Where growing, making & good living come together

February – end of month review

Posted by on Monday 28 February 2011 in chickens, frugal, goals, growing, less than 12 clothes challenge, making, meta | 9 comments

February seems to have flown by and has been a lot of fun — a good balance between work, household/growing/making productivity, crafting, and future planning.

Goals in 2011 progress

I’ve started making progress on some of the more long term goals – started sowing seeds which will hopefully turn into homegrown veg and again, I’ve made things with wood which will help with my “make a piece of furniture” goal. I haven’t baked each week but I’ve tried a few new recipes – including some lovely cinnamon biscotti – so at least I’m doing bits. (We’ve not been baking much bread recently because it’s still a bit too cold for yeast to rise properly.)

From my secondary list, I’ve also tried making soap, although I’m not sure it’s been a success yet (the soap in the moulds is still very soft). I also made a notebook (above) from scrap paper and a curtain sample, which wasn’t on my list but I had so much fun doing it that I think “learn different book binding techniques” should be on there now! Finally, we’ve been working to reduce our food waste (and save money/our sanity) by preparing meal plans – we’re not sticking to them 100% but they’re working well in general.

Buy less than 12 items of clothing in 2011

In my no more than 12 items of clothes in 2011 challenge, my tally is still zero — I’ve not bought anything this month either. I have though started looking at stuff rather than just shutting myself off from the possibilities – partly because I need to develop willpower rather than just avoiding temptation and partly because I feel like it’s time I had something new to wear (I’ve not bought any clothes since November – and that was only replacement jeans). It’s when I’m getting ready to go to drama – the classes I teach or rehearsals etc – because my suitable clothes are such a subset of my wardrobe — they not only have to be neat enough to wear outside the house, they can’t be too cleavage-y (which is a problem with a lot of my clothes because my body is too cleavage-y!) and they have to be suitable for wearing as a supposedly-responsible adult in front of teenagers. I have plenty of plain t-shirts to wear but a limited amount of warm clothes so I’ve been getting a bit bored – and as we’re preparing for a production at the start of April, I’ll be there a lot more regularly which will mean cycling through them more. So long story short, I might break into my quota in March.

Growing stuff & the chickens

The sowing season has properly kicked off – and thanks to my new propagator, growing well. We’ve got cucumber, tomato, chilli, lettuce & cauliflower seedlings popping up. I’ve got peppers & broad beans thinking about growing at the moment too, and my potatoes are chitting well. On the fruit side, I planted out all our fruit bushes as well as potting on our lingonberry, cranberry and honeyberry bushes. My cherry tree arrived too so that’s in the ground as well. All are showing signs of waking up.

The chickens have been busy this month – Buff the Leghorn is still withholding (and worrying me) but Lime, who had been in moult, started laying again mid-month so we’ve been getting six most days. We’ve had a total of 152 eggs, which is an average of 5.43 a day! In other chicken news, I made them a portable run a couple of weeks ago and Lime & Green had their first play out in it on Saturday — Lily-dog was very intrigued by it to start with but eventually got bored and the chickens settled down to weed one of the beds for me. Good work girls!


I’ve spent a lot of money this month and am going to have a fortnight of no spending for the next couple of months to compensate. (We’re currently having a new bathroom put in but that’s going to warrant its own post (because it’s a long story) so I’ll leave those figures out of here.)

Aside from essential bills and store cupboard/to-eat-in-the-house food, I spent £242.52. A whopping £63.53 (26%) was on eating out – I had a lovely meal out with my friend Katherine at the Greek restaurant down the road (fixed price menu so good value but still, nearly £20), a couple of curries in restaurants at £10 a pop, and a weekend of eating out while I was at a work/conference thing in York. I could have taken packed lunches or gone further afield to find cheaper food in York but I was too tired to manage that. Some other expenses: eight books (mostly charity shop but some online) which cost £33.48 (14%), £39.15 (16%) on craft supplies (I tried making soap & bought supplies for an embroidery project), £36.96 (15%) on household stuff (mostly a new light fitting – we’ve not had a ceiling light in the dining room for over a year), £41.35 (16%) on growing stuff (fruit bushes, Real Seeds, some wildflower seeds for guerilla gardening and a heated propagator) and £29 (12%) on transport.

As I said, I’m hoping to have a no (optional) spend fortnight in March to try to shake the habit of, say, randomly buying books and to encourage me to get on with my existing craft/growing projects rather than thinking of new ones to try.

What have you been up to in February?


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Su

    Sounds like an expensive month to me!
    I must be going strange in my old age, I have stared to look forward to the monthly review of finances!
    Well, it’s been a somewhat mixed month for me too. My bus fares are still way too high, I spent £55 this month, so unless some very serious action is taken I will never manage to get my annual spend to under £500. So, a change of tack, instead of trying to do the best I can, I have worked out that I need to spend no more than £8.98 a week, once it’s gone I will have to walk & since it’s 7.5 miles to work that’s no joke, so serious planning required!
    Clothes – I have spent £10 & 10 coupons. I bought a cone of cotton yarn to make, what started out as a short sleeved cardigan and has become a shrug. I also had to buy a new pair of slippers (I know, I know!), my old pair had disintegrated to the point where they were hurting. I did debate trying to knit a pair, but realistically I need slippers that have a proper sole (stone flagged kitchen floor = COLD).
    I have spent £13.80 on crafty bits, excluding yarn, which for me is good.
    I have sown tomato & chilli seeds, have potatoes chitting and strawberries are doing nicely. Other seeds to be sown soon, hopefully when Saffy kitten is not ‘helping’ me!
    The real bane of my life at the moment is the bl**dy bank, who persist in telling me that my mortgage payments are £18.13 a month (I WISH), I have lost count of the number of times I have rung, written & emailed, but still they persist. One day I may get them to see the error of their ways.Until then I have to guess what I should be paying & then add some. Not very satifactory.

