Sunday, 29 July 2012

Day of days

Today has been one of our really productive days. We achieved everything we set out to do - and more. Another few steps closer to feeling like we have really arrived on the croft and are living it, doing it, making it happen.

Our goose and gander were due to arrive on the late boat this evening - this completes our current plans for livestock. We do have goats pencilled in for year two, turkeys on our wishlist and would like to get a drake to move in with our ducks. We have a broody hen sitting on eggs so could be celebrating our first croft birth in the next couple of weeks and our pigs are looking like they may be gearing up to learning what to do to provide us with piglets at some future point but for now we are not looking to increase the mouths to feed here for a while.

We were given an old chicken house shortly after we moved here, donated from someone no longer living on Rum. Ady and I got it to the croft with a combination of manhandling, sheer determination and plenty of heaving it about swearing and it's been stood ready for geese. This week Ady penned off another strip of land next to the ducks for the goslings to call home until they are settled here. Geese are perfect smallholders .livestock as they don't actually need any looking after really. They graze so don't need feeding and are pretty self sufficient. They pair for life so one goose and one gander is perfect as our breeding mama and papa and having got them still small and downy (ish) we hope to have them semi tame rather than scary, hissing and terrorising!

This morning we finished off the goose area, cleaning out the house and making good the floor which Barbara the pig had managed to fall through on one of her various jaunts out of the pig pen before we persuaded her to stay in there.
We then decided to tackle the duck house issue. We had been housing them in a wheelie bin and it was more or less working but looked a bit odd and five of them were really too big for it. We have accrued a collection of galvanised iron corrugated sheets so decided to construct a new duck house from some of them. Sledgehammers, nails and fence posts later we were proud constructors of a new duck palace. The ducks love it (we know, we chased them in to ensure they realised what it was and they stayed in there for ages and ages!)
We also banged on some more panels to the chicken house to make that more weather proof. It does all look very erm rustic but I love how it has all been donated / found / stuff we brought with us from home rather than perfect and overpriced animal houses.

Meanwhile Dragon and Star (I stress again for someone I know is reading and has made contact but should really have done their homework far better - they know who they are! that Dragon and Star are not *really* their names!) were spending some quality time with Tom and Barbara (their actual names) Pig. They are very affectionate and friendly pigs who love nothing better than lots of attention, strokes behind the ears and rubbing of their backs and bellies.

We collected some cut reeds and grass which had been left drying out to use as bedding and put fresh bedding in all the birds housing before calling it lunch time.

A feast of a lunch later we gathered tubs and walked down to the village to do some raspberry picking. There are loads of wild raspberries in and around the village, just some of the array of free food to be foraged here on Rum. There is already a resident jam maker here so I won't be making plain old raspberry jam for sale but will be making some for ourselves and possibly doing some twists on classics (my strawberry and chilli jam, bramble and lavendar and other such combinations were real hits back at home) along with some other stuff such as raspberry puree should we be lucky enough to harvest sufficient for such things. For now, we have enough to make a very lovely eton mes for dessert tomorrow using some of our own eggs to whip up some meringues :). It was a very nice couple of hours collecting them in the sunshine with the kids eating most of their harvest anyway.

On the late boat came Margo and Jerry - our goose and gander. Very cute and still a bit fluffy they are too.

And finally... today we managed to get up signs on 3 of the 4 gates to the croft. I'll make up the fourth one tomorrow and we'll get that up too.

Our land, our home :)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

What life looks like

Not nearly enough pictures of late. Let's make up for that now!

A few from one of the highlights of our week each week - the Thursday trip to Soay aboard the Sheerwater. A two hour boat ride away from Rum and back again with our Rum Ranger aboard to help us spot bird and sealife.

