A Little, Big Confession

So, it’s time to come clean and admit that I am fat. Real fat.

I tried running a second blog to focus on that, but found that my heart was here and on all the things Not Two Pennies is about.

Sure, the home-made foods that were increasingly vegetarian and the fact that I am generally more active have helped to stop my weight from climbing higher and higher.

That though is clearly not enough, I am a walker but not someone who generally seeks out exercise. I love food, and even though we have dramatically cut back on processed foods, fast food and snacks… well, we haven’t cut them out!

With my change to working from home about 14 months ago, I had become increasingly aware of my lack of any activity. Somewhat foolishly we earmarked and stored the very things that were supposed to help.

In our new green, clean and cheaper lifestyle the pedometers, running apps, smart weighing scales, exercise bike and so forth had to go.

I was regretting that decision and was planning to retrieve them from storage. Telling myself that when the day comes that I have instilled the habit of exercising, eating right and have reduced my weight to healthier levels then they can be sold, donated or upcycled.

Thing is, can I trust myself enough to have a smartphone for the purposes of tracking my daily activity (something that worked well for me in the past), to prompt me to move and teach me to run? Ha, never thought I’d be a runner.

Our electricity consumption would certainly increase a little once more, but what a small price for my [hopefully] guaranteed health? Heart disease, diabetes and gout run in the family and it’s time now that I take better care of myself.

However, I am glad to have reached a much more sustainable decision. Doctors all speak about time spent doing exercise, not miles or steps or anything else. When I was healthier in the past, all I simply did was walk.

And that is what I’ll do. I will walk and walk, and aim for a minimum number of daily minutes of walking. I’ll walk slowly, briskly and quickly. Yet that is all. Walk.

From the time before we stopped spending we have a cupboard full of this weird nutrient shake (Joylent) that I will now use-up to ensure I am getting all my body needs for the next 20 days. I will struggle with the headaches and shakes as my body adjusts to a world without sugars, salts, all manner of chemicals and most of all caffeine.

I won’t be buying more of this stuff, and will switch back to the diet I have previously explained here before. Local, organic, wholesome. A meat-free diet with some dairy and eggs.

In the past 24 hours since drafting this post I have had a change of heart, spurred on by some documentaries and some reading. I will in fact go fully vegan.

If the only way to reverse damage done by a western diet, of processed foods, meats, dairies and who knows what else, is to go 100% plant-based. Well then that is what I’ll do.

After the slightly sinister sounding nutrient shakes are gone (cannot waste food, even processed foods) I will try to do another 30 days. A reboot, a month of green juices similar to that seen in the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. Seems that the guy has done well and has expanded and improved on his detox, which will be my guide.

So long as we can beg, borrow or steal a juicer that is.

These are only a means of escaping the negative cycles I am currently trapped in, and in 50 days I will revert to that local, organic, wholesome and vegan diet I had previously wrote about – minus the meat, eggs and dairy.

I do not mean diet in the sense of a painful and dangerous weight-loss course, but as a way of eating and as a lifestyle that helps me to lose and then maintain a health body.

I have set myself out a few aims, firstly to get under 100kg as fast as healthy and sensibly possible. Then to lose another 15kg, to reach 85 and then in the future an additional 15 to reach the upper limit of a healthy weight for my height – 70kg.

Today my weight stands at 106kg. I know other body measurements but surely weight is the thing that matters most. I cannot promise in the future that I won’t turn to running, training, cycling, weights and so on nor can I promise that in order to reach my ideal weight I won’t turn to smart devices for help and encouragement.

Yet, right now, right here, I can promise not to do these things and hope to show that being healthy can be done for less. Less money, less environmentally damaging methods and less consumer driven approaches.

Wish me luck. :)

Distorted Digit

I am at danger of wishing away the entire year, and it’s only May!

The problem is paying of a significant chunk of our loan, which ends with the New Year, at which time our monthly repayments drop by more than half. Meaning I don’t have to sit biting my nails that I’ll have enough hours each month to just get by.

Next year, I can accept less hours and even save some money!

But, to wish away all this time is a problem I’ve had for too long. I need to enjoy the here and now and be prepared for tomorrow, but not to think or worry about it excessively.

This was a post I’d started before injuring my finger, which is as crooked as you’d like but healing up well and not painful any longer. Funny how being forced to take a step back changes things.

I am no longer worrying away my time, I was itching to get baking and gardening again and after two weeks or so off I have now utterly exhausted myself trying to catch up on chores.

My morning wasn’t so great either, discovering that the cat has decided to dig up our planters once more. All my wild flower seedlings and most of the new veggies (just planted out last week) have been utterly devastated. I can’t be angry at her by I am damned fucking disappointed. I was really looking forward to those wild flowers and the potential wildlife they’d attract.

No idea where I even got the seeds from. :-(

I’ve now staked out the bare patch to form a strange piece of garden art. I secretly hope that something grows back, but the reality isn’t so promising.

We are making progress towards my Big Summer Plan we’ve unplugged more electronics, but won’t let them go just yet. We’ve sold off some more things, but I have also decided that I’d like my home to feel like a home once more.

