Sunday, 5 January 2014

Letting 2013 go

I did say there might be another 2013 round up post and this is it. We had our traditional Bad, Good, Learnt family chat about the past year and talked about some hopes for the coming year at the same time. We managed to come up with five things for each.

Here's what everyone said:

  1. Losing the pigs.
  2. Still being in the static (I would really like a bigger bedroom)
  3. I've not done as much training Bonnie as I had hoped.
  4. Not selling more turkeys this Christmas (we sold one).
  5. The lack of 'low key' socialising here. I miss friends but I miss seeing them for the day or just for a few hours. It is great to have people here to stay but it makes for a really intense socialising experience. It would be good to just see people without having to have them to stay.
  1. We spent loads of time in 2013 just being on our croft and making things happen up here.
  2. 2013 was a really relaxed and chilled out year, it didn't feel like there was much pressure.
  3. The Small Isles Games weekend was a real highlight for me. I loved having people from the other islands here and being one of the hosts, I liked joining in the races, we made a great new friend (who has visited again since).
  4. We have made some really good friends on Rum and it's been great to do stuff like set my Xbox up at someone's house to go and play, watch films and play games at people's houses down in the village.
  5. Lots of freedom. Scarlett and I had an excellent summer exploring, playing outside, swimming in the river and being on the beach. When friends come to stay we can just go off and do our own thing.
  1. That island life is a good life. There are tough bits but it is all meaningful and really worthwhile.
  2. I have learnt lots of new business skills and made my postcard business a success in it's first year.
  3. I have learnt how much Scarlett and I can help. Things like feeding the animals on the croft but also stuff like doing the washing up, keeping the fire going and tidying up indoors while Mummy and Daddy are working are really important and helpful things we can do.
  4. I have learnt that good times don't cost money. Some of my best memories and my favourite gifts from my birthday and Christmas were not the most expensive things.
  5. I have learnt more new skills for living here on Rum, like lighting the boiler, starting the genny, keeping the fire going, lighting the fire at a friend's yurt while they are away.
Hopes for 2014
  1.  I'd like to finally learn to ride a bike (somehow this has just never happened - when we lived in Sussex our garden was too small and sloping, the road we lived on was too close to a very busy road and on a steep slope and we just never got into the habit of loading the bike into the car and driving somewhere so Davies and Scarlett could learn.)
  2. I'd like to read more, both fiction and non fiction.
  3. I'd like us to end the year in a house.
  4. I want to do more training with Bonnie.
  5. I'd like to grow my postcard business more.
  1. Losing the piglets
  2. Losing Dave the cockerel
  3. The short daylight in winter (although she does concede the tradeoff of very long daylight in summer makes up for it she still counts it as a bad as the days feel so short!)
  4. When our wind turbine burnt out.
  5. Still being in the static.
  1.  That the static is still here after hard winters.
  2. That we have so many animals now. From a bare field full of reeds and rushes when we arrived we now have a full field full of animals.
  3. The power we get from the wind turbine.
  4. That we have still got all our friends from when we used to live on the mainland and so many of them have come to visit us.
  5. I had a white birthday! (snow!)
  1.  That some things sell and some things don't, thinking mostly about Davies' success with his postcards and me not doing so well with my seaglass jewelery.
  2. About animal keeping and reading their behaviour. I know that different animals have different temperaments and you can get to know them and learn about them.
  3. More about the wildlife on Rum, mostly the birds.
  4. About the history on Rum - the people who lived here, stuff about the castle, stories about how life used to be here.
  5. Scarlett struggled with a final one and I reminded here that I have seen a massive leap forward in her being very helpful, capable and mature. She was amazing when I was ill recently, is a fantastic cheerleader when one of the rest of us is feeling low and is brilliant at seeing what needs doing and getting on with it. She often just sticks the kettle on and brings a cup of tea out to Ady or I while we're working, gets the table set ready for meals and countless other examples of spotting a way to be helpful and doing it.
Hopes for 2014
  1. A house.
  2. I'd like to see our turkeys breed some young.
  3. I want to find a business that works, find something to make or create to sell to visitors to Rum.
