And looking back, the way ahead seemed clear

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A long time ago in a  galaxy far far away ... well no actually in Buckinghamshire, about 20 years ago, to be more accurate.
Before this adventure of being a family began, before we had babies or toddlers or tweens or teens or now nearly grown ups, before all that, there was us.
We still have from those days, twin copies of one book. His and Her copies. I'd like to point out that we do have more than one copy each of the Bible, but apart from that, this probably is the only book we felt we both ought to own.


and it was simple, that was what we were after, that was what we wanted and needed to do, and so - well, we did it. Or some of it. As much as we could, when we could.

It wasn't a political statement, it wasn't an environmental thing, though both those things came into it later. It wasn't in any way sacred, or spiritual, we'd never heard of the Amish or the Mennonites, we didn't see it as an act of faith, though that came later, too.

We wanted to grow food, rear livestock, make bread and wine, and cheese and chutney,  make stuff for ourselves and live simply.

We emphatically did not want to wait until we were 'old' and do this in our retirement. However, when we came close to buying a Welsh smallholding, we bottled it, and later, we made the decision to move down here and rent because we couldn't think of another way.

Since then it's been a business, we've convinced ourselves we were farmers, I've tried to 'be' a permaculture professional, we've tried all sorts of land based livings and mostly failed, and here we are both of us working full time pretty much but still with this rented land, and now, with two nearly grown daughters.

So today we sat down and asked them, 'Where are you with this?' and it became obvious that with plans for university and so much else in the next few years, while they loved their childhood of animals and pony club, camps and dens and free ranging, they now can't be part of it directly for some years to come.

We made a cup of tea as you do, and went and sat in the garden. And then it struck us. Although we're busy at work, we'd still like exactly the same hobby as we had all those years ago. Together, with a few chooks, a dairy goat or two, a few sheep, and a big garden, we'd just like to live that way. The way we always wanted to.

So that's what we're going to do.

Maybe, in the future, if the girls' lives work out as they hope, we'll get some transport, and toddle off to some county shows together. Maybe we'll show goats or sheep or ponies. The biggest maybe of all - *if* Harrie's little horse comes sound after his latest round of treatment, and *if* I can focus and lose enough weight to ride him as well as care for him while she's away at Uni, and *if*  that all goes well and then she comes and reclaims him, one day, maybe I'll have a horse of my own again. That would be something.

In the meanwhile, here we are. Back where we started. Obvious, really,

Onward!

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The world changed for a lot of us in the small hours of Friday morning.
I have seen and heard since then such bile and hatred as I thought never to witness in our gentle, polite country.
But regardless of how we voted, regardless of the rights and wrongs, now is our time.
Those of us who for years, for no reason we could discern, have been frugal, backyard, part time farmers were put here - like Queen Esther - for such a time as this.
Fellow Frugals. Part Time Farmers, Growers, Steaders, Make do and Menders - the time is now.

Straighten your wellies and square your shoulders.

Come on, Britain. Follow us!


Zone One

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It can be overwhelming, when you're trying to kick the butt of multiple problems, in a limited time.
It's a Permaculture truism that 'the problem is the solution' - but conversely, sometimes it seems the solution begets the problem.
We were (are) broke, up to our total necks in debt as a result of some sorry choices earlier in our lives. We made those decisions for all the right reasons, but they had all the wrong outcomes.
Thinking and praying how to resolve this, we got Neil out working at the old family trade, and he works long and hard hours, and it's going well. It took him off the farm, and we had to sell a lot of stock, but it started to help the situation.
Then my amazing new job came along, nothing short of miraculously, and before long, I'll be earning a lot more, too.
Fab, right?
Well, yes.
Except it's brought about its own problems.
Firstly, money comes in, but it goes out again, and unless you control it with a will of iron, it goes as fast as ever it did.
Then, you're short of time, and that can lead you to spend money. It can also cause you to lose your way. When I'm not gardening, or spending some time with the animals, or being outside a fair bit, I go a bit bonkers. On top of a full time job, I do the church notices, and run the girls hither and yon, I attempt to keep everyone fed, and take a rough stab at clearing the house up now and again.
I've decided I really need to take a hold of several areas of life, and I need a way to watch them all.

  • Money
  • Weight
  • Garden
  • House

to this end, I'm an avid Dave Ramsey listener,  I've rejoined Slimming World, I'm trying to schedule Garden Time, and I'm even toying with going back to FlyLady!

What I think I need is some kind of integrated approach - in Permaculture we talk about stacking functions, and that's what I need to do - I need to monitor my inputs and outputs on many levels, all at the same time!

