A Kick up the BGKs

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I really do have to give myself a talking to.

I've been feeling rubbish for weeks, I've had headaches, cold sweats, fuggy heads, ear aches, now I've got a tingling, pins and needles sensation around my head and ear.

I've been to the Dr, he can't find anything wrong with me.

I'm just feeling hopeless, down in the dumps, and generally rubbish. The financial situation is going from bad to worse, upon which I will not dwell, and it is the time of year I usually start feeling all sparkly and optimistic about Christmas.

So in an Elaine stylee I am going to have to pull up the big girl knickers, and promptly give myself a kick in their general direction.

The world is three quarters full with people worse off than me.  Yes, we have failed dismally to get this whole situation under control, yes we have had a pile of disappointments, delays and distractions this year, and yes, I feel like poop.

But sitting here feeling sorry for myself isn't going to help. There must be a resolution.

As I await what Jo and I refer to as the JK Balboa Moment (it's a cross between JK Rowling in a cafe with a biro and Rocky Balboa on the sidewalks at dawn in his trackies - you know, that 'right, this is not funny any more, I have to do this now' moment) I think I'm going to have to be just a tad more proactive.

Cheer me on, there's a love.

Budgets and Bugs

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The tedious business of our neighbour complaining about us is wearing me down. I've been feeling poorly this week and juggling vitamins, prescription meds, attempts at exercise and relaxation (ha!) and trying to get a bit more sleep in an attempt to beat the stress.

Not content with complaining repeatedly to the council who presumably eventually just stopped listening (well they stopped asking us to comment) he then went to a solicitor.  Our professional association replied for us, and so did our landlord. The whole thing is nonsense. He doesn't have a complaint.

Then it transpired he'd gone above everyone's head and complained to the overall landlord. The man is insane. I *know* in my heart that everyone sees it for what it is, but I'm tired, and I find myself too often tearful about it all.

As October begins I've set out a proper budget - and it is now the second day of the month and the first thing I hadn't thought of has come up. Bill for Boo's clarinet lessons. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.

I know for a lot of people 'Stoptober' is a no spend month. My chances of hitting anything like no spend are ... nil! But I've set myself the challenge of coming in under budget somehow.

I've finally got to work on sewing Boo's *summer* dress (spot the deliberate error) and am trying to get it done as I'd like some time to make some crafts for gifts and sale this Christmas.

However, when I was forced to make a detour back to the school this morning on my way to work - she had left her PE kit in the car - I was horrified to find I had to hand it in to reception in a tatty, split, supermarket carrier bag! So a couple of roughty toughty drawstring bags might have to do a bit of queue jumping.

Decisions, Decisions.

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I spend a lot of time mumbling things that I'd like to be writing down, and then not writing them.

Then I come to write things down, and I can't think what I mumbled.

Today - well this week - has been too busy. It was up to Cirencester yesterday with H to visit potential University. Today I had two meetings about forthcoming projects on the field - outdoor learning with School and PreSchool in the village.

Tomorrow it's back to work and I don't feel as if my feet have touched the ground.

Autumn is in the air, and so I lit the Rayburn properly for the first time today. It feels nice to have its warm and comforting presence, bumbling away in the background.

as you can see I was quick to pop the kettle on and park the rocker nice and near, so that after lunch I was perfectly positioned to sit down with a cup of coffee, to think through and process all the stuff that's happening, before heading off on the school run.

and this was my gaze down the kitchen as I did so! I must say the light doesn't do justice to what was a sunny, lovely but cool afternoon, and the sense of space and peace I had in that quiet moment, before it all began again.

There is so much to consider at the moment. I'm finding it hard to think about all the choices, decisions, and situations all at once.  I've been offered extra work, which would help with squaring the budget, but mean I had next to no time to work on farm stuff.

We're determined to build the farm, but equally determined to pay off our debts, and get ourselves back in a good position financially. The picture changes from day to day, and then some days I just want to sit and soak it in, and think, you know, life (this life at least) is short, and beautiful. It's too precious to spend in a state of non stop stress. Everything will be OK. At that point, I just want to drop all the jobs and side hustles and desperate attempts to square the circle, and just work the land, peacefully.

