Sunday, 30 March 2014

We love you mothers everywhere

I've had a wonderful Mothers Day today.

The most precious thing, although gratefully received was not the cup of tea brought to me in bed.

It was not the selection of home made gifts including a candle and a puzzle.

It was not the vase of daffodils picked for me.

Neither was it the awesome cards I was presented with, although they both made me all teary at the gorgeous words inside them.

It was not Davies' fab poem, I particularly liked the disclaimed about it not being Pam Ayres.
It was not the delicious food we ate - from duck egg pancakes to roast pork all from our own croft, or the spectacular views from the windows or the extra hour of daylight which meant we all went out for a walk after dinner and wandered around the perimeter of our croft.

Nope. It was the simple fact that celebrating Mothers Day at all is only happening because I am a mother to these two fantastic, amazing, inspiring, creative, funny, adventurous, caring, loving, happy individuals.

Adventures in bacon

Yesterday we killed the remaining piglet. This time I was there for the whole thing (last time I didn't witness it) and I am really glad I did. I worried that having been to an abattoir and found it really hard while we were WWOOFing I may find this just too challenging. But the deed was done with tenderness, respect and compassion and the piglet truly knew nothing from eating his last mouthful in the sunshine, stood next to both his parents, only a few feet from where he was born 11 months ago. It was a fantastic life and a best possible death. I am proud to keep pigs in the way we do.

This time the plan was to experiment with some curing, for some reason the idea of our own bacon has always felt like the holy grail of self sufficiency and so we are embarking upon doing just that. Several kilos of meat was bagged up and put into the freezer marked up for roasting, spare ribs and slow cooking. Ady cooked up the liver there and then and we all sampled it. My previous opinion of liver has been that I like the taste but hate the texture. I still feel the same. Next time I'd like to have a go at making pate with it instead.

We have 6 kilos of meat to turn into bacon, with a plan to smoke some of it too. So to start with I made a dry cure rub with salt, sugar, black pepper and some crushed juniper berries. The meat fits nicely into two large plastic containers and after reading several of the books on our bookcase and deducing a middle ground between the varying advice I am planning to salt it for a week or so.

 By lunchtime today the salt had already drawn out loads of moisture from the meat, so we drained it off and re-rubbed with more. This time Davies and Scarlett made the mix and rubbed it in. You can already see a colour difference after just 18 hours in the salt. The meat is darker and more bacon-y looking.

The kids think they would like to see the next pig despatch and I am really proud of them for their matter of fact way of dealing with the meat. We had the tenderloin cut of the pig with dinner today and it was delicious.

Barbara Pig is definitely pregnant - we are already planning adventures in salami and chorizo with the resulting piglets once the end of their happy life comes to pass.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Another soul feeding day

Spring has totally sprung. From the first primrose spotted today

to the stags roaming majestically across the croft this morning. The turkeys mating this morning (oh what a ritual that is, frankly it was on a par with the red deer rut, there was stamping, displaying, it was magnificent! - Ady taped it on his phone, turkey porn!), Barbara Pig is definitely pregnant, her teats are protruding and her belly swinging low, I reckon she still has a good month or maybe more to go though. The two broody geese are guarding their nests and a third goose is laying eggs in a clutch daily ready to go broody in the next few days I think. I am very excited to think that we may have goslings and maybe even turkey chicks this year - it will mean all of our Croft 3 creatures have bred successfully here after our piglets, chicks and ducklings last year.

I finished painting our new Croft 3 sign and we have put it up at the croft gate ready for our egg price list and poster about us and our lives here for passing curious tourists. We put the first layer of drainage into the ditch for the chicken house. I cut a load of switches to make stakes for the peas in the polytunnel
Davies and Scarlett went on another of their epic walks, they were gone for a couple of hours adventuring and exploring. They went off again later in the afternoon, this time on a shorter jaunt to the village to purchase fizzy drinks for Friday Night and secret purchases I believe may be linked to Sunday...

Days like these it is easy to forget the dark days of December and wakeful nights of worrying through January. Days like these are soul feeding, heart lifting, breath taking filled with wonder, sunshine and hope.

Fancy a slice of our life - check out Building the Dream to find out how.

Money can't buy....

The view out of the window this morning
A trio of red deer wandering majestically across the croft. If you fancy a weekend of sitting gazing out of this window please look at to see how you could be the one with a cup of coffee in your hand looking at this.

