3

Round up of 2014

January

We saw 2013 out and 2014 with a visit from friends.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year


Then it was my birthday – 40.
1511298_10201223297972969_1964592408_n

995270_10201223278452481_892191955_n
We killed and processed the first piglet, rather unplanned at short notice as we were about to go off island and could not leave it as it was being attacked by Tom.

We had an epic trip back to MainlandLand, all the way down to the Eden Project for the Big Lunch Extras weekend, via friends and family. Finally met my new nephew, saw cousins and returned to Rum glad to be home and topped up on community spirit and lack of desire to live on the mainland!

Our second Burns Night which Rum always does so well – there were poems, singing, dancing, music, food and laughter.
15087_349555401850370_1868050362_n
We finally installed and got working a washing machine up on the croft, which was life changing!

February

I had a go at a spinning wheel and knitted my first sock!
1511738_10201445112198186_817253540_n
We began testing the ground here for suitability for cob building with various holes dug, sausage shapes made, bricks left to harden, shake in a jar tests and more.
1623707_10201405983900003_1539547310_n
We had a big tidy up in the polytunnel and I built some more raised beds.

We celebrated our ‘yesiversary’ – the day we were offered Croft 3, two years.
1899939_10201453727493563_1730478605_n

We had a cockerel cull, killing and processing some of the previous years hatchlings who were now fully grown and ready for the pot.
1912499_10201514753979187_816438364_n
We had a quick 24 hour trip to the mainland for a dentist trip – 24 hours away from Rum always feels like you have been away for at least a week!

We finally got our first glimpse of the northern lights – very excitingly the kids could see it from their beds and I could see it from the sofa, the stuff dreams are made of!

Our long ailing car finally gave up the ghost and died, marking the start of a really long period of being without a vehicle.

March

Chickens started laying eggs again, we lost a goose. Spring sprung. The polytunnel and raised beds started to wake up and things began sprouting. Barbara Pig was definitely pregnant and we killed the final pig of the 2013 litter and had a first go at curing bacon.

It was Mothers Day, daffodils and primroses were out everywhere.
13514587113_2ea7ef9870_z (1)
Two geese went broody, turkeys started getting fiesty and displaying and mating. Nature awoke.

The cast members on Rum shifted and changed with people leaving, moving on, new characters coming to if not fill their place at least carve a new space for themselves.
march

Clocks go forward day

Clocks go forward day

April

Our anniversary – two years here on Rum.

New life on the croft with Barbara Pig having her litter of piglets, the geese hatching a massive clutch of goslings.
april5

april4

Easter and the arrival of family to stay and the first influx of tourists to the island.
april2

april1
A friend gave us a car! The Rangerover which drinks petrol but is reliable, huge and gold! We love it.

May

The return of the midges. And the 10pm sunsets. And the weekly Sheerwater boat trips.

We lost all of the goslings to the ravens and the crows. The piglets thrived though.

Ady was 50 and we celebrated with a barbecue on the beach, without the sausages – Ady forgot to pack them! We blamed his increasing age!
14178152952_c2a432d794_z
may2

We had a 10 day trip off island and for the first time since moving here felt ready to go off. We managed to squeeze in a weekend with loads of friends at a party, time with my parents and a cob building course.

june 4

june3

june

June

Was a month of feet not touching the ground – our first ever WWOOFer, who overlapped with our second ever WWOOFer, another trip off Rum, this time to stay with friends and go to all four days of the Royal Highland Show which was fantastic and will definitely become a fixture of our year from now on. Ady and Scarlett returned north to Rum with a fairly epic car journey and night slept in the car while Davies and I had an even more epic journey south, via train, plane, tram and car, then back up again all the way home. It was a road trip with attitude! And netted us our second vehicle, a jeep from my parents.

june5

Somehow the summer solstice and the chance to put on a Big Lunch utterly passed us by in the chaos!

July

More birds arrived – turkeys and ducks. These will be the last birds we buy in as we are hoping to increase future flock size by breeding and rearing here.

Weekly Market Days did well for us on the jam front and Scarlett’s new candle business.

