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Results

Autumn is most definitely in the air. Social media is filled with people celebrating, agonising or bemoaning their / their offspring’s exam results, the nights are drawing in and the brambles are finally starting to ripen.

I imagine you can guess which I am most interested in…

I’ve done a few picking excursions – a few bags already stashed in the freezer and a bag up here on the croft ready to add some more on a morning pick tomorrow and make the first batch of bramble jam of the season. It’s very tidily coincided with running out of two flavours of jam in the shed this week. Time to get out the list of how many of each type we made last year and work out which were the best sellers to determine what amount we make of each flavour this year, and whether we introduce any new flavours. We have invested in some teeny jam jars alongside our usual full size ones so we can offer little tester sizes and are thinking about making up Croft 3 hampers of our various produce and crafts for next season in the shop.

Another set of friends visited this week – someone I used to work with in the library service back in West Sussex. It was lovely to spend time with someone who knew us before we were the people we are today, back when we lived in a house, had proper jobs and were just a bit crazy rather than entirely mad! It was also lovely to introduce them to Rum which they saw at her best with sunshine, blue skies and a sea like glass for the regular Thursday boat trip. We spotted porpoises and sea birds but sadly no dolphins or whales this week. We were thrilled to learn last weekend that Ann, the woman who rows out from Soay to collect the post each week has just published a book about her life and ordered it straight away. It’s been awhile since we last read a book aloud, something we used to do fairly regularly but we’re already halfway through Ann’s book in just two sittings. I suspect we’ll finish it tomorrow. Reading it has served to remind me anew how lucky we are to be having our adventure, rekindled my resolve to get writing myself and made me realise how similar in many ways yet utterly different in others our wee islands are.

It’s been really midgey this week, easily the worst week of the year so far for them. It’s meant a few days trapped inside as it’s fine to be out walking briskly and faster than they fly but you cannot stay still, so tasks like weeding raised beds, watering plants, hanging out laundry or feeding the animals are not tolerable for more than a few minutes. I did manage to weed the unplasticked strawberry bed and put some compost around all the wee runners. My next indoor day task is to create a proper month by month planner for the growing and do some research on suitable mulch for various crops along with learning more about feed for the crops. I have some great permaculture books on the shelf which I have not yet read properly and suspect all the info I need is already here in the caravan just waiting for me to learn it. The midges have meant plenty of time to read and crochet though – I’m about two thirds of the way through the latest freeform crochet bag – this time it’s a purple and lilac one which is gorgeous if I do say so myself, infact if I had any occasion or justification for needing a bag myself I would be very inclined to hang on to it!

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Rum rewards

It was the anniversary this week of a year since the Ben Fogle show aired (in the UK, it’s since been shown in Australia and Germany to our knowledge, probably other places too but we have had contact from people who watched it in those places) and we have had a couple of visitors to Rum this week speak to us to say they had seen the show.

The first brambles on Rum are ripe and ready, we’ll get out and start picking this coming week. We’ve been fishing again today – another 22 mackerel caught, gutted and stashed in the freezer ready for fishcake and risotto making in the winter – a little fishy reminder of the summer in the depths of the darker months ahead.

All of the young birds are now released and free ranging. We have had a couple of losses – always inevitable as they shake down into living as part of the great big Croft 3 flock, it can be a bit survival of the fittest and we never really know why some make it and others do not but it’s been mostly smooth and we’re keeping a close eye on things.

I’ve done a couple of post office shifts which I always enjoy – for the social opportunities with locals and visitors.

Ady and I have constructed the veg cage around the raised beds. We managed to make it almost entirely with gifted or recycled materials, even the posts we used were chopped down from the woodland on Rum. We have bought in the netting for the roof, which actually we probably won’t even put on this year but other than that it was free. I have taken off all the hoops and netting on the individual beds and started to weed some ready for autumn sowings of various crops. I’m really excited about the prospect of a far more protected and successful growing area for next year. And the short amount of time I’ve already spent in there unhassled by Bonnie the dog bringing me a goose (she thinks she is pleasing you by herding geese towards you) or chickens coming to assist with the weeding has been blissful. Mostly though it will be a definite deer free zone which has been the biggest issue with our crops – deer damage from eating things or just trampling over them.

We had a fabulous Sheerwater boat trip with a pod of porpoise and then a bigger pod of dolphins. Cetacean encounters never fail to delight and the video footage the Ranger took shows all on the boat exclaiming with joy and several spontaneous rounds of applause from the people on board as the dolphins swam alongside us leaping out of the water.

