Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Worth the wait...

Well, we're halfway through the summer holidays now and have been busy bees, hardly having time to blog at all.

We've finally got around to doing 2 things that have been on my list since Mr J moved down to Bath....
First we visited the Roman Baths ( local residents can actually get in for free with a discovery card).
We spent the morning wandering around like tourists, but surprisingly took few photos, as we knew we could come back again whenever we felt like it!!

The other was to visit a local wood and find the Waterfall. I'd never visited Greyfield Wood before, we are lucky enough to have so many wonderful woods to walk around here, but friend had told me of the waterfall so we were intrigued.

The map gave no indication of a waterfall at all so we set off to explore.....

It was definitely worth the wait!!! We climbed the rocks to the top of the waterfall and ate our picnic.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

A new blog!!!!!!

An idea hit me the other day to start a new blog, recording our changes towards the simple life! Please pop over to read it and let me know what you think!!!

I'll be posting the self sufficiency and simple living stuff there from now on and keep this one for other stuff, or maybe do both!!! ... bear with me till i decide!!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

The Peasedown Pigeons

The flock has finally landed!! Last summer I took the children to a mosaic workshop (by nesa) at the village day and we made pigeons!!!

Over 30 people did the same and the results have now been displayed around the village, on various buildings, the centrepiece being on the co-operative. One of ours is on the bakers, another on the school. They are being released by a miner, celebrating Peasedown's position and history at the centre of the former Somerset coalfield and the long association between miners and racing pigeons.

We are so lucky to have stong community art projects in this area.

More details below





What happens where you live? What is your towns history?

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Vegetable plantings ......

...... or I spy with my little eye something beginning with P!!!!
(Cold frame made from recycled wood by my lovely boyfriend )

It must be getting warmer because the Peas are up and I've been busy planting seeds!!!!!

Update from 22.02.09
Peas: Feltham First
Planted last November these are growing nicely in the coldframe! Harvest should be ready for harvest at the start of May - August. More can be own now (Mar - May) for a longer harvest.

Garlic: Supermarket
November I planted cloves from a supermarket bulb, these are now 6 inch high shoots! The recent frosts / snow should be great for splitting the bulb into cloves.

Potatoes: Supermarket
The spuds I planted last year were dug up by the kids (searching for worms!) so I planted more today.

Lettuce: Unwins Organic Cut & Come Again :
Planted indoors in two drills will be ready for harvest May - Oct. Can be planted outside April - July. I'll be re planting every 3 weeks to ensure a continuous crop.

Carrots: Early Nantes 2
Planted 6" in the coldframe, these are old seeds so not sure if they'll germinate?

Summer Cabbage: Primo
The seeds I planted last year inside (wrong time!!) are looking long and leggy but green, I think I might scrap those and put them in a stir-fry and start again. I can sow more inside this month or outside in April. Harvest Jul - Aug.

Runner beans: nursery buy from last year
Sown inside, in recycled loo rolls! We'll plant these

Onions: nursery buy from last year
The sets are growing nicely in the trough, putting up shoots, twigs in the mud seem to be keeping cats / birds off!!


I've decided we need some flowers in the garden as well!

French Marigolds: Marionette Mixed
Companion planting to keep the pests off the veggies!

12 seeds planted in the propogator on the living room windowsill. Several have sprouted within the week!!

Nasturtiums: Maharajah mixed
Edible beauties to cheer up our salads!

Planted in propogator. None sprouted yet!

Loads more seeds in the basket to plant but not ready yet!!!!

Saturday, 7 February 2009

How to make rice milk and oat milk

Ok, so we have enough milk to keep us going a few more days, but maybe you haven't? What are you going to do, the shop shelves are empty.
How about you make your own? I've found recipes now for rice milk (delicious in red bush tea) and oat milk.....

Rice Milk

1/4 cup brown rice
4 cups boiling water

Put into a saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1hr. Allow to cool and blend till smooth. Strain through muslin.