Weekly Sheerwater boat trips gave us many plenty of minke whale sightings, we celebrated various Rum folks birthdays. We had a week of amazing Shearwater experiences with an evening boat trip to watch the massive numbers of them rafting on the sea around the coastline of Rum before coming in to land for the night, a day time walk up the hill to do some volunteering burrow checking which involved sticking your arm into tagged burrows and pulling out the chick inside. Finally we had a night time trip up the hill, climbing way up to the burrows and then sitting in silence in the darkness as the shearwaters come in all around you, shrieking, landing, wings beating right next to you.
ly3julyjuly2
july10

july8

july7

july6

july5
August

We had a friend staying for the whole of August. We met Clara on our cob course and she came to spend a month here with us and became part of our family.
15056913185_a8b2f1fb42_z
We had a weekend on the neighbouring isle of Muck for the annual Small Isles games which they were hosting this year. Our first visit to Muck and we were very impressed. It is a tiny island, much smaller than Rum but with a similar number of residents. They were fantastic hosts and the games were a great mix of fun, sports, competitions and pure craziness. The food was delicious with plate after plate of fish farm salmon, home grown lamb burgers, salads and savouries followed by lashings of cake. Two ceilidh bands which had us all dancing til way into the next morning. And our first time back in a tent overnight since we stopped WWOOFing!
games
More Market Days and the odd few castle tours for Ady and I.

We finished the month by realising that if it was Back To School week in Scotland then it meant Scarlett would have been starting secondary school – so neither of the children had ever been nor ever would now go to primary school.

September

Davies’ 14th birthday, Ady and I celebrating our wedding anniversary, a lovely visit from the Southern branch of the Goddard clan, us finally building our cob pizza oven. The start of jam making, chutney making, drying flowers to make pot pouri, finalising house designs, the third Rum Blasda food bring and share communal meal. The final Sheerwater trips of 2014.
15108847079_3a86f4eed7_z
October

The red deer rut,
rutvisits from more family and friends, a hop off island to visit the dentist, a trip to Canna, a really really rough rollercoaster-equse trip back home to Rum.
oct
Loads more house planning and masterplan creating. More jam making and final foraging of the year.
Davies and Scarlett both learnt to ride bikes.

The annual Halloween party at the school, followed by further Halloween-ness at the hall. Ady was Death, I was Hell Girl, Scarlett was a vampire, Davies was a cowboy. The kids won the pumpkin carving competition.
DSCF0755
A swan appeared on Croft 3, slightly lost on it’s migration route. It ended up staying with us on the croft and even started to come down with the other birds for feeding time. It sadly didn’t make it through the winter but was quite a novelty for the time it was with us.

November

Was a triumphant month of pig slaughter, processing, butchering and curing. Our first experience of doing the whole thing ourselves, my own personal first kill, adventures in dry curing, brine soaking, sausage making, salami making and eating pig in a massive variety of ways.
links

meat
We did a lot of firewood processing – from chopping down trees, carting wood around the croft, chopping and stacking and dealing with a load of old rotten wood we have been given from restoration work happening on the island.

It was Bonfire night with fireworks down in the village. The weather was amazingly kind to us with blue skies, dry days, stunning clear starry starry nights, coat free days.

We began digging the houseplot and although progress has been slow with various other distractions taking us from that task it is fabulous to know we have broken ground.

Things were happening elsewhere on Rum with our neighbouring Croft having a friend working on the wee cabin over there and we assisted in getting not just water but hot water to the cabin which was a momentous feeling. I do love being a pioneer!

Davies and Scarlett had an adventure with a woodcock they saved, photographed and released.

December

We did lots of house plot digging, had the Christmas Fayre and mince pie contest. We celebrated Scarlett’s twelfth birthday. Both Davies and Scarlett felled their first tree (Davies’ is our Christmas tree, Scarlett’s is the tree in the village hall).
christmas tree

We had various Rum festive celebrations including nativity play. kids Christmas party, Christmas Eve mulled wine and mince pies, Christmas Day fizz with Rum folk, Boxing Day leftovers bring and share meal. We had cancelled ferries and milk shortages and needed to share parsnips around.

We end the year tucked up against the elements in our static caravan atop our muddy croft hill. The year in which I turned 40, Ady turned 50, we celebrated 21 years as a couple, 15 as Mr & Mrs Goddard, 14 as parents. A year filled with love, laughter, learning, friends, celebrations and plenty of singing and dancing. We love our lives, thanks for sharing a slice of it with us.

hny

3

Bad, Good, Learnt in 2014, hopes for 2015

Ady

Bad
1. I feel we have not made as much progress this year as I would have liked, we have become a little complacent about things. Areas such as power, compost loo loo etc have not really progressed – we found a certain level of comfort in these areas and stopped moving forward.
2. I feel this year there has not been as strong a community feel to the island as when we first arrived here. Several key people have left the island during this year and the hole they left has not really been filled.
3. We didn’t do as well on crops as I’d have hoped. We could have done more to improve this but didn’t manage to.
4. We have still not explored the island as fully as I would like, there are lots of places here on Rum that I want to see.
5. We are still in the static!

Good
1. We have had a whole year of really good health – no colds, no sickness or general illness.
2. The Royal Highland Show in June was a real highlight of our year. The Small Isles Games was another great weekend and the couple of other times we left Rum for trips back to the mainland were all really good. The novelty of mainland life is so far removed from our day to day existence here.
3. Doing the pigs. It felt as though we had truly achieved self sufficiency in rearing and processing the piglets ourselves.
4. We have been really on top of firewood this year and have never needed to ration it. Having a chainwsaw has helped a lot, as has keeping it regularly topped up.
5. Feeling like an established, accepted member of the community. It’s great to feel you fit here and know how things work.

Learnt
1. That if something isn’t working then you need to move on and not waste too much time and energy on trying to make it work. Don’t flog a dead horse!
2. Car Mechanics – still very much Rum style rather than anything I could do back on the mainland but I have a far greater understanding of how cars work and the confidence to try and fix things.
3. About cob – we attended the course, built the cob pizza oven, have started digging for the houseplot and believe in it as a viable building option for us.
4. About pig processing. Along with more venison processing I feel I have really mastered butchery and processing.
5. I have learned loads about Kinloch castle having worked doing tours and at the hostel this year.

Hopes
1. A cob house build.
2. More produce – hopes that the crops perform better.
3. Sheep – I would like to start keeping sheep on the croft.
4. A bath!
5. Better survival rate for pigs litter with more reared to slaughter age.

Ady’s special bonus hope – to see the Northern Lights do a really spectacular coloured display.

Davies

Bad
1. That we are still not in a house.
2. I have not done as much Bonnie training as I’d hoped.
3. I didn’t expand my postcard business as much as I’d hoped to.
4. We didn’t do any fishing this year. I loved fishing in previous years.
5. Ranger Mike left Rum. I miss him :(

Good
1. I have not felt lacking in time with friends this year. Going to the mainland for a party and having lots of visits has been good. I have actually made friends since we have been on Rum with children from the other Small Isles and regular visitors to the island.
2. The Royal Highland Show visit was a great part of my year.
3. We got two new cars and they work really well.
4. I managed to tick off several lifelong wishes including going on a plane and learning to ride a bike.
5. I can now read really well and read loads including online research in my interests.

Learnt
1. How to ride my bike, which is fantastic as I have had that on my list of things to learn for years.
2. So much more about Shearwaters from all the stuff we did with them this year including the burrow checking, night time walk up Hallival and boat trips.
3. I have learnt about researching and finding stuff out online. I am really interested in conspiracy theories and mysteries and have been learning loads about that on my tablet.
4. I learnt a tiny amount (Davies actually called it the ‘tip of the iceberg’) about butchery from the bit I watched Mummy and Daddy doing with the pigs.
5. I learnt loads from the Rum lectures this year – particularly Jed’s geology talk and Steve’s history of chess.

Hopes for 2015
1. To learn and be a big part of the house build. Learn about cob and building.
2. Expand my postcard business.
3. Train Bonnie to herd to my command.
4. As a family explore more of Rum than we did this year.
5. To be part of a gathering of our friends back on the mainland again in 2015.

Davies’ extra bonus hope for 2015 – to see more red deer rut action – I’d like to see the antler clashes.

Scarlett

Bad
1. We lost loads of our birds offspring – goslings, chicks, the chuckling.
2. Humphrey the hamster passed away.
3. It’s a shame we are not living in a house.
4. Lots of our friends left Rum and don’t live here any more.
5. I didn’t raise any ducklings.

Good
1. I have a successful business with my candlemaking. I really enjoy making the candles in the first place and they sell very well.
2. That when our washing machine broke down we were able to re-use it and turn it into a chicken house. This was also the only place that we bred birds which survived.
3. Lots of friends have come to visit us again this year.
4. I really enjoyed the Royal Highland Show.
5. A brilliant year for wildlife experiences ; amazing minke whale sightings, lots of dolphins, some fab shearwater stuff, lots of eagles, lots of red deer.

Learnt
1. I learnt lots at the Rum lectures – particularly Ali’s red deer talk and Nicola’s elephants and baboons of Tanzania.
2. I learnt how to ride a bike.
3. Lots of shearwater stuff. Doing the burrow checking and the nighttime walk to the colony – I learnt loads from Lesley about shearwaters.
4. I learnt loads from the Hebridean whale and dolphin trust people that came over to do a talk. They identified a dolphin skeleton that we found and taught us lots about cetaceans.
5. I have mastered the art of candle making properly and really understand how it works.

