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Rum – Bad, good, wandered off a bit towards the end with maverick questions….

We have just a couple of weeks left before we head off Rum for the winter. Currently we intend returning in the spring but we are realistic enough to know that even if we come back we will want to change the way we live, work and exist here. So it feels right, almost six years to the day since we first stepped foot on the island to look back over our time here and sum up what has been bad, good and various other questions that I threw into the mix as we went along.

Ady
Bad:
1. The size of the community. We had hoped it would have grown and flourished in the years we have been here, instead it has gotten smaller and smaller in numbers.
2. We did not build. We needed to be positive and ambitious in order for our move here to happen at all and we had such big dreams and ideas about a build but it has not happened.
3. We have not achieved self sufficiency on growing crops.
4. Being WWOOF hosts was not the success we had hoped here. We love WWOOF and have so much to thank WWOOFing for in our adventures and we have had some great people here volunteering with us but have not been able to offer the hospitality we would have liked or had the numbers of WWOOFers that would have made a real difference to us here.
5. The quality of the land here on the Croft. Despite SNH as landowners before us putting in many drainage ditches and us spending lots of time and effort in adding more and maintaining those ones the land remains incredibly wet.
6. The visitor numbers which we anticipated and saw in our first year or two on the island have decreased steadily with fewer people coming to Rum and walking around the nature trail which means fewer potential customers for us.
7. All of the development focus on Rum is on the village and surrounding area. It’s a chicken and egg situation that without more people living outside of the village there is little call for more infrastructure but people are unlikely to start trying to live outside of the village without that supporting infrastructure.
8. Island life logistics – cancelled ferries, relying on mainland back up for things like fuel deliveries.

Good:
1. When the community works it really, really works. People pulling together in emergencies such as when I was helicoptered off and people helping out with animal feeding, the social side of the island with events.
2. The confidence I have found in learning, taking on challenges and trying and experimenting with ideas.
3. I love our set up here – a caravan on top of our croft, sitting outside on a sunny evening or watching the waterfall is all so beautiful.
4. The time we have spent together as a family thanks to our life here.
5. The lack of stress of our lifestyle, particularly compared to our old lives with career pressures.
6. The feeling of belonging and pride about where I live – telling tourists that I live here or going off the island and telling people where I have come from.
7. Learning Scottish culture – events and ideas like ceilidhs, Burns Supper and the Highland ways.
8. How much I’ve learned and experienced with livestock.

Most proud of – to have lived off grid for over five years, how we have progressed, how things have gotten easier to when we first started.

What I would change – to have built a house.

How has it changed you – I am more methodical and considered, planning projects and having a contingency plan. I realise now that I have time, time to consider and do things properly, to stop and stare.

Are you glad we did it?
Oh yeah!

Sum it up: It’s been the biggest adventure of my life. So far….

Davies
Bad:

1. My bedroom in the caravan – I have such a small amount of private space to keep my stuff and to spend time in.
2. A lack of social life – I am the only person of my age so I have no peers but also none of the typical activities that someone of my age might want to do.
3. Lack of opportunities – I can’t pinpoint what I’ve missed because I’ve not done it, but I feel that I have missed out on things that I know other people my age may have done.
4. I have had a very sheltered adolescence, not being tested in situations or having time to develop myself. I’ve not really started to be independent from my family yet.

Good:
1. This is a good story to tell – I have not had the same experience as most kids my age and I think this makes me interesting and different.
2. I think that I have had freedom to here to pursue interests.
3. Whilst I am lacking in privacy compared to most teens the plus side of that is a really close relationship with my parents and sister. I notice when other people are around and staying with us that we are not with each other as much as we are just now. I think having this time together has been something we would not have had if we’d not lived here.
4. I am very interested in psychology and studying it with a possible future career in it. I think that living closely with a small community of people and getting to know them very well has shaped me and sparked an interest in psychology and individuals and how they relate to each other.
5. I think that I have a good attitude to life and a good outlook on things which is linked to having lived here. I consider myself lucky and good at putting things into perspective.

What I’d change – I would have left Rum earlier. maybe a year ago. Looking back I think we should have realised before that things could be better elsewhere and taken steps to change it.

