Saturday, 18 June 2011

The Frugaldom Microholding project in now up and running!

A view of the street

The lochside road 
We have finally moved into our new house after a hectic 50 day challenge to make the place habitable. By 7th June, when our lease expired on the rental, we had completed all of the basic repairs barring the roof, which is proving to be a little trickier than first anticipated. But after living with buckets catching rain water for 19 months at the last place (until landlords finally decided to fix the roof) we'll cope with a few drips while attempting to trace back the root of the problem.

7th June was a fairly momentous occasion. We had completely gutted the rental, freshened it up with a coat of paint where needed and returned the garden to its former glory of grass, hedging and dodgy fencing. I'm led to believe that after all our reseeding work, the cattle broke through into the garden two days after we left. I am so glad they didn't trash my veggies this time! Good luck to the new tenants (my previous next door neighbours), whose sanity or motives one might question regarding their choice to rent two adjoining houses from the same landlord. (I'm still shocked at that.)

Anyhow, 7th June 2011 marked the end of an era - it was the last day we'd ever have to pay rent, as the new house is bought and paid for in one rash decision to dump a chunk of the frugal savings into a 'forever' home. The location is fairly rural, the nearby village post office is 3 miles away and it's a mere 1 mile walk to the shore - that's less than the walk to our bins at the old house.

The cottage is over 200 years old, with the bathroom converted from an old stone outbuilding of some description, so removing damp plaster revealed the original stone wall. This may turn out to be a frugal  feature of the future.

With much of the 50-day challenge having seen dry weather, the garden seemed to receive most of our attention. Even outside the front door received attention. Sunshine, shorts & t-shirt, bucket and dibber and I set about weeding the cracked concrete. However, there were loose pieces, crumbling pieces that lifted as I weeded, so I picked out a small corner to see what was below... it seems that the previous owner simply poured the concrete over the top of the original cobbles, so you can guess what one of my future challenges is going to be. So far, I have chipped out about 20% of the concrete, including part of the old drainage ditch that would have run along the edge of the cobbled street.

The hens are all happy in their new home, out and about making the most of the extra space they now have. Surprisingly, there has been no interuption to laying, so eggs aplenty have been traded with friends, neighbours and tradesmen alike. 
Phoebe and Joey (ducks) love their huge enclosure, which also makes up the orchard, where the pond is currently being dug. Longterm plans for this include overflow drainage, a small, central 'island' (thanks to the huge boulder ridge in the middle) and a waterfall-style feed-in point.

Above this area, the shed overlooks what will become the 'jam' garden, comprising blackcurrants, white currants, red currants, raspberries, gooseberries and rhubarb.
It's this part of the garden that Floppity bunny has adopted, as she has the run of the place when we're working outside. Her favourite sleeping corner is between the little feedstore and the shed, where she lies surveying 'her' garden after having a mad run around the place. She also follows us into the duck run, so has a fairly large area in which to exercise.

Scruffy cat has already made friends with a neighbouring black cat, so the two of them have great fun running along the old dry stone walls and playing hide and seek among the trees. We haven't got around to fitting the cat flap into the back door but that will be done soon; then she'll can come and go as she pleases. At the moment, she's rather fascinated by the newts that seem to appear from everywhere.
So far, we have had only one that's ventured indoors while I was working out the front of the house.

We're practically living on part of what's known as the 'Pilgrim Way', a well known, local route of historical interest. Over the past week we have managed to make time to go walking a couple of nights and can now fully appreciate the views and local landscape.

Nearby, there are ruins of an ancient church and smithy dating back to around the 8th Century. Not far from this is the House of Elrig, made famous by Gavin Maxwell, in his book of the same title. There are still plenty of references to the otters about these parts and members of the Maxwell family still live in the area.

There's a little loch along the road from us and many old ruins surrounded by public walkways. The nearby bay stretches across to the Mull of Galloway and, on a clear day, you can see the Isle of Man. 

The nearest actual village to us is Port William, a couple of miles away, with a harbour, several shops, post office and part time bank. It has everything we'll need and, for more extensive shopping trips to larger supermarkets, we have Stranraer, approximately 20 miles from here.

