Tuesday 17 January 2012

Absolutely gorgeous sunrise this morning, the camera didn't do it justice (as usual) but it's almost there.  With the farm being literally in the middle of nowhere we have a huge expanse of sky and to see it change colour so dramatically just takes my breath away.  A wonderful start to the day.

As the sky diffused with light everything came into subtle relief, including Lovely Hubby's John Deere tractor, now in the final stages of its transformation.

The new hydraulic system , designed for this tractor and adapted by LH himself and with parts designed by him and manufactured by some of his friends in the business is almost complete.  The front arms go up and down and all it's accessories can now be used to help us with heavy lifting during our move.
One downside, in my opinion, while he was working on the tractor in our landlords barn with his tractor specialist last weekend he spotted a set of forks (like off a fork lift truck) and made an offer to our landlord for them.......somehow fittings for them have now appeared on my kitchen table ready for painting!

I must remind him, we have friends coming for Supper on Friday, they will not be used to balancing the salt and pepper and their side plates on tractor parts!!

Sue xx

Monday 16 January 2012

It all started back in June 2009, we started to erect the polytunnel bought from HERE, well I should say Lovely Hubby erected it...... over the course of a weekend all by himself, with just a smidgen of help from Jason and me when it came to pulling the HUGE sheet of polythene across.  Luckily we had chosen a wind free day and all went to plan.

A week later Mum and Dad were on hand to help me build the raised beds and fill them with a mix of soil and compost, no mean feat it took us a couple of days and many, many wheel barrows full.  I snapped into action straight away, although it was relatively late in the season I still got all sorts of yummy food growing.  All our salad stuff was grown in the tunnel and a varied selection of veggies that I was keen to try out in its rampant heat.  There was lots of experimentation going on that year.

In it's second year 2010, I concentrated on tomatoes, courgettes and salad goodies, and started off all the seedlings for the outdoor raised beds, nothing failed.  I stopped popping two seeds in every hole in the seed trays, I got a 99.5% success rates with all my seeds so it saved time to just use one seed per hole.  I treated myself to a wind-up radio and spent so much time planting, weeding, watering and bopping away to music,  the polytunnel was the place to go.

Last year 2011 I was in my element I had mastered most of what I needed to know, solved a few earlier problems, mostly to do with getting the ventilation just right, and got my early crops on the go right at the beginning of January with early cabbages and lots of seeds planted for crops to go into the beds, both inside the tunnel  and outside in the Kitchen Garden.  My cabbages grew enormous and loved the mild atmosphere in the tunnel, being so early in the year there were no moths laying on them and nothing to nibble at them, we ate the lot and that left room for all the seedling that were coming on.

The side of the polytunnel has been used for many things too, the tunnel shelters the area from the westerly winds and catches and bounces back the morning sun, warming the ground and creating an ideal spot for our large Corn crop back in 2010 and then later the same year, just after the corn had been harvested .......

... we put up a fence and the Kune Kune pigs moved into their new des res.  They loved that Mum was just on the other side of the polythene and would watch my progress and would follow me along as I weeded the left hand side of the tunnel, peering expectantly round as I popped out the back door of it with all the weeds and trimmings for their supper.

Last years success story was the Grape Vine, planted at the very beginning while the tunnel was being erected.  It needed its root system planted outside the tunnel to keep them cool and inside the the tunnel the branches grew and grew, for the first two years dying back to just a dead looking twig each Winter, then last year with a vengeance it produced grapes, bunches and bunches of the small juicy fruits, along every runner they dripped in perfect bunches, needing hardly any thinning or care, just being picked regularly, mostly by LH as he worked near the tunnel.  Why come into the house for a snack when you can munch on a carrot, wrap a spring onion in a mix of lettuce leaves, pop a tomato in your mouth and then finish the impromptu meal with half a bunch of juicy grapes.

During 2011 I filled the tunnel with colour in the form of many types of Marigold, both decorative and edible.  These attracted the bees to pollinate all my plants and made my heart sing when I stepped into that mass of colour each day.  Dead heading them regularly meant they lasted right through the long growing season of the tunnel, only finally dying off with the drop in temperatures during November.

Due to circumstances way beyond our control the pigs all had to go during last year and the space by the side of the tunnel was left for nature to reclaim, now looking lush and green once again, this picture was taken in November. 
We were eating from the tunnel right until the last moment, with radish, spring onion, celery and carrots all still growing away, surviving freezingly cold nights and giving us the taste of homegrown.......

....... until the high winds of a week ago.  I was in Manchester at my Mum and Dads' house ,when I got a phone call from LH to say the winds had done their worst, somehow managing to rip through the polythene and sending half of it sky high, somehow he managed to rope it all down and I came home to find my tunnel in a state of bondage and devastation.  The last few plants had fallen victim to the ensuing frosts, although some of the herbs have been saved and are living in the shed by the window....a poor alternative to their previous home.  Luckily we had boxed up all the little bits, plant pots, seeds trays etc only the week before ready for the move, so they didn't all take off across the fields.

