Celebrations

June brings Fathers Day and two specific anniversaries each year. One is solely mine – the anniversary of passing my driving test, which I did on 12th June 1991. I posted some memories of passing my test and the feeling of independence and adventure it gave me on facebook this week and it seemed to strike quite a chord with people. I know that travel and exploring the world is more than possible without a driving licence and that running a car comes with quite an environmental impact but I love driving and the freedom and empowerment that sitting behind a steering wheel offers. I reminisced about my first car – a bright yellow Mini that was older than me – and the adventures that we had together. I remembered also the various other cars I have held V5 forms for over the years and what they have symbolised for me – Ady and my first ‘nice’ car with electric windows and central locking, the brand new company cars which came with less than 10 miles on the clock, our campervan Willow, first introduced on this blog and our home for 9 months. My 27 years of driving celebrated this week hold a great many memories for me.

The next anniversary that rolls around each June is of Ady and I being a couple. We had been friends for a couple of years before we got together and infact I have known Ady since I was younger than Davies is and not much older than Scarlett is now, but we officially became ‘Nic & Ady’ 25 years ago today. It was a very quick path from first kiss to moving in together (a week) and buying a house (6 months). Getting married took longer (6 years) and was speedily followed by parenthood which should probably have been the start of acting like grown ups but as readers of this blog will know we may have grown older but we most certainly have not grown up. Many people who knew us back then doubted it would last and several of them congratulated us on facebook today but last it has and a very happy, love and laughter-filled 25 years it has been with memories made, fantastic adventures had and outlandish dreams chased and come true.

And it’s Fathers Day – a day to celebrate the wonderful Dads in our lives – Ady of course, a brilliant dad to Davies and Scarlett

And my Dad, a fantastic Dad to me and my brother, father-in-law to Ady and Grandad to Davies and Scarlett and my nephew Robin.

Truly a week of celebrating our good fortune to have the people in our lives that we do and the opportunities in our lives that we’ve had.

It’s been a week of very mixed weather with midges, sunshine, storm Hector and finally some much needed rain to top the water supplies back up again. During the dry start to the week we were busy outside. We re-laid the worn path up the croft with some wood we’ve been given. Ady carried the wood up the hill, cut it to size and created a new path on top of the stone path which was eroding. I then finished it by stapling on chicken wire to make sure it is non-slip.

Ady had cleared out the herb spiral which had been rather over-grazed by the sheep so I replanted it with some of the herbs I’ve grown from seed in the polytunnel

And the day finally arrived when we had an actual excess of home grown strawberries and I got to make jam. Only 3 jars and one has already been consumed but the caravan smelt like Heaven and it truly is a landmark day when we have more strawberries than the four of us can eat!

The signs at the Shed and around the nature trail had faded a little from all the full on sunshine we’ve been having so I did some re-touching of them with my paint pens

And then it rained. And was windy.

Which was really just as well quite honestly, the river was unbelievably low so it was a huge relief to have it topped back up again.

Being inside for a few days has given me the perfect opportunity to really work on spinning with the drop spindle. I can see a huge improvement on the wool I was spinning just a week ago to the wool I’ve been spinning today, it’s really exciting measuring my progress.

And with a huge THANKYOU to the generosity of reader Liz I have a start in my spinning wheel fund too – I really appreciate it Liz and hopefully sales from the Shed will continue to top up the fund.

Dads, life partners, rain, generosity, strawberries, herbs, a better pathway and new skills… that seems like quite a lot to be celebrating.

Mostly sunshine and midges

Still no rain…. it’s been weeks! The midges are here in force now, certainly feeling like the worst year we can remember and other islanders agree. After a few pretty hellish nights we have Taken Steps and now have two new fans, new foam sealant around the windows and Scarlett and I (the two most affected by the heat) have special cooling towels which have meant better nights sleep all round as we keep the midges outside and the temperature in the static slightly lower. It’s still quite a challenging run of unusually hot weather though and the dry, while lovely in terms of being able to roam around in normal shoes is starting to prove slightly worrying as our drinking (well every really) water supply is a mere trickle. I think we have some rain forecast for next week and it it will be pretty welcome. The island is also tinder dry so risks of more wild fires are pretty high too – hopefully the large volume of visitors will continue to be hyper-cautious and heed all the warning posters around the village and at the ferry pier.

