Thursday, 25 January 2018

2017 End of Year Round Up

Looking Forward to 2018 After a Very Busy 2017

A fast forward through the month of December with this photo blog showing some of the things we did during December.

The children started decorating a tree at Frugaldom
reusing the baubles and tinsel  from last year.

We had some old clothes to recycle so we made Mr Scarecrow,
giving him an old football for a head, a flower pot for a hat
and a broken rake to help prop him upright. He's stuffed with hay.

For extra tree decorations, we used toilet paper tubes
and salvaged food wrappers - these are our Hovis crackers!

Making bells for the Christmas tree from
old tin foil, egg cartons and wool

Our start was made from cardboard covered
in gold foil from a tomato puree tube

It snowed!

Frugaldom looked lovely in the snow,
especially around the new ponds

Frankie loves rolling in the snow

Our American visitor returned for her Christmas break
and got her first ever experience of sitting on a bareback,
barefoot, bitless pony - Willow in her winter woollies.

It was very pretty at the caravans, even if
this first lot of snow only lasted a day or so

Most of the snow fell on the Galloway hills.

The decorated tree in the mist at Frugaldom,
standing among the tiny native trees planted
as part of our World War 1 Centenary woodland

The wild-seeded Sitka Spruce at Frugaldom
came in handy - we carefully selected a lovely,
small tree and lit it up by the caravans,

Pippin the pony walking on ice!

The gorse by the roadside between Frugaldom and
the caravan park is beginning to flower in the snow.
December flew past and most of our time was spent preparing for Christmas. The budget was kept well under control and the challenge spreadsheets were totalled up for the end of the year, allowing for one final small investment in seeds and an Argos voucher for spending on bonus items that were afforded by exra scrupulous budgeting practices throughout the year. :)

 Olivia, our American student who was with us for a few weeks during summer, returned to spend Christmas with us at the caravans and then she headed further north.

Christmas shopping was done as carefully as ever, affording us a big supermarket shop and the many bargains that were available through MuscleFood. (This is my friend referral link that will also get you some meaty freebies.) And then there were all the Christmas leftovers to freeze for later use. The homemade clootie dumpling was, as always, pidding of the day and allowed our guest to sample some traditional Scottish cooking.

We spent Hogmanay at the holiday park, listening to the piper piping in the new year and watching the fireworks display.

For those of you with an avid interest in number-crunching, here are end of year results. I began the year with the customary £4,000 and spent the following from each category:

  • Groceries - spent £942.83
  • Toiletries, laundry & cleaning products - £43.27
  • Electricity - £932.83
  • Coal & logs - £40.00
  • Mobile phone - £20.00
  • Telephone & Internet - £574.60
  • TV Licence - £145.50
  • Footwear & clothing - £41.84
  • Gifts - £321.48
  • Travel - £365.00
  • Postage & deliveries - £21.17
  • Insurances - £312.99
  • Pets & livestock - £189.55
  • Misc other - £50.50
Total spend on household-related expenses = £4,000.60
Left in the 'EEK' (Everything Else Kitty) £50 Argos voucher,
Gifted Amazon vouchers, Topcashback balance (accrued from Christmas shopping online), Nectar points and a tub of loose change.

Progress at Frugaldom has come on in leaps and bounds with resurfaced tracks, drainage runs cleared out, the yard completed, more fruit trees planted plus 1,000+ more native tree saplings planted around the place. Frugal Breaks launched, offering you the opportunity to come and  visit for a short break (or longer stay, if you choose) and the bulk of the penny-pinching savings were poured into a tiny, one-bedroom cottage, complete with an out-building and a plot of garden land. The cottage is now part of our Frugal Breaks holiday lets enterprise, but more on that in a later blog post, as there's still quite a bit of work to be done.

That's it! We're now up to 2018 and the start of a brand new year. Good luck to all and please do consider joining us in our new  private group on Facebook for the 2018 Frugal Living Challenge. Don't forget to let us know if you are interested in the money saving, money making or frugal breaks when joining. 

Sunday, 21 January 2018

November 2017 Photo Blog from Frugaldom

November 2017

 Slowly but surely I am catching up with the blogging but I must apologise for what turned out to be a further delay during January 2018.  I refuse to drive anywhere in snow and this time around, the little car simply refused to move in it, so I am currently sitting in the caravan and have been staying here for over a week. In a way, it is good! It is giving me the chance to 'free shop' from my own cupboards, fridge and freezer while I can't go shopping and saving money on fuel, as I walk to and from Frugaldom.

