Where growing, making & good living come together

2010 – A Really Good Year

Posted by on Friday 31 December 2010 in meta | 2 comments

Everyone else is doing end-of-year round-ups and it’s inspired me to do one too. Feel free to skip if you don’t like introspection ;)

While my life as a whole has been up and down (mostly up but some deep downs), 2010 has been a fantastic year from a simple/DIY living point of view.


Our first growing season in our new house, this year was one of experimentation. We had fresh produce from the garden from March through to October – and have a cupboard full of preserved goodies as well as potatoes in store. I’ve written about our growing successes and failures before – our overall output was disappointing but my, my, I learned so much. I’m pretty jazzed by the potential of what we can achieve now we know more about the conditions etc.


Our first four chickens arrived in June and we got another four (which soon depleted to three) in November. They’ve been ace!

They’re a lot of fun – such personalities! – and the egg output has been awesome. From the day they arrived in June until the middle of December, the first four provided about 3.6 eggs a day (ie, most days one each but sometimes just three between the four of them) – they’re still laying now just less than that (especially as one has entered an early moult). The new girls have yet to start laying but hopefully they’ll start soon – and that’ll provide cover for when the rest of the originals going into moult.

Aside from the extra winter workload, I’ve been stunned by how little work they are – food & water are topped up once a day (they always have more than enough), quick visual inspection of the coop every day-ish (remove any giant piles of poo/top up straw & shavings as appropriate) and a full clean out once a week. It’s an hour a week in total, max. I do typically spend more time with them though – because as I said, they’re so much fun. Their arrival has been one of the highlights of 2010 for me.


2010 feels like the year our cooking came of age. Partly as a result of moving further away from a lot of our favourite restaurants, partly as a result of getting a dog with separation anxiety (she’s a lot better now) and partly as a result of having more room to play, we’ve both cooked at home a lot more this year than in previous years – and learned new skills too.

I’ve learned a lot about jam and chutney making, and other preserves. I’ve conquered bread. I’ve learned how to make sausages, pasta and hard cheeses, and how to kill & butcher a chicken. I’ve experimented with cold smoking. I’ve added a good number of recipes to my repertoire and refined a load of ones already in my memory banks. Most critically, I started to really love the creativity side of cooking – I’ve never really been one to blindly follow recipes but now I feel a lot more confident about striding out and trying my own thing from scratch. Some things work, some things don’t. But like the chickens, it’s FUN!

John and I share the cooking pretty much 50/50 – and he’s has also made some great progress too. His scrambled eggs are wonderfully creamy. His curries rival the best many curry houses have on offer. And he is learning to trust his own judgement rather than following recipes for quantities etc.

He’s also been dabbling in home brewing – which is probably more cooking than anything else on this list. We’ve got cider and plum wine on the go, and ginger beer coming out of our ears. I will have to get him to guest blog about that as it’s way cool!

Wild Food

Again, like the cooking ramp-up, a few factors have worked together to get my wild food juices going over the last year. I’d been interested in wild food for a few years but moving to somewhere with wood at the bottom of our garden meant that those wild goodies were literally on my doorstep. And after Lily-dog came to live with us in March, we had to go stomping through those woods (or other woods) every day – I saw the seasons change and plants sprout, grow & die. How could I not be intrigued?

Through wild food walks/forages and books & other websites, I’ve learnt so much about edible wild greens and mushrooms, and we collected many kilograms of wild plums & blackberries. Most importantly/geekily, we documented where we spotted various things so we know where and when to look for things next year – and the enforced slowness as taught me a lot about patience.


I’d hoped to start sewing my own clothes in 2010 but while that didn’t happen, I had a lot of other wins. I learned how to spin wool, experimented with dyeing yarn & cloth, and did sew some things if not what I’d intended (I’m really proud of my giant beanbag!).

I also realised that woodwork isn’t as hard as I’d always thought it was. I’ve not gone crazy but I’ve made a wellie stand (which, thinking about it, I never blogged… onto the to-do list!), wooden planters for growing salad leaves (um, ditto!!) and two shelters for the chickens — all with reclaimed wood. I have plans to make more and develop actual skills in 2011.


All of the above have helped me be frugal this last year. To spend pennies on seeds instead of pounds on fully grown organic veg – or even better, to find the food for free in the first place. To build things from scrap instead of buying them new. To learn & develop the skills to provide wonderful quality food for ourselves at a fraction of the price of restaurants.

We had an expensive start of the year in terms of capital costs – we moved into our new house in late 2009 and spent the first few months of this year getting necessary damp work done & bare rooms made liveable – and since we’d moved to a considerably bigger house than the tiny place we were before, our house-related outgoings went up too. But the new house has let us save money in other ways – the growing, the cooking, the chickens etc.

Surprisingly, one of the biggest changes to our consumption has been the arrival of Lily-dog. Sure, she costs us a lot in other ways but she jolted us out of always going somewhere for lunch & charity shopping on Saturdays – saved us from a lot of impulse buying. (Moving house also moved us away from other shopping temptations – Leeds city centre was just a mile away from our old house and just two minutes walk away was a handy high street, including half a dozen well stocked charity shops.)

My recent extended “no spend week” has been very interesting – I don’t spend much money anyway but it’s been fascinating to try to deliberately, consciously not spend anything. I’ve not strictly succeeded – each week has seen some necessary and some not-so-necessary spending – but I’ve avoided a lot of temptations and it’s really highlighted those cravings.

I started a new round of downshifting in the autumn – giving up a consultancy gig that brought in more than half of my monthly income. Due to (business) savings, I haven’t felt the pinch of that yet but in 2011, I’m going to focus reducing my needs & wants further so that income drop doesn’t impact me too much.

The Really Good Life

I’m really glad I decided to start this blog to document my journey towards a simple life. I’ve loved being able sharing my experiences & recipes — writing up ideas/how-tos has helped me firm up my opinions & motivations and get more specific when cooking/making, and it’s got me taking photos again. I do hope everyone has enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

I’m incredibly grateful to all those who have left comments or provided me with feedback in other ways – I’ve made lots of new internet friends (and even a few real life friends!) and, following other people’s blogs/Twitter streams, been inspired and educated in so many ways that I can’t even begin to list them.

I’ve lived a Really Good Life in 2010 and I hope you have too. Let’s see what fun and games we can get up to in 2011, eh?


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  1. jan

    Well done -a busy and frugal year, good luck with the veggies next year, all that learning as you sow and reap will pay dividends. Would love to know more about your ginger beer making as i have developed a taste for all things ginger over the winter-its very warming!

    • louisa

      Oh it is!

      John got some ginger beer plant off a friend and has done a few iterations of it now – still trying to work out the best recipe for it but will post it then. We should have some plant to give away at some point too!

      We were thinking of making ginger wine too – the ginger beer is winning at the moment because it’s such a quick thing but we’ve got a couple of spare demijohns so really should get a batch of wine on…

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