Prices start at just £100 for a weekend or £500 for a catered week long holiday.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Thank you for the days

After Popmaster this morning (before which I was making four trays of home made granola, which we call nic-ola in our house) I posted a facebook status update to say 'off to plant seeds in the sunshine. I may sing while doing it'. And I did. I sang lots. It was a happy, shiny, sunny, productive day and I took some requests so I sang a bit of Thank you for the days and some Don't Stop Me Now and because it is such a small leap from calling "Davies! Day-vies!" from the sporran when it's lunchtime to a full on rendition of the Banana Boat Song when your voice echoes all around the cuillins I sang a bit of that too.

But mostly I planted seeds. I planted herbs - majoram, basil, tarragon, oregano, chives, coriander, parsley, dill, savory, sage. I planted borage, tomatoes, peppers (sweet and chilli), rocket, peas, cucumbers, carrots. I transplanted the peas which had sprouted into bigger containers. And I sang. And danced a little bit.

 I also swore a bit. At the Bad Turkeys. Who had taken advantage of my lunch break to go into the polytunnel and roost on the shelving and poo on the seed trays and peck at the seedlings. Bad turkeys. I may have used other words too! Ady took pity on me (or maybe the turkeys) and put up some netting to stop them getting in any more.

My afternoon was all the better for it :) Once I had finished in the polytunnel I enjoyed a cup of tea on the sporran with Ady and a friend who had dropped by, then took my singing down to the raised beds where I put in some red onion sets, white onions sets, dug over and weeded  a couple of raised beds, cut some hazel to make netting arch supports and did that. I started netting but the sun dipped low enough behind the hill for it to stop being T shirt weather so I called it a night. I was surprised to note it was well past 6pm by then. Ah, the longer days.

Davies and Scarlett spent the day outside- playing beside the river, doing the rounds checking on the broody geese on their nests (Scarlett counted eggs, one is sitting on 17!), playing with the dog and finally wandering down to the shop to buy ice cream.

Ady spent the day fixing up a couple of the sheds built from reclaimed galvanised sheeting to create a chicken house in hopes of persuading them to lay their eggs in one easy collectable place, and a duck pen to put them away in at night after the evening feed so we can collect duck eggs too. I took the first £2 from the Honesty Larder today from egg sales.

It's such a perfect day,I'm glad I spent it with you. Don't stop me now, I'm having such a good time. Thanks to Jo, Rach and Jay for the musical inspiration :)

Fancy a slice of our life - check out to find out how.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Bring on the season

It may not be April until next week but clearly the Rum weather fairies are already in the April zone. It's been sunshine and showers all the way for the last week or so. Sometimes within just minutes of each other, sometimes for a day or two at a time.

We've been busy indoors with candle making, poster designing, making new logos for Croft 3 produce and the odd film and popcorn session.

Outdoors we have done several loads of laundry, which looked so pretty on our very picturesque washing line I had to take a quick photo

We've also been chopping and splitting firewood, our stock to last the winter had pretty much been used up (we did well considering how cold, wet and horrid a winter it was though) and I had my first ever go with a chainsaw which was both scary and empowering in equal measures, and took out some frustration on a pile of logs which needed splitting with an axe. Excellent therapy wood splitting :)

The spring like weather has everything greening up and growing like crazy - there are buds and shoots on the trees and bushes in the fruit cage, all over the island the gorse and broom is throwing bright yellow blooms out to compliment the ever greening landscapes and blue skies reflected in the rivers and burns. Most exciting of all though was these sprouting seedlings down in the polytunnel today

We have two broody geese sitting on clutches of eggs and I have my ear cocked ready to hear the first call of the cuckoo.

We've been spending time with friends - old and new, as the first visit of the year from the Kinloch Castle Friends Association who had invited us to dine with them on Friday and Saturday evenings. The food was delicious, the company splendid and of course the opportunity to eat 'out' is not one we enjoy often living here so we gratefully accepted and had two lovely evenings with them.

This week we are hoping for a continuation of the nice weather as we have a fair sized job list awaiting our attention and are looking forward to as much time spent outside as possible.

Building The Dream

Croft 3 is an ongoing project with many strands to our long term vision for what happens to these eight acres of croft land in the coming years.

