April is always such an unknown quantity with weather conditions and temperatures. We have had a few evenings without needing to light the fire and a few days of being outside in t shirts, the ticks are out in force and we are mere days away from the midge season. We’ve had days of tens of people coming off the ferry for a day trip and ferries being cancelled due to bad weather.
The last few days have been the very best of all April conditions though – plenty of wind and plenty of sun. That means not only are we rich in power with the wind turbine and the solar panels meaning as much power as we can use we have also had perfect laundry drying conditions. The novelty of a washing machine on the croft has still most definitely not worn off.
The birds are all in full lay mode with a half dozen duck eggs collected every morning and a further dozen chicken eggs most days too. We have two broody hens sitting on a clutch of eggs each so are expecting chicks to hatch in the next 10 days or so.
Mrs Turkey has also been absent for a good 4 weeks so she is due to return with a brood of wee turkeys too fingers crossed. The geese are all feisty and furious and we are managing to collect the odd goose egg if we happen to spot where they lay them but more often than not the ravens are beating us to those. We are hearing their trademark croak over the croft more often than any other bird call just now. Ady heard the first cuckoo of the season in the village yesterday but the rest of us are yet to hear one and nothing yet here on the croft. We did have an exciting avian encounter on Monday though when a sparrowhawk landed on a tree guard just outside the caravan. I managed to get a picture and we spent ages looking at our bird books torn between various possible birds of prey before throwing it out to the facebook world for confirmation.
Isn’t she (confirmed female sparrowhawk, thanks to many birdy mates and experts) gorgeous?
The sheep were due their tick medication. We tend not to medicate any of our livestock if we can help it but the ticks are really bad here on Rum and we are already picking them off ourselves and the cat and the dog. On a routine catch and check ’em over look at the sheep last week I spotted a couple of ticks. They have magnificent fleeces this year thanks to the very harsh winter but we are still a good month away from shearing them. The ticks would struggle to navigate through those fleeces but their faces and bellies are prone to getting them. Having handled the sheep so often and petted them when they come for feed it is a stress-free exercise and we just bring them into a pen for feed, close the gate and catch one at a time to apply the treatment.
One of the skills I have long wanted to acquire is basket weaving. I did a couple of day long courses at the local college with my sister-in-law years and years ago when our children were tiny and really enjoyed it. I have various books on the subject but the correct time to harvest the material is the middle of winter and I’ve never quite managed to do it. I stumbled across an course advertised online for woodland and wild crafts which included bramble basket weaving using green (as in freshly cut rather than stored or treated in some way) brambles though and did a bit of research to find a simple basket. In a short break during an otherwise very soggy Sunday I managed to cut some bramble and weave a few baskets. They were fairly easy to do and look really nice although they are a fairly short lived basket (the online video I found was someone showing you how to make a speedy receptacle to gather berries if you find yourself out and about and stumble on a harvest without a suitable bowl). They are currently holding eggs although we did toy with other uses!
I am inspired anew to gather suitable weaving materials once the season is right at the end of the year.
I’ve been making more clocks and some hanging signs too using slates but today my new toy arrived on the ferry – a badge press! Scarlett and Davies have long collected pin badges- and actually I do too, of places we visit. Our fellow Small Isles all have badges for sale but no one here on Rum has them so we decided we would. I’m currently playing around with designs and we will likely end up with a whole basket full of individual ones, maybe it will encourage people to choose more than one?!
But that is another of those rainy day / morning / afternoon / snatched hours between sunshine jobs and today was a sunny day so Ady and I did some work in the strawberry cage. We are waiting on a part to arrive for our chainsaw and so our original plan of working with dismantled pallet wood would have proved too time consuming and with all this perfect growing weather the strawberries have been going crazy. Having spotted lots of growth on them last week yesterday we realised that not only were the leaves touching the plastic sheeting we had laid over them there were also quite a few plants with flowers on already.
So we dug out the old hoops we had used on the raised beds with netting before we caged that area off and made some cloches. We need some more plastic so only managed to cover half of the area which meant moving some of the plants across to ensure they are underneath. We have more plants to move across to the other half of the cage once we have some more plastic but this is a good start. It was good to be doing it on a windy day as we were able to check that our work was Rum-proof even if it did make for a few comedy moments of the pair of us holding a large sheet of plastic like a sail as the wind battled to take it from us. It did prompt us to use some green shading around two sides of the cage to be a windbreak though.
At this rate we could even be eating our first fruits of the year before May is out…
In the polytunnel the peas, herbs, tomatoes, peppers and flower seeds I sowed are all starting to do their thing.
The currant bushes are all greened up with leaves and tiny fruit and some of the fruit trees even look promising this year for the first time. Putting the ducks in the fruit cage has been an inspired plan – we’re getting all the eggs and they are having a feast on all the bugs and beasties who usually turn up around now to start chomping on the fruit tree leaves. There is a perfect ditch running through the cage to keep the ducks happy with splashing about and they have done our usual job of painstakingly cutting down the grass around all the trees and bushes in there for us.
It’s six years since we arrived here. Three years since we had a film crew staying with us. It’s funny to reflect on how much we have learned and achieved in that time and exciting to realise there is still so much new stuff to carry on learning too.