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.

Bloomin’ cold!

It ain’t easy to resist that thermostat on bitterly cold days, when the sun doesn’t shine and the temperature outside barely hovers above zero.

We’ve had some recent successes, after severely pruning my cherry tomato plant it has sprung back to life. Given that we had 20 degrees-c just a fortnight ago, it has even produced some flowers and tiny fruits. Our peas started flowering too, and looks like the daffodils or tulips have woken up.

The weather this year was stranger than any previous.

We had new mushrooms appear, but some that I do not know. More that arrived with the locally sourced soil, but none of my crop.

To be honest, I’ve somewhat neglected our garden and crops. I have big plans for the spring but need to make a winter schedule too. We’ve been donated even more seeds from a friend and friends-of-friends. When the time comes we’ll have plenty of little seedlings to tend to.

The vegetarian, and some days vegan, diet is going well and I am controlling my gout with natural means. This has really helped, not being able to walk is a real downer for me. I was stuck inside for so long that I started going a little mad.

Our little loan was another heartbreaker, but inevitably it has made me even more determined to escape the joke we call the financial system. It’ll be a struggle and will mean we need to play our part of little pawns for a little longer, but in the end I hope we can escape.

My big dream is for us to get a small bit of land, enough to be fully self-sufficient. These next few years will be the test run for then. I know that’s not the exciting adventure you’re all hoping for, but it’s sure to be fun, challenging and thrilling for us.

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.