Every week on a Monday we write on our white board in the static what the plan for the week is. We try to have a loose idea of what we might be eating, when we might go to meet the ferry, visit the shop for supplies, go down to the village for community meetings, to see people and so on. We have a ‘to do’ list of sorts, tasks that we can do on the croft in fair weather, wet weather and so on. Most weeks at least one thing gets carried over or overlooked but in the main we get through what we set out to achieve.
What it never takes into account is what some people here call the ‘Rum Factor’. I guess the Rum factor is a bit like Murphey’s Law or the ‘ never work with children or animals’ rule in showbusiness. If it can go wrong, it probably will. And spectacularly. Here the biggest Rum Factor is always the weather – we’ve certainly had our share of best laid plans falling to wrack and ruin thanks to a timely gale or heavy rainpour, or cancelled ferry. Other Rum Factors have included our car and the static not behaving as expected…but the animals have also given us many unexpected twists, turns and hiccups along the way.
Tomorrow we go off island for nine days. We have a very full schedule of around 1800 miles of driving, six different beds and a whole lot of non welly wearing to do. More on than when we get back. Suffice to say leaving is never straightforward or without lots and lots of planning, logistics and organising. We have three teams of people doing six shifts each of pig and poultry feeding, another team on Bonnie sitting and another household still looking after Humphrey the hamster. Half of Rum is involved in one way or another! It has taken fine tuning, many emails and conversations and although I have faith and confidence in everyone to manage just fine there will still be a bit of me holding my breath for the entire duration of our trip hoping that everything is ok.
The wind turbine fins have been taken off, the batteries to solar disconnected, the gas turned off, the water will be stopped at the outside tap. All possible measures taken to ensure as little goes wrong as possible. We’d done all the animal sorting with days to spare to ensure they were all happy with their routines and thought today would be a straightforward day of packing for the trip, delivering the hamster to it’s sitter and a friend up for lunch to help eat all the veggies left in the house in a ‘last day before we go away soup’.
Tom starting very violently attacking the smallest boy pig to the point that he was getting injured and suffering. Various emergency ideas were tossed around – separate the wee boy? separate Tom? but alll of these require time to strim a new boundary, set up a fence, move or build a new shelter and then get the pigs used to the new arrangement. At midday with only 5 hours day light left none of these were workable plans. So we took some advice and made the decision we should probably have made about six weeks ago to kill the small boy pigs. The larger boy pig also needs killing but is not in danger from Tom so can wait the ten days until we return.
I’ll not elaborate too much on the details here but suffice to say the deed was done with love, kindness and utter humane execution. It knew nothing of it’s fate between eating a last meal and being no more. Two hours later it was 15kg of probably the nicest pork we’ll ever eat. It will be in our freezer by the morning and while all four of us have shed a tear we are all very happy that we have made another huge leap forward towards our dream of self sufficency, eating home reared, happily produced meat. A pig that has never travelled more than a few metres from where he was born, lived a full life in a totally natural environment with his family group, grown slowly and killed with respect.
It’s been an unexpected twist to an already rather full day but another step closer toward our goal of self sufficient in meat.We’ll take that as a victory.