  2. Su

    Forgot to say, I have booked a place on a chicken keeping course. I think I’ve done it to convince myself that I don’t have the time/space to keep chickens, but it should be interesting anyway.

    • louisa

      It didn’t just sound like an expensive month to me – it was one! ;) Must try harder in March.

      How frustrating with the bank – but as long as they don’t blame you, at least it’s better to be underpaying (then topping it up) than overpaying and seeing the money disappear into the banking ether.

      I’d like to start a cotton spring/summer cardigan – but I’ve told myself I’m not starting anything else until the great blanket of 2011 is finished. Progress has really slowed on that. Must try harder in March on that too!

      And hurrah for the chicken keeping course! I went on a chicken keeping course in advance (well in advance!) of getting ours and it was a lot of fun & very informative – much much better than any book could be. I hope you have a lot of fun on yours too :)

  3. bookstorebabe

    Well, I’ve already failed the clothing challenge! Bought work shoes, which I don’t count-the old ones were beyond repair, and I recycled them. But I impulsively bought 6 tops at the resale shop. And 3 of them went back.
    That did make me get moving and clean and organize the closet. I got rid of around 50 pieces of clothing. Stuff I should have gotten rid of ages ago!
    A few went to the daughter, a few were kept for reuse. I know now exactly what I need and don’t need. And no more ‘this is perfect, I just need to hem/whatever it’. I separated out the mending. I pulled out all the things I don’t wear because they need ironing, and I always seem to never find time for ironing! Gave away over half of them and ironed the rest, timing myself. It’s not as time consuming as I thought.
    So, even though I know I’ll end up having bought more than 12 things before the year is done, at least I’ll be just buying only what I need. And being mindful of what I buy. I have fewer clothes, but have nicer things to wear-really, I don’t have to keep every worn out thing to ‘wear around the house’. More room in the closet. A less daunting pile of laundry, hurray!
    Now if I could just get my husband to tackle his closet…

    • louisa

      Sounds like you had a good clearout bookstorebabe – including doing some “shopping from your own wardrobe” — I really should do something similar. I have a mending/amending pile but doing a batch of ironing would be useful too.

      I think you said you were just going to be more mindful of what you buy rather than sticking to the 12 so it sounds like you’re on course to achieve that :)

  4. Cat

    It’s great that you are setting goals and keeping track. I applaud your efforts — especially when you think you are not doing as well as you would want. You are learning and that’s great.

    I do have one thought for you — the 12 items of clothes per year is a good goal. But it is only sustainable if your already have your wardrobe set and you wear out that many each year. You may need to adjust this number or fill in the “gaps” before you are successful. I’ll follow your writing to see how this turns out for you. Perhaps, I’m the one the has the learning to do!

  5. Colleen

    The end of February has come and gone and I still haven’t bought any new clothes. I seem to have some sort of t-shirt gremlin tying to sabotage my efforts though. Several of my not so old t-shirts have developed small holes at wait level in the front. I don’t know what is causing this but I suspect there may be something sharp around the fly/button area of one of my pairs of pants. I have about four t-shirts that have been affected and since I don’t own an abundance of clothes this may end up forcing me to replace them. They are OK to wear around the house but are a little shabby to wear out.
    As for resisting or avoiding temptation I am not having any problem with that. For the most part I have lost all interest in shopping over the last 14 months that I have been earnestly decluttering my home. That was a lesson I learned quite early in my challenge of 365 less things. It is not that I don’t look at all but an item has to be exactly what I want before I will spend my money on it and that can be a real challenge.
    Good luck Louise and all the other readers continuing on with the challenge. I look forward to seeing the update at the end of March.

  6. Justin

    Just stumbled across your blog…I’m impressed by your ambition, particularly the soapmaking and notebook-binding! Those both sound like they’d be a lot of fun (although if I tried soapmaking I’d probably ruin the fun by making copious Fight Club references).

    Regarding your planting, do you read any reliable blogs on gardening? And what part of the country are you in? All the cool gardening blogs I’ve come across are all in parts of the country/world with wildly different climates to Chicago. My girlfriend and I want to get back into planting soon (people keep telling us it’s supposed to stop being cold at some point), but last year’s harvests were all pretty disappointing. Want to gather some pointers to figure out what we’re doing wrong.

    Oh, and your “365 Less Things” challenge sounds pretty tempting to me. I’m moving soon, and could certainly stand to pare down…or more importantly to stop taking on new clutter! I’ll have to track down those earlier entries. I like the blog so far!

    • louisa

      Hi Justin,

      There were many Fight Club references here too!

      Re: growing. We’re in the UK so presumably wildly different climate. According to the USDA Hardiness zone thing, you’re about 5-6 in Chicago – Chiot’s Run is an excellent blog, about gardening in NE Ohio, which is zone 5(a), so that might be a starting point for you.

      The 365 Less Things is Colleen’s idea not mine – but I think it’s great too! :) Taphophile also has an interesting idea along similar lines – she needs to get rid of a net of seven things from her house each week (so if she brings 9 new things in, she has to get rid of 16 things).

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