The following day, I will be back in the land of the determined, and feel we really do have to put ourselves on a better financial footing.

I'm still trying to keep all three blogs going but This Little War is currently hosted at http://frugalhomefront.blogspot.co.uk/ because I can't get the domain name change to work!

How is Autumn treating you? Are you a work until you drop to get the books balanced type, or do you see life as too precious to spend with your nose to the grindstone all the time?

You may wonder where I've been and why I'm back

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or you may not have noticed me gone. Either way, here I am and having a reorganise around my blogs and coming here to have a ramble out aloud to anyone who's listening.
We've had a woeful lot of trouble just lately with a neighbour, who has sent a solicitors letter, ranting on about our keeping cockerels and sheep and goats in our 'front garden'. We don't have a front garden but do have an orchard at the side of the house, wherein we do raise chicks, and the weekend after they make themselves known as boys and begin to doodle do, we cart them off to a field two miles away to be reared for meat.
There are a dozen cockerels locally and at dawn you can hear the lot, but our neighbour, who awakens cockerels himself going off to London at 5.30 in the morning week days, likes to sleep until noon at the weekend and the cockerels are supposed to realise this. We did have a dear little bantam cockerel, he was called Professor Bhaer, since all the banty girls were named from 'Little Women', but when the neighbour complained three years ago to the council, the Professor had to go.
We had Scallywag in the orchard once for about three days when she was poorly, and the last orphan lamb we had in there for a few weeks was Charlotte - named for Charlotte du Jardin on the day she won Olympic Gold on Valegro in London, so that was more than two years ago.
Then he complains that the children ride in the field behind his house. As they do. It is let to us to keep horses and ride in. He claims that H 'stares into his property'. The dear girl has no reason on God's good earth to stare into his tedious little house, and is away with the faeries and her little horse when she is out there. She is quiet and well mannered and schools her little Connemara quietly and sedately once or twice a week. She is wholly entitled to do so, and we shan't stop her.
His lawyer threatens an injunction if we do not stop in 14 days. The Tenant Farmers Association has told him we won't, and our landlord has told him we have no need to, but my days are a bother and I don't sleep,I am worried by the whole thing and would like it to go away, truth be told.
We don't like all the things he does. We like to keep the Sabbath and anyway we just enjoy one quiet day. Between church services and a Sunday Roast, I like to sit in the garden in summer in the peace and quiet, with a book. He on the other had does all his outdoor DIY that day, and has mowers and strimmers and chainsaws going all afternoon. I don't like it but I can't stop him! It's a 'free country' - but he doesn't seem to think it is for us.

I'm working two days a week doing admin in a christian care home, it's a nice job and I enjoy it, but it takes me away from home which is a mixed blessing.

I've thrown in the towel on the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, at least for now, and am loving turning my garden back to an old fashioned English plot, I'll go back to the Dig For Victory plan I think. A year ago I gave up on my home front blog as everyone seemed to think the recession was done with, but in truth austerity has got worse for us, and I'm in the throes of reawakening it. I've got some issues with the domain name at the moment, but it should soon be up and running. I'm so looking forward to a big practical hands on garden again, and we do plan to have a surplus to sell if it's possible.

Today I intended to do some kitchen clean up and work in the morning, get outside for an hour, and then sew this afternoon. Some chance! I was still in the kitchen when four o'clock came round and I was off to fetch H. I made bread, racked off the last of the elderflower wine, made elderberry wine (excessively messily, as I kept forgetting things and having to shunt pints of hot elderberry liquor back and forth with a jug) I made blackberry vinegar, which we use for coughs and colds in the winter, and apple cider vinegar,drained off from all the apple cores and peelings from my morning porridge.

I also bottled (possibly the last) tomatoes from the polytunnel. I think what's left will be chutney. All in all it was productive, but messy and I was still trying to clear up well on into the afternoon.

