Island at the Edge

Island at the Edge
The Gathering, Cable Bay, Colonsay

Sunday, 11 January 2015

One Year On - A Year in Review...

Just over a year has passed since we lost everything in the fire. We worked as usual on the first anniversary, on our croft and remembered how very, very lucky we are to be alive and well. Since our arrival here on the Isle of Skye, we have been overwhelmed with the genuine kindness that has been shown to us. This is a wonderful island with folk that are sincere and have shown that indeed when you are down on your uppers, that honest help is available. Thank you – you know who you all are…
Such a huge amount has been happening but the main thing was that we found it! Our new abode - for the next few years.
With a a lot of searching - the whole of the UK to be exact, we found a suitably sized caravan. We were contacted about a rather ‘individual’ second hand static caravan for sale. The only problem is the 35 feet x 12 feet mobile home was situated in Dumfries and Galloway, the southern tip in the west of mainland Scotland. But the young chap, affectionately known as JJ, said he could organise the transportation of our new abode. Little did we know at this point that the delivery wagon would require an ‘escort’ due to the width and length of the load, but that wasn’t a problem for JJ.
K.Lee Plant, the owner John who is the dab hand with a digger arrived to excavate a suitable, flat area to site the caravan  with an even bigger digger and this time he brought along his sidekick – Wullie. What these boys can’t do with a digger, isn’t worth knowing about!
Wullie with the even bigger digger

Once again we also needed to enlist the help of Magnus. When he isn’t fencing, he will help with any kind of ‘land’ work, we can add strimming and cutting down trees to his portfolio of skills.

In the meantime, I had been pining! Yes fretting for my 3 boys – No, not some ‘hunky human’ chaps, but my 3 handsome Tups who were still on Colonsay!
So, how do you get 3 Tups from Colonsay to Skye?
It started with a flight with my favourite airline – Hebridean Air Services, the plane was piloted by Julie, it was fantastic to see everyone, especially Dixie, and had a good ‘natter’ on the fabulous flight over.

Our dear friend Annie collected me from Colonsay International Airport and we went to find the Tups. They remembered me (well ish) but they were running with another 3 tups who are renowned for being mischievous. They didn’t disappoint us, it took Graham, Joe (with his two dogs) and me to get the tups into a secure corner of the field so we could grab my 3 and put them into the trailer to take them to the pier.
Graham with my tups at the pier

Kapitein in the meantime had put our unaccompanied trailer onto my other favourite mode of transport, the Calmac ferry LOTI. The tups were safe and sound down at the pier which gave me a wee while to catch up with Annie and visit Gavalus Gavalar in the Pantry. ‘Nice coffee Gav’! Meanwhile, Kapitein was enjoying himself in Oban, he’s grand at shopping, he even bought me some presents! Some fabulous Jura whisky and a bottle of ‘dog’!

The ferry duly arrived and with the help of Phil on the Hill and Will, our trailer was hastily towed off the ferry, backed up to the holding pens, tups loaded and then re-loaded back onto the ferry. With fond farewells my tups and I sailed onward to Oban, all in a mornings work!

The Big Fella in the trailer on-board LOTI 

Kapitein collected me and the trailer and we headed home to Skye. We offloaded the tups safe and well in their new field all within the regulated time for transporting animals.
Meanwhile, Magnus had started with the chain saw and the strimmer to clear a path through the undergrowth, cutting down an abundance of Bog Myrtle. He informed me there were Midgies in the Bog Myrtle bushes! I always thought Bog Myrtle was a remedy!

Following Magnus’s run in with the Midgey, the ‘Bernisdale Boys’ continued to excavate in preparation for the caravan, the area was covered with years and year’s growth of weeds and grass. Then, low and behold, on a balmy summer evening, we came to the croft and a ‘site’ had appeared!

Amidst all of these jobs, we have had little time to go out and explore Skye, but we had been blessed with several visitors to the croft - members of our families and friends from the Low Lands, Islands and the very North of Englandshire. Our friends from the lowlands arrived en-route to heading out over the Minch to Harris. They were due on the Friday evening,  travelling early the next day on the early morning Calmac ferry from Uig to Tarbert onward to their destination of Harris, their base for a spectacular trip to St. Kilda. We had a wonderful time catching up on all of our news.

The Hebrides arriving at Uig, Isle of Skye

I digress…
We finally got word from JJ, that our caravan could be delivered, complete with escort. Ironically, it would arrive exactly 6 months to the day after we had left Colonsay.
At exactly 11.15pm, the wagon and escort vehicle with JJ duly arrived with our new home.

The caravan being offloaded from the wagon.

At precisely midnight our caravan ‘touched down’ onto our land, a very significant and emotional moment – we had our new home, at last.

The following morning John (Bernisdale Boys) came to help Kapitein to site the caravan, quite a difficult task to get a 35ft long and 12ft wide caravan turned and positioned exactly where we needed it to be. But they both did a magnificent job, I was so proud of both of them.

