Diversify and conquer!

It’s ‘the season’ here on Rum just now and I’ve done several shifts at the shop / post office and a couple of very busy teashops which means I’ve chatted to plenty of tourists and visitors to Rum. The usual questions ‘how many children in the school?’ ‘what do you do in the winter?’ coupled with the more personal questions which my clearly not-from-round-these-parts accent tend to invite about what brought us here. A few from people who had already been on the nature trail walk which leads them around the perimeter of Croft 3; the view from above giving a panorama of a markedly greener patch of land, scattered with grazing birds and dotted with signs of humans- a wood store here with evidence of freshly chopped logs (thanks to our recently departed volunteer), a chicken shed there, a caravan in the middle. Steeply walking down the west boundary takes you past the pigs – Tom & Barbara with their current litter of six healthy piglets; our biggest, happiest and healthiest yet. The dividing fence was removed last week so they are all running together and doing really well. Further down that side of the croft past the side gate is the ground where the pigs where last year. It’s grown back from the mud bath it was before we moved them up and is a clearly improved patch of ground, better drained with less rushes and more grass. Walk along the bottom of the croft and look up and you’ll see our walled garden, polytunnel and fruit cage, lots of new tree growth, clearly scythed paths and areas, our ‘honesty larder’ selling eggs and jam.

I’ve agreed with countless folk these last couple of weeks that yes, this is the other side of the world from West Sussex, that it couldn’t be a more different life than that we left behind. That it is indeed a perfect childhood for Davies and Scarlett, that while it may be challenging it is worthwhile and with many, many highs being here in this wonderful, wild, remote and romantic place.

Meanwhile though it’s been dreadful weather again. Several ferries cancelled due to high winds, the caravan roof rattling, the wind howling, the river raging. Waterproofs donned to trudge to and fro the village gathering supplies of food from the shop or the freezer.

The four of us discuss frequently ways in which to make our life here on Rum that bit more comfortable, sustainable, viable. We hold dear our philosophy of do what you love, love what you do. We fiercely protect our dream of only spending time doing things which have meaning and are soul feeding or literally providing for our basic needs. After an early epiphany for me here on Rum that the way forward is not to simply pay lip service to the idea of permaculture but to really, truly live it we actively seek ways in which to live in harmony with Rum. To gently reap the harvest which Rum provides naturally and to try and always take less than we give.

It is this approach which has led to us foraging for wild fruits with which to make jam to sell rather than battling the weeds, the pest control, the endless rounds of watering or draining the land to grow non native fruits. It is this approach which has guided us in finding ways to turn the many challenges and curses on Rum into resources – setting midges in resin, catching the clegs, harvesting the thistles. It is why we take our inspiration for our candle making colour schemes, our artwork and photography, our knitting and crocheting from the landscapes, weather and wildlife of Rum. Last year I spent many hours picking wild flowers from the croft and gathering larch cones to dry, fragrance and package as pot pourri this year.

In realising that so many people want to visit Rum and how remarkable a place it is and how many are interested in our story, our journey and our adventures here we are able to offer space for volunteers to come and learn alongside us, to share ideas and knowledge, to offer their hands to lighten our workload while giving them some basic food supplies and a free camping space to base themselves for their own Rum adventure. So far this year we have played host to five volunteers with more booked in over the rest of summer. (I say summer with an ironic laugh by the way….)

In our most recent ‘what can we do / learn / explore next?’ conversation the idea of basket making came up. I went on a couple of basket weaving courses way back about 10 years ago and really enjoyed them. Here on Rum hedgerow and tree materials grow everywhere in abundance ready to be pruned and gathered and ideal for creating beautiful baskets to use ourselves or sell next year to visitors hoping to take a little piece of Rum away with them. I have some very basic knowledge and experience, several books on the subject and will use the period between now and the sap falling meaning it is material harvesting time (October to March so my research tells me) learning more on the theory before getting stuck in to the practical.

Learning opportunities, new skills, potential extra revenue stream and chance to get creative? Diversification and learning as we go along was always high on our business plan ideas when we first arrived on Croft 3. I love the fact that we have so many opportunities to make it happen,

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