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Monday, 11 June 2018

Taking it easy.

Well, easy-ish! My lovely man was off early this morning to go and help his Dad mend a roof! I did something I haven't done for a looong time. I took one of my knockout pills and went back to bed. I was quickly joined by the animals and we had a lovely lie in. It's done me a power of good and I'm feeling ready to tackle cleaning some of the fleeces. 
I've been looking at the natural dye book again and have found that fruit trees give some lovely colours, so I'll be doing a little pruning (I know it's the wrong time of year!) and gathering some leaves for a series of experiments.
I don't think I've shared these pictures before. This is my lovely little spin dryer. I use it to get the excess water out of my wool. In the past I used the washing machine, but the anti tangle function
could lead to felting the fibres and it's not a risk that I want to take any more. I have too much time and energy invested in my wool for that!
 It's a cute little machine and perfect for my needs.
 At the weekend I was given a lovely surprise. T made me a wrap around desk. It's a super corner to sit and work and yesterday I actually got all my accounts up to date. I have three ledgers, one for our overall business expenses, one dedicated to house costs and finally one for the wool and soap business. I'm not sure how the French tax system works, but at least I'll have all of our information easily to hand.
Before I get stuck into (litereally) the wool, I'm going to plan our menu and budget for this week. I really do love sitting in this space while thinking and planning :D

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Quiet.

I've been absent from my blog for a little while but I'm forcing myself to sit down and write.
I suppose you could say that I ran out of words. My head was so tired that thinking was almost painful. I've needed a little time to retreat into myself and sort out my head.
I've put myself under such a lot of pressure lately, cleaning the never ending messy house, trying to learn French, sorting the animals, moving into the Studio and all while dealing with more than a dozen dirty fleeces. I guess a little breakdown was inevitable!!!

 I was getting worn out and my neck seized up, forcing me to book an appointment for a massage. I had a Reiki session at the same time and it ended with me in floods of tears. It was a great release and I realised that I felt like I was carrying the world on my shoulders. I had to start saying no to people. Slowly now I'm beginning to get back to normal, but I still have a little anxiety in the back of my mind about the jobs that still need to be done. I have seedlings growing out of their pots and an army of slugs waiting for me to plant up the veg beds!!! Some of my courgettes have already fed a good many slugs, but when the rain stops, I'll get my revenge!

The Studio was finished last week and I spent a lot of time painting the walls and ceiling, which only made my bad neck worse! It was lovely to see it finished though!
 The dresser that was left behind was given a facelift with a pot of home made chalk paint.

 I love it now and want to get another one for the kitchen but T isn't so sure!
 I love my Studio, it's such a calm and peaceful place to sit and work. I've managed to do so much spinning and knitting :D
 The cats are beginning to visit the Studio, but Piper claimed her spot as soon as the mats were down!
The outside has been tidied and landscaped by my lovely son and soon I hope to have wildflowers growing all along the front and roses at the side.
I'm taking it easy today, just a little spinning and reading :D

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Washing up with soap.

The soap I made last week is just about ready and I'm almost out of washing up liquid. I would ideally leave the soap another week as it's a bit too alkali for my liking, but I'm not sure how much that will change over time. To be safe I used rubber gloves. I'm not sure how well this experiment will work really. I'm not using plastic bottles, but instead I need rubber gloves!!! To be fair though, I usually need rubber gloves anyway as I get excema on my hands from washing liquid!

So, here is the result. Very hot water with the soap rubbed on the sponge. The plates and cutlery were good and clean, some dishes needed soaking and the greasy pans needed a lot of soap and extra hot water. This will take a bit of getting used to and possibly the convenience of washing liquid may well tempt me back, especially as it's pretty cheap for a bottle compared to the hassle of getting the ingredients and making the soap. However, the soap is excellent for washing clothes and costs around 25p a bar. 
I'll see how I last through the week.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Coming together nicely.

It's been another full on week filled with hard work and organising.