We spent this weekend dismantling the structure, well mostly LH again, using his skills of erecting it but in reverse.  I  used the damaged polythene to cover our raised beds to warm the soil for this years planting, although it won't be by me.   We will be in our new home in the next few weeks, planting in the greenhouse that comes with it, missing dreadfully the space and atmosphere of my polytunnel.
When we reach our forever home in the next few years, the carefully packed away struts and staging will be brought out, new polythene will be ordered and I will be back in action.  Once you've had that amount of indoor growing space you can't do without it for long.
As Arnie said  - I WILL BE BACK !!
Sue xx

Sunday 15 January 2012

At the moment we having hard frosts each night, the girls in chicken world troop to bed at dusk and huddle together and bring the temperature in the one chicken house in use at the moment up nicely. They stay warm and cosy all night with just their body warmth and the thick layer of bedding and newspaper I put in there, I can always feel the heat radiating from it when I go to close their door at about 5ish.
In the morning I open the door and they peek out, a couple of cockerels (we now have four) run out and make their welcoming noises to the new day, breaking the stillness on the farm with their cockadoodle doos.  The girls stay warm until the lure of the layers pellets and the need for water make a foray into the white icy world a real necessity.  Once out they are happy to peck around trying the frozen grass and look for frozen worms on the top, seemingly a real delicacy, think Magnum White but worm flavoured!

Once the sun appears they follow it round the farm huddling in groups on the patio where it raises the temperature of the paving stones and then luxuriating in its heat in corners everywhere, behind the shed, under the bushes, round corners.  Little clutches of hens enjoying these short, fresh winter days, not a bad life.
Over this weekend we are busy dismantling what's left of the polytunnel, the high winds the other week ripped it in half.   We are using the polythene to cover the raised beds to keep the chickens off for now and packing away the metal struts and raised beds to take with us.  The polytunnel won't be  erected at our next place but will be saved for our forever home, saving us money in years to come.  The raised beds (these are the plastic ones) will be used outside, a quick assembly, easy fix to get me up and planting as soon as possible.
But time for one more coffee and a bowl of porridge before we venture out into this frosty morning I think.
Sue xx

Friday 13 January 2012

It's been a funny old week, lots of clearing the decks, sorting and cleaning out the cupboards, really sort of a mammoth clearing out and packing session all tied up with a huge spring clean of the kitchen.  The idea behind this is that it should save time when we come to do the actual move if everything is already clean and tidy.  Just a wipe down of the cupboards as we empty them.
All the food that was on the worktop is now comfortably in the cupboards, ready for us to use as much as we can before we move.

The things that were in the cupboards are now all sorted,  excess items either put in the car boot sale box or packed away if we are keeping them, and we are getting rid of anything that we don't use, pretty ruthlessly.

The deep fat fryer is put away, this should be more useful when we move, much cheaper to use this than it is to warm the oven just for a few chips, we don't eat them that often so a few homemade chips is a real treat.

In it's place for now is my food mixer/processor/liquidiser, it's many component parts are now in the cupboard beneath the worktop much handier than it used to be.

All these cupboards now just hold our day to day pans, all things like pasta making machines, duplicate pans and griddles are packed away, we will put all these back to use after the move, in the meantime we will manage with the bare minimum.  

You may notice the dog bed has changed, Suky started off with a neat little shoe box, she is now twice the size so it was getting to be a tight fit, she let me know this by eating it !!  She now has Rosy's old, least favourite bed which she loves, although she loves to flip it over and lie underneath when she's in playful mode and I have to keep righting it when she wants a sleep.

Who me....eat a bed....as if !

I just have the cupboard under the sink to do now and as this is mostly full of cleaning things I will sort through them and get us a cleaning kit together to take with us on 3rd February, which is the day we get the keys and the place is officially ours.  Exciting stuff.
Off to clear a few more decks......
Sue xx

Thursday 12 January 2012

Yesterday while clearing out the kitchen cupboards (yes.....I'm still doing it,. but notice on this photo the now cleared worktop) I came across one and a half bottles of Brandy, just the cheapo stuff nothing to get too excited about, then I found some empty bottles, remembering that I had two 2kg bags of our very own Damsons lurking somewhere in the depths of the big chest freezer, some sugar in the cupboard and empty jam jars rinsed out after making the cakes last week I suddenly had a brainwave.

Why pack all these things up individually when I can condense them all into just the bottles and jars, so this morning, once the Damsons have thawed out they will be left to steep in the brandy in my trusty big plastic containers and then bottled up as Damson Brandy the week we move, the Damsons left over from this will be turned into Damson Brandy Jam a slight variation on Lovely Hubby favourite ever jam Damson Gin Jam. Although I will have to make this in pretty small batches as I've packed away the jam pans!!
*** *** *** Recipe 450g Damsons 170g Sugar 750ml Gin (or in this case Brandy)

If your Damsons are freshly picked, prick each one a couple of times with a pin, (if you freeze them for 2 weeks or longer  you can omit this stage, just thaw them out overnight before you use them, this will weaken the skins nicely for you). Put all the ingredients into a large container, and shake or stir each day for about 2 weeks.

Leave steeping for about 4 - 6 weeks and then taste, add more sugar if you want it sweeter and leave for another week. Strain into sterilised bottles and store in a dark, cool place until you want to drink it. The longer you leave this gorgeous mixture the stronger and better the flavour. 

Do NOT throw away the strained Damsons.

