Monday, 4 December 2017

Frugal living and working through July 2017

Frugal Living has plenty of perks!

Summer work, rest and play a Frugaldom

Our visiting students all had archery lessons
 Throughout the past year we have hosted numerous students and volunteers at Frugaldom, each here to experience frugal living, life in the country and, in most cases, practice their conversational English, albeit with a certain Scottishness. It has been great seeing the progress made during their stays here, even if the good old Scottish summer weather was as unpredictable and unreliable as ever. We still managed to fit in fun between bouts of work.
The cuckoo corral orchard
 After receiving an unscheduled pruning session by the visiting escapee sheep that were with us for several weeks, the newest fruit trees in the cuckoo corral decided to start growing again. The dog roses also took a severe pruning when the ponies managed to push down one of the fence rails and stretch their necks through far enough to reach them! No rose hips this summer!
Caroline (France), Olivia (USA) and Anne (Germany)
Our 3 students shared a caravan while here and seemed to gel well, despite the fact that the French lass spoke no German, the German lass no French and the American lass no German or French... we all managed perfecly well with Scottish English. 👌😊
We finally managed to hire in a mini digger and driver

The digger and driver were here for just a few days, as the cost was slightly prohibitive at almost £250 per day! However, in that time, the 2 main drainage ditches leading away from the central project got cleared, a big straining post dug back into the ground and the 2 ponds dug - one for ponies accessing the running water and the second, larger one, for planting around to form a new wildlife habitat. At the point the ponds were dug, we had a drought, so the entire area was almost dry and scraped down to the clay base, where old stone, possibly from previous drainage, was found.

Strawberries growing in the recycled milk caron 'Mishy Pods'
 A few new strawberry plants plus many runners from existing ones were potted up into the milk cartons, so plans are now afoot to build new strawberry beds.
Nick (Bulgaria) is our regular hoof trimmer
 The ponies have been having their hooves trimmed every 5 or 6 weeks, when Nick stops for an overnight. Learning about keeping and working ponies barefoot has been a real revelation for many of our students and visitors - it's quite shocking how many people think that the poor animals need to have metal nailed to their feet before they can do anything! Here a Frugaldm, we strongly support the theory that 'you are what you eat, right down to your feet' and that can be said for equine species, too. The Frugaldom ponies will never have shoes on their feet as long as they are with us - nor will they ever have bits (more metal) in their mouths. We have metal-free mud monsters, who live out all year round without rugs, stables, fancy feeds or 'posh' saddlery. Hay and herbs serve them well and everything else is from whatever they browse around the edges of the project - mostly marsh and moor grasses.
Blistering sunshine for bringing in the hay
Having ponies that don't get let loose on lush, green, monoculture grass means we need a plentiful supply of meadow hay and that isn't always easy to find. We want freedom from chemicals and a good mix of grasses and herbs, so it serves us well that we have friendly neighbours who believe likewise. But boy! Is it hard work bringing in several hundred small bales of hay against the clock within what little sunshine we get here! In this game you really do have to make hay while the sun shines, but I think the girls enjoyed their tractor driving lessons and their ice lolly breaks.
All our students learned to drive the tractor with baler
 The last bales were stacked in the barn at around 10pm, after another brief stop for chips! It was like carb and fat-fest for energy replenishing!
After a long day bringing in hay - about 600 bales
After our brief call to action for doing the hay it was back to the Frugaldom work. One of our regular volunteers who builds the benches from the surplus fencing wood single-handedly built us a new foot bridge so we could get across the newly cleared drainage ditch! She's a whizz with offcuts, that's for sure!
Celebrating near completion of footbridge over the newly cleared drainage ditch
Wheelbarrows and stone are the most common features at Frugaldom nowadays. Drainage is a top priority but we don't have the necessary funds to bring in contractors so it's all down to hand digging, laying in pipes where necessary and backfilling with an assortment of stone. From all this work comes the benefit of better toned muscles and a deeper appreciation for the morning swim in the pool at the caravan site - that definitely starts your summer days off in fine style.

