At home, the thermometer on the sitting-room wall reads just below 6 Degrees C in the mornings, as there's no central heating here and we still haven't resolved the issue of deciding on the best way forward.
The open fire heats hot water on a back boiler, which gets pumped around the house and heats 5 radiators quite adequately - if you have a full time stoker, a limitless supply of perfectly dry kindling, a self-filling coal bunker and a guarantee that the power stays on to keep the electric pump running. Last week the power went out!
Just as I had banked up the fire and the water in the boiler was starting to bubble, sudden blackness and silence descended - barring the roar of the fire and the boiling water! Flicking a switch is fine if you have one, but there is no such switch to extinguish a blazing fire in the hearth while the pipes are rattling like they're ready to explode! (Getting slightly paranoid at this possibility)
CAN A BOILER BLOW UP OR BURST?
Literally blind panic while retrieving torches and candles... A fine mist water spray and a dose of salt extinguished the remains of the fire after I precariously decanted red hot coals to the multi-fuel stove in the room across the hall! I do NOT recommend this at all, but until I find out for sure if a back-boiler really can explode from overheating while the power is out, I have lost trust in this solid fuel system. My faith in uninterrupted electricity supply has never been strong, as I've pretty much always lived in the country. I should know better by now, but these types of home improvements cost thousands of pounds.
More number-crunching work required and I really do wish I had been able to afford to replace the entire heating system all at the same time. I think I'd now prefer a bigger multi-fuel stove, but keeping a supply of perfectly dry logs is difficult in such a wet climate.
GARDENING, POULTRY KEEPING AND WORMS IN WINTER
Gardening has fallen by the wayside completely - the ground is saturated, the earth just mud - even the two remaining ducks are getting fed up with it. They should be happy once their new run is completed and their pond thaws. The hens have settled well into their new run, away from the flood risk part of the garden and we're even getting an occasional egg from the young (2 year-old) hen. The little banties are now 7 years old, so I'm not expecting too much from them. Garden hens are not frugal if you're in it for their lifetime, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
The wormery is doing surprisingly well, despite the weather. I think with it being so mild for much of the time, the wrigglers have just kept on eating, so here's hoping we get some decent compost this year. I can probably count on one hand how often our food recycling bin has ever gone out for council collection!
KEEP ACTIVE - FEBRUARY'S FRUGAL FITNESS MONTH
Something I must practice as much as I preach, as keeping fit and healthy helps your metabolism and the extra exertion keeps the blood pumping sufficiently to prevent hypothermia setting in... move it, move it, move it... anything, anywhere, just keep something moving. Right now, only my fingers are moving because, once again, I'm sat at the computer. Ho hum... I'm a dismal failure at the physical fitness in February but I have remained vigilant with the frugal finances! Just need to try to reap the benefits of some savings interest from somewhere, even if it is a mere 0.5%
EXERCISE IS FREE!
You'd think I would get to grips with this fact and make the most of it whenever possible! For this reason, I fully intend marching into March, making it all the way through the month, exercising like a mad March hare (without boxing) then marching right out of there, into April.
I haven't even sat on my bike since last Autumn! I think it's safe to say I am no cyclist, just a fair-weather peddler. The only pedlar I'm ever going to be is the one at the gate trying to sell eggs, fruit and veg! Riding a bike in winter weather just is not for me - I'm too paranoid about being run over by a logging lorry, tractor or milk tanker!
ANOTHER BIG BANG!
After the hot coal sprint, any almighty bang and rumble had me worried. The entire house shook and I ran outside half-expecting to see a collapsed chimney had crashed down from the roof. Thankfully not! We hadn't a clue what had caused it, but the poor cat looked terrified!
Not long after that, another almighty explosion rocked the house... but it had resonated from the hill at the back of the house. I seriously thought the farm's wind turbine had exploded, but it was still there, still turning.
WINTER TREE PLANTING
Excitement over - but blasting not over! We now have tree harvesting, road repairs and quarrying all going on around us at Frugaldom. Tree planting is going to be noisier than normal, I expect, but this isn't holding up proceedings - it's mainly the weather that's causing the delays!
1,000 willows, 25 heritage apple trees, 420 assorted natives and a small copse of oaks to be planted before the end of March. We would love to have actual help planting but no amount of posting online about it gets our news read by anyone close enough who has the free time to spare. You can lead folks to the Internet but you can't make them read specific information.
As well as seeking tree sponsors for the orchard, we have several other ways available, both for individuals and businesses. Fencing the project is costing thousands of pounds, so we are tagging the posts with engraved discs displaying the chosen details of those who take part.
Our Tag-a-post scheme will continue for as long as it takes to fence the corrals, then we'll keep going - around the barnyard, along the track and around the nature walk. It would be fantastic if each new post got tagged, though I fear this could take longer than I have left, as the Frugaldom project needs many, many new posts.
Again, you can find out more about our sponsorship and membership options by using the links on the Frugaldom website or by visiting the Frugal Shop.
Many thanks to all who have supported us so far - I hope you will all be able to join us here in May 2017 for our very first Frugalfest get together. Or sooner, if you choose.
Back to keeping warm - we're chopping up as many of the old posts as possible and drying them for firewood. Frugaldom is huge compared to a garden, so there is more than enough scrap wood by way of logs and branches for any of our members to share, if you care to go the DIY route and collect them from site. (By prior arrangement only.)
PORTABLE SOLAR KIT
I am now looking seriously at investing in a small, portable solar kit for lighting the barn and for emergency use at home or at the caravan. I'm not sure how money-saving it may be, so it has to be seen as an investment. Renewable energy on a stand alone system has to be worth considering, so the possibility of incorporating a small wind turbine on the Frugaldom barn has not been ruled out, either. There are some great kits developing and these are gradually falling within the affordability of individuals, even those of us on a frugal budget.
My incomplete list of current winter warmers and emergency back-up supplies:
- Extra layers, including thermals
- Fleece has become part of my daily wardrobe
- Woolly leg-warmers
- Double thickness socks
- Warm gloves and a hat - your head loses a huge amount of your body heat.
- Furry slippers (Indoors only!)
- Flasks for filling with hot water (I have a 5 litre one that gets filled from the kettle on the stove)
- Cooking facility - BBQ, gas camping stove, log burner
- Insulated mugs
- Hot drinks, soup and instant hot meal options
- Bottled water (if you rely on electric filters or pumps for well water)
- Exercise or extra movement - a short, brisk walk outside or even up and down stairs or around the house works
- Electric blanket
- Hot water bottle / wheat bags
- Extra duvet
- Extra under-blanket - if your bed has slats, lay cardboard over the top, below the mattress, as added insulation
- Knitted blankets from scrap wool - keeps you warm even while knitting
- Burnable organic waste turned into fuel!
- Rechargeable wind-up torch
- Coal in the bunker
- Logs in the log store
- Old newspapers (provided by neighbours)
- Matches and extra matches
- Hand and foot warmers - anyone tried these? Shame they're disposable but as emergency back-up when working outdoors in freezing temperatures, they sound good!
- Alternative energy source - even battery power is better than no power - being able to see during power cuts (or when off grid) is paramount to your own safety, as the last thing you want to do is fall over or walk into something.