About Me

We moved out to Portugal to live a frugal but better , simpler and peaceful life, our house is a very basic, semi ruin, up in the hills outside Figueiro Dos Vinhos, where we work our land, enjoy life with each other and our dogs, and hope to make the smallest carbon footprint we can,

Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy NewYear...

Just wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year... lets all hope for a better year to come...

We have lots of plans, we hope to continue to work on our frugality... I enjoy the challenge and it brings out the meaness in me and makes me feel that Im doing my bit to help the world too...
We hope to continue with having helpers so we can grow more food, plant a nuttery... or what ever you call a large area of nut trees. I want to make sure the Medicinal Herb Garden becomes reality this spring for sure!
Of course Rik has huge plans for working on the house, all dependant on us finding a way of earning more/some income... if things do not pick up for us soon with the holiday cottage bookings, he'll actually have to go away to find some work... which would be disastrous for us... but.. if it has to happen to make it possible for us to stay here, thats what he'll do... We will manage somehow. We are fully committed to staying here somehow or other.
We started clearing the ruin part of the house the other day, we feel we have to live with a positive outlook and at least doing this is moving forward with the house and it doesnt cost us anything but labour, there is room (and footprint) there bigger than what we live in now, effectively more than doubling our house size.
So he will be working on that during the next few weeks and I'll be clearing the area at the other side of the house where I plan a raised seating area connected to the herb garden to be...

The veggie plot is still helping us out with the odd cauli, plus the ever present (thankfully) cabbage, hopefully the grellos will be ready soon for good soup.
My winter planted peas are going great guns... tons coming on well, almost 4 inches high now and no sign of bird or mouse problems...
The broad beans look excellent too, but Im not getting excited, as every year they do... and we rarely get many to actually eat for one reason or another...
I so look forward to the spring and planting for a new season... its such a positive time of the year, I love it... all that anticpation of whats to come... all that lovely new growth and fruitfulness...

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Solstice and Citrus...


I thought I'd pop in today as its a bit damp outside and update this with a few pictures of various things I've rambled about lately.  Firstly, our Solstice Celebration went very well, there was eight of us, and it was quite a multi national thing too... Two welsh... One Channel Islander, one English, One Swiss, two Dutch and One Portuguese.... and seven... DESSERTS!!! I unthinkingly told people when they asked what they could bring.... oh just bring a Dessert.... heheheh I made two myself and it seems everyone else made one as well... YUMMY...
It was a lovely evening, and we so enjoyed the good mix of company...
There should be a pic of the table here somewhere, sadly the ambiance doesnt come out with all the candles and fairy lights ect...


The new terrace wall... while Greg our last helper was with us, Rik was teaching him dry stonewalling, they worked hard at replacing a badly collapsed huge wall... this is the result... we love it!


And... our lovely Tangerine tree is going bonkers this year... when we first came here it was huge, overgrown and fruited badly and what we had were small and dry and quite bitter... Rik 'pruned´it back so hard I thought I would never recover... but it has and is now doing wonderfully... I went and picked up the fallen ones the other day and used some as Solstice decorations studded with cloves they look good and scent the room too... the rest we have been eating and juicing, so sweet and tasty... and free... our first real crop of fruit (apart from lemons) ...and there are hundreds more to ripen and come yet...

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

2010 end of year Update...

Ive been trying to marshal my thoughts on 2010.. although its been very hard t get past the horrible bits of losing my dad and our beautiful boy Cola, I dont feel that the whole year has been dreadful. I know Rick has found this last year incredably difficult, and at times so have I. Its been a real emotional rollercoaster... the financial problems we've had (and still have) coupled with me going backwards and forwards abroad and then our losses... its been very tough.
But....
And its a big but... I feel there are also so many positives that have come out of all this. Hheheheh Rick often says Im so optimistic sometimes its annoying... but I feel its often the only way to get through all the hard times...
Some of our positives are... our relationship is still strong and working... and we still love Portugal, our home and way of life just as much as always... we have two beautiful dogs, Beesa the pup brings us a smile and much joy almost every day... Bonnie is now putting on weight again and seems her old happy self now she has someone to play with and some company..
We've had a excellent year veggie wise (after what seemed like a bad start) with tons of food stashed away and now planning and planting lots more than usual for the winter months... plus the wood barn is fuller than usual at this time of the year.
The land is in better condition and under a little more control now due to us aquiring Herman the cultivator, and of course the great efforts of our helpers we've had all summer... deciding to have volunteers at our place was a huge success and has made a real difference to our lives.  It brought different company to our home and we got lots of projects and work done at the same time...
We've done a few improvements on the house but not as uch as we'd have wished due to money or lack of it... but as long as the place is improving even if very slowly, then Im happy...
We are living more frugally than ever, but actually are enjoying the challenge ... most of the time... I am as always looking for ways to cut the electricity bills and any other expenses we have, still our fuel for the car is our biggest... but at least we've reduced down to one vehicle now, which runs on gas (GPL) which is over half the cost of petrol ...
We are recycling more than ever, Im making door draft excluders from all the thin wispy plastic we cant seem to avoid, I wash and reuse any freezer bags I use, carrier bags are not an option for me anymore , I have two reusuable strong bags, and use those all the time. All food waste goes to the dogs, or compost, paper is torn up and composted or burnt and composted. So we've cut our bin waste down to around one bag every three weeks or so... The fridge is off, the washing machine does one 30º wash a week(I hand wash a few odds and ends betweeen if needed) Now we have sperate switches for some lights we can turn off more at a time which has cut our consumption a lot...
So we dont feel we are doing too bad.  We just now need to up our income... or even start earning some... for the new year, or things could start getting tricky later in the Spring.
I have high hopes of the cottage earning us some dosh as I think a lot of people feel they MUST get away this coming year, so as we are very cheap.... well you never know...
Im advertising Rick and all his many talents locally  ... in the hopes that it may pay off with some work for him... Rototilling, land clearance, land maintenance, dry stone walling, terrace repairs... building repairs, painting, alterations... you name it really he does it.... Im blessed he's so clever...

So, there you have it... in some ways an appalling year, but in other not bad... we are still here, still living our dream.... still loving Portugall and each other.... and summer wont be long.....
Hheheeheh how corny does that sound....

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Happy Solstice !!

Happy Solstice everyone...
I hope you all enjoy today, and the longest night passes warm, safe and happy for you all...
We are celebrating the return of the sun (well in theory at least as its pouring with rain) and the lengthening of the days with a nice meal, a warm fire and some good friends for company... and we are really looking forward to it... Ive just popped in to write this and then am off home to cook up a storm...
We decorated the livin/kitchen last night, using pine and other pretty leaves and foliage from the forest, add a few pretty candles and the place looks lovely... no pics Im afraid... it looks its best by candlelight..

The weather is pretty wet, but we are blessed to not have the terrible conditions of snow that many across Europe are suffering, I hope all of you who have those problems keep warm and comfortable till its over...

Happy Solstice...
Pat

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

More sunshine..and Solstice preparation

Well its sunny again today and set to last a while longer yet. There was a mild frost for us up in the hills but the town didnt get one. Its breezier though today so not so warm.
Im cleaning up and doing housy stuff as we are preparing for our Winter Solstice, we generally have a Celebration to welcme back the sun and ward off the longest night, this year as money is so tight.... well non existant really, we've just asked a few friends round to eat a meal and have a few glasses of wine with us, most are bringing something whether it be a dessert or a bottle of wine ect so we'll all manage a good evening with very little cost....
We'll have a bonfire and a Yule log and roast a few chestnuts to start us off... then homemade bread, soup, stew potatoes and rice and veggies, with lots of gooey desserts.... a warm fire and good company... what more could anyone want...

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

What a wonderful day...

We woke up this morning to a really lovely day, the sun has come out and although its colder its so good to see the sun. We came into town early and luckily had the camera with me and managed to catch this fantastic view from just above the town looking over at the hills shrouded in mist...

I was able to go down the veggie patch this morning and picked a cabbage, now we have had some stunning veg this season but cabbage has been a huge success for us, and this morning I picked a monster... well over 2kilos in weight ... also the caulis are now coming good, completely the wrong time of the year but we are enjoying them just the same.