Moomin helped me to clear out what was formerly the garage and is now our tack and tool room. This is the tool end, it was quite a mess as T and I both have lots of tools and gadgets. He has a good excuse, being a builder, but I just love DIY (even if I'm terrible at it!)
 We had a huge delivery of horse feed. It will save me a lot of time and money for fuel plus I like to know that the animals have food in case of emergencies. Being without a car for so long made me realise how much I rely on it to 'pop' to the shops. No more, I'm cutting back on that to once or twice a week.
 The tack has been organised and rugs hung up for the summer. We love those plastic buckets, but in time will go over to the reused car tyre trugs as they last forever which the platic ones don't. Merlin and Bo love to rip the handles off their coloured buckets when they play tug of war!!!
 My handy shelves are waiting to be filled with more homemade creams and insect gels. I've tested the stopitch cream I made on Merlin and not only did he accept it, but it didn't cause any skin reaction, so that will be made in a bigger batch.
 The front garden had become a wild jungle! We booked a builder to come and clear it and lay a proper driveway. Moomin and I took over an hour and 3 barrow loads just to clear this tiny space!
 This was my view from the kitchen the following morning as I cleared the breakfast things. This area to the side of the house was lawn and shrubs. There was no way any of us could have done this work by hand.
 The whole drive was cleared in less than an hour!
 The lawn and shrubs removed and best of all the root of an enormous laurel that I simply detested! It's not like me to dislike any plant, but laurel can be so poisonous and I just don't want anything toxic so close to the house.
 The new drive is finished and the cars are tucked away out of sight.
 The front of the house can now be enjoyed without any cars in the way. I've wanted a gravel garden for so long and I adore this one. The next jobs are, paint the house and build the gazeebo. It may seem like quite a luxury to spend good money on a posh new drive, but this is the first view people will get when they come for a holiday in our Gite and so I think it's a good investment.
We celebrated our new drive with a couple of loungers. These fold up a little too easily and have a habit of swallowing you whole if you move suddenly. I knew they were cheap for a reason, haha :D
The two faded red chairs were left here and have seen better days. I'd love a little French set in iron, but that's out of our price range for now, so I'll paint these and make do. The flower bed here has been cleared of weeds and planted up with the herbs we brought from England. It looks so sweet now and I have my morning coffee here. It's my favourite spot. Gigi likes it too <3
Just in front of the Gite is a sun trap for most of the day. It's shady but still warm in the evenings and a peaceful spot for a little knitting after a hard day. Moomin has been planting seeds like they're going out of fashion. I think I'll have a decent flower garden for once! I don't have much patience with flowers, as much as I love them, I tend to prefer vegetables!
It's a Bank Holiday here today and I intend to do nothing other than feed and play with the animals :D

Friday, 18 May 2018

Simple living.

I started blogging around 11 years ago, with a different blog and a totally different life. 
When I was a child, I loved watching The Good Life and it inspired a love of self sufficiency in me even at a young age. My Grandad always grew his own vegetables and I loved to spend time watching him work in his greenhouse.
I grew up and my priorities changed, I had a horse that I had to work to pay for and then later a family to care for. Before having the children, it made the best sense for me to be a stay at home mum. I wasn't a high earner and I could save us the equivalent of my wage by being frugal and providing in other ways. I started my vegetable garden. It seems so strange to me now, but at that time the World Wide Web was just beginning to really take off. Do I sound like I'm ancient? I think I must be!
Suddenly so many resources were available to me and I joined self sufficiency forums and found blogging. I just couldn't learn enough about changing my lifestyle.  One of my biggest new found inspirations was Rhonda Jean at Down to Earth I didn't realise that she was fairly new to blogging too, but this post was what gave me a huge lightbulb moment. I've been re-reading her blog to connect with my old self, to find again a sense of my ideals and goals. It's funny, but I find that I haven't really changed all that much. I'm older, carry a few more scars and a few more pounds but at my heart, I'm still trying to make a difference and to lead a life that I can be proud of.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

How many tomatoes?

Yesterday I did some potting up of the seedlings. The tiny greenhouse (incident tent!) needs more shelves, so I improvised. As our house was left furnished, we ended up filling the gite barn with everything we didn't want. I had a rummage around and found an old laundry basket the perfect height for a little table. A cupboard door became the top and I can put all my little pots inside when I've finished planting out the seeds.