I've had a fairly organised week - it was sausages and onion gravy for supper tonight, and I'd prepared and chilled/frozen fresh veg earlier in the week - swede and broccoli. I've suddenly decided I'd like to be organised  and disciplined. Sadly, my childhood lacked self discipline and my young adulthood was positively anarchic. My middle age has hardly been better, and sadly I've managed to raise two rather freestyle teenagers. So I'm up against it now I want structure by the bucket-load and a quiet life.

So for now, I'm going to attempt to run three blogs at once! This one as a personal diary, my frugal contemporary home-front blog 'This Little War' - where inspired by Frugal Farmer's Year of Depression Era Living I am quite tempted to challenge my family to live for a year on a Wartime Budget - rations included, and the ever present farm blog. Just a bit of a challenge!

Time for bed!

So you know I said things were going to stay the same?

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They changed.

Catch up on the farm blog.
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Well, here's the dead hedge, bumbling along, turning itself quietly into a wildlife habitat.

It is hard to think about leaving here, but we do think about how we really must try to bust a gut to buy some place.

We're applying for shared ownership properties in town - we'd keep our rented land, and keep our life, but start with the Big Girl Knickers and buy the roof over our head - and although this time around it seems unlikely, it's giving us a feel for what we need to do.

I've been looking at budget planners, and following Frugal Queen's new webinar series. The problem for us seems to be the complicated nature of our outgoings. There are a hundred columns on my spreadsheet. So I'm going to address that somehow, because we need to pay down debt and get ourselves into our own home some how.

Meanwhile I've been selling at the local Country Market. If you're not familiar with Country Markets please look up your local one and take a look. Really wonderful locally grown, baked and crafted goods are on sale at fabulous prices, plus friendly faces and (I can only speak for Pewsey) fabulous coffee.

We take along wonderful small culinary herb plants for a pound a pot, as well as some bigger and more exciting herbs, some baked goods including our signature Homity Pies, and I plan to start to take along some crafted items too.

Diploma work has ground to a halt. I just don't seem to have the hours in the day.  However it is half term, and it's a great joy that H is out working with her dad - who is now back into the family business of painting and decorating - as well as studying hard for her exams.

Boo is also studying, learning clarinet and gearing up for the new sheepdog trial season.

Well, that was a bit of a random round up.  Focus on the finances coming up!

When the answer is 'both'

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We have been struggling to keep up of late.

I'm working more hours, the girls have exams, the garden is getting away from us, and as for the field!

We've a possible move on the cards - to a tiny house but one we might own in part - but we can't know if that is either possible or the right thing to do, as yet.

I have stayed awake long hours praying and listening on this. Should I give up this job? It's stopping us from living out our agrarian calling.

Should I keep this job? It's helping to keep us afloat financially.

Should we stay here, where we feel called to things we have not yet achieved.

Should we bust a gut and break ourselves to move, and break the bondage and poor stewardship of excessive rent.

Work or farm? Home or House? Earn or Produce?

Right now, all I ever hear is : both.

And that's too hard.


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So as we seem to have gone nearly a month without an update ...

My new job is going well, though it is time consuming and I'm having a bit of a panic about the garden. Neil is making ends meet with various income streams, and seems to be pretty busy back in his old family niche of painting and decorating.

We have been doing really well on the budget - but a bit of a curved ball came our way this week when a good, long run of p and d work was offered, which simply doesn't fit in with school runs. We needed another car.

Prayers were answered and I found an advert for a suitable little run around, at a bargain price - and because we had been hoarding every penny towards our emergency fund, it is not the end of the world. It is the end of the emergency fund, but we can start again, we don't need to borrow more money. I'm so happy about that bit!

The veg garden is not going as well as it should, and I have to remind myself that this is commitment number two, and also keep one eye open on any chances to kickstart the herb and flower side of things.

When it's dark, I'm working on another project which I hope will bring in some much needed funds - I need to get a bit more done on that one before I announce it.

As it's the first day of spring,  I suppose I ought to be spring cleaning as well. Rejoining FlyLady is on my list. It just hasn't hit the top yet!

How is spring going for you?