Use them to make Damson Brandy Jam, place them in a pan with an equal amount in weight of sugar and a dash of lemon juice, boil until you reach setting point (skimming off the stones as they float to the surface) and then bottle in sterilised jars. 
*** *** ***

We drank only one of our bottles of Damson Gin over Christmas, it was absolutely gorgeous.   We are saving the other three for when our best friends come for supper next week, it should be a very nice final meal together here before we move.

So another busy day ahead.
Sue xx

Wednesday 11 January 2012

As I was putting the washing in the machine at 7am this morning just before I had my first cup of coffee and let the chickens out, I was suddenly struck by all the little money saving things I do without even thinking about it.  Over the years I guess they become ingrained and just second nature - GOOD. 
Those are just the kind of things you need as the backbone of a frugal life.  I'm sure lots of you do even more but I thought I'd share a few of mine while they are fresh in my mind in case they are of any help.
All these tips are to do with clothes and washing them, I'll probably bombard you with tips on other things over the course of the next few weeks, my mind seems to have gone into money saving mode!
Firstly we wear mostly dark underwear and we have enough sets so that everything can be washed in one go once a week.  I always buy multi packs of socks all the same design (usually plain black) that way when one sock gets worn at the heel or just too many darned holes in to make wearing it comfortable just that sock can be thrown away and the remaining one can be saved to pair up with another lone sock in the future. 
I usually do about 4 or 5 washing loads a week.  One load is Lovely Hubby's farm clothes one is towels, two are dark clothes (one being underwear and jeans) and one is light coloured/white clothes, halfway through each alternate week I do a single load of bedding.  For each wash I use ONE washing tablet, I know the pack says two per load, ignore it extra powder just rots and fades your fabric, one IS sufficient. If we have an emergency and need to do a half load I use half a tablet.  I use large size highly concentrated containers of fabric conditioner from the farm supply shop, but I only use about a spoonful for each full load. That's all you need, it is merely there to neutralise any detergent left in the fabrics.   If I run out I simply put a dash of white vinegar in the dispenser drawer, it works just the same but with no scent.  (Honestly your clothes won't smell like chips!!)
Immediately things come out of the washer I fold them neatly and then I dry outside on sunny, windy, breezy or dry days being careful to hang things straight and peg carefully.  On damp or wet days I will simply put the washing on the airer at the top of the stairs where the heat from the kitchen rises up and warms the landing.  If I need things quickly or simply want to get them put away I will drape them all over the Aga, it can dry a full load of washing over the course of the day.  If you have hung things neatly you should not have to iron at all.
Since meeting Lovely Hubby with his complete non-iron tactics I have been converted.  Only his nice shirts for work need to be ironed, eveything else is simply folded neatly and put away, once you have put your clothes on most creases disappear with your body heat.  I even getaway with not ironing my jeans now as long as I have snatched them from the machine quickly and kept them straight!! 
If you look after your clothes they will last you longer and save you money in the long run.  I have also found that LOTS of my clothes that say 'Dry Clean Only' are perfectly happy in the washer.  I buy lots of things from charity shops and decided early on that I would risk my purchases by washing them rather than forking out ridiculous amounts of money for dry cleaning, I have only ever lost one item through this (and we're talking years worth of purchases here).  You do sometimes have to iron them carefully afterwards but that is so much cheaper than dry cleaning.
Something to remember is that you do not have to wash your clothes everytime you wear them.  My rule of thumb is that if it has been against your skin it will probably need washing, so that's all underwear and usually little vest tops or t shirts, but the jumper or cardigan you had over your t shirt or your skirt or jeans will most likely be fine for a few more wears.  Hang things up on hangers at the end of each day to air.   We have plastic hooks that pop over the outside of the wardrobe doors and things stay on there over night.  I use my nose the next day and if they smell fresh they get put back into the wardrobe ready for next time.  The only exception to this is if you are packing clothes away after the winter for instance ready for next winter, then everything should be clean and fresh before packing to deter moths.
Lovely Hubby wears his outside 'farm clothes' all weekend, changing in the evening to clean clothes so that his really dirty things can just be washed the once each week.
Money saved here -
At least twice as many washes per box of detergent as advertised on the box
Less washes mean saved electricy (get out of the habit of washing every day unless you really have to)
Save money on sock purchasing
Save at least an hours electricty by not ironing
Save money on replacing clothes by looking after them carefully and washing some things less frequently.
We don't realise how lucky we are having machines that do all the work for us (well I do, I lived without a washing machine until my youngest was a year old, hand washing everything for four people including bedding and terry nappies), but we should still use them wisely and not just bung everything in without thinking.

Just a few little tips that I hope will help some of you, most of my Frugal Friends will most likely be doing all this (and more) already.  If you have any more tips to share please leave a comment, I'm sure I do even more, but when it becomes second nature you simply don't realise all that you do.
Oh well back to packing up the kitchen, this job is going sooooo slowly, with lots of interruptions and...... well it is washing day!!
Sue xx

(pics from Google)

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Well here it is - my sealed pot for the great Sealed Pot Challenge started by Sft over at SFT'S TRAVEL, MORTGAGE FREEDOM, 101 AND LIFE GOALS Blog.  I wanted a pot bought from a charity shop this year and when I walked in our local Hospice shop and saw this lovely bread bin for just £5 I thought what better receptacle (and the charity gets a £5 donation too), with 'bread' being one of the slang words for money in this country it's highly appropriate too.