A Great Skua aka Bonxie

dolphins, a very frequent sight. We were lucky enough to witness the SuperPod that has been in the area a couple of weeks running, a truly magical experience.

blurry but still beautiful

more with the ranger, we were lucky enough to join in with some bird ringing.

a gratuitous shot of Star just because she is gorgeous and this photo makes me smile!
waiting for the blow! we've seen minke whales the last 3 weeks running, totally spectacular to be so close to such amazing creatures within a couple of miles of our home.
being a caterpillar! Cousins enjoying a Biodiversity Event with Ranger Mike
more of the same, the biodiversity race, a firm fave with us here :)

wildlife spotting, while cousins were here we saw a wide array of seabirds and some minke whales and porpoises

eggs! It's been pancakes for lunch very regularly here at the croft!We have a broody hen currently sitting on a clutch of eggs so may well have our first croft 'birth' sometime soon :)

We had the most excellent Elsa Jean McTaggart playing a gig here last weekend which had all us Rumics up and dancing. The menfolk were not at all shy in getting on the dancefloor - young and old!

and the rest of us quickly joined them with a ceilidh taking us far into Saturday morning
red deer at Kilmory, as photographed by Dragon

our croft warming barbecue, well attended despite the weather

with the grandparents - Star loving having her favourite grand dad to wrestle with

another gratuitous one - sunset from my lounge window. These are the views that will carry us through winter.

Friday, 27 July 2012

being a bit whimsical

It puts one at a distinct disadvantage when someone has been reading your blog and tells you so the very first time you meet them!

I remember my first blogs way back in 2003 or so. A bunch of friends and I were experimenting with the whole idea of weblogs / online diaries, mostly to share our days with each other as Home Educators. It was all very mundane back then, way less about recounting our innermost thoughts, toying with the idea of being writers with something of interest to say, or heaven forbid create some sort of income generating business opportunity. It was very much a school gates type exchange, a coming together of parents who had in common only the fact our children were NOT going to school.

As a teenage I wrote in my diary every day, I still have a collection of various notebooks, doodled with hearts, flowers, hopes and dreams, tearstained, written in with green ink, turquoise ink, in a variety of emerging handwriting, documenting my experiments with all sorts of cusp of adulthood type stuff. Reading them now (as I sometimes do) is like witnessing a caterpillar forming it's chrysallis and slowing emerging out - same basic DNA, totally different end result. My early blog posts are a similar sort  of thing - a fairly new parent, Home Educating still a very experimental idea, coming to terms with this new path I was walking along and learning alongside the children. I realised along the way that blogging is not quite like a diary once you put it 'out there' it becomes public property. You no longer have control over who reads, how they interpret it, what they do with your words. As such I do have a couple of private blogs but I did keep a public blog for Home Education on the basis that it was reading about other people raising their children in a different way to the norm that gave me the courage, inspiration, hope and strength to do what we do with Dragon and Star. I felt that I had some level of responsibility to provide similar for people walking along that path behind me. I have no idea if I lived up to it, but various lovely comments on those blogs assure me I reached out and touched people.

It's intetesting reading back over our journey on this blog as 'Wondering Wanderers'.I started it really keen to fully document the adventure, the highs and lows, the learning and growing. In some ways I have fallen short as I have not been here blogging every single step of the way as I'd hoped I would. There are times, both as WWOOFers and as brand new crofters on Rum when I have been aware of my potential readership and self-censored. Call it the Dooce Effect ;), call it politically astute, call it Pollyanna-itis or merely put it down to limited internet access and a care about what my family and friends are reading about us. But to be fair our adventure thus far has been amazing, soul-feeding, inspiring and everything we hoped for and more. Sure, the four of us have private memories and in jokes and things we have shared with people that never made it to the blog but in the main I think you certainly get the edited highlights here, if not the full low down.

In the last few weeks I have met a couple of people for the first time that have read this blog before meeting us. I have no idea if we live up to the blog in real life, I certainly talk enough to blast people with words if nothing else! I've been telling people that we are happy here, life is good, while not without challenges this beats sitting in traffic jams, worrying about fuel costs, watching crap TV and office politics any day of the week. I told a friend this week that I miss being in the van, on the road and I do. I think last year awakened within us a wanderlust that will perhaps never be satiated. I hope Dragon and Star allow it to consume them in a few years and it leads them off in search of adventure, experiences and wonderous sights, sounds and memory building. I hope it lies settled enough within Ady and I to inspire us to quirky risk taking and small scale adventures within the croft here on Rum.