Barrowing stone for the drainage is an endless task at Frugaldom
 After trying to fit as much work as possible into the dry weather slot, it took only 3 days for the new ponds to fill up completely and from that day to now, we haven't had a solid week of dry weather! It's been wellies every single day.
Olivia, Caroline and Anne by the newly dug pond
 Both ponds almost filled to capacity. They are interlinked so the small one runs into the larger one and then it can overflow into the drainage ditch that carries it off though the field via Anna's ditch.
The new ponds at Frugaldom - wildlife and drainage areas
The hens at Frugaldom are well settled into their new 'chicken shack'. We lost a few to a mink attack and then gained a few more, when we had 4 given to us and 8 chicks hatched in the incubator at home. At the moment we have 7 of the hens and a cockerel at Frugaldom and the rest at Thrift Cottage.
We have a hen laying pink eggs!
 The 2017 hatch of chicks were all pure bred Araucanas and 2 of the donated ones are x Araucana, so we do get blue eggs. However, we don't know what types the brown hens are, so when one started laying pink eggs, it was a complete surprise.
The ponies began their training to work barefoot, bareback and bitless
 Thanks to 'Auntie Anita', we now have a lovely bitless bridle for the ponies. Until this was given to us we were simply using rope lead reins and headcollars but this is so much 'posher' looking. This is Willow, our medicine hat 'spirit' pony, modelling it.
Leeks and courgettes were plentiful
The small vegetable plot behind the barn produced plenty of leeks and courgettes but this area will now be turned over to garlic and herbs, as there just wasn't really enough sunshine reached this area to make it worthwhile expanding it.

While here, the students learned a bit about wild flowers and herbs, so we have been drinking plenty of rhubarb fizz and our first ever batch of pineapple plant cordial!

At the caravans, we decided to use the 3-bedroom one for our Frugaldom work exchange students and rent out the 2-bedroom one for visitors looking for an affordable way to take a countryside break. This brought about the official launch of Frugal Breaks on Facebook and our new online booking platform. It's been an exciting year, so far!

Our fundraising is being done via www.gofundme.com/Frugaldom where you can get dedication discs for our posts and trees, sponsorships and holiday home accommodation to come and visit us in 2018. We've also had several wildcampers at Frugaldom but without any services on site, you need to cart your own water. I'm now investigating portaloos, composting toilets and filter systems for river water.

This about sums up July, other than one surprise that came along the way... a telephone call that resulted in us buying another house, this one only 7 miles from Frugaldom!

As always, I love to hear from anyone with any questions or comments and please let me know of any typing errors, as I'm attempting to blog on tablet or Kindle in an effort to use mobile internet at the caravan. all going well, we should soon have mobile internet at Frugaldom, but it's all dependent on availability of signal and Pay As You Go sim cards. Vodafone is looking like the most promising for there but Three is definitely the best for caravan park.

Back soon with the August whistlestop tour! 

Friday, 1 December 2017

Another year of frugal living

Another year of Frugal Living

2017 is nearing its end.

We're less than 3 weeks from winter solstice, so what has happened over the past year at Frugaldom?


So much has happened and so much has been achieved that I now need to split this blog post into at least two whistlestop photo tours just to bring you all up to date. Here goes...

I'll quickly run backwards from June 2017, as July to December have been exceptionally busy months for us, with many new developments that will take a little bit more explaining. All along our journey, we have stuck rigidly to the frugal living challenge of running the household on the £4,000 budget (excluding council tax) and every other penny has been invested into the future of Frugaldom. But more about that in the next blog post. For those who follow us on Twitter and/or Facebook, you will probably be aware of most of the developments - for everyone else, here is a brief summary to bring you up to date.

