2015 – Bad, Good, Learnt

Ady

Bad
1. More losses to the island community – people leaving, someone dying, we are at an all time low in resident numbers since we have been on Rum.
2. Still very much at the start of having sufficient power. We have a south facing plot, with reliable wind and water on two sides of the croft. We have not yet really got to a point where we are harnessing all of those things to full potential. An example of this is that we would really like to set up an incubator to hatch more birds but cannot find one to run on our sporadic power set up.
3. There have been some big divides on the island this year with some huge decisions to be made about the direction which the community should go. It is frustrating and causes tensions.
4. The logistics of island living meaning we are very tied to Rum. The last twice Nic and the kids have been off to the mainland for doctor / dentist visits I have stayed behind as we don’t have dog or croft creatures sitters here any more.
5. Lack of really good social gatherings and events. There have not been as many on or off island gatherings as last year and we miss those highlights which get us through.

Good
1. Livestock – our ducks, geese and pigs have all bred successfully this year, another step forward in the quest for self sufficiency.
2. Ghillying, really hard work but a lot of fun. I saw parts of the island I’d not been to before.
3. The flushing loo. The set up still is not perfect and requires some unpleasant maintenance but it is a massive leap forward from where we were this time last year.
4. Doing the New Lives In The Wild TV was an amazing experience. We have had so much feedback from people who watched the show and to realise we are living so many peoples dream is fantastic.
5. The romance of Christmas on Rum is lovey. Chopping down a tree, eating our own produce, low key present giving and shopping, our own traditions.

Learnt.
1. More car mechanics maintenance. Replacing the battery terminals on our Jeep was a real victory and working on the Rangerover with a friend learning new skills.
2. More about pig processing, we’ve now done seven all by ourselves and feel more confident with each one.
3. How to build Rum proof structures. Or at least ones more likely to cope here with modifications and acknowledgements in what is vulnerable here.
4. More about Rum, where places are, the routes around the island from the ghillying work.
5. Despite saying we have not fully harnessed alternative power as much as I would have liked I have learned so much about how to make bespoke power set ups and how it all works.

Hopes for 2016.
1. Neighbours! It would be great to have the next door croft occupied full time.
2. We have a croft sitter organised for February to enable us to go off, meet up with friends and have a break while knowing Bonnie, the croft creatures, crops and caravan are in safe hands. I hope this goes well and is the start of us being able to do this more frequently.
3. To create a footpath to the top of the croft. I have managed about a third of the way up and it is so much easier to walk, push a barrow and get up and down the hill on that section. I’d love to have it all the way to the top.
4. To increase the livestock on the croft, definitely sheep, possibly other animals.
5. To plant 100 trees in 2016.

Ady’s special bonus wish for 2016 is to fly over the croft – helicopter, plane of other method.

Scarlett

Bad
1. It was not a great summer and we didn’t spend as much time outside as I would have liked to.
2. There has been lots of condensation in the caravan this year.
3. My pet duckling Lily dying.
4. Not seeing as many friends this year as we did last year.
5. We had quite a lot of broody birds this year but only one goose and one duck actually hatched and raised any young.

Good
1. Hatching ducklings.I had done this before in Sussex and really wanted to raise ducklings again and this year I raised a couple of the ducklings which were rejected by the mother.
2. Seeing and helping Barbara pig give birth to her litter.
3. Made new friends – we met a new friend at our Outward Bound residential in February and have been to stay with her and her sister who is also now our friend several times and they have been to stay with us on Rum too.
4. Going to Edinburgh Zoo in February. I loved seeing the pandas and the penguins.
5. Seeing my first live proper antler clashing red deer fight during the rut.

Learnt
1. How to make clay models (self taught).
2. I learnt some technical stuff about the cameras and sound equipment when the film crew were here with us.
3. I learnt more about bike riding (and got a new, big bike).
4. More information about animals. The zoo trip and lots of watching animal documentaries has taught me lots more animal facts.
5. How to cook new foods.

