Monday, 24 November 2014

Lentil Soup and Wildlife Spotting

The weekend adventure of wildlife spotting began with the arrival of the slow cooker, rehomed my way via another member of the family after my precious crock pot fractured irreparably. It will be sadly missed for cooking, but will be repurposed to make a great planter once it has been decorated. Now for the wildlife tale...


Soup making in a slow cooker

It began with a smoked ham hough (or hock) that I bought from the supermarket. These are slowly creeping back up in price, but are still worth paying a couple of pounds each for them, as you can get a full pot of stock for soup and enough meat for at least one family-sized pie.

Smoked ham hough

Anyhow... I made a full pot of ham and lentil soup, which is enough for about a dozen lunches, then chopped up the meat to make a pie, which will be another 4 meals. All in all, the smoked ham hock will produce lunches for two of us here for a full week, so it's uber-frugal! We don't eat the fat - we feed it to the wild birds after it has been boiled. Or so we thought!

Cat stealing food from bird table

Recently, I invested in one of those motion sensor activated trail cameras with infra red night vision. I am still practising with it before deciding where to set it up for future research. This is a series of stills it caught between late last night, when we put the leftovers from soup making out onto the bird table, and this morning. The first 'capture' was a cat - I'm assuming it belongs to neighbours, although none of them seems to know who owns it.

Thrush visiting bird table

At around dawn, a thrush arrived, closely watched over by a female blackbird, a few dunnocks and some sparrows. The thrush, however, was allowed first 'dibs' on the pork fat.

Hopalong, our garden crow

The next visitor to the log man bird table was 'Hopalong', the crow we have filmed in the past that has what looks like a deformed or previously broken leg. His (or her) leg seems no better and no worse, nor does it seem to impair flight or the ability to feed.

Magpie visiting the bird table

We don't normally see the magpies coming up to this particular bird table, as it's at the top of the garden, next to the greenhouse, the out building and in view of the kitchen window. I cant help but admire these birds, despite the bad name they have developed as thieves and nest-wreckers.

The cayt takes a closer look

And finally, our own cat gets out after a night curled up sleeping on her cushion and goes for a closer look at the camera. No wonder I often find her sitting on the kitchen windowsill, nose to glass, peering out into the garden! There's so much going on out there!


As I sit here tapping away at the keyboard, I now have the camera trained on the bird feeder right outside my window. So far, I have seen robins, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, green finches and goldfinches. (The bird in the photo is a goldfinch.) There's a wren keeps bobbing about inside the driftwood horse and the robin loves perching on the antlers of the driftwood stag. How I am ever going to complete the remaining 17,500 words of my 2014 attempt at NaNoWriMo is beyond me when I have such distractions all around me!

Welcome to Scotland, welcome to frugal living and welcome to Frugaldom, where I'm writing my way through life, while living on a shoestring budget and attempting to create a self-sustainable wilderness experience for all to share. As we prepare for 2015, let's not forget what is all around us, there to be appreciated and all totally free to enjoy.

NYK in Frugaldom

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Join the Spending Revolution

Vendetta Against Debt! It's that time of year again, the time when we are planning ahead for 2015, renewing our vigour for the on-going battle against debt, building up our forces to thwart needless spending and fight for the right to protect our own financial security. This is a war against waste - financial and otherwise. Join us in our quest for financial freedom.

Frugaldom is no fairytale fantasy of mythical castles, dragons and miracles. You play your own part in this quest for freedom.

This is an adaptation of the original 'Living on £4,000 for a Year' challenge, which has been running online since 2007. Some of the NYK challenges date back to the late 90's, so I do have a considerable amount of experience in balancing my own books, while living within my own means, always done on a budget that some consider to be impossible. Utter nonsense! It is entirely possible and is an achievement of which I am particularly proud. I can say with confidence that living free from debt while on a small income is 100% possible. You do, however, need to exercise will power and keep yourself focussed on your plans in order to achieve these otherwise impossible goals.

We have seen many changes over the years, so each stage in the development of our frugal living and working plans takes us a step closer to the good life and beyond. Your budget is personal to you, it should fit with your personal financial situation and it should be something you are happy to achieve. If you can achieve a point at which you spend less than you have coming in, then you are halfway there. Getting to the point that you are spending less than you are earning while also absolutely free from debt is the ultimate goal. You just need to believe it is possible and stick to your plan no matter what.