How has it changed you?
– hard to say, I don’t know. When I came here I was still really little, when Mummy and Daddy moved here they were already fully formed people. But I think this has shaped who I am.

Are you glad we did it? Yes. Definitely yes, but I think we should have left earlier.

Sum it up : It will be a great story to tell.

With Davies’ full knowledge, agreement and permission I am stepping in here with a Nic disclaimer. I am aware that this could read as though Davies was unhappy here or didn’t want to be here for the last year or more. This has not been the case. Infact we decided as a family to think about next steps at the start of this year. While Davies feels we didn’t act quickly having made that decision he also concedes that as a family our way of making big changes is slow and with small and considered steps and that it has taken us this long to work out what to do next, manage leaving the croft with organising animal and that we had collectively agreed to enjoy a last spring, summer and autumn on Rum. Our decision to leave has to suit all of us and with much discussion between the four of us this was agreed to be the right time. However for a 17 year old time is relative and nearly a year on from making a decision it is fair to feel it was a long time coming!

Scarlett
Bad:

1. Not having a place to help poorly animals – no sheds or outbuildings have meant there have been times I would have liked to bring an animal inside but couldn’t because we didn’t have an inside space for them.
2. Davies and I are the only teenagers on the island, there are only little kids here other than us so we don’t get to spend time hanging out with friends.
3. We are really affected by the weather – boats get cancelled and travel plans have to change or things get delayed.
4. Rum is beautiful but can be quite dangerous. I have hurt myself a few times and people have had really serious injuries here so you always have to be aware of danger, much more than on the mainland.
5. In five years here we have seen a lot of people go away. We have become really good friends with people only for them to leave and that is really hard.

Good
1. I have a lot of freedom to do stuff. We can do pretty much whatever we want from building a tree house to deciding to have a different breed of ducks.
2. We’ve met loads of people here who we might never have met in our old lives, really interesting people and got to know them well.
3. We’ve seen some amazing wildlife like whales, dolphins, eagles. People spend a lot of time and money chasing those sorts of experiences and we have had them here.
4. Our family is really close. We all four know each other really well and spend loads of time together.
5. I’ve learned a lot of skills that I would probably not have learned otherwise and found new hobbies and interests that we only discovered here. I’ve done crafts like candle making and things like baking because they have been things I can sell and I might not have even thought about trying them if we didn’t live here and have a shop.
6. All of the livestock experiences – seeing eggs hatch and being there when Barbara had the piglets are experiences I would only have had here in this life.

What would you change? having a house – it would not be such hard living if we had a house and we would not worry so much about the winter

How has it changed you? – impossible to answer as I think I would have been a totally different person if I hadn’t moved here when I was 9

Are you glad we did it? Definitely.

Sum it up:
I can’t!

Nic
Bad:

1. Not achieving our dreams of self sufficiency with growing crops. Retrospectively they were unrealistic without spending a massive amount of money, time or energy and we quickly learned that battling nature was a soul destroying fight but I still regularly look at photos of my south coast of England allotment to remind myself that it is not my failing, rather a mighty challenge.
2. The lows in livestock keeping. Failed hatchings, baby birds lost to crows, piglets drowned in mud. I am all too aware of the saying that if you have livestock you’ll have deadstock and on balance I still think we have had more victories than defeats with our animal keeping. However every single dead creature discovered holds a corner of my memory.
3. I’ll say it though none of the other three have – the bloody midges! If you live on Rum you do indeed have to live alongside them and I think we’ve done that admirably armed with midge jackets and midge spray, being as amicable as we can and paying tribute to them with Midgefest events, setting them in resin (maybe not entirely amicable!) and crocheting their image. But I also know that the mighty beasts have removed the possibilities of evening barbecues, sitting out as the sunsets, summer solstice camping on the beaches and many other plans. They have meant ridiculously hot summer nights spent with windows sealed shut against them in a metal caravan already warmed to unbearable temperatures by the heat of the day, four people living inside and cooking dinner. They have actively prevented my parents from visiting us here from April to September and made our planned camping and outdoor activities with friends impossible. They have not ruined my life, but I certainly won’t miss them!
4. People. The lack of people. The impact of living alongside such a tiny (and dwindling number) of people and the politics and pressures that can bring. The saying goodbye to people who have become as important as family members to you having shared your lives to such a high degree and being away from people I love during both sad and happy times.
5. The reality of our island life – When we were WWOOFing we stayed with lots of people who have just as extreme off grid lifestyles as us. Compost loos, lack of mains water, electricity or gas were not at all unusual. But not one was as remote as us – however rural and remote they were they could get to a town with all the resources that offered in under an hour – launderettes, petrol, food, clothes shops, libraries, cinema and all of those facilities were all accessible when they needed them. Here on Rum we live alongside other people living an island life relying on ferries to bring supplies, coping with regular power cuts and wild weather but all are in houses – with vehicular access to their doors and flushing toilets, a grid for water and power, sturdy shelter that mostly keeps the outside elements outside. There are aspects of our life here which are exactly what we wanted but so much of our energy and time has gone into simply surviving that little has been left over for moving forward. I am not sure what I would have done differently to change that – the reality is that even if we had built a house such a project would have been years in the completion so we would not be any further ahead with the other aspects and would still be making compromises on things like having 24 hour power to run appliances which I now realise are essential if we wanted to achieve dreams like hatching birds from incubators, keeping dairy animals and so on. A two mile round trip to take produce to and from the freezer or do a load of laundry has simply sucked more hours of our life than I could ever have imagined.

