There is a definite pattern emerging to this blog I think – during the spring and summer it was all doing posts – exciting things we’d seen, done, experienced. People who had visited and new leaps forward we’d made. During the winter it is clearly a time for taking stock, evaluating, thinking and planning. I was watching something earlier on iplayer which talked about the Four Seasons In Farming and it is true, I have mentioned before how much we feel the seasons here.
Many years ago I used to have a Plan, a two year plan, a five year plan, a list of things I wanted to do before I was 30. In about six weeks time I will turn 40, a bit of a landmark birthday. A few months after that Ady will turn 50, another landmark birthday. Our son turned 13 this year, Ady and I celebrated 20 years together. This week marked the two year anniversary of the first time we ever came to Rum. Lots of milestones. Many opportunities to take stock, to mark time, to measure where we are against where we thought, hoped, dreamed, planned we might be.
So where are we? Hard to say really given how many times Ady and I have moved our goalposts about in the last 20 years…. once upon a time we were planning to be mortgage free by now, maybe considering early retirement and doing some traveling. I guess we sort of achieved that in a much as we are no longer paying a mortgage, we don’t work for anyone other than ourselves any more and we spent a whole year traveling the UK. Except I never thought I’d be waking up on the morning of my 40th birthday in a damp static caravan so I don’t think too much self congratulation on meeting that particular goal is in order.
Let’s get a bit more up to date with our life plans then – when we left Sussex in search of somewhere different to settle we had a fairly clear wish list; somewhere beautiful – tick, somewhere with a sense of community – tick, somewhere with space enough to grow food, keep livestock, not look out of every window and see a different neighbour – tick, tick, tick. We wanted to be lower impact and maybe even off grid – tick with both although the low impact is a tricky one, for all our personal green credentials we are still far from self sufficient and our geographic locations means we have a way larger carbon footprint than I’d like. Our food travels a long old way to reach us, I can no longer make ethical choices about a lot of my shopping and my preference for local seasonal food is massively compromised. We might not personally travel a lot of miles but a lot of miles are traveled in our name both in family and friends visiting and in the deliveries that come with our address on them by land and sea.
One of the ways in which Ady and I, and latterly Davies and Scarlett too, have always evaluated our current situation is to think about what we’d do instead if we weren’t doing this. It’s the way we shaped the educational path we have trodden with the children, jobs Ady and I have taken and how we quite literally picked our route back in 2011. We try on different scenarios to see if they’d be a better fit, discuss how we might make things work and how that might feel. We look at what we could be doing better and work out ways in which we can make that happen. We test how we’d feel if we stopped doing what we’re doing now to experiment with whether this is right. Not sure whether to apply for that job? Think about how you’d feel after the closing date if you didn’t apply? Relieved it’s now passed and you don’t have it hanging over you or kicking yourself at a potential missed opportunity?
This has been an amazing, challenging, learning experience. It has ticked every box and offered opportunities we didn’t even imagine might present themselves. We are so proud of all we have achieved here and every single day we are reminded of another new reason why we are so lucky to be doing this. Whenever we re-evaluate we remain sure that for now this is the right place for us to be and there is nowhere and nothing else we would rather be investing our time, energy and lives in.
But it is time to recognise the shortcomings and downfalls of our current situation and the areas that need improving. We need to face the things that we find hard and find solutions and answers to making them better. Maybe not a Master Plan but a new wish list, a new sheet of boxes to tick, a chance to shape what my introspective blogpost for this time next year might be celebrating!
First on our list is a better shelter – not necessarily a Forever Home just yet, we recognise we are still honing that vision and learning the necessary skills to build it. But something that ticks the following boxes:
- Bigger – we need more indoor space. We need room enough for a bath – we all miss baths. We have our long days working outside making our muscles ache or doing things in the cold and rain and feeling chilled to the bone. Water is no problem here, even hot water is no problem here but we simply don’t have enough space in the static for a bath and we all want one. Davies and Scarlett need bigger bedrooms – they need enough room to have friend to come and stay in their rooms, to have all their stuff out where they can get to it all the time, space to spread out and make their own. We really want a washing machine in our house rather than a mile away in the village and somewhere indoors to dry wet things.
- More weatherproof against Rum elements – we need a shelter which is not such a daunting place to be when the wind blows. Somewhere that the roof is sound, the doors don’t whistle, the walls don’t flex and you feel as though you have left the outside outside. We need better insulation so that the instant you stop burning firewood the temperature does not plummet and somewhere that the windows and walls don’t run with condensation and things kept in cupboards don’t go moldy.
Next on our list is more people:
- More visitors – more family and friends to stay with us, more trips off to stay with them. We miss people. 40 people in Rum is plenty of people to have relationships with, learn from, interact with, spend time together, social with. But we lack like minded people – our family who love us simply for being us, our friends who are fellow Home Educators, people who share our passions, interests and ideas. We used to spend most of our time with people who were like us, sometimes it’s hard being a minority within a minority!
- More new friends – we have to be very realistic about the possibilities of more people moving to Rum. There have been new people move here even in the short time we have been here and it is very exciting and we hope for more in the coming months and years. There are regular influxes of tourists and other short term visitors and we enjoy meeting them, talking to them and sharing stories with people.
- More help! We always planned to be WWOOF hosts, both to give back some of what we gained from our WWOOFing experience, to share our land and our island with others and to get some help with the many tasks on the croft – to get assistance with chopping wood, carrying things up the hill, feeding and tending to the animals, planting and harvesting crops.
Third on our list is getting closer to our idelogies in low impact and self sufficient living:
- We want to grow more crops next year – we are learning about what does and doesn’t grow here and last year was a great experiment with the polytunnel and the raised beds. This coming season we are hoping for some abundance in crops and are planning in more detail what we grow. We are intending to grow some crops for animal feed, more herbs, more crops that can be sold, stored and turned into value added produce such as soft fruits for jam.
- We have a couple more experimental poultry plans and I am still hankering after goats but it is our intention within the next year to be close to self sufficient in meat, along with Rum venison of course. Our pigs and poultry, along with some time spent fishing and our own eggs should mean our protein needs are all met here on Rum – that would be a massive leap forward in terms of our animal welfare philosophies, our food miles and of course our shopping bill.
Finally we want to carry on with our learning adventures, continue gathering new skills, new ideas and increasing our knowledge. We’re looking at training courses, ways to learn more from our fellow islanders and others within our local community and to swap skills with visitors and WWOOFers too.
The first step to all of these plans is the shelter. In moving out of the static we would free it up to house WWOOFers and other visitors, it would mean we could arrange croft sitters to enable us to get away to visit family and friends or go for training. If we had more space we could have more people to stay with us more often. More people mean more hands to make the crop growing and livestock tending easier to do.
We have a few ideas of low cost shelters that might tick all of those boxes and are doing research into various options with a view to ticking that off our list as soon as we can. More on that as we firm up our plans. It feels good to have a bit of direction other than the one the wind is blowing in.