A Cunning Plan - Smart Ways to Rent Land and Live the Dream!

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I thought I’d share some thoughts on looking for land.
We’ve been ‘smallholding’ for over two decades, in various ways, on various bits of land – and we still don’t own a square foot.
A growing number of people want to get onto the land and find a way to live a simpler life. I come across people who have a way to buy a bit of land, who are prepared to build an offgrid cabin, or live in a van. I’m not one of those people – I have a family. When we started out, we had baby children. Rightly or wrongly, we weren’t prepared to live in a ditch.
When we first came down to Wiltshire, fresh from a number of catastrophes, we came down to a farm job.  Neil had some experience of working on a farm, but nothing major.  This particular job had a number of things going for it, and these may or may not be some things to look out for!
1.   They were getting desperate. If the job is doing the winter feeding and mucking out for dairy cows who come in in October, and the job’s still going in September, there’s a chance they may be less than picky when they’re hiring.
2.   It was a simple, basic job. Once you knew how to drive the tractor and operate the feeder, you could do it. As time went on, you’d do it better, but you were competent really quickly. There wasn’t much training to do, and they gave someone half competent a shot at it.
3.   It was seasonal. It came with a cheap house to rent, which was a big plus, but it was only a winter job. We had to take a chance that we’d find work in summer. As it turned out, Neil started a gardening business that ran for some years off the back of those unbooked summers. But the income from the farm job from April to October was: zero.
4.   The bloke who was herd manager was less than charismatic. If you were hoping for a new best friend, you weren’t going to want this gig. If you could let it wash over you on the other hand …
So. That’s how we got our first shot at it. We got a three bed bungalow with a huge untouched slab of garden for a song, and a half decent income in winter.

Once we moved away from this first job, we rented cottages from the Crown Estate.  Rented houses can be adaptable, quirky, with land, with woodburners - and you can be free to keep pets, keep chickens, grow vegetables. Your average buy to let landlord isn't going to let you do that though. Landlords like the Crown Estate, Duchy of Cornwall, and the National Trust, can be a bit more relaxed.
  • The National Trust properties to let. I'm warning you there is actually a tearoom in Somerset on here. I may  have to pack after I finish writing this.
We never actually got around to community living, but it's undoubtedly a way to get onto the land, and also to learn a lot. There are some unusual opportunities and although these days some of them come with a price tag that would buy you a regular house, there are still some openings for renters.
Eventually, we got into a private arrangement with a local fellow Crown tenant who had some grazing he wasn't using, and we had that off him on a handshake for a number of years before we formalised it, and we now rent on an FBT off the Crown. Having a little faith and just getting on with it paid off for us - it might not have done since he was in breach of contract, subletting to us, and it could have ended horribly wrong, but it didn't.
II have no way of knowing what's on offer in your area, but land does go up for let.
  • UK Land and Farms is a good place to look for land tenancies.
  • Greenshifters used to be good but these days has few lets in the UK, and those it does have seem to be overpriced. 
Ihope that's been of some use to people whose hearts call out to the land, but know they can't afford to buy, and don't know where to start to make a big life change while renting. 
Renting has its issues - don't we know it - but if you really want to get onto the land and get started, you may be like we were - we had limited choices!

i don't regret our choice to move right away, diving into life onto the land by way of tied and rented accommodation. I'd always advise you to watch your back, and have an exit strategy* but it's been a lot of fun. 

If it's where your heart is, you probably need to follow!

*ho hum. We still don't have one!

Street Cat

A couple of weeks ago, it was my birthday.

I was thinking about this after my shared ownership rant last night - for my birthday treat I chose to go to see 'A Street Cat Named Bob'. I knew I wanted to see it, from the moment I saw the trailer.

Funnily enough, the other movie I wanted to see  - I, Daniel Blake - also touches on similar issues  but I  made it pretty clear that wasn't birthday treat material. I still haven't seen it, and I still want to, but I'm very aware it will not cheer me up.

If you haven't seen it, (and please do) A Street Cat Named Bob is the true story of the redemption of a homeless heroin addict.

What's that got to do with shared ownership?

Well - it struck me that night - which was a fabulous one, the movie was great, we went and ate Mexican, I had a wonderful time - that we are actually this close to homelessness. Many of us are.

In a moment, we could have been on the road to owning our own home. But. In a moment, we could be homeless. It could happen. It would not take much.

I sometimes loathe being at work. Today was one of those days. The sky sparkled and the cold, brilliant light bounced off my prison walls. The hills mocked me from the window. My heart broke pretty much on the hour. My very soul needs to be outside. However, I mustn't lose my gratitude for the job that keeps the roof over our heads.

It's very, very cold tonight, I am wrapped up in bed, with my knitting, the Tightwad Gazette, Tales from the Green Valley on YouTube, and a mug of Horlicks. I wouldn't like to be out there, alone and afraid.

We really do have to nail this financial thing.

Why we won't be sharing

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In the middle of all that, we found out about the possibility of a shared ownership house.
The last one we got wind of, we qualified for, were offered, and then were denied the mortgage, on grounds that during a ten year period of consistent self employment, Neil had chosen to spend one year employed. There had been no blip in his income, only a change of contractual arrangement. But it was inconsistent, so no mortgage.

