But the wolf’s just a puppy and the door’s double locked…

The weather is gearing up for winter here on Rum. We keep hearing whispers of an indian summer or one last barbecue weekend but the whispers get drowned out by the rain drumming on the roof and the wind whistling through the gaps in the windows.

We’ve had an extreme return to the wild weather that Rum can bring already with the river bursting it’s banks spectacularly last week and washing away more of the trail than I’d seen before. There is a footbridge crossing the river down along from the bottom of our croft and I’d heard tell of times when the river rises over the bridge but have yet to see it myself. I can imagine it now though, back when I moved here last year and was told about it I didn’t actually believe it. The river is changing course, large chunks of the river bank get eroded away when the river is in spate, this last time a large chunk of river bed got washed down the river and ended up near the bottom of the croft. That worries me a little as our croft line follows the river, if it change course too much we may end up with the river running through the croft! I guess that would be good for hydro power but might mean the nature trail needs severely re-routing!

There has been some high winds too – the straps keeping the roof on have been vibrating and making their noises, the walls have been flexing and things have been moving about. It wasn’t even very windy today but I set down a 4 pint container of milk on the sporran it blew over reminding me that wind here is a whole different beast to what we used to encounter down in Sussex. The very notion that anything might get blown away down there was laughable, here it is a fact of life.

In the last few weeks while all has been quiet on the blogging front we’ve been busy. I’ve cleared the polytunnel, feeding failed crops and leftover bits to the pigs and emptying containers ready for the next batch of sowing. I have put about 40 strawberry plant runners in to the ground directly ready for next year. We’ll see how they do in the soil here and the wet but at least they’ll not need watering and they cost me nothing coming from the 18 small plants I bought off ebay at the start of this year for under a tenner.

Ady and our visiting friend J dug a v shaped trench at the top of the polytunnel to help with drainage. We need to make a path up through the middle as it is very boggy so that is a job still on the list of things to do.

We’ve moved the pigs to a smaller area than they had been on before. It includes some trees which they are enjoying the coverage from. I’ve been reading about mob grazing for sheep and cattle recently and have decided to try it as an idea for the pigs. The idea being that you graze the animals on a smaller area for a shorter time which leads to a total grazing of roots and all for the ground before moving them on. In sheep and cattle it replicates natural behaviour where fear of predators and need for communal shelter keeps grazers in a tight grouping. It is a more labour intensive method as it requires moving animals on more frequently but may work well for us where ground conditioning is a big part of our pigkeeping plan and leaving them on a larger area for longer means lots of rushes left behind and very little else. We’re hoping to be down to 4 or maybe 5 pigs within the not too distant future too as the two wee boy pigs will be fattened for eating so working out how that will work is next on the pig planning agenda.

I’ve removed the netting from the crops I planted out in my raised beds. They failed, I assume due to the weather. The netting was all wind blown so a better method of protecting them from our birds needs investigating for next year. I will get down to weeding them and maybe putting some seaweed on to overwinter the beds and help condition the soil is also on my to do list. There are tatties in two of the beds ready to dig out but for now we are letting the birds rummage over the beds and do a spot of weeding for us.

We’ve brought up more firewood and I’ve split it. I’d like to have more wood split and seasoning to feel properly ready for the winter given we have already started having the log burner lit most evenings for an hour or two but we are keeping up with replacing what we’re using at the moment at least.

We have invested in a small wind turbine, it should arrive in the coming week. I’ll blog about it when it does and write a bit about how and whether it works for us.

