Thursday, 14 March 2013

The Real Good Life


Cash-paying work has been a bit thin on the ground recently, so I've been able to get out and about whenever the sun shines, researching for articles and writing what I want rather than what I'm paid to write. Renovations can wait - we're almost water tight, we have logs and coal, and there's plenty of food in the half-completed kitchen.

Working from home and frugal living while having no rent to pay and no car to run has many major advantages. I'm not denying there can be disadvantages but, when the sun shines, folks like us can just take off and do as we please. I can clock up more miles on my trusty two-wheeled steed - the secondhand bike. Mine is a mountain bike and H's is a hybrid meant for road use, but it's been behaving very well over the farm tracks, forest tracks, fields and cattle grids. As you can see in the photo, my bike now goes nowhere without the black cool-bag, (a freebie from several years ago) which normally holds lunch and emergency supplies or else basic groceries from the local store. (You can pack quite a lot in there when you have to do so.)

The weather, although bitingly cold, has been fair, meaning it's warmer out than in when living in a house with no proper central heating. Sitting at the computer and reading the screen through your own breath cloud isn't a good look, so getting warm means light the fire, light the stove or exercise. You'd think I'd lose weight doing this, but I never do!

This post is a run through of what March has brough, so far: it came in like a lamb, let's hope it doesn't go out like a lion!

01 March 2013 - We decided to head out to the highest point in our area. The Machars is an area of lowland in southwest Scotland, within the Dumfries and Galloway region. We're on a peninsula that has no large hills or mountains, only a few fells, Mochrum Fell being the highest, at 197m / 646ft. We left the bikes at the foot of the hill and walked up a route that took us past two shepherds' cairns and then to the summit trig point, where there's a cist, trig point and remains of a much larger cairn. Cost for this outing - FREE.

02 March 2013 - Grandaughter was visiting and, although it wasn't all that sunny, it was dry and bright enough to get out for a picnic. (She'd brought her bike with her.) We cycled out to the old church ruins at Barhobble, where we left the bikes and climbed Changue Fell, which is right next to Mochrum Fell. We ate our picnic while sitting at the church ruins and then cycled home, stopping off for a walk along the edge of Elrig Loch to see all the Greylag geese that are visiting for winter. Cost for this outing - FREE.

03 March 2013 - Glorious sunny Sunday so we packed another picnic and went off-roading through the forest on the bikes. It always amazes me that we seldom see another person during our travels. We have all of this around us and yet few take the time to enjoy it. However, whispers of an impending windfarm being built in the neighbourhood has many locals up in arms about the destruction of the countryside, devaluation of properties and several alleged health risks associated with working turbines. I'll reserve judgement. Cost for this outing - FREE.
06 March 2013 - After peering at maps and searching online, we agreed on a circular route that meant a shortcut home cross-country. This proved to be very eventful, as I have a bit of a fear of cattle and don't like to find myself too close to them. Let's just say that today's route gave me a free lesson in hard, fast and furious pedaling over very rough terrain whilst dinging my bell and screeching at cows that didn't seem best pleased to see us on our bikes! Thankfully, no calves and no bull! Cost for this outing (other than the few pounds possibly lost during my frenzied escape from galloping cows) - FREE!
We do try to get out most days for either a walk or a cycle but I won't boar you with the more mundane trips to the post office, village store or walk up the hill with my 'get fitter' walking buddy. There's so much to see and so many places to explore that it's difficult knowing which, if any, will be of interest to frugalers. On the whole, I visit only places that are free, so I'm hoping that's enough to interest anyone who reads this blog. Frugal living means frugal fun.
10th March 2013 - This was a good trip, barring the sad state the old farm steading was in with the remains of several dead sheep scattered about the fields plus discarded veterinary-type containers and general rubbish! This building belongs to the Marquis of Bute and was formerly an agricultural school of some description. It's dated 1890, so not all that old, and sits on farmland that's also home to the trig point we wanted to visit, at Craigeach Fell. We cycled to Craigeach and left the bikes in one of the derelict outbuildings, where they'd be kept dry in the event the rain or snow arrived. All around us seems to be getting snow at the moment but we have been luck, so far, with none. Cost of this outing - FREE.
11th March 2013 - Pulled on the walking boots and decided to find out if the ground was frozen enough to allow us to walk a circuit cross-country by following the footpaths. It was very soggy and still flooded in parts. We almost made it, until coming face to face with some horned, hairy beasts while cutting down onto the shore road. These 'friendly' critturs weren't showing any signs of taking off in the opposite direction, so, rather than make a run for it and land over an embankment, we back-tracked and completed the walk along the main farm track. Cost of this outing - FREE.
12th March 2013 - Today I cycled to the agricultural merchants to settle my monthly poultry feed account. Normally I would just telephone and pay by card, but the sun was shining and the 17-mile trip on the bike didn't seem so daunting. Once there, I even treated myself to some luxury 'CoolMax' walking socks for the trip up Ben Nevis in May - they were cheaper in the agri-store than I'd seen them online for the exact same make. Lovely day turned to lovely evening, so friend and I did our regular 4 miles over a nearby steepish hill to the next village and back. We always see something while out there, whether it's birds, deer, snow on the peaks of Snaefell across the water on the Isle of Man or the flashing of the Mull of Galloway lighthouse across the other side of the bay. Tonight's sunset was worthy of a photo. Total cost of outings - FREE.
13th March 2013 - The day began as normal, I needed a few items from the shop and the shop, depending on which route I take, is at least 7 miles round trip. Yesterday I took the bike and H accompanied me, as we had a little research to do for some written articles. The entire trip spanned out to just under 15 miles, but I did remember to buy the fruit, cheese and sugar. In fact, I was really rash and spent about £3 extra on lunch stuff, when we decided to do three exploratory trips in the one outing!
We climbed the steps to the site of the ancient Barsalloch Fort, where we demolished the most of lunch. Cost of visit - FREE
Next, we headed further along the shore to the Gavin Maxwell Memorial, on the road to St Medan Golf Club - Scotland's most southerly golf club. This impressive bronze otter stands looking out over the bay at Monreith. Gavin Maxwell, author of 'Ring of Bright Water', was born in Elrig House, about which he wrote in his slightly less famous novel, 'The House of Elrig'. It is from this book that I have learned quite a bit about our area. Cost of visit - FREE
There are several beautiful picnic spots around Monreith, many with seating provided, but we continued on our way to explore our next target - Kirkmaiden. This is one of Scotland's oldest churches. It has a small graveyard and some fantastic stories attached to it. Tradition has it that the original bell was removed and sailed across the bay to be placed in another church of exact same name, but the boat sank before it reached the other side.

