2016 – Bad, good, learnt… and hopes for 2017

Ady
Bad
1. The health emergency at the start of this year. It really bought home how remote we are, how vulnerable. Croft 3 is almost an island on an island – we are so remote even from the village.

2. The feeling of being trapped a little bit. We now have a mainland car and the ferry prices have been reduced so in theory it should be feasible to escape for a weekend off every now and then. The reality is that we don’t have anyone we can regularly ask to look after our animals here as there are so few residents now and no crofting neighbours we can return the favour for.

3. That our infrastructure challenges on the croft have more or less ground to a halt. Despite making huge inroads to things like power and water we will never be able to drive our big deliveries onto the croft without a big financial investment on a vehicle or a bridge we will not move any further forward than we already have.

4. There are lots of big decisions on the table for the future development of the island, all of which are pretty divisive and contentious. This has meant a feeling of tension and a lack of the fun socialising that we enjoyed in our early time here.

5. The knowledge that this adventure in it’s current incarnation is finite. That we have a limited amount of time left doing this for a variety of reasons.

Good
1. I think we have come on in leaps and bounds with taming the croft. We’ve cut large areas of the reeds and grass, planted trees, have lots of livestock grazing and living. When we look at the croft it is very obvious what we have done.

2. I’ve enjoyed the working off the croft. I’ve done a fair bit of ghilly work and working for SNH on the hostel and I like that.

3. Our set up on things like power, water, gas is now working. It requires regular maintenance and sometimes things go wrong but I am confident in sorting out any issues.

4. It’s been a kind year of weather. Right up until mid December we have had a period of very calm, dry conditions. Spring and Summer were good this year and autumn stretched.

5. Hosting volunteers. We had some great WWOOFers this year, met some really interesting people and got lots done during their stays.

Learnt
1. I thought that it would be possible to live this way forever but I am realising it is not going to happen. The living space is starting to not work for us, fixtures and fittings are wearing out.

2. That despite our unique set up – island life, small community, off grid living – we are not really that different. From talking to others and really listening this year I realise that the same challenges and issues exist in so many other places. And that you can learn so much from how others do things.

3. Sheep. We’re still learning obviously, but this is a new livestock for us and as such I have been getting educated about their care, behaviour and handling.

4. Our usual philosophy is to make small considered moves forward and ensure we have researched and prepared properly. This year we made a couple of rasher decisions, all of which proved foolish. I’ve learnt that we should stick to our usual ways.

5. We need to do more to create a camping / accommodation area. We made an excellent start this year but there were parts of it lacking – a path, a better base to the bell tent, something more Rum-proof.

Hopes for 2017
1. To set up hydro power. I have done lots of reading and would really like to conquer harnessing water to provide power.

2. A way of getting across the river or at the very least brainstorming it and coming up with some ideas. Bringing up firewood, gas bottles, animal feed etc. is all so very hard and I’d like to see whether we can change that.

3. More trees! I smashed last years aim of planting 100 and we’ve planted about 500 this year. I’d like to plant even more in 2017

4. Neighbours – again!

5. Improve the camping / accommodation area on the croft.

Special bonus wish: to learn to ceilidh dance. Whenever we have ceilidhs here I always sit them out because I just can’t do it, but everyone always has so much fun I would love to be able to join in and feel confident that I know what I’m doing.

Nic
Bad:
1. The incredibly challenging start to the year and first few weeks. Technically it was still 2015 rather than 2016 when it started but the couple of hours sat in the dark waiting for the helicopter to arrive, trying to remain calm for Ady and the kids, trying to the find the balance between organising my thoughts for worst case scenarios and remaining positive while the batteries ran flat, the fire went out and we were utterly at the mercy of other people was easily the most difficult period of my entire life. The following week was also filled with challenging moments, all of which were made all the more tricky because of where we live. Back in our old lives an incident like that would have meant either a 999 call to an ambulance which would have been at our house with Ady in hospital within half an hour or more likely me just driving him there. I could then have spent time with him in hospital each day with other family and friends able to easily visit. We would not have had to put our entire lives on hold, call in countless favours in croft / pet / animal feeding duties, spent a fortune in hotel bills, car hire, fuel, food, clothing and so on. It really bought home to me the precariousness of our living situation.

2. The continued decline of resident numbers on Rum. I love Rum, I love our lives here. But I also love people, lots of different people and just now there are very few people.

3. Tom the pig dying. Infact pig stuff generally has been sad and bad this year. From Tom dying to Barbara losing a litter of piglets to Waddles also failing to birth and raise a litter to the complete debacle of introducing a couple of new pigs here which didn’t go at all well.

