The Garden Haul Comes In.

Interrupting the recipes for a quick update on the garden foods.

Well, we’re not quite there yet. Beans are not yet ripe, neither are tomatoes. Still got plenty of greens to harvest, as well as around 4/5 of the potatoes. The carrots and beets and turnips could do with another growth spurt too. But both in preparation for moving and because things ripen at different speeds, a load of stuff has already been coming in.

The raspberry bushes. Not actually “ours”. Wild-seeded.

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Raspberry, strawberry and blackcurrant jam prep.

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This year’s attempt at restocking the jam supplies. Got blackberry jam to make soon, then elderberry jam and apple sauce. Hopefully plum jams, but we don’t grow our own so that depends on overstock from neighbours.

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Just a little peek into the top of our bag of frozen blackberries. Pretty much every time I’ve gone out, I’ve been picking early blackberries and freezing them. The picture doesn’t show it well, but the bag has around 1.5-2L of blackberries in it. They will need rinsing from frozen, defrosting gently, adding to however many fresh ones I can gather as September advances, then stewing down for more jams!

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The very last batch of rhubarb. Probably going to be a tart, or maybe a sweet sauce for topping a flan. Now’s time to move the plant roots into pots, to move down to our new place, ready to plant out next Spring.

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Around 1/10 of the potatoes, because we ate half of this batch before I took a photo. Digging them up 1/5 at a time, starting with the shallow ones, to prevent parasites and rot from getting them first. They’re possibly the starchiest potatoes I have ever had. 😀

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And finally some of the greens we are growing. No pesticides, so a bit nibbled, but fine to eat.

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Here are some fresh greens, early beans and herbs being prepped for a stew.

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In short, the garden is serving us well this year.

Sadly my pea plants were not as robust as the beans, though, and produced only a handful of pods before succumbing to the sun during my week of absence. There’s always next year, though!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.
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10 Things That Grow In Clay And Frost.

If you’re anything like me, you love to DIY as much as possible.

Which means that growing food in difficult soil winds us up continually.

Here are 10 things that survived clay soil and frosty winters year after year here, making garden food easy to grow and maintain.

1: Potatoes.

Adored worldwide as a staple, potatoes survive almost anything. Normally by early Spring the leftovers of my Winter harvest has begun chitting (technical term here, no laughing!] and I can plant them out. But even when I didn’t my potatoes reseeded themselves from the tiny spuds left behind last year.

Literally any time a potato grows shoots, plant it out and see what happens.

Just don’t plant out chitting potatoes straight into frost. Plant out clean ones early, green ones later. The shoots can be devoured by frost and you will waste good potatoes.

2: Woody berries.

Woody berry bushes like blackberries, raspberries, currants and gooseberries all do great in our soil and even through frosts. They thrive in hedge areas.

3: Parsnips.

Our parsnips reseed themselves every year, although I will often let a single ‘snip become fully mature and harvest all the seeds to keep over Winter, to minimize crop loss. They do great and are actually tastier once the first Winter frost has nibbled them.

4: Brassicas.

Not great at reseeding themselves in our soil, but they are persistent. Still got three broccoli bushes from two years ago. They have never floured, so I never picked them, but I gather the leaves in Winter and they dutifully regrow in Spring.

5: Marjoram.

Cut back and dry out your marjoram over Winter, leave it alone over Spring and Summer to regrow. It’s a beautiful, fragrant herb that does well pretty much anywhere.

6: Strawberries.

I always thought strawberries were fickle plants that keeled over and died at nothing at all. Apparently only the leaves are. I planted our strawbs out where they can be guarded by weeds and parsnips and they are thriving. They just need a bit of foliage around them to help retain enough water, a wall against late frosts and a little sunshine and they produce berries even in the harshest soil.

7: Mint.

Mint grows everywhere and will dominate your whole garden.

8: Rhubarb.

Rhubarb is not at all hard to grow. Just make sure the roots don’t get choked by grass or weeds as they get established, pull the stems out instead of cutting them and clear up after Autumn is over. They will grow back.

9: Chives.

A little like mint, established chives will regrow year after year without a problem and slowly creep across your garden.

10: Raddishes.

Never had bad luck with raddishes anywhere. Sometimes not had particularly good luck and this soil is awful for them compared to milder, softer soils. But they still grow here. Sow them out, wait, and they will rise up for you to eat all through Summer and Autumn. They don’t really reseed, though, as we eat them before they flower.

And those are 10 plants that survive our garden. What troubles does your garden have? Got any gardening staples?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

6 Jobs To Do From Home.

With how much I go on about traditional roles and their benefit to couples, women and men, some may think I don’t support the idea of women working. However I do think women should work. Firstly because avoiding hard graft isn’t a good indicator of character. Secondly because everyone needs hobbies. Thirdly because in this economy both partners need to make and save money together. Fourthly because it offers you some independence in case your partner loses his job, passes away or, yes it is a possibility, leaves. In short, work is good. But not all work is created equal. I also believe most women are better off and happier in traditional roles, away from the stress and drudgery of office-life, looking after their children and their homes. Someone needs to make sure the food is made, the house is clean and tidy, the laundry is done and the cupboards are stocked. And how do I propose reconciling the two angles? By working from home, of course.

These are six jobs that you can do from home whilst still maintaining a home. They will be rated on time investment, startup cost and space needed. All of them can pay very well if you make good choices, use your time wisely and advertise far and wide. So pick one and stick with it, give them all a go or try them all at once and discontinue the least rewarding.

1.- eBay.