Now I say we found out about - by the time these properties hit the pages of Help to Buy South - the agency where you are supposed to find them - they have gone. You have to hope you catch the right email at the right time from the Housing Association representing them.

Then you are told you need to go through a specific mortgage company for assessment.

Bear in mind, you are buying, in this case, a 40% share of a £200,000 house. You are not invited to see it, to visit the site, or to enquire any further about it. You are just Housing Association. You are parting with £80,000 but, they say, they *may* permit you to keep pets.

Now for the 60%, they charge you £300 a month rent. Which is good, because obviously with the lions share of the property in their hands, they're mostly responsible for the upkeep, right? Wrong. You are 100% responsible for maintenance and upkeep, despite only getting 40% of the house and despite paying market rent on the remaining 60%.

So we spoke to the compulsory mortgage advisor, who plagued us day and night for a day or two - and hurrah, we qualified for the mortgage. At our ages, the longest one they were prepared to offer was 12 years, so it was twice the price most people would pay, and nearly twice our current rent, once you added in the £300 they were getting in rent for ... er .. nothing.

Exhilarated by finally qualifying for a mortgage, we got back as instructed to the Housing Association, still having not seen the site, or been given a jot of information. There are no show homes for Shared Ownership, and it's no use looking at the regular show home, because the Shared Ownership one will be built to the lowest of low standards, with the cheapest of materials and fittings, and the absolute minimum footprint, so will look literally nothing like the rest of the houses.

At no point had anyone been courteous to us, much less simpering. No one cared if we were interested or excited or not. Just tenants.

utterly bloody annoying shared ownership website whereby we learn that shared ownership is really for badly drawn teenagers of limited intelligence.

Still in a high state of excitement, Neil phoned the HA to be told - oh it's gone. There will be no more three beds on that development. We're expecting one in {neighbouring town} in Autumn of 2017.

Really? That's a year away. One a YEAR?  And we could go through all this again (11 years on the mortgage now,  though, and counting) and still be told 'Oh, it's gone'.

No. I'm not sure where or how we'll live if this rental goes pear shaped, but I am not going through that again. Treated like scum, as if at any minute they'd have to slap an asbo on us, with no courtesy or politeness, much less 'customer service'. Treated as disposable, making up the numbers, presumably a back stop in case the chosen family failed at one of the many hurdles.

Failing again. Our fourth attempt - the first time both my children were still in school, by the next time, they will both be at University. In the time from the first 'opportunity' to the last, we will have paid £45,000 in rent.  Despite having paid rent here for a decade, with no let up , we have nothing to show for it, nor now it seems will we ever.

Something needs to be done on so many levels about housing in this country. It's an utter disgrace. Council Houses are sold off for a song.  Buy to let landlords get rich off  my taxes, because their exorbitant rents are paid by Housing Benefit. I work until I drop and for my trouble I get to pay out - over the course of a decade over £80,000 in rent and what will I do when I'm too old to work to pay it? I don't know.

This is why I've decided we just have to step out in faith and trust that we will be come up with something.

We won't be sharing.

Gather Round

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Advent Sunday caught me somewhat on the hop.

I'm usually all ablaze, waiting to get going on that spiritual journey - I think it's beautifully symbolised by the Steiner Waldorf advent spiral. A meandering inward journey, searching for meaning, and finding it, where else but in the centre, where God comes down to man.

I am not usually caught out by Advent Sunday being in November, but there we have it, this year I work full time, I've got a lot on my plate, and I didn't notice.
Add to which - last minute addition of inlaws for Christmas.  I'm actually really happy about this, as I have always wanted family to come around for Christmas, and they never have. Okay, I'll be honest and say that I'd have preferred it if they'd chosen one of the nineteen years I was not working full time outside the home, but I don't mind. Only trouble is the sitting room was in a state of semi decoration (who'd be married to a P&D? Can't do it myself, won't be up to standard, he can't do it, hasn't got time!) and now somehow it has to get done before Christmas, along with a whole house overhaul.

This coming week is fierce. All four of us are out tomorrow night, for example - and everyone's schedule is manic. So to enable Neil to get some time to decorate, we've decamped to the kitchen.

There's something wonderful about our occasional 'live in the kitchen' spells. We are blessed to have a big old farm cottage kitchen in our little house. Despite the fact that we rent our cottage, which was originally tied to Neil's job on the farm, it's a step up in size and quality by virtue of having originally been the dairyman's house.

 This is the 'other' end of the kitchen from the Rayburn, and since moving the furniture around, I have added a cushion and a quilt to that rocking chair!
The sofa is out of H's bedroom, and has to come out anyway to accommodate another bed, for our guests.
It is cosy in the extreme but we shall manage for a week or two.

 After our 'choir practice' - a group at church perfecting 'The First Noel' for the Carol Service - I came home, cleared up, made soup, and then positioned my laptop on the counter you can't see in that picture, and sat happily knitting and watching a BBC2 documentary about the pilgrim fathers - The Mayflower Pilgrims: Behind the Myth. - until the others came back.