The polytunnel plot
The temporary polytunnel has withstood some serious wind and rain since it was put up but it also produced quite a good crop of tomatoes, herbs and spinach. It still is, even if the tomatoes are still green - chutney making is always on the cards. Adjoining the polytunnel plot is the yard, which has been completed for this year - it has now ceased to flood or turn to mud. This is still only a temporary fix but I think it could be longterm temporary. :)

 March and November are tree planting months for us and here at Frugaldom, we are trying to develop our frugal fruit, berry and herb farm to include foraging hedgerow, otherwise known as jam and jelly hedges. We love rosehips! They are fabulous for so many reasons - syrup, mixed hedgerow jelly, vitamin supplement, good for wildlife and horses & ponies seem to love them. So, we are planting as many briars as possible all around the place and these will become part of the foraging hedgerow that will eventually go right around the project. The ponies will be allowed to browse their way around to keep them trimmed along the fencelines and then, once they have grown sufficiently, we will be harvesting the hips.

Frugal visitors in assorted vehicles
November was also a month for visitors arriving and volunteering their services. Irene and Kenny arrived in the campervan to help clear some more garden space. The weather had been so wet that the ground everywhere was saturated, even at the holiday park, so the best and safest option to avoid getting stuck in mud was to park up in the Frugaldom yard. While there, Dave also arrived with his magic machine to haul out and cut more of the old logs. This is a great exchange, as a) it clears them out of the way for us and b) it provides him with extra firewood. :)

Marnie cutting willow withies
During this month we met and hosted a lovely French lass who came to us via the Workaway site. It was such a shame that the weather couldn't have been decent enough to get out and do some exploring but I do think she managed to enjoy her stay, nonetheless. For 2 weeks, she helped cut willows, barrow whindust into the yard, feed the hens & ponies and plant many of the saplings that we were awarded by from the Woodland Trust.

Kenny with the hens
This is Kenny, who became the chief pony and hen carer during the say a Frugaldom. As you can see, our hens are quite friendly, so they'd have been right inside the campervan if they'd been allowed! We had a lovely time during this visit and it was great being able to stop and sit down with a hot cuppa and just enjoy a chat about this, that and t'other.

Assorted apples
 Apples, apples and more apples... we harvested several bags of apples even although this is just the second year our new orchard has been planted. For much of the month, and certainly most of Marnie's fortnight here, we ate apples in some way, shape or form and I suspect I have converted yet another student to the ways of Frugaldom and the apple crumble with custard pudding diet. I had no idea that it would prove to be the top favourite with almost all the students we have hosted here over the past year! Apples-wise, I think everyone within reach got some and I have enough sewed, frozen and stored to last until the rhubarb harvest takes over in late Spring/early summer. Speaking of frozen fruit - we still have kilos upon kilos of blackcurrants, so I made some more apple and blackcurrant jelly.

From the soup garden

The veg baskets were easily filled during November, as we had so much by way of greens - leeks, spring onions and spinach galore got shared out with whoever needed them and a huge pot of soup was made by Irene for us all to share back at the caravan on bonfire night. What a good night that was!

Fireworks display
Campervan parked up safely for the night, Irene and Kenny walked along and met us at the holiday park for dinner at the caravan. We then enjoyed the annual bonfire and fireworks display from the warmth of the caravan, while sharing a bottle of wine.

Rainbows at Frugaldom
 This year's weather has been a little bit crazy, to say the least. I truly believe that the drought we had in April - May time was our Scottish summer because we certainly didn't see any of the soaring temperatures and endless blistering sunshine experienced by those of you in the south of England. Our occasional sunshine is usually watery enough to bring rainbows. It's good that we like rainbows!

Sunset at the Frugaldom barn
We do get some wonderful skies out here in Dumfries and Galloway. Sadly, for dark sky park enthusiasts, we have had so much cloud and rain that observing the cosmos and photographing meteor showers has been almost impossible. Even our almost resident astronomer packed up and went home. Here's hoping the remaining winter months bring clearer weather!

