Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Garden Update

We're now getting to my least favourite time in the garden, namely the end of the summer growing season.  Everything starts to look a little scruffy and overgrown and I'm always tempted to pull everything out before I really need to. I'm so far resisting the temptation, although on Monday I did harvest the last of the lettuce in the salad bed as we were running low.



The bed looked depressingly bare once everything had been pulled up, but then that's a good excuse to sow a few more seeds.  There's a couple of varieties of mustard seedlings growing in places, plus the kale plants I transplanted and the remaining spring onions, but more seeds do need sowing when I get the chance.


In spite of the sad looking consequences, I did manage to procure what will be our last full bowl of homegrown salad leaves this summer. I'm grateful that we've not had to purchase any salad for the last three months and glad that I didn't pull them all out when we went on holiday, as it would have wasted a good few weeks worth of food. They were still very edible, despite almost going to seed, right up to the last minute.





On Sunday, there was a definite need to harvest as much of the sweetcorn as I could, mainly because something had been eating it.  I think it was a squirrel. because one kept coming into the garden on Monday.

At least 3 cobs had been attacked. I stripped the outer leaves away from the half eaten cobs, and left them on the stems, hoping that whoever it was would go back to the already damaged ones and not eat any of the other cobs that are still too immature to harvest.

I did harvest approximately 10 cobs, which was pretty good. I put it all straight into the freezer to use at times of the year when it is expensive in the shops.

I also harvested a few more dwarf beans, which I ate with the Toad in the Hole I made us for supper on Sunday evening. I'm the only one in the family that really likes to eat them on their own, so they tend to get put in casseroles or stews throughout the year.  There aren't really that many of these left growing on the plants, so they will probably be coming out in the next couple of weeks.
 
Finally, I've also been harvesting a few tomatoes here and there this weekend.  Many are still green, but some have or are turning red or orange, as in the case of these small tomatoes here.





There remain quite a lot of trusses on various plants, that are still completely green, so I'm hoping they will all ripen before blight sets in.

I'm still keeping track of the monetary value of what we are harvesting and logging it each time I take anything from the garden.

We're not talking huge amounts of money, but it's interesting to see how quickly we earn the cost of the beds back in produce.  I'll post about the total at the end of the growing season.

Monday, 22 August 2016

A Good Start to the Week

This week got off to a good start.

On my dog walk this morning, I couldn't resist popping my head into the Little Free Library up the road. Although I don't really need any more books to read at present, as I currently have a whole bunch of them waiting to be read on my book shelves, I just couldn't resist borrowing this one.


As I finished my latest book this morning in bed, I think I might make this my next read, as I'm really looking forward to reading it and don't want to wait.

The second freebie that came my way today was this month's copy of Kitchen Garden magazine, which came with two free packets of seeds. One a packet of Lambs Lettuce that I can sow now, the second a packet of sweet pea seeds to sow next spring. This subscription was a gift from a friend last Christmas.  Simply the best kind, i.e. one that just keeps giving, all year round.


More good news greeted me when I got to the gym, as I was informed that my regular Sunday instructor is now back from her holidays.  I've really missed her class for the last couple of months and I can't wait to get back to it. I immediately booked my place for next weekend. As she teaches a great class, that has a disciple-like following, it soon fills up once word gets around that she's back. 

Finally, I had to visit my GP's nurse today to get my blood pressure re-checked, as when I'd visited the doctor a couple of weeks ago it had been a bit on the high side. (Another reason for concern about my health!).  I'd never suffered from it being high in the past, so I was hoping that it had been due to the fact that I'd just got back from our partially stressful holiday the night before. (i.e. stressful due to the damage we caused to the camper van).  

Anyway, thankfully my blood pressure was back to normal, despite a 20 minute wait in the waiting room, whilst watching the car (which was illegally parked outside!), so that's one less thing  for me to worry about.

Hopefully things are looking up.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Feeling Overwhelmed Again

From my last post, you might have guessed that I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, de-motivated and out of sorts, if I'm honest. I don't know if it's a summer holidays thing.

The house feels a mess, I'm behind on my laundry and chores, there's piles of donations to take to the next Give or Take day and I've not really done anything with LB of any merit this summer. I'm on a bit of a self-inflicted guilt trip I think.

Yesterday, she was relieved of coming to the blood donation session with me, as a friend contacted her and she spent the day with her.  I was pleased for her, as all her friends seem to be away for the entire summer this year, so there's no one to hang out with.  As well as being pleased for her, I felt a little pressure taken off and headed off to the Blood session alone.

Unfortunately, I got snarled up in traffic on the way and was 20 minutes late. The donation system, however, had no slack in it to allow me to still donate, so I was pretty unimpressed to be honest and I've decided to stop donating for a while.

