that will make a huge difference. To have other kids to run properly wild and free with Dragon and Star, to add new dimensions to their games, to help build camps, have adventures, really use this space – we are crying out for that. To sit surrounded by friends as we so often used to on camping trips, group get togethers, annual parties at friends, group holidays, weekend trips is a feature all too lacking in our life here. We have tried, really tried to replicate some of that but with just 40 people here, not all of whom want to socialise with each other anyway it is often a lost cause. There are times when we briefly capture that social life we are craving but it is fleeting and elusive and I don’t really know what more we can do to make it happen.
Social Needs – a sort of tick. It’s got potential and eventually we’ll be in a position to invite all our friends here and properly play host.
We’ve been debating our next move. Our house remains on the market without a buyer and until it sells we are capital-less to move forward with a permanent home here. We have plans, ever changing and evolving plans which in many ways has me relieved that we don’t have the money yet because we are still not definite about what we’d do with it anyway. We do know that another winter in the static would be a very tough one though and we need to have a back up plan. That is still a work in progress.
I’m currently learning about cob builds. I am very taken with some of the gorgeous small buildings I have seen in real life and on the internet and in books and am very keen to have a go at something similar. I have a plan to create a small building which could be a little farmshop on the croft to sell produce from. I am still at the research stage but would love to get something built this summer to see how it fares over the winter. I’ve just two weeks left at the school and then I am free to get cracking on it as a project. Who knows, maybe now we have the compost loo we could even take on a WWOOFer or two that is happy to bring their own tent and get some help with the project.
In other news the netted turkey enclosure seems to be keeping the wee turklettes safe – the crows continue to lurk but our headcount remains at eight. Bonnie is being a superstar at chasing the crows off, she knows they are the enemy! Dragon and Star spent time making bird scarers today out of old tent material so we’ll get them hung up to try and deter the crows too. Mrs Broody Duck continues to sit on her clutch of seven eggs. We hope the drake has indeed done his job and they are all fertilised, any ducklings will be super vulnerable so over the next week (we have two weeks before first hatch date, duck eggs take 28 days to incubate) we’ll get a pen super sorted to keep mother duck and babies safe from all predators.
The two cockerels are settled down together now – I’d like some more hens really. I’d hoped they would rear their own but we have no signs of a broody hen now. I’m debating an incubator vs buying in hens as I know all our eggs are fertilised. We need to keep our overall flock under 50 but are currently at in the mid 30s so have room there for another 10 or so easily.
The wee piglets are ready to leave Barbara really now, we’re keeping two to fatten and the other two are sold to our neighbours – the plan is to move them across in the next few weeks once they are ready for them.
Crops are going well, salad continues to sell, the herb spiral is looking healthy. We have transplanted some stuff from the polytunnel into the raised beds – pumpkins (which excitingly were from our own Halloween pumpkin back in 2009 – I’d dried and saved the seeds in an envelope and didn’t really expect them to germinate but they have), squash, gourds, courgettes and cucumbers. I also have a variety of beans to go out. We have some potatoes in two of the beds and some sweetcorn in another. After yet more crow action (they dug out the seed potatoes and were carrying them off, I’d not have believed it had Ady not seen them doing it) we have netted all of the beds with stuff in using some very cheap pea and bean netting and cages made from old tent poles from long dead tents. The fabric was what Dragon and Star were using for bird scarers – nothing gets wasted here!
The kids and I made elderflower cordial and elderflower fizz last week from harvested blooms. The coridal is delicious – I am planning to sell some, have some frozen and Star and I are working our way through the rest. The fizz is doing it’s thing and needs gas releasing every day but from licking my fingers after some of the bubbles gushed out of the bottle earlier today I reckon it’s going to be divine in two weeks when it is ready for drinking. We’ve been making the most of the return of the midges and set a load into resin today to make jewelry. I added a splash of yellow food colouring to make it a little amber-esque and plan to do a quirky poster about Rum midges to help sell them.