Need to know basis

In my last post I talked about how much I have learned about birds and wildlife since moving here to Rum. As a Home Educator I am often to be heard talking about how we don’t learn everything we need to know in childhood and how humans should be lifelong learners. About how I have learned more in my adult life, particularly the last five years than I ever did as a child. About how easily we learn and retain knowledge when it is relevant, pertinent, meaningful and in context.

My friend Kirsty who runs the fabulous untrappedlife website and I were chatting over new year – a time when we all reflect on the year passed and pin hopes on the year ahead. Kirsty was reminding of me of how much knowledge I have to share and how people are interested in the things I know about. It is in no small way thanks to those conversations that we took the plunge of WWOOF hosting this year and Kirsty was right – our wwoofers have been scribbling notes, taking photos and videos and stroking my ego no end with what I have learned and do know about various things in livestock, growing fruit, veg and herbs, permaculture ideas, off grid living and more.

An on island friend who is a very skilled person in lots of rural crafts that Ady and I are desperate to learn more about has been sharing some of his skills and yesterday we spent a very exciting hour in his company getting a first lesson in how to sythe. We are on our fourth strimmer in two and a half years and hate the use of petrol and noise pollution that strimming creates, while still needing to keep paths clear to walk up and down the croft, harvest the grass and reeds for animal bedding and prevent our crops from being choked by grass and weeds. Sytheing may well be the answer – new skills and a low impact, sustainable solution. I commented to our friend how lucky we were to have him here willing to teach us and he told me that a skill is not a skill until you share it. What a deep thought and one which has echoed through my mind countless times since he said it…

This morning when I was answering questions about living in a campervan for 9 months. This lunch time as we all sat down to fresh baked bread and home made soup and then our visitor made the bread dough and pizza dough for this evening – a skill she had not possessed two weeks ago when she arrived her but I have shared with her. At breakfast when we spread jam on our toast made in a collaborative effort between Scarlett and I, this afternoon when Davies headed off to water the polytunnel calling back over his shoulder ‘I know, don’t over water the chillies…’ and came back having picked the very first tomatoes. Later this evening when Scarlett and I walked back to the croft the long way all around three sides of our land and we picked a posy of wild flowers and grasses to put in a jam jar and brighten the static.

My grandmother is a florist and I have many childhood memories of sitting in her flower shop, eating marmite on toast, surrounded by great buckets of highly scented, rainbow coloured blooms. I love the smell of cut flowers and that taking me back 35 years ago in time quality the smell has but have always been rather snooty at the idea of having cut flowers in my house – expensive, imported at great carbon footprint cost, a token of ostentatious spending rather than genuine thoughtfulness… but the flowers on the croft make me smile every time I walk up the hill. Over the last 3 summers I have learned the names of most of them – asking people who live here and know the names, picking a specimen and searching in our wild flower guide book, going on organised wild flower walks with the ranger.

Today Scarlett and I picked the posy in the photo above and could both name all of the flowers – ragwort, sneezeworth, common birdsfoot trefoil, devils-bit scabious, meadowsweet. celandine, ling heather, clover, orchid and various rushes and grasses. 

Never in our old lives would we have sought to gain or retain that knowledge, it simply would not have sunk in. What new thing did you learn today?

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