Our dream of a self sufficient lifestyle, growing our own fruit and vegetables, keeping pigs and poultry for meat and egg production and providing a beautiful, rich, diverse and interesting place for us to live and raise our children, being active members of the small community here on Rum, and the wider community of the Small Isles and local area was the first part of our vision. That will always be an ongoing theme, requiring time, commitment and energy but as we come close to our second anniversary of living here on Rum we are ready to embark on the next step of our dream.

Our very long term plan for Croft 3 is 8 acres of productive land, providing food for us with surplus to share. We also want to create an inspiring, educational space where people can come and spend time, learn, gain new skills and experiences, volunteer, work and explore. We'd like to create a place which can support us, our grown children should they wish to stay and make their home here as adults and maybe others too. We want to learn and share our knowledge, bring in experts to share their skills on subjects as diverse and wide ranging as green building, alternative energy, permaculture, off grid living, wild food and foraging, growing food, keeping livestock, hunting and fishing, baking bread and making preserves, pickles and other produce from the food growing here, butchery and processing meat from the animals living here, arts and crafts such as knitting and crochet but also more traditional crafts such as spinning and dyeing, weaving, felting, basket making. Creating an inspirational place for artists, poets, writers, musicians, dreamers. Helping people access the wildlife here on Rum and surrounding sealife, experience the red deer rut, photograph the majestic golden eagles and sea eagles, spot dolphins, whales and orcas. Explore the wild beauty that is Rum from the challenges of the peak climbing  to the gentler walks taking in the rich geology and archaeology of the island, which historically has been home to hundreds of people, much evidence of which still exists to explore and discover. Making use of the woodland here on Rum to learn and teach about woodland crafts, woodland management, bushcraft, what can be made from the trees growing here and how best to look after them.

Pretty ambitious plan isn't it? Having spent two years here we now know how slowly life dawdles along on islands. Nothing ever goes quite to plan and just when you think you have all bases covered the wind changes direction - often quite literally, often metaphorically - and you have to think again. Life is at least half chance but having made several pretty big life changes we know it is also about seizing the day, making things happen and grabbing every opportunity to make your dreams come true.

So that's the first part of our dream made happen and the grand plan at the end visualised, we need to start working on the middle bit. In order to make a start on bringing people to Croft 3 to volunteer, learn and be part of the project we need somewhere to put them. Our original plan was to live in our static for a short time while we built a house for ourselves and then use the static for visitors and volunteers. This summer we'd like to build a nissen hut on Croft 3 which will provide us with more suitable accommodation over the winter and eventually be used as office space and indoor training space along with a little farm shop to sell produce and crafts from Croft 3.

In order to raise the funds to build the nissen hut this year we are looking to do some crowd funding, asking people to invest in Croft 3 now in a very small way, in exchange for rewards in the future. We need to raise £15,000 to put down the groundworks, put up the nissen hut and install a woodburner. As our first pledger of £100 said to me, 'that's just 150 people giving £100 each - now you just need 149!'

What do you get for your money?

If you invest £10 you will get a gift of a packet of Croft 3 grown dried herbs sent to you from this years herb croft.

If you invest £100 you will get a weekend stay in the static caravan on Croft 3. Three nights in our off grid, three bedroom static caravan with full self catering facilities, compost loo, shower, stunning views. We will collect you from the ferry, bring you and your luggage to the Croft and settle you in. You then have time to explore the island from a comfortable base or just sit back and enjoy the view.

If you invest over £500 you will get a week long stay in the static caravan on Croft 3. You can choose either a fully catered (with as much Croft 3 or local Rum produce as we can lay our hands on) holiday, free to explore the island and make the most of the amazing wildlife, scenery and walking or you can choose to have a working holiday and work alongside us getting a taste of our lifestyle. From feeding and tending to our animals, helping with crops in the polytunnel and raised beds or getting involved in whatever project we happen to be working on at the time, it's a week long slice of our life.

To invest through paypal, simply click the button on the sidebar on the right marked 'Donate'. We will get in touch when we get notification of your investment and give you full details of how to claim your herbs or arrange your stay.

We'll be keeping a running total of money invested in the side bar of the blog. We'll be sharing this on facebook, twitter and appreciate any help putting the word out to anyone you think may be interested in getting involved.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Untrapped Life

We have a lot of amazing friends. I definitely think keeping inspirational company stands you in good stead for doing inspirational things.