The horseshoe garden
With the arrival of the latest tree pack from the Woodland Trust came more holly! Yeah! If anyone can remember, this part of Frugaldom is known as the horseshoe garden and was originally going to be used for roses. However, as we had no roses to plant and the previously planted holly circle is doing so well, Marnie planted a holly hedge around here instead. I think it will look fabulous once it grows, as the open end of the horseshoe faces a south-easterly direction. The children love this little garden as it is where they have their mini crittur pond and a beastie log 'castle' complete with it's horseshoe 'fairy' door. There are also wild flowers planted here.

The herb paddock & orchard
 More hedging got planted along the far side of the herb paddock - a mix of dogwood, hawthorn and hazel. This will be kept trimmed by the ponies and will also, hopefully, help protect the fruit trees from being battered by the wind.

Crab apples planted
There were a few crab apple trees left over... oh, ok then, I saved 4 crab apple trees to plant into this corner. There are 3 in one of the triangles and one in the other, as I don't want them growing too close to the track where the ponies will be passing. Each of these triangle gardens will get planted with herbs and salad stuff. I have calendula seeds for sowing, so they should brighten up this area if they grow.

Hedge planting
Marnie made short work of planting the new hedge that will separate the track from the new patch of willow in the marshy corner. Again, this will all be foraging hedgerow for harvesting nuts and berries in future and will also provide some much-needed cover for the wildlife that is being displaced from the neighbouring forests being felled all around us. Frugaldom is going to be very exposed once all the spruce trees are harvested!

Escape hatch for flood water
 More drainage work! It seems never ending, but the ponds were dug during the drought and then filled up so quickly that we had no way of knowing how much water would be contained or how quickly it would flow off down the field ditches. Emergency channels had to be dug into the banking to allow the excess water faster escape, as the pond succeeded in bursing its bank.

Filed drain flowing well
This is the field drain channel that was cleared by the digger earlier in the year. It was scraped out to the stone layer and the ground around it scraped clear but as you can see, six months after and the grass and reeds are already growing up along its edges. Along the north side of it, I have planted willows in the hope of stabilising the ground and providing us with more ecoart materials. This area will also make a brilliant retreat for wildlife and I've already seen grey and pied wagtails along the edges.

Snowy Galloway Hills
The main pond has remained clear and attracted the attention of many passing birds and mammals - we could see all the foot prints during the first snow of the year. The snow didn't lie for too long but it was clear to see from all around that the Galloway Hills had their fair share of it.

Pristine pond
I am so looking forward to getting the pond area planted up properly with willows, reeds, iris and perhaps even some lilies, if we can manage to transplant some from the main pond or from elsewhere.

Comparing notes with this time last year, the snow arrived a week or so later this year.

Pony pampering
This was also a good month for the ponies, as they had so many visitors keen to pander to their every need. Being such a muddy, wet month, we decided to organise some muddy wellies weekends as Frugal Breaks, which is our latest addition to the frugal projecs family.

Health & Safety
 Don't forget about recycling and repurposing... anyone remember the old bits and pieces we unearthed when reclaiming the garden at Thrift Cottage? Well, we finally found a place to hang the lifebuoy and floats! They are beside the pond, waiting to be painted. :)

Frozen, snowy pond
 This is turning into an epic photo blog so apologies for that, but it was another very busy month, what with trying to fit everything around the crazy winter weather that had descended. I mean look at this! Frozen pond covered in snow and a glorious blue sky!

Precariously perched egg
Crazier still, the hens don't know whether to stay in, go out, lay, moult or hibernate. As you can see here, I am not the only person around here who is confused... white hen laid white egg on the top shelf of the nesting boxes!

Now another apology for sharing 'cute kid photos' but my grandson is so adorabe when he tries his very best to help out at Frugaldom. He is such a trier!

Here he is trying to help us with the whin dust, but at just 2 years old (3 in a few months), he's not quite tall enough or strong enough to cope with a full size barrow. However, he persevered and made it all the way to the barn, albeit leaving a double trail behind him.

 Next up, he wanted to help fill the barrow with whin dust. Trust me, you don't say no to this kid, he has dogged determination and nothing stops him from trying his best, Slowly, using this huge, heavy shovel, he actually did manage to get some whin dust into the barrow.

 He lost interest in barrowing stone as soon as Pippin arrived to help, so off he went, pony in hand, round to the tree shelter to feed 'his' Pippin. They are so cute together, even if this gran has her heart in her mouth every time child & pony get together!

