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.

Bashful Beef Stew recipe – slow cooker / crockpot one pot

Bashful Beef Stew

Serves 4-6 people
I cook this in a cast iron pot in the simmering oven of the Aga which is the same as the Slow Cooker.  I do not brown the meat as we love it just as it is, but feel free to before you put it in the slow cooker.

Ingredients:

500 – 750g diced beef
2 carrots
1/4 turnip
3 medium potatos
1 onion
1 leek 
1 parsnip
Beef gravy Granules

Method:

This recipe is nice and easy and perfect for busy lives and when you’re short on time.
Chop the vegetables up on to bite size chunks, one thing I love about this recipe is that it is literally one pot 
Layer everything in the slow cooker, starting with the longest to cook on the bottom, so beef, potatoes, turnip, carrots, onion/leek/parsnip
Make enough gravy to cover the contents of the slow cooker and pour it over.
Switch the slow cooker on and leave it for 6 – 8 hours on low.
Trust me, it’s delicious!  
Some people prefer to brown the beef and not use gravy granules, which is also fine.  This is just what works for me when I’m working full time and also running the smallholding.

Enjoy 🙂

Beautiful Banana Bread – recipe

Beautiful Banana Bread

Makes 1 small loaf/cake
Ingredients:
2 mashed bananas (over ripe ideally)
100g butter
100g sugar (caster if you have it)
140g SR flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 eggs
Optional extras – choc chips or chocolate spread

Method:
Cream butter and sugar
Mash your bananas and add in to butter/sugar mix
Add flour, baking powder and fold in
Add eggs and mix in

At this point, giving it a good mix, I add it to the cake tin and either bake like this or I stir through chocolate chips or chocolate spread and bake for up to 40 minutes at 180 or so.

Enjoy 🙂


Nourishing Nettle & Lemon cake – recipe – foraging

I’m posting this a little earlier than planned as I have had lots of requests from social media for it.

Nourishing Nettle and Lemon cake

Makes 1 loaf cake
Ingredients:
2 cups nettles
200g butter
150g sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla essence
zest & juice of half a lemon
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Method:
Pick your nettles and ensure they are as young as possible and only the top 4 leaves are picked to avoid them being bitter.  
Obviously avoid where people walk their dogs or where vehicles pass! 
Pour boiling water over your nettles and boil for 2/3 minutes.  This loses their sting.
Drain and squeeze them out as much as you can.
Add the lemon juice and blitz with a hand blender, set aside.
Cream your butter and sugar, add eggs, zest, vanilla, flour, baking powder and salt.
Incorporate the nettle puree and give it a good mix.
Pop it in to a cake liner/tin and bake for 30 or so minutes at around 180c, testing with a skewer to make sure it comes out clean.  
I had to cover with foil half way through as it browned a little more than I’d like
You can cover with frosting or a glaze, whatever takes your fancy.  I made a glaze of sugar and lemon juice for this one and it was very nice.
Enjoy 🙂


Marvelous Muffin Scones – Bacon, cheese and chive – recipe

Marvelous muffin scones – Bacon, cheese and chive

You have to try these! They are SO nice.
Makes 8 good sized scones. 
This is quite a wet dough so I cook them in muffin tins, hence their name.
Ingredients:
100g butter
6-8 rashers bacon (or as just many as you can spare.  I also use left over ham)
275g Self Raising Flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
150 ml milk
50 ml sunflower (or vegetable) oil
1 egg
Chives
150g grated cheddar

Method:
Sift the baking powder in to the flour as I find it always lumps.
Combine butter and flour with fingers until resembles breadcrumbs.  If your butter is very hard, I grate it.  It works!
Beat your egg and add to wet ingredients.
Combine everything.
Spoon in to greased muffin trays.
Cook for 15 mins in moderate oven.  Check after 10.

Yum!  Enjoy 🙂

Before baking