There is a great deal of peace in a winter kitchen. I believe my advent lesson this year will be to learn to trust God, with everything (not just the small stuff) and live my life to its fullest potential.

For I must work, but I must also live a dream.

Two Hearts

The estimable Mel of Inkblots fame recently spoke of the discombobulating effect of two worlds colliding.
This is one of my worst fears/realities. My progress in creating an online entity of any real worth has always been held back by my absolute terror of one life colliding with or even caressing the other. Ugh.  It's not that I am holding a lot back - I mean I'm not secretly the svelte twenty something mistress of a Russian oligarch or something - but I have comfort zones around me both in world one and world two and they don't overlap.
But I'm wondering if I have two internal worlds ... or more ... which collide within my very self and cause just the same retraction ?
Normal calls to me like a gilded siren - a tempting dream of ironed shirts, mown lawns, clear kitchens and social gatherings, friends 'for dinner' - heck actually just friends! - smiling set piece garden capers in summer. Success at Slimming World, a sleek, well dressed appeal, holidays with sun and sand. The debts, all paid, the appointed way, with wisdom and restraint. A new bright venture running on oiled accounts and crisply proffered business cards over steaming fresh coffee.
And just as I am about to dip the tip of a toe into her sleek smooth waters...
My heart digs her heels in and whispers wood smoke,  spun wool of much loved Jacob, dye beds and herbs upon herbs, soap and butter making, goats' cheese, hand knits, a roaring fire and silence, the dark of the woods, hand made shelter from the wind and rain.
The gut deep urge to create that reality, hand drawn line by home grown seed, overwhelms. Leaves me a little drunk on damson wine and heady sourdough. Breaks my stubborn heart in two and cries for room to breathe, to dream, to talk, to draw, to share.
I've nurtured this boiling, blistering, baffling conflict for a decade or two. Like its outward bound cousin, it makes me recoil in terror, and as such, it has power over me. A power which, before I reach my demise, I must overcome.
Choose. Do something. Keep choosing. Keep doing.
It's the only way forward I can see.

A sharp autumn frost

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We awoke to a crisp, white frost and bright sunshine, easily my favourite weather.
I however awoke to a headcold making me feel miserable and the onset of seasonal depression.
Like many other people, I suffer with seasonal affective disorder, and this year it is extra challenging, because I am inside all day, five days a week, and to be honest it is pretty hard to get outside the other two, when some kind of sketchy housework has been factored in, and the shopping done, and meals cooked.
I have a SAD lamp, bought for me by my wonderful niece/sister (you have to know us to get the ambiguity of our relationship, but I promise you it's not of the genetic kind!) and I used to use it for half an hour each morning as I prepared school lunches and breakfasts. That time seems to have been downsized now, so while on a two day course last week (you don't want to know about the driving home part) I asked our HR director if it was ok to take it into work, and he said yes, definitely.
So tomorrow I think I'll be working bathed in bright light.
Cormac is now clipped and rugged up in his quilted PJs, the nights are dark early, two fires are lit and the bedroom still feels like cold storage by bedtime.
Welcome to autumn

I just don't know

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Right now, we're trying to figure a way we can employ Boo on the land for a few hours a week, and provide her with wheels - but at the same time producing something of worth. We can't just hand her money and a car.
It's complicated why we want to do it like this - she's hell bent on a car and we want her to focus on her exams. We want her back in the family/farm fold just a bit more before she goes off to uni. (She's applied to Oxford which is a long process, and three out of her four other unis have already made her offers, two unconditional as long as she opts for them as firm choice.)
In the midst of this financial juggling, a new shared ownership house has come up, and I would *really* like it.
We'd have to juggle and fiddle to qualify for the house.
We'd have to juggle and fiddle to work out the Boo and sheep gig.
There's no way to do both.
In an instant, I feel like doing the right thing by my daughter is a no brainer.
But we need a roof over our heads and some security.

Not sure which way to go.

To reconvene a farm

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So i have got to the point where I seldom see daylight.

We've had a few big 'things' going on at work - and that means I've been in early and leaving late. I haven't done anything in the garden. I've barely kept the house up together. Well, no I haven't.

I'm getting a shed for my birthday. Or at least, I hope I am. Whether I will see it before spring is another thing.

We have a pressing sense that we really need our smallholding to happen. That we need to live with love, joy, simplicity, walking lightly.

Yet here we are. Tied to work. Neck deep in debt for the umpteenth time.

Coming home from having my hair cut this morning, through wild amber autumn in the lanes, distant mist on the downs, I thought, just what could be better than this, than outdoors. I have to get back to it.

By searching.

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We just had a couple of weeks that were ... well ... they hammered us.

Night after night of appointments, meetings, trips to take people places - punctuated by a church weekend away which was OK, but not uplifting enough to make up for the fact that that is now fourteen days straight with no real time for house cleaning, menu planning, shopping, proper cooking, as much as a quick walk by way of exercise, or a single hour in the garden.

I am whooped.

I have a lot to do this weekend, but at least I'm at home.

In the middle of all that I got really, really ill with something diagnosed as ibs which is almost certainly not ibs, but anyway, I thought it was going to finish me off.