I spent the morning the other day planting Jerusalem Artichokes, all part of my fresh not freezer plan for next year, I was lucky enough to be given a large pot full (thanks Ruth) and while we have a big bag chopped for soup in the freezer already, I did a few more, and froze some of the lager one for roasting too, the peel went into a pot for the dogs dinners and I planted the small ones... 65 of them!! That should ensure us plenty for next year.... and forever!
Ive weeded the onion seed beds and they seem to be doing okay... all my winter broad beans and peas are up and looking good too... so we seem set for winter.. its getting colder and now we have the new blcked in area at the bottom of the stairs in the kitchen that stops the warm all going up stairs we are really toasty...
Rik will be going into the forest today and tomorrow to top up the log shed, while Im finishing up tidying the veggie patch and making bread ...

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Frugal living...The great dog food scam....

I dont know about you but I've been a pet owner, generally dogs, for most of my adult life, and grew up with a family dog too... so you could call us devoted dog people,  in fact we tend to like dogs better than most people. Our dogs are classed as family, almost our children, and we love them as such.
So, being such devoted dog people, and as most people, we want the very best for our dogs, we give them regular health checks, jabs, and worm pills ect, and want the very best in nutricion for them to keep them strong, heathly and energetic ...
That brings me to the crux of this post.... Dog Food...if you look around at the various types of dog food there are available now, you could feel very confused and alarmed..and guilty. if you take it all at face value that is... Vets surgeries all have those sacks of the hugely expensive 'super healthy' brands that they reccomend... only that one can do the very best for your pet... a sack of that costs more than my food budget for months! Then you can go to the supermarket and see a massive range at varying prices , all offering health, vitality, glossy coat.... etc etc... the general marketing trend is that if you dont buy all this expensive food then you dont love your dog... he or she will not be healthy, will suffer from all kinds of nasty stuff and it will all be your fault.... all set up to play on your guilt at not feeding your loved dog on the 'best'.
What a load of rubbish....
Over a year ago, we started getting a little concerned ourselves at not being able to afford more than a very cheapy type of 'all in one' biscuit for our dogs...  I guess over the years we had been taken in by all the hype that surrounds animal food... so we started adding extra stuff in a little, we have always given our dogs veggies, and titbits like crusts and apple cores etc, now we were actively thinking about what we were giving them as extras. I made sure it was the 'healthy option' bits of fruit, extra veggies, bones etc.. all this on top of their normal food... It made me feel better that I was giving them healthy stuff...
Over the past 6 months we have thought more and more about this... this huge healthy dog food thing has sort of crept up on the public through concentrated ads over the last ten or 15 years...
When you were a child, this kind of food just wasnt there... dogs were mainly fed on what was available, cheap and filled them up.... and always looked healthy to me.... our family dog as a child lived solely from tablescraps and the odd butchers bones... and lived to the ripe old age of 17!!
So, to bring this back to my point... for the last 6 months we have been feeding our dogs in a frugal way... and they are looking splendid... happy healthy, glossy coats, full of energy... and it costs us next to nothing...
What we do is this...
I go to our butchery counter at the local supermarkets, every time Im in town, we ask for dogs stuff... they give us bags of scrap , fat, skin, gristley bits, bones etc... tons of it... mostly free , some times they charge 10cents a bag... which we cut up small, divide up into reasonable portions and freeze.
Then every day I defrost a bag, and roast it, then put it into the 'dog veg pan' which is a big pan I keep handy and instead of putting all my veggie scraps and peelings on the compost heap Im cooking it up for the dogs, it ends up as a thick meaty, veg type stew, I often add a handful of rice, or pasta, to bulk it out as Beesa is so big. This is served up with a sprinkling of the 'all in one' biscuits on top every day for their breakfast. And they love it
Nothing is wasted, all cabbage leaves and stems are cut up small, potato peelings, onion skins... squash peel... it all goes in..
They get bones for added calcium, rice and bread crusts, pasta etc as carbs.. the fat and meat for iron etc the veg and fruit for vits... they even get fish heads for oils now and again...
Its easy to do once you get a system going, and they love it and costs me almost nothing... a 20 kl sack of dog biscuits lasts months...
And you couldnt wish for a healthier looking pair of dogs... I'll never fall into the dog food scam again...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Frugal living...

With economics as they are, our frugal lifestyle is extra important to us at the moment...
As I said in my other post, during the cold weather we tend to eat soup most days.... Lunch in our house comprises soup and homemade bread, and often homemade biscuits or a cake...
Soup at the moment seems to be cabbage and potato most days... a tad boring but its hot, filling and nutricious.. heheheh just the last few days Ive tried to vary it... we have leaf soup.... When I pick a cabbage from the garden, as Rik hates the strong outer leaves, I now leave them on the stalk to keep growing , just cutting the main middle cabbage, the rest I pick as needed and shred for soup.... he doesnt know the difference... also cauli leaves are going in now too... as are dandilion leaves, a little chickweed and the odd plantain leaf too.... all good vitamins...And really tasty...
Last night we had homemade crisps.... (chips to our American readers) ... only instead of using whole potato... I'd saved the scrubbed peelings from the roast potatoes we had at dinner and  deep fried them with salt and herbs.... they were yummy....

Other stuff

As its a bit cold and we've not much to do I thought I'd add a little more, firstly thanks to Blue and Sam for giving us and our winter special a nice plug to hopefully improve business...
One of the things that also got dne while Rik and Gregg were in a productive mood.... and it was raining... was a few minor adjustments to our electrics... now a lot of our stuff is still run from extenson leads ect.. all very temporary, and has been for almost five years now.... So Gregg being a electrician, actually shuddered when he looked closely.... hehehehe He kindly rewired a bit upstairs and put the lounge lights on a different switch to the bathroom, so now I can switch the lounge light on from the top of the stairs, instead of having to grope my way across the room to the bathroom door to switch on a light... wonderful... little things eh...
Also, Rik had made some excellent light fittings from old oil lamps we had, (cost 4 euros each) and Greg wired them up and he's what one looks like. We love em... We've been looking for some lights that 'fit' into our place for ages, but all were either hugly expensive or ... naff...

We think they fit in well... and cost practically nothing.... which is very important to us and our frugal lifestyle...

Busy week.

Well its been a busy few days ... the lovely Greg (our last helper) left on Sunday for pastures new, hes down the Algarve with a German/Portuguese couple for a couple of weeks and then off skiing for Christmas... He was amazing, so much work, so strong amd such a genuine bloke too. He and Rik really hit it off and ganged up on me and teased me mercilessly most days. That was good, generally we have female helpers and Rik often feels outnumbered... so it was my turn for the last few weeks... We miss him a lot...
I cancelled the other couple that should have arrived during the next few days, the money situation, coupled with not great weather and being so near to Solstice and Christmas, plus the upset over my dads death made it the right decision for us we feel. We'll be more upto welcoming people into our home again by spring...
Having said that, we've had plenty of friends popping in to see if we are ok so life hasnt been quiet either...

The weather has been a bit pooh ... plenty of rain, but its settled down to just a few scattered showers now and quite a lot of bright sunshine, not very warm though ... and if you get stuck in the wind... its damn cold!
But its keeping the garden going, we did have a couple of hard frosts last week but the rain has kept them off since, Im picking cauliflowers and cabbages and trying to weed the winter peas and leeks between showers. The carrots are finally finished, they were great and a absolute must for next year now we've had such success. The grelos is very slow, although the packet said 40 days... its been 50 and no sign of being near to eating size yet...
Rik has been repairing walls and trying to make as much water tight as possible, the last lot of rain didnt come in the house at all.... but Im not holding my breath just yet...
Ive been baking, and making soup most days, we eat soup for lunch almost every day now its cold... and I'll be looking out the sewing box and getting to the mending soon as well... cleaning shelves, and cupboards, and generally doing all the indoor housy type things that dont get done during summer...

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Stay at Living the dream. Winter Special Offer.

Obviously due to the present economic climate all over the world, cottage lettings for us are a little slow... so to encourage interest we are running a special offer.
From Dec 1st -Feb 28th. The price will drop to a mere 15 euros per night. Min booking two nights. This includes, electricity, gas and a reasonable supply of logs for the log burner. We have never expected to make a lot of money from our rentals, and would rather have a little, often ... than a lot , rarely...
This area is beautiful at any time of the year, and the forest surrounding the cottage especially so.
Well... lets see eh...

All enquiries email me at patricia @livingthedreamportugal.com
thanks

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Its a dogs life....

A few people have asked for news of Beesa our puppy, well shes now 5 months old and beautiful... and very LARGE.

Herbal Lip /skin balm

Ive been busy making some lip/skin balm, its very useful for the winter, guards against wind chill for lips and as its also good for scratches sores, minor burns and scrapes ect. Here is my method.


