Taking stock is something we do a lot. It has been a regular way of life for us in our family since the beginning – infact I think it may have always been something I do, which goes some way to explaining my serial job hopping in my younger days – evaluate, if something is lacking do something to find a solution. Our parenting and educational provision style has always been based on checking whether what we are doing is working or not and reshaping to fill the gaps while casting out what was superfluous.
In many ways our 2 years here on Rum have been slow moving. We have not had the injection of start up cash we anticipated and we have been faced with countless unforseen challenges along the way- not least our own ignorance and naiievity at what might be done when. There have been many times over the last two years when we have looked at what we have achieved and found it lacking when compared to what we had anticipated happening.
That said we have been looking at what we have here now two years on and are feeling pretty proud of what we have done. From a bare field at the end of a very rough track across a river two years ago I sit here tonight in a static caravan which was dragged down a hill, along that rough track, across that river and up the muddy hillside. It took helpers from all over our island and the neighbouring one, equipment borrowed and begged from both islands and the helping hands, manpower, machines and collective ingenuity of many folk to make that happen. It will never move from here in one piece and has had many modifications and improvements over the two years not to mention bourne the brunt of our famous weather but it’s been our home and will hopefully house many more folk over the coming years.
That field of reeds and rushes, overgrown and boggy is now criss crossed with actual green grass – a result of grazing from our animals, strimming from us and cutting and harvesting some of the rushes for animal bedding. From a distance the croft finally looked worked and improved and green. There are paths and tracks and areas we have made good. The pigs have now worked their way across the entire bottom third of the croft from east to west leaving behind improved ground, with better drainage and trodden in compost. We have dug ditches, oh so many ditches and the land is beginning to drain.
We now have a walled (fenced) garden with 20 raised beds. They are not all planted, infact some of them are still awaiting a layer of mulch and filling with soil but some of them are growing crops – next year they all will be. There is the start of a compost heap and a tin bath for rainwater harvesting. The beds are netted with coppiced willow and hazel arches and the fence is constructed with brash gathered from the croft and surrounding woodland. All of the wood for the raised beds was repurposed, for free, from old building projects on the island and reclaimed pallets – even the nails holding them together were re-used.
We have a huge fruit cage (which is about to be extended) made from reclaimed metal panels. It houses loads of soft fruit and several fruit tress, many of which were gifts and all of which are doing really well and starting to bear fruit, leaves and blossoms. We have plans to double this space in the next month or so and plant up further fruit trees, particularly apples.
We are currently the only users of the community polytunnel which is sited on our croft. We have made full use of this, while keeping everything in containers ready to squeeze back into a smaller space should anyone want to make use of the space. It’s looking fantastically productive in there for the second year running with peas, strawberries, tomatoes, chillies, peppers, cucumbers, salad leaves galore and stacks of herbs all doing really well.
Our animals are all happy and healthy and the pigs, chickens, ducks and geese have all bred with varying degrees of success. We have eaten chicken, turkey and pork / bacon from our own animals and sold eggs from all the birds along with a couple of turkeys, bartered and swapped meat and experimented with bacon and other pork products. We’re starting small and have bigger plans for the future including goats and bees but for now are doing pretty well at the rearing and breeding.
Our infrastructure has gone from zero to a pretty impressive level, particularly given we knew nothing of such things before landing here. In our first year we sorted out a water supply to the static – we have today run piping down to the polytunnel off that supply and now have a hose with water trigger gun for watering the polytunnel.We have a compost loo installed in our horse box, various buildings and stores and animal houses, all built with cobbled together materials. We arrived with a generator but learnt as we went along by experimenting with alternative technologies and now have three solar panels, a bank of batteries, a small wind turbine, two invertors and a whole host of rechargable and solar powered gadgets and lighting. We run our electric pig fence, all our lighting, our water pump, charge all our electronic devices, watch dvds and run our internet from these. On the rare overcast, still days in the summer and the short winter days we rely on one of our 2 generators for back up – they also run our washing machine once a week. We don’t have much in the way of home comforts but it’s a pretty good set up that meets most of our needs – again done on a very small budget from scratch.
The road ahead paved with all the things we still want to do, intend to achieve and route to all our dreams, hopes and ambitions is still long and curves way out of view but it’s good to look behind every once in a while and see all we have made happen and made work.