Not just for this reason, but also because I've been wanting to take some supplements of late and haven't done so because I feel they might not be compatible with blood donation.  I really want to give them a try and as I've now got this whole cholesterol thing going on, I need to focus on myself a little and concentrate on getting my own health under control for a few months.  I still want to donate and feel it is a very valuable thing to do, but I need a break.

I think that my minor health issues are a lot to do with how I'm feeling at the moment, so I need to take charge of it. I feel I'm pretty health conscious and healthy, but then you receive a blow like the raised cholesterol and you feel that all the good you are doing with exercise and reasonably healthy eating is just negated.  I'm floundering at the moment, not knowing what I can do to improve things. I've started with all the cholesterol lowering products, which I must say, don't inspire me that much and are also very expensive, but as I have no choice, I just need to persevere and hope they get results.

The next thing on the list is to possibly lose some weight, but I have no intention of dieting.  I'm going to focus on improving my digestion and boosting my metabolism and see how it goes, hence where the supplements come in.

Today, thanks to the weather and LB having been out all day yesterday, she's happy to stay home and chill, so I get to do the same and tackle the ironing mountain.  Once it is done, I'm at least up to date on laundry, which I haven't been since before our holiday.

I got to the allotment yesterday afternoon too and made big inroads into clearing the plot.  The fact that LB was otherwise occupied and the email encouragement I'd received from the Committee Secretary probably helped a lot in motivating me.  There's only a small area left to clear by the end of the month.  I also managed to transplant some kale plants, to fill one of the beds.

It's looking better than it has in a couple of seasons, which makes me feel like I want to continue with it, but I know that downsizing to a small plot, if I can, is the right thing to do, as the pressure to maintain it always casts a shadow over the summer months.  If I get offered a smaller plot I will take it, but if not, I'm not sure what I'll do now and might try to hang on until one becomes available.

In the meantime, and on a more positive note, the garden is benefiting from some rain today. Frankly, it needed it, as did the allotment and the water butt which was virtually empty.  I've got a week's worth of salad leaves left in one raised bed, so it should see me through to September, meaning I've had three months worth of salad leaves from it, which is good for me, especially as I eat it most days.

The rain has also been good for me mentally, as it has made me look towards the autumn, which I find more enjoyable and comfortable weatherwise.  I always prefer to be wrapped up a little rather than overheated. Having said this, it has been a nice summer, for the most part.

We had good news this week with regard to OH's parents' camper van, in that the damage we caused to it only cost £100 or so pounds to repair, which was a major relief.  It doesn't excuse our carelessness, but at least it was affordable and the work has now been done, so that they can use it to get away this week. We will, of course, be reimbursing them the whole amount.

Another positive is that I just checked out the next date of the Give or Take and there's one advertised for mid September, so an end to the rising donation pile is in sight. I might have to do another round of decluttering in time for it, as this is something else that has been put on the back burner lately.

I'm getting there, but it just feels like wading through treacle at the moment.  I guess we all have times like this every now and then, so I'm trying not to let it get me down too much and appreciate the relative peace and quiet before time starts hurtling towards the big C.

Apologies for having a moan on here, I don't like to do it, but sometimes it can be quite cathartic and helps me to get focused on pulling myself out of it. Life isn't all roses round the cottage door, it has it's difficulties too and I generally prefer to hear about peoples' lives warts and all. It's in the struggles that we find fellowship.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Things Have Been A Bit Quiet Around Here

I've been a bit quiet on the old blogging front lately.  Not for any particular reason, but there's not been an awful lot happening around here.

On Monday LB and I did some more uniform shopping and I almost have everything that she needs, save for underwear and socks.  I'll probably buy these nearer the time for starting back.

I'm still working my two days at the CS.  The manager has been away this week, so there has been a slightly different atmosphere, but things seem to be ticking over pretty well and the intern who has been left in charge of the shop seems to be doing a really good job, which is nice to see.  He's really gained in confidence and ability over the time he's been there.  It's interesting to see the change in the interns, from when they start to when they leave, it must be quite a steep learning curve for them at times.

I am finding that during the school holidays, I do feel a little guilty that I'm not at home with LB and doing things with her on the two days per week.  I guess that's just because it's always been like that and if I was working (i.e. paid work) I'd probably feel the same.  I don't feel like I can easily just withdraw my voluntary labour for six or seven weeks though, so I have continued going in.

On the days I'm not there, I try to go out and about and spend time with LB, as she does get a little bored at home with her dad, whilst he is working from home,  He does take her out with him on appointments and to walk the dog, but even so, she finds that days can be a little long.