Many people think of eBay as either for people who want to sell old rubbish, people who want to buy something or people who have warehouses full of goods. But the simple reality is that you can start an eBay shop with an empty drawer or cabinet, a few hundred to spare, a local post office and a computer.

Time invested:

Wholly depends on how much you sell and how far you are from the post-office. Expect to make two trips a week to post items if you’re successful. Packing takes five minutes per item at the very most, but put time aside at the end of every day to pack anything you sold.

Money invested:

Depends on what you’re going to sell. However I would suggest that, to make it worthwhile, you will want to be investing at least £300 for your “starter” items. That might mean 300 items you buy at £1 and sell at £3 + P&P or 3 items you buy at £100 and sell at £150 + P&P. Therefore, good research is important.

Space needed:

This will grow as you do, but a drawer, cupboard or even a box is fine for storing your items. Maybe a corner of the room or a chair could be repurposed as a packing centre where everything is kept in easy-reach. If your business grows, you will likely expand into a room.

You will need:

-Something to sell.

-Somewhere to store it.

-Packing materials in the right sizes.

-A computer with a seller eBay account.

Things to be aware of:

-Choose a market you know well and research every item before buying it. Investing too much in a loss can seriously hit you when starting up.

-It will take 10 good reviews before your account is trusted by most buyers. It starts slow and steady and builds up from there, so always provide the best service possible.

-Make sure you get proof of postage or tracking on every item you send, to prevent false claims from would-be thieves.

-Only sell as much as you can handle. If you’re struggling when you have 200 items up at a time, don’t add another 100.

Possible returns:

This is a standard two months of selling on eBay. I have five to ten items up at a time, each worth £10-60. Many will sell within a week of posting, most will sell by the end of the 60 days.

Six jobs you can do from home.

2.- Tutor.

Private tutoring isn’t the scary monster a lot of people think it is. You do need a nice room to tutor from and a tidy, sorted house to welcome people into. Or a car so you can travel to students. You also need to know the subject you’re teaching and know it inside and out. But besides that, it isn’t that hard. I managed as an overworked A-level student without connections, so I’m pretty confident when I say that just about anyone could do it.

Time invested:

One hour minimum per lesson, plus fifteen minutes preparation for the first hour and an additional ten minutes for every subsequent hour, plus fifteen to thirty minutes homework prep where relevant. So if you have one student who has two hours a week, that is 135 to 165 minutes of your time.

Money invested:

Most of the financial investment is startup. You will need to make sure you have a computer you can always access, which may involve buying a new computer, for instance. A couple of hundred pounds to remodel the room a little, get some extra furniture and stock up on “school supplies” would be needed. Then from there you only need to pay for the materials your students use and for renewing advertisements.

Space needed:

If you will tutor from your home, you will need a room that is quiet, inviting and well-equipped. This could be your living room if you don’t have kids and your partner is at work, but you will likely need a second room. If you tutor only as outcalls, then you just need space to store your materials. If you tutor only online, then you need a quiet room and little else.

You will need:

-A computer you can always access.

-Relevant books and resources.

-Accounts on various tutoring sites.

-Advertisements on free websites, paid websites and local newspapers.

-All relevant materials.

-A Disclosure of Barred Services if you plan on working with children.

Things to be aware of:

-Many parents will want to sit-in on the first few lessons.

-You can learn as you go along, but practising on friends and relatives first will help a lot.

-Your students will expect your home to be at a good temperature, pleasant-smelling, dustless and organized.

-You will need to adapt your language for every student and deal with people that you may find frustrating or annoying.

-Don’t take on a student you don’t think you can handle.

Possible returns:

Depends on the hours you work, but £6-25/hour is the usual range. Think £6 for something more people could offer, like knitting lessons, to £25 for something fewer people offer, like Mandarin Chinese lessons. You will have to charge around the same as others in your area and often you will charge less for classes at your home than you will for classes outside it.

3.- Housework.

We don’t tend to think of housework as something we can make money for at home. But many people are prepared to outsource some very simple tasks, so it could be worthwhile trying to do their work for some extra money! You could offer a laundry service, a meal prep service, shopping collection or even a firewood preparing service.

Time invested:

Completely dependent on your workload, but not a lot. The customers will drop off their laundry at your home, for example, or you can get ingredients and logs for your customers when you get your own. If you’re doing your own laundry, then put theirs through too. Do their ironing after yours. Collect their shopping when you’re in town. Cook all the meals in a couple of large pots, ready.

Money invested:

The cost of some extra detergent, electricity or ingredients.

Space needed:

No more than if you were doing the job on your own. Though if you’re looking at cooking you may need to upgrade your kitchen and get certified, depending on where you live!

You will need:

-Advertisements on free advertisement sites and in local newspapers.

-Any certification required by law in your area.

Things to be aware of:

-This will need to be something you already do to make it worth your time.

-Your reputation and reviews will be 100% based on customer satisfaction, there is no room to argue your case if you upset a customer.

-It could interfere with your life if you take on too much work.

Possible returns:

Not much, you’ll probably get £5-8 for every hour of work, but it’s extra money for minimal effort.

4.- Care.

Whether it’s pets, children, elderly or disabled relatives or just houseplants, almost everyone has something they need to care for in their lives. But people go on holidays, get ill and have overtime at work. So the care industries are an excellent place to make a little bit of money on the side.

Time invested:

Travel time and however many hours you’re accepting. You could only accept people within half an hour of your home, for example. Or only accept people who want care that is four times the travel time, for example someone who lives 45 minutes away but wants three hours of care.

Money invested:

Depends on the care. Often with pet-sitting and plant-sitting you will be left with the necessary food and care products. However with daycare you may need to assume you will be feeding the children. You will also need to adapt your house to make sure you can properly care for whoever you will care for. For example, you can’t take over elderly or disabled care for anyone if your spare room is up two flights of stairs.