Good:
1. The livestock highs – keeping animals we could never have had the space for without access to the amount of land we have on our croft. Breeding pigs was amazing and being at the birth of a litter and watching them grow was fantastic. The butchering and processing we’ve done of pigs and birds has also been a fantastic experience producing delicious results. The shearing our own sheep was another real high.
2. The experiences that living on Rum has afforded us – the wildlife encounters – seeing eagles soar overhead is an almost daily delight, hearing shearwaters land in the pitch dark and call to their mate and chicks, pulling fluffy chicks from their burrows, experiencing the red deer rut with the sounds of them roaring and clashing antlers, the smell of their urine and feeling so close to them you are almost part of the event. Being on a small boat in the very middle of a superpod of hundreds of dolphins, having minke whales swim alongside us seemingly as curious as us as we were about them. Watching an otter prance along the shoreline, hearing eider ducks call in the loch, noting whether the cuckoo’s call heralding spring is early or late this year, spotting the geese fly overhead honking as they migrate, seeing seals bob about every time we got to the beach. The skies above us – treating us to displays of the northern lights, shooting stars, a solar eclipse, the breath taking quick-run-outside-and-try-and-take-a-photo sunrises and sunsets. Finally the living so close to nature; the experiencing so fully with every sense the moment that spring has arrived, the instant that summer makes her voice heard, noting the very first leaf turning to show autumn has begun and feeling the drop in temperature or hearing the first crunch of frost underfoot that heralds the coming of winter. Being so utterly in tune with each solstice and equinox, living so closely that even one degree of temperature change, millimetre of rainfall or mile per hour of wind speed or change of direction affects your actions and life. Knowing which rock needs to be visible to show the river is low enough to drive a car across. Gaining this knowledge and experiencing these things has been a privilege that I never anticipated, never even knew I was missing until I became aware of them.
3. The doing something different – the fact that tourists flock every year to the island I call home, countless visitors take photographs of our caravan, our livestock, our home, we were the subject of a TV show which has been repeated and syndicated worldwide, people read our blog, we have been on the radio, in magazines and newspapers and inspired and impacted on people’s lives. We have had school trips, university field trips and groups of volunteers and visitors visit us here on our croft. Feeling that we are doing something interesting and out of the ordinary has been a real highlight for me. We are living the sort of life that I used to read about, watch TV shows about and hanker after myself.
4. The opportunities. We have been able to experiment, learn, cock up and achieve all with complete freedom. We’ve dug sand from the riverbed and clay from our croft land to build a cob pizza oven. I have cut willow switches from the woodland to experiment with weaving or creating living sculptures. I have wandered over acres of land picking brambles and played with flavour combinations to make jam, able to put up a shed and open a little shop to sell from. We have ordered car spares off ebay and worked out how to do mechanical repairs, set up and maintained plumbing, learned about green power, foraging and preserving. We have read magazine articles and books, watched you tube clips, been inspired by a random idea on the internet and just had a go at making it happen. We have done it our way, with no one watching unless we invited them to. We are largely free from rules and regulations, prying eyes or judgemental views. That freedom and autonomy is a luxury that our life here has afforded us.
5. The community and a sense of belonging. I have been incredibly proud to be part of Rum’s history, joining the ranks of hundreds and hundreds of years of human history on this tiny isle. We came, we made our mark and we hopefully did good. Rum is an amazing place for giving you a sense of perspective – about your place in the community, the world and the universe. There is a magic here which I am proud to have been a tiny, transient part of.
6. The last six years have felt like an adventure – a rollercoaster of a ride with stories to tell, mad experiences, funny anecdotes and so many snapshot moments of laughter, tears, supporting each other, excitement and magical memories. It has certainly been unconventional and unusual but the fact that the four of have shared it with each other has been fantastic. I have had a very close relationship with Davies and Scarlett throughout their lives having been with them for so many hours each day and Ady and I have worked together in the past but having so much time together in this precious, finite period of the childrens’ late childhood and having it in such unique circumstances will forever be something I am so happy to have experienced. It is the extremes of our life here which will make our memories so very precious.

