Moneysaving in May

03 May 2015

Welcome to May's money-saving madness, when the weather should change for the better and we can all get out there and make some extra effort to curb our spending, tend the garden and attempt to grow some food. It's time to make do, mend, sew and sow!

It is great living practically next door to the Frugaldom project, where a mere half mile walk takes me from here to there and allows for a couple of hours work in between anything else, really. The fine weather broke and sent us back to rain and hail with heavy frosts in the mornings, so I took advantage of that situation and planted a few garlic cloves into the ground next to the caravan - with luck, they will grow.

View of Frugaldom from the top paddock

We have finished all the tree planting, taking us up to well over 1,000 trees into the ground over the last six months, so our woodland is beginning to take shape. Mind you, with about 5 hectares to fill, the first 1,000 trees haven't exactly filled the place to capacity - you can barely see them. The above photo was taken from the top of the project looking down over the first half - we haven't even started over this side, yet. Baby steps and all that.

Making paths for free

The Frugaldom project is radiating out from HQ, which is the barn. This is where almost all of the work has been done so far, as we work our way further into the field, creating more and more growing space. The first corral has been fenced (see previous blogs) and we are about to start the second one. Around three sides of the barn we are creating a 'garden of gratitude', all planted with free trees, shrubs, herbs and flowers that have either been cultivated from free seeds, propagated as cuttings, awarded or donated. With a budget of zero for this part of the project, it allows us to save for professional help with the major jobs, like erecting the post and rail fencing, rather than resorting to standard wire.

Collecting free woodchips

Path-making is labour intensive and very time consuming, as we need to clear the land, moving all the off-cuts from logs and branches as best we can, then map a route using free materials, like brown cardboard, to act as a weed suppressant. Once the cardboard has been laid, it is a case of holding it in place with rocks, boulders and logs then covering it in wood chips, which we have an abundance of, IF we are prepared to dig it out from between the numerous log piles lying about the site. (More photos on the Frugaldom Facebook page) It is being moved by the bucket load as we've no lightweight barrow. We also need to get to work making some compost, as this and decent soil are both once again in short supply, owing to the nature of the ground. I am hoping to reach good soil beneath the log piles one day!

Making a compost bin

The start of the first compost corner - building it out of old fence posts and will add thin logs to box it in properly. It's very much a case of getting done whatever we can while the sun shines. While moving the old fence posts, which have been freed up since the first corral was properly fenced, I decided to allocate four of them to making a small bird feeding station.

Homemade wild bird feeding station

I added a perch to it this afternoon after seeing a robin darting about and trying to perch on a tiny twiggy bit. The log on the left, however, will be staying put to stop the wind blowing the feed off the top and for one more very specific reason...

Owl using the feeding station as a lookout point

One of the resident owls seems to be using the log on the feeding station as a lookout post. It offers a great view over the surrounding log pile, where there are plenty of mice and voles. This photo was taken just after 10pm the first night the feeding station was built, so I am going to keep a watchful eye on it to see if we can manage to get a few better shots of the owls. We have seen them flying late afternoon, so here's hoping they soon adopt this new location.

Strawberry frugalhugel 

I have been learning about Hügelkultur - a method of creating raised beds using cardboard, logs, wood chips, grass and just a little compost or soil needed over the top. We don't have everything required, as we don't have any lawns being mowed, but I did gather plenty of dried grass (by hand) and used it as free hay, soaking it instead. I call these my frugalhügels and have already built two of them in the garden of gratitude, filling them with strawberries and herbs. I've also planted a rosemary hedge and added more blackcurrant and raspberry cuttings to the edible hedge, so there should be plenty for foraging in the future. All of these have been free cuttings from home or gifted by fans of Frugaldom and members of the Frugal Forums.

Back home on the micro-ranch, things are looking great with the new decking completed. I now have space to plant some flowers, herbs and vegetables, starting with the garlic. I asked the joiners to leave the scrap wood, so I'm going to use it to edge a path and for making a couple of border beds. The recently planted garlic cloves have already had a couple of good frosty nights to help kick-start them but when the temperature dropped to -3C a few days ago, I got to thinking about rhubarb seeds! I had a handful of them in my seed box, left over from 2009! Waste not, want not... nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Growing thubarb from seed

The rhubarb seeds have now been sown in a small cheese tub after being at room temperature for the past couple of weeks and tonight I popped them into the freezer to simulate a brief but severe winter, in the hope of shocking them into life. I'll keep you up to date on their progress, if there's ever any to report.

Growing runner beans

While playing with last year's post-cucumber and tomato growing compost, I also thought I'd soak some runner beans so I can get these started off in pots. These are Scarlet Emporer variety, gifted by a frugal friend. I reckon if I sow half a dozen each week that they may grow to produce beans throughout the summer and autumn, when I can freeze, gift or exchange any surplus. If they do, by some fluke, end up growing so profusely that I can't keep up with them, I'll make a 'Free Food, Please Pick Your Own' sign and sit it beside them. smiley

Making meals from leftovers

Back on the more domesticated front, I still avidly pursue my quest to achieve the £5 per person per week grocery goal by wasting absolutely zero in the food department. Meals are often an interesting combination of leftovers but I sometimes think they taste better than some properly planned meals! Tonight's dinner was a combination of leftover turkey mince, kidney beans and an assortment of roast vegetables - I just added tomato puree and chilli, then ate it as is. Very tasty it was, too!

Making the most of everything is key to the success of the entire Frugaldom Project. You are free to join us in the forums, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @Frugaldom to keep up to date with progress.

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