Space needed:

A spare room for whoever you’re caring for. Be it a few dogs, some hens, some potted plants or a teenager, you will need a place for them to sleep, eat and get some privacy.

You will need:

-The time to travel to other people’s homes for care.

-The space to put-up however many people, pets or plants you will care for.

-Experience in a relevant field of care.

-A Disclosure of Barred Services for caring for children or other vulnerable people.

Things to be aware of:

-You may need certification for looking after certain pets or even endangered plants.

-Always investigate anything you’re not sure of and feel free to ask questions. If you’ve kept snakes for years, nobody will worry much if you’re not sure about a certain species.

-Your house will have to be safe, accommodating and roomy enough.

-What people care for may seem odd for you. Someone may love a potted plant more than you love your pets. Someone may want their terrapin to be pampered. If you must turn someone down, do so politely by explaining you’re not sure you could provide their loved one with the care he/she/it deserves.

Possible returns:

The minimum care salary for your area up to £25/h.

5.- Food.

Producing your own food may seem like a smart option, even if you’re space-restricted. But many people don’t realize how easily you can grow a little excess and sell it on. Everything from potatoes, to berries, to eggs, to jams, to cake can be produced in bulk and sold, provided you abide by local restrictions and regulations.

Time invested:

Even if you’re just growing and not processing anything, some time will need to be set aside. For example, if you have fifty rehoused hens that are largely still laying, it may not be enough to collect and box the surplus eggs. You will need to make sure the sizes are either separated (a box of smalls, a box of mediums and a box of larges, for example) or very well mixed (so no box is entirely smalls, for example). You will need to put your signs up. You will need to be hospitable to anyone who shows up asking about eggs and maybe show people the hens. In short, from the moment the sign goes out, you could be busy.

Money invested:

Not much. The cost of extra seeds or a bit of extra feed for some more hens isn’t that high. Just keep growing or producing whatever your land is good for.

Space needed:

Depends how large you want to go. On a medium garden you could probably make space for many vegetable and fruit plants. You could grow herbs and keep rabbits on a tiny patio. You could turn your whole garden over to laying hens. Look at what you have and see what you can do.

You will need:

-A sign to place somewhere fairly busy, with clear directions to your house.

-A sign for outside your house.

-Enough spare food to sell.

Things to be aware of:

-In some places you can only sell fresh produce, in others you need a license to sell certain items. Always check.

-Recommend use-by dates to your customers.

-Keep hygiene spot-on.

Possible returns:

Expect to sell a few baskets of items a day, so keep them priced moderately and it will be easy to get rid of surplus food and start making a profit on your own groceries!

6.- Writing.

This is one people don’t know how to get started on. The easiest way to just start writing immediately and make money is to use a freelance website like fiverr.com. That way you can learn what you’re good at and get ready for more challenging things, like writing ebooks, blogs or novels for publishers.

Time invested:

It takes around half an hour to set up the basics to look right, maybe fifteen minutes to set up each Gig. Advertising isn’t really needed for writing work.

Besides that, however much you want to work. You can expect many people to order many types of text, so consider making a Gig for each of them and then temporarily suspending some when you’re more overworked.

Money invested:

None at all. However bear in mind that all freelance websites will charge a fee and take it out of your earnings.

Space needed:

Somewhere quiet to sit and focus.

You will need:

-A working computer with a good writing program on it.

-A backup hard-drive in case anything happens to your computer.

-A quiet space to work from.

Things to be aware of:

-It’s better to cancel an order than to get overbooked.

-Encourage customers to contact you before ordering.

-Sometimes people will be annoying. If they start acting out, check their page for reviews from sellers. Chances are they’re a first time customer.

Potential earnings:

This is a month of fiverr earnings on the side of my main work, probably an hour a day at the most.

Six jobs you can do from home.And those are six jobs you can do from home with minimal investment in terms of time, money, energy and space. With all of them you largely work your own hours, can cancel and have a few weeks off when you need to or even increase the prices if demand is high. You could do a little of all of them or make one your full-time job.

Got any questions about getting started with any of these? Just ask and I’ll help you out!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… get your garden started!

As I mentioned in Welcome Spring, a part of Spring I love is gardening. I love planting everything out as the weather warms, watching the baby rabbits try and invade my lettuce and cabbage patches, harvesting the fresh fruit and vegetables.

And April is the time when most of my gardening happens.

Now, the first few steps I have actually already done! I prefer to turn the soil in late Winter, when it is frozen hard enough to turn in huge lumps, but soft enough to get a shovel into. I like starting my seedlings early in case the first lot don’t take. And I would rather have the garden ready by the time I’m planting out. But you can do all of this now and get your garden started a little later and you won’t miss out on much.

Step 1: Decide what you’re doing.

No point lifting a finger until you know what will be happening. Go into your garden and draw a sketch of it. It can be as detailed or as simple as you want. Just make sure you draw out your current beds, your grass and any areas you can’t dig or plant on (for whatever reason).

Next, take a standard soil sample from your garden. Take note of whether there are very different soils in any areas of the garden and make sure you get samples of them too. You can go back inside now.

First test the soil samples and make sure they aren’t too salty, clay, sandy or full of bits and stones. What soil you have is very important to what you can grow.

Free test:

Pro test:

Once you know what soils you have, make a list of the different plants you want to grow and where they can grow.

Use your map to decide where you will plant everything and what you will plant on its own or together.

Step 2: Prepare the beds.

