Living the Dream

Way back when we were planning our WWOOFing adventure we wrote a list of things we’d like our life to have more of, things we’d like to do, see, experience.

A big thing on our list was rearing our own meat. As confirmed carnivores (we may err more towards the omnivore category these days than we used to but we still have meat or fish pretty much every day in some form) but with high ideals of animal welfare we knew that the only possible compromise (and it is still a compromise, I accept that and will ever have a massive amount of respect and admiration for my vegan friends, however much I love bacon!) is to rear as much of the meat in our diets ourselves. This week four of the dinners we’ll eat will be Rum venison, Croft 3 chicken, Croft 3 pork or caught of the coast of Rum mackerel. Today for lunch I had Croft 3 foraged Rum bramble jam and our cakes, pancakes and egg based meals are all using our own Croft 3 eggs too. I still season lots of our cooking with dried herbs grown here from seed last year and the first salad of the season won’t be too far away.

We’re pretty proud of that.

For the last few weeks we’ve been observing our chickens. From an inital stock of 10 hens and a cockerel we now have a flock of over 40. Some were bred here from our starting birds, some were rehomed from a friend in the village. Last years chicks have slow grown and hit maturity so we have had the first eggs from hens and the cockerels have been starting to find their crowing voices, sparring with each other and mating with the hens. The crowing is fine. I like the noise of cocks growing and we have no neighbours to disturb. But the fighting between themselves is not great and the poor hens were starting to look a bit hunted – every time they sat down they were getting leapt on from behind by one cockerel or another.

So over the last couple of days Ady and I have been watching and picking out the ones we want to keep. The rehomed bantam cock from the village gets to stay – he is father to lots of the young ‘uns and is a nice natured, friendly to people cockerel. He handles Bonnie well and keeps the flock in order. Next on the safe list is a mini- Dave, the original cockerel who died over the winter had a son who looks just like him so he gets to stay. Two of the cocks match hens really nicely – a buff coloured one who has hung out with one of the prettier hens since they were tiny chicks and is always to be found with her still. There is a black and white speckledy boy who has a gaggle of about four matching hens and is very pretty so he gets to stay. There is a brown and black cock who hangs around up near us whenever we are our working on the croft. He can stay. That left eight cocks to kill.

So Ady and I went down and spent time this morning feeding them and doing the deed. We got six of the eight – the two who got away eluded us this time but will be for the pot in the next few weeks. We do the deed with respect, kindness, minimum disruption to all of the rest of the birds. We both plucked, Ady gutted and by lunchtime we had six oven ready birds. Four for the freezer and two for our dinner this evening.

They are small, very lean and browner meat than supermarket birds. The flavour is more gamey than bland and is perfect for curries, casseroles and similar but tonight we just roasted them.

Also high on our list of experiences was seeing various sights – wildlife such as golden eagles, red deer, otters, whales – all of which we see regularly here on Rum. And the Northern Lights – an ambition of mine since I was a girl, now shared by the other three. We came close various times while traveling and often slept with the curtains open in the campervan just in case. I’m signed up to text and email alerts and have stayed up late on several occasions in the hopes of a glimpse. But to no avail. Until tonight that is.

It was the kids bedtime when a text and an email came through from two different friends and Ady glanced at the news website to see the aurora was visible in various parts of the UK so we opened the curtains and sure enough there they were! We all put coats and wellies on over pjs and crowded outside onto the pallets to watch the ripples and dancing lights. The colours were not as vivid as I have seen in photos, pale green and pale pinkish but undeniably the northern lights dancing across the sky above our croft.

We watched until they began to fade and we began to shiver so came inside. The kids to watch from their beds and me to sit on the sofa and carry on watching. It clouded over and went pitch dark outside but is now starting to clear again so I will sit awhile longer and hope they return.

Sometimes dreams take a whole lot of chasing. It tends to mean they are all the magical when they finally come true.

8 thoughts on “Living the Dream”

  1. To see the Northern Light is also an ambition of mine. I think I will have to wait a few years when hubby and I are able to go away by ourselves but one day! I don’t know if I could eat an animal that I reared, I can certainly eat shop bought! I admire the way you’ve thought about who’s staying and who’s going. Although your life sounds so ideal as I’m reading I’m realising hard decisions and sacrifices have to be made for you to live this way, especially if you still have to make a living. If money was no object I’m sure it would be a lot easier. More rewarding your way though I would have thought x

    1. Funnily enough Ady and I were having the conversation just this afternoon about the tough bits of our life and the challenges on bad days. We concluded that while there are undoubtedly testing bits on balance they are few and far between, particularly when compared to the dreaded Sunday evening / Monday morning sinking feeling that Ady got every week, the times when our car wouldn’t start or failed it’s MOT, our boiler broke down and we had no heating and hot water for a week. Life on the mainland, in a house, with proper jobs was still sometimes tough and relentless and filled with frustrations and unexpected blips. Life here is no different, but has less of the crappy bits on balance and the highs are so much better than we ever had back in our old life.
      Davies was talking about what he’d do with a million pounds the other evening. We all concluded that actually it would render so much of what we are doing here pointless and that we would all feel really sad if we could just write a cheque and make everything happen instantly – the biggest joys and triumphs are the ones which have been hard won, feel well earned and involve a sense of achievement at the end 🙂

    1. I’ve been signed up to http://aurorawatch.lancs.ac.uk/alerts for alerts by email and text for several years. They were a bit late sending the alert through last night so we actually found out by a fellow Rum resident texting us and another friend on facebook.
      I also have an app on my phone which sends alerts if the chances of sightings are high.

  2. What a great experience. (Of course, I could say that about almost any of your posts!)

    I love that you’re managing to produce most of your own meat. Since I don’t have that option, I try to eat vegetarian 90% of the time, and I make sure I don’t eat factory farmed produce the other 10% of the time. I wish that at least a few free range egg producers would raise their cocks instead of killing them at birth, and then sell them as meat. I realise that they aren’t going to be as meaty as specially-engineered meat birds, but I think there’d be at least a small market for people who want to minimise waste. (Same goes for bulls from dairy cattle.)

  3. The aurora is like sunsets – you get good ones, average ones, really amazing ones, pretty pathetic ones …

    Was interested in the stuff about killing the cocks and what jumped out the page at me was “four for the freezer”. What did people do before freezers? Equals before electricity. Something people on Rum alive in our parents’ time (if not my own) had to think about that.

    1. Still holding out for an amazing one, but very happy to have seen *something* !

      Yep, easy to forget even with our off-grid ways that we still benefit from a freezer. There is an ice house here on Rum (now disused and closed off) which would have been used to store stuff for longer, but what couldn’t be kept there or salted, smoked or otherwise preserved would have been left alive til needed. That was an option for us with the cocks really, but we wanted to stop the poor hens getting quite so hassled.

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