This is Marie, another of our lovely volunteers, fitting protective spirals / tree protectors and planting hedging. As you would expect, grandson was also keen to get involved in tree planting this year, so daughter had to don her pink wellies again to help.

 After being allowed to stab a hole in the ground with the giant dibber stick, the tree was planted alongside a cane and then the plastic spiral protector added. It will be great if he can remember planting his first tree when he returns in adulthood to see the woodland that he helped to create!

 Final job of the day for this young man was to feed 'his' Pippin more hay and tell him what a good boy he had been. The ponies at Frugaldom are now almost old enough to begin some proper work, so 2018 will see them having more training. Hopefully, they will be ready to start lugging all the stuff we need about the project and save us having to carry it bit by bit - can you guess what Pippin will be carrying? (Apart from grandson.) Hopefully our first crop of Galloway Pippin apples!

 Finally, for this month, an update from the wildlife garden at Thrift Cottage. Mr Ecoarts invested in a new trail camera, as we have been using the others at Frugaldom. The badger family is sill visiting most nights but so too are the deer, especially this particular Roe buck. He has become so accustomed to the camera that he now takes selfies and stands waiting for the badgers' peanuts to be replenished so he can eat them all before said badgers get there! Not very frugal... please send more nuts!

That's all for now, other than to say the budget is being stretched but frugal living is still reeping rewards and affording us the freedom to develop Frugaldom. In saying that, we never did complete the renovation at home! But that's yet another story!

Keep up to date with the daily goings on via Frugaldom on Facebook or Twitter, or you might even like to join the Frugal Living Challenge so you can save for some Frugal Breaks, visiting us here in our little wilderness. Hopefully, the new website at will be up and running by the time you read this and, for MSE moneysavers, there's a great discount code available that gets you 10% off our already affordable caravan holidays. :)

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Ponds, Ponies, Pumpkins and Fun at Frugaldom

October 2017

Frugaldom is a magical place for creating memories so that's what we plan to do forever more. We have started plotting and planning for the yard area as it's no longer muddy, it's now nicely sheltered and the hedge along the back of it has started to grow, encouraging the wildlife to venture closer.

Now that I have 4 grandchildren, there's usually no shortage of little people to have about the place. I have to admit that the 'terrible twos' don't seem to show half as much outdoors as they do indoors.  At Frugaldom, the biggest problem is when it's time to try and get the 2-year-old to go home! He doesn't seem in the least concerned at visiting on his own while the older ones are at school and the littlest is still too small to do much out here.

Yard work is fun
Right from the outset, I knew what would be put at the top of Santa's list for this particular toddler - he loves barrowing anything anywhere! You can never lose sight of a little kid with a big wheelbarrow, that's for sure. It's like having my own mini research team on site when the children come to visit because they show me all the things that are most important to them and what entertains them most. This gives great insight into potential future developments as we launch our frugal holidays, plan more themed breaks and prepare for various child-friendly events at Frugaldom during 2018.

"I love Pippin"

Pippin the pony is always a hot favourite. His name, as far as grandson is concerned is, 'My Pippin' or 'Wanton Pippin' and the pony seems to tolerate absolutely anything said child does... much to the detriment of my ragged, gran nerves!

"I love muddy wellies"
Our first themed short breaks were introduced and aptly named 'Muddy Wellies Weekends' for one good reason - all kids seem to love muddy wellies and so, too, do some adults! :)

"I love playing in water"
Exploring in nature is fabulous fun and the mini-pond gets checked regularly in the hope that the frogspawn and resulting tadpoles return. Of course, it's even better fun if you get to forage in the garden for your own dinner before going exploring. This is one little boy who loves his soup and knows where it grows... in the soup garden, of course!

"I love cleaning my wellies"
Biosecurity is of the utmost importance and should be taught as soon as possible. It's another of the fun things toddlers seem to love and is also something that didn't take long to sink in... washing one's wellies both on arrival and on departure is important so as not to take germs into the barn or near the plants, poultry or ponies.

Back on the frugal bandwagon of bargain hunters - I managed to find a bulk lot of these interconnecting grids that are used for shed bases and parking spaces. We aren't anywhere near ready to use them yet but the prospect of saving over £50 just couldn't be missed, especially when the seller was fairly local and offered to deliver them to us. There are enough here to do the base for a garden room.