Hopes for 2015
1. That I hatch ducklings as pets.
2. I would like to have a house.
3. I hope our birds do better at rearing young.
4. I enjoyed helping with the pig processing – sausgage, bacon, gammon, salami etc and would like to do more of that next year.
5. I’d love to see a basking shark, sunfish or leatherback turtle or orca.

Scarlett’s special bonus hope for 2015 – I hope to do more cooking with my Mummy

Nic

Bad
1. Obviously I have to say my top bad, like everyone else’s is that we are still here in the static, still too much at the mercy of the elements and still without a bath.
2. The pace. Nearly 3 years in I am slowly learning to accept the slow pace of life on Rum and indeed in working land / keeping animals. I don’t think it will ever not frustrate me to some degree though, I am definitely by nature more of an instant gratification kind of girl.
3. Low points this year were definitely not getting the bunkhouse manager job (although retrospectively we are relieved, at the time it was a very testing period) and my increasing frustration with the community not all sharing a common vision for moving forward.
4. We still rely on mechanical things to take us over a very basic level of comfort, existing for a couple of months without a vehicle, the washing machine breaking down, strimmer not working, technical issues with the wind turbine etc. I’m not sure whether my bad is our reliance on them or that they are at times unreliable but I know that when we have been without something is massively impacts on our already at time challenging day to day lives.
5. Although we had a lot more times with friends this year I still miss having regular access to an afternoon or evening in the company of really close friends.

Good
1. I left Rum seven times this year – for our trip to Eden for Big Lunch Extras, for our cob course, to go to the Royal Highland show, to visit Muck for the Small Isles games. We also had two brief trips off to the dentist and once for just me to the hospital. The trips included hiring cars, plane trips, train and tram and of course the ferry. We caught up with loads of family and friends we had not seen since we left Sussex, made it all the way back to Sussex, met my nephew and closed the great chasm of a gap which had opened between our lives here on Rum and the ‘real world’ back on the mainland. I think we had needed that space and perspective in order to properly settle here and make this our home. It was good to revisit and realise it’s all still there and nothing has changed.
2. The pig processing this year has been a massive victory. The first two pigs gave us our first experience in curing and this years piglets killed at the end of the year by us gave me my first kill, our first solo butchering and processing adventure and netted us a massive 50kg of meat in the freezer including sausage making, wet and dry curing and our salamis still hanging to cure.
3. My first paid writing work. Published twice in a magazine, some more writing work done for nothing to support a couple of publications I really believe in. I really get to consider myself a writer as 2014 comes to a close. A huge personal ambition realised.
4. Hosting volunteers – having our first WWOOFers and long staying guests was excellent. It gives me confidence that we will be able to tackle big projects which need lots of willing hands and thrilled to know we offered the same sort of learning and different experience and adventure that we had while we were WWOOFing ourselves.
5. Friends old and new. We have made some amazing friends over the years. It is fantastic to know so many of them are prepared to make the epic journey to visit us here and support us. Friends we have made here on Rum, some of who have moved on but stayed in touch, some of whom are regular visitors to Rum but don’t actually live here and of course the fellow Rum residents who make up our friends, neighbours and community are always a highlight of my every year.

Learnt
1. Cob building. Not as much as I am hoping to learn next year but certainly more than I knew at the start of 2014
2. How to knit socks. One of those skills which always looked rather like black magic to me and was never replicable from books or pattern. But thanks to a new friend spending time with me I mastered it. I also started learning how to spin but don’t consider that properly learnt by a long way yet. I have two and a half pairs of socks to show for my sock skill so can claim it!
3. Pig processing. I had long wanted to do the actual deed of killing an animal and did it – both the pulling the trigger and the slitting the throat. Massive skill and personal hurdle in doing so overcome.
4. Some new tech skills. Thanks to a new chromebook which I had to get my head around using, changing hosting for my blogs and email and an unexpected glitch in the changeover necessitating rather more input from me than I’d expected.
5. About investing in the future. I had a real wobble earlier this year about things not happening and progress being obvious. I sit here at the end of this year having learnt that sometimes the stuff below the ground, the invisible foundation laying is more important than the showy ostentatious things. This year we have planted trees which may take several years to fruit, built raised beds and a fence around at area which didn’t yield much in crops this year and may not do much next year either but five years from now will hopefully be an established allotment.

