This blog is mainly a rambling kind of diary of the transition from smallholderwannabe to smallholder.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The weather has been a little bit warmer this week - more like spring than it has been. We've even managed to survive without any form of heating for two evenings this week. We haven't planted our potatoes yet because we thought they might rot in the ground. Our heavy clay soil really holds the water and it has been so cold and wet recently. We've gots lots of seeds in pots and trays. I find it really exciting to watch them sprout and poke up little green shoots. I think it is the promise of good things to come that I find exciting.

Our compost bins have just about fallen apart. We built them seven years ago out of old scrap wood mainly found in skips. I have recently acquired four pallets of the type with planks right across the top surface which form a platform without gaps so there are lots of planks about the right length to make new compost bins. This means we are recycling the pallets by reusing the wood to make new compost bins or repair the old ones in order to recycle stuff (technical term here!) to make compost to enrich the ground to grow my dinner. This pleases my little mind.

There is a thread on that I have been following with interest. One of the forumers has been reading about the US government initiative to ensure that even those on the poverty line will eat healthily and get sufficient vitamins in their diet. This lady has set herself a budget of £40 per month for April, May and June to feed herself and her other half. This is actually rather less than the US guidelines. She seems to have done her homework and thought through things like having enough iron and calcium and is insistent on getting in that "5 a day".

She has also visited a really interesting American site that I have read through
Hillybilly housewife has a huge quantity of recipes and articles which include a $45 emergency food for a week shopping list with the recipes to go with it. The moneysaving expert forumer followed this list and then shopped for all her ingredients at Asda. Hillybilly housewife did her list in February 2006, but what she got for $45.16 cost £43.74 in Asda in April 2008, buying the cheapest brand level available of everything. This emphasises that although there is a huge difference between the value of the £ and the $ in monetary terms, they buy about the same amount of food.

I am interested to see how this lady's experiment works out. I have always thought that it was remarkable how little you could live on, foodwise, if you really put your mind to it - and had the time to do so. For example, this lady made her own bread and hummous sandwiches for lunch (made in bulk and frozen) and costed it out at 3p per lunch per person. (see post 46 in thread) I don't think I could make it for that little. I called in at Lidl on the way home from work and I noticed that a bag of white bread flour was 48p and a bag of ordinary self raising flour was on offer at 45p reduced from 48p. I like to use wholemeal or at least a mixture of white and wholemeal for making bread. Even using just white flour for the bread, I don't think I could make lunch for just 3p.

The poor weather last summer has resulted in higher prices for lots of things. Layers pellets for the hens have gone up a lot since the autumn. I paid £5.85 per bag in December and £6.85 in February. I was passing near the feed merchant in March and called in to get some more in order to avoid a special trip later on (10 mile round trip to feed merchant = lots of petrol) and found the price had gone up to £7.15. Last October half term we happened to pass a Countrywide store and called in to buy hen food (to avoid that special trip again) and they had layers pellets on offer at 2 for £10. This is only six months later. I'm aware that price wars and customer demand have kept prices down and there is the fact that the grower/farmer/producer has received a pathetic return for their work from the supermarkets, but costs rising steeply in a short time do hit harder than if they rise more slowly. And will the grower/farmer/producer receive any higher a proportion of the higher price paid by us, the consumers?

Anyway, enough thinking. I need to go do the things which need to be done before I can head for an early night. I am tired. But I will still watch that thread with interest and pinch all the good ideas. Anything to fill those coffers a little faster and turn the dream of a smallholding into a reality. That thread is called: Old Style vs the USDA head-to-head challenge... and can be found at: