Bad, Good, Learned in 2017 and hopes for 2018

We’re slightly late with it this year, but we have good excuses and notes from our mum and everything so please let us off!

I also have a round up of the year with pictures post planned and will definitely get that up in the next few days. But for now, here is the list of what was bad and good and what we learned last year and what our hopes and dreams are for the year ahead.


1.Things starting to wear out. After five years the generator is starting to struggle with regular use and the wind turbine is needing lots of repairs and careful tending. We obviously expect to have routine maintenance but there are nagging worries about some of the things we rely heavily on lasting.
2. Getting rid of the pigs, Barbara in particular was very sad.
3. The caravan is ever more tired. We have a couple of places which leak in the rain, again five years living in a space designed for occasional use is taking it’s toll.
4. The novelty has worn off rather – what seemed charming and worthwhile sometimes feels like a massive effort in our lifestyle on Rum – carrying things up the hill is more of a chore than ever.
5. The sense of community on Rum continues to dwindle and attendance at meetings and social events is at an all time low. I am as guilty as everyone else of wondering what the point is in bothering at times which is sad.

1. Working with Internet Ian on hebent stuff. I did quite a lot of that in 2017 and it was interesting and rewarding, I learned loads and earned some good money too!
2. More tree planting. Another 500 trees planted on Croft 3. I love tree planting, it feels like such a legacy project, a real investment in the future.
3. Finishing having pigs. Although it was sad to say goodbye to the individual animals it was also a relief in terms of cost of food and worrying about their welfare over the winter.
4. The family Christmas. I have been planning having a Christmas with our family back on the mainland for the whole year and was so looking forward to it. It was just as I hoped it would be, a real highlight.
5. The sanitation set up – our flushing toilet set up works so well and I have maintaining it down to a fine art. It’s very rewarding to have designed and set something up that works and makes life so much more comfortable.

1. Shearing the sheep was a real new skill and one I loved doing.
2. Car maintenance – more tinkering with the vehicles and other machines this year. One of those things I would never have tried before and feel a real sense of achievement in doing and making things work.
3. We’ve not done it yet but this year I realised that keeping chickens without some type of penning them, even if just overnight is a pointless exercise as you simply get no eggs. We’ve been feeding chickens who them mostly run off all the food by free ranging over such a huge area, laying eggs for the crows to eat!
4. That I don’t miss the mainland as much as I thought I did. It’s been lovely having some longer time off Rum but the novelty of the things I thought I missed quickly wore off.
5. Some new approaches to life and what we have which I’ll be taking back to Rum. Stuff about making the caravan work better for us and using the resources we have on the croft.

Ady’s Hopes for 2018:
1. To earn a living from the Croft or at the very least create a credible business plan.
2. To make our Rum life a bit easier, maybe with some sort of vehicular or mechanical help with getting resources like food / gas / firewood in the right places.
3. Create a plan for the extended areas of the Croft. We now have a chunk of woodland and an extra area above the river and I’d like to create an area for the ducks next to the river and really make the most of the wood resource.
4. Learn more about working with chainsaws.
5. Build a bathhouse on Croft 3. We have plenty of water, several options for heating it, no end of space and a bath – I want to find a way to bring them all together!

Special bonus wish – To find out about setting up a community radio station


1. Saying goodbye to the pigs.
2. It was hard leaving Rum and the Croft. For me Rum will always be home in the same way as people think of their childhood home as their ‘home’ or ‘hometown’. For me no matter where I live Rum will always be my first real home. I know I was 8 when we arrived there but it’s definitely where I grew up.
3. I didn’t spend as much time outside adventuring or exploring this year as in previous years.
4. Saying goodbye to the livestock for the winter – the turkeys and chickens who are with new owners and my duck Desmond.
5. Leaving stuff behind on Rum was hard. We only had a small amount of space in the car and it was tough deciding what to bring.

1. The Welcome To Nightvale life show which we went to in 2017 with a friend was amazing.
2. My friendship with E – this year we have seen each other twice -once in Ireland and once on Rum and had loads of online chats.
3. The trip to Bristol Zoo on my birthday – I’ve wanted to see a naked mole rat for years and there was one there which was so cool.
4. Our cousin Maisie visiting – she came to Rum twice and we saw her in Sussex over Christmas too.
5. The Small Isles Games on Rum were brilliant and it was really lovely to have friends visiting while they were on too.
6. (Scarlett couldn’t narrow it down to 5 so we decided she shouldn’t have to and we should celebrate her having such a long list of ‘goods’!) My trip to Ireland with Mummy – going on a plane, seeing all the stuff like Giant’s Causeway.
7. Having my braces off.

1. More cake decorating skills
2. Lots of tech skills, using different devices and learning to use various things.
3. The possibility of a fish farm on Rum has meant learning lots about fish farms and how they work but also lots about sealife, aquaculture and the impact of them. I learned loads when we did the sweep netting and caught fish in the bay to check for weight, health and sealice.
4. Art skills – I have really improved my painting and drawing, tried new styles such as manga and watercolours.
5. How full on airport security is. I was really surprised at the security between Glasgow and Belfast and how we were frisked, Mummy had to take her boots off and our liquids were dip tested to check what they were. I had no idea it was so intense.