Anyway. This was not what I came to blog about.... I was here for updating.

Julie, my sister in law, infact I think I am dropping the 'in law' and just calling her my sister from here on in. I've missed her so much this last year or so and a three week stay here reminded me just how much her lack of being in my life has left a big gaping hole. I have made some amazing friends here already and while I will never find replacements for the people I miss from my old life I feel very lucky that I am not friend-bereft here by any means. We are people who need people. So Julie left today after a lovely long stay and another planned for just two months away. We have now had visits from my parents, my 'sister' (who counts mostly as Ady's family) and just have our adopted 'parents' Lynda and Stuart to come and stay until we feel we have the full family seal of approval on our new life. Our first lots of friends all arrive together in a cluster in a couple of weeks which will be lovely.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Sharing our idyll

Very slack on the blogging front again, even with internet!

It's been busy here on Rum and the island has a whole new feel when it is awash with tourists. A particularly busy week this week with the levels of visitors meaning the actual islanders are outnumbered about 4 to 1. While the sun continues to shine here on Kinlochv village meaning we are all sunkissed, barbecuing and enjoying the summer the rest of the UK seems to be suffering all sorts of extreme weather conditions.

We've almost been having a bit of a rest from the stressy side of our new life here and I think after all the angst of the static move we probably needed that downtime. It coincided nicely with the arrival of our first guests - my parents. They came for a week and stayed here in the static with us. We explored some of the island with them, they had a castle tour, met the rest of the islanders and got a real taste of our life. It was fabulous to see them and share our new home with them and to celebrate Mum's birthday with her in person. Parting again and waving them off on the ferry was tough, as we have no plans to visit Sussex again any time soon so we knew it would only be on their next visit all the way up here we'd see them again.

Two out, six in though as we had a weekend to ourselves before our next visitors arrived - SIL Julie, her mother, Dragon & Star's three cousins (9 yo twins J&M and 4yo L) and their dog Mable. They are here for nearly 3 weeks and it's lovely for the kids to have playmates, Bonnie to have a rough and tumble puppy pal and us to have Julie around. More sharing our new life, showing off our island and merging the life we used to have with the one we live now. Watching Dragon and Star show their cousins the best places to swim in the river, to gather beachcombed treasure from the shore, where to spot the best nature and wildlife and introducing them to the other islanders makes me realise how very quickly this has become our home.

Life on the island for us continues alongside all of this hosting guests. We've been on the weekly boat trip wildlife spotting and been lucky enough to witness close encounters with minke whales and super pods of dolphins - weekly catchphrase 'The sea is ALIVE!' as we enjoy ever more spectacular scenery and nature spotting as the weeks go by. I've been selling cakes to the teashop, eggs to the shop and bartering for salad and sausages. Rum is holding a weekly Market Day on a Wednesday and I've been selling home baking and crafty bits aswell as enjoying the company of fellow 'traders' for a couple of hours in the village hall and chatting to the tourists.

Tomorrow, weather permitting we'll be playing host to all comers to our Croft Warming Barbecue, our way of toasting our new home and saying thanks to all those who helped us finally get it here.

In the meantime we are also getting to grips with 'infrastructure' type stuff on the croft. Sorting out water, power, toilet and starting to think hard about what is going where and longer term plans for the land, livestock, crops and buildings. We've been researching, reading and just walking the land getting to grips with what we've got, what we could have and how we're going to get it. Fruit bushes arrived last week and seem to be doing okay planted down at the bottom of the croft and we have geese arriving in a couple of weeks time. We've made a duck pond and got our first WWOOFers booked to stay. I have a whole list of projects to fit in and although our pace of life is the slowest it's ever been I can't ever remember being busier!