Lovely Hubby drilled a couple of holes in the lid and then filed them together into a slot that it just the right size for £2 coins, which is what we are saving again.  I used strong double sided sticky tape to fix the lid in position and then another strip around the outside edge to fix a ribbon in place, doubly stuck - truly a Sealed Pot.  I emptied Spotty Jug (our temporary 'sealed pot') into this and guess what....we already have £92, I see next Christmas being a very good one!!

Unfortunately, I have had to play one of my Jokers already!!  I'm gutted, I went out yesterday to try to find a good supplier for milk, no milkman would ever be able to negotiate our pot holed 2 mile farm track without setting off on his return journey with a van full of butter instead of milk.  As we drink only Skimmed milk I knew I might face a slight challenge.
First I called to a rather posh village shop and found that instead of catering for the villagers with 'proper' food they seem to be aiming at some passing tourist trade with 'coffee to go', fancy jars of jam, wine and champagne and bags of pasta at ridiculously high prices.  I enquired about their milk and found they only sold it by the single pint for 65p.  I bought one in case that's all I could find, but they said they don't order in especially for customers.  This attitude actually annoyed me, how do they expect to stay in business when they don't actually cater for the people that could keep them in business.  So I moved on.
Next stop the village post office that I use in the next village, this was much better, as well as having the Post Office counter they have shelves of everything you could possibly need in an emergency, true a lot pricier than the supermarkets, but they are a newsagents as well AND they sell milk in two pint cartons for £1.20.  As they only had one carton of Skimmed milk I bought that and had a word with the owner who was more than willing to regularly order me four of these, to be picked up by me every Monday and Friday - result.  I pick up my first batch of four on Monday as he has already placed his order for this week. 

So .... I needed more milk, rather than drive for miles to gether single cartons from here and there I  bit the bullet and drove to Asda, merely 2 miles from this shop and got myself four large 4 pint cartons.  Two are now safely in the freezer and two in the fridge.  I do think we need to get our milk consumption down slightly, we seem to go through two pints a day on our breakfasts and hot drinks, slightly excessive.  I have tried black coffee but to no avail, maybe drinking less coffee would be better for me anyway.  The ideal would be to get us down to only needing a single pint a day.
So only 10th January and already a joker played...... not good!   I am also proving useless at January being a No Spend month, out of ten days I have only managed four No Spend Days.  I am staying firmly at home for the next few days to improve my average and get on with the packing.  Due to my tour of the shops yesterday I only managed to get one set of drawers and two cupboards in the kitchen sorted and packed up, so guess what I'll be doing again today. 

Oh, I will have to have a little break at 2.15pm to watch Escape to the Country, todays episode is supposed to be the one that we participated in.  Maybe I should have kept quiet until I have had chance to see just how bad we come over!!  Oh well....if you watch....no laughing (or if you do please don't let me know about it !!)
Sue xx

Monday 09 January 2012

Well this is it folks, my large farmhouse kitchen in all it's messy glory.  Not tidied for the photos just there as it was first thing this morning when I came down. ....waiting for me to start the great packing up process.  Sorting through all these cupboards and packing away what is not used on a regular basis is my job for today, and maybe even tomorrow as well we'll see how long it takes.
You may be able to guess from the photos that I have already started the process on the display shelves either side of the utility room door.  I did them and put their contents to soak in the washing up water while I was making my first coffee of the day......see I'm geared up for action already!
You may spot quite a bit of food on the worktops, that's because I just got another Approved Foods order, they delivered a pre-Christmas order to the wrong address and couldn't retrive it so they credited my account with its value, and as they had jars of Bonne Maman jam at 75p a jar last week I was tempted to put in an order to use up the credit.  Sooooo easily tempted...lol.

In this kitchen I have (using doors as a counting tool) 10 base cupboards, 6 wall cupboards, and a total of 8 drawers (two of the drawers to the right of the Aga are actually a cupboard), 4 open display shelves and a plate rack.

In my new kitchen I will have 4 base cupboards (although 2 are corner ones so go into the corners giving quite a bit more space), 6 drawers, 5 normal sized wall cupboards and 2 smaller ones, one of which is over the cooker extractor hood.  So although a slightly smaller kitchen this will not be too bad.
There is also a built in boiler cupboard in our new house with a bit of space to store teatowels or things that don't mind getting warm and a large built in cupboard that the current occupier is using as a larder, I may use this for all my homemade jars of food.
Here we have an undercounter fridge, an undercounter freezer and a large fridge freezer at the end of the run of units, as well as my beloved Aga,  these will all be staying behind.  In the new kitchen we will have an undercounter fridge, an electric freestanding cooker, a small dishwasher and a large upright fridge freezer.  We have a washing machine in the utility room here and will also have one (it's already there) in the utility room at the new place.  (We don't have a tumble dryer, prefering to let our laundry dry naturally.)
After a good look round and a measure up on Saturday we happily discovered that virtually all of our furniture will fit into our new home, the only casualty will be our large leather corner sofa, which we will advertise for sale soon.  We think our large farmhouse pine table, with it's chairs and bench, will just about fit, so we will take it with us.  If once there it seems too big or just takes up too much of the floor space we will replace it later, fingers crossed it looks okay.
Well I better get to work.  I'll take the same photos when I've finished to see how well I've done.  If I don't make it a challenge I'll never get to work...... well maybe one more cup of coffee and a bit of Blog reading first.......!!
Sue xx

Sunday 08 January 2012

Happy Birthday to my very special Birthday Boy, I love you. 
53 years young today and looking good.
Sue xx

Saturday 07 January 2012

We are heading off to our new place, armed, but decidedly un-dangerous.  We have our tape measures, our pad and pencil and our half awake brains, hopefully by the time we get there we will be awake enough to take down all those important vital statistics of our new home.

