Rainbow Week

But none of our days were black.

We had some red – plenty of red wine used in the salami making, loads of shiny ruby red cranberries went into our six jars of cranberry and orange sauce we made yesterday ready for Christmas (but tested today with roast chicken and several set aside for gifts, the rest will go with our hams).

Orange – not just orange, but pinks, yellows and streaks of all colours across the skies every morning for sunrise and every evening for sunset. This time of year we get a breathtaking show twice every day as the sun announces coming and going – a mere six hours apart – each day.

There was yellow – there are gorse flowers still blooming all around the island reminding us that the burst of spring flowers are never that far away.

Green – green shoots on the garlic which I finally managed to get in the ground in a very late cutting it awfully fine for autumn sowing.

Blue, blue skies. I have not had to wear a coat yet, t shirts are the order of the day inside and twice this week have been stripped down to outside too. It is crazily mild for the last week of November and while I am worried about just what the implications of this global warming wise are, I can’t help but celebrate every day which is not wet, windy, grey or dismal at this time of year.

Indigo are the night skies – once it is dark it is properly dark. Inky blue skies pricked with stars strewn across them like someone dropped a tub of glitter on a dark carpet. The longer you look up the more you see, like one of those magic eye pictures where the depth just keeps getting more intense. You don’t leave the house without a torch at this time of year because you never quite know what might delay you coming home and without a torch you’d be struggling to navigate.

Violet, well okay I’m going to cheat here just because rather than the colour I have been drinking in the taste of violet. Inspired by some delicious liqueurs we had in a cool restaurant in Norwich when we were off on our cob course earlier this year I bought some cinnamon and violet natural flavourings and have been making some gorgeous alcoholic drinks with them. In theory I am testing to check them before I decant some into pretty bottles as festive gifts, in practise I may have to get some more vodka to make more because the bottom of the bottle seems to have come up rather quickly! In my defence I did have help drinking them and we have had many things to be toasting the last week or so.

So, December tomorrow. Christmas is very much coming. We have dug out our decorations and plan to go and find a tree this coming week although it won’t go up until next Sunday, as Scarlett’s birthday is on Saturday and we don’t put the decorations up until after that. But the Christmas cake is feeding nicely with regular drams, the Christmas tunes have been dug out ready to start playing from tomorrow, the cranberry sauce and pickled onions have been made and jarred this week, the Christmas ham is in the freezer awaiting glazing and baking and the Christmas turkey has been identified and is now penned and feeding very regularly.

It’s a far cry from the mainland madness I have been hearing about on the news. The times we feel lucky to be stranded way up here far from the crowds and craziness are frequent, this week they have been very often indeed.


Sausage and bacon

When we butchered the pigs last week we did various things with the three different animals. We took meat from the back and belly from all three to make bacon. We also created various roasting joints from all three – some went into the freezer to be used as pork, but some we held back…
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Living the dream…

I’ve always thought our children have a near perfect childhood. That when they reminisce, all halcyon tinted nostalgia they won’t actually be glossing over all that much. They have always had the luxury of time – time from us and time for them to do the things that really matter to them. As someone who…
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What a week!

It’s been an amazing seven days. From the slaughter, butchering and preserving of our pigs at the start of last week for the first time independently. We have had roast pork, bacon sandwiches, pork stir fry, pork in ginger sauce. On Wednesday we are spending the day making sausages and salami. Midweek we were firewood…
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Too old for this?

When we told my parents that we were going to buy a campervan and spent a year traveling the UK my Dad said to me ‘But really, Nicola, you are too old for this. You should have done this in your twenties…’

In many ways he was right. I don’t deny that a part of what sent us off on crazy adventures was probably a repressed urge to be crazy that I bottled up in my twenties when instead I was paying a mortgage, working full time in stressful jobs, pretending to be a grown up.

