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.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Photo Blog from September 2017 at Frugaldom


In a bid to bring the frugal blog up to date, I'll do a few more pictorials, as the photos can tell you more than the words in a much shorter time.

From drought conditions earlier in the year we moved straight into wet weather with a few hot, dry days sprinkled among the rainy days! Our new wildlife ponds more than filled - they flooded! Emergency measures were needed, so we dragged and rolled some big logs and began building a 'wall' along the edge of the small feeder pond and then dug links between this pond and the bigger one so flood water would run through the ponds rather than over the edge and down the path.

We managed to get a lorry load of old tyres for recycling, so these are gradually being rolled around the place to act as huge planters for future herb and flower gardens, plus a few stacked up around the tracks for stuffing full of hay that the ponies can munch on whenever they want.

The Siberian crab apple trees were absolutely dripping in tiny fruit but all of this got left for the wildlife, as we just never got around to harvesting any of it. 2018 should be different as we now have the holiday accommodation and can offer fruit foraging and preserving weekends.

Our first ever crop of leeks, onions and courgettes! All of the plants were donated or we traded fresh eggs for them. By December, we had used up or traded out all of the courgettes and I have enough leeks to last until the 2018 crop. 

The new heritage apple orchard brought forth a bucket of fruit from the 2 year old trees, so these were all picked and processed. Galloway Pippins are fabulous apples for eating, cooking or preserving in jams, jellies or chutneys. We used most of them in crumbles but I held back a few for the chutney, which also had some of our onions and courgettes added to it. Tastes lovely, especially with cheese! Along with the other apples from the garden orchard, they filled a full section of the freezer. I now need to make an apple store and have the perfect object for recycling... an old fridge!

Plans began for the 'real' Trading Post, which is currently standing by the pallet fence. All going well, we'll build a designated produce store that will double as a pick-up point and actual trading post for trading our surplus produce in the future. 

Muddy wellies! We get plenty of those at Frugaldom so we introduced our 'Muddy Wellies Weekends' and advertised these via our new Frugal Breaks page on Facebook. At a special price of £95.00 for up to 4 people for 2 nights, all the weekends throughout September, October and right up to mid-November. Two lots of our visitors have already rebooked for 2018 and the children who came along definitely had fun in the mud! 

Drainage work at Frugaldom is still on-going. I think this is going to be the biggest job we'll ever need to do, as the whole place sits at the lowest point of the surrounding landscape, with peat bog and marsh all around us. Clearing out all the field drains is a slow and arduous task, so I think we'll need to allocate a budget to hiring in a mini digger again in 2018 to speed up the tedious, muscle-aching work of digging them all by hand.

Just to keep us all on our toes, don't forget about the snakes. We have adders at Frugaldom and they love nothing more than to come out and bask on the new stretch of access road that was laid at the start of the year. Sunshine + tarmac = warm basking surface for our slithery friends. Personally, I enjoy seeing them and love that we have them living here but I seem to be in a minority! Several visitors have looked at me in disbelief or shocked horror when I mention them. OK, so their bite is poisonous, but adders are still fascinating creatures and can be almost chameleon-like in their colouration, especially when basking on sphagnum moss! 👀 

The adult hens that we were given laid many eggs throughout summer and continued to so so right through to December. The chicks we hatched in June turned out to be 5 cockerels and only 3 hens, but this will still give us a glorious selection of egg colours, as we have a white hen laying blue eggs, a brown hen laying pink eggs, a white hen laying white eggs and a brown hen laying brown eggs. All 3 of the chicks, once they mature, will lay blue eggs. (They are pure bred Araucanas.)

I couldn't make it up if I tried - rain, rain, rain, then blazing sunshine bringing temperatures topping 25 Degrees C. The hot, dry weather did not hang around Scotland for long, so we missed out on all that super summer they reported in the south.

More and more courgettes and leeks - they seem to like the climate at Frugaldom so I'll definitely be designating space for growing many more of these.

I love picking homegrown produce! 2017 was another year of cutting, hacking, path clearing and planting, so we didn't expect to have much by way of fruit and vegetables but the apples and herbs just kept on coming... soup and pudding is most definitely still the meal of the day. When it costs nothing to pick the ingredients, why would we spend on shop bought produce?

Tiny apples abslutely everywhere we look - please get in contact if you'd like to come and pick some in 2018, when we'll be offering our foraging and preserving getaways - the foraging will be free!

Foraging is so frugal that it simply cannot be ignored. Over the past year we have attempted to encourage as many of the brambles and dog roses to grow as possible. We also invested in many more briars - Rosa Canina and Rosa Ragusa in several colours - for planting around the slowly emerging tracks. Somewhere in the future we will have access paths all around Frugaldom and all edged in edible hedging that can be kept under control by the ponies, provide fantastic habitat for wildlife and provide us with a fabulously frugal foraging trail.

After all Anna's hard work digging ditches and dealing with the greenhouse, we reaped the benefits by way of a few cucumbers, more spinach beet than we could ever eat and a whole host of herbs grown from seed. I did try to get her to return but the warmer climes of the Continent stole her from us. The summer students kept up the watering and weeding, so we made the most of everything the little greenhouse produced. We did try 3 of these polytunnels but 2 succumbed to the storms and will need to be rebuilt once we have a more secure base on which to site them.

Yes, we even managed to get some tomatoes - enough to add to the apples and courgettes to make our year's supply of chutney!

