It's been a very hectic and sad past couple of weeks, especially since the sudden death of my dad. He, too, was a forum and blog fan, although his feathered friends were racing pigeons, rather than hens, ducks and quail. Dad had a great send off last Friday, supported by literally hundreds of friends, colleagues and fellow pigeon enthusiasts who turned out alongside the family. I know for a fact that he'll be sadly missed by many.
Life continues, we all pick up the pieces and soldier on towards our own destinies. We can do no more than our best to ensure we enjoy life to the fullest during our brief time as mortals on this earth. But in true frugal spirit, it is always best to be prepared.
The clocks have changed, we have now officially left British Summer Time behind and are approaching the most expensive time of the year here - winter! Temperatures are already plunging in Scotland, with the first frosts and snow of the year having touched down in the northern parts. Energy prices have risen, once again, forcing many to cut back on heating - never a good idea, in my opinion. I'm still ever hopeful that the E-Cat will eventually prove to be a commericial success and help us all reduce energy costs.
Having only an open fire to heat the Frugaldom household, I'm pleased to say that the new pump, mended pipes and replacement valves are all doing a great job of powering three radiators and heating our water. Coal is costly, as are seasoned logs, but these things shouldn't need to be looked upon as luxury items. It is our right to be able to afford some comfort in our own homes, even if it does mean following a slightly less than 'gourmet' diet.
Nearby, building has resumed on a couple of new houses, so I'm keeping a keen eye on all the pallets of blocks that are being delivered. We love free pallets, so one point of call this coming week is to the building site to ask nicely if they would like us to relieve them of their cast offs. They can only say no. With luck, however, they may let us have them free to chop for firewood - fingers crossed.
The log store is emptying fast, so another load of logs will need to be ordered to see out the remainder of this year. At that point, the new 2012 budget will kick in and we'll be off on our merry way, following the next big frugal living challenge.
Renovations were temporarily halted this month but, thanks to our local LETS group, I have someone coming to see what work they can help do. I'm expecting them tomorrow morning. The first thing needing done is the new bathroom window to be finished off, sealing out the draughts. Next up will be getting some insulation so we can get a new ceiling fitted in the kitchen. If we can possibly squeeze in a new back door, these three jobs would be sufficient to see us through the winter in a wind and watertight house. (I'd better remember to phone the joiner to let him know what the hold up has been!)
I still need to organise a letter box for the front door, but am now loath to allow the joiner to cut a hole in it. Rather than do this, I think I'll invest in a tradition cast iron locking mail box and install it outside. I'm sure there must be some on offer somewhere that are available for home delivery.
Tuesday 1st November sees the beginning of Will Aid month. This is an annual event where solicitors volunteer their time and services for the purposes of Will making and then donate the representative fees to one of several participating charities. I'm not sure how much a basic Will normally costs but the suggested donation is £85 for a single Will, so I am going to take the opportunity to get this essential task done. I haven't much to leave family but sharing a jointly owned house could slightly complicates things. Better to be prepared than continually worry about what would happen if...
The next bit of preparation will be using up all the bits and pieces I have lurking in the fridge and cupboards in order to make way for new stock. I don't know if it's down to previous work involving the wholesale & retail industries, but stock rotation is important, even in the freezer. Plenty of soup making, baking, pie and stew-making, I should think. These things are all great as winter warmers and save on overall electricity costs when batch cooked.
The electric blankets are on the beds and I now need to look out my fleeces for lining the curtains that hang over our single-glazed windows. Draught excluders need replacing and the winter woolies all need airing, so there's plenty to keep me busy.
Outside, the garden is looking a little sad and soggy. H has weeded out the Saffron Crocus bed and we still need to lift some potatoes, cut down the sunflowers for drying (if they even got around to seeding) and turn over the makeshift beds before the frost gets here. I have some garlic cloves ready for planting and I'll get the strawberry plants all bedded down in straw. The trees at the bottom of the garden are beginning to look slightly naked - I can now see the cows in the back field! But all those leaves are falling into the hen run, so what's left of our hens have a fun time scratching in them. I'm planning on making a mesh composting cage after reading a simple 'how-to' guide in the Microholding Daily.
Since the mink attack, the hens haven't been laying. Nor have they been allowed to freerange. Instead, they can only be allowed out their runs while someone is there to keep an eye on them. This doesn't sit well with my overall plan, so some serious redesign work needs to be done in order to keep them all secure. Unfortunately, this is not a financial priority at the moment, so I'll need to set myself yet another challenge for 2012 - raising enough extra cash to improve the entire chicken run, ensuring nothing can climb or burrow into it. It's quite a big hen run, so it could be a very costly job!
If anyone is in need of a blogger, article writer or columnist, get in contact with me and we'll negotiate a frugal rate. My hens need protecting and my surplus savings are only enough to cover the cost of a cheap .22 as part of the Frugaldom vermin control/fur slippers for Christmas plan.
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