In the swing

In April just as the tourist season was beginning to get going we were all feeling a little overwhelmed. We didn’t feel properly recovered from the incredibly challenging winter we’d just come out of, we are still grappling with uncertainty about what will happen to us this winter and we seemed to be running to stand still with all the various projects on the croft, along with our other commitments and things we are involved with on the island. Added to that we were missing friends – we have some amazing friends here on Rum and are very fortunate to live in such a community but there can be a tendency to exist in a bit of a bubble here – focused only on what happens here on Rum. Every visitor wants to ask yet more questions about life here, every conversation is based around some aspect of life here, it can be a pretty intense existence. Whilst we share our day to day lives with our fellow islanders and have much in common by virtue of living this rather unusual lifestyle on a remote island with the specific challenges that can pose we are also fairly exceptional in many of our life choices and philosophies – our low impact lifestyle and ambitions of self sufficicency, our livestock keeping, our parenting choices and educational philosophy, our politics, beliefs and ideologies mark us out as different. Some of the very things which define us most and are very big parts of who we are are the aspects of us which can make us feel the most isolated at times. We all miss being with people who get us, who have known us and supported us with our life choices, people who feel like us, who share our interests and passions.

Our mainland trip ticked a lot of those boxes for us. We had a soul feeding 3 days with a huge group of friends catching up on each others lives, talking about anything and everything, sharing in jokes and reliving past shared memories of holidays, parties, funny stories. Then to our cob building course where we were instantly among new friends, talking about low impact building, green ideas, permaculture, alternative ideas. A group of people brought together by a common interest, learning alongside each other, sharing life stories and dreams as we trod sand and clay and straw into building material and used our bare hands to build walls together. Within four short days we were parting as friends, exchanging contact details and arranging to meet up again, to help each other with future projects, to stay in touch.

Now we’re back on Rum and meeting our very long held ambition to be WWOOF hosts. 3 years ago we were WWOOFers ourselves, just starting out on our adventure and thanks to the generosity, sharing and teaching from our various hosts we learned new skills, experienced a wide variety of lifestyles, traveled the country and ultimately decided what we wanted to do next. We knew then that we would one day love to be WWOOF hosts ourselves and ‘give something back’, pay it forward, spread the word, share the knowledge. For a long time we were really nervous of inviting WWOOFers here and although we have had a lot of interest we have turned people down, worried that our livestyle is too extreme, we are unable to offer suitable hospitality, we didn’t have enough here to enable folk to have the sort of experience we’d like to be able to provide. But we remembered the more extreme places we stayed, recalled that what made a great WWOOF host was excellent communication in advance and during the WWOOF, something different and interesting and varied. So we bit the bullet and offered a small selection of WWOOFers the chance to come and WWOOF here with us. We put together a big document packed with information about us, about the croft, the island, the work you might be involved in, what we would expect from WWOOFers and what they could expect from us. We have been very clear about the facilities here, the challenges and issues.

On Wednesday we welcomed our very first WWOOFer to Rum. Rather poetically it is his first WWOOFing experience. So far it has proved to be an excellent match – he is up for all the tasks we need to undertake, we have struck a good balance between working alongside him and passing on skills and knowledge along with setting him up on tasks which are time consuming and prevent us from getting on with other things. His help has freed Ady and I up to get way more done than usual and having another pair of hands has proved very useful. It is very motivating having someone else working with you so our output between the five of us has been way greater than just a quarter more than we would achieve usually.

We have had a good tidy up in the polytunnel, sown more seeds, harvested plenty of things, potted on various seedlings and tended to some with added feeds. We have overhauled the herb spiral building the walls up a little, adding some fresh compost, created a netted surround to stop all the birds sitting in it, scratching it up and eating all the crops and then restocked it with this years supply of herbs all grown from seed in the polytunnel. It looks fabulous.

We have also built a mint circle nearby on the same design and have plans for a borage and nasturtium circle next to them too. The spiral has lemon balm, spearmint, oregano, majoram, tarragon, savory, dill, thyme, rosemary, lavender, coriander, basil and parsley.

It’s certainly not all work though and in the same way as we had some amazing experiences while we were with WWOOF hosts we are making sure he gets the same chance to explore Rum and get a flavour of what life here is like. So far he has been on the Sheerwater boat trip with us (first minke whales of the season!), met most of the islanders, enjoyed Friday evening beers at the shop, will be coming to a birthday party with us next weekend and is spending tomorrow off exploring some of the hills with another islander to spot wildlife and the amazing scenery. He’s eaten eggs, salad, bacon, herbs, strawberries and peas from Croft 3 and tomorrow will be trying our pork. Also on the menu at some point will be Rum vension along with plenty of home baking, jams and the chance to come foraging with us.

From our point of view we also wanted to meet new, interesting people who might bring us new ideas and approaches, look at our way of life here with fresh eyes and work with us to make our plans come to fruition. We’re only a few days in but so far I think this is working out well for all parties.

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