Chop together a good handful of comfrey leaves, Lemon balm, and Plantain leaves, a weed which grows almost everywhere,  (plantain pictured below for identification)
Put in a enamel or stainless pot, and just cover with spring water and simmer for 30mins. Strain and squeeze liquid from leaves, measure liquid and add exactly the same amount of good oil, almond or olive will do.  Put back on heat and simmer till it stops bubbling, no bubbles is a sign that the water has evaporated. Add small peices of beeswax, about a 50p peice at a time, testing each time using the cold plate test as for jam setting . When it sets straight away, pour into jars, put on lid and label.   It will slowly set from the bottom up. Keeps for around a year in a cool place.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Back Now. Update.

Than you to all who posted comments and sent such lovely emails about my dad. I really appreciated all your kind thoughts . All went as well as could be expected and now Im trying to get back to as normal as possible.

Right.
Wow things have really moved on since our Canadian helper came, Greg has been exceptional, sadly we only have him another week before hes off down south ...
He and Rik have built a beautiful retaining wall in the garden, and now we'll be able to back the wood van down into the garden and so much nearer the wood barn, which will halve the work of unloading wood every time ...it also looks lovely, built from all old stone we had laying around from fallan barns ect.. it fits in with our place and soon will look as if it always was there.
We picked the olives and even though we shared with our friends will still hopefully have enough to last me more or less the year... if I dont go mad with it... its excellent... thick, green and so fruity... Ive been dipping my bread in the barrel.... till rik caught me... Im supposed to be trying to lose some weight now....

The beans and peas we planted down in the orchard are just popping up, so hopefully we'll have  very early spring broad beans and peas, all part of my plan for more fresh -less freezer this year...I picked two cabbages this morning, plus a nice big bunch of carrots, not huge carrots but enough for a meal for three of us...and we still have plenty of cabbage and more coming on, the leeks look good, and the old ladies onions and just coming up, and I must say, I believe her when she says they will be big, the tiny shoots coming up even now are much thicker than the seed packet ones...
My peas on the main patch are three inches high now, a little sporadic but the mice didnt have too many...
I also picked the last two Pomegranates , and they were delicious, our first year of having the tree fruit, and we had 16... Im so pleased, it was the first tree we planted the autumn we arrived here.

Rik and greg are going to spend a few days refilling our log barn before he has to leave us. We hopefully have a welsh couple arriving early Dec for a while, they have a hard act to follow....

Monday, 15 November 2010

Off again.

I shall be away from blogging again for a short time, sadly Im off to Uk again tomorrow , my father has passed away and is being buried on Friday. It wasnt unexpected but still very hard for us all.

Back soon
Pat

Friday, 12 November 2010

Olive Picking.

Well just a quick update today, I've not been able to get into town as we are olive picking, our new helpers Paddy & Bronwen arrived as planned last Mon night, and we all set to work quite quickly as we are not only picking ours but another friend who has a holiday home and wont be here to pick theirs ... so we've been at it for days and will continue over the weekend. Its not exactly hard work, just long days, that are tiring and very repetative. So we are all stiff, and have lots of aches and pains...Should end up having picked about 80 trees... sounds a lot but some are very small, but having said that some are huge!!

Not much else to report really, by the time we come hme at night and have cooked a meal etc, we are all too knackered to do very much ... Luckily for me Bronwen cooked a delicious meal last night to give me  break from the cooking. It was good to have a little rest, but I still have to cook the next days lunch after dinner each night as we take it with us to save fuel on coming back n forth each time.
Greg and rik did start to build a lovely dry stone retaining wall up by the log barn but its on hold till the olives are done.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Frugal Living. My Tuna Burger recipe

Again quantities are vague as I tend to put in what I have, but its more or less like this.
Makes around 20-25 .

Cook a med sized  pan of potatoes.
Drain  into large bowl and mash well, add seasoning.
Into this add, a few handfulls of oats, two small tins of tuna (drained) a  finely chopped med onion, a sprinkling of herbs of your choice, and a beaten egg. Mix well.
When sufficiently cooled to handle, make patty shaped and dip in either seasoned breadcrumbs or flour and seeds mix, and make shaped. Open freeze on a large tray, then pack into bags when hard.
Fry from frozen.
Costs by my reckoning less than 2euros for the whole batch...

Working Hard

Well its been a week of quite hard work for us, our new helper Greg(Canadian)  arrived safely and really is all his profile said he was, very tall, strong and loves hard work... a real lovely bloke too. We all have clicked very quickly, he and Rick really share the same sense of humour and joke all the time...
Already he has strimmed all the orchard terraces, cleaned all the ivy off the orange trees and spent a morning digging a drainage trench right across the whole orchard... we thought it would take him around three days of work... he really goes for it!
Ive been busy clearing the weeds from the stone walls and trimming back the old vines down there too, plus cooking to try to keep the two men stocked up with food..
The weather this last week has been gorgeous, quite cold at night but lovely and sunny and warm during the day, around 22º most days... Greg has even been in the POOL twice... its freezing... he says its refreshing!! To him this weather is wonderful... he finds it hot... so is really enjoying it..
We've a few more days work down the orchard to make it really finished, Rick went to work with Herman the cultivator and has turned over the whole area, to discourge the bracken and weeds, and the soil is excellent. So Ive bought a half kilo of Favas(broad) beans and I'll plant them down there and forget about them till spring... Ive tried them so many times in the main garden, pampered them, watered them weeded them.... and never get much at all... so I'll try the other way... willful neglect... Ive nothing to lose..

Ive also bought more winter peas , Ive already planted 4 rows, and they are up and showing .. so I'll plant more today. But the ones I bought today are classed as winter peas, but I'll plant them in the spring too, as they are the short variety and I find it very hard to get them during spring, everyone here plants the ones that grow huge... and I find they take up too much space and overshadow over stuff too much...

Well the lovely Ruth has done it again... and found me a Pasta maker on freecycle in her area and will bring it soon, she's so good to me, Im using the yogurt maker she brought last time and we had 'funny' yogurt this morning, I mixed figs with honey as flavouring Rick called it funny... yeah yeah I know...
So all my Pasta sauce I made and jarred up wont be wasted this winter... Im so pleased, and really looking forward to getting to grips with making pasta...

The dogs are well, Beesa is a absolute looney... she's so naughty... chews toilet rolls and scatters them across the garden, Ive found paw prints on my tablecloth ... she bin surfs if we dont move it out of reach.... she's a horror , but we love her to bits... she's just over 17 weeks now and as big as Bonnie... her feet are huge... so theres a lot of growing to do yet...

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Our slow day. Oct 27th 2010.

Thanks to Heiko over at  http://pathtoselfsufficiency.blogspot.com/ Ive been meme'd. So first, I'll tell you a little about us and why I chose yesterday as my slow day... not that any day here seems to us to be slow... but I guess compared with most peoples lives its wonderful. And the other side of it being 'slow' is that we are working slowly towards a general plan, growing our food, improving our land and our quality of life, with as little harm to the planet as we can. Our food really is 'slow food' .
Right, enough rambling on...
We are Rick and Pat, we came to Portugal almost five years ago now, to escape the 'hamster wheel' our lives had become in Uk. We found our house, in Central Portugal, which was far too big, cost far more than we could afford (hence its still semi ruin) had no water, electric, sewage..... you get the picture... but we fell in love, and bought it... and have never looked back, we love it still..
We grow as much of our food as possible, harvest our own olives and make our own wine. and generally live as basic & frugal and peaceful a life as we can. with almost no money...
I choose yesterday, as its an average day, a little of everything for both Rick and I workwise...

6am  Rick is woken to the dogs outside the bedroom door... its breakfast time... He gets up and lets them out and then comes back to get dressed, I turn over for another hour or so... lucky me.
He goes down for his first coffee of the day,turns on the irrigation for the winter garden,  and gives the dogs their food. He has to supervise as Beesa is growing so fast, she's such a pig, she'll steal Bonnie's food as soon as you turn your back, Bonnie is such a gentle soul, she's stand and watch her do it.
Rick eats breakfast, he likes what I call a crap breakfast... sugary cereal, its one of his few indulgences really so I try not to mind... He then lights the log fired range and makes me coffee all ready for when I get up...

7.00am ish... I manage to force myself from the nice warm bed, Im not a morning person, I hate leaving the warm in the mornings, especially now its getting nippy ... Im not even worth speaking to untill Ive had at least two coffees... generally three, I dont eat breakfast, yeah I know its probably worse than a crap one... I'll eat some bread with jam at mid morning (around 10.30 ish ) and thats fine for me.
When Im awake and reasonable, we tend to sit and have a chat of what we plan to do that day...