4. Mortality reminders. That’s a bit morbid I know but a couple of friends have lost relatives, obviously lots of high profile people have passed away during 2016 and we had a health scare within our own family unit. All of this reminds me that life is short, time with people you love is precious and finite. For me that pulls me in different directions and gives me a feeling of conflict – it makes me both want to stay close to those I love and spend as much time as I can in their company but it also makes me want to chase my dreams and pursue my own adventures even more. Those are not very compatible things to achieve!

5. Limited opportunities. 2016 has been a huge year on the world stage. Social media tells me that people feel disempowered, fractured and helpless, angry, unrepresented and just plain sad about the state of our planet, our politics and the consequences of our actions. I personally have had the least politically active year of my adult life. I have done little in the way of volunteering or actively making things I believe in happen. I have found it tricky this year to live to my own belief that we should be the change we want to see in the world. I have signed petitions, engaged with my MP on a couple of issues, contributed to various consultations and made a few charitable donations but I know that I could have done more. Part of that is lack of access to ways to make a difference, part of it was a conscious choice to focus more on us and the croft this year but I am aware of it as a lacking part of this year for me.

Good:
1. The shed. We opened our little shop at the croft gate this year with high hopes but no real idea of what level of sales we might get. It’s been great – over 300 customers (many buying more than one thing), a really good insight into what lines people do and don’t want to buy. We more than made back the cost of buying the shed and setting it up and had some lovely comments in the log book where people note what they have bought.

2. The set up on the croft. We more or less have the land on the croft set up or in progress on the way to being set up. We have clear areas for animals, crops, camping, firewood processing and storage and so on. I feel we have a good understanding of how the land works here through the seasons and while it will always be a work in progress we understand what we have to do to improve and work the croft.

3. The volunteer events – both the actual hosting of the volunteers which was great, meeting new people, sharing ideas and working together and the actual output from those events of improved camp kitchen, areas weeded and our path up the croft which is proving a real life changer during these muddy winter months.

4. Our various trips off (January helicopter chasing aside!) have all been good this year. In previous years we often begrudged the time spent on the mainland for dentist visits. This year we really made the most of the time off with careful planning. The big trip off in October with the Harris & Lewis trip for all of us and the trip south for the kids and I was brilliant, so good to catch up with family and friends.

5. Feeling blessed. This year has had a lot of soul searching but during the tough bits I have felt supported by family and friends, I have felt very fortunate to have the life partner I have, the children I have, the relations I have and the friends I have. To have the opportunities I have had and the health and freedom to make the choices I have. There were a whole host of small acts of kindness over the course of this year which made me cry (in a good way) and together definitely qualify as one of my goods this year.

Learnt
1. I had intended to learn more about basketry this year, I’d gathered the materials but the unexpected January trip meant I never got to it. Instead I ended up making a crochet blanket during those hours spent in the hospital and hotel room in January which inspired me to make a bigger blanket afterwards. A couple of books on granny square patterns and a vague notion of an end result later I had a huge kingsize bed sized blanket which is gorgeous and I love but also taught me so much about crochet – about patterns, stitches, tension and technique. That gave me the confidence to experiment with crochet and led to the 3d midges and the freeform crochet bags I have made this year. I still don’t really follow patterns but I now can if I need to and I understand about ways to do stitches and put things together.

2. Beekeeping – I really want to keep bees, have done for ages and think Rum would be a really good location. I attended a weekend course in May and spent a lot of time trying to organise bees although I didn’t get anywhere. I did learn lots on the course though and it remains a plan for the future.

3. Marketing and advertising. Despite having worked in retail and in marketing in years gone by there is always more to learn. Opening the shed shop and seeing what sold and what didn’t, what signage, labels and packaging were attractive, which were the key hotspots for displaying things and best way of showing them off in the shop. We had a huge brainwave with the welly boot trail and have made a start at selling some lines online using etsy and facebook too. Because our on-island market is so niche I have even been able to work out which lines appeal to which demographic of customer from the student groups to the yachties (people who arrive on their own boats) to the wildlife spotting day trippers.

4. Livestock stuff – from getting and keeping sheep for the first time, getting the new pigs and nursing the injured boar back to health and the massive success we’ve had this season in breeding the birds. All of these involved learning, research, advice and getting a bit of a crash course in doing things as they happened.

5. Papermaking. By chance I happened to be in the right place at the right time in February to go along to a papermaking workshop. It is one of the crafts I have never done at all before and happened to be really pertinant to us as it was making paper using reeds from boggy highland ground. Although it wouldn’t be that easy to do here as it involves a blender and a good few hours of boiling up the reeds it was definitely a new skill and something I have squirreled away as an idea for future pondering on.