Hopes for 2016
1. To hatch more baby birds in an incubator – so to get an incubator!
2. To spend more time with the pigs, particularly Waddles the mini pig, maybe train her.
3. To still be on Rum this time next year.
4. I would love to see more marine wildlife.
5. I would like to see bears (this one is not a Rum hope, obviously!)

Scarlett’s special bonus wish for 2016 – to fly in an aeroplane or helicopter.

Davies

Bad:
1. We had nearly no visitors this year, maybe next year we can go off more or have more people to visit.
2. Limited power meaning limited internet / charge on devices.
3. Lack of opportunities for things like cinema visits.
4. This year for the first time I experienced first hand the challenging side of living in such close contact with such a small number of people and island politics.
5. This year more people have left Rum and no one new has come. Several of the people who have moved away were those I enjoyed spending time with.

Good
1. Bikes! We have new bikes, I know that is not a lot to do with this year but I will be riding mine a lot.
2. Outward Bound. I did not have the most fun but I enjoyed going and me and Scarlett met our new friend Jenna (and later her sister Iona)
3. The Ben Fogle show – I know even though I wasn’t in it! (Davies says he was not in the show as much as the rest of us). It was really cool to be able to say that I did a show with Ben Fogle and that it will be out there forever and all through my life I can show it to people and say ‘Look, that was me when I was 14’.
4. I have found online ways of chatting to people like Skype and other things and that means I can keep in touch with old friends and make new friends.
5. Going off. I do really REALLY love Rum but it is also nice to go off and this year we have gone off and just relaxed, not rushing around and I would like to do more of that next year.

Learnt.
1. I have learnt how to spell a lot better which is great and I would to carry on improving.
2. I have sadly learnt that my postcards are just not selling so I will need to make a new thing to sell.
3. From doing the Outward Bound weekend and spending time with other kids my age I learnt how lucky I am to have the life that I have, not going to school, learning in my own time and in my own ways.
4. The two sound / camera men on the TV crew spent lots of time with me and taught me lots about their equipment and film making tips, some of which I have used in my own film making.
5. Scarlett and I had our first solo trip off Rum without our parents and I had to deal with things like buying tickets and the machine not working, so I learnt the way I deal with responsibility.

Hopes for 2016.
1. I want to improve my reading and writing and spelling even more.
2. To have an idea of what direction I’d like to take my life by the end of the year. I will be 16 and starting to think about what I want to do / learn / experience next.
3. To go off Rum more and maybe visit friends.
4. I’d like to learn how to process / butcher a pig. I don’t want to kill one but I would like to be able to do the rest.
5. I’d like to explore more of Rum. Now we have bikes I would really like to get out into the island, maybe even camp overnight somewhere.

Davies special Bonus wish for 2016 is to visit another country outside of the UK. I’ve been to France and Belgium but I’d love to go to another country.

Nic

Bad
1. Feeling a long way away from family. There have been events I have not been present at this last year which would have been inconceivable to imagine before we moved here. The reality of missing birthdays, parties, a funeral or simply there to offer a hug has hit home this year.
2. The summer was a total wash out, it felt like spring just didn’t get here, summer barely put in an appearance and it was actually a relief to get to autumn and stop pretending there was any chance of decent weather. The midges barely even appeared. For a life so reliant on sunshine and warmth (for solar panel energy, for crops to grow, for animals to flourish) it was bloody awful. More than once this year we said that if this had been our first year here we’d probably have given up and left! It was a shockingly bad year for growing, my only consolation was that it seemed the same the whole of the UK over.
3. Losing residents. The first death on Rum and a further seven people leaving the island. Every single one of those eight people who no longer live here have left a hole which as yet has not been filled or even covered over.
4. Island politics. This year has seen some of my friendships here on the island really deepen and after nearly four years I know that I have some friends here who will stay in my life forever. With that familiarity has also come some tough times here and I’ll be ending 2015 stepping down from my role as a director. It will be a relief to no longer be a key decision maker and to focus on our lives here on the croft more heavily.
5. The weekly Sheerwater boat trips which are usually a highlight of our summer were disappointing this year. Very often the weather was so poor the trip was cancelled, more often it ran but was so rough that people were seasick and enduring rather than enjoying the experience. We saw so little wildlife above or below the waves. We remained hopeful and positive for the duration and were rewarded once or twice with whale sightings which is always special but more often we came back to dry land feeling disappointed.