Hopes for 2015.
1. A cob house. A home for our family by the end of the year. With a bath.
2. An adventure. I really want to end 2015 feeling we have achieved something other than simply surviving. The cob house is an ambitious project which will require working with people we don’t even know yet, finding a path through all sorts of challenges we have not even considered yet. I am looking forward to that either working out against all the many odds stacked against it, or giving it our very best shot and deciding to try something else completely different. This year has not felt as risky and crazy and seat of our pants and I think us four thrive on that.
3. More livestock successes. We are hoping to have another litter of piglets, acquire some sheep and that our bird stock breed and rear successfully.
4. More writing work. I know this coming year is shaping up to be pretty busy and full of things already but I would love to do some more writing in various places.
5. I hope new people move to Rum and fill some of the gaps left by the people who have moved away over the last two years. More dreamers, more doers, more crazies, We need more of all of them!

and my bonus hope for 2015 – to see an orca or basking shark or the northern lights or the stags clashing antlers. Basically I hope everyone else’s special bonus hopes come true :)

0

Image a month for 2014

January

1607080_349554448517132_726039002_n

Burns Night – always my best event here on Rum

February

1899939_10201453727493563_1730478605_n

Celebrating our Yesiversary. Two years since we were told ‘yes’ when we were interviewed for our croft.

March

Clocks go forward day

Clocks go forward day

Clocks go forward. Spring has sprung

April

april2

Friends visiting

May

14178152952_c2a432d794_z

Ady is 50

June

june5

Weekly Sheerwater boat trips. Minke whales ahoy!

July

july

Midges

August

games

Small Isles Games, held on Muck

September

15108847079_3a86f4eed7_z

When the cousins came

October

15543662365_05e75f9063_z

Cycling? Licked it.

November

pig processing

Pig processing. Killing, butchering, sausage, bacon, ham and salami making. Livin’ the self sufficient dream.

December

xmas jumpers

Another year passed, still smiling, still growing, learning, laughing, loving.

Thanks 2014, it was another good one.

0

‘Tis the season

Obviously we love Christmas. You know us, if there is an opportunity to celebrate something we are there ready and waiting.

There is much about a Rum Christmas which is perfect. There is no black Friday, Christmas shopping, late night trips to the supermarket stressing about sprouts or Eat Me dates. Once the last ferry comes, this year two whole days before Christmas, that is *it*. If you don’t have it here then it won’t be coming. There has been no fresh milk in the shop for days, that’s fine, no one had a worse Christmas as as result. Some of the Christmas cards will arrive after the big day, that’s fine, they will be bonus greetings. The nativity cast was incomplete as various cast members had already left the island to ensure they made it elsewhere for the big day, that was fine, there were more people here who were happy to put tea towels secured with dressing gown cords on their head and read from the script or play more than one part. Someone’s veg order was not here as they expected, that was fine, we had enough carrots and parsnips to share. Solutions to Christmas not being perfect here are either fixed by kindness, generosity or sharing. Or they are put into perspective and gotten over.

There is much about a Rum Christmas which is imperfect. There were no carols this year. There is no one else who wants to sing them or was in the right place at the same time as me. I could not look up church carol services on the internet and wander along to one. There was no Christmas Eve delivering of local cards and calling in for cups of tea and promises to definitely get together in the new year and exclaiming on how much children have grown. There was no Christmas camp – a week long pre Christmas Christmas with a group of friends so close they are more like family. There was no wrapped up against the cold walking around the neighbourhood to find the best and most ostentatious display of Christmas lights, no trip to the Burning of the Clocks event in Brighton.

There was no Christmas Day with family.

But it is what it is what it is what it is. And it was good. The weather remained the kindest we have ever had. Instead of characteristic Rum warm, wet and windy it has been cold, dry and still. Frost, snowy peaks, still stillness and sunny days. A friend to share the meal with us. Drinks with Rum friends on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, a shared leftovers meal on Boxing Day. Lovely presents with a clear home made thoughtful feel. The ferry appearing through the mist, often with more than a hint of Santa’s sleigh about it. Our own turkey for Christmas dinner, the first taste of the Christmas cake, mixed and wished over weeks ago, lovingly fed with a slosh of alcohol every few days now coated with icing and glittery decorations. The fabulous home made Christmas crackers complete with newspaper hats, home made gifts (cellophane fortune telling fish, festive box of glory made from a dental floss box covered in glittery stickers) handwritten jokes, all bundled up in toilet roll middles and wrapped with amazon brown packing paper.

It was magical, special, memorable, poignant. It was Christmas.

christmas

xmas jumpers

jazz hands

christmas dinner

pigs christmas dinner

home for christmas

DSCF0990

DSCF0994

DSCF0998

1

Solstice

I have blogged before several times about how in tune we feel with the seasons here on Rum, how dependent on the mercy of nature and how shaped the rhythm of our days, weeks, months, lives are here by the turning of the planet.