All the ornaments are back out on show. I won’t acquire any new and may let a few more go, but I’ve always been a nest builder. Maybe I was a Bowerbird in a previous life. :)

Shortly after injuring my finger I did show weakness and get myself a month of Netflix, but I am proud to say the few things I’ve watched/will watch are all documentaries and are mostly related to food, environment and health. Here’s a quick list in no particular order:

  • Gas Land
  • Requiem for the American Dream
  • Inside Job
  • Resistance
  • Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead (Part 1 and 2)
  • The Human Experiment
  • Sustainable
  • Super Size Me
  • Forks Over Knives
  • Food Choices
  • Terra
  • Live and Let Live
  • Foodmatters
  • Minimalism

Some insightful, depressing, intriguing, worrying but mainly though provoking stuff.

I have much more to tell you all but will have to leave it here for today. Time to work, only one more month before the first step down in hours, & salary. Cannot wait!

I’ll leave you with photos of the oh-so-delicious cherry tomato chutney I made this past weekend. YUM!

Baking, Making, Cooking

I’ve spent the week baking more bread, making jams, a sourdough starter and am planning to spend this afternoon cooking a vegetarian onion and potato tart.

Here’s a few pictures from the past week’s results, will post some of today’s tart later:

I am very aware of how much more I am using the (electric) oven, but I can justify that for knowing that our food is healthier and homemade.

While writing this, I’ve decided to bake a traditional Victoria Sponge cake, but will likely do that tomorrow. Will have to keep you waiting for those pics until tomorrow. ;)

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

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.

Hot or Not?

Getting back into moneyless, or even money-less, living after our Christmas break has proven difficult. Having to work more to pay off a loan and having a few extra treats has pushed our ultimate goal a little further away.

The trick is to not stress about growing food, instead I need to sit back and enjoy the process and learn from it… no matter the result. I also need to relax a little on the electricity side of things. The odd lamp or light isn’t such a terrible crime.

Although I now know where our power comes from. :-O More on that next post.

So, I have double checked about the house once more. Searching out those little sneaky plugs that have crept back toward reunion with their beloved sockets.

The biggest “splurge” we’ve allowed ourselves is heating. Not that our alternatives didn’t work. It was purely laziness, not having to worry about wrapping up and lighting candles, and being stuck in one room had proved much more of a challenge. Perhaps if we weren’t working so much and could have more time to enjoy being outside, walking, gardening or anything that helps keep you warm, we might just have succeeded.

Today though, the heating is being cut back and will go off for good in about a fortnight.

Having taken a week to write this post, I’ll leave it there and write again soon.

Sustainability Bites!

And so too does the cold!

Yeah… I’m back. I didn’t mean to be gone for so long, but, well, what can I say? Life gets in the way. Especially when you’re enjoying living a simpler lifestyle.

We did however take a break for three weeks, from the week before Christmas and the week after New Year. Covering both my and my partner’s holidays.

During those few weeks we ate traditional home-cooked food which had partly to be bought online, included excess meat & sweets and has now added some extra insulation to our waists.

We also turned on some lights, lamps and decorated the house (with decorations we already owned). Yes, we relaxed all the rules we had previously set ourselves.

The best thing of all was central heating and hot baths. Especially as the winter here has been one of the worst in a decade. Not exactly white, unless you count the thick frost and even thicker fogs.

We’re prepared though, and have effectively ‘closed down’ more than half of our apartment. We are living in the two bedrooms which are relatively easy to keep warm through non-power or gas hungry means.

There is however a new challenge coming our way, this winter is about to get even worse. With local temperatures dropping below -10°C, at least during the nights. Something that is really not common here at all.

What with the added inability of local builders to make decent insulated walls, I am concerned. We may need to awaken that gas behemoth yet again and let it breathe hot air once more. Otherwise water pipes may well freeze, and the walls will crumble altogether.

What else has changed? Still working more than I’d like to, what with our mini-loan.

And given a third of my salary goes to the government, as there is a flat tax rate for self-employed people, I will only need work more.

If my salary goes down my tax rate does not. In fact, I am not yet paying the full amount due to discounts for the first 3 and 9 months. :-/

My ideal salary breakdown would go something like;
Rent 61% – but until we can find land we can afford, this will never be gone.
Bills <8% – the closer to zero the better, but had best plan for more. Just to be safe.
Mobiles/Internet 8-9% – need these to earn money in the first place.
Food 22% – things we cannot grow/provide for ourselves (yet).

I didn’t include saving any money for rainy days, because in an ideal situation there wouldn’t be any! :-D

We all need more holidays and less work to be productive, the systems we live under now are totally flawed. Having a fortnight off has given me the boost to get through a few more weeks or months, but this cannot go on indefinitely.

Oh! I’ve been considering a change of name, liking the idea of Selfish-Sufficiency, with the hope of attracting people looking to save some pennies but who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in choosing sustainable or green solutions for their need to cut back.

I fear though that I am falling into the trap of old habits, getting bored and changing names or abandoning blogs entirely to start something new. I am pretty much going to drop social media. If nobody finds the blog, so be it.

I’ll leave it there for now and promise to write again soon.