It was our monthly Bring and Share meal last night with an Italian theme. We had wonderful food, plenty of drink, lots of fun, some singing, some dancing and some excellent company. A friend came up for lunch today and we nursed our slightly ‘morning after’ heads together sitting admiring the view and drinking tea.

It’s been the perfect mix of busy, productive and fun.

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Off, back, friends, fish

A very busy seven days indeed.

We waved off our extra teen / volunteer / family friend who was with us for a five day adventure. He certainly made the most of his time here with us trying new foods, sleeping under the stars, catching his first fish, seeing wildlife and having long and challenging walks. He was a really easy guest fitting in around our rather chaotic rhythms and lending willing hands to help out with the volunteer event we had happening while he was here.

leo tent

This was his home for his stay with us.

Our volunteers finished their time with us and headed off – one back to France, the others back to Switzerland. It was a pleasure to spend time with all of them, hear their tales of home and other volunteering adventures and learn a little about other people’s lives. For the second time we had volunteers coming to us from a host that we had WWOOFed with five years ago.. so funny to relive our memories of that time and be the hosts ourselves now too. This volunteer event went really well, we had some lovely feedback from the people who came, the weather was not entirely kind but not entirely cruel, they all had a good opportunity to explore Rum and get a real taste of island life and we achieved so much during the 10 days.

Unfortunately during some very unseasonal August gales the bell tent took a battering and has been damaged. It should be repairable, although probably not to the standard required to rent it out. That, coupled with a busy summer and more family and friend visits ahead over the coming weeks means we have decided to not go ahead with our planned September volunteer event. Fortunately all of those coming are able to find volunteering opportunities here on Rum with our community ranger so no one is missing out and we will carry on the wave of productivity from the event we’ve just hosted to get various tasks completed on the croft ourselves.

Strawberries have been on the job list in some capacity for weeks now and finally last week I finished the last of the cloches I have built from dismantled pallet wood and scraps of the torn polytunnel plastic we rescued when the large community polytunnel blew down. I reckon next season we will have about 10 times the amount of space given to strawberries as we did this year so we have everything crossed for a good harvest. I’ve thinned the rampantly spreading strawberries, replanted them in the new locations and planted out some small strawberry plants we’d bought in.

cloches

thinned strawbs

strawbs

Our ring and release programme with this years hatchlings once they have grown big enough has pretty much come to an end with a load more birds released this weekend. We now just have one mother muscovy duck and her three ducklings plus one of our original ducks and her eight ducklings still penned, they should all be ready for release by the end of the week. We now have 52 ducks in total of different varieties! It was lovely today to come back to the croft and spot Crispy Duck (who was hatched here from our very first bought in ducks and hatched her third clutch of ducklings this summer) with her six ducklings from this year all sitting in the sunshine beside the river having had a swim.

river side ducks

We are delighted to be stocking Barefoot Diaries in the shed now, the gorgeous journal that I write articles for each season. We have one of each of issues 2 – 7 (issue number one has already sold out!) and they look beautiful and really fit in well in the shop.

shedbarefoot

Scarlett and I had a 45 hour dash off the island for a dentist trip and she is now sporting full train track braces in blue and green – she asked for a rainbow of colours but was only allowed two! It was nice to catch up with friends who kindly had us to stay as there was no accommodation to be found in Fort William – which gets a little like Bethlehem at this time of year! We were able to repay some of their hospitality with some chicken and duck whispering as they have just begun keeping a tiny mixed flock of both. The boat trip home to Rum was a challenging one for all 18 passenger on board – I think half were seasick while the other half tended them, passed around bags, mopped up and rubbed backs. It was one of those grim experiences where everyone bonds with each other and comes out the other side feeling they have really shared something. Scarlett was a vomitter, I was a mopper, passer and rubber! One of those rare occasions when I actually feel almost like an adult! It was very, very nice to be home, back on dry land and also to be two of only four people aboard who were not having to get back on a couple of hours later to return to the mainland. We did joke that perhaps everyone should just move to Rum instead and boost our population numbers!