Which curtains will I be able to salvage, which of our two sofas will be sold on, will our extra large farmhouse table even fit through the door.  Lots of questions, but all is about to be discovered.
And the great thing is we don't really mind what we need to get rid of completely or replace for smaller copies, we have no great love affair with our 'stuff', true we chose things together because we loved them at the time and needed them at the time, but as long as we have each other we would live in a large cardboard box, with lots of little cardboard boxes for furniture (although I would of course require a good cardboard bookcase wherever I lived !!).

Cardboard blogging desk anyone!!
Sue xx

Wednesday 04 January 2012

Today Me and Mum are off to visit Gran and Grandad, that means I get to cuddle down in my travelling bag with a treat and a toy and gently snooze for a few hours while Mum somehow magically gets us there.
Yesterday I had a much shorter journey cuddled on Mum's lap in the big truck, when we got to our destination turned out it was the vets.   They seem to have 'barcoded' me, when she passed a thing over my head I beeped....most disconcerting, I was however nicely bribed to sit still with a doggy treat.
It seems my life is one long round of cuddles and treats........not that I'm complaining of course.

If you find my tail will you post it back to me.......!!
Suky xx

Tuesday 03 January 2012

We spent yesterday taking down the Christmas decorations, helped by Suky the Pug, cleaning up the living room, and then we went on to finish packing up the books.  We dug up one of the Apple Trees and put it into a very large pot ready for the move, we're taking the heavy work steadily and slowly as Lovely Hubby has a bad back again.  The plant pot and trays etc in the polytunnel were all wiped down and neatly boxed up. It's looking very bare in there, but there are still spring onions, celery and radishes growing away.

It's hard work all this packing away.....a nap was needed half way through for some of us.

The tree was snipped down branch by branch and put on the fire last night, the house smelt gorgeous with the fresh aroma of pine, better than any artifical room freshener.

Now the shelves are starting to look bare.....

... and the stacks of boxes are starting to get tall.
  First thing this morning we had to take Suky to the vet for her second vaccination, on the way back we stopped at Warborough Village Stores for some milk and some Caster and Icing sugar, it's Lovely Hubby's birthday on Monday and it's traditional for the birthday person to take in cakes for everyone. Now this used to involve a trip to the supermarket and the purchasing of many boxes of Mr Kipling delicacies, but this year we're making four dozen Butterfly Cakes on Sunday ready for him to take in on Monday morning, nice home baking, thrifty, yummy and NOT involving a trip to the supermarket.
So although today is not a No Spend day it is a Low Spend Day

Today we have gale force winds, so we are confining our work to inside the house, after finishing this post I'm off upstairs to help LH take apart the large wardrobe in the spareroom that used to hold all my crafting goodies,. it's the only way we'll be able to get it out of the house!
Sue xx

Monday 02 January 2012

And so it begins......no more sitting around, resting and relaxing for most of the day.  We are off on our marathon packing up of the house and farm.  Yesterday I packed up most of our beloved books.  The smaller boxes from all my Approved Food orders are brilliant for this, they hold just enough to keep the weight manageable.

We have a lot....

..they are in the kitchen above the plate rack...

...in the living room in the glass fronted cupboards...

..in the large unit we have the tv stood on.

Some more in the kitchen, next to the microwave.

In my lovely pine cupboard that I used to have in my shop.  They are in nooks and crannies, on window sills and ledges.  On the coffee table if we are currently reading them.
I thought I had almost come to an end....but Lovely Hubby has just come downstairs with a HUGE stack......yes they are on bedside tables too.  Oh well must just go and fetch another box.
Then I am off outside to help LH.   It is a gloriously sunny day and we are making the most of it by digging up some of our fruit trees and putting them into big pots to take with us.   LH has just been packing up the small animal trailer with things that we shouldn't be needing for quite a while, they can stay in there stored safely away until we need them.
Next I will be packing away all my empty plant pots and seed trays from the polytunnel into some great big boxes we have, these will be kept handy though and on standby to be put into service as soon as we move, luckily we have a long greenhouse at the new place, after I give it a thorough clean it will be put straight into action growing our foods ready for Spring.
I must say though, I love having my books around me and I'm missing them already, maybe I can snaffle one or two back out of the boxes, luckily they are all labelled clearly !
Off to work.....
Sue xx

