Saturday, 22 December 2012

Surveying the Lie of the Frugal Land

Fools Rush in where Angels Fear to Tread

Microholding is another life choice I made several years ago - it's like smallholding for people who can't afford to buy or rent their own land.
Since leaving home to follow my adult route through life, I have moved house 13 times, this is my 16th address. Every one of those addresses has had garden space where I have started trying to grow fruit and/or vegetables and, where possible, keep chickens, ducks and quail. The garden in this first photo was the smallest ever, so stretched to no more than some pots of herbs, salad leaves and an attempt at composting. This was taken in 2006, at the cottage we rented after a family crisis in 2004 forced me to relocate - again!
The following year, we'd to move house again, but it was a good move as far as gardeing was concerned because the garden was massive in comparison to the little green postage stamp we'd been restricted to at the cottage. It was great fun sorting it out, as the owners had already begun planting veggies before they left and let out their house. Some of you may even remember these photos from posts done back in 2007, when I finally used the proceeds of my £2 coin savings challenge to buy the plastic greenhouse, extended the veggie plots halfway up the garden and dug out the first 'micro pond'.
We had a hedgehog lived in this garden and a serious snail problem, along with major cat problems from the 12 or so cats that lived between the houses on either side. These photos were taken in 2007 and then 2008, showing progress made and the lovely old fruit trees that grew in the top half of the long, thing strip of back garden. I loved that garden, was very proud of progress and very sad to leave it behind, when we'd suddenly to move out the following year.
From there, we went further out into the country, renting a run-down, semi-bungalow with a scrap of garden area that hadn't been cultivated in some time. 
Time to start over, again...
I was living in hope that this move would be for the long term. It was tough going while trying to create any sort of garden from the rocky soil, if it was even worthy of being called soil! Anyone remember this, from when we first moved in 2009? It took a full year of clearing and digging to get much growing in there, then we managed to get the little greenhouse from neighbours, who moved out from the house next door. It was starting to get interesting by 2010 - we had the chickens, ducks and quail, plenty of eggs and over a mile of driveway for foraging wild berries. We also had sheep escaping into gardens and cows munching everything they could reach by pushing over the broken fence!
Then, at the start of 2011, we were dealt a particularly cruel and unbelievably vicious blow! Once again, we had to uproot - literally - and find a place to stay, after being pretty much made homeless.
Fortunately, the legal bigwigs were able to protect us from that, delaying it long enough to allow a solution to be found. But it let me see, once and for all, how little one can trust those you think can be trusted. Of course, that's when the car chose to give up the ghost and houseshare lost his income!
We threw every penny we had, right down to the contents of my son's coin tin, into buying a fixy up - this place! It wasn't habitable, but we'd no option other than to move in as soon as we had electricity and running water, even if it did mean carrying buckets of water from the burn to the house to flush the toilet until that got fixed! That was last April, and this is what we had acquired by way of garden. (Anyone remember this?)
More work was done in that 'garden' during the latter half of 2011 and first half of 2012 than in any other garden. This, at long last, was going to be HOME! It's ours, there's no landlord, there's no mortgage, there's just an awful lot needing done to turn it into a proper home and the usual legalities to resolve when you throw all your savings in with a third party to jointly buy property. (Those technicalities have still to be ironed out, so 2013 MUST include having a will made! I have been sharply reminded of this by the four deaths that have occured in the family over the past 14 months!)
Work continued, as per all the blog posts - clearing the hen runs at the bottom of the garden, digging into rubble mountain, clearing the banks of the little stream that runs throught the bottom of the garden, creating a wildbird garden, planting the mini-orchard, digging a duck pond, planting all the fruit bushes, digging raised beds, herb gardens, building wildlife habitats, a recycled greenhouse, even a brand new shed! It was starting to look fabulous in summer (what we had of it), with a load of colour and the fruit canes and trees all beginning to settle after their rude uprooting last year from the previous garden.
It's been a long time in happening, and there's still a huge amount of work to do before the place comes anywhere close to becoming a microholding. A friend who is a permaculturalist (is that the right word?) visited and, from thereon in, it's been a case of observing the lie of the land to determine where best things should be sited for the longterm good of the garden. THANK GOODNESS we did!
The Mayan calendar may well have foiled the doomsday believers, the earth did not end. But, here in Frugaldom, yesterday's midwinter solstice definitely marked the end of an era and this morning saw the dawning of a new age - one that acknowledges once and for all to any doubters that  nature is the ultimate dictator in how we lead our lives. We NEED to respect that. Losing the car last month was a bit of a big deal for us, but we'll manage without it somehow. Seeing the garden destroyed is something I'm not relishing the thought of, so fingers crossed!
Right now, I need to hope that the hens survive the floods by staying on the upper levels of their coops, which are down by those trees, and that the water level stops rising soon, otherwise even the ducks will have no safe place to go.
This is a sharp reminder that we need to follow the natural course of things, keep to the contours of the land and, most importantly, show respect for our environment and all that sustains life on this planet.
Keep safe everyone, let's hope the rain stops soon and the water levels drop quickly. I realise that this little garden problem in Frugaldom is nowhere near as serious as events documented on the news, where towns are flooding, rivers are breaching water defences and landslides are closing roads, nor does it come remotely close to the devastation caused in foreign lands by tsunamis, earth quakes, tornadoes, droughts, epidemics or famines, but surely it comes some way to demonstrating how lucky we are that we have the ability to choose how we solve our own problems and lead our own lives. There are many millions of others can hope for nothing more than survival.
Cheers for now,
Frugaldom - with sand bags at the ready, just in case!


  1. there are floods here too and I'm ripping out a border to plant veg and need to crack on in the new year and start digging and getting some manure in for the frost to break it down

  2. Hi 'Froogs', have fun with the digging and hope you stay safe from the floods. I was planning on planting my garlic soon but it would just wash back out in this weather. Salad leaves and cauliflowers are all I have in so far. Thankfully I took some cuttings of herbs, as my herb spiral is now under water - soggy sage, to say the least.

    Hope your twisty path starts to meander soon, I'm beginning to think the floods have arrived to wash away the bad bends!


  4. Thanks, SFT. Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas in your new home! :)

  5. Stay safe Nyk, hopefully the weather will change for you.
    We actually have a sunny day after 3 days days of constant rain.

    Merry Christmas to all at Frugaldom xx

  6. What an interesting journey you have had. It's even on our news here in Canada about all the wet weather you have been having.

    Do you have photos of your home (even just outside) that you'd care to share. You know we are renovating our home, so am interested in seeing before and after photos.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family,


  7. You've done so well over the years and now you are finally getting your very own place exactly as you want it.

    It's a shame that this rain is doing so much damage everywhere, we are extreely lucky our road is just about passable with care, and although Chicken World is a sea of mud thankfully we installed enough outdoor perchy areas for them at least to get fresh air and potter from perch to perch, luckily the geese have webbed feet and this is a doddle to them. I hope your sandbags do the trick if necessary.

    Have a wonderful and peaceful Christmas.

    Sue xx

  8. Thank you for all the good wishes, hoping you all have a great Christmas.

    Didn't need the sandbags, although I believe our local village of POrt William made it onto the BBC news! What a rare occurance that is.

    Gill, all the photos are on this blog, we bought this place on February last year, so probably easiest using the archive links. :)

    It's been a cracking day here, dry, windy and sunny, so it should have helped the ground water situation loads. We're relatively safe here, being on a hill, so we're not unduly worried. :)


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