Where growing, making & good living come together

How I lead a green and frugal life by Lily-dog

Posted by on Tuesday 6 March 2012 in Featured, meta | 12 comments

It’s two years to the day since we brought Lily-dog home so I asked her to put some words together about how she leads a simple, green & frugal life with us.

Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Sorry, got a bit overexcited there, I do like meeting new people. Would you like me to bring you a shoe? Because I can go and get one if you like? Here! Here’s a shoe. I hope you like it. It’s my shoe. Don’t try to take my shoe! I like shoes!

Ok, ok, I’ll put the shoe down and start telling you what you want to hear. I’m not quite sure what the female feedy-huggy one has asked of me because I am a dog but I’ll try my best and will try very hard not to randomly woof. Although I am told I enunciate my woof splendidly, with a proper “wuh” at the beginning and everything. Wuh-oof.

So, yes, I have lived here for two years now and I think I lead a pretty green & frugal life. Well, a white-and-brown frugal life.

I grow my own fur so I don’t need clothes – 12 items in ’11? Pff! I had less that 12 items of clothing in 11 years! – and my fur can be composted when I don’t need it any more. I am also more than happy to snuggle underneath a duvet or a blanket too for extra warmth, no need for gas-guzzling central heating.

I do not – NOT!NOT!NOT! – like going in the car because they are expensive and noisy and sometimes involve journeys to the vets which are expensive, noisy and sometimes involve injections. If I had my way the tail-less ones would get rid of the car and we’d just walk everywhere we needed to go. Because the only place we need to go is the woods, right? Definitely NOT the vets, just the woods.

I like the woods. They are at the bottom of my garden. Walking in the woods is my favourite hobby and it makes me happy that we go there every day. If I wasn’t such a scaredy dog, I’d probably run around the woods on my own all day, making sure I’m instantly aware of any changes in smells and to check that those squirrels aren’t up to anything. Those squirrels are always up to something. That’s why they need barking at. “What are you up to, squirrels?” I say with one single well-enunciated woof. They know I’m onto them, that’s why they run.

I like eating things I find in the woods. Once I found a tuna sandwich. That was a good day. I carried it for about a minute to really savour it before I ate it. It was good. Mostly I just eat green things. My favourite green things are those sticky bud things which the curly haired one calls “cleavers” but I also like some bits of grass. The curly-haired one calls this “foraging” and says it’s a green and frugal thing but I just think of it as walking snack time. The curly-haired one is good and puts green things in pots for me to snack on in the garden too. They’re at dog-mouth height so they must be for me.

Inside the house, I am the good one. I’m the one that helps reduce food waste by SELFLESSLY cleaning up any scraps of food that drop on the floor, any food the cats might leave, and any eggs that get dropped or cracked. It has been said by a certain curly-haired person who shall remain nameless (because I don’t understand the concept of names really) that I sometimes cause the eggs to get broken by nudging them off a table or trying to trip up one of the humans when they’re carrying them up from the chickens but THAT IS DOWNRIGHT LIES. I am a good dog, I tell you.

Speaking of the chickens, they’re fascinating, aren’t they? Their home smells of such amazing things, as do their bottoms. I must admit that I did try to eat them at first (the whole chickens, not just their bottoms) but now I am just happy to watch them. Watch them and sniff them. Mmm, sniffing.

I like sniffing the cats too and they generally sniff back although I think their “eeeuggh!” faces are at least sometimes uncalled for. I do have soaks in the stream as often as I’m allowed so in my humble opinion, I’m very very clean and delightfully fragrant. And the curly one makes me have showers inside the bathroom rain box sometimes too. I prefer showers to baths, which I hear is a green thing: I like that they are shorter and don’t use as much water and that sometimes I can lick the water from the water thing. And after I’ve had a shower and am nice and clean, I help the two-legs clean the bathroom floor by wriggling on every single bit of it. No need for chemical cleaning gunk or even a mop. I’m such a helpful doggy.