Now that you know what you will be planting and where, start turning the soil everywhere it needs it. Make sure soil is enriched where it needs to be. Add woodchips where needed, supports where needed. Basically get everything ready.

Step 3: Plant the seeds.

Plant your seeds following the directions. Be warned that most seeds do better in pots or planters indoors to start out with, even if this isn’t recommended.

For plants that you want to be abundant or for leafy greens, just sow the seeds out and see what happens. For plants that will bear fruit or delicate flowers, plant indoors at first to guarantee a greater number.

Make sure indoors plants are by a window, away from drafts and heaters, where they get plenty of light, some shade and not extreme temperature changes.

Step 4: Weed, plant out, protect.

Once your seedlings are ready to plant out, first harden them to insects, wind and weather by placing the pots outside during the day. If there are still frosts, bring them in every night until the frosts subside. Then, leave them out at night. If you spot insect damage, keep moving them to different areas and check on them throughout the day. Encourage natural insectivores to visit and use natural insect deterrents.  After a few weeks of this they should be robust enough to survive if planted out.

Weed the surrounding area well to ensure no roots remain that would choke your plant. Dig a pit big enough for the entire pot or around a fist if you’re planting out smaller plants from shared pots. If it’s a single plant in a pot, ensure the soil is dry and turn it over with your hand supporting the soil and the stem of the plant between your fingers. This way you ensure minimal root damage. Turn the plant the right way around and place it, soil and all, into the hole. If it’s in a shared planter, use a trowel to dig deeply all around it, making sure not to damage the roots. Use the trowel to lever out the plant and place it in the hole.

Use clear plastic tubs, bean nets or whatever necessary to shield the plants from the elements and wildlife for a few days as the roots take hold.

Step 5: Keep an eye on.Watch your plants closely without disturbing them. If one succumbs to disease or parasites, remove it before the others are affected. Make sure they don’t get too dry or soaked. Keep larger pests away from them. If they are taking, new buds will appear within a week or two. If there are no new buds or leaves after a month, the plant may be struggling. Add extra nutrients to the soil to encourage solid root growth. After a month of no growth the plant will often die. Don’t worry about this unless all of them are dying. Some plants will always suffer root damage or not take to new soil. As long as most of them made it, you did well.And that’s how to get a garden going!What is your garden like? Are you an avid gardener with advice to offer? Or a novice with questions? Either way, feel free to start some discussion in the comments!TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… create an ambiance.

An ambiance is something hard to define as a word and hard to explain in reality. The word basically means “environment” or “atmosphere” in French. It’s a metaphor for the general feeling you get when you’re in a room or building. For example, the ambiance could be relaxing because the room is in light colours, the lights are dim, there is a pleasant fragrance in the air and you are sat somewhere comfortable. But ambiances can also be jarring, just not work. It’s like interior decoration for the soul.

So this is how we create an ambiance.

Step 1: Pick a theme.

This is so that there won’t be much conflict between the various elements.

Relaxing themes: seaside, cabin retreat, library, forest.

Vibrant themes: big city, bar, toyroom.

Festive themes: Christmas, Valentine’s, May Day, Easter.

Seasonal themes: Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring.

Topical themes: colours, items, textures, places, etc.

Try and pick a theme you will enjoy year-round or that you can easily transform.

Step 2: Fit the theme to your house.

For example, a seaside theme in a bigger house or room can feel like a beach, the water, rockpools or a boat. This is because it’s easier to make a bigger room feel like the outdoors. In a small room you may want to go with the “beach hut” or “boat cabin” theme, like the seaside will be just beyond the window.

Step 3: Consider what’s missing.

For example, your “big city flat” theme would be incomplete without the sounds of traffic. You may want to add them or adjust the theme to explain where the traffic went.

Step 4: The space.

Now we’re going to start on the senses. First sight. The first impression people will get of your room, your home, your office. Look around. Ask yourself how you can reorganize the room to better suit your theme. You want the theme to come together and look “right” the moment you step in the door, so consider that angle first. Look at what furniture you have, where you can put it, from what angles the room looks open or closed. Open areas make vibrant themes more extreme and quiet themes more subtle. Closed areas make quiet themes cozier and energetic themes more peaceful.

Step 5: The colours.

Pick colours for your room now. Choose a primary colour for the theme and a secondary one and look up compatible colours to give you more ideas. A city theme would be black and white, with either as the primary and plenty of bright colours splashed here and there. A sea theme would be primary blue, a boat theme would be primary white and a beach theme would be primary brown or yellow. Think carefully about the colours, the rest of the room will not come together otherwise.

Step 6: Furniture.

It can help to pick one or two items of themed furniture in your primary or secondary colour and build the rest of the room around them. Usually a chair, picture frame, table, dresser, mirror, bed or media cabinet will be the centre of the room’s decor. Chandeliers, bathtubs or desks can be too, but that would be more statement.

Also consider the comfort of the furniture. Sharper lines, even if the furniture is quite soft to touch, can make people feel like they’re on the go. Armchairs make people inclined to rest. Do you want everyone at the same height when they sit?

Step 7: Decor.

Try and pick ornaments and decorations inkeeping with your theme. Prominently display the ones that fit your theme. Put others further back or somewhere else. Paintings should actually reflect on your theme, not be it. Paintings of the seaside can ruin the feeling that you’re in a seaside cabin. Instead, photos of you on the beach and paintings made with sand will look more authentic. Try and think about the materials that would be available to you if your ambiance were a real place.

Consider minimalism, but bear in mind that traditional ambiances like rustic, hippie or forest will lend well to clutter.

Step 8: Lighting.