To add to the joy tonight I had a bit of a tantrum about wanting the plain and simple life back again.  It's there, in our hearts and our intent. We just are so flat out, it's not peeking through.

We can do this.

Welcome to the new look Saturday

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Well, it was inevitable.
This here belt had to be tightened.
So with a weekend where I'm *not* actually going anywhere but church tomorrow morning, for a change, I had a menu plan, a shopping plan, and a list.
After shooting over to do little horse, as H wasn't back until later in the day, I made a run into town to buy a cheap microwave from Wilko.
We haven't owned such a creature for years, but as a fan of Frugal Queen I'm very aware of the power of ding cuisine on busy work nights.
Next to Lidl to do an ultra planned shop, which came out at £38 - we'll see how well that pans out. I'd 'shopped my pantry' first, so a lot of freezer and store cupboard goodies featured strongly.
I've made enough bread for most of the week and frozen one loaf. I've made a huge fruit cake for lunches, and a batch of bread rolls.
For Sunday's roast I've taken a quarter of a turkey out of the freezer. You read that right. One of our turkeys was left after Christmas and was finished so huge it's been frozen as four quarter joints. This was a leg joint and is defrosting in the slow cooker.
I've cleaned up the Rayburn and tonight it was fired up to dry clothes - there is autumn in the air and although I've not had it swept yet, it feels like the beginning of the long run of winter fires.
After making coleslaw and potato salad to go with schnitzels and green salad for supper ( with good old semolina for pud.) I was about whooped and sat down to a secondhand Midsomer Murders and my knitting before bed!

I feel a bit adrift I must admit, I'm so busy I'm not catching a lot of significant or serious news or commentary and I couldn't tell you where we are with Brexit or the new cabinet. I must make an effor to catch up. I shall briefly stop listening to Dave Ramsey on my commute and listen to Radio 4 instead.

New World Order

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So yesterday, we took H to Hartpury near Gloucester, and she began her new life as a university student.
I was less of a wreck than I might have been, as she'll be back on Wednesday for a driving lesson, and up and down frequently to ride her little horse.
Meanwhile, guess who is looking after said little horse?
I left for work today at 7.30 am and didn't get back til exactly 12 hours later, having tended to his lordship mid way on both journeys.
I enjoy this visit into my past life, but it's pretty tiring, on top of my quite newly acquired full time job.
Boo is now deep into personal statement, written work, and history assessment tests. It all feels very different.
I'm giving myself a little time, but I have to reorder things around here to make time for all the productive house and home tasks I love, and rely on to save me money.
Time to garden, sew, knit, and cook must be carved out somewhere.
The finances are pretty rocky after an unusual and hard to track few weeks - we have to get back on top of things!
I'm also now keener than ever to get on track for Christmas - having my precious girl (and next year maybe girls) back home for my favourite season just got even more special.
All this means the time and money commitment for Slimming World has gone out of the window. I must try to keep up to speed on my own.

The girl at Uni - farewell sister selfie

Summer draws to a close

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August Bank Holiday weekend is one of my favourites. This is because I love autumn, and I adore Christmas, and now I can start thinking about both.
After ten glorious days off work, I had to try to get back into the groove, so it was Lidl shopping, menu planning, kitchen , and just a bit of time in the garden.
The plan for today was to strip the polytunnel, but we got nowhere near.
We did however clear a space outside the greenhouse for seed trays - newly planted by my own fair hand with seeds for autumn and winter growth both in and out of the tunnel.

For a second inexplicable day, my lovely photos are refusing to fly from my phone to my laptop, I think Mr Google is out of synch!  But what a lovely day, pottering in the sun, planting seeds of hope, and dreaming of winter and Christmas!

Boo had her first driving lesson today, and, chalk and cheese as ever, absolutely loved it and feels she will be ready to take her test in about ten minutes. H is still arranging re take number three. :(

In the evening, after a late family dog walk in the dusk, we made a start on September's budget, paid bills, and tried to get our heads around the complications of the coming week.

I hope you're looking forward to going back to work, if indeed you are! Have  a great week!

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.

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.

Listing to Starboard

Lists. Specifically, To Do Lists. Do you do 'To Do'?!

At work, I am very organised. I work from my distant memory of Stephen Covey's '7 Habits'. I spend the first five minutes listing all the things I need to do. Then I categorise them all 1, 2 or 3. Then I sub them a, b, c etc. Then I start at 1a and work all through the '1's, then the '2's and if we're very lucky or I've decided against going home that night, the '3's. Mostly, though, '3's work their way up the following day's list, or get delegated, or become extinct.

At home, this is well nigh impossible. Everything is too fluid. I can't stack things nearly so neatly. Today for example, the weather forecast said the morning would be nice, but it might turn wet later, so I did the outdoor stuff first.  The sun was still shining at 5.30 p.m. but there we go.

My gardening list said check up on flower seeds (to see what needs planting) and make a start on the potatoes. I sort of did those things, but about a half a dozen other things as well, while I was about it. I planted dahlia bulbs, and weeded garlic, and hoed  between the broad beans. It was lovely out there.