The lean-to got built
 Having cleared out the barn and made several improvements, some of which still need to be completed, we decided it was time to start preparing for our future food growing. We were really fortunate in having Anna - a horticulturist - arrive as a volunteer for a couple of weeks so she was a fantastic help in kickstarting this aspect of the Frugaldom project. The lean-to was built up in moveable sections made by the local timber mill but we hope it will soon become a more permanent feature with insulation, lined walls and a covered floor. It will be used primarily as a potting shed and drying room for the herbs but also as a learning zone for the children when they visit during wet weather. (Did I mention I now have 4 grand children? #4 arrived earlier this year.)
Anna working in the polytunnel
 With Anna being such a dab hand at all things planty, we got the ground cleared and set up a portable polytunnel, which was soon full to bursting with all sorts of herbs and vegetables.
This is now known as Anna's Ditch
 We also made loads of progress with the drainage, a massive job that is going to take a long time to sort out, especially when covering in drainage channels and topping them with stone and dust to make them safe to walk along. This one, now known as Anna's ditch, is being left as an open ditch and has, since, had pipe laid into it and is working hard at carrying away the surface flood water from between the cuckoo corral orchard and the herbery (herb nursery paddock).
Recycling pallets into composting areas
 With no shortage of composting materials or manure, 3 pallet bays got set up for the purposes of storing the compostable waste and pony poop! It is quite a struggle trying to keep on top of this very overgrown area but it is gradually being brought under control one square metre at a time!
Setting up the portable polytunnel
 This is the area that we fenced into a small enclosure and have planted several more fruit trees. We had the ponies completely clear out all the grass and wild herbs (we don't have weeds at Frugaldom) and then we drained the muddy mess before laying down ground reinforcement grid and weed fabric. The polytunnel is 5m x 2m but we hope to replace this with a 6m x 4m cabin in the not so distant future. This will provide us with office and admin space, visitor reception area, a place to sit for a break/cuppa and some secure, dry storage for things like seeds and order processing / packaging goods. It will all be off grid, using solar power for lighting and, hopefully, a logburner for heat and kettle boiling.
'The Galloway' survived the storms
The ecoarts project is one that means a great deal to us and as Frugaldom progresses, more wild wood is cleared and salvaged to turn into more sculptures. We plan on setting up a display of these along the access paths that will lead to various areas within Frugaldom - mainly through the orchards, willow, bog myrtle, foraging areas and down to the maple grove. Along the way, we have planted rowans, crab apples, hazels and hawthorn.
We had visitors for spring
 In spring 2017 we actually had a short drought! For 5 weeks, we saw next to no rain, so the burn flowing around Frugaldom dropped to levels that allowed even the labs to cross it. Each day we arrived at the yard, there would be an assortment of sheep and lambs meandering around, usually with a pony following them. They trimmed plenty of overgrown areas but it got a bit annoying when they sarted on the new fruit trees. Still, I guess pruning is needed!
We did a huge amount of clearing during the drought 
 While the water levels were so low, we donned our waders and went paddling along the burn to cut out all the snagged up branches, bits of fallen trees and debris that had been washed downstream in previous floods. I can't say that we have completely remedied the flooding problems but the flood water definitely recedes far quicker since the clear out - the above bend was previously like a dam!
We planted a new orchard in the cuckoo corral
 The new cuckoo corral orchard, above, was planted with over 60 assorted fruit trees - apples, pears, plums and cherries - with 10 very special Galloway Pippin heritage apple trees along one side. Along tthe front, we now have dog woods and crab apples to grow a foraging hedge and along one side, dog roses that should provide us with rose hips in future. The hares are frequent visitors to this area and during spring the cuckoos did, indeed, return to perch on the fence posts.
Ecoarts - The Green Man of Frugaldom
 This is our green man. He was made from bits of wood and branches collected while clearing access tracks and made by our resident artist, Harvey, as part of the ecoarts project. Following on from this, a second green man was commissioned, so there is another one locally - I'll need to find out if he has been put on display yet! Our green man is tucked away by the side of a little path that will eventually become part of a willow walk. We're coppicing as much willow as possible to plant along the paths.
Ecoarts - Myrical our magical unicorn
'Myrical' is our ecoarts unicorn and has proven to be the firm favourite with the children. (Did you know that the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland?) The name 'Myrical' is in keeping with the location of our unicorn, as it is in the centre of one of the bog myrtle fields. Bog myrtle is also known as 'Myrica Gale' and forms the basis for yet another of our exciting projects involving herbal concoctions, infused oils and soapmaking.

Caravan breaks for frugalers
Having finally got around to organising things between the two caravans, we set about preparing for our first paying visitors, offering an affordable alternative to expensive foreign holidays - frugal breaks in the Scottish countryside. We have a small membership base forming here and have now begun working towards upgrading this caravan for a more modern, double glazed and centrally heated model so we can offer affordable shor breaks all year round. They have proven to be very popular, especially during our themed weekends.
You can now come and stay to learn more about Frugaldom
The wildlife about here is interesting and diverse so we have set up a feeding station right outside the caravan for visitors to observe nature through the window! There is always great excitement when the woodpeckers or nuthatches appear and it's always fun to spot the treecreepers, even if I haven't managed to get a good photo of one yet.

We now have online booking for Frugal Breaks
To find out more about the frugal breaks options, we have a Facebook page set up at Frugal Breaks and have included a 'book now' button on the page. I haven't had the time to develop the website but will hopefully recruit the services of a willing student next year.

We have hosted over a dozen students and work volunteers over the past year and we're hosting a young lass over the Christmas break, so we must be doing something right if they are coming back for second visits. :)

Throughout the spring and summer months we were swimming almost every morning, thanks to the local holiday park allowing owners and their visitors the use of the indoor heated swimming pool free of charge. It is a great little pool and definitely gives us a great start, swimming before work begins for the day.

Frugal Breaks visitors can use the holiday park pool
I'll follow up this post with the next whistlestop tour of months July to December but please feel free to ask any questions or request any photos. I think I take an average of over 25 photos per day so there are plenty to choose from and many more things achieved than I have crammed into this post. Other things you may be interested in are ways to become a part of the project. For this, we have introduced our crowdfunding and rewards page, offering dedication discs, short breaks and even corporate sponsorship of various projects.