I have friends running successful businesses in toy and craft retail, cake baking and decorating, life coaching and NLP. I know published authors, freelance translators, artists and crafters, textile artists, fashion designers, tutors and more. All of these friends also home educate their children - I wonder if being a Home Educating parent makes you more creative and alternative in your approach to earning a living by doing something you love or whether it is people who are that way inclined who are more likely to Home Educate...

I do know that I have many friends who are self employed and have turned their passions, interests and hobbies into the way they earn their living than friends trapped in unfulfilling careers stuck in ruts.

Our friends Kirsty and James and their children are shining examples of this - in 2012 they had a fantastic adventure and went off traveling and now Kirsty is helping other people realise their dreams with her fab website Untrapped Life. Alongside the website Kirsty is putting out a series of podcasts included interviews and today's interview is with me! Do go along and check out the website, have a listen to Kirsty and I and sign up for the newsletter which is packed with hints, tips, inspirational ideas and ways in which to start making your dreams come true.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014


I think the winter is finally coming to a close. The wind is currently blowing a gale around the caravan, the wind turbine is tied up to prevent overload so it feels a little premature to be saying such things.

Yet, over half the fruit trees and bushes in the fruit cage have buds and new growth on them.

Yet, Barbara Pig looks like she may well be pregnant, we are planning a maternity wing...

Yet, two geese are broody and sitting on nests. There may be goslings ahead....

Yet, all my peas have sprouted in the polytunnel, the salad leaves are poking through the soil and the chitted seed potatoes are ready and waiting to go into the ground.

It's coming....

new logo for the grown and reared stuff

Untitled by nicgee
Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

new logo for the crafty stuff

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Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

Reminded me of Rod Hull and Emu.

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Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

Which made me giggle for ages!

Monday, 17 March 2014


Untitled by nicgee
This time last year we were in the same situation as we are now - we know the birds are laying eggs, we're just not getting all of them.

The chickens are netting us 3 eggs a day at most - this from about 20 hens. We manage to find the odd duck egg (six female ducks) if we get to them before the crows do. But we're getting goose eggs. One goose seems to have gone broody, she has a clutch of 8 eggs and has made a really cosy looking nest. If she hatches them we will probably pen her and the resulting goslings (or maybe just build a pen around where she is sitting actually) to keep them safe from crows who will snatch the young.

We are in the throes of building our new chicken coop but it may be a while yet so in the meantime we have put cosy looking nesting boxes filled with straw in the two existing chicken houses and make some brash piles in the woodland where the chickens hang out to provide some cover and likely looking laying spots. We will build an overnight pen for the ducks to be housed in until they lay each night and hopefully we'll have the honesty larder up and running very soon. Summer ferry timetable (the accepted 'start of the season') is in less than 3 weeks.


Untitled by nicgee
Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

Sunday, 16 March 2014


It's a funny old place Rum. So small - just eight miles across in both directions, yet so large - there are so many unexplored, secret areas known to such a few folk - I still don't know all the names of the peaks let alone the lochs. At times I feel such an authority here - two years in having seen a couple of each season so able to compare, member of various on island bodies, director of some, decision maker in some areas, volunteer in many. At others I realise how little I know, how ignorant of how much I still am.

If you google Rum you will find hundreds, if not thousands of accounts of people's time here - visits for the day, a week, a month, a season. Folk who studied here, lived here, walked here, explored here, photographed the views, learnt about the wildlife.

My relationship with Rum is like a passionate love affair - at times overwhelming with love and affection, I have hundreds of snapshot memories, photos, scents, sights, sounds which can bring me to instant tears or laughter. At other times Rum can feel cruel, challenging, deliberately testing or punishing. There are days I feel I am taming the island, conquering a corner of the croft, have gotten to know a certain trail or path, could walk an area with my eyes closed. At others I realise I will never truly know everything about this wild place and if I have even a moment of confidence it is marked with the knowledge that at any second I could be proved wrong.

Does Rum belong to those of us here now, living here, making our homes and lives and work here today or will the echoes of those who lived here in the past always ring louder and longer? Is the real Rum owned by the tourists for whom we put on our prettier faces and show only our best sides?