8.am Im now dressed and take the dogs out across the road into the forest for a short walk... tends to save scooping in the garden area... its a beautiful day, the sun is warming up nicely and I dont need a coat... we love walking in the forest, during the warm weather the pine small is predominate, and during winter and wet weather the air is a soupy mix of pine and Eucalypt... its wonderful... I manage to collect a bag of pine cones for firelighters along the way, I have quite a lot in the barn already but I cannot resist them...

8.20. Back home and searching for my gloves, for gardening, I dont generally wear them, but this morning Im off down the orchard area to clean up, some trees are covered with Ivy and the whole lot of the terraced walls are choked up too. Its a mammoth task, but I plan to keep it as my winter project... just a bit every day possible and hopefully I'll get it done before it all grows again... All kinds of 'things' live in the walls so Im being sensible... plus there is brambles everywhere.

Rick is chopping and splitting wood, he then throws it into a pile in the barn, where later I'll stack it. Im very territorial about my wood barn... I hate being cold, I was cold all my life until we came here so a full well stacked barn is so important to my peace of mind before winter... we collect all our wood from the forest, we dont cut trees down, we just collect all the scrap, left by the loggers, that would be wasted if we didnt use it. Its free, and is using what would be just left to rot... its just,  again, an enormous amount of work, collecting cutiing and stacking... but it runs the range, which is the heart of our home, ... we havent paid to heat our house for four years now, we cook on the range, it heats the house and drys all my washing during winter... I love it.  Plus we put all the ash back on the land and our veggies. Im also making Lye for soapmaking at the moment. Each time I look at the barn, I feel warm...

10.45am  Both of us back to the house for a coffee and slice of homemade fruit loaf.. its my soda bread recipe with just sugar and apples and a handfull of dried fruit added...

11.30am I make a start on stacking the split logs, while Rick does a little digging out at the side of the house, as our house is set into the hillside quite deeply at the back and one side, we've had problems with water ingress, a bit in the kitchen but often alot in what I call the cubby, the small room cum barn type place where you come into the house. Eventually it will become a entrance hall type place with somewhere to hang coats and leave boots etc... but for now its full of my freezer, junk, boots, all my jars and unused bottles, the recycling... everything in fact that I dont know where else to put... and the fact that the floor fills up with two inches of water when it rains is a tad inconvenient... So he's slowly digging out a trench all round... bless its so hard, apart from the top few inches ... solid rock..

12.00 Time for me to prepare lunch... at this time of year we tend to eat soup most days, with a couple of slices of homemade soda bread and an apple or hopefully now the lovely Ruth has brought me a yogurt maker off freecycle I'll be making yoghurt.. Its cheap, tasty and healthy. And fills you up...
So I like to pick something from the garden fresh every day, I wander down and pick a few outside cabbage leaves, we have tons of the firm heart shaped cabbage, which Rick loves, but he is picky about the stronger outside leaves... so I cut the cabbage, leave the outer leaves and then pick them every day fresh for soup. A few baby carrots, I use the nice lush green tops too, added to a little parsley and Ive the makings of a big pan of soup. I'll make a big pan today to use up tomorrow. I added a cubed potato, a chopped onion, some garlic olive oil and there you go... green soup... Its also nice with a dash of cumin..

1.30pm We get ready to nip into the town 4klm away to check emails etc...

3.00pm Home again. Changed clothes and both spend a little time tidying upand doing a bit of weeding on the veg plot, we are trying to keep a larger winter garden this year, all part of my drive to make us less reliant on the freezer for storing food. I keep a huge store cupboard of dry stuff, rice, pasta, cooking sugar, coffee, flour, pulses etc, I buy a bit here and there all summer and stash it away, we rely on our holiday cottage for income mainly, but its no where near enough to live on, so when we get a little money I buy food to store for winter when we dont have any... I make all kinds of preserves, pasta sauces, tomato puree, herb concentrates,  plus dry tomatoes, and figs, Im planning to alter the way we grow food to include far more veg that stores well, more sqashes, pumpkins, etc. Im increasing our jerusalem artichokes so we can have them all winter too. Plus with cabbage, grelos, leeks, winter peas and broad beans we should have fresh something right through till late spring when the new stuff comes through...

4.30pm  Im knackered... and decide Ive done enough for now and go to sit in my favourite place , the sofa in the kitchen by the range... and put my feet up with a book untill I have to prepare dinner.. I put my treat on the range which is the coffee pot, real fresh Columbian coffee... my indugence... the rest of the day we drink cheap instant..
Rick has fed the dogs again and is sitting at the table brushing up his Portuguese with a tape and a book... he's so much better than me... but thats because he works at it so much more... I find it hard, so tend to get lazy about it...
The decision to put the old sofa in the kitchen was such a good one, I love it there, most days I flop on it at some point... and now its getting chilly outside at night, we have a nice snug place to sit , we live in our kitchen now, its comfy, cosy and very welcoming on a cold night. My most favourite place...


5.30ish... Its hard to document the day when we dont have clocks or watches...
Dinner is a creamy pasta dish we love, cheap tasty and easy to make... I chop onions and garlic(everything I cook seems to start this way) add to a good dollop of olive oil and saute, add chopped aubergines,  peppers, tomatoes, an odd courgette I found in the garden earlier, let it all cook till soft, add a drop of water, a spoonful of my homemade tomato puree a good dash of cream and a huge handful of basil... we have it with spagetti... hmmm yummm I even have some Parmesan left too... we get friends to bring it when they come as we do Marmite as its so hard to find here...

6.00ish while dinner is bubbling away we walk the dogs for their long walk... I put the pan on the slower side of the range, shut it down and off we go... we have a huge loop we follow in the forest, its hilly and hard the first half... which kills me... Im not the fittest of people.. but luckily, what goes up... must come down and the last bit is downhill all the way... its classed as a Municipal road.... hehehe for that read dirt/rock track... but we like it that way, as it means no one who values their car... comes very often and we usually see one car or so a day... bliss...

7.00ish... we eat dinner, have a glass of wine and as we dont have TV, internet radio, etc etc... we play Scrabble... sometimes we watch a DVD, but thats upstairs... and its cold... We often play cards, read, I sew, mend our clothes and we talk.... real conversations... Its suprising how many people when told we dont have tv, ask... but what do you do all evening.... we never find a problem filling our time or enjoying our evenings...

10pm ish... I go to bed as I like to read a little... Rick likes the light out as he's dead the moment his head hits the pillow...






Well there you go.... not really interesting or stimulating... but its a life we love and would never change...

I pass the baton on to Kristina at  http://thefarmwifesgarden.blogspot.com/
and http://contadina.wordpress.com/
Come on then ladies....

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Ive been Meme'd

By Heiko over at http://pathtoselfsufficiency.blogspot.com/ and that involves telling you about  day in our lives... The term meme seems to be when a lot of bloggers all write about the same thing, then pass it on to other bloggers... Its about  a day in our 'slow lives' which is a chosen way of describing how we live..
well it will take a little thinking about, so I'll be doing this over the next couple of days and then you'll be able to read it..

Monday, 25 October 2010

Frugal Living, Recipe for Soya..

For economy and nutrition you cant beat  dried Soya granules, wonderful stuff, cheap, and so full of protein, and quick to prepare.
I buy a 500gm bag for 1.35 euros, and only use a couple of handfulls at a time. A bag would do us around 10 meals for at least two people, more with lots of added veggies.

I soak a couple of handfuls for around 2 hours in cold water, just cover it by about 2-3 inches and leave .. when soft, drain and squeeze gently... use as mince. It doesnt have much taste on its own, but used as I do, as a spag bol mix its lovely,
So. soak your soya.
To a large heavy pan, add a dollop of olive oil, a med chopped onion, tomatoes, aubergines, peppers.. whatever veggies you choose really, I often use a jar of my own homemade veggie pasta sauce.. a dash of sugar, tons of basil (or a good spoonful of Pesto will do) when all cooked up nicely... add the soya. Cook for another 10 mins or so then serve...
This mix works well for Lasagne too... or cottage pie... jacket spuds...  or anything you'd use a nice tomatoey herby mince for. I add more stock, a spoonful of Marmite, some cooked dried beans and make some dumplings and we have it with potatoes as savoury mince... hehehe you could live on one large batch for a week if you wanted... It doesnt go off either as its not meat... obviously the cooked mix would need to be stored in a fridge or cold place till used up...
Cheap moneywise as you've made three days worth of meals in one go, plus  you are now free to go do other things with your time...

