A few days of glorious weather has put some sun on ponies' backs, helped with tree planting, dried out the ground a bit and even seems to have encouraged the wildlife. But beer-making? What's that all about, I hear you ask?

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The top paddock at Frugaldom

Last week we had a visit from the local Forestry Commission and someone very kindly chain sawed and removed all the fallen trees that had crashed onto the boundary wall at Frugaldom. This now allows us free access to the entire length of wall that runs along the top side of one of the fields.

Frankie, Pippin and Willow

Soon, the top paddock will be split into two strips of land - one recreational paddock and one strip for new woodland. The ponies, once they get here, will be used to help clear the land once we have removed the tree stumps and fallen branches. We also need a new fence built to prevent them from wandering too far down the hill or into the stream. Frankie, Pippin and Willow are having their veterinary checks done this week and, all going well, should be coming to Frugaldom at the weekend. Exciting times!

Crocuses at Frugaldom

Spring is definitely in the air at Frugaldom - while walking the edge of the first field with the machine driver, who will be moving all the old felled trees and roots, I spotted these crocuses. They were a welcome site in an otherwise desolate piece of landscape here. I can't wait for this part to be cleared for new trees, pasture and wild flowers.

Planting holly and hawthorn hedge

Tree planting is a slow process but we now have 1,000 more willows in the ground and finished planting the new holly and hawthorn trees that arrived as part of our wild wood tree pack from the Woodland Trust. Still plenty more to plant, with the hazels, crab apples and downy birch standing in line waiting to go into the next phase of our new woodland at Frugaldom.

Badger in the garden

We set up the trail cam at home, in the part of the garden that was reclaimed from the old chicken run. Within hours, we had our first visitor scurrying around, digging in the turf and munching on peanuts I had scattered on the ground. Badgers seem to love peanuts and we do love knowing that they are around here, safe and well. Now we just need to try encouraging red squirrels and hedgehogs back into the area. We already have deer coming into the garden - they ate all the windfalls in our little orchard during Autumn!

The baby hare

I have spotted the hares on several occasions over the past week while out tree planting at Frugaldom but haven't managed to take any more photos, so this is the one I took a fortnight ago of the new baby. Baby hares are called leverets. Unlike baby rabbits (kittens, I think?), they are born fully furred with their eyes open and able to run around without a problem. Mum leaves them hiding for the day and returns periodically to feed them. The hares at Frugaldom are fairly bold and don't seem to mind that we are there when they lope across the yard.

Toad spawn

This is a big clump of frog spawn that was about to be left high and dry when the water level in the new drainage ditch began to drop, so I moved it along a little until it was floating in a cleared area... it slurped over like something out of a slimy comedy horror movie. I am informed that frog spawn is laid in clumps, whereas toads lay their eggs in strings, so I am assuming this and several other clumps, belong to the resident frogs. (Thanks for keeping me right, DC.)

Brew barrel homebrewing German beer

And now for the beer - there's nothing better than a cool swig of something refreshing after a long day working out on the land and with all this frugal living, many of us don't have the time or the budget to socialise in a pub. It's expensive enough getting dressed up and arranging taxis (or designated drivers) plus babysitters (if you need them) and buying a decent glass of something, so Brewbarrel.com offered to send me a home brewing kit of their finest to have a go at making my own. We aren't known for drinking alcohol here, as it simply isn't in the budget, but we do make exceptions for special occasions. I'm not a beer drinker, so I explained this to the Brewbarrel.com man and he very kindly selected a recipe that he thinks may be my personal preference, based entirely on what I normally like. (Almost anything with a citrus twist.) His helpful advice was to recommend India Pale Ale, as "It utilises different hops instead of just one type, which results in a naturally citrusy and herbal sweet beer... if you are a fan of citrus I can wholeheartedly recommend that one to you."

There you have it - in about a week's time, I'll have brewed my first ever bespoke, luxury beer. It;s a 5 litre barrel in the kit, so I'm not too sure how it compares with the equivalent in bottles of artisan beers from the micro-breweries that are springing up around us but I do know that making it myself does have much more appeal.

We still have trees and posts available for sponsoring at Frugaldom, so please consider checking out www.frugalshop.co.uk to find out how. To get more in-depth details of the Frugaldom project, you'll need to register a username in www.frugalforums.co.uk (Registration is free)

Until next time,

NYK / Frugaldom.

Edited in - Eddie actually turned out to be Frankie, so I edited the graphic to reflect this

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