I touched on our latest project a couple of blog posts ago but it’s very exciting and deserves a blog post all to itself really. Well a series of posts actually. So here is the first one.
When we started out here it was always our intention to strive for self sufficiency for us and surplus produce to sell. We quickly realised that self sufficiency is a very long term goal and that excess produce was also a bit of a pipe dream in the early days. However we also realised that Rum is rich in bounty to forage – for food for us, to add value to for selling, to use for other purposes around the croft. We set about gathering brambles, picking winkles, collecting firewood, digging up clay from the croft to create, picking and drying wild flowers, taking inspiration for artwork and crafts, photographing our beautiful island. This is our fourth autumn, the time of year which brings the most abundance of free food and we have been building our jam production year on year. This year we are on track to make over 200 jars of jam, all from hand picked brambles, added to as many Croft grown extras or other natural additions as possible, packed in hand drawn labelled jars.
We have been selling jam and eggs from our Honesty Larder at the croft gate for the last couple of seasons and done really well from that. We have also sold though the Rum Crafts shop in the village and at the regular Market Days in the village hall in the summer but selling from the croft gate has always been our dream. We have a great market of people who have walked a bit further out into the island around the nature trail which borders our croft, people get to peruse our range of produce and crafts while looking at the croft, seeing the free range birds roaming the land, the polytunnel and raised beds we grow food in, we are more likely to be around on the croft to chat or answer any questions than we are to be in the village and we are able to keep an eye on keeping the stock filled and fresh and tidy.
So we have invested in a shed. Usually we would either construct something ourselves from reclaimed materials or be looking at something more quirky, but Rum chucks some pretty full on weather conditions at us so we decided to start with a conventional shed as a base and Croft 3 it up a bit to create something a bit more ‘us’. We chose a budget shed knowing we’d be doing improvements anyway. Getting it here in the first place was not entirely straightforward but finally it arrived and we got the component parts all down to the croft gate.
Our first step was to reinforce the floor. It was really flimsy MDF board, with really spaced out struts to support it underneath meaning anyone other than Bigfoot was likely to step in between two struts and put their foot through the floor. So we added another one inbetween each one, six in total. That took a whole morning of dismantling an old pallet to get the right size wood, sawing it to size, screwing pieces together to create struts and then screwing them onto the floor. Once done we had something super sturdy – and really quite tricky to lift!
Then to erect the actual shed. We upgraded almost all the screws to far superior, longer, thicker ones.
Next Ady wanted to secure the shed better. There are various aspects which are vulnerable to the winds here – firstly the shed itself. A light shed, not secured down could lift in it’s entirety and be blown away. So Ady banged in four fence posts, one in each corner and secured the shed to them. He then put battens around the two long sides and one short side of the shed and secured those too, effectively creating a cradle for the shed. It is now secured to it’s own heavy floor, to all sides of the cradle and to the four posts buried a couple of feet in the ground on each corner.
The next vulnerable area is the roof. We upgraded the felt nails to longer ones and put many more in than the instructions suggested. Then we strapped over the roof in three places and secured the straps to the cradle.
Always time for an arty shot…
The next vulnerable places are the doors and windows. the windows are non-opening, perspex but are fairly ill fitting and a bit rattly. We have put in extra batten to secure them more from the inside and beading on the outside. I don’t have a picture of that finished. The door is currently just wedged shut with a very heavy block but we have various door furniture on order – a decent latch to allow people to open and close the door, a really good hasp, staple and weatherproof padlock to secure it closed when it’s the end of each day, we are away or the weather is too poor to have the shop open, and a pair of brackets to hold the doors open if we want to.
Next we need to do a bit of tidying up around the area, sorting out the ditch that runs around the shed, getting some signs up to show it is a shop. We have ordered some wood preserver in our usual Croft 3 green to paint the shed prior to decorating it with our trademark animals and swirls. Ady is busy dreaming up interesting and quirky things to do with pallets to create shelves, tables and display spaces, I am thinking about bunting, colours and decorations and signage.
Finally, but most importantly we’re thinking about stock. Scarlett has a whole host of ideas for candles so will be getting busy over winter making those. She has also had the genius idea of making little Croft 3 creatures with the clay and painting them. So far she has made a couple of pigs and they are fabulous, full of character. I’m not sure she’ll be able to part with them though…
Davies is working on more post card designs and thinking of other ideas too, I’m championing pebble / stone painting as a pursuit for him, I think they would make excellent paperweights and oranaments.
Ady has had some of his favourite photos turned into postcards and is going through the hundreds of images he has to come up with a few more to get printed off. We may invest in a couple of his prints on canvas too, they will be great artwork for the wall of the shop, display his fab photography and can be purchased too.
I have various crafts to add, my moods of Rum scarves, now available as long scarves, shorter cravat style necklets with a wooden button and triangular scarves with dangly braids. I have my Flora of Rum pot pourri made from dried wild flowers and larch cones, my midges set in resin jewellery, my string art signs and will hopefully have the start of some willow and other hedgerow material baskets weaved over this winter. As soon as the brambles are over I’ll be out armed with secateurs instead of bramble collecting bags foraging for materials for weaving with.
More Shed to Shop photos and news to follow as progress happens.