You live, you learn

A couple of weeks ago we hit a bit of a wall. Regular readers and those who know us well could probably tell by the tone of posts. In our original business plan we hoped to built a house in year one here on Rum. We speedily readjusted that ambition to year two and set about lots of research accordingly. Permaculture principles and our own wisdom dictated that you make small, slow decisions and then any mistakes are small too. We always planned to spend at least a year living on the land learning about our environment before choosing a house site. We wanted to be familiar with where the sun rose and set at different times of year, where the wind blew most, the rain fell least and so on. After our first winter we were ready and had a house site marked out – it took into account sunrise and sunset, access, drainage and lie of the land, access both for building materials and for us to live in it. We looked at various options for house builds from metal agricultural building type sheds to kit houses to log cabins and took lots of advice. If our house had sold down south we were pretty much poised and ready to go.

Except it didn’t. So we thought about alternative short term temporary accommodation which would be better than the static and buy us time to build what our actual dream home might look like if time pressure were no object (money will always be an object even if we sold our house, won the lottery (which we don’t even play) and struck oil or found an export market for mud on the croft!). I never meant to raise my children in a caravan, this was supposed to be a pop up temporary housing solution to get us to Rum so we could start building our life here and making our dreams come true.

Next year our plan is to sort out a longer term short term house for us. Something that will be suitable for the two or three years it might take us to build our alternative green build dream home. Something that we can have a washing machine and a bath in. Somewhere with more space than the static, less damp and condensation, somewhere that feels more like a home and less like a slightly upgraded camping trip. This will take some doing – it comes with a pretty big price tag but we have A Plan – to be unleashed upon the world once we have worked out the final details ourselves.

In the process of arriving at The Plan we had some frank family discussions. About whether this life is working, about whether the highs make up for the lows, if the tough bits are simply too tough and whether when we look back on this period of our lives (which for Davies and Scarlett is a very big period of their lives and forever will be – what you do when you are 39 and 49 is much less likely to be life forming than what you did when you were 10 and 13) it will be with affection, with appreciation of an experience worth having or as a period of endurance not worth the high costs.

We turned to our usual tried and tested Goddard method of checking where we’re at – Bad, Good, Learnt. We did it for our 18 months here so far:

Davies:
Bad
– missing friends
Good – the little things – during the course of this conversation I have seen an eagle out of the window. Here on Rum it’s a constant stream of little things that I actually notice and lift me rather than an overall good or bad.
Learnt – About people and what a community means.

Scarlett:
Bad – moldy toys and a small space to live in.
Good – Having all the animals.
Learnt – so much about wildlife and nature.

Ady:
Bad
– the toilet, the lack of power, the weather, the mud, issues with transport.
Good – Freedom, true satisfaction of achieving victories. Truly relaxing of an evening with candles and firelight, no distractions, the remoteness, the community.
Learnt – About power and alternate technology. About having gratitude fro small, meaningful things, prioritising achivevements, about agriculture and horticulture in a totally different climate. I’ve learnt some hard lessons.

Nic
Bad – No bath. No washing machine. Missing friends and family.
Good – Feeling that I am really living. That all victories are real, genuine victories, that everything is worthwhile and makes a difference, that choice I make are truly my own and have an impact and an influence.
Learnt – How to peg out washing according to wind direction. Something that never made any difference at all in a sheltered back garden. How to read a weather forecast long and short term and apply it to planning your day and week ahead activities -which day would be good to get washing done, collect firewood, drive across the river when it is low enough. How to ensure that you genuinely do have enough food in your ‘store cupboard’ to feed your family when the boat may be cancelled, planning dinner making use of a freezer a mile away.

I actually think we have learned even more than we listed above. I know that if we’d known before we moved here just how many challenges we’d face then we probably wouldn’t have come. Because we could never have believed just how many amazing highs we ‘d experience or appreciate how rich our lives are as a result. Davies probably summed up best talking about the ‘little things’. This week the colours on Rum have changed. The light is different, the sky is somehow lower. I could not capture than on camera to share with you in a photograph and my words fall way short of explaining what that means. It is part an assault on all our senses – were we to be blindfold or hold our hands over our ears, or to stop inhaling deeply and tasting, smelling, feeling the season changing then we would still somehow know. There is in turn an urgency to finish getting firewood up the hill and chopped up, complete that last pick of the brambles before the go over for this year and hang one last load of washing out to line dry before that joy is once again lost until the spring, alongside that there is an internal slowing down and keeping pace with the winter – earlier to bed and later to rise as the daylight hours reduce, a feeling of *needing* to be outside in the middle of the day soaking up as much daylight as possible. We are only 2 weeks away from the ferry timetable changing to the winter times.

The people we were 2 years ago may have chosen not to take up the offer / challenge / invite / opportunity to come and live here and take this life on. But we are no longer the people we were 2 years ago and it has become clear to all of us in our recent period of re-examination of our lives and what is important to us that everything we have learned tells us that this is the right place for us for now, if only because there is still so much more to learn.

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