Monday, 22 November 2010

Part 2 in the Countdown to Frugaldom's 2011 Challenge



Woke at dawn and recorded outdoor temperature of -10C, but the sun soon shone from the clear sky. No amount of sunshine would call a halt to the morning's porridge making, so the laptop was left to boot up while the porridge oats were being blasted for their 6 minutes in the microwave - works out cheaper that way. :)

Snow must have been playing games with the airwaves because the wireless modem was picking up a public access network, which was showing as a wi-fi hotspot! In this area? I think not! Never did work out that strange, technological conundrum. Concern at that point was for path clearing and constructing a better shelter where the hens and ducks could feed safely before their dinner and water froze solid. The paths around the house needed sweeping several times a day to avoid frozen poop syndrome! Stubbing your toe on a frozen one is no laughing matter, especially when nipping outside in slippers to top up feeders and break the ice that was continually forming over the water. The other problem was the blustering winds - forewarned the neighbours that a tarpaulin could end up hanging from their satellite dish.
The slow baking meringues that had been left in the oven overnight failed miserably! As the oven cooled down, the condensation rose in the cold kitchen and the meringues seemed to have soaked it up like soggy sponges! Another lesson learned.
Still chilly at -7C so the feathered friends have needed an extra top up of warm water at nights. Joey has been most annoyed at not being able to get into his bath and appears to have taken the huff with everyone, so the empty run got scraped clear of snow and we stretched a tarpaulin across the top of it in the hope that we could provide a bit of dry, non-icy space for the birds to eat, drink and be merry.

Indoors, we'd resorted to turning up the electric heaters rather than risk running out of logs. The only other concern was that we'd run out of loo rolls and milk. By the 9th of January, temperatures had risen to around 0C, but not before my homemade rhubarb 'champagne' had frozen solid - glass bottles no good in these temperatures, so we lost several - the glass shattered. The elderflower variety seems to be doing ok wrapped in its straw jacket in the garage.
Spent an evening churning over the spending, saving and trading possibilities within our frugal community and the number-crunching threw up the following:.

Groceries £900
Toiletries £60
Cleaning £15
Electricity £1,100
Coal £150
Logs £160
Internet £240
Mobiles £20
Telephone £180
TV Licence £145
Clothing & footwear £35
Gifts £200
Misc £100
Travel £120
Insurances £225
Livestock £350

TOTAL £4,000

A few major changes had occured:

1) The grocery budget was slashed by about 25% to reflect LETS trading, bulk buying, bartering and home growing as much as possible.
2) Electricity had to be increased to reflect the Arctic conditions.
3) The cost of keeping the hens was incorporated. Estimated annual costs of feeding & bedding for the hens and ducks is about double the above, but I hoped to recoup half the costs this year and have it fully self-funding by 2011
4) Insurances include a tax free savings bond with life assurance built into it. I reckoned it was OK to have this as a funeral-type policy
5) Gifts budget got slashed until the Frugaldom project generated more cyberdosh.

Bread, cakes, eggs, jams, pickles, preserves, gifts, greetings cards, wrappings and trappings were all listed as 'do not buy' items. I'd have loved to have included vegetables, but the garden just wasn't quite up to that yet.
Managed a trip into town on the 10th but all the shops had run out of salt and porridge oats! Worse still, the cashline had run out of money! (Took note never to run out of any of the above ever again!)

A frugal cookathon produced 16 beef olives, a marmalade and treacle tart, the usual bread, a tray of lemon thin biscuits and a tray of ginger biscuits. I was beginning to think there was an extra person hiding in Frugaldom, as cakes and biscuits just seem to disappear! Sadly, it's more a case of my subconscious efforts at increasing my winter padding.

Fuel was getting low and by the 11th the log man still hadn't arrived. The snow was back, falling onto the icy lane, the meter was eating credit as the electric heaters stayed on continually and the guinea pig had taken not well. Poor, 'John Galloway', he went downhill so quickly and, sadly, passed away that night. Digging his little grave was a hard task, but he's now free to wander Guinea Pig heaven safe in the knowledge that his grave is protected by a homemade wormery, recycled from a wooden blanket box.

Attended a LETS meeting on the 14th and got to meet a couple of new faces. Traded homemade soup and lemon curd for 4 pheasants, which got hung in the shed. Having never plucked or prepared anything before, I enrolled the help of future neighbour, who duly studied YouTube videos in advance of the pheasant plucking kitchen party. Too right there'd be homebrew involved somewhere! The hens were NOT amused when they spotted the birds hanging in the garden shed! Can't decide if they got in a flap at the mere sight of them or if it was because they knew their feed was in the same shed!

On the eve of the 13th, the log man arrived - just in the nick of time, as it's cold and snowy out again. He just managed to get the little tipper truck back out the road, but had some serious problems trying to make it up the incline to the main road. It had been too dark to move the logs, so we left them until next day, when the rain promptly arrived! Everything got soaked! Then the fog rolled in - don't you just love Scottish weather? Hot chocolate was a warm welcome afterwards, as was the tax code notification letter that had arrived from HMRC - no tax to pay on the first £6,475 income - I hadn't even earned that!

Did a cost analysis of Frugaldom poultry keeping, it showed I needed to sell 182 dozen eggs a year, whilst still having enough eggs for home use - EEK! New strategy needed, had to count in chicks before they're hatched - a good looking trio can fetch well over £100 on a busy day at market. Biggest problem - no poultry markets within 100 miles of here. Hmm... don't suppose singing to the chickens will make them lay any more eggs.

Missed loads of fun-looking TV programmes because the adverse weather meant no signal. Only in our region could they discontinue analogue before digital was fully functional! The evening's entertainment proved to be just as funny, though - loading old photos into an album on Facebook.
The snow slowly thawed to reveal what was left of the lawn - a muddy minefield covvered in mole bunkers! My lovely plastic-covered lettuce planter (made from a recycled tub, was a sad sight to behold. The quackers had pulled the cover to bits and scoffed all but one lonely, straggly little lettuce seedling. But all is not lost - some of the carrots, leeks and turnips had survived the feathered and furry brigade.

When fridge inventory day arrived, I went foraging to the depths of refrigeration to see what was lurking in the furthest recesses. The expedition produced the following report:
Duck eggs x 7
milk x 1L
white wine (1/4 bottle approx)
tomato ketchup
brown sauce
sweet chilli sauce
hot chilli sauce
lemon juice
salad cream
bramble and apple jelly
lemon curd
block of Brie
cheddar cheese
pineapple rings
6 yoghurts
a savoy cabbage
bag of onions
cookie dough
jar of mincemeat
tiny piece of butter
tub of margarine
pack of bacon (still defrosting)

Absolutely no space in the freezer at this point, so another bulk bake and cookathon day was out of the question, but cookies and a pineapple upsidedown cake got baked and a Brie based sauce got made. Syrup sponge in 6 minutes was microwave pudding and there were  plenty of sandwich options. There wasn't a lot of scope for 'real' meat and two veg type dinners, but the day of reckoning was fast approaching - the Frugaldom pheasant pluckers' kitchen work-out.

End of week two, a very expensive week at £154.39 by the time the logs got paid. However, a lucky break meant payment arrived from a sales commission, a small amount of cashback landed in my account and the weekly sale of surplus eggs. Total extra income came in at £111.52, so the first fortnight in January 2010 actually cost me only £150.80 and I had a full log store, fridge, freezer and larder. Frugal living rules! :)

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