What are you most proud of? Having done it. Having set out to do something and followed what many thought was a madcap idea. So many people live life wishing they could make a change, do something different or take the crazy option and we actually did. It’s not been without it’s tough times and all four of us can think of things we would have done differently but my mantra has always been that I would rather regret the things I did do that regret the things I didn’t. I really feel that we have grabbed every opportunity that came our way. I love standing at the bottom of Croft 3 and looking up at that space and knowing that every single thing on it was what we have achieved.

What would I change?
Honestly? I don’t think I’d change a thing. The tough bits will become part of the tale, the low points taught me things, the challenges made me stronger and I learned so much that to regret or change anything would to be alter what I think has been a remarkable period in my life.

How has it changed you? I think I grew up on Rum. I came here aged 38, married with children, a whole career history behind me and a life already fully lived. I had faced challenges, made mistakes and lived with the consequences and tidied up my messes but I always felt I had ultimate control over my fate. Life here on Rum has proved me wrong. I have learned that there are bigger forces than me responsible for what happens next, that I can’t always just carry on regardless and assume that everything will be OK just because I said it would be. That has been humbling, weirdly reassuring and a tough lesson to learn.

Are you glad we did it? 100% yes

Sum it up: One of the more action packed chapters of a life story – hopefully one of many high points and still somewhere in the middle.

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Wondering *and* wandering

The title of this blog came about mostly due to me often using the wrong version of the word when I typed it but using both words frequently.

Wonder
noun
1.a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.
2.a person or thing regarded as very good, remarkable, or effective.
verb
1.desire to know something.
2.feel doubt.

Wander
1. walk or move in a leisurely or aimless way.
2.move slowly away from a fixed point or place.

Life with two children, home educated and ever curious led to frequent wandering and wondering. Finding the answers to our questions and ponderings, exploring ideas. Roaming around, often with no specific purpose other than the joy of the journey. Finding wonder in all we happened upon.

In 2010 our wonderings and wanderings bought us to starting this blog and planning a year long adventure – the culmination of several years of keeping an allotment, having chickens and ducks and thirsting for something different. In 2012 our wonderings and wanderings led us here to the Isle of Rum. A place which met all of our needs at the time – wild and beautiful, acres of freedom and opportunity, a community of interesting pioneering people. This new life offered daily opportunities to wonder and to wander, chances to learn and explore, to experiment and to discover answers to every ‘What if….?’ question we could possibly think of to ask.

As a family of four individuals our passions, interests, needs and wishes are always going to be ever evolving and our wondering and wandering desires have altered myriad times even since this blog began. When we started we were a couple of adults and two young children. We are now coming close to four adults and our urges to wander are stretching beyond Rum’s shores. Our inclinations to wonder are throwing up what ifs that cannot be answered here – or maybe they can but given a big what if just now is ‘what if we left Rum?’ we can only answer that by wandering a bit.

