Where growing, making & good living come together

My winter to-do list 2013

Posted by on Wednesday 30 October 2013 in admin, growing, house, making | 1 comment

(I wrote this last month but for some reason it didn’t get published – I only noticed when I came to tick stuff off — I’ve actually been powering through it compared to my normal slow productivity speed!)

Every year for the last few years, I’ve written myself a “preparing for winter” list for all those jobs that have to be done before the weather turns for the worst. I’m glad I can say I’ve FINALLY finished all the ones on my 2010 and 2011 lists now – well, except for the things that need doing again — it’s only taken me two or three winters!


The garden ones are similar to previous years – the routine stuff – though an afternoon in the garden last week has already ticked off some of the usual low hanging fruit (eg, tie up the low hanging fruit bushes!).

1. Tidy up the greenhouse & take any remaining tender plants into house for overwintering – I don’t think there is anything too tender in there but I’ll check.

2. Pop all terracotta containers or plastic ones holding delicate herbs into the greenhouse (and fleece if necessary) – this is a bigger job than in previous years as I bought lots of terracotta pots in the spring.

3. Add extra chippings to chicken run – John’s dad brought a load of chippings a few weeks ago but I’ll top them up again this month. Will hopefully stop it getting too muddy and/or freezing quite so solidly.

4. Sort out the wood pile, cut more “easy grab” logs & fill kindling bins inside and out – I’m out of my Sunday morning routine of clearing out the chicken coop and chopping the week’s kindling. I need to get back into that but a kindling buffer would be good too. We also need to shuffle our logs between the different stores – some of the ones further down in the garden should be seasoned enough now to come to the near the house store. (30/10/13 -Kindling bins are full for now, and we have quite a few “easy grab” logs – just need to keep the piles stocked up.)

5. Arrange for the tree surgeon to come over – we need to trim/cut down some trees but it isn’t safe for us to do it all by ourselves. We’ll do some and he can do the rest.


1. Fix cat flap in the kitchen so it isn’t so draughty – the magnet that holds the flap shut has gone. Should be fixable.

2. Fix the downstairs stove – a John job rather than one for me — something needs fire cementing again. We should also replace the cracked firebrick in the upstairs stove too. (30/10/13 – John has fixed the downstairs stove. Still need a new firebrick for upstairs though.)

3. Clean out gutters at front – after the leaves fall.

4. Wash the thicker, winter duvet – I really wish I’d thought to do this over summer but even the washing involves a trip to the laundrette and summer was rather chaotic. (30/10/13 – a kitten “accident” ensured this happened at the start of October. I washed the thin summer duvet at the same time.)

4b. Re-sew feather pockets as necessary – the feathers have been migrating through holes between the pockets.

5. Move more fragile plants out of the porch – and I guess, ditch the dying annuals from the herb shelf.


I’m pretty well kitted out for winter this year – last year I got a new everyday winter coat, fab new winter boots, and lots of warm socks — in fact, I can’t wait for winter in that respect!

1. New wellies for me – I’ve worn my wellies just about every day for three years now and they’re beginning to show their age – worn soles and inners, and a hole in the shoe part. They’ll be fine for pottering but I’d prefer a new pair for dog walking etc. (30/10/13 – after discovering three new holes when I wandered into the sea at Ainsdale/Southport a couple of weeks ago, I finally got my act together and got my new boots last week.)

2. Scarf (and mittens? and hat?) for John – he has reappropriated my very long scarf but I’m going to make him a little Day of The Tentacle inspired one instead. Will make matching accessories if I have enough yarn left over. (30/10/13 – I started this a couple of weeks ago – not been working on it constantly but it’s nearly there. Another few evenings should do it.)

2b. Make a jumper & cardigan for me, and maybe felted slippers for John – this are maybes more than definitelys. (30/10/13 – jumper is finished, just need to tie in ends, go me! Yarn has arrived for the jumper.)

3. Tidy out our pantry/store-cupboard cupboards to get a good idea of what we’ve got and what we need (for us and the animals) – this is a sooner-rather-than-later one so we can stock up as necessary. We order our cat and dog food online so I’ll make sure we have a spare bag in store in case there are any problems with deliveries. Chicken feed is bought locally – but they sometimes have problems getting their deliveries in bad weather so again, I’ll buy an extra bag.

4. Buy a new stick blender – our old one, which has been a faithful kitchen friend for many years now, is on its way out (think: disturbing electrical crackling from within!) and I don’t think it’ll handle another souping season without dying spectacularly, shocking us or both.

5. Make pyjamas for Mum and a blanket for Mum & Dad’s bed – share the snuggy!

What have you got to do before the cold weather kicks in?

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Do you use supermarket “loyalty” cards?

Posted by on Thursday 16 June 2011 in admin, frugal | 13 comments

Well, do you?

I’m asking because I don’t really – I have one card (a Co-op card) but that’s it – and I’m wondering if that’s really errant frugal behaviour.

The supermarket we use the most (Morrisons) doesn’t have a loyalty card scheme but our current number two supermarket (Sainsburys, the nearest shop to us so used for bread & milk etc) heavily promote theirs, and every time they do, we say no. I think we’d say no if Morrisons had one too – we don’t like the idea of giving supermarkets (or other big corporations) data to allow them to market stuff to us more effectively.

But at the same time, I know people who use collected points in a canny, frugal way – turning £10 worth of point into £20 worth of vouchers for somewhere they’d already go/something they’d buy. Most people I know who do have cards have them for everywhere so there is no great “loyalty” to any one shop in particular, just the money-off vouchers/gift vouchers as a bonus.