Frugal Living, Recipe for cabbage leftovers..

If like us you tend to eat tons of cabbage at this time of the year, leftovers is something to deal with often... mind you Rik would eat a whole cabbage to himself... every night... he just loves it..
So...
Take a pan of leftover cold cabbage, add, a large chopped onion, as many cooked dried beans as you like(or a jar) a good handful of broken up bread, the heavy stuff is best, a good dollop of olive oil and some salt to taste... then 5-6 thinly sliced garlic cloves, put on medium high heat and cook fast... .  till onion has softened .stirring often so it doesnt burn... Its scrummy. If you want you can add some cooked cubed leftover potatoes, I also fry off a little cubed belly pork sometimes and add that... You'll be suprised how good it is... It also works well with Turnip greens instead of cabbage...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Frugal Living -Menu Planning

I cannot stress enough how important menu plannning is to me... to know exactly what we are eating and what I have to prepare, to organise for the week is vital.
Many of our meals contain dried pulses so I have to soak and cook them, and as we are e just lighting the range at mid afternoon now, I have to work out tonights dinner, plus tomorrows lunch, and cook bread etc ... so planning it is important. Batch cooking and baking not only is frugal with your money but it frees up time do do other things...

I bake three loves of soda bread every other day (one extra as we have our french helper Valeri)
At the same time I make a large pan of soup that will feed us all two days, I cook the dried pulses at the same time too. then the following day, I have all day to wrk on other stuff outside.

Our menu this week looks like this...

Sat.   Lunch -  Big soup.  Chorizo, potato, onion, garlic, french beans, and a good handful of soup pasta...  served with soada bread. Dinner is a mix of last nights leftovers, (cabbage & potato) cooked with a little cubed belly pork, onions garlic and dried beans, into  a kind of Migas.

Sun.   Soup / bread.
          Roast Pork, potatoes, cabbage, and squash,  and Valeri has promished to make Crepes.. as we have friends coming to dinner.

Mon.  Cabbage soup /Bread , Dinner will be Soya Spag Bol, (I'll make a giant batch of soya )

Tues.  Scrambled egg /bread.  Dinner,  Soya Lasagne

Weds. Homemade beans on bread.  Dinner will be the last batch of the soya with cumin and beans added with potatoes and dumplings as savoury mince...

Thurs.  Soup /bread   Dinner  is Pork (frozen leftovers from Sunday dinner) &veg  rissotto.

Fri.  Tortilla -  Dinner Im hoping will be Pork and chestnut stew, if the chestnuts which look almost ready have been picked by then.

I'll try to come in to blog early next week to post some of the recipes Ive mentioned here.  Almost everything will come from my storecupboard or the freezer, I'm trying to only buy milk and the odd thing at the moment..

Friday, 22 October 2010

Less Freezer... More fresh..Frugal Living

As the weather has turned cooler and cloudy and I've hurt my finger... dont all weep at once... I decided to come in to blog instead of being good and staying home and working..
So... after a lot of discussion last night, weighing up the good and bad.. we've decided to make a real effort this winter to not rely on the freezer so much for our supplies, although I still will freeze all our surplus, I plan to grow more variety during winter so I have a better selection of fresh food in the ground to pick than having to always use our frozen stuff. It'll obviously be better for us, but will mean more work throughout the winter when I usually have a rest, it will also mean more nutrients needed for the land, so I will be planting a lot more Comfrey in the spring for next years manure, but for this winter we may have to invest in a little organic fertiliser.
In the ground now, we have.. cabbage, we always have plenty nowadays... and Im going to plant another 20 or so over the next few days, plus in two weeks I'll plant more turnip greens to ensure a nice continuous crop. The onion seed is just showing its head so I'll plant somemore within a few days, although again they wnt benefit us till spring. The swedes are pretty poor, and very few showing, but I'll try a few more in another place. I'll plant up some baby leeks over the weekend too, so that will help us for early spring, I must look into what else is will grow over winter, not just for spring, but to eat during winter..
Any ideas?
Next season I plan more squashes, our crop this time (35) was pretty poor compared to the mammoth 146 we had the previous time... but I have new seed and a couple of new varieties now to try, good ones that will store for winter.
I must look at ways of storing food that wont take up freezer space, Rik has promised me a large drying rack for sundried tomatoes and figs, the pasta sauce this year is excellent, as is the roasted tomato puree, so we'll keep that going next year.
Im looking forward to the sweet chestnuts coming ready, they seem very late this year, still green and not even cracking yet... I look forward to cosy nights by the fire roasting them... plus I cook them with dried pulses into a sweet tasty lunch ...
I think its important for our frugal living aims to utilise the different ways of storing food instead of using the freezer, which uses power, I dont really expect to ever do without it, but you never know!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Vines , vines and yet more...

Well yet again, Valeri and I have been clipping vines, Ive cleared another one free  of the strangling effects of the Ivy and we've cut the vine back hard. Its a scary thing to do as although I know its needed, some of these vines are as old as the house over two hundred years old, and although old wood is constantly cut out and new shoots trained in, the original rootstock is very old. We've been cutting down stems today that I cannot reach around with both hands... and I worry we'll lose them... but... they are suffering without the help now so , I think its the right thing to do.
We have two more to do, and then its all done. The place looks so different, somehow lighter and brighter..
Tomorrow we'll make a start on the land between the cottage and the house, which we call the back garden, we grew all our tomatoes there and some corn this summer, but it all needs clearing, there is rubble from the building work, weeds, rubbish and branches  all over, then we hope to strim it and make room for Rik to get there with Hermann so he can till it all and make it so tidy ready for winter.
Everything we can will be burnt, and the ash put on the medicinal herb garden area, everything I can find that is going to do the land good will go on there all winter, so when I come to plant up, the soil will be beautiful and rich...
We are cutting bracken and piling up to rot down for the herb garden too, it makes wonderfull compost and grows everywhere here.
We are also  saving and drying any wood from the vines that we can, its lovely for the BBQ in summer, it burns well, gives a great smell and taste to the food. So Im squirreling that in a special place...
Tommorrow we'll have a huge bonfire, so jacket potatoes for lunch... cooked in the ashes of the fire, you just cant beat the taste...

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Essential Oils.

If any of the Portuguese readers know where I can buy Essential Oils please could someone let me know. Ive tried Farmacias here but with no luck. I can send to Uk but really dont want to. Apart from the additional cost for postage, Id rather spend what little money I have in the country I live...

General Update

Well we've been very blessed, Ive picked 17 of the huge Parasol mushrooms so far, and generally we get a second flush come up in about three weeks.
We've open frozen most of them and they cut into small chunks and bagged them up. But we've also been eating them fresh ... hmmm lovely, we've had soup, and last night I cooked pasta and made a delicious sauce . I sauted onions, garlic and some of my home grown sundried tomatoes (I'd soaked them in balsamic vinegar and olive oil all day to rehydrate them) two of the lovely big mushrooms cut into chunks, a diced courgette, and then a large handfull of basil a dash of water and when almost cooked, a dash of cream... yummy... we ate it with homemade beanburgers and a little salad... delicious...


One of our helpers has moved on, (Sarah)  but worked really hard and accomplished a lot while she was with us, and I enjoyed meeting her immensely. Valeri our French helper is staying on longer as we are having such a good time, yesterday we made some excellent  herbal skin and lip balm, and later maybe some toothpaste and we are preparing the ingredients for soap. Its so exciting to have someone who really knows what they are doing and can share and swap recipes and tips with me. Im learning sooooooooo much !! She's been so kind and helpful, and giving me some real ideas as to the planning of the medicinal herb garden, its good to get another persons input when you are in the planning stages , she's already come up with some problems in my plans that I hadnt thought about... better to find out now than later when Ive planted... Im really excited and impatient for the Spring to come now so I can do more than plan...

All the vines around the front of the cottage have now been clipped back to the wall... wow its such a shock when you walk round there... hopefully this will improve the grapes for next year... Im busy pulling Ivy off walls too, a horrible bugridden job..

This morning I finished stacking all the split and chopped wood, the pile looked so big... now we can see we dont have enough for winter, so a few mre days and I'll be out in the forest dragging out logs... oh joy..
Also this morning Valeri worked hard and cleared and broke up the ground on a patch for us to plant Grelos, (turnip greens) and we managed to get those in before lunch too... so we've been very busy today...

