The Big Summer Plan!

My Big Green Summer.

I had decided on this plan sometime ago, but my time here in the UK has made me more determined than ever to go ahead with it.

My partner will be heading home to the Philippines for six weeks this summer. I had decided to take two weeks off during that time, as we won’t be able to find time for a holiday together until Christmas at the earliest.

Wanting to save money during my holiday rather than spend more, especially as my time-off is unpaid, I will stay home and set myself a challenge.

So, for the whole of July I will avoid using any electricity. That means the first fortnight literally using none, but I will need to charge and power my laptop and the modem (only) for work in the second-half of the month.

I will fetch water from the local fountain for watering the plants and also for my showers. Which I will take on the terrace, using the sun to heat a bag of water – much like a camping shower.

I will hopefully have a good crop by then and will in the coming months preserve food we grow and from the market. The only thing I will spend on is my drinking water and will try stock up on dry ingredients like oats and rice and possibly stuff for baking bread.

However, I will have to cook all my food on the wood burning stove or eat it fresh. Additionally, I will try going vegetarian during this time. Excluding the eggs, I guess I’ll be vegan. We’ve already unplugged the fridge-freezer, so preserving is going to become essential in future. And what with only eating local we’ll need to stock-up for winter too. So this should be good practice.

That also means using only candle light once more, reading or playing tabletop games for entertainment during daylight hours plus going for long walks and hopefully some foraging. Cooling the house will not be an option, aside from opening windows and hoping for a cool breeze.

Who knows, all being well this could easily become a permanent/long-term switch. Heating in the deepest of winter would still be an issue and keeping my partner off of games consoles another. Well, let’s not worry about that for now.

I am very excited and eager to try going back to basics as much as possible. :-D

Home from Home

So, I am off to the UK for a month.

This has put some extra strain on our dwindling funds. Needing time off and costs and cost-of-living in England being much higher. No complaints though, I am happy to spend some much need and overdue time with my folks.

My partner is in charge of watering plants, but am delaying planting new seeds until my return. I have a few things to share but keep forgetting what I have and haven’t posted.

The most exciting thing is the transformation of our barren terrace, full of cement and dust and stone, into a mini-Eden. We’ve got some flowers in to attract insects, we now have some spiders and beetles in residence and get daily visits from bees. We’ve put out bird seed and get frequent visits from a local bird similar to Blue Tits, Sparrows and a female Black Bird.

I’ve given up on home-made soap, it costs more money and time than supporting a local small business. I’d put tinfoil/card insulators behind the radiators during the early winter, before switching heating off.

What else did I need to say?

I’ve still to properly hang the bat boxes and we are now looking to make a bird bath and some bird houses. We’re willing to have more wildlife friendly plants and flowers until we become better at growing crops.

We’ve found some of the funds we needed but are still too short. Sorry to end on a negative note, but I best get back to packing.

Not wanting to end there, here’s some photos I’ve not yet shared:

The Big Update!

It has been six months since starting this blog, and now feels like the ideal time to give you all an update and help remind myself of what we’ve already achieved and what we want to work towards in the months and years ahead.

It’s also time again to spend a little more, in hope of saving a lot later. I’m also really keen to lessen our impact on the planet some more and in the process become a smidgen more self-sufficient.

Food, Shopping & Waste .

I am working more hours than I’d like, to pay off our little loan. However, we have found ourselves with a few extra pennies each week. Rather than continue to cut our food budget to the absolute minimum, we have decided to take responsibility and have set ourselves a few guidelines for the food we will buy in future.

Our food should meet as many of the following points as possible:

  • be organic
  • be vegetarian (but we’re still eating eggs)
  • be fair-trade
  • be as locally produced as we can find
  • have minimal packaging, especially plastics

There’s one exception to buying local, as I’m not aware of any coffee plantations in Spain.

Giving up caffeine is something I’ll work towards, but not before my hours drop back down. It’s also a bit too cold for us to grow olives here, something that has become a favourite snack of ours.

Organic, fair-trade and local produce tend to be a little pricier than normal products found in supermarkets, but we’ll also be supporting local businesses, small shops, and also local producers when buying fresh stuff in the bi-weekly farmer’s market. Which seems like a good compromise.