With the aid of Kapitein’s landrover, the caravan was sited.

We had only seen photographs of the caravan, so we were very excited to see the inside! It was all JJ said it was – very purple, but in splendid condition, a much loved caravan indeed, we are so grateful to the previous owners who obviously took good care of it.
Samster & Wolfie enjoying home comforts.
Now then, the next thing on our list was to install services to the caravan, in-between preparing it for the winter. We installed a wood burning stove (our thanks go to Neil from Skye Finishing Touches – well done) anchors and chains – to stop it blowing away in the gales, skirting, to protect the chassis and add much needed insulation and thick carpets – courtesy of Harris Home Furnishings. Water was eventually connected, BT finally put a pole up and Kapitein and I trenched in over 200 metres of phone cable – it’s brilliant when communications are up and running, then Billy came to connect the gas for my new oven and hob! 
But, no electricity! SSE tried their utmost to get the wayleaves signed so mains electric could be brought into the site, but to no avail. So we had to re-think how we can live and work here without mains electricity. But aha! It’s solved… We are officially ‘off grid’. Kapitein and I are ‘eco-friendly’ with solar panels and a battery pack that would keep mobile devices going forever. It’s brilliant…

The Generator only runs an hour or two in the absence of sunshine, plus we have planted in excess of 800 trees on the croft, not bad for 'carbon offset'.

My Birthday during this year was a very special day indeed. Kapitein had a wonderful treat in store. I had the privilege of flying with Loch Lomand Seaplanes. What an exciting day, especially as it was their 'yellow' plane the same colour as Hebridean Air Services plane.
Loch Lomand 'Yellow' Seaplane - fabulous

Flying towards Loch Coruisk - amazing views
We flew over Portree, to the North of Skye - Staffin and the Quiraing then landed in the Sound of Raasay. I highly recommend this trip if you are ever visiting Skye, it is truly amazing.

We had also re-stocked with another breed of sheep – the Black Cheviot. Historically the black sheep were used to spot the white ones up on the Cheviot Hills when the snow fell. They have a wonderful fleece, close and of a lighter brown to the Hebrideans – I can hardly wait until shearing time next year to send the fleeces off for processing into wool.
Meet Harry Hotspur and Ralph Percy - New Black Cheviot tups
We also have some new Pedigree Hebridean ewes. They are delightful and run quite happily with the new Black Cheviot ewes. 
One of the new Hebridean ewes
Amidst all of the work, we put in planning permission for our new home, agricultural shed and business – which will be housed in a traditional Blackhouse – we were again very blessed and all planning was passed. Phew!!

Before we knew it the time had come for putting the tups in. It was quite funny when we went to collect the tups from their field. The 'wee man' (who sadly wasn't going to meet the girls) came right up to me, I think he is saying it all... 
The Wee Man "What about me? Am I not perfect!!
Sinterklass came to us again with a wonderful array of goodies. I didn't know where to start! But we have waded our way through as much as we could. Yum yum - delicious.

A package arrived in the post a year to the day since the fire on Colonsay. This was a copy of the book that Keiko Honda produced when she visited us on Colonsay. It was quite surreal to see the photographs. Also enclosed in the package were copies of the first 3 magazines which my articles about rebuilding our lives here on the Isle of Skye are featured. 

Keiko Honda's Book about my work and life on Colonsay.
Christmas was upon us and Kapitein and I had delighted in preparing for the festivities - purchasing gifts for our family and friends. Last year we were with our dear friend Annie on Colonsay, this year we were in our own home. We’ve even got a ‘caravan’ sized real Christmas tree.
Our 'real' Christmas Tree
In the meantime, I had sent off Hebridean fleeces to the mill for processing and have received the wool back, it is beautiful, so it’s back to designing and knitting – fantastic. Check it out on the Island at the Edge website. It is lovely and soft just perfect for your new creative projects.
Sitting nestled within fleece showing the shades within the wool
This year I will also be producing both Worsted and Wool fabric with the help of Andrea and Roger from Skye Weavers – I can hardly contain myself. They are busy with the first sample so you’ll have to keep a watchful eye both here and on the website for the new designs in the early spring. 

So here we are in 2015 amid huge storms – thankfully the caravan has stood firm in winds of over 100mph! There is something to be said for all of the hard work we have done in securing the caravan during the summer. Anchors and chains, skirting - to protect the chasis, guy wires to secure the chimney to mention just a few, but  I believe we are in for a few more storms, so fingers crossed all will be well.

And finally we have a new Facebook page Island at the Edge this is where we will keep you up to date with daily news.

It's time to go out and feed the sheep now I thought this photo may cheer us all up during this stormy weather it is the view out over the loch from our front window - happy days...

With more plans afoot I'll keep you posted... Be safe and well wherever you are.

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