Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Having a look

Thanks Dawn for the suggestion of growing some veg in containers, so that we can take them with us if/when we move.....very good idea.  It would also be a good idea if we move to a place with a garden that's overgrown and needs work before we can start planting - at least we'd have some produce growing whilst we were getting beds prepared.

Recently, we've had a walk round a couple of very pretty small villages that previously we'd only ever driven through, not stopped at.  Both are chocolate box pretty with lovely old houses, one has just a couple of shops, the other has about a dozen, a few of which are high end (expensive!) craft/gift shops.  We were looking, more out of curiosity that anything else, with a view to the possibility of property rentals.  It turns out that both villages do actually have rented properties there, but they don't often come up for rent (understandably - if I lived in a place like that, I'd want to stay there too!).  And, crucially, the rents are way out of our league.  Sadly.  So we need to set our sights lower.

I'm looking online for rental properties every few days....I was looking every day, but seeing the same houses every single day was getting a bit frustrating, better to do it just once or twice a week, when more have been added.  We're also choosing an area to look at and taking a drive out there once a week.  That gives us a good idea of facilities and services nearby, something which we don't have here.  Living in such a rural area, whilst relatively traffic-free (other than tractors and farm vehicles) and of course having beautiful country views, does have its drawbacks.  We feel that as we get older, it would be better to live somewhere that does have a couple of shops, GP, bank or post office and a bus service nearby, none of which we have here.

We aren't panicking, now the initial bombshell shock has worn off, we both feel that something will turn up sooner or later.....after all, the place we live in now just fell into our laps without us even looking!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Worth it and not

Thanks for the comments on my shopping post.....Rachel, the only reason I don't mention by name shops or branded products is that I've found when I do, I get bombarded by adverts for them.  Not pop ups, I don't have any of those....but on my home page and those websites, blogs or pages I visit which allow adverts.  I always think it's a little bit scary and 'big brotherish' when, 2 minutes after I've mentioned the name of something, it just happens to appear in an ad - we are being watched!!  I reckon it's a downright bloody cheek that somebody somewhere is reading absolutely everything I write....not just this blog (of course my readers aren't bloody cheeky!!), but even my private emails.  Even if it's not an actual person, but some kind of computer programme - well, somebody had to input that programme in the first place.  Invasion of privacy I think.  Ok, rant over lol.

The title refers to what we've grown this year.  We have had an exceptionally good harvest of onions, carrots, French beans, the dreaded courgettes of course, tomatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, raspberries, blackcurrants and strawberries.  We've also got loads of leeks and butternut squash yet to be harvested.  Don't know about the sweet potatoes and oca yet, they'll come later hopefully...it's the first time we've grown both of those.  Not sure about the purple sprouting broccoli or Brussels sprouts yet either, as they're covered up with a netting cage.....they've certainly put a lot of growth on. 

What haven't done so well are potatoes (we've given up growing maincrop spuds in the ground....they get eaten to buggery by slugs).  This year we grew only new potatoes in bags - we've done this before, but didn't have as good a yield this year as in previous years.  The peas (I absolutely love fresh peas, one of my favourite veggies) were doing fine until a sudden and extremely virulent attack of powdery mildew - to do with the weather I expect.  Mooli (Japanese radish) both bolted and were eaten to death by slugs.  Ordinary radishes too get chewed so much before we get to them!  We may have better success with growing those in pots.  Lots of onions started to bolt in early summer (a weather thing again I guess) - we cut off the flowering shoots as soon as we saw them, which seemed to save a lot of them.  Some still developed thick stems, I've made sure to use those first as they won't store.  The blueberries (we have 2 bushes in pots) were doing reasonably well, but the birds absolutely love them.  We had covered them with fleece just before we went away for a few days, but whilst we were away it was extremely windy here, the wind blew the fleece off and the birds had a feast.  We managed to get just a couple of tubs' worth to freeze.  Oh well, they're just as entitled as we are to eat, I suppose!  No pears or plums yet, but the trees are young.  We've had about a dozen apples though, our first year for them from this young tree, a Fiesta variety.

So about now we would be starting to make plans for what to grow next year.  However, since we have no idea where we'll be living next year, we don't know yet what to do.  It may of course be that we're still here, but probably won't know until around February whether that's possible.  And if we do move to a new place, it may be that we have to start a veg plot from scratch...another unknown. 


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

More on the food budget

Thank you once again for all the comments and suggestions.....no news to report, but we have been proactive in trying to come up with a list of all our options.  Putting it all down in writing will I think help a lot to clarify things and clear our heads....my head in particular has been filled with a whirling mass of thoughts and ideas, none of which I can think about clearly as they're all so clouded by everything else in there. 