Back soon, hope you are enjoying the catch-up and will return to read the next installment. :) 

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

It's been a while, but we've been really busy a Frugaldom

Welcome to the Frugaldom Project
Hopefully, a few of you are still around to find the old blog after software and server upgrades temporarily (I hope) lost our other one. While I attempt to resolve such problems, I will revert to this blog and hope to bring you all bang up to date with progress here at Frugaldom. In the meantime, we have now splut the various projects into several social media pages, namely Frugaldom, Frugal Breaks (affordable holidays), EcoArts (our recycled and environmenal art project) and the private Frugaldom Group (for our members) on Facebook.

Blogging shall recommence soon. :)

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Home Brew in a Week with the BrewBarrel

Home Brewing Customised Craft Beer

This is a blog about my first ever adventure into the world of home brewing and craft beers. I'm not a beer drinker, as a rule, but this is different - it is customised to practically guarantee that I'd like it. I was not disappointed! Indeed, this would make a fantastic, extra special Father's Day gift for giving on 19th June 2016.

Brewbarrel customised craft beer
BrewBarrel - Voted Silver in The Dad Networks Best Father’s Day Gift Category 2015

About a month ago, I was asked if I had ever tried brewing my own beer and my answer was no, firstly because I don't particularly like the stuff and secondly because all that kit takes up space that I can put to better use. Regardless of this, I was invited to try my hand at brewing a small barrel of something specially selected, with flavours based on my personal preferences for the ice and slice taste.

Having investigated the website at www.brewbarrel.co.uk to find out more about these customised beer kits, I was already aware that artisan and craft beers are all the rage and that the bottled varieties are correspondingly expensive, especially when living on a frugal budget such as mine. I have to admit that buying a kit of anything for the purposes of an extravagant drink with friends simply wouldn't occur to me - until now! Never let it be said that I'm a party-pooper! The prices for the kits are eye-watering to me for personal use but I wouldn't bat an eyelid at buying one as a gift for someone else. So here goes... let's get brewing and find out if it is worth it.

With the BrewBarrel you create your own customised beer recipe in three simple steps:
  1. Select your favourite beer style
  2. Define the intensity of your beer's 'hoppy' aroma to control the bitterness
  3. Add up to three more flavours to make it truly yours
My BrewBarrel kit soon arrived but I never got around to setting it up for a couple of weeks, hoping to have a little barrel of beer ready for sampling over the holidays. As luck would have it, plans went askew, so I have only just got around to sampling it! Now, however, I am glad that I didn't dish it all out to others (sorry folks) as I LOVE IT!

Brewbarrel customised beer
 
Because of my believing that I didn't like beer, it was suggested that I try brewing an Indian Pale Ale utilising different varieties of hops instead of just one type, which results in a naturally citrusy and herbal sweet beer. Apparently, this beer style is also characteristic of the resurgence in micro brewing and is probably the most popular beer style at the moment. If you are a fan of citrus I can wholeheartedly recommend this.

First delay I had was in realising that I needed bottled water, as I haven't a clue what goes into the well water pumped off the hill at the caravan park near Frugaldom, so I opted for supermarket bough's own natural spring water, which cost pennies. I needed just under 4.5 litres to make up the 5 litre barrel, so bought 3 x 2 litre bottles. Yes, frugal folks, I am home brewing at the caravan! That's how handy this neat little kit is, complete with it's 5 litre tin keg (that I can think of several ways of reusing).

Home brewing using a craft beer kit
 
This is a German beer kit, produced by a fairly new start-up company in Munich, where home brewing wasn't as popular as it is here in UK. Despite this, 80,000 brewing kits were sold in Germany alone, with one reason being the will of many people today to engage in a DIY hobby and practise some degree of self sufficiency. Likewise here in Britain, where requests began arriving for the bespoke kits. Alongside the UK launch, new beer varieties, such as Lager and Ale, were developed.
I remember the 80s' when every lad and their dad, son, brother and uncle was home brewing. Big plastic barrel kits could be seen in almost every back room, shed or outhouse! Staying home and socialising with friends and neighbours was the normal thing to do during those financially turbulent times and now, here we are in 2016, 30+ years later, still with our turbulent times but with beer kits that are so far removed from the clumsy efforts of the past that it's now trendy for us ladies to have a go. Sexist? Maybe! Fun? Definitely!