What do you think?

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Camping in Cumbria

Posted by on Tuesday 24 May 2011 in admin | 3 comments

Apologies for the lack of posts of late – we had four days camping planned for over the weekend and I spent Thursday preparing the garden for four days by itself, so was too tired to post that evening. I’d hoped that I’d come back with lots of post ideas – frugal holidays! ace walks! foraging! exciting stories of catching our dinner flyfishing! – but it didn’t quite work out as planned… We had one fine evening but after the 24 hours of constant rain and strong winds that followed, we decided enough was enough and came home.

We’d been wanting to try camping for a while – neither of us had been camping for more than a decade but it seemed cheap, Lily-dog friendly and could be somewhere pleasantly remote (three things we like in holidays). A couple of weeks ago, back when it was still sunny and warm, I booked us into Low Wray campsite in the Lake District, using Eurocamp. It would have cheaper to have booked directly with the campsite but since it was our first time, we decided to go with Eurocamp — it’s the camping equivalent of renting a fully equipped self-catering cottage and meant we didn’t have to buy a whole load of equipment for an experimental, possibly-one-off trip.

Low Wray is a lovely woodland site – right next to the lake on the Western shore, about four miles south-ish from Ambleside, surrounded by grazing land. It’s owned by the National Trust and aside from the (newly refurbished) toilet blocks & gravel paths for cars, it does feel like you’re camping in a copse in the middle of nowhere. There are some lakeside pitches, some woodland ones (including some pretty remote/hidden ones and the Eurocamp block) and some more meadowland ones (including a tipi field). A really nice place – and I would recommend it if you like camping.

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The fun and the unfun

Posted by on Friday 27 August 2010 in admin | 0 comments

I had a couple of days off this week – to do some fun stuff and some less than fun stuff.

First off, one with a picture illustration (even if it is just a quick phone camera snap), I added a quick-and-easy new perch to the chicken run and Blue took to it immediately.

I had my second day of smoking on Wednesday! More details soon but in the smoker this time was more cheese but more excitingly, eggs and chillis!

While that was brewing away, we carried about 1.5tonnes of wood chips down to replenish the chicken run. We carried it a dustbin full at a time, down 3.5 flights of steps – an exhausting 90mins! It was already breaking down so surprisingly warm and fragrant – the chickens were most perturbed by all the activity but seem to like it now (the pic above is before adding the woodchip, the ground is now covered to about the second rung of the ramp). That was one of the unfun things; the other unfun thing was spending all Thursday decorating our old house in our ongoing attempts to sell it. Unfun because I’d rather spend my decorating energy on our new house and I know that when someone does buy it, they’ll probably immediately paint over all our handiwork anyway. I did find an old signature under the wallpaper though – I think it says “P Joyce 1st November 1966” – pretty cool!

We finally went blackberrying on Tuesday evening – got 2.7kg before having to return home for dinner. I definitely need to make a foraging bag – even if it’s just the genius idea of a modified milk bottle on a belt. Two handed foraging would be far faster.

Said blackberries were supposed to become a jam on Tuesday evening but something came up and I can’t remember what. Then they were supposed to become a jam on Wednesday evening but I was too tired after the woodchipathon, and a friend came around for dinner anyway. So the blackberries are now in the freezer. I’ll have a jam/chutney day next week.

The next batch of blackberries we collect, probably this weekend, will be for a wine. John’s plum wine is bubbling away nicely.

Finally, not particularly a frugal thing but we had some of our double glazed windows replaced earlier today. Most of the units in the kitchen, study and bathroom had misted up over the years and generally made the place look scruffier than it was. At first I wasn’t bothered about having them replaced – since they still functioned as double-glazing for insulation if not actually as windows – but it’s only now we’ve had them replaced that we’ve realised quite how obscured they’d become and how much light they were blocking — they’re freakishly clear now! The guys that did it were great – and no nonsense. At the quote stage, I gave them the opportunity to upsell and they refused to take the bait, dismissing the more expensive glass as a gimmick. They were also nearly 50% cheaper than the first company’s initial quote. Anyway, I’m mentioning this because 1) just in case people don’t know it’s CONSIDERABLY cheaper and less wasteful to get just the glass units replaced rather than than the full (uPVC) frames etc and 2) I asked to keep all the smaller old units. They’re mostly misted up but will still be good for one project or another!

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First post! Welcome to The Really Good Life

Posted by on Thursday 24 June 2010 in admin | 1 comment

Hi, welcome to The Really Good Life. I’m Louisa and I live really well – but frugally.

I already write about reusing and recycling on my blog “How Can I Recycle This?“, and about composting on my site “Can I Compost This?“, as well as blogging and running other sites but I wanted a new place to talk specifically about growing, making, foraging, cooking – and living a frugal life in general.

The name of this blog was originally going to be something highfaluting and fancy but thinking about it the other day, I realised it boils down to this: I’m living a Really Good Life. Like Tom & Barbara, I live in a city (specifically squished between two industrial cities), I grow my own veg, our chickens will arrive shortly and we live cheaply & sustainable – but with tasty food & pretty things, inside of nasty homemade wine and scratchy woollen underwear.

This blog is about the journey I’m making – because it is a journey – my thoughts, my questions (that hopefully other people will be able to answer!) and where I’ve got some info to pass on, my recommendations & my mistakes – and I hope you enjoy it.

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