In just our brief time here we have seen folk come and go. There are people who return, for visits, stay in touch with postcards or on facebook. Some people are spoken of with affection, respect and a tinge of regret, others pass by forgotten almost as soon as they wave goodbye and head to the ferry. Some ex residents are the stuff of legend, others merely the butt of a joke. Everyone leaves a mark, a footprint, some legacy, some more than others.

I have no answers to the questions I have posed above. I do know that never have I lived anywhere I have felt so connected to and defined by my address.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The time of year

Our male turkeys and male geese are all displaying signs of aggression linked to it being their mating season. The geese lower their heads and hiss and Rudolph the turkey is puffing up, strutting and generally being very spectacular but a bit feisty. It's been really interesting watching all our animals behave in such natural ways which you never really get to witness unless you have the space as we do to allow them to roam free and act as nature intended. Bearing in mind how few domestically kept birds (and pigs too I guess) get to live as long as ours have either I suspect we are quite fortunate to see all these behaviours.

It's been a very productive start to the week, thanks to the glorious sunshine. We have got all the laundry processed, the fruit cage fixed, the raised beds re-netted and the trench for the chicken cob house all dug. The next stage with that is filling in the trench with small stones to create drainage before starting to build the wall. The first metre of that will be stone with cob on top of that. We have dug out a fair bit of stone just making the trench. It is forecast to rain over the next few days so we are planning to monitor the trench and see how well it runs in the rain before moving onto the next step.

Davies and Scarlett have also been outside all day every day this week, playing down by the river, going off on exploring adventures with Bonnie, helping to feed the animals, running erands down to the village for us and so on. We have had the static doors and windows open all day and it is all feeling very positive and spring-like.

Time certainly marches on in March.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014


Untitled by nicgee
Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

Apparently your mood can affect your breadmaking - if you bash out aggression and anger in your kneading it will come through in the end result.
Stands to reason that on a gorgeous sunny day with music playing, everyone smiling and chatting and loads of productive stuff happening the freshly baked rolls this lunchtime were delicious.

Surprise post

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Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

A lovely, lovely gift arrived in the post on the boat today. Very fancy (and delicious) chocolate. We had some after lunch, some after dinner and all had fun licking and sticking together the maize packing things :)

Home made breakfast feast

Untitled by nicgee
Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

some call it granola, we're going to call it Nic-ola :)

The first dig

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Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

Our experimental cob chicken coop is finally starting. First we dig a foundation trench.

Two sides and the ditch

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Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

Dug! Found stones put in the middle ready to build the wall with

Monday, 10 March 2014

When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose

A long while ago we had this craving for a simpler life. About 3 years ago today I had my first encounter with a washboard and mangle at our first WWOOF hosts. Our first taste of off grid living. I'd been talking to Ady and the kids only the week before about how I thought a washing machine was a luxury item it would be easy to live without. About how in my Grandma's day there would be one day a week dedicated to laundry processing and that was just the sort of simple existence I was looking forward to us enjoying.

Except that I learnt with that very first experience of washboards and mangles that modern clothes are not designed to stand up to the harsh treatment that washboards or mangles give them. The choice was grass stains in the knees of our jeans or simply no knees in our jeans. A washing machine was one of the most recent additions to our life here and the novelty of that 'mod con' has still not worn off. Today I did four loads of laundry and although it is still a far cry from the days in a house when I'd stick the machine on and go off and do other things (go out, sit down, go to bed....) as it has to be monitored, it is still a massive leap forward from heading the mile down to the village with it and then hanging about while it washes, then carrying a bag of wet washing the mile back up the hill again to hang it out.

This is week four without a vehicle and while we are managing it is tiresome and time consuming. We don't have a lot of rubbish but bottles and cans soon build up so yesterday we trekked to the pier with a full wagon of recycling - a 2 hour trip which would have taken ten minutes in a car. For the same reasons I go through a pair of wellies every couple of months (walking several miles every day over ankle deep mud, sandy paths and rough rocky tracks) wheelbarrow and wagon tyres have a very limited life before they need replacing.

It is a simpler life, in many ways a more rewarding one but the slow pace of life means moving forward is frustratingly slow, foiled at too many turns and simply existing takes way more time and energy than you could ever anticipate.

There are joys too of course - during that two hour trip to the pier we chatted the whole way, bumped into various people, marvelled at the beauty of the weather, the wildlife, the landscape. I appreciate the full line of laundry blowing in the wind, drying in the sun in a way I never would have taken pleasure from before.