Back in our old lives there was a particular stretch of road that I used to drive along on my way to college when I was 17 and first passed my driving test and had a car. Later I used to drive the same bit of road every day on my way to and from work managing a card shop. Years after that I would drive it, not quite so frequently but on a fairly regular basis on our way to visit my sister in law. That bit of road, less than a mile long was the place I would always notice the turning of the seasons. In spring it would be a riot of yellow daffodils and tree blossom, in summer all would be lush and green, in autumn a spectrum of reds, golds, browns as the leaves turned and fell and in winter a stark empty landscape with the low winter sun shining through bare branches.

I never realised how much I noticed that stretch of road until I found myself telling the children about it one spring, drawing their attention to the daffodils. From then on it became our barometer of the time of year, worthy of comment from one or other of us every time we drove along it and noted what nature was telling us.

Here every day is shaped by the time of year – the daily activities whether we are feeding animals five hours apart morning and evening or ten hours apart in the summer, if we are spending our time watering the polytunnel or bringing in firewood, if we are cursing midges or wind and rain! Every window I glance out of tells me thanks to a panoramic landscape view what colour Rum is today and therefore what time of year it is. I am aware of the tides, the moons, the weather, temperature, wind speed and direction, how much rainfall we have had and what that is making the river do today.

Our lives here are so affected, so intertwined, so reliant and dependent on the time of year that it feels appropriate to be marking time, acknowledging the seasons. So as many of our ancestors have done throughout time today we marked the winter solstice, the shortest day, the rebirth of the new sun. We read about various customs and thought about ways to make them relevant and personal to us. Apples play a big theme in solstice celebrations so rather than a chocolate yule log (no eggs!) I made a cinnamon spiced apple roll which opened up in the oven while cooking so became a ‘solstice strudel’. It was delicious!

We gathered a piece of fallen log and cut it in half – half to burn and half to decorate with holly, pine and larch cones and candles. We lit a candle each after sunset and all talked about what we are grateful to nature for today.

yule

We also made some more decorations for the tree using willow, larch cones, pine branches and holly and draped branches of cut holly over the windows. It all looks and smells lovely and hopefully marks the beginning of both this next journey toward the longest day again and the start of a new family tradition.

0

Old School

I love having older children.

Whilst I did, and did well (if I do say so myself!) the early years stuff with Davies and Scarlett and did all of the sitting on the floor playing with brio and glitter and 10 piece jigsaws, and sat through more bathtime splashing and bubble blowing sessions and hours of cbeebies and watched back to back Peter Pan and Toy Story and only listened to certain cds in the car for hour after hour of drive time and sat on bedroom floors until they had really, really gone to sleep and sang endless rounds of ‘Old McDonald had a ….. dinosaur / tiger / rollercoaster / fire engine / flamingo’ in order to keep nearly asleep but if you sleep now you will *never* sleep tonight toddlers awake in the back of the car, made my own playdough, cuddled through colds, chicken pox, nightmares, upset tummies, didn’t just take them and drop them off at badgers, rainbows, beavers, but ended up roped in to be an adult helper or leader….well you get the picture. I did it, we did it, me, Davies and Scarlett. And we have the memories, the photos and the anecdotes to revisit those days, which we often do.

But I love having older children. I love how they are so interesting and different to me, with their passions and interests and personalities. I love their sense of humour and their take on the world around them. I love the relationships they form with other people and seeing them through others’ eyes. I love their company, their sense of fun and up for anything-ness. I love their enthusiasm but most of all I love their promise. The boundless, endless possibilities still ahead of them in their lives, all those choices, none of them closed doors or blocked avenues – all open, all available, all still for exploring.

But at this time of year, when the days are short and the Christmas lights are twinkling and the magic of Father Christmas has all but gone I sort of miss the glitter in the carpet (and hoover, and sofa, and bath, and everyone’s beds and the car!) and there is part of me that is a bit nostalgic for the days when it was mostly me suggesting activities for the day. I miss trying to fashion reindeer from toilet rolls and using bubbles to make santa beards every bathtime. I secretly might quite like to turn thumbprints into robins on Christmas cards and create hama bead baubles and fill the fire grate with tiny little bits of paper cut out of our snowflake crafts.

So today we reclaimed a bit of our old Home Ed lives, the kids stayed in pyjamas, I made a couple of batches of mince pies and Scarlett ‘painted’ them with the milk to glaze and then I presented everyone with a square of foil wrapped cardboard as a base, a stack of gingerbread stars, a big bowl of lurid green icing and several bowls of decorations (which Scarlett helped with, crushing up lollies with the pestle and mortar when we realised they were the only suitable boiled sweets in the house for the stained glass window tree biscuits we also made) and we had a ‘gingerbread Christmas tree build and decorate competition’.

alltrees

scaletttree

daviestree

davies

scarlett15858535678_0cd80278df_z

15860221057_705cfbca94_z

16045974765_3f2caefbf6_z

15860219247_6d60ea22a7_z

15860218667_7920b88aef_z

It was a fantastic return to the lovely at home days of old, festive music playing, steaks of flour and sugar on cheeks, a manic undertone thanks to too much sugar and not enough time outside, general silliness and a feeling of being with the most wonderful, important people in the world.