But then if we’d done this then we either would not have had the kids, or would have delayed having them, or not had sufficient crazy in us to be the parents we are to them. And taking an 8 year old and a 10 year old off on the WWOOFing adventure was the perfect age for them. They remember it so well, will always remember it, it formed such a big part of who they are. And moving here with them aged 9 and 11 was also perfect – they had enough mainland memories of urban life, access to museums, art galleries, 24 hour supermarkets, zoos, cinemas, group activities, scouts and guides, family and friends, camping trips, sitting in traffic jams on motorways – to sustain them through the lean times of island life not offering those things. To allow them to compare and contrast, to see where this life is lacking but also where it makes up for the deficits.

We were talking the other day about life expectancies. About how at 40 I am hopefully not even half way through my life, about how I still have so many more ideas, dreams, hopes, ambitions. But of course the truth is that at 40 there are things which are probably outside my reach now. A day of hard physical work takes a toll and there is no hot bubble bath to soak tired muscles at the end of a long day here in our current life.

There is a line in the fabulous poem by Mary Schmich, the Baz Luhrmann version of which I listen to at least once a week, which says:

Enjoy your body, 
use it every way you can…don’t be afraid of it, or what other people 
think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own

I could drink less wine, eat less food, find numerous ways to fit into a smaller size of jeans. But this week my body has done amazing things – slaughtered and butchered pigs to feed my family, offered cuddles, kneaded bread, chopped firewood, walked up and down that croft hill carrying things to and fro.

For now, and it may only be fleeting, and there are often times when I sigh to myself and my Dad’s words of wisdom ring in my ears, I am using my body to do precisely what it is able and it’s just the age to manage it.


Project Pig 2014 complete

After a very smooth first day on Sunday we have processed a pig a day and now are back to just Tom & Barbara again with the three piglets from this years litter now in the freezer, in our tummies, or in containers dry curing or soaking in brine.

We have over 50kg of meat, a combination of large and small roasting joints to see us through the whole of the next year, kilos and kilos of curing cuts of bacon, pancetta and lard-ons, gammons and hams soaking in brine, spare ribs ready for barbecues next year, lean pork strips for stiry frying, heart, livers and kidneys bagged up ready for making pate, a huge bag of over 4kg of meat waiting for salami and chorizo skins to arrive and another big bag of nearly 5kg for mincing and sausage making.

It’s been a very exciting three days doing it all ourselves and today having watched Ady do it twice I did the third pig myself, which was both scary and made me feel very proud. As a confirmed meat eater I am very pleased to have actually done the deed myself. It was quite a big deal and once I’d done it I did have a little cry (having hidden my feelings prior to the act, not wanting to create any atmosphere of stress around the pigs).

Davies did not want to watch the actual slaughter but came and watched all of the gutting and skinning and found it very interesting, getting gloved up and involved in it all. Scarlett prefers to come and see once it looks more like meat but she brought us a cup of tea once she decided it was a ‘safe’ point to visit.

Tom & Barbara are luxuriating in all that space and food and it’s a relief both on the animal feed bill and with the approaching winter not to be taking smaller more vulnerable animals into the Rum wind and rainy season.

Now begins adventure in curing, brining, air drying, sausage making and charcuterie. Experiments, inventions and plenty of new skills and knowledge to acquire.


Pig 3

a.k.a Sausage Roll. Another landmark day here for us on Croft 3. Last year we successfully bred and reared our pigs (well the pigs themselves did most of it!) and earlier this year with help we killed, butchered and processed the meat. The friend who helped us with killing, skinning and butchering the pigs has…
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Yes I know, I celebrate way too many ‘versaries’ – moving to Rum, being told yes we had the croft, heading off WWOOFing in the first place… what can I say, we like celebrating! I realised earlier that it was about three years since we first came to Rum between ferries to view the croft…
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Cob on

We’ve had a fair bit of interest in coming and being part of the cob build already and I have written a couple of articles for various newsletters and magazines which will come out over the next few months and should drum up more. We already have a couple of people ‘booked in’, the ‘whiteboard…
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Living in a community like we do is both a privilege and a responsibility. When we were interviewed for our croft here on Rum one of the questions we were asked was what we could offer the community here. Our reply was that if we were to move to Rum and make our lives here…
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