  4. I'd like to rear ducklings as pets again (Scarlett did this years ago and eventually released the two adult ducks into the wild, she is desperate to do it again and be able to keep the ducks)
  5. I'd love to have a white Christmas.
  1. We are still in the static.
  2. We are still making mistakes that frustrate me, like leaving the wind turbine up instead of stopping it when such high winds were forecast. We always learn from our mistakes but I wish we made fewer.
  3. Our car is unreliable and not up to the job. We spend far too much time fretting about whether it will start, allowing extra time for how slow it goes, managing to squash people in that don't really fit, working around the times the back door sticks shut and so on.
  4. Losing the pigs.
  5. The wind this winter.
  1. Water - finally getting running water to the static.
  2. Renewable energy - we have the solar and wind harnessed and giving us energy.
  3. Compost loo in the horse box - I was really proud of us for finding a solution to the compost loo being too big to fit in the static and making it work for us.
  4. The winkles - this year we managed the whole winkle picking ourselves from booking them on to the boat, getting the sacks here and talking to the man buying them from us. We are learning more about how to do these things under our own steam.
  5. Having neighbours. Although they have yet to actually move onto their croft having our new neighbours arrive on Rum and start working on their croft and making things happen over there has been a real highlight for me.
  1. About the wind turbine, all the wiring, installation and managing the power. Having done it twice now I really understand how it all works.
  2. To do the job properly! Not to cut corners or be lazy as it will come back and bite you if you don't do something right the first time here.
  3. About ditching and drainage and what a difference you can make to the ground.
  4. Getting the water from the burn. I understand a bit more about plumbing, gravity fed, filtering and all of the things involved in piping the water to the static.
  5. About venison processing. Although I did the actual training in 2012 it has been in 2013 that I have done most of the venison processing and I now feel I properly understand how to do it and do it well.
Hopes for 2014
  1. A house.
  2. Developing a business - I have a few ideas, some croft based and a couple not croft based which I'd like to at least explore further.
  3. Sort out transport.
  4. Hydropower, the next thing I want to learn more about and hopefully install a micro hydro to complement the solar and wind technology we already have.
  5. Working with our neighbours. I am looking forward to sharing ideas, resources and working together. 
  1. Frustrations at a lack of progress. While I can see what we have achieved I am also aware that we have missed opportunities to take some things forward in 2013.
  2. We are still in the static.
  3. It is challenging to be so much at the mercy of the elements. I find that very hard and it has been a big downside to 2013 at times.
  4. I share Davies' view that low key socialising is hard to come by living so remotely. While having guests is lovely it is also very intense and I miss just spending an afternoon with my parents, an evening with friends, going out for a drink with a mate rather than having people to stay in our (limited) space for several nights.
  5. I have found the lack of coherent collective vision for the future of Rum a challenging and often frustrating thing this year. While I accept that 40 people all with different backgrounds and ideas will not all agree on one single path forward it has been hard to witness the lack of energy and enthusiasm, sometimes apathy and at times even obstructiveness that gets put in the way of progress. I am sure this is whatever would happen in any group of people but it doesn't stop it being a 'bad' on my list when summing up the year.
  1. Infrastructure. We have achieved loads in 2013; running water, a compost loo, a stocked woodstore, a washing machine. All of which make life incrementally easier with every step forward and collectively improve things hugely compared to life at the start of the year.
  2.  Crops - the polytunnel, raised beds, fruit cage and herb spiral. I still have a stock of herbs I grew from seed, transplanted, harvested and dried. It was a great start to growing here on Rum.
  3. Livestock. We began 2013 with 2 pigs, 11 chickens, 5 ducks and 2 geese. We end the year with 4 pigs (and were only a couple of weeks away from it being 6 pigs), over 50 chickens, 7 ducks, 8 geese, 6 turkeys, most of the increased numbers were bred here on our croft. We were not without our livestock losses over the course of the year but we certainly had plenty of successes too.
  4. Business. From our Honesty tables at the croft gate, orders taken from our website, produce and crafts sold at market days, through the shop and to local businesses, the childrens' fledgling business ideas we have had a really good first full year of testing our markets and finding there is scope for the sort of things we want to sell. It's been a promising year with some great feedback.