Hopes for 2017:
1. A good growing season. I’ll say it again! Every year I hope for it and every year it doesn’t really happen. Every year I work out why it’s not happening and try to improve on that for the coming year. This year I realised we were lacking propogating space for the seedlings – we now have the polytunnel, four mini greenhouses and several trays of mini propogators so have massively increased the amount of space. Also this year despite buying in more pipe to create arches and netting to make covers for the raised beds crops were still got at by our own birds and the deer. Now we have the entire growing area fenced off so no creatures can get in. 2017 will see us going into the growing season with by far the best set up we have ever had plus time to condition the ground with seaweed, two water butts filled with chopped comfrey making tea to feed the crops and a real commitment from me to plan, tend and nurture. I’ll see if this is the year I succeed with it.

2. To begin to earn a real income from the croft. We have various potential income streams identified and set up now from the camping area to the shed to an online presence for our crafts. I am hoping that 2017 is the year we actually begin to make the croft a credible possibility to earn money from given we have now realised that self sufficiency in actually growing all our own food is not a feasible option.

3. To really make the most of living here on Rum. All four of us have committed to trying to find opportunities which only living here offer us. Scarlett is looking at volunteering opportunities, Davies is looking at some community radio ideas, Ady is keen to expand his photography and I am keen to do more Rum specific crafts.

4. More writing. I’ve continued to write for Barefoot Diaries in 2016 which I love doing but I have not managed to get any further with other writing projects. I would like to make 2017 the year I get some writing published and get paid for it.

5. To learn an instrument. I bought a ukelele this year and despite trying with books and online lessons I have utterly failed to make any progress. More than one person tells me that the really cheap instruments simply don’t work and that you need to spend more on one so I probably need to rethink but having done a bit of singing this year I realise how much I miss having music in my life. So a better ukelele, a different instrument or finding more opportunities to sing.

Special bonus wish for 2017 – I have realised that all four of our passports have run out this year. Adventures abroad are pretty tricky for us financially and logistically but I’d love to have a reason to need to renew those passports and travel somewhere exciting with the others.


Davies
Bad:
1. Daddy in hospital. It was stressful, we had to leave Rum in a hurry rather than a planned event. It was unexpected.

2. I had intended on working on growing a new business / line of things to sell in the shed, but I didn’t do that this year.

3. Losing my phone on our trip off island. I used my phone a lot to listen to music, watch iplayer shows and talk to my online friends. It is a real lifeline for me so to lose it was a big deal.

4. I miss the opportunity to make friends my own age. Although we’ve been off this year and had friends to visit there are very few chances to make new friends living here.

5. I have developed interests in film making, you tube videos and other online based things which I am not able to fully make happen because we don’t have 24 hour power or space to set up the equipment I would need.

Good:
1. Granny and Grandad bought us a car which means when we go off we are able to get around more and travel further. This means we can make the most of these trips.

2. Welcome to Nightvale – a podcast that an online friend introduced me to and I have introduced other people including Scarlett to. It’s been a real big thing for me this year and to go and see one of the live shows was really cool.

3. Compared to last year when we didn’t have as many visitors or go off as often this year has been good. Going off and seeing everyone all at once at a party was really good.

4. Better power this year and freedom to spend my time online has meant lots of hanging out with friends online, which is almost as good as spending time with them in real life. Being able to actually meet up with a friend I met online was interesting. I’d been chatting to them online for over a year and it was nice to meet them in real life.

5. Fishing! I remember doing fishing for the first time in Tarbet while we were WWOOFing and again while we were camping with friends and I have always enjoyed it. We’d not done it here for ages but we got new rods which are excellent and had about five sessions of fishing and caught loads.

Learnt:
1. From spending time online hanging out with kids my own age I have learned this year that I am mostly happier than a lot of other teens. I would put this down to a different outlook on the world based on my experiences and my views on those experiences. Travelling, living on a remote island apart from other people, being Home Educated all mean I have had a different life to most of my friends.

2. One of my hopes for this year when we did this last year was:

“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.”

I have spent time doing that this year. I have researched and spent time doing things including film making (creating my own storyline and shooting my own video then finding music and images to put together), counselling (I did a lot of research into psychology online and chatting to friends) and broadcasting ( from listening to podcasts, to working with Scarlett on creating videos for youtube based on our surroundings which is like reporting and a trip to our local radio station to learn more about broadcasting). All of this has given me a path and a purpose to work towards. I know I have lots more to learn, to practise and will possibly look at qualifications but I know where I am going with it.