Measuring out the boiling water, mixing the syrupy malt, adding the hops and yeast... it really was a dawdle! The most difficult aspect of the kit was probably pushing the pressure valve into the top of the barrel, but even that was relatively easy. I waited the few days recommended and then gingerly turned the barrel - I couldn't resist testing the valve to hear the hiss of the beer inside - proof positive that it was fermenting.

Next, I had to alter the shelves in my tiny fridge to fit in the 5 litre keg, but managed this without having to eat too much to make the space. Who would have believed that beer could be made within the space of a week? As luck would have it, my visitors cancelled, so my beer barrel sat in the fridge for a second week until I decided to do the testing myself.

My frst ever home brewed craft beer
 
Gingerly, I lifted the barrel onto the worktop and slowly released some gas from the valve. Not wanting to waste a drop, I opened the tap at the bottom and allowed a trickle of the frothy liquid to run into a glass. I'd never make a barmaid, that's for sure! As you can see, I had a glass of what looked like cappuccino froth, but it slowly turned into a honey-coloured liquid and I was able to taste it for the very first time.

What a revelation! Never in my life have I liked beer until now and, even now, I can't believe this is homemade beer! I have no idea of its strength or potency, all I have is the knowledge that I made it, it was simple to do and I like the end product. It's a real treat to the taste buds and I wish this company every success in their entrepreneurial endeavours. They have a great product and, if anyone is stuck for gift ideas, I would happily give or receive a gift voucher that allows me to concoct my own specialist beer from over 50,000 different flavour combinations. I honestly didn't know where to start but can see how easy it could become to keep on sampling more, based on initial results, so...

DON'T FORGET THIS IS ALCOHOL!

PS: The kit also includes 3 beer mats - nice touch!
PPS: Cheers, frugal folks! Don't forget Father's Day in UK on Sunday 19th June. smiley

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

London Travel Guide: Top Places To Stay for Under ₤50


London Travel Guide: Top Places To Stay for Under ₤50

Houses of Parliament and the River Thames

Whether you are travelling for pleasure, for passion or even for a business trip, you may still prefer to keep an eye on your finances by finding budget accommodation. When you are in a big city like London, finding comfortable and secure lodgings within your budget can be difficult - indeed, it can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack!

For most visitors, hotels and apartments are the normal type of accommodation sought, but for the money-conscious, hostels and other alternative accommodation are becoming more popular, especially among student travellers. With the current global financial instability, inflation and various other economic constraints, travelling within a budget is becoming increasingly difficult. For these reasons, a number of accommodation providers around the world are coming up with better options for those who are travelling on a restricted budget.

Studies show that in most of the countries where large numbers of tourists pour in every year, hotels have slashed their rates by about 10% at major tourist locations. If you are planning to travel to London in 2016, you should definitely try out the Travelodge discount code 2016 at Dealslands, where you can also find other amazing deals.

When it comes to London, you will find a number of options for bed and breakfast at different locations across the city. Here's a look at some of the more economical choices available to you.

1. Oakwood Bed and Breakfast in Heathrow

This place, which provides bed and breakfast, is situated close to Heathrow airport. Reports say it has excellent, friendly staff who understand the needs of their guests. The rooms may seem small but they are en suite, so not bathroom sharing. Apart from that, you can indulge yourself in a full English breakfast while there.

2. Barking park hotel

This hotel is situated 10km away from the city centre of London and is near to the Geffrye Museum and Ilford Golf Club. The hotel provides a number of facilities like free Wi-Fi in public areas, airport transfers, non-smoking rooms and meeting areas. The rooms are comfortable and come with a microwave, coffee/tea maker and free Wi-Fi.

3. Rossmore Hotel

Rossmore comes with a good price tag and friendly staff. It could be listed among the best budget hotels in London. The hotel comes with free parking and is only 10 minutes away from the airport. The hotel also provides services like free Wi-Fi, laundry services and has its own pub.

4. Heathrow Lodge

The Lodge is situated within easy reach of terminal 5 of Heathrow airport and provides free airport transfers. The rooms are well maintained and come with TV, movies and hair dryers. If you are planning for a one night stay, this would be an obvious choice. Don't forget to check out Hotels.com for deals and find some great hotels where you can use the Hotels.com voucher code.

5. Bursteads Cottages Stansted

Affordable rooms with garden views, this place offers bed and (free) breakfast as well as airport transfer facility.

6. Palmers Lodge

If you are someone who prefers to spend less, then hostels and dormitories can be your best option. Why not visit Palmers Lodge? It is only 4 minutes away from the Swiss Cottage Tube station. The lodge has staff who work 24*7 to help their guests and has a common room where you can watch TV and interact with your fellow travellers.

So, if you want to travel in London but want to make sure you stick to your budget, you can try out any of the above places.