Hopefully you won’t need different lighting with your colours, but sometimes a room just doesn’t look as good by day as it does by night, or vice versa. If that’s the case, try these lighting tips:

Natural light for nature themes.

Bright light for Summer and pop themes.

Coloured light for city, sci-fi and 80s themes.

Dim light for peaceful themes.

Soft light for childish, boho or girly themes.

Incandescent light for indoor themes.

Fluorescent light for metallic and plastic themes.

Step 9: Scent.

Humans rely on our sense of smell far more than you would think. We associate certain smells with food, danger, home or fun. Using this can boost an ambiance very subtly, making someone feel energized, at ease or ready for food without really noticing why.

For clean-cut, urban themes, use scented candles.

For natural, boho, hippie themes, use incense.

For rustic themes, try and rely on the natural smell of firewood, flower arrangements or baked goods.

You can also spray perfume on furniture and curtains for light bursts of classy fragrance.

Try and avoid overusing air fresheners, they just don’t provide the same quality of scent.

Step 10: Sound.

Some themes lend themselves very well to sounds. Depending on your theme, you could use relaxation tapes, music, audiobooks or TV to bring the room to life. This can sometimes pull an ambiance together, such as using wave sounds for a boat theme or music for a bar theme. Just be careful as some themes, such as cabins, do well without sounds and can feel tacky if you add sound.

So that’s how to create an ambiance. You can follow all the steps when modelling a room or you could just follow a few to improve the ambiance in your home or to prepare a room for a dinner party.

What are your favourite ambiances? What feel would you like your home to have? How do you prepare the house for guests? Do tell!

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

First garden update.

First garden update.

Considering the garden is doing reasonably well, I decided earlier this week I’d show the progress I’ve made since mid January. Granted, most of the fruits of my labour are small or yet to sprout or be collected, but the difference is marked and I thought I may as well offer an update now and another when we have hens, the cabbages are huge and the bushes bearing berries.

So, this is what the garden looked like in mid January.

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Both photos taken from the patio.

Frost on the ground, flowerbed a bit weedy, no signs of pretty or edible plants beyond the pots. Much work needed to be done!

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The first step I took: turning the flower bed. For some reason it made me very proud.

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The first batches of things I planted. The berry bushes are just sticks and the peppers and beans in the trays didn’t grow. The second batch of peppers and beans are doing nicely, though.

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The first lot of seeds.

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Now for the garden as it currently is. Firstly,the patio pots have been reorganized. There are flowers and bushes and herbs already in some. The two troughs have peas in them and the empty pot next-to them will have coriander. There are multiple flowers in that green pot, along with a solar-powered light, to guide us up when we get home late and to guide students back when they leave late. In the far background there’s a birdbath+table, a hanging bird table and a pallet for the birds to hide under and sit on.

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Also, note the chicken coop and run. On the 26th there will be four re-homed ex-battery hens in there. I found it on Gumtree along with all the necessities for keeping hens (bedding, feed, anti-mite-spray, feeders, etc) and cleaned it, set it up and painted it myself. All in all, around £130, including petrol and the huge bucket of waterproof paint.

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The path is lined with three battery-powered lights (with butterflies as dispersers, because), to light the way at night. I dug a new flower-bed. At Jon’s request, there is a strip of greenery left between the two beds and a grassy path leading to it. We will be putting a bench there and there are already solar-powered lights set in. For this photo I was standing on our compost-heap, near which I will dig another bed to plant pumpkins in (they like very rich soil).

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The current batch of seedlings and seed pots. Lettuces, tomatoes, beans, beets, sunflowers, leeks, peppers, chilies, etc.

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Some of the parsnips I planted in January seem to be taking (thin leafed shoots to the right of the daffodils).

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New bed I dug. The little green things in the bottom left (near the border) are peas and beans. The big leafy things at the back are rhubarb. The rows of green are mystery bulbs. Not sure what they are, but looking forward to finding out! The slope in the back is where peppers, tomatoes, chilies and courgettes will be transplanted when they’re stronger. Not sure what’s going between the peas and beans and the mystery bulbs yet.

Bed2

The flowery corner of the flowerbed. Sadly can’t find the photos of when the primulas and daffodils were at their best. We’ve had many visiting bees trying to nest there, so I may get a bee home for them.

Bed3

Further up there are the berry bushes interspaced with sunflowers. See that leafy green thing in the mid-right? That’s a redcurrant. Most noticeable growth goes to the redcurrants and gooseberries. Award for least activity goes to the blackcurrants. Award for fussiest plant goes to the raspberries.

Bed4

Those teeny-tiny things are seedlings from when I went crazy and just spread random seeds everywhere. I think they’re the forget-me-nots. Looking forward to seeing them come up.

Bed5

Leaving good space between these, but may plant some annuals in-between. Two roses and a leafy bush. Want them to grow big and strong! 🙂

Map.

A quick sketch of the current plans for the garden. Still got much to do, but it will be lovely when it’s done. 🙂

Pretty much every bag of seeds cost from 0-99p, every bush and plant cost 99p-£1.50, all the lights cost 99p each and the coop cost £130 total, so it’s not like I’m going all out and spending hundreds on it, either. Maybe nearing £180 by now, but doing well.

My 8 Surprises of Housekeeping.

First of all, let’s say I had two introductions to running my own home. The first one was when I flew the nest at the age of 16 and bit off a bit more than I could chew. Got through three houses and managed to survive all of them without burning anything down, getting burgled or spending all my money on bills. Out of bed on the right foot, so to speak. The next one was when I moved in with Jon and, for the first time, had someone else who I wanted to please with my housekeeping. And both gave me a different, entirely novel perspective on it.

1: It’s hard work.