0

Shortest Days

With just days to go before the shortest day we are already noting the later sunsets. Thanks to a commenter either last year or maybe even the year before who pointed me in the right direction of that information which means we are not scratching our heads at that happening!

So far the weather is mostly continuing to be kind, or perhaps we are just more used to it. We took delivery of our 8 apples trees ordered earlier this year and delivered once they were dormant and spent time today putting them in the ground. We have plans to gather seaweed from the beach to put around all the fruit trees and bushes which is a tip from the crofters of the past here on Rum to improve the ground and add nutrients.

The salamis are doing well in the polytunnel and all have a coating of white mold on them which looks a little alarming but I am assured is a vital part of the whole curing process so is a good thing. All other croft 3 creatures are doing well although with food scarce for free rangers they are hungry and eating lots at feeding times. We’ll be killing the largest male turkey at the weekend ready for our Christmas dinner and having made my first kill with the piglet I am planning to do this one which will be my first bird.

We have plans to celebrate the solstice with some yule themed activities on Sunday, more on that after the event.

We had a friend to stay this weekend for an early Christmas which was lovely and full of fizz, fun and festivities. Rum folk are thinning out in numbers massively with lots of the people heading off for the holiday already gone and the final exodus this coming weekend. We will be thin on the ground over Christmas I think, but with bolstered numbers over Hogmanay.

In other news I have been doing various pieces of writing work and the first came out in print this week with my complimentary copy arriving on the ferry today. A long held ambition finally coming to fruition.

0

Weather Bomb

The Isle of Rum has been right in the middle of the area most affected by the Weather Bomb that has hit the UK. On the news there are tales of closed schools, disrupted roads and traffic, cancelled ferries, closed bridges, washed away coastal kids playgrounds.

We have been overwhelmed – locally by emails, texts, visitors to the croft and phonecalls to check we are okay from our fellow Rum folk. On a wider scale we have had the same from family and friends scattered all around checking in with us to make sure we are still here, still safe and to let us know they are thinking of us.

The reality of life on a remote Scottish island is this. Ferries will be cancelled throughout the winter (and also sometimes in the summer, autumn and spring!) – you need to be sure you have enough bottled gas, petrol and diesel to fuel your car, your chainsaw, your generator. You need to have a good stash of tinned and dried goods because there will be times when there is no fresh milk, fresh veg or cigarettes (if you smoke, we don’t!). You will need decent waterproof outerwear and to carry a torch at all times. In the summer there will be midges. And ticks. And clegs. The weather might be gorgeous, it equally might be worthy of yet more cancelled ferries. The trade off for it still being daylight at 11pm and sunrise again before 4am in the summer is a scant six hours (sometimes five and a half) of daylight in the winter. Weather permitting.

If you put something down outside you need to consider whether it will still be in the same place when you come back to it. If it is edible then something may well come and eat it – a deer, an eagle, a rat or a crow. If it is not very heavy then the wind may relocate it for you while you are not looking. Unless something cannot be pushed or kicked over by you using all your might then you may as well consider it temporary because the Rum elements are a hell of a lot stronger than you are.

You will be out of touch – sometimes figuratively when the rest of the mainland world is already stressing about Christmas long before Halloween has happened when you don’t even think about it until well into December, or when Black Friday is something you hear about on facebook but still don’t really believe in. Or when traffic reports on the radio are a bit like fairy stories from some far off mythical land. Sometimes for real, when the mobile reception is non existent and the internet goes down, the ferry does not come to send post or bring parcels and it’s so misty and rainy that although you sort of believe the rest of the world is still out there beyond the five foot of sea you can see around the island you have no actual way of proving it.

That is the harsh, grim reality. The fact that for every hardship you are facing in your personal challenge of life here everyone else is really quite busy dealing with their own thank you very much. The tourists who flock here during the summer months giving us brief celebrity status and making us feel important and pioneering for living here are but a distant memory. It’s just us. Alone. Facing both the island and it’s testing reality and our own hopes and fears and judgement.