I am also good at helping sort the rubbish. They sort it into “recycling”, “compost” and “rubbish” but they seem to miss that a lot of the so-called “rubbish” is actually perfectly reusable. No, I don’t mean reusable … what do I mean? Oh yes, chewable. I am very good at taking things out of the office or living room bins and “reusing” them into little tiny pieces. Sometimes it takes ages for the feedy-huggy people to get the picture: they put the perfectly chewable thing in the bin, I take it out again, they put it in again, I take it out again, they put it in again … I mean squirrels learn faster than these people. Wait… squirrels can learn things? Then they might get the better of me with their scheming ways! Oh no! I should go woof at them to make them forget!

To celebrate her two year anniversary with us, I made her a party hat – with brown-paper spaniel ears.

Some bribing with treats may have been necessary to get her to wear it.

Quite a lot of bribery ;)

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Reading while lurgy-ed

Posted by on Thursday 9 February 2012 in meta | 2 comments

Gah, I hate limbo illness – when you’re not ill enough to completely take to your bed and be waited on hand & foot, but when you’re not well either so end up padding around in a daze and have to slump in an exhausted heap after walking up stairs with a basket of washing or down to the chickens with some seeds. I have done a lot of slumping in the last few days, a lot of ‘what?’ing because my slow brain hasn’t processed what’s been asked of it and some napping (only some because naps leave me mega-disorientated). I’ve also done a lot of reading – fluff when my brain’s not been engaged but other stuff too. Here are some of my favourite bits of the good stuff:

Rachel‘s year without ‘poo – great to hear about her experience and the tricks she’s picked up/developed. Her water-only hair looks fab too.

Ilona the MeanQueen got me thinking about money cushions/long-term savings. Every personal finance blog/book I read insists on people building up long term savings. But Ilona has no intention of leaving a nest egg behind. As I say in her comment section, we try for a balance – in our early 30s, we’re less likely to have a state pension waiting for us or, at this rate, a NHS to look after us, so long term savings will be important. But at the same time, I’ve now essentially downshifted twice – halving my income each time so vastly reducing the amount I can put into savings – because no amount of long-term savings are worth being that miserable over. Anyway, thought provoking/different angle post.

I got a lot of my fluff reading from Cracked.com – an often geeky, even more often rude humour site – but they do have some more poignant articles too — albeit ones still littered with swears and poo jokes. If that sort of thing doesn’t offend you, then I’d recommend reading this recent one on bad lifelong habits from living in poverty.

The Steel Kitten is on a mission – and put together a very thought provoking blog post on realising your dream — both in the sense of accomplishing it but more importantly figuring out what it is in the first place!

Jono of Real Men Sow has written a great summary post about the things to consider when buying seeds for this growing season – things he learnt from tracking the money savings from his growing last year.

UPDATE: I meant to include this on my list too: Paved with Good Intentions. It is a brief article but touching on the idea that when people reduce the energy consumption of their homes, they may be tempted to take the money they save on their energy bills and use it in another way that actually uses more energy over all – possibly good for the economy but probably bad for the environment. I’ve been thinking about this regarding frugal living too but haven’t finalised my thoughts on it yet. Interesting idea though.

Have you read any interesting blog posts/articles online recently? If so, do share – I’m not up to full fighting strength yet so need more input :)

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Five things for Friday

Posted by on Friday 3 February 2012 in chickens, growing, meta | 1 comment

One – COLD!

How can I start with anything other than a comment about the cold weather? I do like cold days – well, cold dry days like now, not cold wet ones – so I’m not complaining. The sun is shining – albeit weakly – and the sky is blue. I like wrapping up warm and walking on frozen mud while we’re out with Lily. However, we have timed all this rather badly – the replastering we’re having done (in the living room, kitchen & downstairs hallway) means we’re down two key radiators & a wood burning stove. Chilly!

Two – chilly chickens

Like last time it was chilly for a couple of days, the chickens don’t seem to be too bothered about the cold. I got a bwarky rant this morning – probably complaining about their water being solid and it being harder to scratch through the chippings because they’ve got a hard layer on top – but otherwise they’re doing fine. Earlier this week we had our first six egg (from six girls – a 100% lay rate) day since the beginning of September — and we’ve had another two six egg days since then. I wasn’t expecting a glut so early in the year!