I wasn’t expecting it to be easy. I already had some experience doing my own chores and keeping on top of things, so I expected it would be like that. It wasn’t. When you know someone will clean up after you, provided you leave it long enough, you get lazier. You quickly learn that children and teenagers have lower standards than housekeepers. So you let it slide until it’s so bad someone else is forced to do it. The first thing I learned was that that wasn’t going to happen. So, after I tidied my first absolute mess, I decided never to let it get QUITE so bad. Of course, it was a continual cycle of degradation and obsessively cleaning, but the thought was there.

Then you have the fact you’re doing EVERYTHING. As in, want clean clothes? Wash them. Want dry clothes? Dry them. Want a plate? Wash it. Want the shower fixed? Fix it. Want the bills paid? Pay them. It’s impossible to envisage the work that goes into merely maintaining a house until you try it for the first time. In fact, I think you also forget how hard it used to be. So before I was on my own, I had no clue; once I was on my own, it dawned on me, and now I’m used to it I have no clue again. Work is relative and, relative to “f— all”, “everything” is a lot. Of course, it gets easier as you get used to it, learn tricks and generally get into the swing of how to manage your house.

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Note: not an excuse to skip a workout unless you’re legitimately exhausted.

And then you move in with someone. Someone you care about. And it starts over. You want to do well, make them happy, make them pleased and impressed. And that’s when you realize that, up until now, you’ve been living in a pig-sty. So, again, you up the ante. But everything becomes surprisingly easier. Yes, you have to adapt a little. And maybe it’s more down to keeping on top of things, rather than letting it get into an awful state before you even contemplate doing anything. Perhaps it’s simply that you get over it, get it done and, by not procrastinating, save time. But, once you’re into the routine, it’s not quite as bad any more. Also, you have a second pair of hands, for when you really don’t have the time or ability to do a job.

2: More chores exist than you can put a name to.

So, we’re all familiar with the big five: dishes, laundry, dusting, hoovering, tidying. What you don’t realize until you’re doing them, is that that’s a brief summary of all the work a housekeeper needs to do. Dishes? Make that wash, dry and sort; greasy and wipe-clean; breakfast bowls and big meal; this morning and a whole weekend. Different chores, all divided into different categories. Because you’d better not pretend that washing-up, drying and sorting the dishes after a large, greasy roast dinner for five is the same as rinsing your cereal bowl. In for a biiiiiiiig surprise if you do.

She knows EXACTLY what I mean.

And this applies to so many things. Laundry? Well, we have sorting, washing, drying/hanging up, folding, sorting, ironing, putting away. But what about bleach washes? And pet hair? And sports washes? And need I speak about finding all the dirty laundry? I can only imagine what that last stage would be like with children. You can only get away with throwing your laundry in the machine, drying it and putting it back in the wardrobe/drawer for so long.

And, of course, chores you hadn’t thought of. Have a fireplace? Want to use said fireplace? Then you’d better put time aside to sweep ash, dry coal and kindling, hoover the area around the hearth and, perhaps, sweep the chimney. Maybe you want to save money on kindling, which I do by gathering small branches and snapping or sawing them.

Fire is a lot more work than it looks.

Fire is a lot more work than it looks.

Same goes for tidying-up after painting, owning collectables or silverware that needs to be cleaned, or having a pet to care for. Pretty much anything extra you do can take time from your day.

3: It requires a lot of budgeting.

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Again, something you may not have considered. Sure, you have to pay for food, rent and the bills. But next come the expenses you had taken for granted. For example, the best way to save money on soap and washing-up liquid is to buy the cheapest one, right? Well, speaking from experience, the cheapest ones require about 4tbsp of liquid per wash and cost half as much, whereas a certain well-known brand requires about 1/2-1tbsp of liquid per wash and costs twice as much. Which means the brand is actually cheaper. It takes some trial and error to work these things out, but it’s best to buy food as £/100g, or £/100kcal and washing items based on how many uses you get out of them.

Then, you need to work out what is and isn’t superfluous. For example, those scouring-brushes with soap throughout them seem unnecessary, but can save you an hour of soaking and scrubbing a pot with a normal brush. On the other hand, you don’t really need window-cleaner if you have access to vinegar or weak coffee.

hw4

That sponge is not going to last if she uses it for every single item.

And, of course, you discover the reasons behind your parents’ pet peeves. Many of these habits will cost you time and/or money, and now’s the time you begin to unlearn them. Leaving lights on? Check. Running water? Check. Dirty shoes? Check. You also start doing things that used to be your pet peeves because, well, they save money.  You are thinking of the house as an investment. And throwing money at problems you can avoid is a poor way to treat an investment.

On the flip side, all this budgeting really frees up money. Jon and I couldn’t have a house as nice as this if it weren’t because I keep on top of the cleaning, mend anything that breaks, shop at convenient times to get reduced-price food, cook from scratch, keep everything in a practical location, do the laundry over the economy hours, etc. The money we save allows us to have a bigger house, which means I get a tutoring room, which means more money, etc. Were we both working full-time, running vehicles, leaving work when shops and banks are closing and getting prepared food and hiring someone to clean for us, we would be far poorer than we are with me working only 5-10h weeks from home. Get your head around expenses and life is suddenly awesome. And, as a housekeeper, it’s in your hands, and not the breadwinner’s, to put in the elbow-grease and save what they earn. Dislike it though I may,  more money means more freedom, so making budgeting a top priority is advised.

4: You end up “having” specific rooms.

Something I hadn’t counted on. Of course, for my first few years on my own and the first year at uni I had “my” room and shared rooms, as well as certain rooms that didn’t belong to me, I shouldn’t go into or at least shouldn’t disturb.