Good
1. Although we missed Ady I loved my mainland adventure with Davies and Scarlett in September. We ticked a load of experiences off our wish lists from trying pistachio ice cream (Davies) to riding in cable cars up Ben Nevis (me). We had a brilliant time with loads of little treats like ice creams, hot chocolates, fast food, bubble baths and crap TV which we simply don’t get to partake of here on Rum and for four nights the novelty value was huge. I loved hanging out with them again, just the three of us like old times and the dynamic, conversations and silly fun we all had together was a real highlight of my year.
2. The TV show. Last year in my hopes I said I wanted us to have an adventure. I think that having a film crew and celebrity staying here with us filming our lives and making a one hour show about us which aired on national TV and was viewed by 2 million people qualifies as an adventure! The response was fantastic, the show will be a forever momento of our lives and we have had so many people make contact with us as a result. It was also brilliant for so many friends and family who have not managed to visit us here to see something of what our life is like through the TV show.
3. More writing. Last year one of my ‘goods’ was that I had managed some writing work. I have continued to build on that this year and have had several articles published, been working on co-authoring a book and made contact with a publisher myself.
4. Livestock successes. We’ve not been without losses this year to livestock but we have done well with helping our creatures breed and rear young too. Barbara and Tom had their third litter and Scarlett and I helped Barbara deliver her piglets this year which will be a memory I will keep forever as magical. We revived a couple of non breathing piglets and sitting in a cold and draughty pighouse with my daughter watching the miracle of birth was just so special. Our first goslings to reach adulthood and the really momentous first ducklings hatched by a duck who was hatched here on Croft 3 herself. Second generation Rum!
5. Progress! I can see a real progression on the croft from this time last year. We lost the community polytunnel but managed to create a new one, we finished digging out the cob house foundations, we hosted several volunteers, we graduated from a honesty table to a fridge to the shed. We’re still very much getting there rather than arrived but when I look back at our original croft business plan I can see the very real progress we have made and continue to make, against all odds, every year.