Scarlett’s hopes for 2018:
1. To return to Rum this spring.
2. To further improve my cake decorating skills. I am good at making pretty cupcakes but I’d like to try a more ambitious project like a large cake looking like something like a watermelon or something like that.
3. Develop a business from my baking and cake decorating.
4. A donkey! I know it might not work on Rum but I’d like to research it more. I’d like to rehome a resuce donkey.
5. I really enjoyed my horseriding lesson in Glastonbury so would like to try and do more horse or pony riding.

Special Bonus Wish: I’d like to visit Canada. I’d love to see the landscape and see the amazing wildlife like bears, wolves, moose and beavers.


1. I didn’t accomplish many of my hopes for last year. Some of them were just not as feasible as I thought and I changed my focus on others.
2. Realising that there is a chunk of life that I missed out on. The transition from being a little kids playing to being a teen hanging out with other teens. Because I have not had same age friends or peers around I have just not done this life stage. I know that there are other things I have done instead so on balance it’s not a regret as such but something I am aware of missing out on.
3. Lack of power / internet access on Rum means less contact online with friends or time to follow some of my other interests.
4. A disappointing year of Sheerwater boat trips (again) with no real noteable sightings.
5. My score on my first marked assignment for the OU. I achieved a pass and it does not go towards the end result. My feedback was good but it would have been nice to have had a higher score.

1. The Welcome To Nightvale trip was good. It was fun to go with a friend and it was an all round good experience.
2. Studying with the OU. It’s reassuring to have a long term plan now and I am really enjoying the subjects.
3. I’ve made some online friends this past year who are really important to me. Some are deepening friendships with people I already knew, some are brand new friends. Several are mutual friends who other friends have introduced me to.
4. Watching Hannibal with Mummy. It’s a really good show and it was really good to watch it together and share it.
5. Anime – Scarlett and I have gotten really into anime in 2017. It’s a shared interest with Scarlett and it’s not to share a fandom. We watch shows together, do art challenges and recommend stuff to each other.

1. Study skills with the OU. Writing in an academic style, reading, researching and interpreting data. All of these are new skills to me.
2. My art has improved this year with me learning new styles and techniques and trying different materials.
3. My reading, writing and spelling is continuing to improve.
4. I’ve learned this year who I am a lot more. Scarlett was always passionate about animals but I never really had a big ‘thing’. From studying, chatting to people online and reading back over online chats I have a far better sense of self.
5. Language skills. I have learned a fair bit about languages this year. I have two friends who do not have English as their first language (one is Finnish, one Turkish) and have also had a lot of contact with Japanese from watching anime. I have learned about foreign alphabets and pronunciation. As a relatively late reader myself I recall learning those things in English and it means this is a skill I remember developing and have found it interesting and easy to pick up.

Davies’ hopes for 2018
1. To finish my access course and begin a degree course with the OU
2. To further improve my literacy skills.
3. To improve my drawing / art skills.
4. To make some youtube videos and increase the number of subscriptions to my channel.
5. To progress with my keyboard playing / learning to read music
(Davies had quite a list so we wrote them all down)
6. Start planning some travel adventures for 2019
7. Get a full driving licence.

Davies’ special bonus wish for 2018: To meet my online friend from Finland in real life.


1. Saying goodbye to the pigs, particularly Barbara. It was one of the tougher decisions we have made in our time on Rum. It was the right one, for several reasons but no less sad for all that.
2. Leaving Rum for the winter. It has meant so many good and lovely things, continued adventures, new experiences and really helped with making decisions about what happens next but standing on the open deck of the ferry waving goodbye to Rum and to my special friends was a wrench and a tough things to do. Under different circumstances perhaps Rum could have met all of our needs without us needing to take time away, that is a definite source of sadness for me about 2017 – realising that our current life was no longer quite enough.
3. Following on from that point is that most of the highlights of 2017 were times we were off island, with the noteworthy highs on Rum getting less every year. We’ve worked really hard to try and make our every day life so special that we didn’t need to take a break from it but this last year it has not been so often the case.
4. Car hassles. In stepping back into the mainland life for a bit we have also had to step back into mainland responsibilities and running a car is as expensive and hassle-worthy as it ever was. Quite aside from the costs of taxing and insuring a car (which have rocketed with the increase in size from our little black car to a much larger MPV) we have had problems with an exhaust, suspension and a broken window mechanism. All of these are outside our ability to fix which is something we had gotten used to on Rum.
5. The end of an era. I have always welcomed Davies and Scarlett growing up, Ady and I growing older, life marching on and the passage of time. I look back fondly at old photos and cherish memories of the past but have always felt excited about the next steps and the future. I am still feeling like that but this year has definitely marked the end of a phase of our lives which has been amazing. Davies is no longer Home Educated or even of school age (he remains studying at home with the OU but it’s a shift), both teens have increasing interests and pursuits that we don’t share from chatting online to friends to watching shows that we are not interested in. Ady and I are feeling less inclined to take on challenging long term physical projects. I know that the end of one phase in life marks the start of another and am confident that whatever happens next will be amazing too but I am pausing to take a breath in the tiny gap between the two chapters and feeling a sadness at the closing of the one which is now in the past.

