Banking the sunshine

Another unforecast day of sunshine today, the river is so low we’ll be starting to fret about our water supply soon! The wind turbine has seen no action but at least the solar panel is sucking some energy into the static.

Ady spent lots of the day being mechanics mate. The good news is the car is back in action, the bad news it is only restored to part working order. We will definitely need to find a replacement but of course that tends to be more complicated than in mainland land. We need a 4×4 , something with enough ground clearance to cross a river, it needs to be diesel and it needs to be very reliable. It does not need to be roadworthy, look nice or go more than 10mph! There is hope of a suitable vehicle on the grapevine, we’ll see if it comes good.

In the morning I caught up on emails, made two lots of dough – one for bagels for dinner, one for bread and rolls for the next couple of days, did some cheerleading / overseeing / assisting with some spelling on a poster Davies was making for a friend and a card Scarlett was making for another. They adore getting post – it makes them so happy when an envelope arrives on the ferry with their name on it but persuading them that they would get more mail if they sent more and that they get to be the bestower of that excited feeling when it is them sending things to their friends can be an uphill battle. I was telling Scarlett about how I had at least 5 pen friends when I was her age and used to get as much out of writing and sending the letters as I did from receiving them. For non- writing children, particularly in this internet age the simple joy of getting to know someone, sharing news and life stories by way of longhand on coloured writing paper stuck with a stamp seems to be some archaic idea from generations and generations ago, not just something their mummy did when she was a child.

We all had lunch and then deciding that the rain was not going to put in an appearance after all the kids went off to look for eggs  – none – all the birds have stopped laying for the winter I think – and exercise Bonnie who has fully recovered from whatever was ailing her and no longer has a limp. I knitted for a while,did sme reading and then went to do some tidying up in the polytunnel. I’ve done some organising, a little harvesting, a tiny bit of sowing and generally made our half look less abandoned. I experimented with some hanging baskets for strawberries and just enjoyed being in there without the company of any midges.

Ady arrived home in the car and brought me a cup of tea down to the polytunnel. I joined him in taking the car back up to the fork in the road (we tend to leave in there incase it rains and the river gets too high to cross and it is where any car in the village can get to easily to jump start us if we need it rather than a brave 4×4 driver).

I chopped up the three bags of firewood Ady had carried up the hill and then turned all the dough into dinner and bread.

How to make the wind stop blowing

Install a wind turbine, obviously!

It’s been uncharacteristically still for the last ten days… Rum local hero to the rescue on the car front, lending us a vehicle to get around, looking at the poorly Pajero and generally helping us out. Tomorrow Ady is playing mechanics apprentice and fingers crossed it may live to cross the river once more.

Davies and Scarlett had a letter from a friend in Monday’s post to say she is visiting for the weekend – hurrah! Much excitement at this great news, particularly as we thought we had waved our last visitors of the year off already.

I’ve ordered a selection of soft fruit bushes to fill the fruit cage including cranberries, raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, whitecurrants and rather excitingly a novelty honeyberry bush too. All paid for and will be on the way once they are in their dormant period and ready to transport.

We’ve decided on a site for our orchard and will mark it out on the next dry day we have. I have emailed a couple of Scottish apple tree suppliers for advice on varieties and we’ll work on a proper orchard plan. The next decision is to whether protect individual trees from the deer or to create an entire orchard cage area screened off. My initial feeling is to section off the whole area but we’ll do a price up of both options and see which comes out best.

After nearly 18 months of pig keeping and numerous pig moves we have finally cracked the perfect pig move technique. We used to just have them roaming for the half hour or so it took to set up a fence and lure them into the new fenced area which when it was just Tom and Barbara was fine as they follow the pig bucket anyway and are always more interested in hanging around us while we work, chat to them and scratch behind their ears than heading off on adventures. But with six pigs the lure of a whole island to discover is greater than a handful of pignuts and it took us *hours* to get all of them in last time we moved them.  So we have invested in extra posts and developed our new, patent pending Nic & Ady Croft 3 Pig Moving Grand Plan which basically entails extending the pig pen on one side, wiring it all up, making it live and then cutting the middle section of fence and removing it giving them a double size pen. When it is time to move them more we will just ushed them to the newer side, reinstate the dividing wall using the spare posts, move the other three sides round to extend it, wire it all back in and cut the divide again. This will give them a larger pen comprising half new grass and half old which gives them wallow mud on the older side and allows them to fully dig up everything plus fresh ground to root on and feed on to supplement their twice daily pig feed. Result! We are very pleased with ourselves 🙂 Hurrah for living and learning.

