Tuesday, 16 October 2018

2018 at Frugaldom

This is your whistle-stop tour of Frugaldom during 2018

Apologies for my extremely lengthy absence but we stepped things up a gear and implemented many changes that we hope will benefit all our friends, family and followers of Frugaldom. It has been a very busy year so far.

Here at Frugaldom, we have tried our very best to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible, keep wihin our strict budget and stretch every penny as far as it can possibly go. So far, we are succeeding, although progress is very slow, what with mixed weather, lack of a workforce and trying to find companies (or even individuals) who will come out to Frugaldom and do the work required.

Site of the new 'Legacy Working Woodland' and track around it.
 In January and February 2018 we organised the next area for planting the working woodland. The area extends to over 3 acres, most of that made up of clearfell and bordered by a stream. We employed the services of local workers who were on site for several days clearing around the edge of the planned woodland and sectioning it all off with stockfencing.

Fencing of the new working woodland area was completed in February 2018
 We had no sooner completed the main fencing when winter returned with a vengance, blanketing us in snow and, at times, making it impossible to drive to Frugaldom - walked, instead. However, the ponies were happy enough and kept all the paths clear. They are fed a constant supply of hay, along with access to salt and minerals, so weather isn't a factor in their feed bill. They eat like horses and cost the same to feed every day of the year.

Snowy Frugaldom
The snow ceased temporarily, allowing us two nights away to celebrate a family wedding. Many thanks go to the brave Emily who took on the unenviable task of caring for the ponies, with further thanks due to her for topping up our water bottles when the pipes were all frozen at the caravans. 😊 Such help was greatly appreciated by all concerned.

Prolonged sub-zero temperatures in March
By late February, early March, temperatures had plunged further below zero meaning all our water sources, both at the field and at the caravan park, froze solid. At that point, we were collecting water in containers from the river and carting it to and fro, relying on bottled water for cooking and drinking, with the water from the burn being used for ponies, chickens and toilet flushing! With the big freeze came gales, so more windbreak mesh was added around certain areas as a temporary solution to problems caused by driving winds.

Anneka had returned from Germany to volunteer for a couple of weeks during her break so she got more than she bargained for with on the spot lessons in extreme frugal, off grid living while we were solely reliant on river water, solar power and cylinder gas. We were also trying to keep warm in a caravan in March.

Hay feeding, poop picking and tree planting
The daily chores at Frugaldom always begin with checking water, topping up hay feeders, feeding the chickens and collecting all the dung from around the tracks. This routine is relentless - it is seven days per week and gets done at least twice a day. It means that no matter who visits, these jobs always have to take priority. Luckily, even the youngest visitors are happy to help out with most things.

Ponies out on the marshy moorland
 Whenever we got dry weather during March, tree planting got into full swing. It even got dry enough to allow the ponies out onto the marshy moor grass, where they foraged for tasty snacks among the bog myrtle and heather.

Then the floods came
 By the third week in March, the snow had all gone, the ice had all melted and the rain arrived big time! The bottom field, which is parially planted with downy birch, alder, hawthorn and willow, went under water yet again. Fortunaely, it runs off almost as quickly as it floods, so the trees within our riparian planting ground continue to thrive and the ponies maintain the 'barn owl track' between the flood land and the rest of the project.

March also brought sunshine and Mallards
March is mainly about tree plantin. We received our next 420 saplings from the Woodland Trust, thanks to them and their sponsors at Ikea, Sainsbury's, Yorkshire Tea and the players of the People's Postcode Lottery. We have received 420 saplings each November and March since we began the Frugaldom project in 2014 and have been planting each phase as either woodland or foraging hedgerow. This tree planting project  (2014 - 2018) was undertaken as part of the World War I Centenary, and will culminate on 11th November, when we will be planting the final batch of trees into our memorial woodland. Here, too, will be displayed the Ecoarts war horse.

Our WWI Cenenary Woodland at Frugaldom is planted to commemorate all the people and animals lost to a war fought to defend and protect our freedom. For this, we are truly thankful.

Tree planting and new orchards
So far, Frugaldom has been awarded a total of 3,780 saplings from The Woodland Trust and we hope to continue planting to replenish lost hedgerow that will provide a safe haven for wildlife and free foraging opportunities for future visitors to the project. Alongside the native tree planting, we are also planting orchards that include heritage variety, Galloway Pippin apples.