We’ve had a lovely visit from Sussex friends, who fitted us in to their own longer Scottish adventure and had a fine weekend with us experiencing rain, mud, midges and sunshine, sampled our pork, caught their own fish and cooked it for dinner and generally just enjoyed every minute. It was so nice to see them and catch up and remember what we do and don’t miss about our old lives.

mike rose

The fishing was part of a bigger community fishing event on Sunday afternoon which was loads of fun and may well become a regular thing. We had recently invested in two new rods so this was their first outing and they proved very good! We caught plenty of fish including mackerel, trout, pollock. We enjoyed it so much that when we waved our friends off on the boat this afternoon the four of us had another hour or so, caught another 15 mackerel and feasted on them for dinner again this evening. Hurrah for fish!

mike fish

nic fish 2

fish tea

fishing

davies fish

mackerel haul

ady fishing

Both Davies and Scarlett caught, killed and gutted fish. At one point this afternoon a shoal of mackerel came in and Davies and I were pulling out a fish with every cast. Scarlett was taking them from the hooks and Ady was killing and gutting them. Go Team G! A proper production line.

The sun has finally come back out, which as ever seems to coincide with Back To School, which here in Scotland happens tomorrow. We’re looking forward to the return of summer now the official summer holidays are over and have lots of plans for a productive week out on the croft.

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Busy, busy, busy

A madly busy, but very productive week passed with extremes on all sides.

We have had various volunteers here – a Swiss German family of four WWOOFing, two French young folk WWOOFing (not together, merely coincidental that they are both from France and both here) and a family friend here on a wildlife spotting, different life style experiencing, bit of volunteering adventure.

You would need to speak to the various volunteers to hear how they feel the experience has been but I am fairly sure they would all consider it a challenging one! Certainly the first volunteer worked for one day and then explained her plans had changed and she was leaving the next day!

We put a huge effort into ensuring we are very upfront with what volunteers can expect, what a trip to Rum entails, the possible issues from rain to midges to high winds during all seasons but I think until you have actually been here and experienced such delights for yourself it is tricky to really imagine what it might be like.

So a week filled with midges and rain and winds…. plus sunshine and amazing views and wildlife, a massively productive work party of moving things around the croft from fence panels to build a deer proof cage around the vegetable beds to gravel to make footpaths. Baking a loaf of bread every days along with vats of soup, trays of cookies and so many cups of tea!

I’ve been acting as Mrs Post Office, crocheted a couple of midges to replace the ones we’ve sold this week, wielded power tools to finish off four cloche covers for a long raised bed that a previous volunteer weeded ready to transplant some strawberries, laid out path fabric to mark the trail and spent a lot of time coordinating travel plans for various off island excursions.

We have another week of busyness with comings and goings before a week of calm and an empty diary, although that will likely be spent preparing for the next influx of busyness ahead. It seems strange to be living in a holiday destination during holiday season yet be craving a holiday but in about eight weeks time that is precisely what we have planned and I rather think we’re ready for it.

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August

We have a photo calendar on the wall with a number of pictures from the same month the previous year. I make one as a Christmas gift for my parents and then in the January sales I make a second one for us. It’s really interesting on the 1st of each month, especially as we get further into the year to look back on those photos a year on and remember how far we have come in a year and what we were up to this time last year. The photos from August 2015 are the croft from a distance, the four of us on the day the TV show was aired, a clutch of guinea fowl eggs, some pin art, a shot from an evening we spent with visiting friends and the Summer Barefoot Diaries edition which I had an article printed in.

Our June and July volunteer events did not quite work as planned but our August event has gotten off to a good start – all the planned volunteers arrived, on the days we expected them to. We had our first day of working today – six of us getting loads done – a whole vegetable bed weeded ready to be mulched, a whole stack of mesh panels all brought up to the croft ready to build a pen around the vegetable beds and the first section of footpath laid. A really productive days work which certainly has me aching and knowing I worked hard. We had a vat of carrot and coriander soup with home made bread and home made cookies for lunch, plenty of tea breaks and the weather and midge count was pretty kind to us. A good start.

More soup and bread made this afternoon ready for tomorrow’s lunch, some raspberry jam made with a bag of foraged raspberries we collected on the way to the ferry yesterday and some linings sewn into the freeform crochet bags which make them look more finished.
cookies

jams

brown bag back

brown bag front
I also ordered some embroidered name tapes to sew into my bags and scarves recently. Having never had children in school I have never had to sew name tapes into school uniform so unlike many parents the parcel was not opened with a sinking feeling of back to school and lots of sewing or expensive spending on new uniform, for me it was a huge novelty.

labels

They do somehow bring back memories of my navy blue gym knickers though…