When we get home we are going to crush olives and start off some mixture for soap making... and I have all my notes to write up ...
The fine weather continues and its been wonderfull, fine dry and sunny, its getting very cold at night now, we had to shut the bedroom window last night for the first time.. but during the day its still over 20º so perfect working weather..

Herbal Toothpaste Post.

Ive been very interested and inspired by the blog by Heiko at http://pathtoselfsufficiency.blogspot.com/ such great posts and a real tips and usable stuff... Luckily he's a nice bloke too and has kindly given his permission for me to post this here for you to all enjoy. Ive imported the complete post instead of editing it as I liked it so much..
Pat

Homemade toothpaste


 Any dentists out there are welcome to disagree with me and butt in with their comments, but I am very cynical about their profession.
Like any good boy I have always been told by my teachers and parents that it is vitally important to go to the dentist regularly at least every 6 months, whether you have a toothache or not. So I did for the first 21 years of my life. I never actually suffered from toothaches, except during actual visits to dentists. In those days they didn't give you any anaesthetic for some mere drilling, only for pulling.
In my experience at every visit to the dentist he always found something: "aahh, you have a bit of caries on your upper left molar. We need to drill that out and give you a filling." Next visit he'd have to replace that filling, drill out some more caries and start on a different tooth. Once he finished off my milkteeth in that matter, he started off on my adult teeth. Two of my molars he had managed to hollow out so much that they finally collapsed and he had to pull or rather extract them bit by bit. Much to my relief at the time as that would stop him drilling in them. The other plus was that that made some room for my wisdom teeth.

My last regular visit to this dentist was before a 6 month trip to India. I felt I better have my teeth looked at before trusting some village jaw breaker in a developing country. As a farewell present I got my one remaing molar filling replaced and the neighbouring tooth drilled into and filled. Nothing happened in India. When I came back I moved to another city and I decided to give dentists a bit of a rest. 15 years later, I was falling into the same trap and tried encouraging my step-daughter to visit the dentist regularly, problems or no. She quite rightly pointed out to me that she never noticed me going, so I decided to register with a dentist for the first time in England.
This time round it turned out to be a rather attractive female Swedish dentist, which almost convinced me that I should go more regularly. When I answered 15 years to the usual dentist question: "how long since your last visit?", she looked rather taken back. "We better X-ray your teeth to see what's wrong with them". They didn't do that sort of thing last time I had gone.
Much to her disappointment, the X-ray didn't show any problems at all, so she proceeded in polishing my teeth (another novelty since my last visit) with a fancy machine and urged me to come back in 6 months time. I would have, if it hadn't been for the fact that free dental care had also become a thing of the past and I got charged £50 for nothing.

Since then I've had a problem some 3 years back when I bit onto an unpopped popcorn with my damaged molar (damaged by my original dentist now almost 30 years ago!). The outer wall is now slowly crumbling away and I get food trapped in there, which occasionally leads to infections. I went to see a Dutch dentist in Italy one day when this was particularly bad and she put a provisional filling in, which has now disappeared again. I find now that as long as I keep that tooth clean I have no problems.

Anyway, cut a long story short, I reckon dentist are just after your dosh when they tell you to come back every 6 months and they actually make the problems worse. And for toothepaste this is what we now do rather than buy unindentifiable crap from pharma concerns.
.

I mix up 3 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda, 1/2 a teaspoon of coarse sea salt, a teaspoon of dried mint and 4 or 5 fresh sage leaves and pulp them to a fine powder in a pestle and mortar.
Apply onto a wet tooth brush and brush your teeth. Sage is said to whiten teeth and strengthen gums. Dried mint freshens the breath. And if all else fails, chew some spilanthe.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Frugal Living cooking tips...

Always save ANY leftovers, even a spoonful of veg.  added to a an onion, a potato ... it makes pasty fillings..
Add a large handfull of oats or more to minced meat for meatballs or homemade burgers, with onion and herbs (plus apple) it can double the amount..

make soup... with all the odds and ends from your fridge or veg rack... one of this, half of that... even soft ones you wouldnt normally use... soup makes it okay..

cut the amount of meat you serve as a meal, add extra veg... serve bread with a meal...

make salad go further using a few dandelion leaves, add a few sprigs of chickweed ,plenty of onion, a nice dressing and its tasty and healthy.

Add a scattering of sultanas to porridge to make it tasty , cheaper than buying fancy cereals

Cook a huge pan of mince/soya mixture, make spag bol one day, lasagne, the next and spice it up for chilli the third, you'll save on cooking time and fuel...

Always think what you can make and cook in bulk to save fuel and cost...

A chicken should ALWAYS feed you at least three days... small portions of meat are all that needed..
1, roast with veg
2, pick off some meat , mix with plenty of veg and make pasties
3, stew/soup add some dumplings, potatoes plenty of pulses and veg and although not very meaty it'll feed a family..we add a half a chorizo, sliced and diced for flavour..

Buy soup pasta, here it costs around 15cents a packet... add it to all soup and it is more filling ...

Ive also added it to pasty and pie filling as Ive been cooking it, again makes fillings go further..

Each time you go to the shops, buy an extra item... nothing that cost more than around 70-80 cents /pence. A bag of flour, a bag of spagetti, tin of tuna etc..  make sure its things you use each week, but put it away in a cupboard.. do this every time... and within a few weeks you'll have a weeks worth of groceries and then you'll be able to put a whole weeks grocery money to a different use...

Keep a big well stocked store cupboard,

Watch out for special offers...

Keep a notebook of what you buy reguarly, check out local shops and make a note of what is cheapest and where... that way you'll not forget

Menu plan... at least one week ahead...

Hard working helpers...

Just to say our two helpers have arrived, both on friday, and both are lovely women, hard working and great company.. already the difference is showing, 3/4 of our vines have been clipped very hard, and two big trees cleared of Ivy that was smothering them. The area I want to use for my medicinal herbs has been cleared and we are going to prune the Lavender tomorrow and plant the border hedge with the trimmings.. Its so exciting to be making a positive start at last.
We'll have to start to weed the cottage gravel area too, as the rain has made everything grow like mad.. including the weeds.

The weather is still great, quite chilly nights and mornings, but nice warm sunny days... still around 19-23º
Sarah , one of our helpers even had a swim yesterday.... Brrrrrr to cold for me...

Ive got some onion seed heads that the nice lady where  we buy our gas bottles gave me, funnily enough I buy my onion seed from her and was in the other week asking which was best, which grew biggest... instead of selling me some... she gave me some of her own from home... heheheh I love the people of this country...

Frugal Living .. Part 3.

Well, I'll try to expand a little more on our way of life, as I said before its not just frugal living in the lack of money type of frugal. It spills over into all our life and work. We try very hard to not interfere in the ecosystem we live in, although we grow our own food and do actually depend on that food to survive here, we just couldnt afford to live here if we didnt have good crops. We also have, rabbits, mice and all manner of bugs and other wildlife sharing the land with us. And we think of it just like that... they share the land with us.. but that does bring problems with it... we lose a certain amount of our crops each season due to mice and rabbits... and although we've fenced in our main winter garden to stopthe rabbits  eating the lot, we would never try to harm them. And they still manage to get a small amount... the mice however... are little buggers!! and I dont know how to stop them destroying our crops... I wont use poison or chemicals so it seems we are stuck with them... as Rik will not accept a cat either... He feels the mice live here too... we just have to find a way of living with them... But NOT in my house... I dont care what he says!
When we came, we had lots of bugs that ate our veggies... I've left well alone, picking off by hand too many caterpillers, and just planting extra.. and making sure the land and plants are as strong and healthy as possible ... and we seem to have reached a good level... sometimes things get a little nibbled, but we've not had a over riding bug problem for 3 years now...
Sometimes  good frugal living... can just mean doing nothing...

We also now have a good soakaway for the caravan and cottage grey water, it doesnt go into our septic tank, it waters the land below and will  hopefully keep a flower bed down there alive this summer, where we couldnt have one untill now because I would'nt waste the water...
The grey water from the showers in both accomodations plus that from the sinks, go down a pipe into the old stainless steel drum from a old washing machine, the drum is perforated, we fill it with a good layer of dry gorse in the bottom, then a layer of straw on top, the water then filters through and gets cleaner, the stinky straw layer is changed every two weeks or so... it means we can have some flowers when we couldnt before... A friend of ours has this system and they say it works very well, we may have to change the straw a little more often in high summer ... Im hoping when we move the bathroom Rik will make another one that wil water my new herb garden area..

