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Last chills of winter

Is what I am hoping this has been. A bitterly cold couple of nights with inside window frost, gas and water frozen solid in the mornings meaning lots of defrosting before that important first cup of tea. On the plus side we don’t have to de-ice car windscreens before the commute to work and the muddy croft hill is frozen solid which makes stomping around nice and easy.

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Amazing stars at night too thanks to the clear nights. Friday saw us walking home in the early hours enjoying the fabulous star gazing as we left the village hall after a community curry night. We’re planning a fund raising event every month (at least) to raise cash for keeping our village hall in good nick and building up some funds for putting on a strong events programme. We want to invite musicians, actors and entertainers to Rum but our small population numbers can mean we struggle to cover costs on ticket prices at the door so a bit of a buffer fund to help pay would be great. We raised cash at our Burns Night event last month and this month we had a bring and share curry night. We had a great mix of main and side dishes brought from residents, folk brought along their guitars and a cracking time was had by all.

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curry night

Meanwhile on the croft we’ve been working on the shed, starting to label up things and display them… we have some postcard display units on order for Ady and Davies’ postcards and I’m waiting for midge season as my midges in resin are in very depleted stocks after a Christmas run on them when they were featured on the radio / facebook page for Good Morning Scotland.

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Elsewhere we’ve been processing firewood, drawing, crocheting, making soup, baking cookies and doing lots of emailing with volunteers for this years volunteer events. Next week I’m planning on celebrating March arriving by sowing the first seeds of the season.

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Sunshine Productivity

It’s been a beautiful few days with glorious sunshine, plenty of twinkly early morning frost, snow on the peaks and stunning blue skies. It’s cold but crisp and clear and that promise of spring just around the corner coupled with extra daylight minutes with every passing day means we’re galvanised into action here on the croft.
hallival snow

The birds have begun their change of the season habits already, cockerels are crowing, geese are getting feisty, turkeys are displaying, the two male guinea fowl are getting all stroppy with each other. Waddles the escapologist pig has been playing with Bonnie out and about on the croft and yesterday spent time with Scarlett splashing around near the river.

I harvested our pitiful last seasons crop of parsnips and carrots from the walled garden. A sum total of four stunted parsnips and three miniature carrots – there was at least a comedy carrot to make me smile, it looks like it’s off for a run!

carrot

I planted out garlic and spent some time pondering drainage solutions for the walled garden area. Ady and I planted out about 75 artichoke tubers and have now been given another bagful. Part of our plans for moving the croft forward this year include growing more animal feed and after research artichokes seem a perfect crop for the pigs. We have put them in a poor corner of the croft which has plenty of sun but is rather wet. We’ll see how they get on.

artichokes
We have also been working on the shed shop – making signs to direct people to Croft 3 and putting up sign posts ready to unveil once we’re open and ready for business – we were planning on getting a local celebrity to open it with a pair of oversized scissors and a ribbon cutting ceremony! We have finally moved out the kids’ bikes which had been in residence in the shed over the winter and are now in their own bike shelter leaving space to put up shelves and other quirky display spaces and the signs I had done over winter. We are waiting for some postcard display shelves to arrive and we’ve been busy pricing and labelling various stock of candles, scarves and more ready to stock the shelves.

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shed shop

We’ve invested in a cordless jigsaw which has already proved invaluable for cutting twiddly bits of shelves and helping repurpose old twigs and branches into displays.

We’ve had lots of interest for our volunteer events this year and I’ve been busy replying to emails and sending out information. There is a definite promise of good things to come in the air.

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Volunteering Events on Croft 3

We’ve been pondering on the best way to host volunteers this year here on Croft 3. Having been volunteers ourselves in the past we know what we found the the most fulfilling and worthwhile volunteering experiences – plenty of guidance, lots of people, to work with, interesting and varied tasks, the opportunity to learn new skills, a fun working environment, decent food, somewhere comfortable to sleep and relax, plenty to do when not working. We know that communication was the key to a good volunteer experience.

In 2014 we hosted our first volunteers here and last year we hosted a few more. Taking all that we have learned from that we have decided this year to mark off set blocks of time for volunteer events. This means we can focus on spending time working alongside our volunteers, arrange for a good sized group of people to be here together, plan the tasks and projects for maximum productivity, learning and progress and make sure that we all have a really good time!

The dates we have set aside are as follows:

Wednesday 1st – Friday 10th June
Monday 4th – Wednesday 13th July
Monday 1st – Wednesday 10th August
Wednesday 31st August – Friday 9th September

If you have been thinking about getting in touch for a visit or trying to plan an experience with a difference this year then why not get in touch for more information about spending some time with us here on Croft 3 this summer. Midges, fun and an experience you’ll never forget guaranteed!