This was another of the bargain buys of October - a lovely little futon (double bed size) that will be utilised in the on-going improvements while trying to create extra space for extra guests in the various accommodations we are attempting to provide.

The ecoarts project will soon be launched fulltime, as 2018 sees the start of the creation of the designated trail at Frugaldom. It's a really exciting time despite also being a time of reminiscing. It's still hard to believe that my dad isn't here to see that we really did manage to succeed in finding and affording a piece of land to try and do everything I always spoke about doing. I'm sure he'd have approved! (Mum planted this oak tree and 'Mr Ecoarts' made the wild wood bird for displaying the dedication plaque.)

October was a month of growing - everything continued to grow, with the willows, Rowans, Hawthorn, Buddleia and Blueberries doing exceptionally well but it was all closely followed by the later sprouting Holly. Many more of the same will be planted in the future, now that we know they like it here.

Lyn's bridge got a coat of paint and work began on clearing the path at the other side, which will eventually run almost to the river, flanked on either side by native woodland species, such as willow, hazel, alder and birch.

We can't forget about the picking and preserving. We weren't able to grow any beetroot at Frgaldom but we did receive some, traded for fresh eggs and apples, so it all got boiled and pickled.

The apples just kept on coming, so I think most of our friends and neighbours at the holiday park were eating either stewed apples, apple sauce, apple tart or apple crumble. I have enough frozen apples to last a while longer and the cold-stored ones still need to be stewed but are being used as required.

The chickens are doing well, even if number 3 grandchild is still finding it difficult to keep up with them or catch them. On this particular day, the children were using the lean-to / potting shed as an art studio and had been out looking for things to make into pictures. Feathers are fun but the chickens kept following the kids into the shed! 

This was grandson taking his fnished nature art picture to show his mum, He did have a little bit of help making things stick to the bit board (we recycled a cardboard box) but he collected all nthe bits and pieces by himself - yes, he even picked some of the Oxeye Daisies because he thought they were 'pretty flowers'.

This is the lean-to potting shed. It's just leaning up against the side of the barn at the minute but we hope to make it a substantial, permanent structure that will double up as a learning room for the children. It isn't a full height sed but it it high enough for short people (like me) to walk about and the children love it. I want to make a proper panelled wall where it meets the barn and turn it into a chalk board on one side and a pin board on the other. It will then make a great space for displaying all the nature leaflets, posters and childrens's artwork.

Goldcrests everywhere this month! It hardly seems any time since they were here las year but here we are, picking them up from the barn where they have arrived, exhausted after their long flights from, I think, Scandinavia.

The new ponds finally settled and we got a bit more of the track around the edge laid, thanks to the help of our lovely volunteers. I am now 99.9% sure that this part of the project will see the arrival of its first amphibian visitors in spring, as we already have an assortment of birds and insects visiting. I plan on planting a row of willows around the edge just as soon as I have got them all cut.

Willow cuttings
The forst of the willows got cut but all of these were planted along the side of the newly cleared path beyond Lyn's bridge.

More tomatoes
We weren't the only ones with late tomatoes - these were all handed in as surplus to requirement, so they got made into pasta sauce, curry and chutney.

99p pumpkins are amazing!
As October came to an end, we had visitors arriving for the Hallowe'en paty at the holiday park, so we bought some pumpkins. We had tried growing our own but the wet weather just didn't give them a chance. So here's what I got made with the shop-bought variety.

Happy Halloween
Pumpkin carving at Halloween
As the month ended, we started looking towards the final events of the year - Bonfire night, tree planting, winter solstice and Christmas. I also had a couple of volunteers arriving to help during November, so that was an extra bonus and something to look forward to, with the arrival of Marnie, from France.
The Wildwood Fairy
This is one of the latest sculptures made by Mr Ecoarts - it was made for daughter and son-in-law, who recently moved house, but I couldn't really post it here before Christmas - even although she did see it before then. 😊 Being this size, it was kind of difficult to hide at the caravan or at Frugaldom, where the children explore.

'Mr Darcy'
 The horse sculpture was commissioned to go on display at a very special project in central Scotland. 'Mr Darcy', as we nicknamed him, was modelled on a real horse and the sculpture is now on display at Darcy's Equine Assisted Learning Centre near Strathaven in Lanarkshire.

I think that's enough for October but I did say it was a very busy month. Onwards and upwards... to the penultimate month of the year. I'll be back soon with some more updates.