  5. Rum people - we have some great friends here and feel so lucky to be part of a community and something special. Events like the Small Isles games, our Community Teashop Sundays, pop up teashop when we had a rare bird attracting lots of visitors, Halloween and Christmas parties, residents birthdays and community meals all give me the sort of warm glowing feeling I used to only get from soppy films back in our old life!
  1. About my limitations. In the past I used to feel a sense of failure if I could not win at something I had set out to do. This year I have learnt to just stop if something is not working - a job I really didn't enjoy, volunteer work that was not rewarding, trying to make something happen and finding I could not do it. Instead of battling on I just stopped doing it and discovered a sense of relief and liberation rather than a sense of failure, Truly a lesson worth learning.
  2. About growing crops specific to Rum. I thought I knew about growing fruit and veg from my allotment days in Sussex but have had to accept re-education is in order for the different climate, soil and conditions here on Rum. I still have a lot to learn but I'm getting there.
  3. Permaculture. I have done a lot of reading, a lot of online research and a lot of thinking and working to understand both permaculture as a concept and idea and as a practical application specific to us, our live here and our land. This may well be a lifelong learning project but I've certainly come a long way in 2013.
  4. About nature and the seasons. I have talked about this before and started to learn more about life so close to nature in 2012 but having seen the seasons come around again I am finding I am ever more in tune with the rhythm and pattern of life here.
  5. More about foraging and preserving. I have done loads more jam making, bottling, preserving etc this year. Again it is something I want to do lots more of but my full cupboard of dried herbs, bottled preserves and cordials, jars of jam and pickled onions make me very happy and feel as though I have learnt lots.
Hopes for 2014
  1. A better shelter, including a bath!
  2. Host volunteers or WWOOFers. I have been involved in two lots of volunteers doing great things here on Rum in 2013 but in 2014 I would love to actually hosts WWOOFers here on Croft 3. It would be amazing 3 years after we had our fantastic WWOOFing adventure to give some of that experience back, I feel we could offer WWOOFers something special here, we could gain a lot from having volunteers and it would perfectly close that circle.
  3. Develop a business further. I love that we have little trickles of income from winkle picking, venison processing, selling our produce and crafts etc. but I have some bigger ideas I would like to explore to offer more products, produce and services.
  4. Crops - I'd like to be producing far more of our own food for us and our animals and get more out of our land.
  5. Animals - I'd like to make our animal keeping more productive too, with better breeding / rearing facilities, improved housing etc and move closer to being self sufficient in our protein. My idea is to only eat meat, poultry, fish and eggs from Rum (so our own pork, poultry and eggs, Rum venison and fish and seafood from Rum) - that should be more or less achievable in 2014.
So there you are, our 2013 summary and a bit of a wish list for the coming year. Some duplications that made it onto everyone's list, some big ideas and dreams, not too much in the way of dire proclamations of dreadful times and some great lessons learnt, skills acquired and high points shared.

There ends our period of looking back at the year gone by. Spring is but weeks away, we have a full list of things to get cracking on and we've noticed almost a full extra hour of daylight each day compared to this time last month. We better get busy...


  1. How different are your aims from so many other blogs I've been reading? Get fit, lose weight, save money!
    I always say to my children , it's OK to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. It definitely looks like you and your family do. I hope you manage your goals for this year and I know I'll love reading about your journey to them!

    1. Thanks Bridget, I agree it's definitely not the making of mistakes that counts but what you do afterwards with the experience you got from it.
      I'm laughing at the concept of saving money, losing weight or getting fit. I could maybe pledge to drink a little less wine but I think I'll hang on to that vice!

  2. Brilliant read! I hope 2014 brings you closer to you family's hopes and dreams :-) . xxx

    1. Thanks Caroline. I'm sure 2014 will be a great year. I know you have the odd big happening or two yourself planned x

  3. I agree with Bridget it is refreshing and wonderful to read you hopes and goals for the coming year.