Back to Frugality

It felt like autumn would never arrive but the soft greyness outside my window suggests that it's here, and I'm delighted. Summer 2018 has been very long and very hot.

We spent almost two weeks of our summer camping, something of an endurance event with young children, fun but exhausting. The second week we cheated, we slept in a tent but had full use of the facilities in the house. The luxury option.

In complete contrast, the first week was spent at a small off grid camp site, a secluded pitch in the woods. Perhaps it was because we were back in my home county, but everything about it was completely enchanting. I began to remember things about myself long buried in the noise of plugged in city living.

We woke up with the sun every morning. The kids picked blackberries for their porridge and we ate that same breakfast every day. We foraged firewood. We swam in the sea. We used the composting toilet and had 'navy' showers to conserve the tiny amounts of propane heated water.  I stretched the clean clothing through the week and cooked everything one-pot. I made a single phone charge last 6 days.

It was an exercise in barebones living and conserving resources - and I loved it. I vowed that I would bring the experience back home with me. And then I got back to my regular routine, and also burned through the budget for school supplies, birthday parties and social activities.

I've felt discombobulated by it all. I know that that's not how I want to live; and I know that it doesn't make me happy. And so things need to change. 


Checking in

It's been a while, how are things?

Last month I turned 33. We went for a bus ride, had coffee and cake, and walked around some of the lesser known parts of the city. I finally visited an estate right by the motorway that has always captured my interest as we drive home. Can you see the man poking out from between his sunflowers? I asked him if I could take a picture, he seemed pleased as punch despite apologetically explaining that he 'tends to go a bit nuts with his seedlings every year'.

Turning 33 was a weird thing. When I turned 30, I promised myself that my life would begin in earnest; that I would make radical changes and become the person I wanted to be. And I did make some changes, but overall its been a mixed bag. I realise that part of me is still trying to be someone that I am not. From the way I dress to the hobbies I pursue and the opinions I express, I keep playing it safe. I've worked out why I do this, but after revelation comes the hard work of living an authentic life and to hell with the perceived consequences.

In the spirit of that, I've started the 'Konmari' process again; and this time I'm doing it completely by the book. I got myself in a nice relaxed frame of mind, and spent a while thinking about what I wanted my house to be - and my lifestyle in it. And then I questioned every aspect of it, did a gut check, and thought about it some more until I knew I was pursuing something true. And then I realised that I had a lot of tidying up to do.

So far I've done clothes (will need to revisit as I don't have enough clothes at the moment to purge) and books. The books that 'sparked joy' for me were a small handful - vegetable growing (still waiting on that allotment), sewing (I don't even sew yet) and a few fiction books. I threw out the Spanish course (useful, logical - and completely not me) and kept the Russian course (impractical, difficult and utterly beguiling). Interestingly I now don't own a single recipe book or magazine, even though I deeply love my grub.

Next I'm going through the 'komono' - or the 'why the hell do I have all this random crap' category. It's going to take a few months

This afternoon's komono is craft supplies. This is going to be an interesting one. Making stuff, being self reliant has always been a part of my identity - I come from a family of makers and I learnt to knit at the age of 4 - and yet its fallen down my list of priorities in recent years. I have no idea what is going to 'spark joy', if anything, and this time that is OK.


Saturday Snippets - 21/04/2018

I've just noticed that Amazon have a massive sale on Kindle cookbooks, lots of them are 99p. I'm buying Mildred's Vegan and Ms Cupcake: Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town.

Don't soak your dried beans! - LA Times. Shots Fired! The myths and science of cooking, eating and digesting dried pulses. 

DIY Sashiko Denim Repair - Honestly WTF. I wish my jeans had holes in them right now.

The Magical Loaf Studio - Vegan Lunch Box. This is deliciously retro. Design your own vegan 'meatloaf' recipe. I haven't made one yet, but I will.

Hope that the sun is shining for you, we have thunderstorms ahead!


Action then distraction

I don't know if I'm alone in finding the past winter grindingly bleak, but between the relentless bad weather and the relentless doom laden news cycle this one really took its toll towards the end. Still, as the news continues to plumb new depths, there are signs of good things to come. 

I have to remind myself frequently that I can influence neither the weather nor global events; and instead should dwell on the things under my control. Yesterday I took my attention outside away from the news, first to the garden which was given a thorough spring clean; and then for an evening walk. Action, then distraction.

We have two large city parks within walking distance of our house. One is more of a recreation ground but it does have a huge bed of rugosa roses and a huge mock orange bush, so I visit that one quite often in summer to sniff them. The other park is landscaped, popular with dog walkers and older folk, so it suits my temperament just perfectly. I go and sit and read a book or knit, sometimes I just watch the dogs play. Yesterday I took a stroll around the shrubbery because it's looking glorious.


Japanese Quince working its way through the other shrubs. Did you know that it produces edible fruits? And that it grows in shade? It's one of my favourite plants.

Viburnum, smelling swell.

One of the cherry blossoms. There were plenty more, but I got distracted by a pack of Pomeranians playing chase with each other  ❤.

I hope that spring has reached your part of the world and that you can take some time out to enjoy it.


Permaculture Inspiration

I stumbled across this lovely little video yesterday and it was just the tonic I needed. I'm not usually a fan of plinky plonky heartstring music, but this one made me feel all warm and fuzzy.

It reminds me of how I felt when we moved into this little house and I realised I had some growing space, however limited, at last. We grew a remarkable amount that summer and I was so grateful for the courgettes, herbs and tomatoes - I think we had Christmas spuds too.

This afternoon I'm dragging the kids outside to love bomb our neglected little yard and get it ready for summer.


Reviving limp veg

Found at the back of the refrigerator today:

Oops. Thankfully not the end of the world, but I've rediscovered my zeal for the little things and the infinitesimal difference they make in the grander scheme. It's the principle that counts. An attitude of thrift at the limp broccoli level will reinforce my attitude of thrift at all the other levels. I aim to manage my fridge better this week, prevention is worth a pound of cure after all.

I've had success with reviving tired celery in the past, as well as potatoes, parsnips and carrots, by placing them in cold water in the fridge (it works better than leaving them out on the side for some reason I don't understand). So I trimmed a sliver off of the dried out ends of the broccoli stems and placed them in a jar of cold water in the fridge.

An hour later:

Perky and crisp enough to chop up into pasta.


Dear Diary

So, its been a while. I am an unreliable confidant, as fickle as this spring weather we are enduring. I get on a roll, and then I roll right off again.

I have a touch of the blogging blahs. Normally I solve this by shutting everything down and coming back a year later. I am not enamoured with this blog - the name, the design, the tags - any of it. I love writing but I am not as good as I once was - not so much from lack of practice, but practice in the wrong direction. When I started my first blog 7 years ago I was full of enthusiasm and was gradually uncovering my 'voice' - I know because I've just read through some of my archives on ye olde blogs. I felt a pang of nostalgia for my lack of self consciousness and the enthusiastic belief I had in simpler, greener living as an antidote to all the crap going in in the world.

Somewhere along the way, I decided my voice was not good enough and I stifled it. At the same time I decided my life was just a bit too interesting with all the DIY, self reliance projects and ensuing mess, so I decided to pare everything down to greyness. Who could have foreseen that going badly eh?

So here I am with a very boring blog and a very dull voice, pondering what to do next; regretting roads not taken and wondering if there is the slightest glimmer of hope that I might recover that enthusiasm.

In other news, I found a huge hole in our budget - I remember the threat of poverty was very inspiring back then, so perhaps I've found my most potent muse again?

Ramble over.