In our first winter here we were very aware of being observed. If I had a pound for everyone who said to me in months leading up to December 2012 ‘well you haven’t done a winter yet’ then I would never have to launch another crowd funding appeal again and I’d be typing this from my diamond encrusted laptop (well maybe not, but a lot of people said it!). The locals scoffed at our every wide eyed shocked exclamation of how dreadful the winds were, how relentless the rain, how fast and high the river was running. In our second winter we knew what to expect but foolishly expected it to be easier for having that knowledge. This year we have developed that que sera sera attitude to the winter that I observed in islanders when we first came. You can check the weather reports, angst over the ferry timetable and keep fingers crossed over all sorts of things but ultimately it is out of your hands. You can be prepared, have things sorted in advance and be ready for the worst eventuality. And that is all.

So the wind has howled, the caravan has been battered by rain and hail. Thunder shook the roof, lightning scared the dog, we had to get wet and windblown to feed the animals. But we’re fine, we’re safe, we’re okay. I think that the knowledge that we are not alone, that people care and are thinking of us, willing us well and worrying a little eases the burden and shares the stress. If you have given us even a passing thought then thank you, I am sure that in some small way it has meant that things are a little easier for us up here.

0

Festivities

There are some things our community here on Rum does incredibly well. Yesterday we had our Christmas Fayre which is a bit of a mish mash of arts, crafts, makes and bakes from locals up for sale so that we can support each other and local business in our purchasing of Christmas presents, decorations and festive produce, our mince pie competitions, the decoration of our village hall and an excuse to get together, drink mulled wine and start feeling Christmassy.

There was a great array of things for sale on the table – knitted and crocheted decorations and hats, scarves, bags and shawls. Felted pictures, felted treasure cocoons, home made jams, marmalades, pickled onions, cranberry sauce. Scarlett had her Moods of Rum candles and Davies put out his Christmas cards. I had some moods of Rum scarves, jars of various preserves and some of my midges in resin. I think everyone did pretty well selling a few things.

There was plenty to eat and drink – mulled wine (my speciality, I always feel like Christmas is properly coming once I’ve had my first glass of mulled wine of the season :) ), hot chocolate, mince pies and lots of nice cakes from various people. We drafted in one of our regular visitors (a resident’s Dad) to be the Impartial Judge of the mince pie competition and he took to the role with gusto, remarking on all aspects of the pies before choosing a winner.

It was also Scarlett’s birthday so we had taken a cake down to light candles and sing Happy Birthday and share. Scarlett had some lovely gifts from various people – I am always reminded how well the people here know each other when it comes to birthday gifts – they are always thoughtful, often handmade and carefully chosen based on knowing the recipient rather than something picked up at the supermarket with the weekly shopping. Both Davies and Scarlett have been given vouchers for their birthdays this year by various residents but rather than gift vouchers to redeem at a large high street store or online retailer they are vouchers to ‘spend’ on time with a resident, learning a new skill or taking advantage of their knowledge. So lovely.

The tree was the one Scarlett had felled the day before, Ady had to take a bit more off it before it stood up it was so tall! Funny how it looked quite small in the outdoors but once inside it appeared to grow rather! Decorating it was a collaborative effort and it looks lovely twinkling away in the corner of our hall ready to witness the nativty play, island secret santa gift exchange and of course Hogmanay later this month.

DSCF0953

DSCF0955

DSCF0972

birthday

cake

cheers

0

Timber!!

This week inbetween house plot digging, watching Christmas films and getting ready / excited about Scarlett’s birthday this weekend we also chose and cut down our Christmas tree. It is outside the caravan waiting to come in on Sunday as we do our Christmas decorations on 7th December each year, the day after Scarlett’s birthday but as the weather can be so challenging here this time of year we decided to make the most of the dry, still, sunshine while it lasted.

Davies chopped down our tree, the whole thing. Felling a tree is one of those landmark moments I think, Davies was certainly very proud of himself.

Chopping down the tree

Chopping down the tree

christmas tree

We had been slightly torn between two trees when making our choice. The one we didn’t pick was a lot larger so when we had our monthly community meeting yesterday and conversation turned to a tree for the village hall we offered to supply that and today we went back out armed with the axe and cut down the larger one as it will be perfect for the hall.

This time Scarlett was the feller – and a very determined axe swinger she was too!

DSCF0934

DSCF0923

So that is now loaded on top of our car ready to deliver to the hall tomorrow.

Today we have been getting in the festive mood with plenty of Christmas music, mince pie baking, more mincemeat making, two birthday cake baking and more festive film watching.

Yesterday morning we woke to the first dusting of snow on the highest peaks, this morning there had been a much heavier fall overnight, the mainland mountains in the distance are now snow capped and it briefly snowed up here on the croft too!

DSCF0945