This challenge is not about self-deprivation or self-imposed poverty just for the sake of it, it is about providing genuine support for those who are prepared to take on the challenge of making a real difference to their own lives while sorting out their own difficult financial situations. Once the debts are gone and you are in full command of your own spending (or not spending, as the case may be), the world is your oyster. Whether you choose to invest, explore, plant a forest, see the world or lead a comfortable life knowing you are financially secure is entirely up to you.

Many former and current challengers have achieved debt freedom and now follow frugal lifestyles in order to stay free from debt while pursuing better lives without the entrapment of credit. Others are tackling debts, including mortgages, while following a frugal lifestyle in an attempt to reach their debt-free or mortgage-free day. Whichever stage you are at, feel free to join us for 2015 and share your journey.
You can join us free by registering a username at
www.frugalforums.co.uk

2015 sees the return of the live NYK Chat room, complete with scheduled chats for the purposes of additional support, plus live question time. The new platform has been trialled over the past couple of months within the members' section of our host site at Scottishmultimedia.co.uk and it is hoped that the increased potential for even more real time interactivity can help many more people who want to embark on their own money journeys to financial freedom.

This challenge is about establishing your true cost of living, sticking to your budget, clearing debts (if you have any) and making savings wherever and however you can to enable you to live the life you really want.

Frugal living isn't for everyone, but everyone is welcome to join us. Methods employed by frugalers include batch cooking, stockpiling, preserving, foraging, mending, shopping in charity shops, reducing, reusing, recycling, Local Exchange Trading Schemes (LETS), Vegetable and fruit growing, allotments, keeping hens, using cash-back sites and doing whatever it takes to become self sufficient in managing the cost of living without incurring debt.

For some it is about clearing debt, for others it's about increasing savings, buying property, becoming stay at home parents or paying off the mortgage early. Some choose the lifestyle on ethical grounds, others seek early retirement or self-sustainability. Above all, this is meant to be a fun and supportive way to manage a minimal budget so you have control of your own money.

It's about NEEDS and not WANTS.
Living on a budget = living within our means.

Frugal = thrifty, living without waste

Ideas to help you achieve and/or maintain debt free living:

Recognise the differences between needs from wants
Spend within your means
Set a proper budget
Quit expensive habits
Houseshare or get a lodger
Shop via cashback sites and always price compare
Buy reduced items in stores only if you need them
Stockpile & bulk buy
Batch cooking
Make the most of charity shops
Join Freecycle or other similar waste awareness and recycling associations
LETS trading - become active members of trading & exchange groups
Bartering
Grow your own herbs, fruit & vegetable
Preserving & wine-making
Bread-making & home baking
Card & gift making
Order splitting for better discounts & shared postal costs
Landsharing, allotments & frugal garden systems
Making the most of freebies
Develop your on home-based business
eBid and eBay trading
Monitoring and revising a budget is part of any frugal living plan. Gifts & cards could all to be homemade, livestock needs to pay its own keep, anything else needs to be cash neutral and pets are like people in a household - they need to be budgeted for in a 'what if' manner.

If you would like to be in contact with like-minded others while stretching your money further than you ever thought possible, join us online and be prepared to take the frugal ride of your life.

IMPORTANT

Please respect others' lifestyles and beliefs. We are not here to judge, we are here to support.

Thank you.

Join the Spending Revolution

7 Animals That Attenborough Made Up

I am sharing this blog post because I found it extremely entertaining with some interesting theories.
 
Internet research and reading blogs, websites and forums are among the most frugal pastimes I have, so this represents the kind of entertainment, amusement and thought-provoking writing that I enjoy reading. Thank you, Jenni, for sharing your wisdom.
 

7 Animals That Attenborough Made Up

By Jenni at The Thrifty Magpie's Nest
 
I love animals and I really love Sir David Attenborough’s wildlife documentaries. Who doesn’t?
But I need to tell everyone the truth and stop this nonsense going on for any longer. Last night while watching the latest episode of Life Story, I had a moment of realisation: Some of these animals he’s showing us aren’t real. He’s just made them up. They don’t exist.

Before getting all “how dare you slag off the eighth wonder of the world which is Sir David Attenborough” on me- just hear me out.
Sir David manages to “film animals that have never been filmed before” then broadcasts them on television and we believe they exist, because he told us they do. After producing over 77 series of wildlife films (that I have counted) he has to have some way of keeping the number of viewers up to convince the BBC to send him to all corners of the planet on holiday. He must have run out of animals to film years ago, so now just dreams them up. We will never find out because all these animals just so happen to be in the depths of the impenetrable Amazon, unreachable at the top of the highest mountains in the Himalayas and in the uninhabitable centre of the Sahara Desert. Coincidence? No, it’s a conspiracy.

