The Island of Mull and other Western Isles traditionally had many families living here that used to thrive on seaweed harvesting. Making soap, candles fertilizers and other products was their business and they lived on small crofts and lived in tune with the seasons… they didn’t need to know about organic, or sustainable or carbon footprints because their simple lives were that already. And I imagine life was hard for them, as here we are on Erraid on the Ross of Mull in November and have had our first taste of the weather of heavy storms that will pass through the Hebrides on a regular basis from now until Spring.
One consequence of the storms is churning up the ocean, and crashing waves heavily on the rocks is that simply tonnes and tonnes of kelp washes up on the beaches.
The community on Erraid taps into this old tradition and takes advantage of the gift of seaweed that the tides deliver to our beaches by collecting trailer loads over the winter to cover the beds, mix in as compost and fertilize the land with valuable minerals and trace elements.
And what fun, we had a group of teenagers staying with us this week, part of a Care Farming initiative, my two kids had a great time with them and the rest of the community, it was a beautiful day (the calm after the storm) to grab our pitch forks and load up the trailer. The best bit was stomping the seaweed down, a slippery kelpie dance on top of the trailer. Then of course the ride back up to the vegetable gardens from the beach, it’s only a few hundred metres, but the children love to go on the trailer instead of walking. Then during teabreak there was more fun watching one of the teens make a new hairstyle with some kelp!
The next job is to wheel barrow this seaweed shipment onto all the beds and put them away for the winter. Then go and get some more. We managed 2 trailer loads – only another 50 or so to go !
In terms of homeschooling, I love that the children can understand what it means to “pitch in” with actual pitch forks. How we as parents and other adults can work alongside our children together. How everyone could work at their own pace and the job got done.
I love too how the children can learn and see what a storm gifts us, how the seaweed harvest is another harvest that next year’s vegetables will benefit from. The full cycle of nature, actions in tune with the seasons… and where the great Kelpie stories and myths come from… What great lessons – where life itself: the community and nature are doing the job of raising our children in such a great way!