Three – the 2012 growing season starts here (very soon)

I never really got over my growing “meh”ness from last summer but over the last week, as more people have been talking about their early sowings or plans for the year, I’ve started to form a few plans of my own. I had thought about getting another fruit tree or two in the ground this winter but I’m not sure that’s going to happen. I would like to get some more soft fruit bushes in though – some more red berries since the four blackcurrants look like they’ll be fine by themselves – probably following Tanya at Lovely Greens down the Wilkinsons cheap bush path as the ones from last year have grown well. I also want some more strawberries as half of last year’s lot are looking rather pathetic/dead. I must resist the rhubarb crown temptation though – everyone is always talking about how prolific it is at such an otherwise low-producing time of year but we don’t actually like rhubarb. It doesn’t matter how much it grows if we don’t want to eat it.

I am sticking to my “no potatoes” plan so there is nothing to chit but I think I’ll have to dig the heated propagator out of the garage soon to get started on tomatoes and what not.

Four – bacon progress

My bacon looks to be doing well. I am somewhat regretting starting it in a week when I don’t have good access to the kitchen – and also have sore/micro-cut hands so I’m not enjoying the salt rubs at all! But on the other hand, at least I’ve got it started and starting something for the first time is often such a big hurdle for me. This batch will be just about done in its cure this weekend then I’m going to look into the fridge hanging idea that PipneyJane mentioned the other day. I can’t wait to try it though :)

Five – and it’s the weekend

It’s the weekend, hurrah! We have nothing special planned – John was supposed to be away at a conference but is still having to take things easy with his bad back – but I am determined to start cleaning the plaster dust from EVERYWHERE in the house. Those who know me in person will know that I am never determined to clean anywhere: this should show how much dust there is around our house at the moment.

As well as that and the usual stuff that happens at weekends, I’m going to try to get started on my 2012 goals – I need to get going on the generating an extra £2012 in 2012 goal and the “make something cheaper, greener or simpler for us each month” one too. The problem with the latter is that nothing is screaming to be changed right now – so I’ll have to both find something and make it cheaper/greener/simpler. It’s very possible that the latter will be easier than the former!

Do you like – or hate – the cold weather? Have you made any growing plans for this year – or even started sowing? What are you up to this weekend? And finally, have you made anything cheaper, greener or simpler for your household recently? Yes, I just want to steal your ideas with the last question ;)

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Happy New Year!! (And my goals for 2012)

Posted by on Wednesday 1 February 2012 in goals | 4 comments

No, I’m not going crazy. Honestly. It’s just I made a joke on Twitter last week about hearing about a lot of people struggling with January and suggesting we start 2012 again on 1st February – and the more I’ve thought about it in the intervening days, the more it’s made sense to me. This New-New Year thing means I can catch up on all the stuff I was supposed to write at the start of 2012 and not feel guilty about the things I should have, but didn’t do, in January.

So let’s just sweep the last 31 days under the carpet and start of the 11 month long year of 2012 today! Happy New Year! :D

For the past few years, I’ve set myself some goals for the year – 10 in 2010, 11 (+ some smaller ones) in 2011 – but after failing to meet so many of them, I’m going for fewer annual goals in 2012 but will set myself more monthly ones, when the fancy takes me (or possibly, I’ll get you guys to set them for me…!).

These are my six goals for the year though:

1. Make £2012 in “side money”

I signed up for this challenge on MoneySavingExpert. As I’ve been self-employed doing a whole variety of things since 2006, it’s hard for me to define “side money” but I think I’ve got an idea that works for me now. I’ll write more about my rationale at a later date but basically I’m thinking of it as new income streams money, whatever those things are. If it’s a success this year and I repeat in 2013, this year’s “side money” will just become part of my usual income, and I’ll have to make an additional £2013 in 2013 from more new stuff. Doing this in 11 months rather than 12 will be a challenge (£182 a month rather than £168) – but frankly, doing it in 12 months felt like it was going to be a challenge so an extra few more quid a month shouldn’t be a big deal. I will be asking for advice about this one quite a lot!