I know this sounds radical, but take a close look at these ‘animals’ that Sir David has, until now, managed to convince millions of people around the world that they are real things.
Shoebill

These stupid looking birds apparently stand up to 1.5 metre high and live in marshes and swamps in Africa. This bird couldn’t possibly survive with that ridiculous beak. It would be so top heavy it would fall over. I think Sir David is trying to pull a fast one here.

To read this full blog post, please visit The Thrifty Magpies Nest: 7 animals that Attenborough made up (Web URL http://www.thethriftymagpiesnest.co.uk/2014/11/7-animals-that-attenborough-made-up.html)

Many thanks to Jenni in Yorkshire for sharing this entertaining blog post.
NYK in Frugaldom

Monday, 10 November 2014

Tales from Frugaldom

The ever-continuing tales of frugal living in an attempt to give up the day job and pursue the dream of life in the fast lane of Frugaldom. A round-up of some recent events and the bare bones of being prepared.


The past few months have been busy here at Thrift Cottage. Slowly, I have managed to tick a couple of more items off my bucket list and 'to do' list, mainly in getting the kitchen into some sort of order and, most importantly, making my Will! Not wanting to dwell on the inevitable, but it is a simple precaution so I am prepared for the one guaranteed event in life. November, of course, is national Will Aid month, so if you feel loath to hand over your cash to a solicitor for the privilege of their writing up your last Will and testament, then select one who is donating the month's proceeds from such transactions to charity.

November is Will Aid month

I have tried my best to follow a good eating plan and maintain a healthy lifestyle in an effort to curb weight gain over the winter months and to at least retain an element of fitness, especially for those occasional days that may be deemed suitable for a cycling trip to the field.

How to sabotage a diet

The costs of my frugal fitness plan haven't really impacted on my overall spending. In fact, it has probably contributed to a reduction in overall grocery spending, as I am simply reducing the amounts of everything I eat... even when forum members choose to send anonymous gifts in a vain attempt to lead me astray. I had to cycle twice as far, twice as quickly to work off this lot, and do without pudding more than once over the last few months after giving in to temptation more than once and with more than just these crisps!

I feel that retribution has been sufficiently served by way of the crock pot in my slow cooker having cracked, rendering it useless for frugal soup and stew making. It now needs replacing, so I'm watching for all the offers and hoping I can find a 6.5L replacement via Amazon, so I can part pay using free vouchers accrued through Topcashback.

Savings on the grocery spending have been many, especially since the start of the Asda home delivery trial in our rural corner of the country, but it also means that a few extras seem to find their way onto the orders - like 30p chocolate bars, family packs of biscuits and even the occasional cakes. These costs, however, are minimal in comparison to switching on the oven and spending an hour in the kitchen baking, when the time can be spent elsewhere, like at the computer typing up my 50,000 words in my first attempt at NaNoWriMo. Having spent the weekend out on site planting trees and with a visitor staying at the house, I have fallen behind with my word count, so this needs to be remedied as soon as possible. I made my $10 donation, pledging to write 50,000 so now I must complete that pledge.

nationa novel writing month - nanowrimo

The cost of feeding the electricity meter has increased by around 10% recently, counter-balanced a little by the odd power cuts that have affected us during the worst of the weather. A nice little rebate of £12.00 has helped prepare us for colder weather, as it equates to between 60 and 70kwh of 'free' electricity, in a round about sort of way.

Burst water main

Water rates don't affect us here in Scotland, as any water charges are incorporated into our Council Tax, but it did make me wonder how much was wasted when hundreds, possibly thousands of gallons of the stuff were flooding our street a few weeks ago after the water main suddenly burst. We were very lucky in that the torrent reached the front door but was repaired before it came over the threshold.

Over at the field, or Frugaldom, as it is now known by all, the month of near persistent rain has considerably raised the levels of the burns that flow around the land. We went along the roadside boundary and also walked across the main grassland, which is mostly marshland, and could clearly see the flood lines, so this should be useful information for future developments involving such things as live art structures and wildlife hides. I didn't venture down to the pond, as there just wasn't enough time to do everything that needed to be done during our weekend trip there.