The egg & chicken

So, I have officially started my permanent vegetarian diet. Already I feel the benefits and am relieved that I no longer need to fill my body with artificial substances to try combat the pain in my foot.

Being spontaneous does have some drawbacks, I don’t have all that much food in the house and today is a local holiday. It’ll be tomorrow at the earliest, depending on my foot, before I can get out and replenish the pantry.

I can’t wait for our vegetables and fruits to get established and hope that at least part of our shopping bill can be cut. I realise that there are somethings that are difficult or not possible for me to grow and expect that weekly trips to the supermarket will remain part of our life.

However, how sweet it will be to only buy non-fresh items that cannot be produced at home. We’ll (hopefully) have red peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, peas, courgettes, figs, berries, onions, ginger, mushrooms, herbs and more that I forget.

One of the things we could easily source from home is eggs, and this was something I was excited to do. However with initial set-up of a coop and getting the hens costing somewhere between 500 and 800 euros, this isn’t exactly a cheap option.

Given the cost of half a dozen eggs is about 1 euro, that’s 800 weeks until we get our initial investment back. And not counting the cost of feed, bedding and necessary items for healthy hens. That surely is not very self-sufficient?

Sure, we could source supplies and build our own chicken coop and yet that doesn’t seem to be a worthwhile investment of time or energy either.

I know a friend, with a larger piece of land, who raises chickens and she sells the excess eggs. The local farmers’ market is full of organic eggs too. When I say farmers’ market it truly is full of local farmers as we’re surround by farms of all sizes here.

I know that by raising the chickens yourself, you can be sure that they are 100% organic and happy. Then what happens when your little chooks get too old. Kill’em? Cook’em?!
Not sure I could or would like to do that.

No matter how much I like the idea of keeping our own chickens, plus the free fertiliser the littler darlings produce in large quantities and knowing that our food scraps will not be going to waste, well I just can’t rationalise that hefty bill or the bloody end our little feathered friends will meet.

I haven’t forgotten the idea of selling our excess eggs, but I would not feel happy about that. I would likely give them to friends as gifts and thanks for their help.

Perhaps I should think again about bees, a cheaper start-up and much cheaper maintenance costs. The beeswax would come in handy and I guess I could grow to like honey.

Can anyone offer some advice?

ups & downs

I watch people (mostly Americans) unboxing, reviewing and demoing utter fucking shite on YouTube and feel genuinely angry, lost, confused and flabbergasted that people really want this crap. Not only that they want it but that they hand over real money for it.

Such a waste of… money? Well yeah but I was going to say resources, time, effort and fuck yeah money. If all those resources, time and money were instead given to a worthwhile cause, a charity or to helping the environment then what a difference.

But that’s what makes them happy? Bollocks. Really? Ugly plastic turds that look like imaginary characters? Useless gizmos and gadgets that tell you what colour something is??

Open your fucking eyes, read a book, grow up a little, make a friend, volunteer at a local charity or shelter. Then tell me that garbage still makes you happy.

Let’s call this an up and a down. I feel more determined to commit to my newly chosen lifestyle and yet feel utter overwhelmed by the tide of idiots and their flood of utterly pointless and wasteful ‘toys’.

Then I get a bill from the gas company, in six weeks we used only €10 but we have to pay €380 in installation fees?!!? Bloody hell! €800 is the minimum monthly salary here, what would a family with only one working adult do when they first got their gas supply connected??

This made me even more determined, I’d cut off my supply and get a refund from those cunting thieves! The government and their tax rates are no better, but that’s a whole other can of snakes.

That’d be an up, but it is soon followed by another down.

My one cherry tomato plant has some infection and died almost overnight. Small things, my dad would say, don’t sweat them. Sure, but that was my symbolic plant. The first food-plant I’d ever bought/grown.

I feel like a bloody yo-yo, perhaps this is normal for such a radical change in lifestyle. Maybe I am being too harsh and too extreme too soon. Not letting myself switch on more than one light for more than 10 minutes each day. Only charging my Kindle (another thing to discuss later)  when I can charge it with solar energy.

And then there are those days that I am too tired from still working too many hours and needing to cook a meal over flame, which is bloody difficult, and tend to the garden and find firewood. Damn, I am a whiny-assed bitch.

Too long have I lived in too much comfort, even when we had little we had something.

I have books, I allowed myself a small spend on some secondhand books about self-sufficiency. Yet I am always too knackered to read, worse still I am too tired to write here.

I tried limiting myself to only writing between working hours, to reduce how much I am using my computer when absolutely not necessary. Nice idea, bad for creative juices.

Then this happens:

dscn0519

Wine Cap Mushroom, or garden giant (stropharia rugosoannulata).

A small victory, the mushroom spores I planted have obviously survived and began to produce fruit. Such a joyous moment and one to spur me on.

So, forgive me long absences and my ranting and my cursing. I am very much a grumpy environmentalist and most positively a spoilt moneyless man, but I will struggle onwards.

And, I will change my mind on not sharing photos. It is after all my second passion to writing. I must however not allow myself to fall into the same trap of sharing a photo in place of writing something to go with it. Dare I even start and Instagram account?

More on that next time.