Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the positives

Last year I had in my head a vision of what the winter would be like. I scoffed at all the people (oh so many people) who sneered at us ‘well you’ve not done a winter yet’ during the summer of 2012 when we were filled with fresh new optimism and the first flush of love for Rum. I knew that winter here would be like winter anywhere. We’d wear more clothes, go outside less, sleep more.

In some ways we were over prepared last winter – we stocked up massively on tinned goods in anticipation of cancelled ferries, we had four gas bottles up the hill plus we’d bought a portable gas heater too. In so many other ways we had not anticipated lots of the challenges we’d face at all.

On New Years Day 2013 Ady and I climbed the hill behind the croft and stood looking down on our land, our home and the sum total of all we’d achieved since we arrived on Rum. It was the things we saw missing which shaped some of what we have worked hard to make happen this year and which mean that despite going into a second winter still in temporary accommodation we are a million times more set up and ready to face it this year than we were last year.

Last year we began the winter with gas fires, briefly warm but very fume-y and creators of even more condensation. This year we are keeping our wee log burner going 18 hours a day burning the wood we spent August and September up the hill, split and into our log store we built next to the static. We could probably be frugal and survive on the wood we already have but we are instead continuing to collect, carry up and split wood whenever the river is low enough to get the car across thanks to our wagon, new axe, dry space to store it and system of staying on top of things. Massive leap forward. We’re warm, condensation is reduced, it’s way lower cost than burning gas. We’ve just bought a stove top fan to direct some of the heat further throughout the static too to see if we can reduce the damp and condensation further. We also use the log burner to cook on whenever possible, prove bread dough, dry out wet clothes and bring bedding into the lounge each morning to air through out of the damper bedrooms.

Last year we spent a lot of time carrying leisure batteries down to the village to charge them up so we could use the water pump and lighting in the static. We burnt candles for light or used battery lanterns and relied heavily on our petrol generator for power to charge up batteries, phones, laptop, run the internet for an hour or so a day and have better electric lighting to cook dinner by. This year we have two large solar panels which are still generating charge during the 6 hours or so of daylight each day plus our wind turbine. We have internet on all day, are able to charge everything up, have lights on whenever we need them and not have to ration showers or washing up for fear of running down the water pump battery. We still have our generator as a back up for the (rare) still days but today we spent the whole day listening to radio, watching films and catching up online thanks to the power of the wind.

Last year we were still collecting water from the river in 20litre jerry cans daily. This was actually quite a dangerous business when the river was running high and while Ady built up very fine arm muscles carrying 40l of water twice a day I could only manage two half full containers and it meant showers, washing and even cooking things like rice and pasta were all done very cautiously for want of not wasting a drop. Now we are ‘plumbed in’ to the river with buried pipe and have a header tank to ensure decent water pressure even when the river runs low, there is no more recycling the water from last nights hot water bottles to use it again and filling the kettle with bits of green rubber!

Last year we were using two camping toilets in our bathroom and then digging a hole twice a week to bury our waste. This year we have the compost loo in the horse box which requires minimal maintenance plus a camping loo for wees and an emergency luggable loo which is a cinch to tip into the compost loo the next morning if a late night need to use it has arisen.

Other small logistical steps forward have been made – we bulk buy various things, have a freezer down in the village and an insulated cool box just outside our front door to overspill from the wee fridge, we are smarter about cooking condensation producing foods earlier in the day, we know that opening every window every day should be done whenever possible.

We are still more at the mercy of the elements than we have ever been before, I am going to reinstate the emergency clothes bag packed incase we need to evacuate in a hurry. The static is not weatherproof in terms of us being confident it can stand up to the wind and rain that Rum chucks at it or in terms of keeping all the weather on the outside rather than letting some of it in. We are far from cocky or self congratulatory or thinking that we have conquered this harsh land but a day like today when we felt cosy, warm and with many luxuries around us is a welcome reminder of how far we have come and the positives we can lay claim to.

4 thoughts on “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the positives”

  1. I’d be interested to hear more about the installation of the water supply and how it works etc. Are there any issues like having to vent air locks etc.? What is the role of the pump – obviously the water doesn’t just roll down hill under gravity feed to the tank then to the static? How did you source and take delivery of the pipes – was it a challenge to site and lay them (how long) and the tank? Any leaks in the joints? Did you get it right first time, etc. etc. I like the techy detail!

    1. Its a really simple system, costs under £300 and less than a day to set up. The static came with a 12v water pump which brings water in from whatever external source you chose, through a filter and then to the sink taps in the kitchen and bathroom and the shower. It’s self priming with a non return valve on the end of the hose. That used to be fed into jerry cans of water collected from the river, now it goes into a 40l water tank (insulated against heat in summer and cold in winter) just outside the static with a ballcock float keeping the level and fed into from a standpipe tap. That is fed by just over 100m of blue water pipe (cheap from screwfix along with all joints and pieces, delivered free in under a week on 50m reels) which crosses the croft and is just heeled in with above ground markers to show the joints and mark it’s route so that if we need to do any maintenance it is easy to locate it. That goes into the river at a point above the height of the static roof so is gravity fed back down. It simply sits wedged in the river and has a filter on it to prevent large matter going in.
      We put sterilising tablets in the tank every so often and then flush it through with a couple of showers but as it is so small water doesn;t sit in it for long anyway. We could probably just be gravity fed and do away with the pump but as the pressure is changeable with the river flow it is better to just use the pump and tank and know what it will come in like, plus we’re not sure how good the taps are and how they would stand up to full pressure. We are anticipating issues if the weather gets as cold as it is forecast to do but because of the simplicity of the system any maintaining and sorting out should be pretty straightforward.

  2. Looks like you are getting more and more accustomed to living there, however “Ad-Hoc” it might be 🙂

    The pictures from last Sunday look gorgeous, really makes me miss the place.

    Although I don’t envy you sitting in a static halfway up a hillside when the weather does turn!

    I’d love to help out with some of your “projects” to get the infra-structure up and running slightly more, but that all depends on me being over there. Probably not any time soon since I’ve landed myself in The Netherlands this time hunting for a job 🙁

    1. It definitely feels like home and it is very ad hoc but after nearly 3 years away from a house and mainland mainstream life that would probably seem even more strange now. Would love your input when you do next find yourself over here 🙂

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