1. The sheep. We are really enjoying having the sheep on the croft. They are fairly low maintenance, very low cost, easy going creatures to have around. Learning to shear them this year was a real highlight, and doing a bit of spinning and some crochet with the fleece was a very lovely thing.
2. Ukulele – I spent the first part of the year struggling and practising and feeling as though I really wasn’t getting very far but then, just as people said would happen I suddenly got it. I am still a long way from anything other than a beginner but I have really enjoyed learning songs, singing and getting to grips with the ukulele. I recently managed to transpose a song into a more suitable key for my voice and now find my half an hour or so each day strumming, picking and singing to be a pleasure rather than an effort.
3. Adventures off island. We have had a fair few trips off Rum in 2017 – small ones for dentist trips or to see local-ish friends and some fairly epic ones including Northern Ireland for Scarlett and I in the spring, Manchester for all four of us in the autumn and Somerset & Sussex for the end of the year. I’ve ticked a few ‘bucket list’ type experiences off my personal list this year including seeing the Giants Causeway and had some amazing experiences such as Bath Spa.
4. The shed – another really good year for the shed in 2017. I introduced a few new lines and had some great sales. Jam as always is a big seller and I found an outlet on the mainland who started stocking my jams and sold out. I have still not found the right outlet for my freeform crochet but had some excellent feedback on it and some of the smaller items have sold well.
5. The Small Isles Games – I had quite a big role in organising the games which took place on Rum in 2016. I’d be lying if I said it was done without getting frustrated or irritated, or that the effort I and a few others put in was universally recognised and appreciated, however looking back on the photos, watching the races being run, the wellies wanged, the barbecue eaten, the ceilidh danced at, the raffle prizes claimed reminds me what a great day it was and how well we did to make it happen.

1. Over the course of 2017 I think all four of us had begun to lose sight of what was right with our life on Rum. The compromises, of which they are undoubtedly many, in our day to day lives there were starting to feel too big, the rewards too small. We knew that we needed to come off the island to gain some perspective and re-evaluate just what we wanted. That period off the island is not over yet, but 2017 is and it took me only a short while to get enough of an idea of what we gain and lose on Rum in contrast to a more conventional mainland life. I thought that living a fairly mainstream life for nearly 40 years, spending the year WWOOFing, then moving to a remote and extreme lifestyle like we have on Croft 3 meant I had already learned all I needed to know to compare the two. It turns out that the lesson was not quite complete and I needed to return again to be able to really see the differences. I learned a lot in the last six weeks of 2017. I’m still processing and reflecting on it but I definitely learned in what ways we are rich and in what ways we are poor and the true cost of things.
2. Social media stuff. I learned a bit about SEO, affiliate links and monetising blogs from my friend Kirsty who is an expert at it during their visit to us on Rum in April and our visit to them in September. I learned more while in Somerset and doing some facebook and blogging work for the place we were staying. My sister in law has a very successful business making jewellery and selling it online, making use of various social media and Davies is fast becoming an expert on various platforms too (as you would expect from a 17 year old!). As a writer and crafter I can see the potential of this for some of my skills and have a few ideas bubbling which have come about from learning more this year.
3. More about compromise. I would previously have considered myself rather an idealist, more likely to chose a side of the fence that best suited me and stayed there. Just as I mentioned earlier about realising the compromises and costs of the choices we make in our overall lives this year has also seen lots of compromises on Rum – community votes about the direction various things take – do we want a phone mast in our village? It means better signal but an ugly mast. Do we want a fish farm off the coast of our island? It means a visual and environmental impact but also investment in island infrastructure, employment opportunities and attracting new residents.
4. More about no-dig gardening and continued learning about the ground on Croft 3 and how best to make use of it. It continues to be a work in progress but as every year before I end with more knowledge than I started with about what does and doesn’t work and what is and isn’t worth doing again.
5. Alongside Davies I have also been studying with the OU doing an access course. It was to support Davies but also because I am interested in the subject matter (psychology, sociology, childhood studies, law and management) and because I had long wondered whether I would like to do a degree myself. I am enjoying the study and the subject but have learned that I do not want to study further, certainly just now. I am always learning new things, reading, researching and just doing and am better carrying on doing just that than studying additional things which are not as interesting to me for the sake of a qualification.

Hopes for 2018:
1. To return to Rum with a new improved plan for the future.
2. To support Davies and Scarlett in the next phase of their lives, I anticipate the coming year holding changes for them both and I hope they find the right balance for them as individuals for what they want, what they need and where they are headed.
3. To continue my creative pursuits: writing, craft, music. To improve, maybe to make some money but mostly to continue to get joy from them.
4. To work with Ady, Davies and Scarlett to find the path ahead which most suits us all as individuals and as a family. To try and meet the inevitable compromises and challenges with good grace and encourage and support the others to do the same, while continuing to have adventures, new experiences and lots of fun.
5. To make the most out of wherever we happen to find ourselves and live another year to the full.

Special bonus wish for 2018: To see an orca.

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