Saturday 31 December 2011

You were a strange year, a year of learning, of realising.  One of strengthening bonds and knowing the true value of love.
You gave us great heartache, you gave us laughs, you took what we most valued and then tried to take some more.
We will look back on you with sorrow, with joy, with love and with hatred.
You were just a year
There is no review of 2011 on my Blog this year, it has played itself out at it's own pace, at times we struggled to keep up, at times we raced ahead and thumbed our noses at it. At times it ground us down and dragged, then it raced along and tried to make us lose our grasp.  We kept up with love, laughter and with the knowledge of our strength we finally won through. It has gone and we are still here.
2011 has drawn to its natural end, and we look forward to 2012 with the strength that 2011 has given us.   Knowing that we are as strong as we need to be, that we can help those that we need to help and be there for those that need us most.
Thank you 2011 you were a necessary year but one that we say farewell to very easily.
We are lucky we have each other, we have our love, we have our lives, our families, our friends and blogging buddies, we wish you all the very best for 2012, may it be what you make it.  You have the power to live your lives, to change your lives, anything is possible and anything can happen.
As the bible says - 'In a word, there are three things
that last forever: faith, hope, and love;
but the greatest of them all is love.”   (1 Corinthians 13.13)
If we have one, we can have all three, if we have all three we are truly strong and nothing a year throws at us will diminish that love.

Happy New Year
Sue xx

Friday 30 December 2011

All these shots are of Pangbourne shops.
Our BIG Challenge for 2012 is saying "NO thank you" to the supermarkets and "Hello" to the High Street and small retailer.  We will not shop on a weekly basis anymore at the big supermarkets (or their little branches or cousins for that matter). We will NOT shop on a monthly basis at them either, we will shop at them only if there is absolutely no other means of obtaining what we need.

Earlier this month I asked my readers for their opinion on Marks and Spencer, was it a High Street shop or a supermarket, I was half hoping it would be a high street shop, and indeed as an ex -high street shop manager we were indoctrinated that they were 'one of us', but if you Google 'supermarkets' guess who now pops up half way down the list. So it are now included in our list of shops not to frequent.

Last week after signing the lease on our new home for the next three years, we took a drive to the High Street (and yes it is called that).  Luckily our nearest town is Pangbourne, in Berkshire, and guess what ...... it has virtually every shop we may need over the next year. 
A butcher, a baker (not quite a candlestick maker but a couple of gift shops that do sell them!), a greengrocers, a health food shop, a couple of banks, a Post Office, a large pub that serves meals, a chip shop, a pizza shop, a pet supplies shop, a couple of charity shops (woo hoo) and even dentists, doctors and a couple of coffee shops.  It does have a supermarket, a nice neat little Co-op, which is actually one of the good guys in the supermarket world, with lots of Fair Trade products and it acts ethically too, especially with it's money, but we won't be using this on a regular basis for this year at least.   All this and a village hall that has a Craft Market once a week and a Producers Market once a month. 

 Just how lucky can we get, this is a lost commodity in many villages and small towns and one that we will be supporting on every step of our journey. These are nearly all shops that I see us frequenting over the next few years. 

We have both been brought up in a completely supermarket obsessed age, so we are not being as short sighted as to completely ban ourselves from entering them if we really have to.  In case of a real need I have given us six Jokers to play over the course of the year, of course I hope we don't have to but sometimes there may be no choice and rather than fall at the first hurdle it would be more satisfying to have an ace up my sleeve (or in this case a Joker). 
Each time we have to visit a supermarket to shop (for whatever reason) we will play a Joker, we have given ourselves only six and really hope that we still have at least some of them left at the end of the year.
The reasons for doing this Challenge are many -
1. To take away our perceived dependence on the supermarkets.
2. To support local businesses, small producers and suppliers.  To try to help them stay in business, what will the country be like when the supermarkts have total control of all our food.  It's not as far in the future as you think, once they have control they will be able to dictate the prices we pay for everything.
3.  To stop us wasting money on things we don't really need ....  'Buy 2 Get 1 Free' is tempting, too tempting at times, but it lightens your purse and overfills your cupboards.  And since I found out that it is the supplier NOT the supermarket that pays for this 'offer' it has not looked nearly so appealing.
4.  To encourage us to think even wider about what we can grow to feed ourselves, and to make better use of all the things we do grow.
5. To satisfy my soul....... who can resist a greengrocers display of fresh organic seasonal produce, true they try to replicate it in the supermarkets with their row upon row of perfect, blemish free, same sized tasteless mass produced, picked too early fruits and veggies flown from all around the world.  Lovely to look at in the supermarket with the high stacks and bright lights but how disappointing when you get them home and eat them, hence the snacking later, our bodies need nutrients and flavour to be healthy, and these foods just don't supply them.
How much better to find we have a gap in our produce say of a cucumber, go to the greengrocers or Farmers Market find an local English grown freshly picked one and still enjoy the flavour I could have grown myself. And even better get home with just the makings of the meal I want and not have to find room for 24 toilet rolls that I didn't want or need but bought because they were 'just too good a bargain' to miss.
Yes we will be looking for bargains when we shop but NOT at the expense of the grower/producer/manufacturer.  We are looking to 'jump off the consumer bandwagon' with a satisfying thud, become more aware of what we need, what we want and how we get it.  It may take us all year to get used to this or it may come naturally..... I'll let you know.
We have cupboards and freezers once again full to capacity with bought foods, bargains I couldn't resist, treats I perceived us to deserve, so firstly this month we will be working our way through them, and emptying the worktops of foods that we couldn't even fit in the cupboards, rifling through the full to the brim freezers....where did it all come from .......the Supermarkets mostly.  Well thank you very much Mr Tesco, Master Asda, posh cousin Waitrose, nice Mr Sainsbury, glamorous Granny Marks and Spencer et al, but we will not be darkening your doors for a long time. 
We thank you for supplying us with these 'must have bargains', for lightening my load by emptying my purse and my bank account so regularly over the past years, but now we are doing something so very satisfying we are taking back control of our lives.  The most important part of our lives, the nourishment we put into our bodies. 
 January will be a virtually 'No Spend' month as we eat our way through our stocks of food, the only thing we should really need to buy is milk, that will be purchased from the little shop in the next village when I go to buy my Radio Times or post a letter.  I have bread in the freezer and flour in the cupboard to make our own when that runs out.
Last year we took lots of small steps forward in our drive to be self sufficient and self sustaining, this year we are striding forward more confident, with our purses and wallets firmly tucked deep in our pockets and our spades and trowels near to hand, but most of all with a firm resolve that we will take control of our lives.
Join us on our journey .... as before you are very welcome.   If you have tips to share or just moral support to offer, comment on our posts, let us know if you think we are doing it right or if you think we have gone to far.  Let us know if you are doing something similar yourselves.  The more of us that make a stand like this the better it will be for this countries high streets.  We are gradually losing more and more of our 'little shops', if you can make just one extra purchase from the high street shop instead of a supermarket you will be helping the shops we really shouldn't be losing.  It is so easy when you just stop and think for a minute.
Sue xx

