The gentle rustle of a new leaf as it turns

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For the first time in a decade, we went on a family holiday.
Boo left these shores for the first time ever and H for the first time she can remember.
We went back to beautiful Brittany.
There are photos, but I'm having a great deal of trouble uploading them.

To some extent, we lost our hearts all over again to Brittany, and spent lazy hours figuring how on earth we could relocate once the girls are through Uni - but at the moment, that's a pipe dream.

For now, it's back to real life and the very serious business of designing a way forward that is at once frugal, entrepreneurial, simple, faithful, and ... erm ... possible. That's the one I tend to forget!

After a week of profligate (by our own meagre standards) spending on food, and lashings of gorgeous Breton butter, with scant regard for Slimming World! I have to face the Bank Holiday Monday joy of menu planning and frugal grocery shopping once again, as well as trying to make an autumn veg garden a reality, and starting to think about ... yes, I'll say it, Christmas!

I have as yet resisted the temptation to stand on the scales.

Due to the infuriating inefficiency of the library's website, I am no doubt in debt to the tune of twenty odd pounds to the Library. I really do think I will give up. I always have the best intentions, but the website renewal process is very patchy, and when you try to renew at the machine it charges you vast amounts of money before it will let you renew. I wonder why they are saying they have to close Libraries when they rob you blind if you are unable to turn up in person to renew or return a book on its exact date, and have a website which says it has renewed books, but hasn't?

One more day to regroup, and then back into an absolute FRENZY!  Two really busy weeks at work, including three days away at a conference, and a trip up to Bucks for a family event, and then at two weeks today, my first baby flies the nest to go to Uni!

Taking deep breaths.

Still here

Silence has prevailed while I have battled my time management demons.

For the first time in weeks I really took myself to task today and made myself come to terms with the facts.

Despite our increased income, we're STILL battling the month/money disconnect. We're STILL struggling to pay back debt and stay afloat.

The house had descended into the pit and we had become distracted by all manor of red herrings.

In just under two weeks time, we're due to go off on holiday and goodness alone knows how we'll do that, to be honest. But do it we must as we're now committed, but when we get back, oh boy we have to change what's going on around here.

Less than two weeks after we get back, H will be off to uni, so we will be a 'man' down.

My job becomes more and more involved, requires a certain amount of travel, and leaves me a bit pooped at the end of the day. I need to change how I cook, how I menu plan, how we do laundry, how we do housework. Lots of stuff has to change.

Looking forward to winter, we have a fair bit of prep to do. We want to cut back on livestock even more, and make what we do have more productive.

Today I've succeeded in cleaning a lot of the house, making a half decent Sunday lunch out of nothing but bits from the freezer and left overs, actually doing some sewing, and doing some bits of 'work' work.

I do need to come back here more often to record how I'm getting on both in reorganising and in my efforts in extreme frugality.

Sigh. Back to Work

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,


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!

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.
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