winkle pickin’ mama

which almost tied for blogpost title with all winkled out but just won.

I’ve been alerted that I have not actually made it clear why we have been picking winkles this week – it is to sell. They go off to Spain or France or somewhere where they are cooked, probably with lots of wine and garlic and then scooped out of their shells with little pins or sticks or winkle picking implements. I wouldn’t personally want to eat them, I don’t much care for shellfish generally, much less anything I have to ‘mess about with’ (a trait I get from my Dad who also is not up for using tools at the dinner table other than perhaps a steak knife). But they get sent off on the ferry to the mainland where someone takes them and pays us then they get shipped off to the next place. Lots of islanders make cash in the winter this way and it is just one of the ways we intend making our living here on Rum.

When we arrived we were already aware that crofters of old had employed many different skills to make ends meet – crofting alone is rarely a way to provide for a family year round. Our plan was always to have a variety of revenue streams at different times of the year. We’ll be busy putting in crops in Spring, raising new livestock and gearing up for the summer. In Summer we will be selling produce, working at market day selling to tourists, in autumn we are gathering foraged spoils, fishing and stocking up, butchery as part of the venison processing, in winter we will winkle pick and make crafts to keep us topped up for the following season. Always thinking and planning ahead, always moving with the tide – a bit like those winkles!

So we’re done with the winkles for this round and we’ve learned a lot in our first week of doing it. Learned where the good spots are, what the best techniques are. Learned that there are essential bits of kit – wellies, oil skin waterproofs (we’ve invested part of our earnings in a set each which should arrive tomorrow ready for the next round of picking in a couple of weeks time). We need two pairs of socks, knee pads and I need a scarf to hold my hair back but not a hat because my head gets too hot. Neither of us can work in gloves (Ady has sausage fingers, I have tiny child sized hands so normal gloves are empty at the ends of the fingers and hamper me) but we smother our hands in barrier cream before we start to prevent getting too wrinkled and sore. Layers are good but not if you get wet, one cup of tea before you start is warming, two cups means you need a wee while you are picking. There is a trade off to be made between wet knees and aching back (kneel down and your back is fine but your knees get wet, bend over and your knees stay dry but your back aches lots), accept that chipped nail varnish is an occupational hazard (maybe this is just a tip for me!).

The coming week will be about preparing for Christmas I think – we have various crafty things we want to do, some reading stories and snuggling up together to make up for the lack of time spent with each other this past week. Hopefully the log burner will arrive so warmth will also play a role too. There are lots of windy days forecast which along with the usual Rum rain should mean we feel utterly justified in staying mostly indoors catching up on paperwork, baking and things involving wool and glitter.

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