Saturday, 27 November 2010

Contemplating Self Sufficiency in the 21st Century

Self Sufficiency in 21st Century - Can it be achieved?

How could it possibly be made to work from an ordinary house with an ordinary garden? My answer to this isn't smallholding, it's microholding! We haven't any land for grazing livestock or cultivating orchards but we do have a garden and that's enough to be going on with for now.

Self-sufficiency needn't exclude generating cash, it just means gainful employment and state benefits don't count. Being self employed means we need to earn sufficient money to pay bills, taxes, National Insurance, overheads, running costs and day to day living expenses.  Self sufficiency is simply the term we use to mean personally sufficient in all our needs, bill paying included. The lower the overheads, the less need to worry about how to generate sufficient cash to survive. Understanding the overheads is paramount to success, as is fully comprehending the differences between needs and wants. At this precise moment in time, we are entirely self-sufficient on the financial front but not in the homegrown produce department. The proof that it could be done is something I have always wanted to witness.

The following is a breakdown of the estimated amount we, as a household of two adults, would NEED in order to survive until such times as the microholding was working to its fullest potential. As an ordinary household, rearing livestock is out, but there's still space for poultry.

Groceries £600.00
Toiletries £35.00
Cleaning £10.00
Electricity £450.00 - £1 per day plus standing charge
Coal £115.00 - multifuel stove for hot water, heat, cooking
Logs £200.00 - multifuel stove for hot water, heat, cooking
Internet £216 including phone calles
Mobiles £0.00 - no mobiles
Telephone £144 - line rental
TV Licence £0.00 - no TV, it isn't an essential
Clothing & footwear £40.00
Gifts £0.00 - homemade
Extras £70.00
Travel £180.00
Household Insurance £45.00
Other insurance - £360.00 - 2 lots
Livestock £350.00
National Insurance £250.00 - 2 lots
Council Tax £935.00 - no water rates as no water mains, reservoir fed
TOTAL - £4,000.00

Although a TV is not an essential, the telephone and Internet access are. These are your basic contact networks with the outside world, a source of income, advertising, marketing and PR. Most of all, it's the quickest way of keeping in contact with what's happening in the world of finance - where you can source the best bargains and really work your money. The above scenario assumes that you own your own home outright - no mortgage, no rent. Between two people, it's only £5.47 per person, per day that needs to be earned in order to survive. If you have rent or a mortgage, add that in, too.

But move on from that for now, we're still preparing the microholding. We need to grow fruit and vegetables as well as have fresh eggs. Cheap Fruit Bushes - Aldi special offer was 3 for £2.49 in February 2010, so that's at least a dozen fruit bushes for under £10. I set aside a tenner.

I was still mulling over the incubator conundrum for quail egg hatching and had decided to sell 2 of the 3 portables and invest in a more substantial one. Promptly listed them on eBid and sold the first one overnight. Result!

The usual chores get done on a daily basis - sorting out the fire, stocking up the kindling (cones and sticks), chopping logs, breadmaking, laundry, seeing to the feathered friends and stopping for coffee whenever a visitor arrives. Rural living doesn't need to mean being anti-social, there are always friends and nearby neighbours who'll visit.

Reducing the overheads pound by pound or penny by penny - whatever it takes - do it. Managed to shave £2 per month off the Internet and got all standard telephone calls included, an overall annual saving of around £115.00 by the time the BT online paperfree billing discount and free calls were taken into consideration.

Dug up a few more potatoes that had survived the winter frosts, food is food, waste not, want not. The garden wasn't looking too productive at the start of the year. The coal bunker was almost empty - we were down to the dross, but the log store was full. By the end of January, there was £3641.19 left of the household budget. £210 of the £358.81 spent had gone into the electricity meter! February arrived with sub-zero temperatures.

Despite the frozen ground, we pushed on at getting the new raised bed completed in the front garden. The railway sleepers allowed for 64 square feet but I wanted 16 of those squares to form a path along the middle, so every square was easy to reach. Filled up both sides with compost and molehill soil. The hens and ducks had a great time helping by scratching and pecking, so they got left to do the job of breaking up the clumps of frozen soil.