The Cuckoo Corral, so named because the cuckoos visit it in Spring, now has around 70 fruit trees and is gradually being surrounded by a new hedgerow of dogwood, rosa ragusa, hazel, hawthorn and crab apple. Numerous wild flower seeds have been scattered around this orchard and it will soon also become home to our herd of creel ponies. (More on this soon.) As always, we welcome your contributions towards establishing the orchards and offer the opportunity to dedicate a tree to someone special. Details for this can be found in the Frugal Shop.

Try frugal living for yourself in 2019
During April and May, major renovation works were carried out at the new cottage. This one-bedroom cottage with adjoining garden room / studio and allotment-style garden will be made available to anyone who would like to sample a frugal lifestyle experience - you'll be tending the gardens and making the most of village life while here. The cottage is located within easy walking distance of the main London to Belfast bus route, plus it has adequate secure storage for bicycles, so no need to even bring a car! Reduce, reuse, recycle and keep an eye on your carbom footprint. Sample frugaldom for yourselves in 2019 at a price you can afford. Weekends, mid-week, all week, a fortnight or a month... you decide.

Frugal Breaks at Three Lochs Holiday Park
 April saw the first of our holiday makers arriving so it was fortunate that the weather improved. Our wall of daffodils gave a beautiful display behind the caravans and despite some wet days, we had plenty of good weather that allowed our guests the opportunity to explore Frugaldom and the surrounding area.

You can bring your horse
April also saw the arrival of our first ever equine holidaymaker for one of our frugal breaks. This gorgeous Thoroughbred seemed to enjoy every minute of her therapy break, as did her owner.

Duck eggs incubating and Phase 2 cottage work completed
 May proved to be a really busy month with the next phase of work being completed at the cottage, the arrival of our first renter, duck eggs going into the incubator and the usual chores being carried out daily at Frugaldom.  The ground gradually dried up in the sunshine and the plants and trees began to grow.

At Frugaldom
 The bog myrtle (Myrica Gale) lends its name to 'Myrical', the Ecoarts unicorn at Frugaldom. As the buds and cones on the shrubs changed to deep russet, the green buds of willow began to burst into life. Down in the marshy, moor grass field, the ponies have done an excellent job of maintaining the barn owl strip, which is flanked on one side by the marsh and on the other by riparian planting of a small woodland copse of alders, edged by wetland tolerant hedging.

Ponies going out onto the clear fell
 From one extreme to another - by May, the rain had left us completely, leading to water shortages of a different kind. This led us to move the ponies out onto the newly fenced track around what will become the 'Legacy Woodland', where they had access to the stream. It also meant that they cleared the area where the raspberries will be cultivated, which is brilliant. except that part of the project needs more funds raised to cover the costs of further fencing.

Dry, hot, sunny weather
With all the mud drying up, it was time to sow seeds and organise a bit more drainage, in preparation for winter. The main track dried out beautifully but so, too, did the wooden fencing. Now we need to raise the funds to get it all re-painted in 2019 so it doesn't start splitting. We still haven't finished the post and rail fencing but have, instead, been using electric fencing run off batteries topped up by solar panels in places. This one corner isn't electrified, it's just waiting for wooden fencing but needed to be protected from pony hooves after we planted some crab apple trees, herbs and wild flowers.

Another muddy gateway drained
While the rain's away, we shall play... with mud, pipes, groundcover and gravel. Many thanks to Lyn for all her hard work in ditch digging and sorry you got so muddy. Oops! This is Harvey helping rake out the last of the stone that was used to backfill the drainage ditch after the pipes went into it. We ran out of stone and had to order yet another lorryload! To anyone who supports our project, it really is a case of every penny counts. It costs over £200 for each load of stone and to do all the drainage we need done will take literally hundreds more lorryloads. It's back-breaking work that continues almost all year round so feel free to volunteer... you don't need a gym when you can have all your exercise for free right here at Frugaldom! It's almost like your personal outdoor gym!

I'm going to cut it short now and will continue into June 2018 in my next post. In the meantime, you may like to follow @Frugaldom on Twitter, like our Frugaldom Facebook page or even join us in the Frugal Living Challenge group, linked to Facebook. For anyone who would like to actively support the project, you can contact me via the Frugaldom website or social media. Holidays can be booked via Frugal Breaks and to contribute towards the project, see the options we have available in the Frugal Shop.

You got it! We love everything frugal and strive to stretch every penny as far as possible, whether it be feeding and caring for rehomed ponies, rescuing chickens, offering frugal holiday accommodation, inviting volunteers or just simply living a good life. We're here to provide you with a really good reason to get up each morning and celebrate frugal life.

Thank you to everyone who is helping make Frugaldom a shared reality.

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.

polytunnel
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. :)


Rosehips
 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 www.frugalbreaks.co.uk 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. :)