Definitely Living The Dream, just sometimes redefining it a wee bit to add in some extra bits to make it even better...

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Turn Around

One of my biggest frustrations with people generally is what I call 'Back in the day syndrome'... the clinging to history, to what used to be, entrenched, ingrained, inability to move on, evolve, grow, change.

I love the changing seasons, life cycles, caterpillar to butterfly, marking time, embracing change. Don't mourn the fallen petals, celebrate the ripening of seeds meaning life carries on.

It does mean I am a bit of a sucker for anniversaries and marking time passing. I can take pleasure in the spotting of a new grey hair or wrinkle around an eye. I certainly don't wish life away but I do get a kick out of celebrating us all circling the sun and another year passing.

Yesterday we realised it was the third anniversary of us arriving at our very first WWOOF host and we looked back at some photos and reminisced about it. About how what could have quite fairly been termed a bit of a whim actually turned into a serious lifestyle change and led us to where we are now. Today a friend linked to a youtube clip of the children and I participating in a bubble blowing event celebrating Home Education and being interviewed by the local news from five years ago.

 I've been away from the croft a lot this week with various community responsibilities, we had our monthly residents meeting, I did a couple of shifts at the post office.

We lost a goose this week. It is a fact of animal keeping that the more animals you have the more you will lose. We are pretty sure Barbara Pig is pregnant. We have collected chicken, duck and goose eggs. My Dad always says that the only thing which is certain in life is that you will die; everything inbetween is a combination of luck, fate and a bit of what you make it.

This week we have been particularly proud of Davies and Scarlett for their self reliance. We were held up one evening in the village and arrived home later than planned to find they had jkept the log burner going, carried out the evening routines of drawing curtains and clearing condensation, turned on the generator and so on. I commented to Ady that actually if we'd never come back up the hill they could have survived - they know how to carry out all of the essential tasks to keep our home and business ticking over - pretty impressive for an 11 year old and a 13 year old.

The winds of change are whistling around Rum just now which is in turn both unsettling and exciting. If our particular personal journey has taught us anything it is to embrace, engage with and go along for the ride.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Today's rain....

I have only ever been a Home Educating parent, it's all I have experience of and all I know how to do. Which is not to say that I am not aware that every parent teaches their child, of course.

It does mean that I have been the one for all the tricky questions - I often tell people when I am explaining our style of Home Ed that Davies and Scarlett started with the 'why...?' questions as toddlers just like every other child, except that they carried on... and the end of the why questions got more complicated and sophisticated and rapidly reached heights at which I was learning just as much as they were. It is totally possible to learn alongside your children and all you really need to  be teaching them is how to find out the answers rather than to have them all at your fingertips already.

I suspect that all parents have moments when they suddenly see the world anew through the eyes of their child, or learn something alongside them, or are reminded of something they once knew or already sort of knew but didn't fully understand until they had to rephrase it for their child. I know I have been stopped in my tracks countless times over the last 13 years of parenting with 'whoa!' moments like that.

I recall hurrying along an alleyway with the children stepping over dog mess, skirting round the litter, wrinkling my nose at the smell of urine and damp when Scarlett tugged at my hand and pointed out the broken clear and green glass of beer bottles and said 'Look Mummy, there are diamonds and emeralds in this alleyway' as the sun caught the shards and made them twinkle.

I remember Davies piping up from the back seat of the car as I drove them to Tumble Tots 'so were the first people babies or adults Mummy? And if they were babies who looked after them and if they were adults how did they get grown up?'

I also recall an afternoon sitting with a pile of picture books reading to them and The Drop in my Drink: The Story of Water on Our Planet being in the pile. It's the story of how the drop of water in your glass today may have once been a tear from an Egyptian princess, or a wave in the ocean - the water cycle told in a factual yet whimsical way with gorgeous illustrations and the sort of re-telling of a fact you already know that makes you have a 'whoa' moment all over again. Just like when you look up at the stars on a clear night and see how they go on forever, making you feel smaller and smaller the longer you look at them and the more of them appear.

It has rained all day today. I was raining when I went to bed last night, raining when I woke up and it's still raining now. It's been a soup making, bread making, radio listening, static tidying, sock knitting, newsletter compiling, email catching up on, playing with toys kind of day. A little frustrating when there is much to be doing outdoors but productive and relaxing nonetheless.

