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!

A bloggin’ break.

I am afraid that I will be taking the next 5-6 weeks off from the blog, baking, cooking and most gardening as I can resist.

While stupidly using a penknife to stab holes in pots (will post about that when am back), it snapped shut and cut deeply into the back of my right middle finger.

Well, shortly after I tried moving my finger to asses the damage and heard a loud pop! The pain in my finger was deep and made my stomach churn.

I also was unable to fully straighten my finger.

Off t the doctor has results in being given some strong painkillers/anti-inflammatories, a fetching plastic splint to wear for 5 weeks (possibly more) and words of warning from the doctor; I may never have a fully functional finger again, and am facing the possibility of little to no movement.

Right, that’s far too much typing already. I need to see if I can take the next few days off work too.

Finger Mouse

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 Grim & The Good

I’m about 10 minutes into Peter and the Farm, what I thought would be a nice chilled morning viewing. A rare treat for me to watch some telly. And well, I’m horrified!

If my commitment to vegetarianism was at risk of wavering, it’s now firmly glued into place…

As I’m writing this the farmer is now discussing seeds, so I’ll stick with it. Not exactly a quick end for that poor sheep. This farmer follows organic methods, but not apparently the idealised (or humane?) view of them.

Still, I’m not one to judge. I’ve been out spending money this week. My brother and sister-in-law are coming to visit and I wanted to show that we’re not turning into hippies.

My family aren’t critical or judgemental, yet I was concerned about word getting back to mum of us living in ‘poverty’. Second-hand news is the one second-hand thing I like to avoid. When she and dad come out later this year, I can show them how things really are.

I am trying to balance things a little, and not jump in the deep-end of consumerism.

I got some scented candles, vegetable based, from a local shop that has been making candles for 100 years or more. I ‘m looking to buy a sofa too, i’s one of the cheaper ones I’ve seen and fits our current views and goals perfectly.Well, excluding the 400€ price tag.

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It’s made from old mattresses. The man selling it, along with many other upcycled items, assured me it has been thoroughly steam cleaned. Something I hadn’t even thought about. The little shop has a nice collection of things; typewriter-lamps, suitcase-chairs, clock-tables and much more.

Better yet, is that the items are made by people with learning difficulties and mental disabilities. And even better is that the sale of the items will provide a salary for the workers. This is the kind of buying we should all aim for. When our money helps to empower others and with as little harm to the environment as possible.
The blogspot is fildeferro.

We’ve been buying ‘luxury’ foods too, some cheeses and wines but we’ve be sticking with the five rules I explained in The Big Update.

I’ve also sacrificed some planting space for flowers, tired of bare earth and wanting to feel inspired to get back out into the garden more. I may regret this, if diseases and bugs become a problem. For now though, they have helped keep me busy outside and still leave plenty of space for early season crop-plants.

One last plant, was a heart-shaped cactus. A little gift for my hubby as a thanks for his understanding and willingness to live the way I want. I couldn’t resist a new pot for it either, made from ceramic but designed to look like a crumpled/discarded paper cup.

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That for me has such a significant meaning, a message so powerful. We throwaway so much without care or consideration for the energy needed to make it and what will happen to it next.

 

And finally, a few pics of my new compost bin. :D

Windy Day

We’re having an awfully gusty afternoon, which is undoing all of yesterday’s work. Newly potted plants on plant stand; blown over with broken pots, scattered soil and bent stand.

Mother Nature obviously disapproved!

I’m off to the shop for one more bag of soil tomorrow, winds allowing, that should be the last we need. Now to get sowing!

Spring has arrived somewhat early on our terrace with flowers bloomin’ and our cabbage and lettuces happily growing. The chives and parsley have sprung back to life too. The raspberry, blueberry, roses and many of our bulbs are budding and leafing like mad. Our lavender has even recovered and put out flowers.

We’ve more decorative plants and flowers than much else right now, but I’m set to get things back in favour of edible crops. That’s if the weather doesn’t decide to blow or wash away anything else.

I always used to love autumn, but this time of year is much more magical and beautiful. Both in the garden and out in nature.

I’ll have to leave it there for now, need to batten down more pots. I will post a few photos of the garden/terrace sometime later today or tomorrow.

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.

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.

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:

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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.