Crofters R us

Our first year done. Every month on the calendar marked off, every season survived, every birthday and annual holiday celebrated, every extreme faced, every emotion felt, every weather experienced, every challenge survived, every box ticked.

From a bare field with thigh high reeds and rushes, boggy patches up to your knees in places, no water, no power, no internet connection, no supermarket, no petrol station, no prior knowledge of island living, no friendships yet forged, no means of earning money, no inkling of just what might happen next to today. A year on.

A home. Not a forever home, not a perfect home but a home nonetheless. It’s provided shelter, warmth, a place to sleep, to cook, to eat, to entertain, to shower, sing, laugh, cry, shout. We’ve had people for dinner pretty much every week since we arrived, we’ve had overnight visitors, day trippers. It was an epic journey to get the static on to the croft, one I suspect will be talked about long after we’re gone and it won’t ever leave the croft in one piece. We have power thanks to our generator and a range of solar panels, water thanks to the burn and internet and mobile phone signal. We can bake bread, cook dinner, listen the radio, watch a film and go to bed. It’s home.

Livestock. Aside from Bonnie and Humphrey (Star’s hamster) who arrived with us we only had a very small time here without livestock. I think our chickens and ducks arrived two weeks after we did and were residents on the actual croft land long before we were. We’ve only lost one of our original birds so still have nine hens, our fine cockrel, two geese, six ducks – two chicks hatched but were lost last year but the exciting news this week is that our broody hen who has been sitting on a huge clutch of eggs got off them for a drink and some food this evening I noticed at least one egg was pipping (starting to hatch) so more chicks to come soon. We now have a drake for our five ducks and are hoping for the patter of tiny webbed feet at some future point. Our pair of geese turned out to be pair of geese rather than a goose and gander but reinforcements are on the way in the shape of another six geese arriving next month along with ten turkeys bringing our flock of birds up to a very respectful number.

Seeing the chickens free range and scratching about on the croft makes my heart sing. Seeing the ducks swimming on Kinloch river and the geese roaming about trimming the grass feeds my soul. Happy, happy birds living a wonderful life here giving us gorgeous eggs and making our field into a working croft.

I’m so proud that we made all of their housing from foraged and donated materials, we now have a market for chickens, ducks and geese eggs in the shop, to various islanders and on-island businesses and do a fairly healthy trade from our honesty tables at the croft gates selling to tourists and visitors too.

Our other livestock is our breeding pair of Gloucester Old Spot and Kune Kune pigs, Tom and Barbara who gave us the best anniversary present ever of four little piglets this weekend. Our brood grows and with these latest additions come the beginning of true self sufficiency – animals bred to sell and to rear for meat. For the next couple of weeks they will mostly be being cute and making us coo 🙂

Within our first year we have managed to sow our first seeds too, in the (finally erected!) community polytunnel, hosted up here on Croft 3 we have various fish boxes, plastic containers, eggs boxes and recycled ice cream tubs filled with seeds. We have loads of salad leaves and lettuce, plenty of herbs, lots of tomatoes, chillis and peppers. We have seed potatoes in sacks and I have my first raised bed with some onion and garlic sets planted in. Plenty more to come if the weather ever warms up and we have more raised bed timber ready to go, more grow bags and compost ready to plant up containers and some shelving on its way to create multiple layered areas within the polytunnel but it’s a great start – germinated seeds shooting little green leaves up to the sun.

Our life here is so much more than what happens on our croft though. We moved here for the whole package of life on Rum – the community, the people, the wildlife, the beauty of the island and we have also spent our first year throwing ourselves into all that that entails.

I am a director of the Isle of Rum Community Trust, of Rum Enterprise, the trading arm of the trust which runs money making commercial projects on island such as the community bunkhouse we have recently been awarded a massive grant by the National Lottery to build and will make a huge difference to what we can offer visitors here on Rum. I am a director of the Venison Processing Community Interest Company – a grant funded small company which buys the culled deer from SNH and turns the beasts into venison products to sell to islanders, tourists and local small businesses. I am on the Visitor Service Group which works towards delivering the best experience possible for visitors to Rum. I help run the website, managing content and keeping it looking good and staying informative and up to date. I edit the Rum Rumble, a community newsletter for Rum residents which we print and distribute monthly and is a real collaborative effort with content from all the various people and organisations which make up the Rum community. I am on the events committee which sets up events for locals and visitors. Ady plays his own active role, working for the Venison processing company to butcher and process venison and help sell it, cleaning the community hall toilets, supporting me in my various endeavours and helping fellow islanders wherever possible. Dragon and Star play their part in the community too offering their own viewpoints and opinions on things, getting involved in poster design for events, getting involved in consultations for ideas for moving the community forward, being consulted on design and ideas for a kids playground and generally having input. They are part of the Junior Ranger programme and are always up for helping out whenever it is needed.

Alongside all of this we still manage to do our day to day stuff – bake bread, make jam, have time together, drink tea with friends, have our own seperate interests along with things we enjoy together as a family. Dragon and Star both have fledgling businesses up and running – Dragon is selling his postcards at three locations on the island, Star is busy collecting more sea glass to carry on making her jewelry and is in charge of the honesty tables selling eggs. I make my knitted and crocheted bits and pieces and carry on dreaming of a cloning machine so I could take on another 100 things without compromising anything!

We always knew year one would be about laying down foundations for our new life. Starting to put the first stones down to build a whole life on over time. Testing, discovering, learning and experimenting.

The end of our first year sees us still at the starting line in many ways but utterly confident that this is the right path to be walking along, in the correct location with the best people, no real clue as to what is at the finish line but a really excited feeling about what we might see along the way.

8 thoughts on “Crofters R us”

  1. As ever, I’m in awe of everything that you’ve achieved. Thank you for sharing it with us through this blog — it might be a bit cliche to say so, but it’s inspiring to read about all your struggles and triumphs.

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