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.

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