However, I now come to look at my list, and although I did also go and do daughter's horse, fetch animal feed, pop into Lidls, make supper and now I am dutifully producing a blog post - 5,000 words on a story, a cleaned off table in the mid-transformation bedroom, a start on a recipe file/menu plan folder for use when I am working 5 days a week so that anyone can cook dinner, the placing of one excess book per day on e-bay ... all these things remain unchecked! It is now 9.30, and with the best will in the world, most of them will stay that way.

Tomorrow, I'm taking the girls into Oxford. It's the one slightly spendy trip of the Easter Holidays/My week off, and I will likely spend very little other than the petrol and getting them some lunch. It's really more a chance for them to spend some money, and actually to spend far too long in Waterstones.

Friday is the end of the week! I'm going to have a whole nother To Do List by then!

How do you manage your To Dos?  Are you a lister, or a go with the flow type?

If you list, what do you do with the drop-offs?!

The Wartime Kitchen and Garden

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I'm a huge fan of the Ruth Goodman/Peter Ginn et al series - Victorian Farm and so on.

But I'd forgotten this much earlier favourite.

Ruth (Mott this time, not Goodman) with Joyce, works in the kitchen, to stretch the rations, and feed the team.

More to the point, one of my all time heroes, Harry Dodson, is in the garden. When this series was first on, Harry reminded me of my brother in law, John. Still does come to that.

The whole series is available on YouTube. I shall thoroughly enjoy watching it all the way through.

Good Friday

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What a glorious day! The sun shone for our one and only promised nice day over the bank holiday.

After church, we made a start on the spring clean/transform we're aiming for over the next week. Neil moved stuff valiantly until the now very shabby old sofa out of the kitchen could go into the Utility Room where it belongs to the dogs. We wait to see if Nan now shreds both the sofa and everyone's boots.

We also made a start on sectioning one part of the garage off as a dedicated 'root cellar/food store'. Today's progress was installing shelves (salvaged shelves, of course!) I've been waiting for this for eight years.

Canning jars from all over the house were swiftly removed to the first lot of shelves, I was so excited! They are mostly empty right now of course, and I wonder how well I will do at filling them when summer is spent in an office? Press on though, and see what can be done.

I also managed to make Earl Grey and Lemon Hot Cross Buns from the Country Living Recipe. My lovely friend Ali gifted me a subscription to CL for my  birthday. It's  not something I'd splurge on so I'm always happy to see it, a guilty pleasure but such fun every month! We had a bun each for pudding with a big dollop of fromage frais (after Sea Bass snapped up with a yellow sticker. I'm not a big 'fish on a Friday' girl, but my Anglican roots go deep and on Good Friday fish is a bit of a must.)

My other achievement of the day was to plant out a couple of dozen broad bean plants - all started off in trays, as I've said you just can't go from seed around here, even great big bruisers like broad beans.
I don't much like broad beans - well none of  us do - so I don't grow a great amount, but their big advantage is they are first. So I grow some, because it's always good to get a first taste of your fresh homegrown.

We all settled down with popcorn tonight to watch Spectre on DVD. Boo saw it in the cinema the second it came out. It makes me laugh to see these 16 year olds all unnecessary about Daniel Craig. He's old enough to be their grandad almost I should think! But we all went all weak at the knees about Sean Connery and I expect that was just the same! The rest of us had not got round to it, so it was all new to us. I never really understand James Bond films, I always lose the plot somewhere after the second big car chase, but I enjoy them anyway! This wasn't my favourite - I think that would be Skyfall - but it was good.

I'm told the weather is now on the turn. I hope you all have a blessed and happy Easter.

This is it.

I saw an article today - about a bloke who has pared down so much he now only owns 111 things.

This got me to thinking about the Man Who Lived Without Money and sundry other purists.

The thing is.

I really need to know a lot more about these people, because you know, if you actually don't have anything, that's one story, but if you don't have anything, but your dad owns half Hampshire that's a different story.
Time after time I've read inspiring and uplifting accounts of people who have done without, hacked out a living, created their own space, lived in a  bender in a clearing ... and then in the end, the inheritance kicks in. Or they sell the family jewels.
I know people, who truly believe they are carving out a life, living in rented accommodation, or in a communal setting, and they haven't even pointed out to themselves that they have wealthy parents who presumably aren't immortal. I have no idea if they're in denial about the money or the mortality, but one of  them, for sure. So before they they themselves grow old and dependent, they know full well, whether they acknowledge it or not, that this will not be all. This is not it. In the normal run of things, they will suddenly find themselves materially much better off, if sorrowful.

We had friends a long time ago, who set out to build a house in Ireland, on the wild west coast, on a plot of land they'd acquired heaven alone knows how, and at the time, I was way jealous of their adventure.
Except. It turns out his well heeled family had mucho connections in that part of the world. Mainly builders. So he kind of picked up work whenever he needed it, and also had somewhat of a helping hand on the construction side of things.
Meanwhile her parents actually did own half Hampshire. So mummy would pop over on the ferry periodically with a Fired Earth floor for the kitchen in the back of her Volvo.
Oh and then they had the rock star relative who just gave them cars and stuff.

