Monday, 7 July 2014

Slow Days

This week for various reasons I have been reflecting, both personally and to others about the life we left behind. The trappings we used to have around us, the things which used to be important.

It's very easy to look at our lifestyle here and make judgements. As a family we are super protective of certain things which to the casual observer may seem unimportant or trivial. We are fiercely precious about our time - our evenings together, our coffee break listening to Popmaster, our routine of trying to get home to eat lunch together, or relishing the last cup of tea of the day sat on the sporran looking out over the croft. There are reasons for this; we have given up a lot, sacrificed more than many people ever have in the first place to have this. We've decided that we will not work in meaningless, unfulfilling jobs which keep us apart for lunchtimes, make us weekend and holiday companions only. We made a choice 3 years ago that actually we decided to share our lives firstly with each other as a couple and then with our children as a family unit and that spending time together is our first priority. As such we celebrate these small rituals and guard against them being eroded for less important things.

Part of the slow progress here on Croft 3 is a very deliberate choice to move slowly through life - making time to stand and stare, to find meaning in the small things, beauty in the dew on the spiders webs, the tiny flowers hidden in the grass, the perfection of a still warm chicken egg collected from the coop, the joy in watching the piglets play with each other, listening as a bee buzzes past your ear. The other part is a philosophical choice in making small moves and therefore small mistakes. In learning about the land we inhabit and taking our lead from nature. In working in harmony rather than against and trying to tame.

Recently our washing machine died. It has been a marvelous, wonderful addition to Croft 3, brought here for us by friends who had found it on freecyle, bought it up as part of a trailer full of other items they re-homed here on the island, saved from landfill and given a new lease of life here, where it changed our life dramatically. Getting it up the hill was a feat for Ady, who after wrangling with it for a while decided that putting it on a tarp and dragging it up that way was far easier than trying to manhandle it. We then spent a while working out the plumbing and power required and it has always needed two different generators to get it running (one to give it the high energy boost to get started, the other to see it through the power hungry spin cycle!). It has been a boon, used three times or more a week here on the Croft since January. We will need to replace it and are looking for another second hand replacement to do just that.

Having ascertained it was beyond repair Ady set about breaking it down into parts. Long ago we would have tried to sell a second hand appliance before taking it to the tip. Having gotten more enlightened at the concept that 'there is no away' when throwing things away we may have latterly tried freecycle but had never had to be very creative in our thinking of ways to repurpose things until we moved here. Here an old freezer is an honesty larder to sell produce from, an old fridge makes a perfect insulated cool box with some refreezable ice blocks (or old milk cartons filled with water and frozen then refrozen again and again), and an old washing machine can be broken into parts and uses found for all of them.

Ady created a new fire basket / barbecue to sit in front of. The smoke keeps the midges at bay, rubbish can be burnt rather than going to landfill and food can be cooked on top by free, sustainable wood rather than bottled gas.

The plastic sleeve which housed the drum (and was infact the bit which had broken) is a perfect container with built in drainage to fill with soil and grow veg in - great for tatties, or placed high enough that carrot fly cannot reach them would be ideal for carrots or other roots.

The innards are very useful - all the wires and cables have been removed and will prove handy for little electrical jobs. The pump still works and will be useful for moving water around the croft at some point. Ditto the motor which is also still operational and will be used for some future project.

The washing machine glass door has been careful set aside as it's quirky feel will make the perfect window for a bathroom one day - slightly obscure glass, thick, in it's own frame and with  a story attached will make for the ideal addition to our forever home when we build it. The heavy blocks which keep the machine from dancing round the kitchen when on the spin cycle are perfect for the base of a cob pizza oven. Currently they are being employed to weigh down a tarp covering a generator but I have my eye on them...

Which leaves the actual casing of the washing machine - metal with a hole in it... what use could it possibly have?

Simple. Filled with straw (well actually cut and dried reeds from the croft, used as animal bedding) and positioned in one of the many chicken houses dotted around the croft it makes the perfect nesting box. As demonstrated by the half dozen eggs being laid in it each day.

I like to think that washing machine symbolises us in many ways. It's experiencing a very different way of life to the one it used to know but no less useful, meaningful or worthwhile for all it's unconventional and unusual take on things these days...


  1. Great post Nic, really thought provoking.

  2. Fantastic! Love how no piece of the washing machine went to waste when so many are just dumped needlessly :)

  3. Brilliant! So glad it's still being put to good use in many ways ;) If you need another we can keep an eye out as we're back up in a couple of weeks.....not sure how we'd get it on the ferry but where there's a will there's a way and all that!!