Davies became a teenager. I am happy to report that other than being incapable of getting out of bed before 10am which has been the case for a while already he is showing no other signs of changing. He had a fabulous day, was fortunate to have visiting grandparents present, ate his choice of favourite foods for the day including cinnamon rolls for breakfast, pizza for lunch, Rum venison steak and chips for dinner, shared his quadruple layer birthday cake with a large crowd at the shop, was lavished with gifts from various corners, took delivery of post from family and friends wishing birthday felicitations, had two questions dedicated to him in the quiz which took place that evening in the community hall and was sung happy birthday to twice. He reckons being a teenager is not too bad at all so far… 🙂

We attended a storytelling walk and workshop yesterday with Tim and Malcolm who were here performing their play Shearwater. It was a fab morning of storytelling, music making, poetry, art and creativity with lots of laughter, learning and just enjoying the world around us. We made music together from found objects on the beach, wrote a poem from the point of view of something we collected from the shore, listened to a story in several parts and created art from beachcombed treasures. Magical 🙂

We went back to watch the actual play in our village hall in the evening and then Tim and Malcolm joined the community for our Blasda festival today – a celebration of local food and harvest time with a bring and share lunch. 25 people attended and we had a groaning table of food with soup, frittata, home made bread rolls, quiche, potato salad, venison in three incarnations (stuffed marrow, chilli and stew) herbed potatoes, cabbage, desserts including bramble crumble and goose egg custard, whisky pudding and a bramble inclusive cranachan. Tim struck up the accordian afterwards and the children danced, another visitor kept time on the guitar and various residents played spoons, tables, hand claps and foot taps to join in. Very special.

We’ve been trying to prepare inside for the winter too, moving things from cupboards where mold grows and airing bedding daily. The things which caught us out last year are at least known issues this coming winter and we can take steps towards prevention and staying on top of things. It won’t be easy but at least we know what we’re dealing with.

In the meantime the weather forecast for the coming week is almost cheerful so plenty of bramble picking and getting our full of vitamin D is in order.

Wallowing is for hippos

As in mud, mud, glorious mud 🙂

Until I moved to Rum I would never have attributed a personality to a place I don’t think, let alone allowed a place to have control over things. Here on Rum though we all seem to accept there are Rum Fairies, Rum Trolls, that Rum accepts or rejects you. Helps you, tests you, chews you up, spits you out…

Now I live here I do find myself mentally talking to Rum, striking deals, asking favours, believing in Rum gods.

I suspect like all gods, Rum is personal to you and who you are. Our Rum is cruel to be kind. It tests us to ensure this is really, really where we want to be. Pushes us to our limits and then when we almost but not quite hit the point of deciding it’s all too much the wind changes and the clouds are blown away again. I think I have said to everyone who has visited us here that every time I question what we’re doing and why we’re doing it I look out of our windows or step out of our front door, look at that view and remember that that’s why. Every single day something here makes my heart sing.

Sometimes it is simply the sun breaking through the clouds over one of the mountains here. Sometimes it is looking back at my wood shed part filled with logs for the coming winter. Today it has been the meaningful look that at least three fellow islanders have given me when they asked ‘you okay?’.

A bigger part of knowing we are where we belong was on Saturday though when Davies celebrated his birthday and turned 13. A teenager! Two weeks ago he made a poster to put at the shop to invite everyone to come and share his birthday cake with him. Scarlett made a card and left it at the shop for islanders to sign. My parents were here to celebrate with us and so after a day with family eating all his favourite foods and enjoying his presents from us including cards and gifts sent from family and friends we headed down to the village.

Lots of people came out to sing Happy Birthday and eat cake, his card had not an empty inch of space left as so many people had signed it. He was presented with gifts from various islanders and a huge wrapped gift signed by about half the folk here which was two large Lego sets. To say he was delighted would be an understatement. He then got various other so very personal and well thought out gifts from people here. Gifts that cost more than money, gifts that demonstrate how very well known he is by people here who have taken the time and trouble to get to know our children, to understand them and put time, love and effort into coming up with gifts that are bringing tears to my eye once again just in thinking about them.

It was a fundraising quiz event on Saturday evening so we headed to the village hall to participate in that. There were two quiz questions in honour of Davies and his birthday and at the end all the participants sang Happy Birthday to him. It was a very late dinner of Davies’s favourite Rum venison steak and chips but it was a magical day for him and one that will stay in all our hearts and memories for a long time to come.

I believe that these are the moments which matter, the memories that count. The mud is only good for facepacks.