Thursday 29 December 2011

Jointers Farm House when we first moved in 2009  'From Simple to Frugal....and Beyond'
(one couples journey to jump off the consumer bandwagon)

Last year our sub heading under the Our New Life in the Country header was '...Our Year of Living Simply', this year we are moving on from that, our new sub heading is the one above.  In February we hope to move into our new place.  We have found a good place to rent, a two bedroom bungalow in Berkshire, it has 4 acres of land around it, plenty for our now down scaled operation without the pigs.

Jointers Farm, with the paddock to the left of the picture.

Here in Oxfordshire we lease a large four bedroom (picture at the top), three bathroom farmhouse with ten and a half acres of land on which we have two huge ponds and a stone barn, it costs us dearly, but was all we could get hold of at the time that we moved.  It has single glazing and large rooms, so although the Aga does a stirling job of heating the kitchen, lots of heat just vanishes through the windows all around the house.  Every room has lots of lights and as we usually end up in different rooms doing different jobs they tend to all be on.  We could have extended this lease but we decided to be sensible, this house is also an 80 minute drive away from where Lovely Hubby works so the round trip each day adds over 2 hours to his already long 10 hour day and in turn costs us lots in fuel for the vehicles.

Now we have decided on our future, and that it includes us being as self-sufficient as possible, rather than farming, we need to save for our very own 'forever home', this entails us down sizing and having some very frugal years while we plough as much of the money that Lovely Hubby earns into our bank account for our deposit, which needs to be as large as possible, for we will then carry on living frugally while we pay off the mortgage, so LH can reduce his working hours.

Our new home near Pangbourne

We have now signed the rental agreement on our new home for the next three years, and it will be ours from the first week in February, hopefully we will be able to completely redecorate (paint everything white) before we move in as it is tiny in comparison to where we live now.  Once that has been done we will move into the house everything that we need to live comfortably for the next three years.  All excess possessions or things that don't fit will be sold and the money added to our savings.

Although this too is mostly single glazed, it has a wood burner, just five small rooms and is in a nice sheltered spot instead of being in the middle of nowhere with the wind whistling round our ears like now.  Hopefully we will be able to get it warm and cosy and cut our costs dramatically.  The best thing.....it is just a fifteen minute drive from where LH works and means he will be away from the house for less time each day AND cut down dramatically on our fuel costs.

The move is just our first step on saving money, once there we can put into place all that we have learnt here on the farm and get growing our own foods, providing our own wood for the fire, over our fence to the left of the property is a  HUGE wood and we are able to forage and gather all that we need from there, so we have the prospect of free fire wood for three years.

So that's a smaller house, less land (but more suitable for the chickens and growing our own veggies), free wood for the wood burner, less fuel needed for the cars.  Now what else can we do to make next year less consumer led.....call back tomorrow for the unveiling of our main challenge for the year ahead.

Exciting times.

Sue xx

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Lovely Hubby does his once yearly shop..... or how to kit yourself out for the business year ahead for less than £200.
Yesterday we took a deep breathe and set off for Asda, specifically for the Asda at High Wycombe, the nearest one to us with a clothes department.  We imagine frantic shoppers, tugs of war over bargain items ......but no...when we got there the store was bare.... well almost.

We perused rail after rail of clothes, a shoppers (especially sale shoppers) paradise.  Lots of merchandise all waiting to be snapped up.  What were we after, well once a year we need to re-stock LH with some smart work wear, he has made his last two (rather expensive) suits last for about four years, but now they are showing their age so this year we were after a suit as well. 

What we didn't expect was to get everything for under £200.  A bargain!!

Our total haul - one suit jacket, two pairs of suit trousers, 7 smart shirts, 6 new ties, six casual collared T shirts, 10 pairs of underpants, 5 pairs of smart socks and 5 pairs of sports socks.
Only a couple of the T shirts were actually in the sale the rest were all at normal price.   Total spend on clothes £183, what an absolute bargain.