It looks less milky than milk but tastes just as good, with a nice light rice taste! I reused the strained rice adding sugar and heating to make a (gruel like) rice pudding!!!

Oat Milk

3 Cups Very Hot Water
1 Cup Rolled Oats
2 Tsp Sweet White or Barley Miso

Combine all ingredients in a container with a lid, being sure that miso is dissolved. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, blend until smooth in a blender or food processor. Keeps for one week. Always shake before serving.

The miso is there for added B12 and fermentation, but I dont have any in so I'll be trialling it without for now???

Does anyone else have any tips for 'making do' with store cupboard stuff?

Friday, 6 February 2009

What do when you are snowed in - and everyone else is panicking

or rather how I've been coping!

Its been snowing here for a week now and it seems as if the country has ground to a halt! We hardly ever get snow here, a mild dusting if we are lucky, never enough for a snowball let alone a snowman or sledging, yet we have had 5 inches on the ground for the last week.
Before the snow, we dropped our car at the mechanics for repairs, bad move! Unable to walk very far in the best of weather I have been almost housebound for 7 days ! Even if we had a car we couldn't get far - the councils in the south west are running out of grit to treat the roads.
The start of this week was traditionally when I would have done my fortnightly shop, so Yesterday I finally ventured out, (we needed eggs and sugar), the snow was beautiful as we walked into the village..... if you see the two footprints with the small round hole next to them, littered with smowballs that me!! trainers with breadbags inside to stop my feet getting wet (my wellies give me blisters!) and a walking stick to steady me whilst the kids and PJ attacked me with snowballs!!
The village was transformed it was full of families walking together (school has only been open 1 day this week) but when we got to the shop the shelves were alarmingly empty - no milk at all! We popped across to the butcher for free range eggs and local cheese then headed home, thankful that I had supplies at home of the staples that were quickly disappearing from the Cooperative!

Steps to take to be prepared:-
Keep a stockpile of essentials to keep you going
MILK - we always buy cartons of UHT milk anyway, and always ensure we have a weeks worth in. A supply of dried powdered milk is our backup for longer periods.
BREAD - we have frozen loaves at home but also enough supplies to make our own for a few weeks
WATER - We have bottled water, but are looking at ways we can harvest rainwater for drinking etc.
FOOD - we have frozen meals and ingredients at hand to last and a good supply of tinned goods and dried food to keep us going for a good while. Thinking about whats plentiful / in short supply can help us emergency meal plan. Luxeries are put on hold or rationed out.
FUEL - (essential as I can't walk far) we keep our car tanks topped up with diesel so strikes and shortages shouldn't bother us for a while. We minimise car useage.
ELECTRIC - We have candles for power cuts and for the future we are looking at solar panels and storage.

This isn't by anymeans a complete list just a reminder for me more than anything. A good post on stockpiling can be found here and here The website food lifeboat gives great daily dietry recommendations .

Rhonda over at down to earth has loads of posts on this whole topic here

Monday, 2 February 2009

Celebrating simple traditions - Candlemas Day

Looking out at the frosts today and predicted snow its hard to think that Winter will soon be over yet in pre-Christian times, Feb 2 was a day of celebration known as the "Festival of Lights." Coming midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, it heralded the coming of spring.

Candles were lit to symbolize the return of the sun and lengthening days after the long months of winter darkness. Called Imbolc in Celtic cultures, this day marked the beginning of lambing season, and according to folkloric tradition, the initial stirrings of seeds in the earth.

The holiday is a festival of the hearth and home, and a celebration of the lengthening days and the early signs of spring. Rituals often involve hearthfires, special foods, divination or simply watching for omens (whether performed in all seriousness or as children's games), a great deal of candles, and perhaps an outdoor bonfire if the weather permits.

So tonight we will fill the house with candles and celebrate Candlemas!!!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Living without a refridgerator Challenge - one month on

I'm sorry I haven't posted for a while, the last two weeks have been awful. I've had a few personal problems and aswell as having to focus all my efforts on finding a job (unlucky so far) i've had my dream of keeping chickens here cruely snatched away from me. Breaking it to the children that we had to cancel our trip to colllect them broke my heart!

Today marks a whole month of living without a refridgerator..... have we missed it?


We've been coping by keeping chilled goods in a keepcool and chilling it with iceblocks or recycled plastic bottles of frozen water that we change morning and evening.

Over the month i've learnt that

I need to keep my milk covered - smells seem to transfer easier in a confined space.
I should cut cheese into portion sizes when I buy it and then freeze them so we only defrost a couple of days worth at a time to use.

We haven't had to throw away any food from the cool box, you know exactly whats in there! I often threw spoiled food awy from the fridge as I had forgotten it was in there.
I don't put leftovers into the coolbox, i box them up and freeze them straight away.
Fresh vegetables have been kept in a vegetable rack and used within a couple of days with little or no wastage ( I started shopping at a market stall and served by the stall holder not sure if i bought damaged beg or not). I'll be monitoring this and looking for better places to keep these.

Steps I have taken this week towards more simple living:-
The children have walked to school 4 out of 5 days
I have cut back on hours at school to re balance my work / home life
I have turned off a freezer and removed it from the kitchen

Friday, 16 January 2009

What to do when your kids have too many toys!!!

Too many toys, can there really be such a thing? Well from a child's point of view probably not but from a parents then the answer is definitely yes!!! Christmas has been and gone and left hundreds of toys in its wake!!!! Theres a birthday in less than a month and the sheer volume of stuff is driving me insane!!

I've always struggled getting rid of toys in the past. As a single mum I've worried about not being able to buy more if we needed to and guilty about passing toys on. But on the flip side step families mean more places to get presents from (unfortunately one side uses buying stuff as showing love?) so enough is enough......

Rule One - if someone else bought the toy (nanny, auntie, great gran ..... ) and we have enough at home, ask if the toy can be kept at their house to play with there instead. Any ones sneaking through the net - my children are great at hiding things to bring home to mummy's - will be sent straight back with them next visit!

Rule two - we do not need a houseful of toys. The children can have 2 cupboards downstairs and a small toy box in their room

Rule three - the toy should at least try to be educational there is a great post on junk toys here. Working in a nursery has given me great insight here, LOTS of play things have educational value, stitching / threading promotes hand eye coordination, role play (dressing up, home area)can help us understand the world around us. Mark making (chalks, pens) can help children develop writing skills. Games such as battleships can even help children to use spreadsheets better when they are older....( B1, C3, co-ordinates). So our toys at home will fit into the following categories...

Small World / Roleplay - Cars, Horses, Dressup, Cooking

Imaginative Play - Dress up costumes

Creative - Sewing, Chalks, Fuzzyfelts, Drawing

Physical - Skipping Ropes, Bean bags

Rule four - Future Purchases must be as 'green' as possible. Are the materials natural?, Is it sustainable, does it have educational value, how long will the children enjoy this for, where will it end up - will it compost, recyle, be used again? What consumables will it use ( batteries etc). Will it prevent my children from enjoying 'the real world'?

Rule five - I will prep nannys as too what makes a good pressie and how it doesn't always have to be toys. Great examples at xmas were a sewing box, a mini tool kit (real tools not plastic) and a dinosaur apron and cookie cutters, I mean ALL children enjoy helping out in real life tasks and copying mummy /daddy, don't they!!!?

Rule Six - if it is broken toss it, if it is no longer played with or not age appropriate, donate it!!
These are my rules for my house, but hopefully there's a bit of common sense in there that you can all apply in your own house.
What tips do you have to share?

Thursday, 15 January 2009

How to start saving when you haven't any money!!