Starting on Plan

As a result of our drive to cut down, we will have for sale some livestock. If you are interested, please get in touch. They will be advertised on the farm blog soon. Basically, it will amount to three goats, quite soon. A selection of ewes with lambs at foot, after lambing, so on into May or June. Last but not least, one gorgeous welsh mountain mare, once she is cleaned up from all this mud, and has seen a show ring or two, so June, July time.

I have been studying Elaine's great tips at Mortgage Free in Three and have started a goal grid, to get our emergency fund back - we used it all up when the emergency of unemployment hit yet again. Neil has nearly finished a decorating job right now, so I am awaiting that payment, to divide it up between our needs. Meanwhile, anything not immediately accounted for has gone into our fund.

We also managed to sell a little chest of drawers, which Neil had been asked to take to the tip!!! So that small handful of cash is going in the fund, as well.

I've coloured in quite a few squares, and actually, it is quite motivating!

I've also printed off the forms to join our local credit union, done a lot of training for my new job, and thought up a mini challenge for March.

Finally today, I enjoyed the Great British Sewing Bee. I'm really liking this show, and it is inspiring me to attack the 'sewing room' which is actually a section of the landing! Must get to doing useful things with fabric once again.

What small victories are  you celebrating this week?

Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

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As if it hadn't already.

We're holed up this weekend working on a budget and issuing ourselves a challenge - we have financial issues we need to deal with, and they're not getting any better. Neil is still without a 'regular' job, and although I do have work, actually getting to do the maximum number of hours available is made harder by our dis-organisation and over-commitment. I did say it was going to be hard.

We have rented this house and lived the dream for too long - how we ended up renting and living what passes for a dream is another story - and we have to get our house in order. In fact, we have to get our house.

We have two teenage children, and even if we work every waking minute and focus like there was no tomorrow on getting out of debt and into saving, it's too late to make a significant impact before at least one of them is thinking of leaving home. That hurts. It humbles us and makes us ashamed to have got to this point.

Hey, there were good things. They had a magical childhood, and at the time, they  didn't care about the long range forecast. Why would they, that was our job. The trouble was, we didn't care either.

This isn't about feeling sorry for ourselves however. This is the new start. You'd have to be us to understand why some of the most obvious things, we can't do. Why some of the cuts we're about to make won't look as surgical as some other people might think they could. They don't live our lives and we make no claim to be a template for anyone else.

We're sat now by a fire of scrap wood, setting S.M.A.R.T. targets for the short term.

Cutting back severely on livestock, concentrating on self sufficiency, doing everything frugally - is the core activity here. Accepting responsibility for our own muddle, and striving to get out of it.  Earning more, spending less, de-cluttering, This has to be the focus now for a while.

For me, this is about embracing my new job, working hard to fulfill the expectations of those who've shown faith in me to get me this far. I also need to organise my home-keeping to make the very best use of the limited time and funds available, planning menus and meals and very importantly, staying cheerful. I am a horror for getting grumpy and punishing everyone else for my own shortcomings.

I have to find time to work very hard this year on our vegetable garden, I truly am digging for victory - victory over being enslaved to debt and uncertainty. In any spare moments, I'm committed to growing my herb, salad and cut flower business, to earn extra income.

If you're a long time friend, you'll notice I've revamped my blogroll - some of my very favourites are still there, but a few have gone and I'm collecting new links to mostly frugal blogs - especially money saving small holders and self sufficiency types. Feel free to suggest any I've missed.

Please stop by in comments and say hello if you too are feeling the pinch, and would like to join us in 2014 - the year of taking responsibility and turning it round.

Rethinking Things

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Settle down with a mug of tea. I'm back.

I've still got the farm blog, but I'm missing more personal  blogging, and the farm one is getting cluttered with my random thoughts and meanderings, so I'm having a sort out.

You should see me back here more often, with more about family life, and our journey in general. One which of late has not been that straightforward, as Neil is once again out of a job, and we are as ever, frugal in the extreme, and inventive as a matter of course.

I'm working on a 'bringing up to date' post, but for now, just hello, to anyone who is still here!

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