Back to Frugaldom and the whole microholding project... the theory is that we should be able to achieve a semblance of self-sufficiency by way of fresh produce and eggs.
We've now managed to dig out several new veg beds and the first plantings are all doing well. The old plum tree at the bottom of the garden is laden with fruit, as are a couple of the little fruit trees that we've transplanted. There are tomatoes beginning to appear in the makeshift 'hot house', the first courgette has sprouted and I've been picking strawberries for the past week in an attempt to beat the blackbirds.

Wild birds are plentiful, so I now have 3 feeding stations set up, one in each of the three main sections of the garden. So far, we've had plenty of chaffinches, sparrows, goldfinches, greenfinches, siskins, linnets, blackbirds, thrushes, robins, willow warblers and a visit from a solitary yellowhammer. There's a multitude of collared doves, a family of magpies (can't help but admire their plumage) and I am 99.9% positive that I heard a cuckoo.

With the little burn running through the garden, there could be many more species that we simply haven't yet seen. That part of the frugaldom microholding could take quite some time to clear, as there appears to be the remains of a demolished outbuilding along with a mountain of junk. We reckon there should be space enough to build a second hen run on one one side of the burn, where I also have plans for planting the willow, and a summer house on the other side, where H could happily set up his little art studio, overlooking the orchard.

To round off this first, epic post after the move, I can confirm that we are all very happy with the outcome, despite the peculiar turn of events that led us here.

To our previous landlords, I say thank you for kicking us out - it made us realise that real opportunities abound. The longterm plan of renting cheap property while saving to buy a house without a mortgage may have been terminated prematurely and we may not have that extra land just yet, but it's a buyers' market on the property front and the quarter acre garden we have is adequate compensation for now.

If I have learned anything from the past 6 months, it is that every negative can be turned into a positive with the right attitude and the willingness to seize any passing opportunity. I've now spotted my next potential 'big opportunity' and am in the process of preparing to grasp that as soon as it arises. I trully believe that when the time is right, it lets you know all by itself.

Edited in - I have already got a dozen duck eggs in the incubator, set on 11/6/11. Last night, I candled them for the first time and have a fertility rate of 100%. After having got rid of the majority of the livestock, it's good to know that there could soon be some new babies for Frugaldom. Two of the eggs are from Phoebe and Joey, so I'm particularly pleased about their being fertile and am hoping for lovely, fluffy ducklings to hatch around the 9th July.

Quail are laying well at the moment, so there'll be quail eggs going in next month in preparation for the new flock before St Andrews University researchers arrive to carry out part of their quail research project.
Feel free to join us in the frugaldom forums to keep up with all the news and progress from here and from many others who are pursuing similar lifestyles, goals, challenges and ambitions.

10 comments:

  1. I am so pleased for you and wish you all luck in your forever home

    Shaz

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  2. Many thanks. :) I'm sure we'll be happy here and under no pressure to get the renovations done in a set timeframe.Very much a make do and mend sort of a home at the moment but the main thing is, it feels like home.

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  3. I only 'discovered' your blog at the beginning of your challenged and am really impressed with what you have achieved in such a short amount of time. I admire your get up and go and wish you all the best.

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  4. fabulous, it all looks so wonderful, you have done amazingly, and at last you have a forever home xx

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  5. Good luck in your home, it looks like a frugal, self-sufficient dreamers paradise!
    Dan

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  6. Well done on all your hard work, and how lovely that there will be the splish splash of tiny little feet soon on your very own land.

    Sue xx

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  7. I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT!

    YOU SOOOOOO DESERVE THIS AND I AGREE THAT IT HAS TURNED OUT TO BE THE BEST THING EVER!

    Sft x

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  8. I'm so thrilled to read this post:) It's been a long and very hard road to travel. Hard work, strengh of character and determination have made it happen. Cannot wait to see the new ducklings♥ Blessings and happiness to you all in your new home♥ Linda xx

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  9. Many thanks for all your kind comments and support. Now that we're moved in, it will be so much easier to carry out garden work on a daily basis, chipping away at what needs done until the place becomes fully productive. In the meantime, we have strawberries, blackcurrants, lettuce, chives and an assortment of duck, hen and quail eggs. :)

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  10. Good luck with your project. Funnily enough, we are currently doing the opposite this year ie winding down a little, mainly due to ill-health last year but next year, I am hoping to pick up again. In the meantime, I am really looking forward to reading your postings - keep up the good, if hard (!) work.

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