With so many parallels to our 2011 adventure – swapping vehicles, planning the first location but having the rest still fluid, knowing that we’ll be returning here either for good or to pack up, shedding possessions and responsibilities, tying up loose ends, planning a goodbye party, we are off wandering again, at least for a while.

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With a sense of melancholy

I posted the text below on facebook earlier. Ady and I have been taking photos and video clips to remind ourselves of just how many aspects of our lives here are unusual, are not like the lives we had before or are likely to have again.

As the countdown continues Ady and I are thinking about our lives here now, how they compare to our old lives and how they might compare to our lives in the coming months and years.
Today we walked half a mile to where we park our car, carrying a bin bag filled with a weeks laundry for four people and a box of 30 jams. We drove into the village to collect our post from yesterday – as the only people living outside the village we don’t get our post delivered to our door – we did have an arrangement of collecting it from a disused vehicle parked in the village but the vehicle has been moved so we’re back to collecting it from the postman’s house as and when we visit the village – we’ll need to do that after most boats so that he is not having to clutter up his house with our mail.
We drove to meet the ferry, stopping on the way to put the laundry on – a facility which is pretty threatened as it is a hangover from when the castle here on Rum used to be a hostel. We collected two jerry cans of petrol from the ferry. We had made a special trip to the ferry on Saturday to send them off as booked but due to there being bottled gas already on the ferry for another island they didn’t go off. Instead rather than make another trip (1/2 mile walk, 2 mile drive using previous diesel that we have to do the same procedure to get here in jerry cans) we asked a friend who was going to the ferry to put them on for us – the ferry coming at all on Sunday was uncertain and the timetable was amended twice due to the gale force winds and resulting swell. We then had to phone the fuel seller on Monday to arrange for them to collect our cans, fill them and return them to the ferry ready to come back to us.
We were collecting our mainland car which has been parked elsewhere while family stay on Rum last week – they brought a trailer tent to stay in as we don’t have enough room for them in our caravan. Unfortunately they could only tow it a certain distance towards the croft as the roads are in such a poor state. The place they had set up was exposed to the winds last week and in the middle of the night I had been helping them take down the tent, the following day they had suffered further damage and despite moving into the village square they took the decision to call their trip short when all their bedding and spare clothes were wet with further bad weather forecast.
We bought both vehicles (slowly, carefully) back to our parking space, then used wheelbarrows to bring the laundry and petrol back to the croft.
That took most of fhe morning.
This afternoon we chopped and collected firewood, emptied our compost toilet and waded into the river to change the filter on our drinking water supply.
On a good day I am massively proud of all we have achieved here and blown away by the sheer beauty of the place we call home. On a bad day I am reminded that it is these tasks, essential merely to survive here which coupled with the weather and climate and sheer logistics of life here that are what have prevented us from realising our dreams and made us alter our expectations of what this life was all about.

I keep catching myself drifting off into daydreams and deep thoughts, looking out at the views and breathing deeply, trying to commit to memory the sounds, the smells, the feel of Rum, of this life, of what it represents.

We are excited, scared, sad and happy, filled with feelings of missing what we have here before we’ve even left it, thrilled at the prospect of what we’re heading towards.

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New Learning Adventures

In the midst of all of our uncertainty about what happens next in terms of where we live and what we do Davies and I have begun studying with the Open University. After lots of consideration, career quizzes, chatting to friends and discussions Davies decided to embark on an access course with the OU with the long term intention of doing a degree in psychology. We did a lot of research on various study options and the OU seemed a really good fit with our location and uncertainty about continued location, his personal aspirations both in terms of learning for learning’s sake and for a potential qualification for a career and as a good way of continuing with his lifelong style of an autonomous, at his own speed, fitted in around and as a part of his everyday life education. A few conversations with an adviser at the OU, some form filling (a first for him) and he was enrolled on the course way back in the spring ready to start now.

