Nearly a year back

We are coming up to it being a year since we returned to Rum after our winter off in 2017 / 2018. We returned with the intention of giving Rum one last shot at working for us, while trying to spend more time off to get a better balance of mainland / island life.

‘Making Rum work’ has always been a rather subjective and almost ever changing notion with so many determining factors as to whether it is working, has worked, could maybe possibly potentially one day work. The past year making Rum work was about earning as much money as we could from the various endeavours we have here. That meant advertising our various crafts and produce as much as we could – we refreshed and added to the welly trail and signage up to the Croft, painted our on-island car to direct visitors up to the croft, did lots of social media posting, created extra signage to direct people to the North Side Nature trail which brings visitors around the sides of the croft and past the shed selling our crafts and produce. We carried on pushing sales throughout the year online netting several sales right up until Christmas, which is way past when we have usually finished for the season.

We introduced lots of new lines in the shed and in our online etsy shop including clocks, badges, stamped keyrings and pendants, slate signs and crochet creatures. We invested in nicer jam jars with fancier labels and sold through the older style jars of jam. We introduced several new jam flavours based on what had sold well previously. We gifted a couple of clocks to be displayed in other on-island businesses to draw people up to buy them and provided quite a lot of produce delivered down to the bunkhouse including bread and cakes. We did a few talks and tours on the croft and a couple of workshops teaching people some of the crafts we sell here.

We were more efficient in our egg selling with most of the birds penned so that we were collecting all of the eggs instead of sharing them with the crows. We only let a couple of birds hatch young (although sadly none of the hatchlings made it). We only grew crops that we knew would be profitable in terms of feeding ourselves or being made into preserves.

Ady took on a fair bit of off-the-croft work, although he was hampered by his knee injury from taking on quite as much as he’d have liked into the autumn. We kept our livestock holding numbers down to a static number and managed to shear the sheep all by ourselves, with the first fleece spun and turned into wool items for sale.

All of these efforts to earn more went towards spending more so that we could balance our lives better to meet the needs of our restless teens and our own needs for a social and cultural life over and above what Rum can provide.

We have had trips to Northern Ireland, North Wales, several visits to Sussex, to London, to Manchester, to Inverness and Aviemore. We’ve been to the theatre, the cinema, museums, memorial services, beaches, the Giants Causeway, neighbouring islands, zoos and more.

Our plan was to spend the spring, summer and autumn on Rum and then head off again for the winter. We had hoped to find somewhere local-ish to rent over the winter so that we could keep a close eye on the Croft while not having to actually survive in the caravan over the winter. Unfortunately we are far from the only people looking to rent short, or even long term in this area. We have spent six months trying to find somewhere, casting our net ever wider and turning up nothing even slightly suitable, let alone perfect. And suddenly we find ourselves just weeks away from the spring having stayed another winter in the end after all. We have managed plenty of time off over the winter and it has been a very kind, mild, mostly bearable winter (so far…. never speak too soon, spring could easily be delayed until May!).

It would be easy enough to aim to do the same again this year – settle for a spring, summer and autumn here and plan to be off for as much of next winter as possible with regular trips off but that is starting to feel like something of a limbo, as though we are all poised ready to start the next bit but never quite getting off the ‘ready…..steady….’ bit of the starting blocks. The fact is that while we could easily do just that and see out another season here quite contentedly pottering about on the croft, incrementally growing the business from the shed, tending to our livestock and growing a few crops whilst spending what we earn on nice distractions and experiences we all four know that this chapter of our lives is meeting our needs less and less with every passing month.

We started this blog, way back in 2010 when we were four perfectly happy and content people who just felt we were slightly living the wrong lives. As though there was a better fit for us somewhere else. We were not miserable or sad, not deeply unhappy or unfulfilled and we found joy in our lives daily. But we knew there was something else out there that would be even better. That is where we find ourselves once again….on the cusp of the next unsettling, scary, unknown, risky adventure. I always tell the kids that you know when something is right for you because you get that fizzy, pit of your stomach feeling of excitement, like the night before Christmas or just as the rollercoaster pauses for that split second at the very top of the track, or you look down from the top of the diving board…..or you realise that no one is holding on to the back of your saddle anymore and you really are peddling this bike all on your own.

