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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A found hound

Posted by on Tuesday 8 November 2011 in meta | 11 comments

Anyone who follows me on Twitter (particularly my @louisa_ account, which is where I do my non-simple living wittering) will know that most of my yesterday was swallowed up by finding a dog.

We were just coming back from our Lily-dog walk when this little hound came hurtling up our road towards the very busy A-road at the top. We stopped her just before the junction and found she was shaking with fear. We didn’t really notice until an hour or so later but she was bleeding from the mouth – she’d either been hit by something or run into something very hard and snapped one of her fangs.

John ran home with Lily and we used her lead to bring the little dog back to the safety of our front garden while we tried to find her owner. The dog calmed down a lot when we popped her on the lead and walked well beside me, making us think she’s used to that and not free-roaming.

We found her tag: her name is Kia and there was a phone number on it too – but when we dialled the number, the line was dead. I spent the next hour walking her around the street (and calling in the woods) to see if anyone was looking for her, and asking every person with a dog who walked past if they recognised her. As I’m sure is the case in most areas, everyone with a dog is at least on nodding terms with everyone else with a dog, and many can link dog and human. While I was doing that, John phoned the (non-emergency number) police and the dog warden, but no one had reported her missing and the dog warden wasn’t available to pick her up from us “until tomorrow”.

By five ish, I hadn’t had any luck finding her owners on the street and I was very conscious about the blood around her mouth – bloody saliva rather than dripping blood at this point, so I took her up to the vets for a quick checkup (which is where we found out about the broken tooth) and for a microchip scan (there wasn’t one). Unfortunately I had to wait for longer than expected for a lift back from the vets and Kia got stressed out waiting: the traffic, the dark… She jumped on my knee but my hugs weren’t calming enough and the anxiety aggravated her bleeding tooth – it started dripping with blood, big dark drips all over my jeans and the floor. We were both very grateful when we finally got home.

We fed her – soft food, because of her tooth – and left her to sleep on the sofa in our office yesterday evening (with regular visits & wee breaks), and then overnight. She is very sweet and seems largely house-trained (she weed & did a little poo on newspaper overnight, but that’s possibly because our rhythms are out of sync), but we didn’t want her in the rest of the house because we don’t know how she is with cats (she’s met them and not gone for them but better safe than sorry) and we thought that Lily-dog might appreciate some alone time with us.

John and I always stop for lost dogs, or dogs walking down the road by themselves. We always have done, even well before we could think about having our own dog – I think because there is always the possibility that if we couldn’t find its owner, it would force our hand into keeping it. I think we both felt that way about Kia when it became apparent that there wasn’t a breathless owner with an empty leash just around the corner — we’ve idly talked about wanting another dog (usually when I’ve been looking at spaniel rescue websites – a naughty habit!) but know that everything is pretty settled in the house at the moment, and it would be a bit silly to rock the boat just for another pooch. But when one turns up like this… However, it’s been a really useful lesson: I’ve learnt that I don’t want another dog right now. Lily-dog has separation anxiety and needs a lot of attention, she likes being an only child (she is fine about sharing us with the cats but doesn’t even like sharing me with the chickens!) and I don’t think it would be right by her for us to bring anyone else into the house as anything more than a guest. She seemed jealously mopey whenever we paid any attention to Kia and while she is the most gentle dog in the world normally, I could tell she’d get grouchier over time and that might lead to snapping. That said, she actually got on with her much better than she gets on with most dogs: not as shy as she normally is, even around our friends’ much smaller Westie.

John took the two of them on a short walk together this morning and he stopped more people to ask if they knew her – they didn’t but she got lots of hugs, and even one half-offer of adoption. Then the dog warden arrived out of the blue at our house about an hour ago now. We had been worried about her going to the dog warden since they only keep the animals for seven days, and if they can’t be rehomed then they’re put to sleep. I also have a stereotype in my head of a gruff, angry man – but the guy who turned up here was lovely. He sat down and had hugs with her before leaving, and assured us that she’s exactly the type of dog who the Dogs Trust/RSPCA love to pick up: sweet, house-trained, not too big, very pretty in a scruffy, mad-eyebrows type way and in possession of the second softest ears in the world (jealous Lily-dog’s teddy bear ears still has to have the number one slot or she’ll sulk. Kia gets bonus points though for having actually effective ears, not like Lily’s hard-to-position flaps ;)).

She’s clearly someone’s pet and I hope she finds her way home again, or at least to another loving home (we’ve left our posters up around the area, so we can pass on that she’s with the dog warden or even if that half offer of adoption becomes more serious). A few people – offline and online – have suggested that she might be a victim of the recession: someone pushed her out because they couldn’t afford to keep her any more. That’s another reason why I wanted to track down the owner ourselves – because I don’t want to even think that someone who lives near me would abandon a trusting pet near a main road. But I’ll admit I’ve learnt something a little dark about myself too: I can now see why other people don’t stop to help animals. We had to have/risk somewhere to contain an unknown dog for an unknown period of time, I had to take on a charge at the vet because I couldn’t leave her bleeding (it wasn’t much, just a nurse consultation charge even though I saw the vet, but if she’d needed emergency treatment for a cut or something, I’d probably have paid for that too), and we’ve put in a lot of time trying to find her owners, taking her to the vet etc. If she’d been more likely to potentially face being put to sleep at the end of seven days, we’d have been reluctant to hand her and would have had to find a shelter or someone to take her instead. We’ll still help stray dogs in the future – but I really can see why other people might not feel able to take it on.