Which got me thinking… my own formal education ended with A levels. I didn’t intend it to, I had planned to travel and work for a year, maybe two and enjoy the freedom of being a young adult with a car and a part time job and autonomy over my time to finish work when I left the building rather than feeling a burden of studying hanging over my evenings and weekends. I was not entirely clear on what I wanted to be ‘when I grew up’ or which direction to take further studying so felt getting some life experience and adding to the careers section of my CV might be a better option than the qualifications section. I fully intended going back into education but knew that now was the the right time. The further I moved away from the friends who followed the route into university while I began working full time, climbing the career ladder via long hours at work and learning skills on the job, falling in love and buying a house at 20 the more the path I had deviated from looked less and less for me. I’ve always said that continuing my education was an option should I want to do it, regardless of my age although in latter years that has been more to illustrate a point when talking about Home Education and how not studying for exams as a teenager does not mean you can never do them if they become desirable at some point.

For me that point has arrived. I’m not sure if I’ll go beyond the access course – despite not needing to do an access course and being able to sign straight up for a degree I decided to do the access course. Partially because it felt like a great way to support Davies – to learn alongside him and work through the content together (although we have different tutors and will do our assessments independently of each other, it is so far proving really useful to both of us to be studying together) but mostly because I realised that I would feel quite envious of him doing it. The more I read the course information and learned about the way the OU works the more I felt it was something I wanted to do too, for me. I may yet decide I’m still not ready to commit to studying for a degree and if I do I am unsure in what or quite what I’d aim to do with it once I had it, but certainly for now I am enjoying learning for the sake of learning and flexing that particular muscle once again.

So far, a month in we’re enjoying it. We have found a rhythm to our studying and not only is it springboarding lots of discussions and further research and talking about ideas and experiences it is radiating out with all four of us getting involved in chatting about the new things we are learning. It’s great welcoming the Open University into our learning partnerships in our household, so far they are fitting in really well.

1

The last pig day.

A very emotional day today here on Croft 3. And perhaps the fact it was emotional goes a way towards stressing the difference between commercially successful farmers and us.

We said goodbye to the last pig reared for meat – now in the freezer and goodbye to Barbara pig, our original mother pig. It was a really tough decision, one of the hardest we have made and certainly not taken lightly or without quite a lot of tears shed. But it was the right one in terms of welfare for Barbara (she was well past her breeding prime so attempting to re-home her would prove pretty much impossible, involve the major stress of getting her from the croft, onto the ferry and further transport to a new home, introducing her to different conditions and so on).

Instead after much soul searching she is now buried with Tom, her original pig partner.

It has been our adventures in pig keeping which have probably taught us most here on Rum. We have had some crashing lows – losing piglets, losing older pigs, the saga of Bob and Blackie, processing pigs in all sorts of weather conditions, chasing escapees, frequent moves from one area to another, losing all of our salami and chorizo when the polytunnel blew away, losing a joint of gammon when an unseasonal hot spell interfered with the curing process. We let our pig numbers get too large, like every single pig farmer we have ever met had also done. We let our pig feed bills get too high, again like every other pig farmer we have ever met. We have had some amazing highs – being present at births and resuscitating ailing piglets, realising that both Tom and Barbara were fertile and good parents, making sausages and bacon and butchering quite literally in the field.

Tom and Barbara were on TV, mentioned on the radio and in magazine articles and blogs, they have been photographed and petted by so many visitors to the croft. They were not pets, they were livestock but the lines certainly got pretty blurry.

It’s the closing of another chapter of our lives here for sure and while I know it was the right thing to do and am at peace with the decision my heart is sore today.

1

Exit this way

Our lives since we left employment have taken on a different level of organisation and commitment. Once upon a time the rhythm of our lives was dictated by work schedules and meetings. We now have obvious demands such as animals needing feeding, people needing feeding, firewood needing chopping, gas bottles getting up the hill and so on but in the main we get to decide what happens when and work on our own job list prioritising. It’s fluid and flexible and a mix of what simply must be done in order to survive, what makes life nicer or more comfortable and things which make life move forward, are nice optional extras or are working towards the future.