Anyway, for the past few weeks we have been thinking about the food budget.  Keeping on top of the freezer and cupboard inventories by deleting things as they're used and adding new things bought or meals made and frozen has been a huge help, as has ticking off meals from the menu plan I made, and adding more to that.  I have also stuck to writing a shopping list every week, which I think is almost certainly the best way to keep the spending down. 

We normally do our shopping in Mr S****burys, simply because we like it - out of the 3 supermarkets in our local town (the others are M****sons and A**a) it's the nicest shopping experience (if food shopping can be said to be nice!), we like their wide range of products and they're pretty good quality.  M****sons is ok, it's cheaper on quite a few things, although not all by any means, but their shelf edge labelling leaves a lot to be desired - the labels are often missing or in the wrong places.  A**a I don't really like at all....it's generally far too busy for one thing, seems to have far more shoppers with noisy children in tow, and the staff aren't as polite! (apologies to any readers who might work there, that's just our experience of our local store).  It's also not that big, so doesn't have as wide a range of products.

The week before last we tried L**l, last week it was A*di.  I wasn't that impressed with L**l, A*di was better, although it was MUCH busier - a result of their massive TV ad campaign, I guess.  But we found with both of those it just wasn't possible to get all of our shopping....they may both be pretty cheap, but are a lot smaller than the big supermarkets and with very limited ranges (I notice they both have loads of crap sugary stuff though, cereals, sweets and cakes!).  So both times we had to also go to one of the bigger supermarkets to get what we needed.

So we've come to the conclusion that it's not worth doing our shopping in either of those.....having to then go on to another store to get other stuff is not cost or time effective.  I think we will continue to do most of our weekly shops in S****burys, but perhaps try to extend the time between shops to fortnightly.  And for dry goods that I generally buy in bulk once every couple of months or so, I'll check online first to find out where they're being sold the cheapest.

Now I have a clearer idea of what we need to buy and where we will be shopping (and how often), I can start thinking about when to begin with our new monthly food budget, and how much to set it at.  We've got a holiday coming up very soon, followed by relatives coming to stay, so it may be best to start after that.


Saturday, 10 September 2016

To expand a bit.....

Annie b - no you didn't offend me, not at all.  As I said, following your comments I did look into retirement housing locally and found it was all large blocks of mainly 1 bed apartments or flatlets, with shared outside space.  That's just not for us.  And our local Council will only allow us to have a 1 bed flat, so again that's not an option for us.

Some people might think 'well beggars can't be choosers' - not that anyone has said anything like that to us, they haven't.  But if we're being evicted, then surely we should take whatever is offered to us?  Well, to expand a bit further.....

Yes, husband is technically an OAP as he's 65, but he's fit and healthy and in no way regards himself as a pensioner.  And he doesn't look his age - nobody believes it on finding out his age.  He's still working as an HGV driver (albeit part time now), mainly because he doesn't feel old enough to retire!  He also feels that if he gives up work, it might have a detrimental effect on him....he worries he might then begin to feel old!  I'm 56 but certainly don't feel it...in my head I'm permanently 39.  So the idea of living in old people's accommodation fills both of us with dread - it's just not us, we're too young!

None of our family live close to us, most of them live in the Midlands, some in Cornwall, some in London.  Thus, when they come to visit, they stay with us for a few days.  So a 1-bedroom place is not an option for us.

Our garden is very important to us, we grow a lot of fruit and veg, aiming to be as self sufficient in produce as we can.....not just for financial reasons, but because we like doing it!  There's so much satisfaction in growing and eating your own food, it's not covered with pesticides or grown in artificial or unnatural ways, and it tastes so much better than shop bought.  And I love to have a pretty front garden with lots of flowers.  We spend quite a lot of time in our garden, husband more so than me, and when he does eventually retire from paid employment, he wants to spend even more time out there.  So any property we move to simply must have a garden.

But everything is so up in the air at the moment, and until or unless we get something in writing, we simply don't know what's happening.  So life goes on in the meantime.

Thank you once again for all your comments and suggestions, I really appreciate all of them.  Also, I appear to have some new followers....not sure who you are, but am happy to have you.  Sorry I haven't got anything particularly interesting to tell you though!



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Mountains of veg

I spent most of yesterday morning prepping a load of our veg for the freezer.

Husband had brought in a large trugful of carrots, a net bag of red onions (about a dozen, and they're all massive, biggest we've ever grown), and bowlful of green and yellow French beans.