2. Each month, find a way to make one thing in our lives more frugal, simpler or greener.

A bit of a wide reaching one but I like making small, sustainable changes.

3. Visit all the parks and woodland around Bradford

Not specifically a frugal/simple living one but I guess it’s free, outdoor entertainment that might result in some foraging fun so maybe it is more frugal/simple living than I’d originally thought!

4. Produce something creative each week

I’d like these things to be often either practical or, eventually, sellable (to contribute to the £2012 thing) but I’d rather be doing for-the-sake-of-it creative stuff than nothing at all.

5. Finish and polish my 2011 NaNoWriMo story and finish another developed written project

I’ve been naughty – getting distracted by other stuff – and not finish-finished my 2011 NaNoWriMo story yet. It stands at around 125k so very nearly there. Must. Push. Through. To. End.

I’d also like to write & finish something else – possibly another NaNoWriMo style thing because I had a lot of fun doing that.

6. Keep a list of all the books I read (or re-read) in 2012 – and try to review them all (even if only a tweet)

Again, not particularly a frugal/simple living one but a good proportion of the books I read do have simple living type themes, one way or another, and I’m hoping I use the libraries more in 2012 too so again, some vague overlap.

What are your goals for this year? I bet you’ve all been super organised and already blogged them – if so, please do leave a link in case I’ve missed your list :)

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In my life

Posted by on Monday 23 January 2012 in meta | 0 comments

I have a giant to-do list today – work stuff, voluntary work stuff and stuff at home – so I think I need a brief take-stock breather :)

Outside my window is just so lovely right now. It has been raining on and off all morning but right now there’s bright sunshine, an equally bright blue sky and the bottle-green leaves of the holly bush are shining. Someone really supped up the colour levels out there today.

I am thinking about the mega to-do list of doom, about new projects & old stalwarts and how I’m going to make something fun & geeky in a few days when my Fimo order arrives :) I am also thinking about the pack of sweet cicely seeds I randomly found in my desk last week – whether it’s too late to plant them now or whether I should give it a go.

I am thankful that John’s bad back – which has left him pretty much unable to move since Friday – seems to be getting better.

From the kitchen, we just had a bit of a random “what have we got in the cupboard/fridge?” lunch but we’re having a perfectly wintery beany beef stew for tea (our version of this, with cornbread, because mmm, cornbread!) and we had these lemon-garlic chicken thighs for dinner last night – although I couldn’t bring myself to use the same amount of oil or 30 (!!) cloves of garlic as the recipe suggests. I was a little worried that it would lack flavour/punch because of that, but it was surprisingly delicious.

I am wearing just about the only warm top I own which has neither a hood or a pouch at the front. I keep forgetting and try to put my hands in the non-existent pouch. In another clothing-related mishap, I forgot to put on my second pair of socks this morning so even though these ones aren’t threadbare like the other day, I still feel nude in just one pair of socks!

I am creating sadly very little. This will hopefully change soon!

I am going to take the Lily-dog for a walk before the lovely sunshine disappears again – just think, this time last month, it would already have been dark!

I am reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I’m not that far into it – it’s pleasant enough and there have been some lovely turns of phrase but it’s not wowing me just yet.

I am hoping that I can get back on top of things soon. I feel like I’ve had a mental energy required/energy available mismatch since at least the start of the year – like Rachel, I’ve been largely hibernating and I’m fine with that, but I have to come out of hibernation sooner or later!