We tend to create a Masterplan each year, an overview of things we’d like to carry on with or introduce to the croft in terms of animals, crops, infrastructure and business. A list of fun things we want to do – places to visit, new skills to acquire, experiences to have. This is a discipline we have been following for years as a family – it has shaped Davies and Scarlett’s education, family holidays and adventures, learning opportunities and new experiences. It was this sort of Masterplan over the years that led to us camping in Scotland dolphin spotting, Davies joining the Young Archaeologists Club, me attending a book group (which led to working at the local library), us getting an allotment and more. It’s definitely a technique from school and work where Ady and I learned about reviews and appraisals and succession planning. We then break that down into seasonal, monthly or weekly plans, all of which are fluid and often have to be reactive to other factors such as weather, health, what else might creep up and happen. A mix of proactive and reactive, being adaptable and having planning skills has served us well in moving things forward and feeling productive while still having a nice life with plenty of freedom to follow our dreams.

That same working backwards from an end goal is what I applied to our heading off WWOOFing and then again when we moved to Rum. A friend tells me it’s called Critical Path Analysis. To me it’s making sure that on November 16th the four of us, plus cat and dog are on board a ferry off Rum leaving behind us a croft that is packed up waiting for us to come back in March or with plans in place for our absence. We’ll need to leave equipt with everything we need to see us though the short and long term time away or plans for how to make that happen as we go.

I’ve divided this into the following areas:

Rum
Animals: Rehome, kill & process or organise food and shelter and supervision while we’re away for pigs, sheep and poultry.
Our pigs will be going next week. One will be processed for the freezer. One will be buried alongside the other pigs who have been killed or died for non food reasons. We will then dismantle and pack away all of the fencing . The housing will be reused for the other animals staying over winter.
The Sheep will be staying. There is sufficient food and shelter here on Croft 3 for them over winter and they will be regularly checked for health and condition. We will dose them before we go and again on our return.
The turkeys will be staying on Rum with a friend who will feed them for us while we’re away. We will supply the food so they will still be our turkeys. They will come back to the croft when we return.
The geese will be staying on the croft. There is a huge population of wild geese on Rum and they thrive here needing no special food or shelter. They will remain on the croft along with the sheep and continue to graze and keep the croft grass down.
The guinea fowl will do the same.
Most of the chickens and ducks will be killed and processed. A tiny number will remain and be fed and checked along with the sheep by a friend. We’ll leave sufficient food supplies behind along with lots of shelter on the croft. As a fully free range flock they are well used to finding their own food and shelter on the croft and have very few predators.
This plan for the animals means that if we return to Rum in the spring with the intention of staying here then we already have our starting livestock here for us. If we have decided we are moving on then we can make arrangements to take the livestock with us or rehome it.

Crops: I have the usual end of season clearing up to do in the polytunnel, fruit cages, walled garden and other growing areas. I will clear any spent crops, tidy away anything at risk during the winter weather, cover all the bare soil with a thick mulch of seaweed and prune the fruit trees and bushes. These are my usual activities at this time of year and for the sake of a few days work it is worth preparing the ground for next years crops incase we do return.

Caravan: The caravan will be sealed up against the weather and pests during our absence as best it can be. We will turn off the water to the caravan and re-route the supply to drain into the ground to ensure it does not freeze, burst or grow stagnant in the pipes during our absence. The wind turbines will be dismantled, the solar panels disconnected, the batteries disconnected and the generators emptied and stored (we may take the main one off for a service). We will cap the log burner, turn off the gas and seal any vents with fabric conditioner sheets to deter rodents from moving in. We will remove or cover all soft furnishings, seal closed the doors and windows which leak water in the rain and leave internal doors and cupboards open for the air to circulate as much as possible. All food and perishable stuff will be removed and precious things taken with us or carefully stored away.

The croft: all tools and machines will be drained of fuel, cleaned and put away securely. We will not be leaving anything of great value, mostly because we don’t have anything of great value! But we have moved things useful and specific to croft 3 into a shed which will be sealed up to keep things safe.

The Shed: Most of the crafts are listed on Etsy so will be coming with us to ensure we can carry on fulfilling any sales we make. Jams will be stored here ready for next season. The shed will be locked up against the elements while we’re away.

Off Rum:
The logistics of leaving include booking the car onto the ferry (we have successfully completed the task of getting a new car and selling the old one – hurrah!), organising accommodation for our journey break down to Sussex (we have booked dentist and orthodentist check ups for the day after we leave which will dictate how far we get on the first leg of the trip), organising immunisations for Bonnie who has not needed them before by virtue of living here with no contact with other dogs. Planning things like mail redirection, emergency contacts and so on.

