Despite this, the sun still shines and there's still a great deal of colour to be seen from an amazing variety of flowers. Here in Frugaldom, the sunflowers have only just begun to bloom, their heads heavy and drooping, their huge stalks swaying precariously in the increasing winds. Temperatures of 25C in the afternoon can dip below 10C in the evenings and the heavy morning dew can last until noon. Many of the plants are going to seed, so this is a great time to collect what you need for sowing next year. I have already amassed a healthy supply of nasturtium and lupin seeds.
Harvesting is in full swing, meaning that we need to be prepared to preserve and store all that we possibly can. Foraging is a great way of topping up the stores, by way of jam and jelly making, but let's not forget about the non-edibles. Sticks, dry leaves, pine cones and pine needles can all be gathered.
Pine needles make great mulch for all those plants that appreciate a more acidic soil. Many of the forest fruits, brambles, blueberries and even the strawberries seem to benefit from this and, although not particularly something to promote, my quail seem to love scratching about in a thick bed of pine needles and dried leaves.
If you have a stove or open fire, fallen twigs and sticks add to your stash of kindling, as do pine cones. We love pine cones here in Frugaldom, as they are so versatile. Once dried, these can be decorated or used as part of natural ornamentation. We used to spray them silver and gold then hang them on the Christmas tree, but aerosol cans of shiny paint aren't really all that frugal, nor are they particularly environmentally friendly. However, if you save all the ends from your old candles, pine cones dipped in melted wax make fantastic firelighters. Once dried, the cones store well in cardboard boxes and, even without the added benefit of the wax, still make great kindling.
Costcutting within the home becomes increasingly difficult during colder months, especially when most of us have become so reliant on electricity. With prices soaring, the already financially challenged households become increasingly aware of the need to cut costs. Monitoring electricity use is a huge help in seeing where money is being spent. There's no need to invest in expensive equipment to monitor every kilowat you use, especially if the money could be better spent elsewhere. A sheet of paper and regular meter reading will suffice, or try setting up a basic spreadsheet on your computer to chart your progress.
With the nights growing longer, reduced daylight hours can mean the need for lights being switched on for the greater part of the day. Make sure you have made the most of every opportunity available to you for claiming subsidised or free energy saving lightbulbs, as the savings do mount up over the year.
Of course, mains electricity is useless when the autumn or winter storms arrive and bring with them the possibility of power cuts. That's when we are really grateful for our all-important 'emergency supplies' and warm winter wear. Things like candles and matches are must-have items and, if you have an open fire or stove, suitable cooking utensils that enable you to heat food or boil a kettle of water are always useful. It may sound silly, but without the benefit of a logburner or multi-fuel stove, I always find it handy to keep charcoal at the ready for an impromptu BBQ, regardless of the weather.
Any prolonged power cut will hamper cooking and it isn't always dry enough to light a BBQ, so other alternatives need to be available. Whether it's a camping gas stove or something to shelter you from the rain while lighting a BBQ, it is always helpful to have frugal 'fast food' at the ready.
Love them or hate them, dried snack foods are more than welcome when nothing else is available. As long as you can boil some water, instant soup, noodles, pasta and even custard or hot chocolate are great substitutes, served up with an accompanying tinned food. Instant soup followed by tinned fruit with instant custard is great after a freezing day working outside in wind and rain, especially if you get back inside and end up with a power cut! Batch cooked 'ready to heat and eat' food like soup is a bonus, but nine times out of ten we have it stored in the freezer. Without electricity, it is best notto open your fridge or freezer, in order to preserve the contents for as long as possible.
One thing that we have learned to do here is to always keep a flask of boiling water at the ready. This not only saves you having to boil the kettle every time you want a cuppa, it's also a very handy thing to have at the ready if the power goes off suddenly.
Anything that can be blown over in the garden has been secured, the sunflowers have been tied up with wire mesh attached to the wall and there's an extra bucket of coal, basket of sticks and pile of logs sat by the fire. Let's call it a trial run, 'just in case', but right now, the sun is still shining and the sky is clear. It must be raining somewhere, though, as the stream at the bottom of our garden is almost in spate. There's also a blustering wind that seems to be increasing in strength.
I'm still not completely convinced that autumn has arrived, but that might be wishful thinking, as we've still to replace the flat roof over our kitchen before winter. It is secure for now, that is the main thing.
Now, I'm off to check the stores and see what items need adding to my list of 'emergency supplies'. I will allocate a budget of £30 for this, equivalent to £10 per person in the household. Most of the items have a long shelf life and can be easily stored, so I'll include my finished list and accompanying costs in a subsequent post.
Nature is something we can never control, nor should we expect to control it, but we can take precautions against falling foul of all it can throw at us, so be prepared. Take care of yourselves and be prepared to help out others wherever you can. Let's hope the forthcoming severe weather is nothing more than a storm in a teacup!