Don’t worry, the blog is not about to go X rated.. I’m talking about nature.
We are often asked what bought us here to Rum. Infact Ady and I have been asked at least three times just this week. We have varying answers to the question depending on how long the person has available to stand and listen to us but part of the long and short answer is that we wanted to live somewhere beautiful.
My Dad tells me often ‘you can’t live on a view’ and he is right, although we do quite literally live *on* a view but it is the nature of Rum which makes it beautiful. The flora and fauna, the wildlife, the weather, the geology, the elements, the landscape. That is why we live here.
I cannot wax lyrical and litter facebook with photos of deer wandering majestically past my bedroom window, keeping me awake during the rut with their roaring and still exciting me every time I catch a glimpse of red through the trees as I walk home from the village but then complain about the deer eating my fruit trees and leaving deer poo all over the croft for Bonnie to roll in.
It would not be on to complain about the eagles which soar over the croft, create an air of hush and have all our birds stand to attention, head cocked to one side as they eye it flying overhead, likely looking over our livestock to see if there is anything they fancy for dinner. Not when those same eagles bring tourists walking past our croft buying our produce, giving us wonderful photo opportunities and reminding us once more of how lucky we are to live here.
In line with this philosophy and taking into account what we have learned about permaculture we are always looking for ways to embrace nature and what happens here on Rum and on our croft naturally to coexist with the wild and maybe allow it to support us too.
Having attempted battling with nature and even just trying to tame it a wee bit over the last 2 and a half years we have concluded that at best you can maybe harness it to have the wild on your side. Foraging wild food is better than breaking your back weeding, watering and trying to force things to grow in inhospitable conditions – better to find a use for the weeds! Introducing breeds of animal here which struggle with the conditions, have to have expensive food brought in and require lots of looking after will never trump the fish which swim in the rivers and seas and the wild deer which roam the island. Better skills than animal husbandry are fishing, butchering and 101 ways with venison!
This is not to say that we will be giving up growing food in our walled garden, fruit cage, polytunnel, herb spiral. Or that our current livestock holding is at risk – merely that we intend using precious resources of time, money and energy on maximising what is here already.
Using the clay and sand on and around the croft for building materials, harnessing the power in the sun, wind and water for our own energy needs, foraging, fishing and gathering food. The plans for the coming months and years are starting to take shape making the most of what Rum has to offer naturally rather than trying to bend and shape it to our own preconceived ideals.
The most recent example of this is a new product I am hoping to sell next year at market days, from the croft gate and maybe online through the croft 3 website. The idea came to me a few weeks ago while noticing the beautiful wild flowers on the croft. This year we have seen a massive increase in the ragwort and other ‘weeds’ on Croft 3. A bit of research suggests this is evidence of us being here – animals creating bare patches of earth which allow seeds to take root, us and the livestock carrying seeds around the croft on our feed, in birds droppings. We have been enjoying picking small amounts to bring indoors, spent time identifying them from our wild flower field guide books, had them in glass jars to decorate the static and bring a little of the outdoors indoors. I noticed that some of them dry really well and started to experiment with bringing in larger numbers to dry out and mix together.
It was a small leap from there to ordering orris root to preserve, some pretty tartan ribbon and bags and suddenly we have several large containers of dried heather, devils bit scabious, pine cones, thistles, clovers and pretty grasses all drying out, absorbing suitable fragrances and being stored ready to package up and sell next year as autumn on Rum pot pouri – ready for people to take a little bag of the colours of Rum home with them.
Nature poses many challenges to those who live here. It also provides, nurtures, inspires, delights.
I’m pledging to learn to live with nature and to love it. To try and remember, whenever possible to stop trying to fight it.