 In total, I potted up 47 tomato plants!  I'm toying with the idea of selling some with an honesty box!
 The beans are coming along, despite being planted late, I have about four varieties and 20 plants in total.
 These are the woad babies. They've been the easiest of the dye plants to grow and they're nice and healthy too :D
(my favourtie gardening gloves from my dear friend, BB <3 )

Somehow, during everything I was doing yesterday, I hurt my right shoulder! Today will be a sewing day, I think!

Friday, 11 May 2018

Making soap (and a cake)

I suppose I wasn't really surprised that my lovely T said no to me using our good bathroom soap for the dishes! I bought some really cheap ingredients from the supermarket and thought I would have a go at making soap cheaper than washing up liquid.

The ingredients are:
Solid fat 200g  I used lard at just under a euro for 250g
Liquid fat 300g   I bought a bottle of sunflower oil at 1.30euros
Lye   70g   A very large box of borax is 9 euros. I had some from England in the cupboard and used that.
Distilled water  190g  less than a euro for 5 litres. Distilled water is best as minerals in different types of water can affect the finished soap.
Gather your utensils together. A glass jug for mixing the lye. Always add lye to water, not the other way round as it may splash and it can burn! A plastic pot for weighing the lye, scales a pot or mixing bowl and something to pour your soap into. I use washed out cartons.

Gently melt the fats in a pot. It's a good idea to turn the heat off just before the solid fat has melted as sometimes it takes too long to cool to the right temperature. You want the lye solution at around 100f and the same for the fats. The lye heats itself, so all you have to do is wait for it to cool.
When the fat and lye are at about the same temperature, within 5degrees of 100F, pour the lye into the fat and at this point add any fragrances that you might like, I used tea tree, then mix with a stick blender (above). Usually it takes only a couple of minutes for the soap to reach trace, when you can see the shape of ribbons in the mix.  I think this took much longer to set because I used soft lard and thin oil. I quickly looked up online if this was ok, and was reassured that it was.
I poured the mixture into the carton and waited for it to cool. This also took much longer but after 24hours it was getting firmer.  There are so many good recipes online that I would recommend looking at and doing lots of research before having a go. It's nothing to be frightened of and so long as you wait a couple of weeks for the soap to reach full saponification then it should all be safe. To be sure, I bought a little packet of PH strips to test the alkalinity of my soaps. So far, they've all been perfectly PH neutral :D  Rhonda Jean has some great soap recipes here :D


After all that work, I made a banana and walnut loaf using some of the walnuts I vacuum packed after last years harvest. It was soooo good <3

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Routines.

Some routines are very hard to break. When we first moved in, the winter was on our heels and even though we enjoyed good weather for a long time, the mornings were dark and we were tired from the stresses of the move. We got into the habit of taking a cup of tea back to bed, to sip in the darkness until the sky eventually lightened.
Through the winter, I struggled with the fibro and T would make the tea and bring it up to me. It's been a lovely routine but with the start of the bright mornings it seems a little indolent to lie in bed while the animals are all busy outside.
So I've made some small changes. I get up early, put the kettle on to boil then let the chickens out and top up their food bowl. Next I give Jerry and Toffee a pack of haylage (Toffee has been ill again and Jerry is still so thin so they're in a paddock together) and then I divide another pack of haylage between the other ponies. We've stopped buying hay as it just gets wasted, next year we should have enough grass!  By this time the kettle is boiled and I let the tea brew while I feed the cats, they just have a tin and a big bowl of biscuits between them as too much meat encourages the flies. Then, the tea is taking up to bed where I do some research and blogging on my laptop and T goes through his French lessons. It's still a relaxed start to the day, but doesn't feel like a waste of time.

Today the sun is high in a gorgeous sky and I have mulching to do and then wool to clean, so I won't be hanging around too long :D

 This is number 8 cat, he thinks he's moving in with us, but I don't think we need any more! Dexter agrees with me.
 Unfortunately, no.8 has formed an attachment to Gigi and she seems quite happy with that, so he's often skulking around the place. He has lovely blue eyes and is quite sweet, but we don't need another mouth to feed!