Tonight on facebook a friend from a neighbouring Isle shared the motto "Today's rain is tomorrow's whisky - old Scottish proverb" which made me smile and reminded me of the drop in my drink book.

Today's rain will help make tomorrows mud, essential for our plans for this year.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Fruit Cage Extension

Untitled by nicgee
Untitled, a photo by nicgee on Flickr.

It's been a stunning day today, spring well and truly in the air (we'll gloss over the rain drumming against the windows this evening!). Ady and I finished off our fruit cage extension which we started yesterday but left with last bits still to do when rain came in. We realised we had sufficient mesh panels to extend our initial cage to double the size so have done so. 

The original cage is stocked with soft fruit - black currants, red currants and white currant, gooseberry, blueberry, cranberry, honeyberry and raspberry. If all of the bushes take and thrive we will have a very plentiful supply of soft fruit for our own consumption, selling to fellow islanders and tourists and turning into preserves, juices, jams and so on. Soft fruit tends to do really well growing wild here on Rum - we have masses of brambles, raspberries and there are rumours of blueberries (called blaeberries locally) in secret locations known only to a select few...

The extension is to be home to some fruit trees - we have bought three cherry trees - two sweet and one cooking / sour cherry, two plum and two pear. These were not well researched, carefully selected varieties chosen for their suitability to our soil, climate and location but were cheaply purchased while we were off island last week and therefore worth a small gamble to see if they take. Our longer term plan is to invest in some fruit trees ticking all of those better selection boxes but in the meantime we have made a start.

I have also made the first sowings of seeds down in the polytunnel and also on this weeks job list is fixing the netting on the raised beds now I have a tried and tested in high winds design of arches which seems to stand up well to the elements.  Just our little section of fruit cage and raised beds is larger than our allotment back in Sussex, coupled with the polytunnel and our ever increasing meat production on the croft it is starting to feel as though we are heading towards that ultimate goal of as much self sufficient food production as possible. In under two years it does feel as though we are beginning to tame the land and make it start to work for us. Baby steps certainly but steps in the right direction.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Back in the day

My friend Jan wrote a very lovely blogpost today on her birthday about what her grandparents and parents would have been doing in their lives as they celebrated that particular birthday.

Coupled with a thought provoking comment on my last post about life before freezers and how life would have been on Rum in our parents' day I've been reflecting on just that.

Ady and I both have landmark birthdays this year - 40 for me and 50 for him. Certainly not the time of life to be considering starting to build a house going back a generation or two ago. We get many a comment (on here and in real life) about being a bit pioneering living without mains power, water, gas, access to 24 hours supermarkets and mobile phone signal. Frankly we are still something of a curiosity for not having a telly and knowing who is in the jungle for 'I'm a Celebrity' or appearing on 'Strictly'.

But the fact is our life here is still more 'switched on' than when our parents were Davies and Scarlett's age. My Dad grew up in a remote village in North Wales, probably similar in size population wise to Rum. During months of the winter it was cut off from the bigger towns nearby. There was no electricity, certainly no phones and I imagine many of the dilemmas and issues we face here were very similar then in their community. Dad went to school but the rest of his childhood was spent in similar pursuits to our children now; swimming in rivers, building dens, avoiding bath time, chasing chickens, fishing, exploring, getting muddy and ripping clothing.

Progress is mostly good though. Leaps forward in healthcare and medical science, technology for communication, labour saving appliances, new thinking in education and breakthroughs in delivering information all mean that choosing to live a slightly different life as we have done is achievable and doable and we have the option of taking the best bits of the 21st century and leaving behind only the bits which don't appeal.

It's been a low impact week with Ady and I having to walk to the pier and the village several times with our little cart to collect things, including an epic trip on Friday afternoon to collect 10 9foot posts. Four mile round trip, tied onto our little cart with Ady pulling and me pushing / steadying, then carrying them the final half mile as the path is too stoney to drag the cart. It took a couple of hours to do something which a vehicle would have managed in about 10 minutes but it was a lovely walk and we laughed and talked all the way. It's been a high tech week though with the wind turbine running everything in the static for four out of the seven days. I like that balance - low impact, high tech. Grab the best bits, leave the rest.