And it’s normal to assume that when you have a nice big house your territory will expand into it and you and your partner will live symbiotically in shared space, like hermit crabs and anemones. You will agree on everything, share all responsibility and the house will be everybody’s.

That is a myth.

Yes, there are shared rooms. But you definitely end up with “your” rooms too. Either because you’re in charge of keeping them tidy, or you spend a lot of time in them, or you keep your things in them. And you will have rooms you spend more time in and rooms you don’t spend time in and rooms you look after on your own and rooms you leave for the breadwinner to tidy.

For example:

Jon’s rooms are the living-room and the gym. He keeps the gym in order, as well as the living-room. I only tidy either if he hasn’t had the time or left things out overnight, which is often the case with the living-room, but not really with the gym. He lights the fires in the living-room, he spends a lot of his time reading, going online, watching films and gaming there, that’s where he sits down when he comes in from work and wants to have a tea. The gym is where he trains his body. He spends a number of hours a week in there. Everything must be sorted exactly as he wants it or needs it. I do my weight-training there too, but he is my PT and the overseer of the gym.

My rooms are the kitchen and the office. I keep them both in order. The kitchen is my domain, where I cook, where I read, where I conduct all the housework and plan the gardening from. It’s kept warm in the Winter thanks to the running of the oven. If I have some spare time, I will go into the kitchen to look for something to do. Jon often helps out there at weekends and enjoys cooking from time to time, but the room is generally mine. The office is my classroom. Jon rarely goes into it. I teach from there, I keep my paperwork, my teaching-books and my studying-books in there. When I need to plan a lesson, revise a language or arrange my week, I check-into the office first, to see what I have planned.

We share the bedroom, as we both use it only at night and in the morning, when we’re together.

I have taken control of the garden, but largely by virtue of the fact Jon is away most of the time when the gardening needs doing. He acknowledges that focusing on gardening is highly beneficial for me and lets me run wild out there. However, he has his say in what the garden should look like and what he’d like me to do regarding the vegetables I want to grow and the chickens I want to keep, that are both as much his as they are mine.

How the garden's starting to look. <3

How the garden’s starting to look. ♥

And this wasn’t some pre-planned arrangement. Yes, we initially suspected that the kitchen would end up being mine and the gym would end up being his, but that’s just because we know each other very well. Everything else naturally fell into place and we wound up with distinct “territories” where the other is allowed, but which they have less control over than we do. The gym and office are hard territories, where we rarely enter the other’s unless we’re with them or we need something, even though there’s not exactly a booby-trap waiting for us behind the door. The kitchen and living-room are soft territories, where we both spend a lot of time, but have each taken control of one.

And it works. Everything stays done, we both keep an eye out for problems and neither resents the other for “taking-over” a room.

Of course, it’s entirely possible to share control of a house if you carefully structure it so, or if both of you spend all day outdoors, but when you leave it to nature, you’ll see certain areas becoming more one’s territory than the other’s. It’s not something that needs “fixing” and if resentment builds over it, then you have deeper problems. It’s just the way things work.

5: Nest-making.

Another surprising aspect of housekeeping that emerges when you move in with someone you care about is the starting of “nesting” behaviours. Where you may have only kept flowers you were given, now you start wanting to have them around all the time. Where you used to pile your laundry in the corner, now you use a tidy hamper, basket or box. Where you used to eat on a chair or in your bed, now you always eat at a table and strive to eat away from the TV and any computers. The more traditional a home you came from or the more you observed and longed for traditional homes, the more you’ll start turning the house into a home. You’ll make it cozy, and welcoming, and pleasant to all the senses. You’ll enjoy meals more when love and time has been put into them and when everyone at the table appreciates them. You’ll decorate the house to make it both practical and attractive. These are similar to nesting behaviours seen in other species. They indicate dedication, permanence, ease, happiness and a potential desire for children.

Even if you don’t find yourself naturally engaging in these behaviours early on, you will after a while start feeling the urge to engage in them, or to see them emerge regardless of who does the job. Eventually, you start thinking of the house as a place to raise a family in, and you start making a nest.

This really makes housework busier, but it’s by far the most rewarding element of housework. When I’m doing the dishes, the laundry or the hoovering it is out of necessity. When I’m doing the gardening, making floral arrangements or painting paintings to go on the walls it is out of love.

6: A home-base.

Of course, another way your home could evolve is the development of a home-base, as happens when both parties work similar hours. This is actually what we were more aiming for when we started out and, to a degree, we had it. It’s also the way I lived in Bristol and in Cardiff, when I was still on my own. The idea is that your house isn’t a true home until you’re settled, so you use it as a “base” from which you can plan, run and lead your life. Almost like you can’t become attached to a hotel room, it’s hard to become attached to a house like that. In previous homes, I would wake-up, get ready for school, eat breakfast, go out, get back around six or seven pm, have dinner, do the dishes and the laundry, do my homework and go to bed. The houses became a space to leave my things, a bed and a fridge, so the pressure to keep it tidy and pretty wasn’t as strong. People didn’t really come round: I would go and see them instead. Because they had homes and I had a home-base.

Of course, as implied above, we have settled in this house a lot more than we had planned. On the other hand, the house is nicer than we had planned, we have more time together than we’d expected and everything’s running more smoothly than we’d assumed. But, ultimately, this isn’t our true home. It’s a stand-in, until we can get somewhere bigger, where the children can run wild.