Im trying hard to use the bartering system even more this winter, hoping to not buy any seed for growng next season at all. Ive managed to save olts of beans for seed so I hope to bater these for seed I dont have..  It seems to me that bartering is the way to move forward in this lifestyle, not just goods, but skills and labour... then we all gain for no cost. Its just finding the right people with the right lifestyle to work this system with...

We also have to start to think more creatively, to use the everyday things around us in new and attractive ways so that things do not go to waste, mend more clothes... does it REALLY matter that you or your clothes look a little strange, when you are only around your home? Rik works in shirts with sleeves of different colours... because one sleeve was beyond repair but I had one from a ruined shirt that fitted on... looks a  little daft, but its clean, warm and does the job... clothes for working and staying home can be used and mended again and again... and then saved for cleaning rags, making into rag rugs, or just used for patching other old clothes, stuff draft excluders, make cushions, pot handle holders, there is so much that can be done...
Yes its all more work... I do this kind of thing on wet days, when working outside is not possible or not pleasant... I sit by the kitchen range and make things, patch clothes darn socks, and generally repair everything I can...

Im expanding my knowledge of herbal medicine and remedies as much as possible, its very effective, it works with nature and doesnt harm the world, its also virtually cost free...
Im learning about making herbal disinfectant, soap, toothpaste, and all types of cleaning stuff... Im very excited about all this... more on that later...

Our type of living also means trying to keep as healthy as possible, as fit as possible, but as naturally as possible, good hard work,  a relaxing life, little stress, little pollution, and we try to avoid negative influences, if we find that people or things around us cause us stress or negative energy... we try to keep away... its not what we want in our lives... Why stay around people or situations that cause you distress, stress or just depress you...

Friday, 15 October 2010

Frugal Living Part 2.

Well, I didnt have time yesterday to expand much on what we've been doing, although while Ive been thinking about this post, I do wonder if Frugal Living is really the correct term to describe our lifestyle, but putting a label on it isnt easy, that horrible term 'downsizing' is almost there, as is... hehehe 'back to basics' but we are really back to basics in the true meaning of the term..
Its a sort of pared down, cut out style, and thats not the bad thing it sounds.
We've tried to cut out all the rubbish from our lives, and I mean all kinds of rubbish and not just the kind that goes into a bin bag... although we have done that too...
Firstly, my aim is to cut our production of rubbish to a minimum... to me thats a bagful over around 3 weeks.. any more is not acceptable, we are working hard on recycling, at the moment we recycle, all our plastic, glass although we dont have to bother with much as any jars we do get are reused for preserves, storage etc, I use any excess and unrefusable plastic bags etc for stuffing draft excluders for the doors. All our horrible tetra pak milk things go to recycling, any paper and organic matter either gets burnt and put on our land or goes on the main compost heap for returning to the land later..
All our woodash goes on the land for valuable potash too. Any leftovers  of food I dont make soup with or serve up in someway the next day is fed to the dogs.
We have cut out on as many chemicals and preservatives etc in our food as possible, we eat as little from tins or packets as we can, and try to reply on homegrown, home cooked fresh food. Yes it takes longer, there isnt much 'fast food' in our house, but again, its removing  'rubbish ' from our lives... We dont get all crazy about it, it doesnt stop me buying a tub of ice cream... or eating a bought cake... our life isnt about deprivation, just healthy, good food, with as little amount of proccesing as we can...
I have to buy cheap flour, as we cannot afford the extortionate cost of stoneground here , so I add flax seed, oats and seseme seed to the mix when I bake our bread, and its lovely... and cost pennies...
We always have to balance buying cheap with good... and you can get cheap and add little extras to make it more nutritious...

We still do not have electrical gadgets, just a freezer, a few low energy bulbs, my hand wizzer, and my washing machine (I mean ... its not the dark ages!) the washing machine is rarely used on any cycle that goes above 30 º and I generally keep it to one load a week.. we do have a TV, a tiny portable one given to us free from a friend,  but the Tv is just for watching the odd DVD in winter time, we get them free from the libary, its not switched on from one month to the next, we can really not get a picture most of the time on the one channel we get. So just dont bother.
We enjoy social meals, talking and joking over our food... we play cards, scrabble, and now Trivial pursuit sometimes, so we dont get bored...

We spend time with our Portuguese neighbours and a select few ex pat friends, but we certainly dont socialise with ex pats much, we didnt come to Portugal to spend our life like that...
we are very self reliant, we enjoy each others company, and our dogs, our land and peace and quiet... hehehe that sounds so bloody boring doesnt it... but for us, its perfect...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Frugal Living ... continuing the story...

Well its been around a year since Ive posted on our attempts to live a frugal life here and what that entails.. so I thought I'd update a little.
Well we are still doing the best we can, I realise that compared to some people we dont do very well... we still have not got any further with off grid power... and while our finances stay as they are, I dont see that changing, we just do not have the money available for solar panels or windmills etc...
I think our use of electricity is my main bugbear...that and fuel... we just cannot do without it. Ive just turned off the fridge again after the summer season (its only on from July to mid Sept..) and the electric bills have stayed pretty static at around 35-45 euros per two months so its pretty good... I just wish...
The change over to our new GPL car will make a difference to our economy, its half the cost of petrol...what the eco bill is Im not really sure... its emmissions are lower but I need to look into it further...
Sadly the motorbike has gone, which must be lots of eco points for us... but Im still sad about it... logically it was a luxury we couldnt afford, insurance, fuel etc... so we are now down to just the one vehicle.

We are still using the well for irrigation but get spring water for drinking from a spring in town, as our well has been cloudy since last winter rain, we just have mains water to the rental cottage now so bills are minimal..

The log fired cooking range is still my joy... I love it, its been a real 'best buy' and has paid for itself over and over, this winter will be the third we've had no heating bills, plus dry washing all those horrible wet days, and it cooks our food and keeps the house cosy at the same time, I can cook so many different meals, without worrying about the cost of running the cooker,  slow cooking stuff for hours I'd never have done before due to cost (like chutney, its not a cheap option to make if you have to use electricity or gas to make it) the oven is always hot, the kettle never goes cold,  I honestly dont know how I'd live without it now. Its the heart of our home.. of course, there is the hours  and hours of work that collecting the wood all the time takes... but it truly is worth it to me... its a labour of love...

The veggie plot has been excellent again this year, and will feed us through the winter, plus all the helpers we hope to welcome to our home, a few things were not so good, peas were meagre, and beets just didnt happen... but we lots of spuds, we didnt have last year, and enough toms to feed an army... all in all a great year food wise.
Im keeping my winter garden going in a bigger way this year, we've still got plenty of cabbage, and Ive planted more to keep us going all winter, plus carrots, the caulis are still plodding on and look to be strting to heart up now... fingers crossed. I've planted the swedes but they look pretty poor, so I'll put in tons of grelos(turnip greens) just incase.
The making of wine was a bonus we didnt expect, but a welcome one... I made home made liquers too, fennel, and jinga, which is cherry aguadente.... Rik drank a litre of it during the two weeks his brother was here.... the fennel one is a digestivo, to take after a meal and is so very morish... I shall make lots more in the spring, it really does settle the stomach as well as taste delicious.. and we can get the aguadente for next to nothing from a neighbour..

Iv'e been through all our clothes, and much to riks disgust, Ive started collecting anything thats beyond repair (and it really has to be in tatters before I give up on mending it) and Im going to make a rag rug with it all this winter... to go in front of the range for the dogs to lay on.. I have an old fashioned rug hook a friend brought me ages ago Ive still not used it yet..

My next way of cutting our impact and gaining eco points, is to use homemade cleaning products, soaps, and disinfectants made from herbs..please see our Natural Living Workshop page... for details of how you can join us in doing that...

Wild Mushroom Picking. Frugal Living...

Well that post about the wine was pretty meagre wasnt it... Im not sure why but half the post and two there pictures vanished into the ether... heheh never mind.
So, after much anticipation, mushroom time has arrived again. We are vastly lucky to have a secret patch of Parasol Mushrooms that grow nearby, we discovered them last year and wondered if it was just a fluke and they wouldnt appear ever again, we'd never seen them there before.... but... hoorah!! I've been checking the area almost everyday and had more or less given up, and lo and behold ... I miss one day and there they are..not ready for eating yet, but another couple of days and they will be.They have some growing and opening out to do yet,  Ive counted 14 so far, and as last years grew the size of dinner plates... I think that will be plenty. I fast freeze them and then chop into chunks and bag up for soup and stews... after Ive gorged myself on a whole one ... lightly grilled sprinkled with garlic salt and with bread and butter... hmmmmm yum...