We kept our eyes firmly on what we needed and refused to be tempted by the cut price foody leftovers from the holiday season.  We re-stocked with a bit of fresh salady stuff and bought some bread and milk then set off for home with the rest of our hard earned cash still securely tucked in our pockets.

As we left the store, around 11.30 ish, cars were streaming into the car park, obviously the staff were in for a much busier afternoon.
Now with all the T shirts in the wash and the shirts washed and ready to iron, LH is all set for his return to work after his long Christmas break, very smart and with money still in the bank - result !

Today he is sorting through his wardrobe and moving everything 'down a level', that means the T shirts he already has get used for working on the farm, the previous 'farm' T shirts and old shirts (after removing buttons) get turned into cloths for dusting and tractor maintenance.  He owns four pairs of jeans, one pair new, one pair reasonably  good and two scruffy pairs for farm work and he has his smart leather style jacket for casual wear and a couple of body warmers and big jackets for working on the farm in and doggy walks. That's all he needs and more importantly all he wants.  His new buys will be given pride of place in the wardrobe and looked after well to ensure as many wears as possible.  He usually works four days a week at the office, so he now has eight smart shirts in total, plus a few short sleeved ones for the hottest days of Summer.

In some peoples eyes that would be exessive, in others it would be minimal, it suits us and makes life simple, I can wash and iron his shirts once a week, and so cut down on washing machine and iron use, and therefore electricity by having this many.
After our 'Year of Living Simply' this is a good start to our new year -
'From Simple to Frugal....and Beyond'  (one couples journey to jump off the consumer bandwagon)
More details to follow.
Sue xx

Tuesday 27 December 2011

There's been way too much food this holiday......

... some of it in large portions and some in smaller, I did lots of mini things for the buffet at my Mum and Dads on Christmas Day, the big Banoffee Pie above is normal size it's the little one that's super little!!

 We had our Christmas dinner yesterday, a lovely lazy day, watching television, eating and drinking and generally just chilling out big style.  Lovely Hubby had pheasant and I had Linda's Veggie roast to try it (verdict - not bad, but just the veggies, stuffing and gravy would have been as good).
We've watched lots of Christmassy films and films that made us well up and go 'awwww'.  Feeling completely chilled now and ready to start on our sorting and planning for the New Year. 
We have to visit the dreaded place today (the supermarket), LH needs some new shirts and ties for work and his favourite shop for them is Asda, so Mr George here we come....what do you have available in the sale?

Somebody else got new clothes for Christmas, but she discovered if she rolled on her back she could get her little legs out of the sleeves and almost escape!!

Anyway why do you need a jacket of your own when you can share Dad's on the way back from a long walk and get all cosy.

Sue xx

Saturday 24 December 2011

Wishing all the readers, followers, friends, Blogging buddies and all our very special family members the most wonderful Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous and happy New Year.
We'll be back in a few days with news of our new home, our Challenge for the New Year and lots more news and happenings here on the farm in wet and windy Oxfordshire.
In the meantime, keep warm, have fun and most of all enjoy yourselves in whatever way you choose.
Happy Christmas
Sue and Alan xx

Last night when Lovely Hubby went out to close up the henhouses, he had a bit of a shock (understatement of the year).  The girls in house number one were squawking and leaping out the door, sat in the back corner trying to pin one down was Mr Fox, LH quickly got all the girls out and shut the fox into the house.  He banged on the window and shouted for me to get his gun, I did and the nasty fox that has been terrorising my girls over the past couple of weeks is now a goner.
Then we had the task of finding the now dispersed chickens in the pitch black with only one working torch and the rain pouring down.  Looking under the vehicles and shining the torch under every tree and bush  meant we found around nine or ten more of the chickens who had run for their lives, one was hiding under the cowavan with Toby the black cat.  Others we hoped were somewhere safe as we had found no bodies.
This morning at first light we heard the crowing of one of the young cockerels in the raised beds at the back of the house and then from the little bank of trees behind the house came a steady stream of  hens, looking non to worse for wear for their night of camping in the 'forest'.  After a head count, a search around, and finding no piles of feathers we sadly guessed that we had lost just two of the young cockerels to the fox, but we guessed wrong!!
Rosy, the Jack Russell was frantically pawing at the hollow tree to the front of the house, so LH went and shone his torch into the opening and there lying low and waiting for his Mum was a young badger and next to him, a pile of grey feathers.  Obviously they had taken advantage of the boys who had unfortunately chose the wrong place to try and roost for the night.

We have no problem with nature and I'm glad in a way that they slept with full tummies, although I will miss my lovely little boys. The Badgers will not be shot or harmed, their location will be kept secret and, as they hunt at night when my chickens are usually tucked up safe and sound, the two should be able to live in harmony with a bit of extra care for the birds from us.

We're both sad in a way at the death of a magnificent looking animal, but he had been picking off my birds, living wild and had a pretty good life looking at the condition of him, but when you take on the responsibilty of looking after chickens you have a duty of care to protect them from predators, and I'm so very glad that my brave man was there to do just that.
We expect no eggs today as the birds from house numbr one are completely traumatised.  But thanks to Lovely Hubby they live to lay another day.

(All photos from Google Images)
Sue xx

Omlet Cartoon