The Black Burn

Despite several weeks of rain, the marshland is not as treacherous as I was expecting. It would be an interesting project to clear out some of the old drainage ditches to create a network of mini ponds, interconnected by duck board walkways!

I was pleasantly surprised to discover several areas showing potential for cultivating into grassland, with one spot, known as bracken hill or bluebell hill, depending on the time of year, proving to be particularly dry, owing to its elevation above the rest of the surrounding land. Curious! The friend who accompanied me on my walkabout agreed that it could be an interesting research project to try discovering why this little land anomaly exists.

Potential grassland

On top of bluebell / bracken hill looks like an ideal spot for a wildlife station, the slightly raised area providing an excellent viewpoint for a vast swathe of the project. Exciting times ahead, I feel.

Elsewhere around the field, there were several new fungi and moss species spotted. There were quite a few of this little fellow about the place - not sure what type of fungi it is but am hoping one of you reading this can let us know. :)

White fungi

Tree planting as part of the Woodland Trust World War I Centenary Woodland Project


Tree planting at Frugaldom

Despite having sent out over 100 invites, publicising the event online, notifying both of our local newspapers and alerting the nearby holiday park, the turnout for our event failed to entice anyone new on such a wet Saturday. By the Sunday, however, our core group had packed picnic lunches to make the most of the sunshine and spent the day planting trees, chatting and enjoying being outdoors.

Early morning haze on Sunday

The early morning sunshine was blurred by low clouds of fog rolling a blanket of dew over everything, including the little spider's web on the Frugaldom trading post. It really was a fine day for planting trees and getting the hedgerow in around the garden of gratitude.

Edible hedging around the garden of gratitude

The hedging around the area reserved as a gratitude garden has now been planted up with crab apples, elder and sloes with a few hazels and space remaining for other fruits and berries. I have plenty of cuttings from blackcurrants, raspberries, gooseberries and blackberries to go in between these to form a thick, edible hedge that will also, hopefully, entice wild birds and insects, not to mention happy foragers picking fruit and berries for jelly and cordial making in years to come.

Edible hedging

I'm really pleased with the progress made over the space of just one weekend of planting and extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity for Frugaldom to become part of the World War I Centenary Woodland project. It will bring immense pleasure to many in the future, I am sure, as our gratitude garden develops and the new seating and picnic areas are created.

My problem now is working out how best to be there to actually get any of these great plans implemented. A small financial miracle is probably what most would wish for, but where is the challenge in that? I will start number crunching the list of possibilities now that they have been whittled down to just a few with real potential, then concentrate on how to take this plan forward. As my frugal living motto goes,

The less I spend, the more I can afford.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Frugal Car Maintenance

freeimages.co.uk techonology images
For those who have cars: Each car model has a suggested maintenance regime that is laid out in the owner’s manual. You can save yourself thousands of pounds by taking the time to read the manual and to follow the schedules specified. This can directly impact on the longevity of your vehicle, its performance and the costs per mile driven.

Picking up on big problems early is what regular preventative maintenance is all about. Prevention is better than cure might be a maxim that your doctor will tell you, but your mechanic should also be saying the same thing when it comes to your car. Of course, some checks need a specialist to do, but you can also remain frugal by undertaking some car maintenance yourself.

Check The Fluids

Many car fluids can be checked by an owner with little garage experience. Ensuring fluids are topped up is one of the most effective ways to maintain a car’s ability to drive well. It is quite easy to do, although you will need to consult your manual in most cases. Make sure that your car has the right levels of oil, transmission fluid, wiper fluid, power steering fluid, anti-freeze and brake fluid. If you are not sure about how to do this, then online tutorials about how to use a dipstick to check oil, for example, can be a big help and may well save you thousands of pounds in unnecessary inspection bills. If you wait until the relevant dashboard light comes on, it is often too late to sort the issue out cheaply.

Tyre Maintenance

Keeping your tyres well-maintained is another important way of saving money in the long run. According to specialists, premium tyre manufacturers use tread wear indicators on their products, which makes it easy to judge when a tyre is reaching the end of its life. Alternatively, you can use a dedicated tread gauge to detect a worn section of tyre. Whatever you do, make sure, make sure to check your tyres and ensure they are road worthy.

Tyre inspections or new tyres are no longer things to fret over, as online reserve and fit systems are available throughout Britain...

Visit Frugal Blog to read more