It is wrong when living in an off grid caravan, halfway up a muddy hillside, on a remote Scottish island becomes the safe and known. It’s been a tremendous adventure and we have learned so very much but I think the biggest lesson of all has to be that if this felt like a huge and exciting venture then maybe this was only the start and perhaps there is something even more exciting waiting for us. We just need to start looking a bit harder.

This week we all sat and compiled a list of what we would look for next in an ideal home. The results were interesting, with plenty of crossovers between the four of us. Some are reactions to how we have been living for the past eight years since we left our cosy Sussex home, some are takeaways from precisely how we have been living and don’t want to let go of. It gives us the basis of what to look for next and some ideas of ways to make enough money to support ourselves with the next set of things we’d like to do, see, achieve and experience.

More as we start to work it out ourselves….

Jaunts and Adventures

We’ve been away. Away from Rum and back visiting old lives, old friends and family.

Poor weather meant we ended up away for even longer than we’d first planned but it’s not a bad time of year to be away from our caravan. It was a shame to have missed some heavy snow here for the photo opportunities and the beauty that is Rum under a heavy coating of white, but fortunately we had plenty of photos posted up by fellow islanders to look at instead.

Our first stop on our time off was Greater Manchester, in a little cottage for a week. It was lovely; a cosy, warm, beautiful little house with everything we could possibly need. Close enough to the nearest town to walk in for supplies, close enough to Manchester city to drive in – which we did lots!

To collect and drop off friends from the airport 

To go to a Welcome to Nightvale live show (as the introduction speech went ‘if you have never been to a Nightvale show before you are in for a weird evening. If you have been to a Nightvale show before you are in for a weird evening’). Davies was interviewed in the queue outside

We had a fabulous weekend with friends, some up from Sussex, some over from Northern Ireland.

There was singing, dancing, eating, drinking, laughing, talking and general merriment. There was not much sleeping….

Family from Manchester came to visit us 

and we managed a trip to the Trafford Centre

And it snowed! Which was both amazing because it was so beautiful….

and a bit rubbish because it meant that a get together with another set of friends we’d been really hoping to see had to be cancelled due to the weather / driving conditions / planned meeting being a walk with our dogs.

After a very enjoyable week we headed even further south down to my parents. Another lovely stay with lots of time spent with Mum & Dad, my brother and his son, both my sister-in-laws and our nieces and nephews. I met a friend for lunch, Ady, Davies and Scarlett had a trip to the cinema, walks along the beach and onto the pier and some very successful charity shop trawling trips where our required items of four hand luggage sized suitcases for a trip later this year were met for less than we’d have paid for one new, plus my search for new walking boots was met with not one but two pairs for less money than I’d had refunded for the pair that fell apart after just a few months use. Ady and I helped Dad fit a bit of shower screen and I helped Dad put together a garden store. We helped dig several large currant bushes out of one place and replant them in another.

We chased sunsets a few times – on the beach, up on the south downs. I had a wonderful sunset walk along Worthing beach and pier when I met the others from the cinema and managed to see flocks of starlings murmerating over the pier before swooping down to land underneath it to roost for the night. Scarlett fed the gulls on the beach one day too.

Despite the motorway path back up north home being long and mostly boring we did have some amazing birding spots though – loads of buzzards over the M25, huge numbers of red kites over the M40 and several large mumerations of starlings over the M6.

As always returning to Rum is a mixed bag of emotions – sadness to leave behind family and friends, the relative ease in many aspects of mainland life and all it offers. Joy to return to the place that definitely feels like home in my heart, reluctance to settle once more in the caravan yet comfort at once more having our belongings around us; drinking tea from my own mug, using my own kitchen utensils to cook with, laying my hands on something as soon as I think I may want it. Life on the road has many delights but settling into a place called home, wherever that might be trumps them all for now.

The time off has given us pause to consider further our next steps though and the search for the right path ahead continues. More on that in posts to come.