It’s far from all doom and gloom though – everything looks and feels better in the sunshine doesn’t it? Rum is beautiful, everything is green, the seas and skies are blue and if we’re getting plagued by the midges and cleggs (a sort of horsefly, very bitey!) we’re also being treated to plenty of more welcome wildlife such as cuckoos calling, dragonflies starting to fly, the first dolphin and porpoise sightings of the year out on the Sheerwater boat trip and the red deer stags with their antlers grown back and covered in velvet while their coats redden up. Along with our weekly boat trips I also went out with SNH this week volunteering as scribe for the annual nesting sea bird count around the south coast of Rum. I was noting down the numbers for people spotting guillemots, razorbills, shags, fulmars, gulls and kittiwakes sitting on nests. It’s lovely to see Rum from different perspectives and realise how many hidden treasures and undiscovered corners our little island has. It’s only 8 miles across but is covered with such diverse landscapes and nooks and crannies.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks In The Shed – top seller is our little crochet Highland cows, which are not flying off the shelf but are certainly ambling along at a good speed. Today was a very midgey day keeping me indoors for most of the day so I managed to make another two to replace sales.

We got our certificate and stickers to show we are approved Scottish Crofting Producers which are now on display in the shed and sent off a parcel of our items for display on the Scottish Crofting Federation stand at the Royal Highland Show too.

Jam continues to be a good seller, along with our eggs and we’ve had another big order for bread, cakes and quiches which kept Scarlett and I busy for a whole afternoon of kneading, baking and decorating.

Ady and I have had a couple of fishing sessions. Just for an hour or so each time, coinciding with the ferry. The first time we caught a mackerel which we shared as a starter that evening – sea to plate in about an hour. The second time we only caught a tiddly fish so threw it back but it’s coming to the big mackerel season so they should be on our menu more and more frequently in the coming weeks.

Also in season now are the strawberries, with a huge bowlful ripe every other day. So far we’ve noshed the lot between the four of us but Ady is dreaming of strawberry jam so I may yet hold back some. Last years lavenders are in bloom so I’ve harvested some of the flowers to dry ready for bramble jam season in a few months time – bramble and lavender is one of our best sellers. The rest of the flowers I’ve left for the bees, along with the comfrey which is starting to flower and various other flowers I am growing for the bees including calendula.

The peas are starting to pod, the herbs are ready to plant out in the newly spruced up herb spiral that Ady sorted out this week and the sweetcorn and tomato plants are doing well in the polytunnel.

We’ve planted out 60 new tiny lavender plants this year including a boxful attached to the front of the decking around the caravan – for the bees, for us to smell and enjoy and for picking and drying the flowers.

Outside there are tiny apples forming where the blossom is dying back, the raspberries, loganberries and tayberries are also starting to form and the blackcurrants, redcurrants and gooseberries are all growing fatter and starting to ripen too.

We have started making plans to buy or hire a ram for our three ewes this winter so that we can have lambs next spring. We’ll be shearing the sheep in the next week or so and while I am still saving up for a spinning wheel I have made a start on processing the fleeces from last year with a drop spindle, which I am getting better at with practice.

Alongside all of this activity we have also found time for several rounds of croquet each day which is Ady and my new favourite thing. The croft is a million miles away from a flat, manicured croquet lawn but the quirks of the pitch make it all the more fun, the dodging of goose poo, and often geese themselves, along with Bonnie attempting to fetch the balls and Kira trying to chase them, frequently with a side order of midges distracting us makes for great hilarity and a well deserved G&T or beer afterwards.

Like I said, sunshine makes everything look and feel better…