We’ve already come to accept that going totally moneyless is not a reality for us, not just yet. We will of course continue to reduce our need for money as much as we can.

And of course, we’re hopeful that the majority of our vegetables and some of our fruit will be home-grown… eventually.

Also, we hope to reduce our weekly waste. Something that has already happened without much thought. 80-90% of our weekly rubbish is recyclable and another 5-10% is organic.

After last summer’s worm massacre, we’ve yet to set up a real composting system. This is something else we will address. Having today spent some money on a decent compost bin, both one for the kitchen and one for the terrace.

I’m hoping to get all those rubbish numbers as close to 0% as I can. Composting kitchen waste and using reusable bags not just for carrying our groceries but for rice, oats and anything else I can find bought from larger sacks. Thankfully most of the organic shops have options for buying these plus nuts, quinoa, couscous and more in this manner.

So, we’ll try to make some sacks of our own to avoid using the plastic (supposedly biodegradable) from the shops loose produce section. We’ve also paid a bit more than usual for truly biodegradable bin bags, made from corn starch[!?] or something similar.

We’ve not gone fully vegan, but are still largely vegetarian. We eat eggs and have the odd treat of some cheese. Once in a while we still eat some chicken too.
(More about chickens/eggs in the garden section.)

I’m currently looking into healthier options for our cat, the food we buy her now is expensive and processed. I have found a supplement that can be added to meat. Sure, we’ll still be supporting the meat industry and all the problems that brings, but my cat is a part of the family and deserves a healthy diet.

Keeping Warm.

We’ve given up on the olive oil lamps, not great light sources and yet amazing little heaters. I’ll try to find some way to use the parts and might come back to them next winter. The heating is now off and will stay that way indefinitely.

We’re also using our current small increase in financial stability to invest in beeswax tea lights. I hadn’t really thought about the ones we were using before, it was only when the last batch we bought produced a very nasty smell that we decided (much like our food) to go as natural/organic as possible.

I’ve found some that are sold with the option of not having the aluminium cups/containers. I have actually been keeping all of the ones we’ve used with the idea of an art project or upcycling of some sort in future. So, I can reuse them again for now with the new candles. I should do the same with our other light-candles, but we will use what we have first.

Power.

We found out where our power comes from, a nice move on our power company. Utter transparency and honesty, but not such a pleasant surprise. The breakdown was more or less:

    • 20% renewable (a good start)
    • 25% coal (the horror!!!!)
    • 25% nuclear (oh dear!!)

I still need to translate the remaining 30% which came from several different sources.

Well, finding alternatives to both save money and not use this wicked electricity has become an even bigger issue for me.

Thankfully we have unplugged the fridge-freezer and the only major energy we use is my computer for work. Having eventually failed at trying a tablet and a low-energy computer like the Raspberry Pi.

The other three big items is the washing machine, and my husband’s Xbox and TV. He is very much willing to take on this lifestyle change with the exception of one of his favourite games. I’ve asked him to play less, but have promised not to ask him to stop altogether.

Let’s see how it goes, sometimes he says he wants a new electric razor and this and that. Maybe it’s old habits or maybe he’s just thinking out loud and not entirely serious about getting these things.

Currently we are generating our own power from the wood burning oven and kettle that both use heat to make power, plus the old small solar panels and a some wind-up torches.

In the future I’d really like a small wind turbine, rather than a questionable (environmentally-friendly speaking) solar panel and perhaps more human-powered options.

I’ve decided to donate my Kindle to my father, once I’ve read all the books, as I know he is interested in getting one. I’ll ask that he sells/hands it on in future and so my concerns over its sustainability should have been solved.

Cleanliness.

I have been using soaps and shampoos again, and I did need a shave last month.

I had a Xmas treat of a haircut too. I kept the top long, and just had the sides shaved. So, I can still see exactly how much my hair has grown.

I am not changing my mind about not shaving or cutting my hair, this was simply an end of year treat.

I am reading about making my own soap/shampoo and won’t buy new products. I need to be ready with my own by the time our supply runs out, or go a few weeks again without any.