I'll let you know when I figure it out!

Christmas Mitts!

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It's taking a while!My boss has been away for a week, during which very much stuff happened, but we all survived.
I was ready for a break today, and baked bread, cleaned house a little, did the shopping - and started on my Christmas presents! No! Really! I found some very nice wool in Wilkos for a pound.
I made such a lovely pair of mitts from a pattern from the woolshop, and really luxurious wool a while back - I feel a bit bad about buying the wool in Wilkos but needs must, we are now in the land of uber frugal.
I don't think any of the prospective recipients read my blog so I'm safe to share:


The big thing about these mitts is they take just one ball of wool, so if I get it right, that will be a £1 present.
Unfortunately, most of our extended family are not very keen on hand crafted gifts and tend to turn up their noses. My lot are OK about such things, but Neil's, not so much.
We've gone mad and booked a holiday - we haven't all been on holiday together for a decade, and the girls have never been abroad, so we're off to France in August, house sitter (who apparently has now changed her mind! ) permitting. We also have to replace my car - I can't keep on driving H's little Peugeot once she passes her test! So we are living on air, and when we get back in August, we will be getting back to major frugalities, and serious personal finance stuff!
Menu plan done, not very exciting but four of us fed for £50 plus spinach, beans and salad from the garden/tunnel, milk from the goats and eggs from the girls.
Life is different now, but really very, very good.

Never too late!

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So, on Wednesday, my new job was announced - I now have a management role, which is effectively full time.
Such an answer to prayer money wise, but a big challenge for me, I haven't worked full time outside of the home/farm for ... well a couple of decades at least.
I'm finding it hard to fit everything in, and it's going to require much, much more organisation.

I've gained back some of the weight I lost at SW and I'd really love to go back - but the time's an issue. I've told myself if I can organise my time better, and drop back those few pounds on my own, I can go back.

I've lacked time in the garden annoyingly, but I did get out today, and in a mad rush, planted the rest of my first early potatoes, some runner beans, and planted all my brassica seedlings out into what will have to be a nursery bed. They had to come out of their pots and I don't have their final places ready yet.

Apart from a great deal of running the girls around,and far too many sneaky pauses to watch Cross Country day at Badminton, that does seem to be about it. Oh, I did do my Lidl shopping and also go to Mole Valley for animal feed.

It's taking me a while to adjust to being back in the rat race! I'm determined to enjoy my new found normality, but at the same time, keep my permaculture studies and general interest in the simple life, off grid living, and sustainable smallholding, firmly in view.

I'm going to have to adapt, I'll be a very small scale homesteader now for a few years, but in the end, we hope it will help us to get some financial security for our 'retirement', which I put in inverted commas because lets face it, we will never be able to retire.

In part it makes me cross, we have friends who are retiring now, with well stocked pensions and paid off homes, and I feel annoyed that we made such different choices and now don't have anything.

On the other hand, we've lived an amazing life, and even now are faced with huge opportunities to put it all right, and keeping going, as I know from friends at work, is what keeps you young.

So it's onward and upward, to an encore career, and the dream of our own land or home, rekindled.

Bank Holiday Monday

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Well, the weather was proper Bank Holiday fare - it hurled it down and it was freezing cold!
Yesterday was the annual Young Farmers Rally - by the end of which, I realised I was exhausted.
Very early night, and spent today pottering in the garden. In the rain.
Planted two rows of first early potatoes, half a bed of dwarf beans, and half a bed of onions.
Also managed to do some potting on and tidying up.

Now though, after a quiet evening watching Housewife 49 (in tribute to the late Victoria Wood) I am off to bed. Back to work tomorrow for another slightly short week - but one which will have some big things happening.

And on Wednesday, I can tell you what!

Hello from the other side

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Half way through my first full working week (working in an office that is, as opposed to toiling on the soil) in  a quarter of a century.
I'm tired.
That about sums it up.
The workload is immense at the moment, and I have just had a week off, which makes things worse.
Also, as I feared, each morning and each evening, there is something urgently needing attention, stopping me hanging on to my small moments of smallholding.
This - has got to stop, for I will go insane if I can't be part of my little smallholding alongside my big, grown up job.
Two mornings I managed to walk the dog before setting off, but on the third, bills needed paying online in that slot (don't worry, Boo was home to take them out.)
Plants in greenhouse, tunnel, and cold frame have had very perfunctory attention.
It's not going quite to plan.

It's week one, however, so we'll give it a chance.
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