Davies the driver

Untitled by nicgee

Davies’ birthday present from a fellow islander was a drive around the village on the Rum Shuttle, an electric golf buggy which provides Rum’s visitors with a taxi and luggage delivery service from the pier to the village and all around. Davies did a cracking job of mastering stop, go, steering and avoiding potholes. He has a provisional licence and approval to have another go on the buggy. Top birthday gift 🙂

Best laid plans….

We had a fair weather and a wet weather plan for this week. The start of the week has the best weather so we should have been out moving the pigs to the next plotted area and constructing a tree cage for our planned orchard today.

Except when we looked at the pig moving we decided that with six pigs it is no longer feasible to have them roaming for the half hour or so between dismantling the old fence and setting up the new one. When it was just Tom and Barbara it was fine as they mostly hung out with us anyway and then went into the new pen with the lure of a handful of pig nuts. But with the four piglets too it is mayhem and chaos and needs further planning. So we have ordered some extra posts and have a plan to extend the pen and then take out the divide.

I did some more research on apple trees for our orchard and learnt mostly that we need to do more research! If we’re going to spend over £100 on 8 trees then we need to be sure they are the right trees for here and do all the proper preparation work for the arriving, including working out the best location and constructing a deer proof area for them. I have sorted out stock for the fruit cage though and have a selection of raspberry, blueberry, cranberry, white currant, gooseberry etc arriving to add to the stock of raspberry, gooseberry, blackcurrant and red currant already in there. That will have it fully stocked and hopefully fruiting for 2014.

After lunch of a using up the last of the veg before today’s order arrived soup (red onion, carrot, sweet potato, ginger) and fresh rolls Ady and I headed down to the village to put a wash on. The car is almost officially dead and so we had to come back a couple of hours later carrying our fruit and veg for the week, a full load of washing and various things from the freezer including 4 pints of milk, a pack of butter and some cheese. My head hurts from carrying the veg box on my head after Ady insisted it was the correct way. We struggle to survive without a vehicle and given we have a huge delivery of animal feed, compost and fence materials arriving later this week which would take us about 12 hours of hard labour to carry to the croft from the pier I am hoping we can get this sorted asap.

It is times like these when there is no breakdown cover or mechanic we know who can do a good bodge job that we curse that chunk of sea between us and the mainland. Well that and our own lack of mechanical know-how.

Roaring stags, twinkly stars, skies on fire

More pictures than words these last few days, unlike me I know.

We’re enjoying a last burst of summer here on Rum with t shirt weather days although we’re getting hot water bottle nights thanks to the same clear skies. Clearly the way to reduce the winds on Rum is to install a wind turbine – it’s barely turned in days. Fortunately the solar panel is getting a good whack of power demonstrating once again that spreading your bets is the best approach in all things, power included.

We’ve been busy making the most of the fine weather, getting more firewood up the hill, chopped and stacked, the raised beds weeded, a small amount of garlic planted for an autumn sowing, some general tidying up and a final bramble pick of the season.

I’m waiting on some paint to arrive to do something creative with the old freezer / new produce cupboard / smallest farm shop in Scotland and have been trawling the internet for inspiration.

We have a list of fine weather jobs for the next few days: move the pigs (well open out their enclosure to include a new patch of land, the outline of which is already strimmed, we just need to set up the fence), move the barbecue to a less exposed area next to the horsebox, put a tarp over the exposed firewood stash, make a fruit tree cage ready to plant fruit trees we’re about to order. And a list of wet weather jobs: Clear out the polytunnel and do some autumn / winter sowings, get some soft fruit bushes and some fruit trees ordered (this month’s investment of funds is fruit trees and bushes to stock our newly created cages ready for next year) – this is the time to order and plant them and we have an excellent book
which lists specific varieties which should do well for us so we’ll refer to that to help us make our choices. We want to plan out next years planting generally including the polytunnel, the raised beds and some fodder crops for animal feed too which is an indoors with cups of coffee job for a rainy day. We have various other paperwork-based tasks to crack on with when the weather stops us from being outdoors too and the forecast tells us that will be happening later this coming week.

But for now we’re enjoying the sun while it lasts, safe in the knowledge that it’s only a matter of time before the wind turbine spins round and round and gales blast us and make the walls rattle once more.