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.

Monday night preserving – Rhubarb wine, rhubarb vodka, chamomile tea and drying herbs!

What feels like a long time ago now….On May Day, I harvested lots of rhubarb with Grace.  We needed 3kg to make some wine with.  We got a lot more than 3kg! 

The leaves went in the compost bin, which some people worry about as they’re poisonous (Oxalic Acid), but fear not, the leaves are broken down rendered fine to use as compost.  People have done it and survived and that’s scientific enough for me.

After washing the rhubarb we chopped 3kg up and put it into a sterilised fermenting bucket with 2.6kg granulated sugar.  I sterilised the bucket using a powder from “The Range” which you make a solution from.  It’s £1 a pack and I hope it works as we have struggled with sterilising (or sanitising) in the past.

 

The bucket was sealed and left for 3 whole days. The recipe I used was John Wright’s.

We added cool boiled water to make it to 4.5 litres and added the other bits and pieces which you can find in the link. We left it for a week and it nearly blew the lid off the fermenting bucket so we moved it to the demi John after about 5 days and fit a bubble trap.

Tonight we decanted it into sanitised wine bottles. I knew we were going to need wine bottles so I sacrificed a few Friday nights and managed to drink enough rose wine to free up enough bottles for the rhubarb wine! The things I do for preserving!! It looks really good and I am pleased with the outcome. We need to get the labels off still!

For the rhubarb vodka we added 600g chopped rhubarb to a litre of vodka, 200g sugar and some orange zest. It was left for 9 weeks then we strained it through a muslin and back into the bottle it came from! You don’t need to use expensive vodka, we just got a lot on offer. It tastes nice and we are going to make some more so we’re stocked up for Christmas gifts and visitors plus the odd tipple night of our own!

For the chamomile tea I harvested a pint size amount of chamomile flower heads and dried them out overnight in the dehydrator.

It turned out fab. I stored the dried heads in a clip top jar and tested some out. Pouring boiling water over a few heads, left it to steep for 2 minutes then poured back through a sieve into a mug. It tastes really nice and is very good for you. I’ll be keeping this one.

I did the same for the herbs I harvested, mint, lemon thyme, rosemary and lemon balm then ground them up using the food processor and mortar and pestle. The rosemary had to go back on as it just won’t dry! 

The rosemary went back on with some tomatoes from the greenhouse and mushrooms (from Aldi!).

I also managed to stew some rhubarb for the freezer for later in the year to make a nice crumble as we have not had one yet this year!!

All in all a good preserving night and a base for me to work on for next years ideas.

Elderberry wine

A big part of what I wanted to achieve and sustain when we moved here was to start to incorporate living off the land into our lives. Steven has been busy pressing apples for cider and I’ll update on that shortly, however the other day I finally got round to getting the Elderberry wine ready. By ready I mean sat in a demi John fermenting. So after gathering the elderberries last week, I weighed 2 kilo and gave them a bit of a press with a masher then popped them in a sterilised bucket with some water as per Hugh FW’s recipe and left them a few days. Then I made a sugar syrup and added orange and lemon juice and zest, yeast and got it all ready for the demi John.  So now it is busy fermenting away making us the most glorious (I’m keeping positive) wine. Apparently if you can, you should wait 5 years. Can’t see that happening. We’ll make it each year and then there will be a continuous supply. Having said that I rarely drink lately, so it’ll probably come out at Christmas etc. Not this one though! Happy Friday everyone. 

Autumn on the smallholding

This weekend has felt very Autumnal.  It’s been a mixture of lots of lovely things.  The changing colour of the trees, the leaves that have appeared underfoot when we’re out walking, the apples that are readily falling and being used in the cooking, the homegrown squash that I roasted and we ate, the dip in temperature on a night yet the days that are still creeping up to 17 and 18C and I finally got round to making a Sunday lunch and doing some baking again. 
I made some chocolate, ginger and oat cookies from my new favourite person, Mary Berry.  Between her, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Pam Corbin, I think I have a year’s worth of recipes to keep us going.  The cookies are really nice and I got 21 out of her recipe.  It claims you will make 24, but we don’t eat biscuits that are so small in this house ;).  They took 11 minutes on the bottom rung of the Aga (just for my future reference).
I’ve also made a start on the Elderberry wine.  I did wonder if I was too late but we found a bountiful supply that were still young and fresh so as a family, we picked them and brought them home to make a start.  I also made a Elderberry Winter Tonic which I’ve read about in a few places.  It’s now sat in my fridge waiting for the cold season to start.  I only used 2 cupfuls of Elderberries which yielded around 400ml of tonic.  I’m giving my Mam some to try and help her through the winter as she has a hernia and suffers terribly with what she can and can’t eat, hopefully she can have this without side effects and it’ll help keep her immune systems up.
Of course to go along with the homemade wine, Steven needed to try homemade cider, so he and our lovely neighbour borrowed a cider press and got to work pressing buckets of our apples from the orchard and the neighbours too.  They managed to make 15 litres which is gurgling away in the pantry.
We’ve managed to get rid of quite a lot of muck this weekend and in return bagged ourselves a large carrier full of different breads which are all now in the new freezer ready for when we run out of have unexpected guests that need feeding.
I’m off to bed shortly, not necessarily ready for going back to work tomorrow, but certainly feeling blessed from the weekend. The dogs look like they are quite content too.