This week we have been regaining focus on the croft, on getting (as) ready (as we can be) for the winter, in making plans for next year, working out how we can make a living from the croft and coordinate some sort of house build for next year.
We are revisiting our original business plan for the croft and have been talking about how the things which first brought us here to Rum are no longer the things which hold us here. Way back in 2011 when we were deciding where life should take us next we had a fairly short list of essentials:
- We wanted to live somewhere beautiful. Rum is always, ever beautiful. Beautiful in all four seasons, in all sorts of weather conditions. It ticks every single box for wildlife, landscapes, coastline, river side living…
- We wanted to have land. Enough land to grow most of our own food and excess surplus to sell. It is a challenging but true fact that we used to grow more food in our allotment and back garden in Sussex than we have managed to grow on our entire 8 acres here on Rum. The soil is poor and we are starting from nothing, working to condition the ground, battle with the elements, protect crops from deer, birds, rats and mice. It is a long, slow process and although I can see how far we have come and how much progress we have made with our raised beds and walled garden, polytunnel and herb spirals I can also see the long hard road ahead. The market for selling excess produce is small, possibly even non existent as the people here who care about home grown produce over imported food from the mainland already grow their own in their large gardens. The tourist market for produce is very small too although we are hopeful that with increased visitor accommodation on the island moving forward that may increase, particularly if we target our growing accordingly for cash crops and dual purpose or long lasting crops (eg soft fruit that can be sold as fruit or turned into jams, herbs that can be sold fresh or dried and stored).
- We wanted to rear our own animals for meat and dairy and egg production. We have done a fairly good job of this but have also lost a lot of young animals. We have learned not to take piglets through the winter, now know the signs of Barbara pig in labour and that we need to check her more regularly to assist with any piglets who need attention while she is still birthing subsequent litter mates. We have lost more baby birds than I care to count to rats, crows, ravens and quite possibly an owl this year. Chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese have all been predated on as young birds, either hatched here on the croft or bought in as poults. We are getting better at creating good housing for them and knowing how to keep them as safe as possible but this knowledge has come at the price of bitter experiences.
- We wanted to live somewhere with a sense of community. We have certainly achieved that. It is true that sometimes the intensity and hot bed of living here and being part of the community comes with challenges and difficulties. Certainly being a director of the community trust is no picnic with many hours every week of voluntary time spent on tasks associated with the role, often wondering whether it is a worthwhile endeavor and one which is best use of my time. But it is the community as individual people which has kept us here on Rum. It is the hands of friendship, the camaraderie of being one of the people who live here, who have made it through two winters, three summers, winds, rain, 18 hours of darkness a day, ferry cancellations, midges, ticks, clegs, tourists…. the in jokes, the knowing that we all look out for each other and all care, tolerate, accept, respect and think about each other which has made Rum feel more like home than anywhere else we have ever lived.
So a mixed bag going forward then. Some victories, some opportunities to do better. Some real glowing positives and some hurdles to overcome. We have a plan, or six…. in coming posts I’ll be outlining the various things we have come up with to try and make things work for us here on Rum. Some new ideas, some revisiting old ones,some creative ways of approaching things. Watch this space!