This week she has spent most of the time having a big purge of her bedroom.  There is now a huge pile of stuff outside her bedroom door, waiting for me to relocate it to the Give And Take pile.  I'm pleased she's made good use of her time and is finding it easier to let go of things. Sometimes, I think a bit of boredom is good for you, as it does help to make you more self motivated and resourceful.

Tomorrow, I'm not at the shop, so I can spend more time with her.  I do have a blood donation booked, however, so I'll probably take her with me and we can do a bit of window shopping, as neither of us have much money to spend.  I might even suggest we go on our bikes and get a bit of exercise into the bargain.

Talking of bikes, I've decided to ride my bike to the train station on the days when I travel to the shop, as I hate the walk to and from the station. It takes far too long and is tiring when my feet ache after a day at the shop and still need to take the dog for a walk when I get in.  Sitting on the bike and pedalling is much more enjoyable.  I tried it for the first time today and dug out my old clunky bike, which was still in the garden. I didn't want to leave my newer bike locked up all day, in case it got stolen in my absence.

It worked quite well, save that I went to a different train station and didn't enjoy the experience of catching the train from there, so I will be going from my usual station next week.  It should mean that I can set off a little later and get home a little earlier, all being well, and get a bit more exercise in the process.  I just have to be a bit careful in the traffic.

On Friday this week, I have a free day, save for having booked LB in for an eye test in the late afternoon.  She's lost one pair of glasses and broken another and needs a new pair to go back to school with.  We may spend the earlier part of the day doing something that she specifically wants to do.

In other news, I got an email from the allotment secretary yesterday and she noted that I'd made a real effort to clear my plot and encouraged me to carry on.  I have until the end of the month to get it up to scratch, which I'm hoping to do, in spite of not having a lot of opportunity at the moment.  She said that there is someone interested in a plot on our site, so I'm hoping that I might be able to secure a swap for a smaller plot after all.  I'll keep you posted.

The garden is still producing.  The corn are very near being ready to harvest, but I might leave them another week or so, to make sure the kernels are fully ripe.  I'm harvesting dwarf beans every week and a few tomatoes are now ripening.  The lettuce is still edible and should hopefully last me at least another week.  I've now also transplanted some kale seedlings into the salad bed, so it will be interesting to see how they fare.

I'm going to harvest the measly four apples that have grown on our tree in the garden very soon. We had to cut off some of the main branches this year, as they had been suffering from some sort of fungal growth, but I think we've managed to cut it out and hopefully save the tree. If not, these might be the last four apples we grow on it.

That's about all the news here really, as not much else is happening.  We've been glued to the Olympic cycling for the past few days and have really enjoyed watching it.  What have you been up to?

Sunday, 14 August 2016

A New Budgeting System

On reveiwing my finances part way through this month, I've decided that from next month, I'm going to start a new comprehensive budgeting system, which accounts for all monthly expenditure.

Unlike a previous system I employed, where I just spent what I needed/wanted to and then allocated all expenditure to different categories.  This time around, I'm allocating a budget in accordance with my income, to every conceivable spending category and then recording expenditure under each budget heading, as it occurs.

It's a bit of return to accounting for every penny, but with a different and more income based emphasis, which I haven't actually done for a long time, as I've always had the luxury of a virtually free overdraft that I could utilise. I don't, however want to rely on this anymore and hence this approach is hopefully going to minimise my use of the same.

My chosen expenditure categories are as follows:

Food

Household/Toiletries/Garden/Pets

LB - Clothes, shoes, trips, etc.

Home - Furniture, homewares, linen, etc.

Me - Clothes, books, shoes, etc.

Savings - A minimum of £100 per month

Regular Commitments i.e. gym membership, charity donations, bills, etc.

Misc - Everything else i.e. school dinners, birthday and other gift purchase, transport, parking charges, etc.

Although I've allocated a set budget to all of these headings, this doesn't mean that I have to spend the total amount allocated each month and any excess that I don't spend, will go towards savings, Christmas gift shopping or overspends in other areas.

It's a small tweak to what I was doing already, by simply expanding the categories to incorporate every conceivable expense, but one I'm ready to make to account for all of my spending and get it properly under control for once.

It's taken most of this year to get to a place where I'm finally putting aside money for savings and whittling the need/wish list down to virtually nothing, but I feel I've made progress and am ready to develop a more positive and practical approach to controlling my spending.

Having said this, I will probably have good months and not so good months, but at least now I'm ready to implement a proper system to facilitate living within my means and not using my overdraft or credit cards. It's pretty exciting for me, although it must seem blatantly obvious to many people.

I'll keep you posted with progress from the end of September onwards.

