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

Friday, February 26, 2010

Back to school again. And hopefully much healthier now too after a few days in Wales with nice, clean air. We really enjoyed those few days away. We did nothing very exciting - just went up on the moors, had a cup of tea (from a flask), went for walks, met a few sheep but nobody much else. Just our thing and we loved it. The little cottage where we stayed is actually the converted dairy on a farm. The people who live there are lovely and so are their animals. They have 20 acres which is a bit more than we aspire to. And we see just how hard they have to work, whatever the weather, to maintain everything.

The cottage has a woodburner which keeps us toasty warm. I really would like one of those. There is so much scrap wood thrown on skips where we live - I'm sure we could cut our fuel bills considerably while at the same time being greener and warmer if we had a woodburner. It is amazing how quickly one becomes used to being warm in the house. We came back from Wales on Sunday night and went straight to bed without any heating on. On Monday, after work, the house felt like a fridge. I spent the evening with five layers, my coat and a blanket, the gas fire in the living room on full for 6 hours and was just starting to feel a bit warm by bedtime. We put the central heating on for just one hour although we would have liked it on more.

On Tuesday, we came home from work to find a nasty surprise waiting on the doormat. Our gas and electricity bills had arrived. According to their actual readings (not estimates), we have used £60 of electricity and £85 of gas per month in the last quarter. We have the central heating on for one hour on weekday evenings (only if we are in) and 2 hours on weekends if we are in during the day. We also have a gas fire on during the evening in the living room. We cook and heat water with gas too but that is minimised as much as possible. Grrrrrr!! I already dress like the Michelin man's wife at home. I've been racking my brains to see how we could pare the bills down but I've not had much success.

I know things will even out a bit with less gas used over the summer. And I'm aware that prices have gone up - but this much...?? I'm quite down in the dumps about it because I've gone without so much heat this winter. What would the bills have been like if we'd had the heating on enough to actually be warm? To be honest, I don't think I want to know. I rang my daughter, when it was free :) , to have a moan and she asked me jokingly whether the neighbours had managed to plug themselves into our supply. She said that our house was always like a fridge because I wouldn't turn the heating on but they like to be warm and use their heating lots and their bills for this winter have been much LESS than ours.

If I use the heating, then I'll be warm but the bills will be astronomical and we'll never manage to move to somewhere with a couple of acres and clean air. We also won't be very environmentally friendly and I would like my great great grandchildren to have a planet left to live on.

Ummm. Dilemma!

Postscript: I went back to that supermarket and found a few more things at half price that I was willing to buy. Just because it is cheap doesn't always mean that I want to eat it. One item I found was a couple of trays of frozen mini sausages with bacon wrapped round which were intended for the Christmas market. If we just ate them as is (without the roast chicken/turkey) then each pack would provide just a bit too much for one meal for the two of us. I'm sure they would make a fabulous toad in the hole. 18p per pack. So 2 packs would make 3 dinners for two people with veg and possibly batter. I also won a lot of Brownie points with my husband, my son and daughter-in-law and my son-in-law by buying each of them a one litre tub of posh brand triple choc icecream for 49p. Sometimes it is nice to spend a little money :)

Talking of batter..... It was Pancake Day last week. We've eaten quite a few pancakes recently. We went to my son's house for pancakes on the actual night, before going to Wales the next day. My daughter and her husband and my granddaughter came with us to Wales for just one night. The people on the farm are very good and are happy to let my granddaughter help feed the animals - which she enjoys greatly. So my daughter brought some pancake batter with her so we could have pancakes for pudding after dinner because my granddaughter is a big fan. Only, so did I. So we had pancakes on Tuesday, Wednesday, for breakfast and for pudding after dinner on Thursday, toad in the hole on Friday, pancakes again on Saturday - and was quite happy that we didn't have them on Sunday as well. We ate quite well while we were away but it was all food that we had brought from home and therefore mostly homemade and inexpensive.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Well, my husband is back at work today. I made him weigh himself on Saturday and he is still down a stone and his jeans are huge on him. This morning his suit fitted nicely instead of being a little tight... :) We went to church yesterday for his first time outside the house and that really wore him out. He'll certainly be tired tonight.

I'm frozen this morning. The heating failed to come on in my area of the school this morning so it was 12 degrees when I arrived. It is warming up now but I've only just taken my coat off. At home I am dressed for a cold house but for work I dress for 20-22 degrees. It really makes a difference.

I lost my favourite hen on Saturday. Mrs Speckledy was an old lady - she must have been 8 or maybe even 9 years old. I've lost count. Anyway, there she was all of a heap when I went out to give them a handful of corn on Saturday afternoon. She was a real character and I'll miss her. She laid a reliable 2 eggs a week right through last spring and summer. I always knew her eggs because they were a different shape - longer and narrower than the others with quite a pointed end and often a shade darker than the others but not always. My hens lay different coloured eggs so I can always pin the egg down to one or two hens so I know which ones to keep an eye on if they are not laying well in the spring or summer.

We've decided to go away for a long weekend at halfterm. We often do at February half term. It is cheaper to rent a cottage at this time of the year but the chief reason is normally that a good blast of fresh country air does wonders for my husband's asthma at the end of the winter. This year, I want a bit of fresh air too. My son and a neighbour are going to share the animal sitting so that it is not too invasive on the free time of either.

We have a small supermarket in our area of the city. It was Presto when we moved here, then it became Safeway, then Morrisons, then Somerfield and half turned into a Coop. However, it has been sold to Asda and this weekend, it started selling off lots of the goods at up to half price off in preparation for a complete refit of the shop. I went to have a look and have filled all the gaps in the freezer with quite a few items at half price. Things such as a kilo pack of good quality sausages and fish fillets. Anyway, we have enough things to feed us for 2-3 weeks of meals at an average of 40 pence per portion plus veg. I'll pop in again next weekend in the hope of catching some more of the bargains because they are obviously reducing items in stages. The reductions will help with the cost of our weekend away. Yay!

The coat is back on. Working heating did not last long....