Everybody knows they should be saving but how can you if at the end of the month there's nothing left?
I've always known the importance of saving, squirreling away small piles of notes for 'the future' then raiding them when the car breaks down. This was fine when I worked for a living, I could soon restock the piles when my wage packet arrived, but how do you save when the amount coming in only covers your living expenses???

Cut your Outgoings - Nights out, takeaways and new fancy clothes can all be easily cut from your spendings, but if like me you've already cut these or didn't spend them to start with you need to look at your essentials and cut back. Check are you on the best deals for your utilities? go to a comparison site and check or ask your supplier if there is a better package they can put you on?

comparethemarket.com or uswitch.com both offer online searches

Make A budget - Get your bills and your statements infront of you and work out where your money's going. You can then choose to cut back on non -essentials (do you really need to spend £1.90 once a week on coffee or could you take a flask?) For the essentials (gas, electric, telephone etc) you now have accurate figures of what you spend.

Deal in Cash - Once you have written down the amounts you need each month, withdraw that amount and put it into a small envelope for the month. I keep each of my spendings seperate, money for 'petrol' and 'food' are both in seperate brown envelopes. Having only cash I can't go over my set budget and am more likely to search for bargains doing so. Any money left in the envelope atthe end of the month can go straight into your savings.

Friday, 9 January 2009

How to use Soap Nuts

A while back I bought some soap nuts. I've used them in my washing machine as a laundry cleaner* but knew they were capable of so much more....

* Tie 4-6 soap nut shells in a muslin bag (provided with most soap nuts orders) and put it in the washing machine load at a desired temperature. You can use the same pouch for 4 to 6 loads of laundry. When the shells become grayish and mushy, they are ready to be replaced and added to your compost. My next step in replacing commercial products is to use them as a dishwashing liquid.
Dishwashing Liquid Recipe

To make the liquid, boil 100g of soap nuts in 12 cups of water for approximately 30 minutes. Cool the liquid, remove the shells, and your liquid soap is ready! Storing the liquid in an air tight container helps it to keep longer. Because there are no added chemicals in soap nuts liquid, it can go bad after some time, depending on the storing conditions. You can use this liquid for washing the dishes or even use 3 tbsp for a large load of laundry.
This liquid can then be used as castilles soap in other recipes such as towards sutainabilities recipe here or melissas here

Thursday, 8 January 2009

The Journey to Simplicity

P at St Fagans

Last Autumn we visited the Museum of Welsh Life at St Fagans in Wales, It had an amazing impact on me. For those of you who haven't heard of it, they have a collection of houses throughout the ages from all over Wales rebuilt in the grounds ( taken apart brick by brick on location, numbered and reassembled there!) There is an amazing amount of interesting buildings there but what hit me most was how simply everyone lived, 1 room, fireplace, bed and vegetables growing in the garden. It was so peaceful. I ran home wanting to rid myself of all the 'junk' I had accumilated, rid myself of the 'things' I didn't need.

Pig Sty

We decluttered and freecycled. I gave away 2 of the TVs and watched alot less on the remaining 2!!! We did what I saw was what we could do ''whilst we lived here" and made plans for greater changes we would make "when we move" We are not moving imminently though, it will take us 2 - 5 years to save and find our next house, it will be simpler, possibly smaller but with more land.

Veg Garden St Fagans

I realised recently that although somethings are best saving till we move, solar panels, recycling grey water into toilets etc, other things we were just using 'the move' as an excuse. So from now we will live the life we can whilst we are here.

Big House, St Fagans
P has already quit working for others and started his own business, I have started to retrain to work in schools. Even though we will still have to 'go to work to pay the bills' our days will be more fulfilling and our hours more family freindly. My flock of chickens will have to wait but I am currently exploring the possibility of keeping 3 bantams here in the back garden. We have stopped buying shop bread and have learnt how to use the timer on our bread machine meaning I come downstairs to the beautiful smell of fresh bread in he morning!

Stop putting off living the life you want, waiting for the time to be right - start living it now!!

What dreams are you putting off that you might be able to start the journey on today?

