Can we be mortgage free?

Should you feel bad for enjoying the lockdown?  I don’t think so.  It doesn’t mean we don’t feel for those who are suffering from it, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be enjoying it where we can, learning from it and adapting or changing our ways.  It has given us plenty of time to think about things, even more than normal and some great foundations for the future are coming out.

Whilst making this week’s scones, which were blueberry by the way and I say were as they are all gone already!  I’ll pop the recipe up shortly.
Anyway, I was mulling over financial thoughts and it dawned on me that when we moved in here, 4 and a bit years ago, we never thought we could be in a position to consider paying our mortgage off early.  We were just so grateful to have one and be able to buy the smallholding.  Now, 4 years on, we are putting plans in place to become mortgage free in 10 years!  Yes, that is a VERY stretched target and it may be longer but today it’s 3 times that amount.  Yes, really.  We always assumed we would have to work full time as we do now, not be able to be on the smallholding working and be stuck in the paid employment cycle until retirement.  
So what’s changed?  Research, people, experience, lifestyle, finances.  We have adapted our lifestyle, which we always intended to do when we moved here.  The main areas are the grocery bill, owning cheaper to run vehicles, cancelling luxuries like cable/sky and having a strict entertainment budget.  
As I said before, being in lockdown we haven’t spent anything on entertainment and we have missed it all over 0%!  Yes once the kids are back in school and I have to go back out every day, it might be nice to eat out every now and again or to take them to the trampoline park etc but this should be minimal cost. 
After all, who would not want to cook on an Aga in the kitchen with a poorly duck?
We have also created our own little beer garden, also known as a picnic table in the front garden which catches the evening sun.  
We can have the dogs running round, get to see the fabulous flowers come through along with the animals in the neighbouring field, and if we are lucky, get to see a baby deer run by.
Finally, one other thing I am working on personally right now is working towards less and less wine.  This sounds like I have an issue!  

Define issue haha.  
However drinking 1 or 2 bottles a week between us does not fit in with trying to reduce our outgoings so significantly to help pay off the mortgage, nor getting up early on the smallholding to tend to the animals that get up when it is light.  So I am on a challenge right now to only drink what we either make or what people gift us….so our address is…. 😉

We last went shopping at the supermarket at the end of April and won’t be going again until 25th May.  Remember that we get milk delivered (20 pints a week) along with a weekly veg box (£11) which supplements our home grown items.  We plan to eek supermarket items out to be 6 week intervals then 8 and so on.  This time we have ran out of butter, honey, juice so far.  There is an argument for doing without certain things on a permanent basis, more on that another time.  
I cook all of our bread from scratch now, having got a great delivery of flour from amazon.

As we move in to late Spring and Summer, we will most likely (hopefully) have no need for the veg box.  We are already starting to see lots of salads, greens including this beautiful kale and hopefully won’t be too long until we get our first courgette as look what we saw a day or 2 ago.
Here’s the newly transplanted brassica bed, right after planting when the plants went in a mood at being moved.  Hopefully they will pick up, they usually get over it quite quickly.
On the smallholding we have now got most of the laying hens in one place as Ste moves on with his next project of changing where the pens are that they have, to ensure we cover some of the overgrown areas.  Some hens are more cheeky than others.

The pigs are thriving and the (newly sheared) sheep and cows are only a tad jealous of the pigs having hard feed 🙂

Grace is busy rescuing animals.  This duck drowned in the pond.  Yes, ducks can drown.  She has a poorly leg and couldn’t get out.  We literally brought her back from the brink of death and Grace has done her usual and looked after it since then.

 Right, I better go and get on with some of these jobs I keep talking about.  These buckets won’t fill themselves!

Please do take the time to comment and stop by, we read every comment and love to have you along for the journey.  Thank you.

Brining the leg of pork and winter fun 

When the pigs went to slaughter early August, we filled the freezers to the brim. We made bacon which was nice, just not very big on the medallion (pigs were lean from their breed and free ranging).  I brined the topsides and thick flanks which we then cooked and used as ham. I also froze a leg ready to brine for Christmas. We had so much meat that I decided to hang fire and do it now for mid January when we can have it as a centre piece for a get together or just turn into slices.  We scored the skin and prepared the brine. We used the river cottage brine last time which was lovely. I added slightly less sugar this time, purely as I didn’t have enough.

Once ready I put it all into the wine bucket and put it outside on the step as we have cold enough weather at the moment. In fact, I’ll have to bring it in tonight as it’ll freeze!  This will stay in here for a couple of weeks, after which it’ll be ready to cook (or smoke?).

It’s snowed here today and this is the first proper snow we’ve had that has stuck around. The kids loved it and had a good time playing out before they got too cold and came to warm up in front of the Aga.