I am still peeing in the bidet to save water, but once our compost bin is established I’ll be peeing there. I’m sure the neighbours will be giving me some funny looks, but I need to set up a screen for me to also have showers outdoors come summer.

It’s entirely possible for this screen to evolve into an outdoor shower and compost toilet cabin. I have been doing my research into compost toilets. And am wondering why these aren’t mandatory in all new buildings?! Well, it’s at the top of my wish-list but being one of the more pricey items, will not necessarily happen this year.

What about the garden?

I spent the princely sum of €0.80 to buy some garlic, lettuce, cabbage and a little more on a new apple tree, raspberry bush and I forget one more. We’ve planted seeds for some insect friendly flowers, more peas (our current ones were badly damaged in gales), cornflower, borage and chard.

I’m finally getting organized and have began making monthly planting schedules that I can refer to again year after year.

I also harvested some onions, but have replanted them to produce more. I was very excited to see five little onions had grown from the one I planted last year. Never have I smelt fresh onion before, wow!

We need to get more soil but have plenty of wood chippings left, and we’re avoiding spending money on more pots by upcycling anything and everything that has no other value or use. As part of our cutting down on rubbish, we now only have one bin, our old coffee maker, which no-one wants to buy, joins an old kettle, old cat litter box, mugs, vases, packets and more.

Having bees is a long way-a-way, given finding them locally has proven a headache. My source of worms has also disappeared, meaning I can’t get some once our compost bin has been established. :-(

And chickens? Given we still eat meat, and that I have found much cheaper starting options than I originally posted? Yes, they are back on the radar – but with no clear date in mind for when we’ll get them. I can always feed the kitchen scraps too, but will there be enough for feed and compost?

What else is new/old?

We’ve still got plenty of old pallets and wood to make more things but have no real need for anything just yet. Maybe our outdoor bathroom/screen or some pot containers. I guess there’s no rush to decide.

Sadly, I am still waiting for my Altered Nozzle, the sooner we get this and save some water the better.

We’re ready to sell on more items such as books and other odds, but having got sick of boxes, we recycled or upcycled them and will now just have to accept less for items than we had once hoped.

I’ve been checking through my social media and have lost access to my Tumblr, but I’m not currently too bothered by this. If you’re messaging me there, I won’t get it.

The future?

Let’s just see what happens with Instagram, vlogging and other social media, but for sure I am excited to continue writing here.

As I said, chickens sometime this year and hopefully bees who knows when.

Willow coppice for firewood is also on my list, but this may not be a reality until we have our own land… along with the wind turbine.

I plan on getting/making a camping shower for free hot water this summer, but in the meantime we will need the boiler and gas for short hot showers.

Other things for the longer future that require we own our home, need more land or basically money are a plant-based grey-water filtration system and that compost toilet.

I don’t expect many people dream and wish for a compost toilet, but I’m one of them now.

And of course, more crop plants.

 

Phew. I think I’ve said enough. Thanks for reading this mammoth post. I’m so excited for the year ahead, and hope you continue to follow us on this journey.

Current currency crisis!

I had a post all planned out in my head, talking about getting back into the swing of moneyless living, or as near as possible, after my relatives had left also updating you all on the end of my personal soap embargo and new ways I’m trying to trim as many pennies/cents as possible from our bills. Then disaster hit!

Yup. I’ve started using soap again but am still saving water from my showers. Now though it is kept for flushing the toilet. I’ve finally given up my long hot showers, using as little water as possible; rinse-stop, soap-up, rinse-done. Another luxury that was hard to say farewell too. The flip side of this is not having enough water for flushing.

So, I’ve taken to peeing in the bidet and rinsing it clean after (with old shower water). That saves a huge amount of water, even with our modern dual high/low flush compact toilet.

Not ideal, and I find myself dreaming of a compost toilet – but that’s something for the future.

What else did I want to tell you all? Oh, we’re still really considering a microwave, but I couldn’t convince my other-half to get a secondhand one. Still not sure that I want or need one.