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Homemade Gifts

Christmas this year was fab I can't think of ANY presents I didn't like!! Or like giving for that matter. For one reason or another there were a great deal of homemade gifts given.....

The two monsters above were given to my two little monsters!!! Another larger one was given to P made from an old fleece jumper he loved but no longer wore.

I made christmas cakes and orange vodka for friends. In return I got jars of apple chutney and home laid eggs.

P's mum gave us a homemade hamper full of goodies she had baked and knitted us wrist warmers, my mum knitted us scarves and bought me an oldfashioned mixing bowl ( ready to make lots of future home-made goodies)

My brother treated us to a visit to the zoo complete with behind the scenes tips and talk ( he volunteers in the butterfly and bug enclosures).

So lots of homemade goodies and experiences, as well as a camcorder from P to record them all on :)

Monday, 5 January 2009

Homemade washing powder

I'm going to try make my own washing powder again, last years trial recipe wasn't great so I've searched the 'net again and found a new one that seems good.

6 oz soap (flakes or whatever soap I have, but avoid synthetically perfumed ones),

2 cups borax and

2 cups of washing soda.

(All available at hardware stores, some chemists or supermarket)

Finely grate the soap (if not using flakes) and add to the other two ingredients, mix well, and store in a cool dry place. You can grate the soap by hand, or put it through the food processor, but make sure to wash it thoroughly afterwards.

I'll be trying it later this week

Friday, 2 January 2009

The Presence of Trees

"I have always felt the living presence

of trees,

the forest that calls to me as deeply

as I breathe,

as though the woods were marrow of my bone

as though

I myself were tree, a breathing, reaching

arc of the larger canopy

beside a brook bubbling to foam

like the one

deep in these woods,

that calls

that whispers home."

Michael S Glaser

I cannot say how much I love this! So beautiful, and very, very relevant.

Living without a refridgerator Challenge - day 1

Yesterday I turned off my refridgerator and today we put it into storage. Milk and cheese have been put into a coolbox with an ice block. I'm no way ready to do without my freezer ( I've moved my freezer from the garage into the fridge space in the kitchen) but living without a refridgerator seems easy to me.
My fridge was always mostly empty and alot of the food in there would be forgotten and go mouldy. I'm hoping now extra portions of food can be cooled quickly and put straight into the freezer rather than sit in the fridge waiting to be transfered - forget - and then find it gone off too late!!!
Most people so far have said I am mad or it can't be done - so begins the challenge - I wonder how it will change the way we live? At least we'll have lower electric bills finding out!!
What do you think? Mad or Genius!!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New Year! Reflections on 2008 and hopes for 2009!!

2008 seems to have sped past in a bit of a blur. Although I am pleased to say it was the year when I began on my small changes to a simpler, greener life. I made small changes around the home to begin the path to greener living..... I changed light bulbs to energy efficient ones, hung a washing line in the garden and planted some vegetables in the back garden composting our kitchen waste. I home cooked most of our meals and we turned vegetarian! I also started on a path back to working life, gaining a student placement at the local primary and training to be a teaching assistant.

Next year I hope to step do more, learning how to be more self sufficient, reducing our outgoings and carbon footprint. I want to make more local friendships, join community projects and teach the children the values of green, simple living.

Some of my goals for this year are:

1. Do without a refridgerator
2. Make our own Dishwashing Liquid
3. Make our own Bread
4. Live Local (focus on local activities, holidays and events)
5. Join a local community group
6. Reduce our carbon footprint
7. Learn how to make clothes for me and children
8. Start another waterbutt
9. Cook outside
10. Harvest grey water for garden
11. Reduce our use of cars and car expenses
12. Save at least £1500
13. Look into solar power
14. Recycle more
15. Shop Locally
16. Teach Paul and children to cook
17. Reduce our Gas and Electric Use
18. Use less water
19. Get a satisfying job after I qualify
20. To make the home warm and welcoming, using more natural products

What are your goals for this year?