The Process

“If life’s about the journey and not the destination
Then maybe we should all take time to do more procrastination
Eat the cake, smell the roses, take time to stop and stare
Walk along that sunset beach, be the tortoise, not the hare”

So penned a wise woman I know in a song she wrote and sings (spoiler, it’s me with my ukulele!)

It’s a cliche-ridden verse in a clique-ridden song, but cliches are cliches for a reason ie they are true, relevant, pertinent. Davies, Scarlett and I have been chatting about next steps for them recently. Davies got his results for his access course this week- a very high scoring pass which we are all delighted with. He will begin his BSc in October and is looking forward to that. Scarlett reaches official school leaving age in Scotland at the end of this year and having had a taste of online distance learning and how it works we have been looking at interesting short courses that she can work through over the winter – to have some varied options to maybe spark her interest in studying more in depth and to build her CV. These conversations have included talking about ‘the process’ with different types of activity.

My pre-parenthood employment was a mix of retail management and recruitment, while Davies and Scarlett were little I did various bits and pieces including freelance CV writing. Over the years I have used the terms self-motivated and goal-orientated countless times but in recent pondering I have come to realise I possibly never fully understood what they meant in terms of being neither positive or negative character traits particularly, just different types of personality. I’ve talked about methodical approaches, being ‘super organised’ and looking back at teams of people I have worked with or managed I can see that it was more often than not whether a person was goal or process driven that made them more or less suitable for certain tasks than anything else, including their actual skill in that task. I can tell you which of the members of our family is process driven and which are goal oriented. Neither is better or worse, just better suited for certain tasks, motivated and rewarded in different ways.

It will surprise no one I suspect that I am about the journey, the process, finding if not joy then at least fulfilment in every step. I’m happy to stop halfway up a mountain and enjoy the view just where I sit (another song lyric) without feeling the need to reach the top. And I realise that most of what I have constructed around me as my day to day life, way of making money, long term plans are all about the details, the process, the unhurried finding joy in the details and every step of the path. From my jam making where I love the growing the fruit, harvesting the fruit and planning jam flavours, the actual making of the jam itself and then the making the labels for the jars and displaying them in the shed, to my crochet which has the additional pre-step now of having sheared the sheep and spun the wool to choosing colours and textures, crocheting component parts and constructing a blanket, a soft toy, or other project.

I’ve been walking up one of the steep Rum tracks for the last month, not every day; I took a break while my parents were visiting and if I can’t fit the 90 minutes or so it takes into my day then that’s fine. It is partially about being active, for the health benefits that brings but also just as much about the views across Rum and out to sea, to Skye and the mainland, over to the Croft, the portfolio of pictures of me sat at the point I walk to each time with different backdrops of weather, of plant foliage and of wildlife, about the people I sometimes meet and sometimes stop to chat with. It’s about the headspace, the chance to listen to a podcast or some music, or enjoy the sounds of Rum – the crunch or splosh of my footsteps, the river running or trickling, the wild flights of fancy or new ideas that occur to me when my mind is empty of other things, or as my friend Joyce calls it the ‘mental tupperware sorting’ of organising your chaotic brain into tidy compartmentalised thoughts and the sense of peace that that can bring.

Learning new things is a fantastic gift that I think one should strive to enjoy every day, at every stage of life. Learning new things about oneself along the way is really interesting and probably goes a long way to explaining some of the choices in life I have made and why I am most happy in certain situations. I am so lucky to be able to live in a way which embraces these traits and to be able to share that life with people who are also celebrating their natural inclinations instead of working against them.

Harvesting

We deliberately have not done much in the way of crops this year. I sowed some herbs which are now in the herb spiral, some flowers, many of which have been cut and bought into the caravan to enjoy, some peas, most of which we have already eaten, some tomatoes which are just starting to flower, some chillies and peppers also just starting to flower, some sweetcorn which are monsters and already touching the top of the polytunnel but actually have some small cobs on and some salad which all bolted and went to seed. Keeping it small scale and mostly successful has rekindled the passion for me after a few years of serious losses of crops and allowed the raised beds a year to build soil quality with seaweed mulches and the chickens in the area enhancing the soil with their manure. I’m looking forward to starting again next year after more seaweed mulches on the soil over the winter. I’d really recommend the rest year, it’s worked well for me and hopefully also for the soil.

We bought some more lavender plants – they are my favourite flower, good for the bees but also really useful as an ingredient in both things like bath bombs but also in baking (lavender shortbread – yum!) and in my artisan jams. We have a trough on the front of the caravan decking with lavender and a whole load in containers which live in the polytunnel over winter and outside in the summer which I have been collecting flowers from to use fresh and drying to store.

We’ve had our biggest strawberry crop ever, all still from the original 10 plants we bought years ago and have taken runners from every year. I’ve thinned the plants already twice this year and have at least one more taking runners and planting them in the new big strawberry area ahead. Hopefully next year’s crop will be even bigger but we’ve had so many bowls of strawberries and for the first time ever had sufficient excess to make jam with too.

This is planted up runners waiting to be moved into the main strawberry area on a non-midgey day.

The blackcurrants, red currants, white currants, gooseberries, raspberries, tayberries and loganberries have all had / are still having a bumper year too. I’ve been picking every couple of days for several weeks and making jam as I go – summer fruit medley, blackcurrant and vanilla, blackcurrant and lavender, redcurrant and rose jams all now in the shed and already selling well.

There are a few of the very first apples finally on our apple trees which we planted about 4 years ago and of course we are only a short while away from the start of the bramble season – if the blossoms on the bramble bushes are any sort of indicator it’s going to be a bumper year for the brambles too.

 

Spinning Around

I’ve been working on mastering my spinning these last few weeks, putting hours and hours into it. My original little drop spindle (which I am not entirely sure of the origins of, it may well have been from a kit bought when I very first had a go at drop spinning years ago at Butser Ancient Farm┬ábut has definitely been ‘improved’ by me screwing a cup hook into the top and then ‘fixed’ with duct tape more than once) has been semi retired with the arrival of a new bobbin and drop spindle kit handmade in Cornwall. The maker does not have a website but if you are interested then search for Treneyn Crafts, I highly recommend this kit, it is such a clever design and beautifully made, just the sort of purchase and small business I love to support. So I’ve been alternately carding the sheared fleece, spinning onto one bobbin, spinning onto another bobbin and then spinning the wool from both of those onto a third bobbin, removing the wool from the bobbin onto my arm to form a skein and then thrice washing to remove the lanolin and set the twist before pegging out on the washing line. It’s a lovely process, really calming and zen (aside from brief swearing bouts when I drop the drop spindle!), my hands are beautifully moisturised from the lanolin and I have a basket filled with balls of wool and even made my first thing – as requested a long time ago when we first got our sheep Ady now has a hat!

I’ve made a few test squares with it too – it’s nice to work with but quite heavy so I’ve been trying to decide what to make as a first big project with it while I carry on perfecting my spinning to create yarns of different weights. Very excitingly my Mum has bought some more pure wool in complimentary colours (purple and green, my favourites, which added to the white will create a lovely suffragette colour palette) which will arrive next week and I can start working on a blanket – wool from our sheep spun by me, added to wool from my Mum, made into a blanket with hours of my time crocheted into it to create a very special family heirloom. I can’t wait to get started, but in the meantime you’ll find me spinning….