And – we’re finding it harder to resist turning the heating on. Currently the boiler is set to hot water only, the radiators are all off and we are using candles as a source of heat.

 

 

Luckily we had previously bought two Egloos, one for the living room and other the bedroom, due to the poor insulation in our old flat. These do a fantastic job in the new place, giving us a nice toasty home (well, two rooms), but the mornings are so chilly that I have to wrestle with myself not to start the gas-powered central heating. Maybe it’ll be a Sunday morning treat.

So, yeah. Back to that disaster. A friend who’d previously lent us some money, also a way of thanking us for help, which had helped us payoff our few mini-loans and credit card bills, suddenly claimed life or death and needed a big chunk of it back.

Our only option was to borrow more money, we’ve put it on the credit cards for now and have applied for a normal loan… we’re currently waiting to be finalised as we were pre-approved. Not a real disaster, but emotionally, spiritually and in respect of the way we want to live this is a fucking nightmare.

Well, what we had planned to save each month may now have to go towards clearing this debt for the next year or two. I was ready to quit, until realising I had no way out.

I’ve calmed down a lot, having accepted that personal loans from family and friends are as risky as bank loans. I’m not ready to give up and am even more determined to fight for my freedoms and rights to live without money.

Small Smelly Victories

The small victories need to be celebrated. Having become more aware of how much water we are using I switched from a hose, with its endless stream of water, to a watering can.

I counted the number of times I filled it and took note of the amount of water that flowed away down the drains. 12+ was my count.

Since then I have cut down to 7.5 fills of the four litre watering can. There’s still some puddles on the tiles but nothing like before. Sure the sudden drop in temperature and cloudy days could explain the need for less water, but I am happy to know that less is being wasted.

Never in my life have I wished for rain so much, a day with zero litres from my own tap is the best!

I am already working on cutting that number down on rainless days too. Following the Moneyless Man’s advice on cosmetics, I gave up using any products during my daily shower. With the idea of then using the same water to help thirsty plants.

The temperature was a sweaty 30 degrees when I started, but the cooler temperatures have settled in now. It’s been almost two weeks and I must say, I am happy.

I have no idea how my hair smells, but it looks and feels amazing. The only odor I am fighting (with regular washes) is my armpits. Maybe I do have a natural smell about me, but my partner hasn’t complained.

My skin is better and the blackheads are finally in retreat after half a lifetime of chemical warfare. I do give my nose an extra scrub with a hard sponge to help, but no soaps or scrubs.

Looking to the months ahead, I wonder if perhaps a change in my diet would help with the stinky pits, but at least the rest of me isn’t stinky …not even my privates!

I’m still using soap and/or hand sanitizer for washing my hands, I don’t think that’s something I could give up. And alternatives to toothpaste is something that’ll have to wait.

It is still sandal season, so fighting off potential cheesy feet could well be the next challenge.

What else has changed? My partner has started lighting candles and not switching on lights without me having to ask. :-)

We are eating less crap and cooking more, and we’re losing weight as a result. We both have more energy and are going for regular short walks. We are both sleeping better too.

I am reading a lot, lot more. I am stocked up on unread books so unplugging the TV was the best decision. I still haven’t sold off my smartphone or tablet, too nervous to let them go just yet.

Still I am preparing for their departure, especially after finding a new mobile tariff that includes a few free SMS and unlimited phone calls. This is less than a third of my current plan, includes a free dumb phone and means I do not get distracted by social media, emails or chats all the time as it has zero data.

The weird thing was that it included a mobile number and a wireless “landline” number but these are locked to the somewhat dumb-dumb phone. I guess it was designed for technophobes or older people with poor eyesight. It’s no fashion setter but it’ll function for what I need. I rarely message my partner, as we often see each other during lunch breaks. I prefer to meet friends rather than use an app to talk and I can still Skype family and send emails when on my computer.

So yeah, I really need the call time for work and for the odd personal call but that’s all. This isn’t something that happened quickly or easily as I started cutting back on my apps and internet usage about a year ago. Still, everyone is used to the idea now so this shouldn’t be a big adjustment.

I am getting off topic now. In fact it’s time to go collect some firewood, I’ll explain that next time.