Why I’m writing this here: I know that most/many/all the people who read this love their animals dearly but just in case anyone is in financial dire straits and needs to give up their pets, PLEASE contact a shelter about it or re-home it directly yourself. Shelters and rescue places may have a waiting list but they make it clear they don’t judge people about their reasons for giving up their animals. If your pet needs medical care and you get housing or council tax benefit (the actual benefit, not just a reduction), you might be able to use a PDSA for free/very cheap treatment. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t just abandon them :(

UPDATE: just as I’m finishing up here, we’ve had a call from the dog warden – her owner has called to claim her! Hurrah! Apparently she got seriously spooked by fireworks (so maybe even over the weekend) and the poor scaredy pooch JUMPED OUT OF HER OWNER’S BEDROOM WINDOW (which may explain the broken tooth). We’re so glad she’s found her way home though :)

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Frugal hair and fur management techniques ;)

Posted by on Monday 13 December 2010 in frugal | 2 comments

Last week on Move to Portugal, Laura mentioned that they’ve realised it’ll be a lot cheaper to cut her husband’s hair at home than have him go to the barbers every month.

She asked if anyone else had any related frugal tips and I left the following comment:

My boyfriend has been shaving his own head (or having me help) for years.

He’s gone through a couple of sets of cheap, rechargeable battery clippers but now swears by some mains powered ones – a lot more powerful so the job is done faster and his dad has had a pair that’s lasted 20+ years. He just wishes he’d got them sooner.

When I had long hair, I used to trim it myself to keep it free from split ends – curly hair is very forgiving ;) Now I have it shorter so I go to a hairdresser – but only once every four or five months or so. As [another commenter] Carla says, keep it simple – don’t have an elaborate style that needs constant attention or products, and you’ll save loads.

When I lived close to a hairdressers training college a couple of years ago, I used to go there – would cost £4 for a cut (or £2 on half price Tuesday) and would easily rival a cut I’d have done in the city centre for £30! (Actually, that’s another saving idea if you don’t feel like cutting your own: it used to cost me £30 for a hair cut in the city centre [Leeds], £20-25 at a good salon in a poorer suburb about a mile out (where I lived), and now I live about 8 miles out, it costs me £10-15 a cut. Pretty much the same quality cut, much lower price!)

On the subject of hair, we also clip our dog ourselves rather than paying £45 a pop. We bought more good mains powered clippers and a pair of hairdressers scissors (for the bits that need trimming not shaving) for that price instead – far cheaper in the long run. The first time we did it she looked a little ragged for a couple of days but we quickly got better at it and now she looks gorgeous all the time ;)

Saying I get my hair cut every “four or five months” is actually a bit of optimism rather than accurate – it’s more like every eight or nine months because I hate going to the hairdressers (the enforced small talk mostly) but by that point, my hair really starts bugging me so I’d rather go slightly more often. The hairdressers I go to now is around the corner from our house – less than a minute’s walk away – and is more than fine for my basic cut, and so much cheaper than heading to a fancy salon in central Leeds (extra expense + bus fare + time).

Regarding Lily, it’s win all around us clipping her here. It’s a great bonding experience, she finds it a darn sight less stressful than she would going to a groomers (she feel asleep during the clipping the last two times), and it’s far, far cheaper. Our aim with her – as with ourselves – is to be clean-ish & presentable-ish and we can meet those goals here. She wouldn’t excel in Crufts with our grooming but she’s clean & pretty enough to dunk herself in mud in the woods, and that’s all she (and we) care about.

As well as his head, John, my scruffy boyfriend, shaves his not-so-designer stubble with his clippers too – he has no need to be baby’s-bum smooth so no need to spend money on expensive razor blades & shaving cream. Another time when laziness = frugalness! ;)

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Making our pets zero waste: the dog

Posted by on Friday 23 July 2010 in frugal, green, zero waste | 4 comments

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about drying ox heart and other offal to make dog treats for our springer spaniel, Lily.

We adopted Lily from the Dogs Trust in March and she very quickly made herself a core member of the household – and here, that means being green and frugal :)


As first time dog owners, we accepted the Dogs Trust’s recommendation of a certain type of dry food, with water – or whey or gravy, when they were available. Following feeding advice online, I tried feeding her veggies too – mixing them in with her food or giving them to her like a treat – she politely took them, because she’s a very polite well-mannered dog, but then gently dropped them to the floor and gave me a look. If you have animals/children/beloveds who you regularly try to deceive and betray by handing them a carrot when they expect beef, you know that look.

So, anyway, her food is very low waste: the dry food comes in giant paper sacks = recyclable. And because it’s biscuits, they don’t go off like meat does, so there is no food waste.

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