None of this is to wish anyone any ill will. If I had an inheritance, I too would own land in Cornwall or Wales. (Would I sink all my money into it, and then live off Tax Credits? As it will never happen, I can't confirm or deny. I like to think not.)
But. And this is a big But. (I hope no-one's counting breaches of grammar around here!)
What we have to show for our lives, Is. It. The likelihood of either of us having an unknown relative about to shuffle off and leave us even a few grand is vanishingly small.
Neil's parents maxed out their house on equity release, go on a gazillion holidays a year, and are only in financial cahoots with his younger brother. Hurtful? Yes. But that's another story.
My parents are long dead, I have one surviving sibling who has five children, a dozen or so grandchildren, and lives off her state pension.
For this reason, because we chose to play the wild card when we were young, because we saw California sunsets and Carolina day breaks, because we brought our children up in the wild, home educated, taught them to milk goats and grow food and ride ponies, because we took time to be with them day and night when they were small, and treasure all those days - now, we must do the hard work, because if we don't, we will have nothing.

And I do mean nothing. This is it.

Arranging Violets*

I rather like Ali over at Currant Cottage ' s idea to keep a track of all the small homesteading triumphs we part timers manage, amid the madness.
I've been a part time farmer for a long time, but always felt something of a full time homesteader. I can't maintain that illusion any more, with a full time job on the horizon, and the sell of livestock ongoing.
Today in my non office day, I mostly drove the car.
Boo had a school trip which was on/off and time changes for days before hand, which resulted in my taking her in early, only for it to be cancelled again at the last minute, so I brought her home, to fetch her school stuff, then took her back.
H was over at the yard and needed a lift home, and then a lift to Swindon to take her Driving Theory Test, which she passed.
Then home - yard - Lidls - yard and onto supper and some budget rustling and putting stuff up for sale.

Today the two younger nannies have gone on Farming Ads, along with Neil's pressure washer - a purchase he needed for one job which has stood idle ever since.  Feeling scared but motivated.

Now for my round up of the good stuff

  • I watched Mary Berry's Easter Feast again last night. Both episodes have lifted my spirits no end. Good old Mary! She has firmly but without too much fervour ('enthusiasm' is so American!) put across the christian festival, with heartfelt faith, and openness.  What a lovely reminder of what it is to be a no nonsense English christian! And the recipes weren't too shabby either.
  • I spent an hour in the garden, clearing up a section of the flower border, and raking over the veg bed which will soon house the broad bean plants currently in pots, as well as becoming the 'seed bed' - I don't actually plant much from seed, the weed population around here, teamed with the slugs, the pigeons, the pheasants and the cats, mean it's better to get a head start, but my brassicas still need a nursery bed.
  • I conceived of a plan for Easter celebrations (while sat in a car in Swindon waiting for the Theory Test Victim)
  • I spent a quiet half hour with a coffee and my 'permaculture pad' planning out how to get from where we are, to where we want to be.
  • I planted out a small clump of larkspurs. Maybe too early? We'll see.
  • I tried to separate a clump of Motherwort, to donate a bit to a lady at church, but it went quite badly wrong, I ended up with a handful of - at best - cuttings - and I've plonked them in a pot with a bit of rooting powder in the hope they'll make a start.
  • A bargain sewing pattern purchased online arrived - mainly to venture into making 'tops' for work, but also has a jacket pattern and trousers. Now all I need is time.
Well, I'm back to work tomorrow, and I have to wrap up year end, because I'm on leave the following week - yes, a whole week off! Looking forward to a spring clean, a clear out, some gardening, hopefully some sewing, and a proper Easter celebration!

What are you doing for Easter?

*as a child, I remember trying for ages, probably with my tongue out to make a 'flower arrangement' out of about three teeny tiny violets, and few bits of grass, in a silver (oh yes, precious metal, the only bit I could lay my hands on) egg cup which had been a christening gift. Sometimes, this determination to keep hold of every tiny triumph, to keep on being a 'homesteader' or 'cottager' or whatever on earth one is, in England, is just the same - the desperate determination to make a pretty arrangement of a very few, very tiny, bright spots. These are my violets.

The end of the beginning


Debt Snowball

Today, our sheep went.
Yesterday all eight goat kids went, and today, it was the sheep.
After the rather sick-making incident with the cocky kid, I advertised them elsewhere, and immediately got full price, and a very nice man came today and took them to play on cliffs in Dorset. So they won.
We still have four nanny goats, two of which at least must go,  a pony with no purpose, a few lambs and hoggets, and a straggly bunch of chickens, but I'm pretty confident we have less livestock tonight than we've had in about twenty years.

It feels strange. I haven't cried, though I want to, but it would be ungracious, because we're in a hole, and we're being handed a spade.  Selling those sheep helped us to complete Dave's Baby Step One, and now we can be intentional about getting a hold of this situation.

We've done this before. We've made a start, but got distracted and started having bright ideas, and all those bright ideas involved spending just a little bit of money, rather than paying off debt and keeping to a written budget.  This time, we mean it.

Homestead Snowball?

I've pared my grocery budget down to pretty lean, but I'm ashamed to say, I am spending money (and quite a bit of it!) on vegetables! It's true! In my obsession with 'creating a business on the land' I forgot to grow our food!

So I'm on homesteading Baby Step One as well! : Plant a Garden.