3. In spending more time with people this year I have witnessed lots of difficult areas of peoples’ lives and how they treat each other. I have learnt how much it matters how you act around other people and ways to offer support.

4. I am the leader on an online forum which I set up and manage. I also support the leaders on a couple of other forums. Although I am not actively involved with Rum I am aware of how the community works too. Between the two I have a good understanding of how communities work and how to operate leading a team. For example if there was a zombie apocalypse I feel I would be capable of leading people to keep them safe. I think I have good leadership skills and ideas.

5. From time online I have got a whole new set of skills in techy stuff. I can set up forums, sign up for user accounts, use apps, blog and navigate around the internet and social media. These are really important skills in the world we live in.

Hopes for 2017

1. Further my writing skills – spelling, grammar, punctuation and so on.

2. To have trips off island. It’s been great to go off more this year and I’d like to do more of that in 2017.

3. I have a youtube channel, in the coming year I’d like to expand that – get more views, more subscribers and make more videos and podcasts to go on it and build it into something bigger.

4. I’ll be 17 by the end of the year. I’d like to be started or ready to start driving lessons and understand how driving / a car works.

5. I’d like to come up with a line or several products that have sold in our shed.

Special bonus wish for 2017: Same as last year – I’d like to visit another country.

Scarlett

Bad:
1. More people left Rum this year. They were our friends and it’s sad to see them go.

2. The musgovy ducks didn’t work here on the croft. They can’t cope with the mud and that is sad because I like having different types of ducks.

3. Tom pig dying. He was one of the very first animals we got here and we were all quite attached to him.
4. Daddy being helicoptered off. It was very dramatic and unexpected.

5. Gunther, my pet duck died this year too which was hard.

Good:
1. Raising another duckling – this time I just had one and called him Desmond.

2. Getting Kira the cat. We really wanted a cat for getting rid of rats and mice on the croft and although Bonnie does it she digs great big holes while she does it.

3. Going to see Welcome to Nightvale. It was my first live show experience and I’m really glad we did it, it was really fun.

4. Seeing friends and family members that we have not seen in a long time was really good.

5. Seeing a polar bear! It was on my list of hopes and although I saw pandas last year I really wanted to see meat eating bears.

Learnt:
1. Not to take animals that need rehoming without researching it more. The pigs and the musgovy ducks we have taken at short notice have not been good decisions.

2. I learnt lots about cake stuff – baking cakes and cookies and lots about decorating them. I learnt that from Mummy and from watching videos on the internet.

3. I learnt more about animals. I watched lots of documentaries and had the trip to the zoo.

4. This year I have used some of our new power tools – drills, sander and the circular saw helping to make bird pens and covers for the crops.

5. From spending time with other kids my own age again that I’ve not seen in a while I learnt that I don’t really fit in with a crowd any more and that that is fine. I have made friends while we’ve been on Rum who I have lots in common with rather than just being Home Educated or our families being friends. I learned that’s its really good to be myself and that I will find people who are like me.

Hopes for 2017:
1. I’d like to help raise another type of animal. I’ve reared a few ducklings now and would like to have a different animal which is more like a pet than livestock – maybe a lamb or a piglet or some other animals we get.

2. To still be on Rum this time next year.

3. I would like to see more exotic animals but in their natural habitat. I love going to zoos but I would love to see more animals in the wild.

4. I’d like to learn more cake decorating and maybe go on a course and try more ambitious projects.

5. I would love to have more of a small business and think that I could try selling my cookies and cupcakes as I’ve helped with some of Mummy’s orders this year. Even if I don’t start selling in 2017 I would like to have a business plan to do so and increase my skills.

Special bonus wish: to go in a plane or a helicopter. Everyone else has flown and I have not.

2 thoughts on “2016 – Bad, good, learnt… and hopes for 2017

  1. I am always amazed at how much you have accomplished in the time you have been on the Isle of Rum. With all the experience and knowledge you now have would you consider moving to another part of the uk that was a little less remote and more accessible to emergency services etc. and maybe easier to accomplish all the things you want to do? Good luck with whatever you decide and Happy New Year from a very snowy W. Canada!

    • Hi Janice and Happy New Year to you too. Envious of your snow (and amazing Canadian landscapes and wildlife). We often discuss as a foursome where might better suit our changing needs and dreams and I think we are almost on the cusp of making a change. None of us feel quite ‘finished’ with Rum just yet and we have a list of what we would look for collectively and individually in our next location / adventure.

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