I am hearing not a lot of anything, other than the clack-clack sound of my own typing. John is upstairs in a back-pleasing position on the floor so I’m alone in the office, excepting for my canine companion of course – and for once she is silent! Sleepily silent:

Around the house things are still in a state of chaos as the plasterer has pushed us back another week or so. Between last weekend’s coldness and this weekend’s John-bad-back-ness, it’s been a bad fortnight to be living in a half-demolished living room — no stove to keep us warm, no TV for watching films to pass the time… Still though, two good things: the blue winter sunlight is making everywhere look beautifully muted and even though I did it without my glasses on so couldn’t see much of anything, I did a pretty good job of cleaning the glass/mirror in the bathroom this morning :)

One of my favourite things aside from John’s back improving, the gorgeous weather, yummy food and surprisingly clean glasswork in the bathroom, I got a parcel of lovely things through the post this morning. Ok, I selected and bought the (very heavily discounted) lovely things but still, it’s nice to get fun things in the post and they’re all as nice/nicer than I thought they would be so I’m very happy.

A few plans for the rest of the week hopefully getting on top of stuff, hopefully making stuff with Fimo if that arrives soon and a belly-dancing workshop (!) – we’re running the latter for the kids at drama but I think I’ll have to show willing and get involved too, much like I had to do with the Arabian-scale singing last week. I am no more of a dancer than I am a singer. Thankfully the kids at class are far more talented than me!

How’s your day been? What did you get up to over the weekend?

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In my life

Posted by on Tuesday 10 January 2012 in meta | 8 comments

It’s been quite a while since I’ve done an “in my life” so here goes!

Outside my window it’s dark but throughout today we’ve watched squirrels, robins & tits, and Boron-cat & next door but one’s tabby enjoying the sunny – if cold – weather.

I am thinking about casting our next drama production – there are 40 kids & 40 parts in the play, which seems like it should be easy. But everyone wants to audition for at least two parts and some characters need to sing but not everyone is a singer, and of course not everyone is suitable for every role anyway… We’ve got to fit all the auditions into a small amount of time too so it’s been a logistical nightmare!

I am thankful that I got the above sorted – or at least everyone into efficient groups for the auditions – the actual casting is largely someone else’s responsibility. I thought it would take about an hour but it’s taken all afternoon – satisfying that it’s done but a little annoying that it’s a one time use thing.

From the kitchen, we’re having a expensive treat dinner – the organic sirloin steaks we got in our December Swillington Farm meat box – can’t wait :)

I am wearing my big green hoodie, which is funnily enough what I was wearing last time I wrote one of these! I don’t wear it that often, it’s just a coincidence!

I am creating … well, I should have been creating a fun new website but I got caught up in that drama thing. But generally this week I’ve been creating two new websites (ooh!) and a design/ideas sheet for our new living room.

I am going to switch off this evening. I have a lot of things on my to-do list but my brain, she is frazzled.

I am reading Enough: Breaking Free from the World of Excess by John Naish – a random library pick. One of my 2012 goals (which I still haven’t finalised/written about) is to review each book I read this year (even if it’s just a tweet) so I’ll write about it when I’m done.

I am hoping that all the drama kids are happy with the parts they get in the play and that they enjoy doing it – that’s more important to me than whether or not the production is a success really. I’m also hoping that the cut on Lily-dog’s paw heals soon as it’s painful when she walks on it outside but she doesn’t like missing her walks! And third, I’m hoping I manage to cook the steaks perfectly this evening :)

I am hearing John on a conference call across our desks and Lily snoring. A quiet relief from the noise of building work upstairs throughout the rest of today – John’s dad has picked up where we left off demolishing the fireplace and assorted issues.

Around the house there is a lot of dust – again, exactly the same as last time! — then it was because we were converting our coal hole into a mini-utility room and now because of pulling down old plaster in the living room. This is the last bloomin’ time I buy a doer-upper house…!

One of my favourite things of today has been how Lily-dog’s tail wagged when I sang her a new song this morning. Another favourite thing of today has been having a bit of a revelation which halved my workload for the week (hurrah!). A favourite thing of the week: a perfect cup of tea yesterday morning.

A few plans for the rest of the week nothing terribly exciting afoot – some living room renovation shopping/decisions to be made tomorrow, lots of drama stuff (we’ve got to get going on a smaller production as well as the big one), working on the new websites, some (ahem) World of Warcraft and maybe some laundry detergent making after Su bullied me into it ;)

What’s going on in your life?

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