Things I love about growing techniques now known by posh names like permaculture and biodynamic farming - allowing things to grow where they want to grow and planting accordingly to make the whole project more sustainable. We had Evening Primrose growing in the herb paddock that nobody had planted... it just grew from seed that probably blew from behind the barn.

The absolute biggest and best thrill of my year at Frugaldom was that I was finally able to go walkabout for a pony's eye view of our project. For those who follow or have followed for some time, we were given 3 young ponies in March 2016. With no proper grazing land, we decided to let the ponies live on the tracks that we're building around the project so, instead of fencing the ponies in, we are fencing them out of the growing areas and feeding them hay instead of grass. 

Willow's 'medicine hat'
These ponies have never had shoes on their feet and probably never will. Since coming to us, they haven't had bits in their mouths and probably never will. In the above photo, the pony had nothing on - no halter, no bridle, no saddle... this little walkabout was based entirely on mutual trust and this particular pony is 'Willow'.  She is our medicine hat, spirit pony and is living up to all the ancient myths and legends that originate from the Native Americans. 
Back again soon with October's summary of events so watch this space... we're working as fast as possible to bring everything up to date both on here and on social media. To keep right up to date, you can follow the Frugaldom page on Facebook and consider joining in our frugal living challenge group.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

August 2017 (part 2) More New Beginnings

 For as long as I can remember, these frugal living challenges have always been about breaking the shackles of consumerism and escaping to debt freedom; our quest for self-sustainability has never waivered. Over the years, many have achieved some of their goals, few have achieved all and others still toil in the hope of finding light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel. I'm ever hopeful that Frugaldom can provide a glimmer for whoever cares to look. Wherever you are on your great moneysaving adventure, I salute you all and hope you will continue living a frugal lifestyle.

Looking back over the years, I see many unfinished projects of my own but each has its place in the grand scheme of things and each will eventually be completed. I see many names who have been with us for part of our journey and then left to pursue their own interests. Sadly, I see names of those who are no longer with us, departed from this mortal realm, and I can only hope that they found peace and happiness at the end of that journey. For the rest of us, life goes on and so does everything around it. We can't lose focus of our main goals nor can we deviate too much from the original plan - frugal freedom. (Frugaldom)

As many of you know, it has now been 3 years since we managed to purchase a patch of land to turn into our frugaldom project. In that time we have worked endlessly at taming the wilderness, recruiting whatever help we could and hosting many work exchange students who have helped us greatly. Ultimately, we want the project to become a place where anyone can come and experience this fabulous lifestyle of rural and frugal living combined with the freedom to relax, engage with like-minded others and make the most of what the countryside has to offer, without breaking the bank!

Affordability is our watch word! During previous frugal entrepreneur (frugaleur) challenges, we set up all manner of micro-projects from willow and herb growing to orchard planting, recycling and ecoarts. This year, we managed to register the entire Frugaldom project as a social enterprise and we have also signed up to the Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere charter. (Frugaldom lies within this internationally recognised biosphere.) Our quest for sustainability, greener living, zero waste and environmental concerns have been recognised as worthy!

But we are still, most definitely, rural and with that comes the problem of day trips for most being out of the quesion. So, we invested in accommodation for our extended frugal family by way of  two mobile homes, sited on a very 'back to nature' style (but with many luxuries included) holiday park only minutes from the Frugaldom project.

Frugal Breaks officially launched in August 2017 and is now accepting bookings for next year. By renting out one caravan and hosting our volunteer workforce in the other, we are now able to cater for all budgets, offering exceptional value for money to members of Frugaldom and participants in our frugal living challenges. Regular holidaymakers are welcome and even they get great bargains on the condition that they respect the lifestyle and leave the place as they find it.

Frugaldom's virtual cash
The web link goes to the dedicated facebook page where I have added a 'Book Now' button - we;re also on AirBnB. HOWEVER, if you are friends, fans or followers of the Frugaldom blogs, challenges and activities, please get in contact to find out how you can take advantage of our holiday offers at greatly reduced prices. Lack of cash needn't prevent you visiting us as we will happily barter / trade / exchange goods and/or services in our quest to make your visit possible. That's what our Cyberdosh project is all about - it isn't quite a crypto-currency but it's a virtual trading currency that you can find, earn and spend at Frugaldom.

But hold on... there's even more news of future developments in 2018...

My ultimate goal from many challenges ago was to offer the ultimate frugal living experience and this, dear frugalers, is something that is about to happen very soon.

We found the perfect property for visitors wanting to sample 'the good life'! Work began immediately to ensure the place was wind and water tight by winter and, although there is much work to be done, we hope to be able to welcome our first frugal lifestyle experience guests by Easter 2018.

Affordability is, as always, at the fore, so prices for booking this 'Thrift Cottage', complete with its adjoining workshop and kitchen garden, will reflect my personal wish to help others make memories at Frugaldom.

The one-bedroom cottage has a full bathroom and kitchen plus livingroom with fold out double bed. It is on a main bus route, has a daily coach service running all the way between London and Belfast, it's only a couple of miles off the Southern Upland Way and it's near a main cycling route, so no cars needed to get here. I'll keep you updated on progress, so watch this space. If there are any budding interior designers, landscape gardeners or DIY buffs among you, please get in contact about a Cyberdosh break to help us get this place ready for future frugal guests. 😊

I told you August 2017 was a busy month!