Friday, 12 August 2016

All Together Again

Friday, saw me  make what should have been a quick two and a half hour train journey to Yorkshire to pick up LB from her grandma's house, except all didn't quite go as planned.

I got myself to King's Cross on time and boarded the train and all was going okay for the first half of the journey.

I had my phone plugged in charging (just as well as I needed it later!), I was enjoying tea and biscuits, a sausage butty and reading a copy of The Times, which formed part of my first class ticket entitlement.

The only discomfort was the sun shining in on me, but the window curtain soon put paid to that until it was high enough in the sky not to be a problem.

Then suddenly we drew to a halt and several announcements were made.

Staff were discretely running up and down the carriage.  I knew then that something serious had happened and it had. There had been a fatality on the line ahead of us and we weren't able to continue with the planned journey.

As a consequence, the train returned to a previous station in order to change lines to circumvent the incident and consequently the journey took an extra two hours.

Thankfully for me, I was nice and comfortably ensconced in the First Class carriage, but even so, it did make the journey rather a long one.

However, I was mindful that this was a small problem compared with facing the catastrophic news of someone's life having ended, so complaining seemed inappropriate somehow.  I heard some slightly less sympathetic comments from another passenger, which is a little sad really and just goes to prove how inured and unsympathetic we have become as a nation, with regard to others' misery and heartbreak.

Anyway, I got there eventually and by the time LB and I went to catch the train home, normal service had just about resumed, which must have taken a superhuman effort by the staff, with literally no turn around time.

An eventful day, which made me appreciate having LB back home with us again. The dog, incidentally, was super pleased to greet her at King's Cross after her week away, which was a surprise, as she's a stoic little creature, who rarely shows any emotion, so she must have missed LB too.

Hopefully, normal family life will now resume for the remainder of the summer holidays.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

The One Thing I Missed Whilst on Holiday

The one thing I missed this year whilst we were on holiday, (apart from having a private bathroom - sorry TMI) was most definitely my garden.  I kept thinking about it and wondering how everything was growing.

Once back on Monday night I managed to find half an hour to potter, harvest anything that was ready and just appreciate being back home.



In our absence, the sweetcorn had grown really well, with lots more cobs forming and some getting quite large already.



The rhubarb plants that I dug up from the allotment, seem to have settled into their pots and are growing lots of new leaves, which is encouraging, as I thought that perhaps they might not thrive and I'd have to buy a new plant.  This will definitely save me from making any further expenditure here.



In addition, the very cheap strawberry plants I bought from B&Q had also done well, had grown some flowers and were starting to bear fruit. They look a lot happier than when I bought them.

I mooched around and harvested some dwarf french beans.  They had gone over a little, so were blanched and frozen for use in casseroles and stews this winter.  There are still more beans growing on the plants though.

Before we went away, I was going to pull up all of the lettuce in one of the raised beds, thinking that it would go to seed whilst we were away.  I harvested a couple of muslin bags full and took them away with us.  They lasted all week in the campervan fridge.

In the end, I was so busy on the day we left, that I didn't even have time to pull up and compost the remaining lettuce and when we got back it was starting to bolt, but on tasting it, it didn't taste too bad. I harvested some for this week, will take it a week at a time and see if I can keep harvesting it and eating it for as long as possible, before it becomes completely inedible.

I did, however, manage to find time to sow some more lettuce and mustard seeds before we went away, and was pleased to see that these are now germinating and will provided a future source of salad leaves.

The only other things that were ready to harvest were one beef tomato and some spring onions, which I'm using in my salads this week. The rest of the tomatoes hadn't really ripened at all, so it will probably be a while before any others are ready to eat.

I'm enjoying it all being on my doorstep, although I've not any time today to spend out there, as I've been at the CS.  There had been a few changes in my absence, with regard to some aspects of working in the shop, which was interesting in some cases and in others time consuming, but who am I to question the whys and wherefores.

The manager is going on holiday in a couple of days, so today we were busy trying to get things done before she goes and it will no doubt be the same tomorrow, before she heads off on Thursday.  I'm pleased that she's getting time away from it all though.  She needs and deserves it.

On a different subject, I got bitten in the garden last night by some very unpleasant insect and my ankle and the back of my knee have swollen up quite dramatically.  It seems to be one thing after another at the moment in a physical well being sense. I've had to take some anti histamines and put antihistamine cream on the bites.  They are feeling a little better now though, which is good news. Hopefully, they will go down fully overnight.

I'm looking forward to Thursday when I've got some free time to possibly visit the allotment.  There's been no news on whether anyone wants to swap plots and I'm beginning to think it's a non-starter.  I'll keep you posted.