Vegetarian-Italian

I promise that I am working on writing a long ol’ post about my summer and future plans. Thing is, I am working extra hours this week all while coming down with a stinker of a summer cold.

That hasn’t stopped me trying to learn new veggie recipes. This week I cooked my first every aubergine parmigiana, the suggested serving was focaccia. So I decided to learn to bake some of that too.

Very pleased with the results, the herbs came straight from my own home grown supplies.

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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 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

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.

Hi!

Just on to let you all know that I am very much alive.

I had my auntie and cousin/best-friend come to visit us for a few days, was a little naughty spending too much, heading off into the big city and not forcing them to be stingy with the water and electricity.

Absolutely knackered and back to living on as little as possible now, feels good to know that I’m no longer consuming more than need be.

I’m happy to say that I saw sense and didn’t spend money on any new or secondhand gadgets. I wasn’t seeing the wood for the trees, it’s calls I need and not messaging.

Quite frankly, my friends will just have to accept the need to call or text (SMS) me. Why should I be stuck with something I don’t want nor need just because they prefer to use some messaging app or another? If this means they don’t communicate with me, well then perhaps they aren’t such good friends. :-P

What else, so the vegetarian diet is going well. I am eating a little bit of chicken once a week, but this is from my partner’s plate. That means no extra costs, dead animals or environmental impacts… or so I tell myself. This will only continue until I am sure that I have this meatless thing figured out and I will go on eating eggs and some cheese for the foreseeable future.

Next though is milk, I have tried alternatives before without much success but this time I am more determined. That said, this is not a cheaper option and is very much a matter of health before bank balance situation.

I am also cutting back more on my hours, but I’ll explain that and update you all more in the next post as I still need to catch up on my sleep.

G’night!

Vedo, Vedon’t

I had previously planned out a post explaining my plans for trying veganism for a few weeks, with the idea of then reintroducing some animal products into my diet to become vegetarian longer term.

I didn’t want to rush into this, and hesitated for a long time in publishing that original post. I wasn’t going to do any prep, and wanted to share my discoveries, cock-ups and wins as they occurred. I’ve never tried this lifestyle before, so there were sure to be plenty of the above.

I felt more and more inspired to try the vegan-thing longer term, especially after seeing a documentary called ‘Cowspiracy‘. I was determined that this would be the last thing I watched on the last day my Netflix subscription was active. I had other documentaries that would possibly be a good watch too, but this one appealed most and had been in my to watch list for the longest.

Holy cow! Wow, what a mess. We really are fucking up the planet, aren’t we.

I was shocked by how bad it was. Eggs, no? Even they are not efficient, never mind self-sufficient or sustainable. That was that, I would go veggie ASAP and ease myself into a permanent vegan diet. I started working on it immediately, I even cancelled my plans to establish a chicken coop and try to produce my own eggs.

We never eat that much meat but I cooked up what little we had so that I could start my new meatless meals the next morning.

It could have been that slight indulgence of a meat-heavy meal (no chance was I wasting any more food) or it could have been when I stubbed my toe or when I polished off the beers… I can’t be sure. One or a combination of these actions has left me in bed and/or hobbling in agony with an attack of gout for a week.

Yeah, yeah. I know most people assume gout is the result of a luxurious diet and a lifestyle to match and yet that isn’t always the case. Sure I could lose some weight, but I had been doing so since starting this lifestyle. Less time on the sofa watching telly and more time exploring/foraging in the forest and tending to my garden in preparation for growing some fruit and veg. That in itself could have been another reason for the attack, although I hadn’t lost weight too quickly.

No, it turns out that I am genetically predisposed to having such a problem. :-( Bollocks!
And it turns out that vegan diets can be pretty bad for people with risk of gout attacks.

Vegetarian diets are potentially the best and most effective way to avoid recurring, agonising, potentially ruinous pain. A week without being able to find firewood, prep the veggies or stand up for long periods. Gout is certainly not for the self-sufficient.

So I searched out a low purine diet or gout diet. The first two items on the green list? Eggs and cheese. Double bollocks!

Sometime between finishing the documentary and feeling like my foot had exploded, I saw an article pop-up on the BBC. ‘What would happen if the world suddenly went vegetarian?

Basically the article goes into details of ecosystems that have developed and thrived as a result of animal farming, of cultures that depend on their cattle, on jobs that would be lost and other negative impacts of giving up meat on a global scale. It too mentioned the benefits, also mentioned in Cowspiracy, the need for less agricultural land and a return of more wild spaces. It did point out one simple truth. A field will not necessarily become a forest if it is merely abandoned by farmers. Sometimes plants and animals need humans to reintroduce them and help them get reestablished.

For 7 billion people to suddenly make the switch overnight, as I did, is not a very likely event. To demonize all animal husbandry is not the answer either.

Perhaps the better solution is a progressive move from a meat-eating world to a semi-vegetarian one and soon, sometime in the very near future.

Who knows, moving forward again and a switch to a semi-vegan world with a smaller proportion of omnivores and a majority of vegetarians could just work.

As for myself, I will be going vegetarian from this very moment. I will look again toward getting my own chickens for a personal, organic and healthy supply of eggs.

What about cheese? I’m pretty sure I’d lose my house if I tried getting a goat. I’ll be off to the farmers’ market to seek out some organic producers, once I can walk without screaming the walls down.