Learnt
1. Acceptance. You will notice that none of us have listed ‘we don’t have a house yet’ in our ‘bad’ category this year. The reason for that is that we have stopped measuring our success here on something we never set out to achieve anyway. When we left Sussex it was to find a different life, to live more simply, to spend more time together, to be more in touch with what was really important. We never set out to take on such a huge challenge as Rum, we never intended to move somewhere quite so remote. We never had ‘build a house’ on our list of dreams. This opportunity fell into our path and we took it without really appreciating just what we were taking on. Over the last four years we have come up with various versions of a masterplan but the big hurdle we always have to overcome is building a house. It stops us from feeling we have done well, it prevents us from focussing on livestock or crops, it is always in the back of our minds, looming large, reminding us of all we have not done rather than celebrating what we have achieved. This year we admitted that actually building a house is not on any one of the four of us wish lists. We need a better dwelling than the caravan, we love the idea of a cob house but we lack the skills and ability to actually build one. Currently we also lack the facilities to house the volunteers we’d need to make it happen. That doesn’t mean it won’t, it simply means we are going to focus most on the things we actually enjoy doing – growing food and rearing animals, working on arts and crafts, writing and photography, welcoming volunteers and visitors who are able to fit in and accept what is here just now. That may mean the cob house takes 5 years to make happen, it may never happen at all, the caravan roof may blow off in the next big storm and mean we need to rethink absolutely everything. It does mean that we get to forgive ourselves what we have not made happen and focus on doing the things we want to, are good at and enjoy, which is what our motto for life was always supposed to be.
2. Next stage of parenting! We now have two teens in the house and the leap in independence and different needs we have seen over this year has been huge. From their first residential trip to their first solo mainland visit, physical changes and just plain growing up. I’m loving having teenagers and so far the transition has been smooth and straightforward but it is a transition nonetheless and realising that the ways in which my children need me now are so very different to how they used to is definitely a learning experience.
3. New crafts – I experimented with string art, am teaching myself basket weaving (I have been out and about gathering materials for this), learnt tunisian crochet and various new knitting and crochet stitches. Scarlett and I have experimented with candle making more this year. I have several books on knitting and crochet which I have never really attempted to make anything from before, always getting fed up with trying to follow a pattern. This year I have actually managed a few.
4. I learned a lot from the TV experience. I learnt how much work goes into a one hour show and how many people are behind the scenes, I learnt that even a reality / documentary style show has an agenda, a story to tell, an angle. I learnt that we are not just four people out there doing our thing, we are actually living a lot of peoples’ dreams. I learnt how one sided viewing something on TV can be. Every single TV show we watch now we view with a completely different perspective.
5. I learnt how far we have come from who and where we used to be. It is now five years ago that we were spending our final Christmas in Sussex, our lives already part packed up ready to head off on adventures. I think it was the week before Christmas that we found tenants for our house, the campervan was already sitting on the driveway. Those four people don’t even exist any more. On our trips back to the mainland this year we have felt like tourists, like visitors, like aliens. Sometimes we have enjoyed the novelty, sometimes we have felt uncomfortable and unhappy. We talk sometimes about where we would go if we ever left Rum and as has happened to so many people we know who have lived here we know we have been forever changed by this experience. This year I realised it fully for the first time.

Hopes for 2016
1. A good year for growing. I’d really like to be proudly showing off bumper harvests this year. We have the polytunnel, herb spiral, raised beds and fruit cage all set up now, it’s all ready to go it just needs the sowing and tending from me and the right conditions from nature to help things along.
2. More livestock. Ady has already mentioned sheep and we definitely plan to get two or three ewes for the croft to graze, help control the ragwort and give us some wool. Possibly we’d look at breeding the year after if the first year of keeping them goes well. If we have learnt anything here it is to start small so that you only make small mistakes. I am also keen to keep bees and would like to at least fully investigate this possibility, cost it out and look at what I need to learn to embark on beekeeping this coming year even if I don’t actually get the bees here to Rum in 2016.
3. In the Shed. I’m really hoping that the shed shop has a good first season with some good sales. We have some initial stock of produce and crafts and ideas for more. I’m looking forward to seeing what visitors think of it and how we do with it.
4. More published writing. I want to carry on building on what I have achieved with my writing this year, continue writing for the publications I have already written for and explore further possibilities.
5. More focus on family. I am really aware that time slips away so quickly and our current life is only one chapter for all of us, for Davies and Scarlett it’s just the start of their lives. I want to spend more time with them helping them reach for their dreams, having adventures and building memories together in 2016.

Special bonus hope for 2016 for me – Reading what everyone else has written I can see a very clear hope for an exceptional experience, maybe a holiday or trip somewhere really special for the four of us. I have no idea how feasible that is with all our commitments here and financial constraints but our special bonus wishes are always pie in the sky ones we have little control over so I’ll write it down anyway.

4 thoughts on “2015 – Bad, Good, Learnt

  1. I always enjoy reading your posts and think it’s amazing what you guys have achieved in such a short time. I hope the weather in 2016 is kinder to you x

  2. An honest and optimistic post. Your comment regarding the cob house is a realistic appraisal, sometimes we can get so focused on the seemingly insurmountable that we fail to acknowledge our achievements along the way! I hope 2016 is another successful year for you all.

    San x

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