Today is the first day of Spring, and it's as good a day as any to commit to going back to basics.

My challenge for the next month or so is to reorder my time, so that outside of extended working hours, I can get out onto that garden, and be productive.

Days of Small Things

Of two non office days this week, one was completely wiped out by fetching and carrying, so today was all I had left.
It was sorely tempting to cancel a coffee date with my sister, but I gave myself a talking to. I can be am anti social, and reclusive, and I haven't seen my sister, who lives half an hour away, in a year. Neither of us is getting any younger, and I need to learn to value people, and time with them, and stop nittering on about the weeds and the washing as an excuse not to actually visit.
So we met for an hour over coffee at a local garden centre, and it was good to see her - she's looking well despite her health problems, and we had a bit of a catch up. We're not naturally on the same wavelength, but that's another thing. I need to just accept that people are different, we can and do still love them.

Trays and trays of seedlings in the polytunnel
It was a beautiful sunny day, so I did also get some washing on the line, which is a particular joy of mine. I also pricked out some seedlings, had a bit of a sort out in the polytunnel, and cleared a bed in the veg garden ready for planting.
The salad mix which has kept us going over late winter is still going strong, but boy does it have a kick!

Meanwhile, a particularly cocky farmer's son from the north of our beloved county has been messing me about for days about buying our sheep. He's faffed and messed and changed his  mind that many times, on Tuesday Neil had actually offered them to him for rock bottom price but he decided to delay again.
This morning he had the nerve to message me again (tip: for any wannabe negotiators. If you constantly avoid having an actual phone conversation, and do all your haggling via a facebook message, we do know that you are twelve.) to say " Have you had any other interest?"

I saw red, and told him I'd decided to advertise them elsewhere. 'OK' he messaged back. "I'll bring you *rock bottom price minus £100* on Sunday."

As you can imagine my answer was: No you won't.

Please, however big you think your britches are:

  • Be a man of your word. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no
  • Negotiate by all means, but play fair. Don't try to screw people.
  • Don't play silly beggar games with grown ups
  • Be nice to people on the way up. You may bump into them again on the way down.

A bit woolly

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I watch them head in for food, and look out for that brown girl, who is going to add yet more bruises to my legs with those pointy horns.
I love them to death. They are our family. And they have to go.

Every thing you do for yourself, is a minor victory. Everything you can make, for your own life. Is better than needing someone else to make it. So for this moment, though I still can't get from the sheep to the needle, here are my mittens.

For the joy of it

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It is clear there will be challenges. Well let's be honest, there already are.  H was up at the crack of something horrible to go for a second interview with Lidl, which it appears is the blue ribband of part time jobs. She did some shelf stacking, they asked her if lifting five trays of yoghurt was too much for her (at her current job, she hefts about 25kg sacks of animal feed!)  and she was duly interviewed. She forgot to ask what happens next so we now await ... something.

Boo was catching up on mocks, which she missed as result of gadding about  doing study days in Oxford, and as the sun was shining and my week has been minced stuffed and baked twice over, and this was quite possibly my only day to get  anything done, I planted stuff and cleared out the greenhouse.

I'm actually excited about the chance to get right back to roots. We've been trying so desperately to turn everything we do into a business for so long, I've forgotten what it's like to do the things I used to do for joy, for joy.

I know it's going to be hard. We're looking into selling all the goats, pretty much all the sheep, the pony. Gulp. But. We'll have Boo's sheep to care for. They are sweet, and slightly bonkers, and purebred and few in number. When H goes off to Uni for at least four days a week, I'll have her little horse to care for, and he's pure gold.

On Friday, for the first time in - ever? - I sat down to watch episode one in a season of Gardener's World (I do love me a bit of Monty and Nigel) and thought about my garden, and growing veg just for my  family.

Today, I planted a square bed of red onions. Just one pack, from the feedstore where H works. It was brilliant. They are our onions. The garden at the field that was once our CSA garden will lie idle this year. If we're lucky, we might add some compost, even build the odd bed, for future use, but by and large it will do nothing, unless perchance it becomes a pig pen. That's not out of the question.

The garden beside our house - roughly the size of an allotment, and pretty much our own, personal, in splendid isolation. allotment garden - will be home to our vegetables. The flowers I'd already started as a potential business, will now become beds and borders and hopefully armfulls of cut flowers for our own pure joy.

That is, if I get this job!

Possibly because of the sunshine, there was a little bit of heart singing today.

Change in the air

It's with some trepidation that I acknowledge, we are about to make some pretty huge changes to life around here.
For eighteen or so years, we have been trying to establish a smallholding economy, live simple, walk lightly on the earth ... and on rented land, in a rented house, although we've had our glory days, they are few and far between.
I stayed home to home-school our daughters, and even when they moved to a christian school, and finally a state school, I worked from home. Firstly on our own ventures, and latterly on customer service call taking on the phone, from home.
Two years ago I stepped out in faith and applied for a job two days a week in a christian care home, on the admin staff. I got it, and have been doing it ever since, but we saw it as a support to my main function as wife, mother, and farmer.

Neil's decorating business is doing OK, but we both know we should be more focused, and it could do a lot more. We are drowning, and it is frustrating and heart breaking to be unable to do the smallest job around here, because we simply can't afford it.

