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The longest month

Even with a week off the island January seems to be stretching really long this year.

It’s been really cold and very windy so outside tasks have not been a very attractive proposition. I decided against planting onion sets and seed potatoes as I think they will rot long before the ground warms up to start them sprouting. I have ordered some artichokes and garlic though to keep me inspired even if nothing is in the ground yet.

The daylight hours are stretching with every passing day, sunrise a little earlier, sunset a little later and twice this week we’ve braved the five o clock chill to have the last cup of tea of the day outside on the sporran as the light fades.

Fortunately there have been plenty of indoor tasks to get on with; tax returns, car tax, emails to catch up with, a bit of spring cleaning, some crocheting, tea drinking and chatting with friends.

It’s also been a week of celebrations – Bonnie the dog was five (which in dog years seems to make her about the same as me we think) so Scarlett made her a special treat and Wednesday we joined in with probably my favourite night of the year here on Rum for the Burns Supper. I’d helped make the haggis earlier in the week so I was part of the proceedings presenting the haggis to be addressed (which mostly involves prancing around carrying it while being followed by someone else brandishing a bottle of whisky!) and I also wrote and read out a poem. Many others read poems and the primary school had put together a presentation too. A lovely evening with friends and this year we had various contractors and volunteers on island too so they got to join in and see Rum community at our very best.

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Away and back

Those who know me at all will know I am prone to clumsiness. I am capable of tripping over an invisible, imagined hazard on a smooth path in sensible shoes. Add a muddy uneven hill path into the equation and frankly it’s a wonder I am not on first name terms with the pilot and carry a valued customer loyalty card for the medivac helicopter here!

So it was with no grace or dignity whatsoever that I managed to fall down two weeks ago and badly sprain my ankle while walking down the croft hill, drill in hand, to go and dismantle some more damaged cloches. It had been a rainy morning, we had gotten wet going to the pier to meet the ferry and collect a delivery but it brightened up around 3pm so with an hour or so of daylight Ady went to chop firewood and I headed off to do some practical outside stuff too. My ankle went from under me, I made a split second decision to try and save the drill from the mud and twisted myself. My ankle gave an ominous ‘crack’ and down I went into the mud, drill held aloft out of harms way! It appeared to be not quite as bad as I had first feared, thanks I think in no small part to my very sturdy wellies (which were a bugger to get off!) and I took the advice offered by medical friends and Dr Google of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) with it propped up on a stool and cushion, a very cold (ice obviously out of the question here, although it did very helpfully snow a couple of days later) water soaked towel tightly bound around it and three days of largely sitting around wincing every time I moved it.

That seemed to do the job though, to the extent that with the support of my sturdy wellies I was able to drive us all the way from Mallaig to Carlisle five days later. It remains swollen and a bit tender and sore even 12 days later but I am walking OK and only using it a little bit as an excuse to get out of things I don’t want to do…’I can’t possibly do the washing up with my ankle!’

What were we doing in Carlisle I hear you ask?

Well, all sorts of things. Some of us got a haircut, all of us went to the cinema to see the final episode of Sherlock on the big screen,
cinema

sherlock our car went for a MOT (and passed! Yippee!)

And then the next day we went to Penrith Centerparcs. I have to confess I am not a huge centerparcs fan. Camping I (used to) love but CP always felt slightly like contrived being in nature and paying a lot of money for it. However we do all like swimming and have had four very enjoyable CP holidays in the past with family and friends. This was a family break and my parents came up to join us which was lovely. We also managed a day trip to spent time with adopted family for a few hours which was very special as it’s been nearly two years since we had seen them. Annoyingly, just as the last time we met up we failed to get any pictures of that though!

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swing

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A lovely break with hours in the pool – for Davies and Scarlett this mostly meant the slides and flumes, for Ady and I it mostly meant sitting in the spa pools chatting to each other and for Ady a very long conversation with a man from Bangladesh who happened to be sitting next to him in the spa pool and in a chatty mood. A couple of nice meals out, time spent watching BadgerCam in our lodge, late nights, late mornings and lovely time spent with family. It was a real break for us with no dentist appointments, shopping lists or places to be which usually characterise our time off of Rum.

And now we’re home. Armed with a planting calendar list and packets of seeds to get cracking with, seed potatoes to start chitting, a pig to process, a shed to get ready for re-opening for the season, the first flurry of volunteer emails to answer and start to think about planning volunteer events for this year.

Busy, busy, busy. And obviously anything I don’t really want to do I can still just about wriggle out of by blaming my ankle….

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The month of 6th December to 6th January is a pretty busy one for our family – it starts with Scarlett’s birthday and ends with mine and has Christmas and New Year sandwiched in the middle.

The weather has been kinder this week than it was over Christmas with less wind and colder temperatures (which we welcome – cold is easier to deal with than wet, it’s far easier to keep the caravan warm with the woodburner or an extra layer of clothing than it is to deal with the constant condensation and bringing in wet clothes, shoes, dog, cat and people that rain brings). Even a bit of frost which makes for starry starry nights and nice stomp-worthy ground out on the croft which is always a welcome change to the soft mud underfoot. It’s been back to wet and windy again the last few days though.