Our wine...

Well as I said the other day, the wine is pressed and in the barrel, only the one this year, but we certainly dont drink as much as we used to, plus Ive tons of herbal liquers Ive made and one tot of that after a meal is more than plenty...

So there should be pictures about here somewhere, of Rik and John pressing the wine...


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Liquid feed, Lavender and lumpy bits...

Well its been all go the last few days, my brother in law John left early this morning on his way back home to Guernsey in the Channel Islands. The weather for him this year sadly hasnt been the best, it rained pretty much every day since we picked the grapes.. but today is beautiful again, sunny and quite warm .. John and Rik managed to get the logs all chopped and split and now my barn is crammed !! There is a huge pile in the sun drying out and then I must stack it. I dont mind, just looking at it makes me feel warm...
The wine is in the barrel, we just about managed the 120 litres we hoped for, its very strange, this year it will be Rosé which we've not had before, so many of our red grapes just were too poor quality to pick. I'll try to bring the camera in tomorrow to show some pics of it being pressed..

Im having a day off cooking today, as with John being here Ive been cooking up a storm most days... and now we are getting ready for our first batch of new helpers who arrive the end of this week.. so I'll be cooking a lot then too.
I have more onion seed to plant now the weather has perked up.. plus all the vines to clip...
I'd like to repaint the kitchen floor soon too. Plus a huge Lavender bush to prune and hopefully plant all the clippings and make a lovely Lavender hedge to border what will be my new medicinal herb garden..
Yesterday I made the final cut of my big Comfrey plant, Im making liquid manure with it, Ive been told to just cram all the leaves into a big bucket (I used 20 litre old paint tins) and cover with water, seal it up and leave it till spring, it will be all rotten and stinking, but perfect for the land, especially tomatoes... so Ive prepared 40 litres.... hehehe
John also helped me dig the first Jerusalem Artichokes of the season the other day, he'd never seen them or eaten them... he couldnt believe we were going to eat 'all them lumpy bits'... but he did... and he enjoyed them too...

Natural Living Workshops.

Well, Im taking the plunge and planning a new venture for us.... whether it will succeed is anyones guess, Im trying out offering 'Natural Living Workshops' hopefully if enough people are interested and we can price it correctly, it will work, we can help people to experience a few different and new things plus make our life a little easier financially...
The first workshops will maybe be in mid November, more details are available on our new 'Workshops' page.. please go and have a look..

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

My Kitchen.



Ive been asked a few ties for a few pictures of the kitchen since I mentioned we were doing some work on it. Well we did quite a bit, but work has since ground to a halt again due to lack of funds. But I'm loving the look that is slowly evolving and it really feels right to me... I understand its not the kind of kitchen most people would want, but it works perfectly for us. The bare concrete floor, may not be beautiful, but for dogs muddy paws, our dirty boots, the Portugal dust... its just about right, maybe later when the puppy is bigger and we have spare money, then we'll tile it... but till then... this will do. The same with the 'back door' its a polythene sheet on a wooden frame... but its watertight, draftproof and lets in plenty of light... works for me... at the moment... We are warm, dry and comfy.... and we love it...


Now we've moved a cupboard out and put in the old Sofa, we can sit down by the range in the wet evenings and be all snuggly, also as you see the dogs love it too!
Yes its a tad 'rustic' but its very funcional, and its just my style... I love it. Nothing cost us much or most of the time, anything at all. The shelves are made from our wood from the forest, yes... those dining  chairs are really lastic garden chairs... hehehe we've had them almost five years now.. and they will stay untill we find other better chairs which are as comfy as those! We give the walls a splash of paint every now and then to brighten up the place, and Ricky keeps saying he's going to repaint the floor (it keeps the dust down and makes it washable) and do it with bright blue paint.... hmmm Im not convinced, no doubt he'll do it one day while i'm in here...

Making Our Wine.

 Today we decided was the day to pick our grapes, this year we had decided we didnt have many, a poor crop, so we would utilise what we had and make a few litres of Port instead. Rik went off to work telling John and I, 'oh it'll only take you a couple of hours' please bear in mind, we hadnt trimmed , pruned or cared for the vines at all this year, they were covered in brambles....
6 hours later and he's home and we are still picking...and we are scratched to ribbons from hands to shoulders...
But it was worth the effort, we will have wine this year!! Strangely enough, the red grapes didnt fruit much and the white, have been magnificent... so it will be different...

Here is Rick and John working the magic and strong man thing...they are tipping in the grapes and then crushing them , its a tough job when there's a lot of grapes... then there is a shot of all our lovely grapes mulched up and in the vat.


It will stay in the vat, being stirred twice a day for five days only, then they will put it through the press to sqeeze every last little drop out, before transfering it to the barrel. We are hoping for around 120 litres , which we may take around 25 litres for making some Port...

Monday, 4 October 2010

Frugal soup...

We had the most delicious soup for lunch today and it cost almost nothing... made from yesterdays leftovers of course...
As Rik's brother joghn is with us for a couple of weeks we are eating a more 'English' diet.. I have to ease him into our food regime gently...
So yesterday I cooked him the 'Sunday Roast' that he is used to at home, a large piece of Roast Pork, roast spuds, carrots, and french beans and cabbage, all from the garden. (or frozen in my freezer from our garden)
We all had a large meal, then I cut up what meat was left into two bags and froze it, the bone is cooking away with some veg at the moment as stew for dinner today...the other two bags will each do a meal later ...
There was a lot of veg leftover... so today I sweated an onion and three cloves of garlic in some olive oil, chopped the french beans small, plus a big handfull of the cooked cabbage (the rest is in the stew) and a few cooked carrots, simmered them in a little water with a couple of small potatoes chopped small, to this I added a veggie stock cube and simmered till the potatoes were soft... I then blitzed the lot with a hand blender. Added a sprinkle of sea salt and a good teaspoon of cumin powder.... mmmmmmnn yum... It was thick and creamy and absolutely lovely! With some homemade soda bread, a great lunch..

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Hammocks,helpers, wood and even more chutney....

Yes folks, Ive made more chutney, heaven alone knows what we'll do with it all, but I just cant let the produce go to waste and Ive still maybe one more batch worth of ingredients left... never mind I'll barter with it if nothing else... Its getting to be a slightly different recipe as the days go on, the green toms I picked are ripening in the basket so its becoming green & red tomato and marrow chutney, with some apple thrown in for flavour, Rik is even scraping the pan and eating it straight... he just loves it! but whether he will by the end of the winter and numerous jars later...

Ive been catching up on yet more jobs that were on my mental list to do before winter...
I spent two days tidying the cottage guest area, the gravel was a bit scrappy and weedy, its a pig of a job but I have to keep on top of it as long as possible or by mid winter there is no gravel to be seen just a wilderness... like last year... it took two or three of us days to re-sort it... I dont want that happening again.
Luckily we have plenty of helpers coming this autumn so it shouldnt happen.
Between now and Christmas we have a French woman coming to experiment with me with making soap, cosmetics and herbal remedies... Im so looking forward to her visit, not that much work is likely to get done outside....
Plus another young English woman who just wants to experience how we live... hehehehe hopefully she'll not be too shocked...
Then a young couple coming during Nov, plus our big strapping Canadian who wants to chop logs...
We´ve also got two lots of friends coming at some point....plus my brother in law John arrives tonight for two weeks.. its all go... looking forward to lots of fun and food...
The dogs are doing fine, Beesa growing bigger almost while you watch... she's getting very affectionate now, and good with housetraining .... just the very odd accident now and then... usually at night, if we go to bed too early.. She's very, very vocal, she speaks when she wants a cuddle, and when you get up in the morning or have been out for a while, and even when she wants her dinner... she's sooooo funny!

Ive also been stacking wood, we are starting on the fourth row across the barn now, plus I collected four sacks of pine cones and bundles of bark for fire lighters... If the weather stays good like this we may even manage the winter without running out.... hehehehe I say that every year and we always do...

 So tomorrow this is what I plan to do... all afternoon with my new book...
My last job was to put another coat of varnish on our lovely wall sculpture, its a slice of pine, given to us by friends Paul & Barbara, we love it, its very special and decorates our home perfectly. And I did have a lovely shot of it, but it wont load.... damn.