The little red stone building is the burial chapel of the Maxwell family, who still own the nearby estate. As far as I'm aware, Sir Michael, who considers himself frugal, is the only Maxwell who now resides there. He seems to be a bit of a character, as I'm sure anyone who saw him on the TV series 'Country House Rescue' will agree.

Cost of this excursion - FREE.

So there you have it - a peak into the life of a Frugaldom dweller. None of the above are all-day affairs, so it leaves plenty of time for the more mundane things in life, like housekeeping, cooking and earning a small income. Perhaps it isn't the perfect life for a gregarious socialite with a penchant for foreign holidays, glamour and glitz. All of tese things can be put together on a miniscule budget, so it isn't like we couldn't afford to set ourselves another challenge. I think I prefer simple living.



  1. Gosh, you are doing well, keeping fit and exploring in the same trip. If you aren't losing weight, it is probably because you are changing fat into muscle (if you had any fat in the first place)!

    1. Hopefully it is a case of the fat being worn down and the muscle built up, but I fear I may have legs like tree trunks before long! LOL

  2. See I told you that you would soon see an improvement. Well done.BTW love all the area photos.

    1. Thanks, Brenda... I have been following your suggestions but still not managing any hills by pedal power. :)

  3. What a stunning part of the world you live in; I dont think one could ever tire of its beauty.
    I have a hybrid bike and I love it.
    No one wants wind farms in their part of the world do they ? I was down in Cornwall and saw them in the distance. I dont think I would mind i f they were close by, better than belching smoke-stacks or nuclear power stations or hydro-electric dams come to that....

    1. Windfarms are such hugely controversial subjects and I'm trying to remain objective about them. I visited one and was quite impressed by the layout and the fact that it's now opened up the area to walkers, cyclists and horseriders. I'd certainly prefer to risk living in the shadow of a wind farm development than a nucleaur, gas or coal-fired power station development. Nobody likes their back yard being dug up but it would be nice to think there was as much money being pumped into other, even better, micro energy production plants and that households and companies, in general, would make more of an effort to reduce demand for electricity. Vicious circle, I think, so I'm planning a trip to visit a fully developed site to see what benefits it has brought the community.

    2. I have to say I agree. I would much prefer a windfarm than nuclear/coal/gas on my doorstep. I think if every local authority had to generate some power there would suddenly be a lot less resistance to wind. In terms of what it does for the community, I live 1 mile from a windfarm and we never hear it, though I love walking near it because they are so graceful. I can see that people think they spoil unspoilt land, but we live in an age of expanding population so sadly, some rural land must be built on in some fashion or other.
      More useful still is the money the local community has received from the windfarm. It has completely transformed our hall, the local church and provided sports equipment for children. It is quite amazing. I am certainly not against them these days, though I was worried when I first moved to the area.

  4. I am so glad I was guided to your blog by Froogs, I love hearing about your trials, tribulations and successes. The simple life can be rewarding. I am, as you know, mainly housebound with Hubby but still get great pleasure in the things I do. This week I have helped 4 friends with my craft abilities and time (something I have buckets of) all of which will help them and many others along the way. My biggest joy is asleep on the couch as I write - my darling special grandson. We have read, and drawn,had a picnic in the living room and worn Grandad out - he is also having a nap in bed. Life is what you make it even with all the hurdles we face. The sun is shining here at the moment, hopefully it will dry the garden out enough for me to finish moving my large plastic greenhouse and get planting as that is a big part of this years cunning plan after last years disasters but I will not be beaten! hugs Vix

  5. Hi Vixen, I appreciate everyone visiting and commenting, I just dont know where everyone finds the time, I really don't. At the moment, we have snow here so it was a bit of a shock getting up to that this morning after the lovely weather we had yesterday. I really should get into gear with the garden but it's as though all the signs of spring are hiding until after the equinox. Roll on Wednesday - I may even be tempted to fit in an hour outdoors before having my porridge, then.

    Good luck with greenhouse moving, that sounds like a fairly big job, so I'll try to keep any high winds in this corner of SW Scotland. :)


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