Last week, I was brought into negotiations for a far bigger, far better job. There is a strong possibility that I will move towards getting that job, and then, for the first time in over twenty years, I will be at work full time.

A small cry goes out from my heart when I say that, but it's a practical solution. We've decided, I will have to work for a decent salary, Neil will have to build his business for all he's worth, and between us, we can get out of debt, gather some money, and howbeit a bit late in life, buy ourselves some security, God willing.

But here's what's important. We're going to nail this part time farm/homestead thing if it kills us. We've both agreed that it will be what keeps us sane. My side of it involves homemaking, growing the veg garden - growing us flowers (my commercial flower venture will likely be postponed) and blogging/writing about it. His is to keep a simple, straightforward, profitable small sheep operation running on the field, so that the field has a job, pays for itself, and is there for our future plans when we get through this. Oh and to decorate this house to within an inch of its life.

My Welsh pony Diva will have to go. Nearly all the goats will go, but we do plan on keeping house-goats. I'm not going back to commercially produced milk. The chickens will move over here, to be near to the house. I only wish the goats could but I suspect our narky neighbour would play up about that.

I really want to remember to share our progress - as we embrace frugal, part time, rented plot smallholding. (how many challenges can you pack into one project?!)

I know some of you live this hodge podge patchwork life as well - how is it going? Do you have any words of wisdom for me?

Stupid Tax

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Anyone who's listened to Dave Ramsey knows about Stupid Tax. It's what you pay for being a dimwit who gets into debt, or makes other bad financial decisions. Credit Card debt is Stupid Tax, as are parking fines, bank charges, overdue library fines - in fact if you could have avoided it by using your brain, and yet some how you're still paying it, it's Stupid Tax.
We have a lot of this darn tax to pay.
Today was Neil's birthday, and it was a pretty scrimpy day. I'd scraped money off the top of every category and bought him some work boots he wanted. H bought him a book - Church Zero - which he was excited about, and Boo bought him a new padded shirt.
We had a nice meal, and I plan on making him a lovely Indian Fakeaway sometime in the week.

But you know what? Paying off stupid tax and watching people you love go short of stuff on their special days absolutely stinks, so lets get at this debt and cash flow problem as soon as possible!

We are now designing a way to stay as true as possible to our homestead ideal - to make grow and produce anything we possibly can and avoid buying where we can learn to produce - and to stick to a simple and God honouring life - at the same time as moving up a gear in terms of earning and scrimping, to straighten up our stewardship and give ourselves choices.

This will involve selling some livestock,  concentrating on producing for ourselves and only selling surplus when it truly is surplus, and fitting the homesteading life in around more work off-site for both of us.

Watch this space for hopefully interesting hints on tips on how this works!


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I wonder if I get less done, or if I expect more of myself, get more done, and still whine?!
I feel like nothing got done today.
In reality, I cleared a bed for garlic - I was going to start planting, it's very late, but decided to let the bed and its evil couch grass roots lay open to the hopefully hard frost tonight. Maybe that will knock it back!
With H's help, I taped up a huge hole in the polytunnel. It's very much a first aid measure, but it's done.
I pricked out about a million larkspurs.
I took a good zip out of a dead pair of jeans, and put it into a good pair of jeans which had a broken zip (Neil's). To do this, I had to dig out my trusty Singer hand cranked machine. It did all those triple denim layers without complaint. I love that thing.
I fetched and carried girls to and fro - H to the yard, Boo to work, and onto town to meet her friends.
I invented and cooked lentil and bean burgers, I made burger rolls,  marmite chips and two kinds of coleslaw for supper.
I made two loaves of bread.
I made a pot holder out of part of the aforementioned busted up jeans.
H and I did all the afternoon chores - sheep, chickens, ponies, goats, turkeys and plants.
Written down, it looks a lot more!

Uber Frugal '16

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Going for it!
Sick and Tired of being Sick and Tired! ©Dave Ramsey

I wrote those first two lines at the beginning of the year.
Clearly, I've written precious little else since.

The situation here has come to a head, and we have decided we have to get focused, get out of debt, and build ourselves a future. Who cares if I'm past the middle of the 50s? I work in a place where two of the residents are over 100. I'm not saying it's going to happen, only God knows that, but it's a bit early to be giving up, especially as the hubster is 8 years younger than me!

So, we have to make some hard choices, get on a written budget, and get out of the mess.Then we can work on making good things happen.

Homesteading on a shoestring is in one way a good mix - growing your own food and living simple ought to bring down the outgoings - but in another way, a challenge. When things go wrong, they go spectacularly wrong, and that usually *costs*!

I was offered extra hours at work, and I'm taking at least one more day. I'm pushing for a full five day week, but I don't think that's going to be offered.

Meanwhile, we've decided realistically that 'farm' activities need to be curbed this year, and my main or possibly only business venture will be a new one - cut flowers.  So I've bought a modest amount of seeds and a good book on the subject, and here we go.

I follow lots of great 'frugal' blogs - and I might be bothering one or two of the authors for a guest post and a bit of support!

Anyone else taking debt by the horns this year?

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