Winds of change

Nearly seven years ago after many conversations about just what we wanted from life the four of us drew up the following wish lists. It was 2010. I was 36 and spent my days as a Home Educator with a part time job at the local library and volunteer roles as a shepherd and a leader for various of the kids ‘after school’ activity groups. Ady was 45, worked full time, wore a shirt and tie, spent a lot of time on the M25 in his company car. Davies was 9 and loved drawing, films, animation and bushcraft and Scarlett was 7 and loved animals and any opportunity to get muddy! They went to swimming lessons, St Johns Ambulance Badgers, RSPB Wildlife Explorers, cinema club and regular home ed groups. We lived in a decent sized house and had chickens, ducks and quails in the garden and an allotment a mile away.

A’s list:
learn more about butchering, possibly slaughtering.
Growing fruit & veg
Spending more time with N & children
Fishing
Cooking
Practical skills

D’s list:
Bushcraft / survival skills
Working with wood
Driving tractors and understanding how they work
lifestock – particularly sheep and chickens
fishing
a lake with a row boat
a treehouse

S’s list:
wants dogs and cats!
animal breeding – ducks, chickens, maybe small animals
keeping pigs and sheep

My list (note it does seem rather longer!):
Keeping livestock – pigs, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, bees (for meat, eggs, honey)
Having a cow for milk & making other dairy – butter, cheese, yoghurt
Growing food for us and livestock
Bartering / skill exchange / education
cooking / baking / preserving / brewing
crafts – sewing, knitting, basket weaving, woodcraft – making clothes, tools, household objects.
composting
renewable and sustainable energy – a green way of life -= solar, wind, water power, biomass fuels, woodburning
building from sustainable sources – strawbale builds, compost loos, solar showers, rainwater harvesting

We also came up with an ‘ultimate goal’ which we all liked the sound of:

To live a more sustainable, self-sufficient lifestyle. To have all four of us working together towards providing for ourselves whilst having as many elements of our shared, and individual ambitions met. To be living our passions full time rather than indulging them in small ways around the rest of life. To be doing things for ourselves wherever possible and putting our own food on the table rather than going out to work to earn money to pay for food (or tables). To have our life be our work, our work be our life and everything rolled in together in providing for ourselves, realising our dreams and spending our days in tasks taking us towards where we want to be. No pointlessness.

When I started this blog all those years ago I had no idea of quite how much of an adventure it would chronicle. How far we would come, how many of those wish list items we’d tick off, how different our lives would become. Our journey to this point has been a combination of an open minded attitude towards seeing opportunities as they arise, saying yes to exciting and scary possibilities, a willingness to learn and try new things. When I read back that list now I am struck both by how ambitious and (if I’m honest) unattainable it felt to be writing it at the time and by how much of it we have ticked off now.

Our adventure took us all over the UK, introduced us to the most amazing people, taught us so many lessons, showed us some of the most beautiful and breathtaking scenery and wildlife in the UK, offered us stepping stones from one chance meeting and conversation and opportunity to the next until we finally ended up here on Rum. What could have been the end of the adventure with us finding our new home was infact just the start of a whole new one as we set about putting into practise what we’d learned, what we wanted to achieve and built a tailor made new life for ourselves from a bare field up.

Our choices, our lifestyle, the way we have made decisions has been pretty unconventional. Not many 7 and 9 year olds get to write wish lists for how their life will be and have the adults in their life not just take them seriously but find ways to enable those wishes regardless of how quirky they might be. But we believe that our time as a family unit is so short before Davies and Scarlett head off on their own adventures in life that to have found a way to combine all four of our wish lists and create a life that is as close to our dream as possible has been the very best thing we could have done. Of course the wish list of seven years ago is ever changing and evolving to meet different needs, dreams, accommodate new experiences and interests. The life that we have built here on Rum which met our needs has more recently felt lacking.

Rum is a staggeringly beautiful place. Every single morning when I wake and open the curtains I am reminded anew how fortunate I am to live in such a stunning place. Every walk alongside the river, every sunset, every winter frost, every spring awakening, every bramble picking autumn. It is also incredibly harsh, wind and storm battered, midge infested. Ridiculously remote, difficult, time consuming and expensive to come and go from as visitors or residents. The land is inhospitable to livestock or crops, every single triumph in both is off set against the failures, so many failures. Never will we, nor would we really want to, tame this croft to any real degree.

When we arrived here we brought the resident numbers to over 40. When we leave they will dip below 20. Davies and Scarlett are the only teenagers, we are the only Home Educators, the only off-gridders. We have made some wonderful friends here, will take with us so many memories and experiences but for now Rum is no longer meeting our needs or ticking off sufficient items on our current wish list.

Having realised that self sufficiency in food is not a feasible notion and that bartering and exchange will still not net us everything we need to survive we are forced to reconsider quite how we can earn enough to buy in the things we cannot grow, rear or create ourselves. Our shelter here, always intended to be temporary becomes less adequate with every passing season and ever growing children. The next chapter in our adventure awaits.

In the same way as we began this blog with a sense of longing for something different and a plan to go searching for it we are intending to further hone our wish list this time and then explore all the options to find the best way to meet our needs. At this stage we feel that some perspective outside of our Rum bubble is the best starting point. A return to the mainland, a saturation in all that we have left behind and not had these last five years. We began this journey by stripping away everything and slowly adding back in the things we felt we needed. This time we plan to do the reverse and immerse ourselves back into modern life and see what we can cast off as unnecessary.

Our current intention is to enjoy the spring, summer and autumn on Rum. Knowing it may be our last round of all these seasons and squeezing every last ounce of the best from them. We’re growing crops, opening the shed for business, introducing new lines and looking forward to our weekly wildlife boat trips and lots of visits from family and friends. Then we will leave before the winter starts and see what happens next. At this stage our intention is actually to return to Rum again in spring 2018, to start again with only the financially viable parts of our current Croft activities and see if earning an actual living from Croft 3 is feasible. In the same way as our original plan was a 9 month WWOOFing adventure before returning to Sussex. It is easier to take courageous steps into the unknown when the door to home is still open, in sight behind you.

I will continue to blog – both what is happening here on Croft 3 on Rum for as long as it remains our home, and about what happens next. The adventure is far from over!

3 thoughts on “Winds of change

  1. Wow, massive changes indeed. I’ve enjoyed following your journey and look forward to finding out what happens next. Whatever it is, I’m quite certain you will all come your best to get the most out of every experience :)

  2. Whatever you do and wherever you go I look forward to reading about it. Biggest decision we ever made was moving back to UK from Canada, I wanted it my OH didn’t. I put the children first and felt Canada could not give them what the UK could, it would appear I was correct. Best of luck for whatever choices you make.

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