The beans I've prepped and wrapped in clingfilm again, in meal size portions, same as I did last week.  Another 6 of those in a bag in the freezer, to join the 10 I did before.

I halved some of the carrots and quartered some onions and threw them in the food processor, chopping them up fairly small.  Filled 2 large ziplock bags, flattening them out to freeze.  It's easy then to take out a bag and break off a suitably sized chunk....I use it straight from frozen, into a saucepan with a bit of oil on a low heat until it thaws and starts to heat through.  Means I have the base of a sauce, mince dish, stew etc. without the bother of having to chop the veg from fresh, and of course saves time.  I did this last year and it was very successful.

Still got loads of carrots and onions....thankfully, the onions store well (tons spread out in the polytunnel, with door and vents wide open, to dry them out).  Some of the carrots I'll cook and mash with dill and parsley and then freeze, some will be sliced, blanched and frozen, the rest to be eaten fresh.

After lunch we went to our local beach for a walk, it was good to be out in the fresh air, even though it was pretty warm (bit too warm for me, but the sea breeze helped).  Didn't think to take any photos, not that it's a particularly attractive beach anyhow, but it is our beach and we like it, I love the fact that we live just a few minutes drive from a beach now, when for years we lived in the Midlands, about as far away from a beach as we could get!  It's one of the things we will really miss if we do have to leave here.

Kate and a couple of other people have suggested we apply to our Council.  I have looked into this, and it's not very promising.  Our Council works on a points system (don't know whether this is a national or local thing), you're allocated points depending on a number of factors....as things stand, if we applied we would be right at the bottom of the list (the CAB confirmed this).  We would be given a lot more points if we were given a notice to quit, though.  Council properties are allocated on a bid system - you enter a bid (which is an expression of interest, not a money thing) if you see a property you would like - but you can only enter a bid on a property you are eligible for, and if you have sufficient points.  And the Council will decide who out of all the interested parties gets the property.

The Council will tell you what type of property you are eligible for, based on your needs - family size, ages, disability if any.  We are only eligible for a 1 bedroom property - which for our Council means a flat.  If we were accepted onto the Council list, we could only therefore get just that - a 1 bed flat.  Meaning we couldn't have family to stay, which we do quite often, and of course no garden.  None of our family members live near to us, so when they visit they stay for several days.  And our garden is extremely important to us, not just for sitting in but for growing all our produce.  So for us, applying to the Council would be a last resort, if we do get evicted and haven't found anything else by then.

I do appreciate all your comments and suggestions, thank you very much.
 



Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Thank you

for all the lovely comments, it's nice to get them when we're feeling like nobody cares or wants to help.

We went to CAB yesterday (not an experience I wish to repeat anytime soon) - we were there nearly 2 hours, most of that in the waiting room and another 15 minutes waiting for the advisers to come back with some information sheets (which actually turned out to be no help at all).  The 2 lady advisers we saw (one was a trainee) were very kind and sympathetic, they just had no useful advice!  Literally none.  They didn't tell us anything we didn't already know.  I'm not knocking them, just saying it was a complete waste of time.

I've spent ages online searching all the letting agents' websites - rents are a bit of an eye opener.  Our rent here is very reasonable for a 3 bed house, it's because it's on a farm in a rural area with no local amenities, rental places in less rural spots (which most of them are) are so much higher (and I'm talking 100s). 

It was suggested (by annie b I think) that we look at retirement housing.  I quickly found around a dozen not too far away - they are all large blocks of apartments with shared garden areas, varying facilities, some are sheltered or assisted housing, some with different criteria for potential occupants.  None are what we want, even if we fit the criteria - husband may be 65 but he's not old yet!  And i'm 10 years younger.  Basically, both of us feel we don't want to live in an old peoples home, which is more or less what they are, even if you do have your own flat.  And we want a house, not a flat, and it must have a garden.

So we just keep on looking, until we find a suitable place, I guess.

It may be that we're not the ones the landlord decides to boot out in 6 months time.  But we now know that, far from us being able to live here indefinitely as he gave us to understand when we first moved in, he will kick us out as and when it suits him.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Bombshell....

....dropped on us by landlord yesterday - he wants to evict either us or one of the tenants in the other 3 neighbouring properties he owns, in six months time.  Why?  So he can move one of his workers in.

So, after everything we've done to this house and garden (and at our own expense, as we were under the impression that this would be our home for the foreseeable future), we could be homeless in a few months.

We have absolutely no idea right now what we will do if that happens.....at our stage in life (OH is mid 60s, I'm mid 50s) we don't want to be moving every 5 minutes.

That's the trouble with being a private tenant, you're at the landlord's mercy.