Aldi fruit bushes came on special offer. Remained strong, though, and only bought the 4 packs of 3, as planned. Managed to get:
2 x Tayberries
4 x Raspberries
2 x Gooseberries
1 x Redcurrant
3 x Blackcurrant
On the 5th of February, I noticed that the first of the tomato and pepper seeds had germinated and popped their heads through the soil in their pots on the kitchen windowsill! That same day, the postman delivered the 2 free packs of Allinson's baking yeast, so it was a good start to the day. Dry weather meant getting into the garden so preparations were underway for getting the new fruit bushes planted.
Indoor jobs included the making of more marmalade, in order to use up some oranges and limes that I'd traded for via LETS, some kidney bean pate and a game/veg pie.

Bean Pate Recipe
Kidney beans
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic. crushed
Teaspoon Chilli - finely chopped or powdered
Teaspoon Paprika

Lightly fry the onion and garlic in the olive oil then blitz everything in a blender. It's so easy to make that you can adapt the recipe to suit your own taste. Seems to keep fine in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

The incubator was ready to set half a dozen Silkie and Pekin eggs. Wasn't 100% sure which were which, so set half a dozen.
I started a rag rug using an old hessian peanut sack and strips of material from a bag of scraps. Was full of great intentions until I got bored with it! I'm not very good at sitting still for any length of time and, apart from that, the weather had taken a peculiar turn - I ended up getting sunburned on 6th February.

We managed to get a much larger growing area dug in the furthest corner plus the fruit bushes got planted - all 21 of them from what was supposed to be 12. Last year's fruit bushes got fenced in to safeguard them from ducks, the new square foot garden got topped up with more compost and we discovered a few more potatoes that had been missed. Got a couple more meals out of them. The following day, the raised bed/square foot garden got fenced and a gate fitted. It's the only way to keep the feathered marauders from demolishing whatever gets planted.

Took some time out to go over the 2007 challenge notes to see if there were any glaring differences and there's an entry about seeing the first bumble bee of the year - in February! There's also a note saying that cigarettes were £4.29 per 20. Same brand now is £5.30 That's a 23.5% increase! If only I'd invested heavily in cigarettes, I could have made a small fortune! Are there sell by dates on them? No!
By the 9th February, we were getting 9 hours of daylight, almost two thirds of the way to the magical 14 hours that the birds need for optimum laying. Still weren't getting many eggs at that point but it was enough to avoid the need for buying them. It was also sufficient to keep the lemon curd production line operational. Soup making was at its peak, to the point that I needed to increase production to keep up with demand. Managed to find a 6 litre slow cooker for under £20 including delivery - excellent!
Despite the continuing sub-zero temperatures, the sun kept shining that week, enough for line drying laundry, which was great. By the 11th, it was -7C This was good for emptying the contents of the freezer to reorganise it, not so good for digging a duck pond! By the 13th, we saw the arrival of the first lamb in the fields adjoining Frugaldom.

13th also brought news of Aldi's fruit tree offer - cue more cheap trees! Keeping control of a strict budget is difficult but fruit trees at under £5 each is fantastic! Perhaps it's safest not to know about these bargains; what the eye doesn't see, the heart doesn't grieve over, and all that. Then again, look to the future and all that extra potential for homegrown apples, pears, plums and cherries.
Still spending £30 a week on electricity while trying to keep the place from freezing, but the budget is being adhered to; if money gets spent on anything outside of the basic household budget, it has to come from residual income - egg related sales, commissions, eBid, winnings and bank interest payments on existing savings. With luck, there would be a few more chicks hatching soon.

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  1. Now the bad weathers returned might be a good time to finish that rug! what you have done so far is great . Especially as you don't consider yourself to be crafty.

    Interesting reading back to the beginning of the year seems so far away:)


  2. Ah, the tale of that rug ended but I haven't summarised that far ahead just yet. :)


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