We’ve managed to get outside when there have been weather windows though – for firewood runs, animal feeding, collecting and delivering various things to the village and back. Ady and I did some seaweed gathering ready to use as a mulch on the raised beds. We also offered some to the sheep and the pigs as the deer and goats on the island all eat seaweed, as do the highland cattle and ponies and I have seen sheep eating seaweed elsewhere. Both tried it in the manner of suspicious toddlers being offered green vegetables and ate a little.

birds sheep seaweed

pigs seaweed

seaweed

I’ve begun to dismantle the damaged cloches I made to cover the raised beds which have strawberries in them. I had been proud of making them from scrap wood, reclaimed polytunnel plastic scraps and off cuts of water pipe last year but despite knowing better really from experience I had not really made them Rum-proof and sure enough during the recent gales they had all blown off the raised beds and congregated in one corner of the fenced area (we call it the walled garden although actually it’s a fenced area of the raised beds) having sustained lots of damage to both the wood and plastic but thankfully not damaged anything else while tumbling across the area. A rethink and some online research has given me the new plan of securing the water pipes into the ground using bamboo canes (which we have a load of leftover from the tree planting) to make a tunnel frame and then putting plastic over (which I have arriving this coming week).

broken cloches

I spent some time working out a planting plan for the spring – sorting all my seeds into plastic bags labelled with the month to sow them in. I used various books to give me additional information than that on the seed packets and have a short list of some seeds to buy too.

sowing plan

And just because doing all that thinking about it started to make me feel desperate to get started I sowed some basil seeds indoors to start a little kitchen herb stash. Last year I had had my first sowing of basil not germinate and when I looked online I found an article about how you should swear at basil seeds to make them germinate. Seemed a bit mad but I did it anyway with the second sowing and it worked! In the name of scientific research I sowed one lot with happy thoughts and speech and then a second lot (well out of earshot of the first ones) with all my best swearwords! I’ll let you know what happens…

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I’ve been having a play with metal stamps as I have an idea for a range of jewellery to sell from the Shed. So far it’s still very much a learning curve work in progress so no photos to share on that one. Once the actual output even slightly resembles the vision in my head I’ll take some pictures.

And having given the good growing season part of my plans for 2017 a good amount of attention I spent some time today playing with my ukelele. I’d been offered the advice that good strings can make a cheap ukelele much better so have got some of them on order and with the help of a good book and a really good website and two hours of practise I now have very sore and dented fingers but have mastered a very slow, clunky, not always reliable but there nonetheless chords of C F and G and changing between them.

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I’ve been crocheting a fair bit too – enforced indoor time and the need for cosy headwear inspires lots of hat making… so far I’ve made two new hats for me and one for a gift.

scarlett hathat4 (the third is in the picture of me infront of the raised beds).

Ady’s been very busy regardless of the weather tending to the animals. Making sure the sheep and pigs have cosy shelters and plenty of grazing / feeding space. We’ve also started getting fresh eggs again daily, having inadvertently created an excellent nesting area in the shed we’re storing cut grass from the croft to use as animal bedding / sheep feed.

And my birthday? 43 years on the planet, 43 trips around the sun. It feels both very old and very young! I had a lovely day with gorgeous heartfelt cards and gifts, many of them home made by family and friends, loads of messages, texts and phonecalls with those I was not with in person and a bracing walk during a couple of hours in the afternoon when it wasn’t raining! In the evening we went to the village and had a few celebratory drinks with Rum friends and shared the traditional birthday brownies. It was a good one.

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Happy New Year!

You may have noted a certain quiet here over the last few weeks. Despite not being remotely superstitious I am always very conscious of anniversaries and marking time passing (as regular readers will know. I think it’s a diarists way and what is blogging if not keeping a modern diary?!) and the upcoming anniversary of Ady’s helicopter adventure felt rather like it was hanging over us. Not least because it felt slightly as though we had almost summoned it in posting our hopes for the year ahead including flying over the croft for Ady and having a big adventure from me. Careful what you wish for as the saying goes…

So while it makes no actual difference what the date on the calendar might read I confess to breathing a sigh of relief and removing my own self-censoring once we safely arrived in 2017.

We saw the old year out and the new year in with a few drinks down in the village with Rum friends and a few of the traditions we are part of now on our little island before heading back up to the croft, under the most spectacularly starry starry sky for a late dinner (no later than a takeaway we reasoned), watching the London fireworks live on the computer (close friends who we have seen many a new year in with, including once here on Rum were there in person so we felt very connected) and then spilling outside onto the sporran to let off our own firework which we had had stashed away for over a year having bought it with the intention of letting it off on New Years Eve last year.

Below is our post summing up 2016 and noting our hopes and plans for the year ahead. 2017 will mark our fifth anniversary here on Rum. So much longer than we ever planned to calling a static caravan our home. The year in which Davies and Scarlett turn 17 and 15. Horizons are broadening, priorities are shifting and as we all know the secrets of tomorrow are yet to be learned, we can speculate but no one truly knows what lies ahead.

We ended 2016 in a far happier way than we began it. All four of us, together, healthy and none of us wearing compression stockings!

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