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A tribute to Tom

A really sad day for us today. After a brief illness Tom Pig died last night.

Tom was a wonderful, lovely pig. He came to us, with Barbara just a few weeks after we arrived on Rum. The woman who we got them from brought them across in the back of her car on the ferry and led them with the food bucket a further half a mile along the track, over the bridge across the river and onto Croft 3.

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Tom was the nicest natured pig I’ve ever met, calm, placid, affectionate and friendly. He was a great mate for Barbara and he fathered three litters of piglets. I don’t generally anthropomorphise the Croft 3 creatures but Tom and Barbara were a perfect couple, she is a bit on the grumpy, feisty side and he was the docile one. Tom was a great dad, always really patient with the piglets and tolerant of them nicking his food and running around his legs. He seemed to particularly bond with the boy piglets and when Barbara was due to birth each time we separated them and they would meet over the dividing fence and sit close to each other.

tom

Tom was always pleased to see people, even when they were not bearing edible gifts – he loved a good scratch behind the ears and had a particular spot on his tummy which would have him rolling over like a puppy if you rubbed it. Visitors and islanders enjoyed seeing him on the croft, he’s been written about, mentioned on radio and of course was featured on telly!

tom and ben

He was only 5, and pigs can live for 10-15 years so he was a young man still really. We had hoped for many more years with him but it was not to be. He is now buried on the croft and we will mark his grave to honour one of the iconic creatures of Croft 3 and part of our adventure and lifestyle.

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We’re not there.

It’s our annual (doing it twice counts as a tradition right?!) winter getaway. Last year we packed in loads to our February break – met up with two sets of friends either end of the trip in Fort William, Davies and Scarlett did an Outward Bound weekend adventure and we spent time in Edinburgh shopping, at the museum, the zoo and meeting up with more friends.

This year is just as jam packed. A weekend with friends (the same friends that Davies and Scarlett made at Outward Bound who are now firm family friends) staying at their gorgeous home. We enjoyed the Screen Machine – the Highlands and Island mobile cinema – a real life micro machine / Transformer truck that parks up and folds out into a 80 seat cinema – I went to a showing of Sunset Song which was beautiful if rather harrowing (I’ve now downloaded the trilogy of books onto my kindle as I am assured it gets more uplifting further into the story!) and then a meal out with our host and a couple of her women friends. A lovely night out with some great conversation – I love meeting new and interesting people. Ady and the kids joined the other half of our hosts and children to go and see the new Star Wars film the following evening which was great as it was on their list of things to do while we were off. They came back enthusing about what a great film it was and excitedly chattering about all things Star Wars related, which as someone who has seen none of the films so far didn’t mean much to me but I was glad they had enjoyed it! I also went to a papermaking workshop in the local village hall as part of a winter programme of locally run arts and crafts workshops and skill sharing events. More meeting new people and sharing stories.

We had several nice walks around the beaches and woodlands around their house, plenty of time hanging out, chatting, laughing and enjoying being together.

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We’re framing our week with a dentist trip at either end for Scarlett who is having significant dental work done to correct overcrowding and wonky teeth. The first step was the removal of three teeth and the taking of impressions which she had done yesterday. Next week will be the fitting of the brace and the next 18 months or so will see us making rather more regular trips across to the mainland for check ups. We’re planning a mix of 24 hour dashes when car hire, cheap hotels and ferry timetables allow along with some longer visits to combine with meeting friends or trips to various places we have on our lists of good days out. Scarlett was her usual brave and stoical self at the dentist, chatting away and asking to take the removed teeth home with her.

We’re now down in Edinburgh for a few days getting a city fix of shopping, eating out and crowd mingling and meeting up with friends. Also lounging about in the flat we are staying in, enjoying the delights of a washing machine, dishwasher, microwave, fridge, 24 hour wifi and electricity and TV. We plan on making the most of every moment.

It’s been a really funny thing being back on the mainland after a season off duty on Rum. On Saturday morning my friend contacted me on facebook to say that the Ben Fogle show was being aired in Australia and we had a flurry of emails from people had watched it including a lovely message from a man in Tasmania. Then one of the women at the papermaking workshop chatted to me about life on Rum having watched the show. Our dentist had watched it and both the dental nurses in attendance had seen it so we chatted about it while Scarlett was in the chair. The desk staff at the hotel in Fort William always recognise us anyway as we are such frequent customers so we were greeted there like old friends, then today in the middle of Edinburgh as we stood outside the railway station with all our rucksacks waiting to meet our friend a man came over to say he recognised us off the TV. It’s an odd thing being back on the mainland where we don’t know everyone yet still enjoying feeling as though we are familiar faces.