I have a masterplan for all of this laid out in a notebook with provisional and last possible dates for ticking things off the list. We have contingency plans for the variables and are starting to make plans for the actual things we’ll be doing while we’re off. But that’s for the next post.

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Walking Down Memory Lane

Our WWOOFing adventure was not the first ever time we had packed up ourselves and changed our life direction. In 2001 we were offered the opportunity to move from Sussex to Cheshire when Ady’s old boss set up a new business venture and offered him a job. At the time I had just gone back to work after having Davies (1 day a week in the office, 2 days from home) and we were planning a second baby fairly soon so it felt like a good time to say yes to something and somewhere new and different.

We were there for only a couple of years, during which time we had Scarlett, decided to Home Educate the children, gained loads of new skills and work experiences, settled into life in a completely different part of the UK to what we were used to and set about building a life for ourselves. We’ve been back to visit several times to catch up with friends.

We’ve just arrived back on Rum after a week off, our last trip off the island until we leave for the winter in mid November. As usual it was a multi-purpose visit. An orthodentist check up for Scarlett, collecting our new car for me (I went off the day before the others and got the train to collect the car then drove it back to meet them the following day), but the main reason was to attend a live podcast show which was one of Davies & Scarlett’s very delayed Christmas presents. The same podcast that we went to Sussex for last autumn to watch a live show of. This time when their European tour dates for 2017 came out we had already decided we would be leaving Rum for the winter but had no real idea where in the UK we might be so chose Manchester as the most central location to best suit wherever we might have ended up on the basis that we know the city well and could combine it with seeing friends too.

In the end we didn’t catch up with as many friends as we had anticipated – our dearest friends, more like family, happened to be away during our time there so our catch up with them will have to wait a while. Instead we did a lot of walking down memory lane, re-visiting the places that had meaning to us from when we lived there. I had looked at some old photos of our time in Manchester and we used them to go and take some then and now pictures and re-live the memories of those days when we took them.


This is Davies and I outside the daycare nursery he went to. He went for two short days a week for about 6 months. It was a lovely nursery, with lovely staff but he was very sad to be away from me and when Scarlett was born we took him out. It was in looking at alternatives to childcare and early years education that we stumbled upon Home Education, learned more about it and ultimately ended up deciding to follow that path for Davies and Scarlett.

Our old house. The house where Scarlett was born (home birth), where both the children took their first steps. As we pulled up we noticed a banner in the window proclaiming ‘it’s a girl’. We knocked on the door to ask if it was OK to take some pictures standing in front of the house and congratulated them – a brand new little baby girl now lives there.

Outside The Trafford Centre – where Ady and I both worked and we all spent a lot of time – a shopping mall with cinema, restaurants and more. The old pic was taken in 2003 and was the day Scarlett got her first shoes and took her first outside steps.

Inside The Trafford Centre, little Davies pretending to be part of the band. Now Davies tolerating with good humour my desire to recapture the moment.

There are various water features within the centre which used to fascinate them when they were little.

This indoor ski slope opened after we had already left Manchester but we visited it on a subsequent trip when both the children were still much smaller than me, unlike these days!

We went into the city centre on the metrolink tram, Davies had a haircut, Scarlett got some much needed new clothes and we enjoyed all the fast food, baths, TV and free wifi absolutely everywhere that the mainland has to offer.

We had arranged to bring one of Davies and Scarlett’s friends with us to the podcast show, which I went along to aswell and we had a great evening out in the city at a fabulous venue.

We ended our visit with a couple of nights staying with friends – the friend who had come with us. These have been family friends of ours for well over a decade although we have both moved around a lot. They have visited us here on Rum many times and it was lovely to catch up with them. Continuing in the spirit of the then and now picture pairs we found a snap from a visit to the, back in 2006 and took a new one.

In classic Rum fashion the ferry back home today was on high alert risk of cancellation or disruption as it’s very windy here. We did manage to get home albeit on a rather rough crossing and after much trudging up and down the hill with luggage and shopping (Ady) and putting it all away (me) we are settled back in with the logburner lit, the cat and dog delighted to have us home and a rapidly decreasing number of days left before we head off for a much longer spell.