As we’re in the thick of winter, we’re having to find alternate methods to exercise the horses. Sometimes it is simply too slippy to ride out safely. Our parking area is all stones which doesn’t get slippy, so we put the horses in there to let them have a roam around whilst the fields are out of action.

Annie got to meet the sheep yesterday before the snow came. I got the impression she was telling them a story!

No time in the potting shed today. I have onions and cauliflower that I want to get in. I’m also putting the project list together for 2018. We’ve some big ideas! More about that soon tho.

Using the Aga

More often than not you can fine Steven’s overalls drying on the Aga, keeping warm for him putting on the next morning to go to work. I can’t dry everything on here as we have too much but it is very handy. Nothing better than warm overalls to put on when it is a chilly morning going to work at 5.30am!

My son has just made me smile. He went outside to collect a bag for Steven as he’s stripping the wallpaper in the dining room and needed an empty feed bag to put the rubbish in. He didn’t put any boots on to go out and his socks were soaked when he got back in, he took his socks off and put them on the Aga to dry. Of course he should have just worn boots! However the fact that the Aga is an integral part of our every day lives after just 9 months here make me feel all warm and cosy inside.

Sheep move and a bit of sad news

After more hard work from Steven we moved the sheep to their next grazing spot which has lots of grass and trees for them to chomp down on. Of course only time will tell if it’s secure enough for them as they are quite the escape artists. They do come back for the buckets if food we offer them though so at least we have a plan b if we see them running up the lane!
I also bagged a load of cooking and eating apples today which I am really pleased with. I made a tester stewed apple which was lovely so I think I will do a big pot and then freeze individually but also save some whole apples to see how long they will last.
We were lucky enough to be invited to Sunday lunch today so I haven’t had to make our own which was nice.  However that was the softener to the hard task of dispatching a duck. It was in pain and had something wrong with her that we couldn’t put right.
Remember I mentioned were moving in to the time of the year where we need to be on top of the muck heap and keep it as low as possible? Well thanks to freecycle we now have a few regulars who come and make a big dent in it literally! I’m also nearly ready to fill the rest of my beds with it too. I didn’t get in the veg plot today but there’s not too much left to do so I will try and plan it in this week.
Also I’ve moved the dogs’ beds back in to the kitchen in front of the Aga. They’ve been living in the utility on a night through the summer but Buddy is looking so thin (his condition) so I feel they are better where the Aga is for him to sit in front of if he prefers. The puppies will no doubt lay on the kitchen seats instead. Cheeky.

Aga in the summer

We decided to keep the Aga on during the summer despite many of our neighbours or friends switching theirs off.  Our kitchen is a big old farmhouse kitchen that is north facing.  In the winter, it’s just a nice temperature in there despite the Aga kicking out some heat.  In fact the whole house is cold so we tend to congregate solely around the Aga in the colder months. 
I did think it would be too hot in the summer and although it’s been hot, we’ve been able to manage it.  Now why don’t we turn it off?  Well we use it every single day for a multitude of tasks.  Steven’s overalls for work (he’s a butcher) dry on there a couple of nights a week, the kids clothes that inevitably get wet, dry on there before they dash back off outside, our boots dry in front of it (yes, even in the summer), we have toast on it daily, boil the kettle and every main meal of the day is cooked on it plus the dogs love laying in front of it! 
Now if I switched it off, I’d have to find alternate methods to do all of these things, using electricity instead of oil and to be honest, I don’t want to.  Whether we will feel the same next year, our second summer in the house, I don’t know.  It will also depend on how much the price of oil rises too.  Not to say that we have money to burn on oil this year, we don’t.  I just don’t feel as much pressure from it as I would should I be paying double the amount.  It is a part of the family now, I simply love it and I think I would always have one now. 
Ours is 45/50 years old according to the engineer who services it for us.  He installed it in the farmhouse many, many years ago and it was a good age then as he bought it second hand and reconditioned it.  It’s an amazing little thing. 

When we moved here, well just before, my Mam and Dad bought me Mary Berry’s The Complete Aga Cookbook and it’s extremely good.  It’s very informative and so many recipes in there that I’m working my way through.  I think I will pick a month and make a dish a day (or so!) from it.  This will help me get through the recipes too as I am terrible for having recipes books and then making 1 or 2 from them and shelving it.  I’ll maybe do that through November, when the clocks have gone back and I have less time outside.

Aga toast – from when we first moved in and ever since!

 

Quite comfortable here

 

Poor Buddy!

 

Yummy food from the Aga

 

He seems to be here a lot!

 

See what I mean?

 

The Aga fixes poorly children

 

and sends you off to sleep if you sit there too long