So, what is this place? It’s sort of a home. It’s sort of a base. But not quite a home-base. A home-base is far more cut-back and simple than this. A home-base is like a dorm-room from your second year of uni, where you finally give-up and just live out of it and spend as much time outside as possible. Yet, even as an adult, just as you may find yourself nesting, you may find your home becoming a home-base. This can indicate that you are practical people, or that you don’t think of the house or situation as permanent. To each their own, as long as it works and you acknowledge what it is.

7: Entertaining guests.

As mentioned in point six, the one thing you don’t tend to do in a home-base is entertain. Nobody visits, at least not for more than a few hours. You don’t bother about keeping your house nice, you rarely cook full meals (and even then you have them at the TV or computer), the cleaning is enough to keep you happy, but no more.

And then, one day: guests. You have no idea when this happened. (Hint: it happened when point eight happened.) You have no idea how it happened. But people are visiting. For a chat. For tea. For dinner. Some are even staying for a night.

For the uninitiated, this is a horrifying concept. You don’t want them to eat the food you normally eat. Because, let’s admit it, even if you eat well, you don’t normally eat fancy~. But you want your guests to eat fancy, because… guests? Well, let’s admit it, a part of it is wanting to treat them well and a part of it is wanting to one-up them. Either way, the idea is to trick them into thinking you eat fancier than you normally do. So, your young brain sets itself to finding out what “fancy” is. No huge pots carrying a week’s worth of curry. Got to cook every meal! No leftovers. Have to “reinvent” them! No own-brand food. At least not without removing the labels first. Of course, after a while you loosen up and accept that whilst some things are not guest food (cold leftover chicken straight off the main plate), some things are perfectly acceptable to serve up (cold leftover chicken sliced over a salad with a store-brand bread roll).

"I have no clue what normal people eat..."

“I have no clue what normal people eat…”

And then you need to think about the other aspects of your house. Do you keep the coal-bag out by the fire? Unless you’re lighting a fire, best put it away. Are the pillows all over the floor? Time to arrange them beautifully. Dusting you’ve put off for a week? Done in an hour.

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Again, after a while you’ll work out what your guests will and won’t like or put up with, but let these first few occasions be a learning curve.

Things I learned:

-I underestimate how clean my house actually is.

-I overestimate how long it takes to do unusual/infrequent tasks (dusting, ironing, etc).

-People are usually there for you, not to bask in the glow of your porcelain and perfect cushion arrangement.

-Everyone of around your age/generation is likely overdoing it when you visit them too. Susan hasn’t changed that much since uni.

-There’s no point tidying beyond a certain point, especially when the guests bring pets, children or beer.

8: You WILL be house-proud.

I was telling myself that I didn’t care about my house from my first day of living away from my parents. By the second, I was putting a Prussian flag on the wall, some glass animals on the windowsill and bringing daffodils into the house. From there it just escalated. My first house wasn’t really “mine”. I was there for about 9 months, we weren’t allowed to alter the walls and I was very busy playing catch-up with the A-level education structure. My second house I had to paint myself, as it was rented through a shelter association and, whilst they’d nicely patched where someone took a hammer to the walls, they hadn’t the money to paint it (plus, purple is gloomy in a small flat). So I painted it and then decorated the walls with my own paintings, kept radishes on the windowsills and ornaments on the shelves and my desk. And of course the daffodils came in every Spring.

Daffodils are little splashes of Heavenly love.

Daffodils are little splashes of Heavenly love.

Then, for my uni experiment, I only had a room to myself, which I decorated as best I could, always bearing in mind I would be gone the next year.

But with this house I’m going all out. It’s hard not to. You start by saying “I live here, so it should be nice.” You get a few flowers and hang your paintings up and make sure the rooms look the way you want them to, within the limits of what’s practical. But, the longer you stay there and the longer you think you may live there, the more it starts to become homely. We started off with a home-base layout: wholly practical, with plans regarding even the temperatures we’d leave the different radiators on at and when and how often we’d do the washing-up. Now it’s still based around the home-base structure, but covered in niceties. Think of it as a high-quality item of clothing: structured enough to do the job, but with the little details that make it nice. With me it was largely the garden. I had to make the office nice, it was an obligation, as it’s where I see my students, and the rest of the house was largely just tidy, but the garden is where I began to get creative. I started just wanting the practical side: to grow veg and keep chickens. I dug new flowerbeds, but found myself moving rocks to make a border for them. I got a chicken-coop and found myself fussing over the colour of the paint. I decided to turn over some of the garden to flowers. It’s slowly become a hobby, a project. And I’m enjoying it a lot and it isn’t costing an arm and a leg, so no harm done. But it spread into the rest of the house. Suddenly I don’t just want paintings up, I’m thinking about what paintings I want where. I’m collecting dried plants and fabric flowers and other permanent decorations and arranging them.

Not necessary.

Not necessary.

I’m artistically hanging my pots and pans on the wall.

Also not necessary.

Also not necessary.

It’s becoming a home and I’m actually slightly attached to the place.

And, of course, as I’m putting so much work into it, I like it to show and I like to show it. I want people to see it, hence the sudden arrival of guests. If it looks good, I want to show people. If I’m showing someone around, I want it to look good. If I see something out of place, even if it is still in a practical location, I put it back “where it lives”. If I get something new, I fuss over the layout of the room. It seems to be inevitable that, as I put work in, my creative side comes out and, as I start viewing the house as my “art”, I get proud of it and how it’s “supposed” to be.

This, in turn, leads to a furthering of the “art”. In short, you make your house nice for guests, make it nice for yourself, invite more guests, make it even nicer, and slowly you start enjoying keeping your house. It’s yours. Your work of art. Your home. Your nest. You made it exactly the way it is and you’re proud of how beautiful and efficient it is. Aaaand you’re house-proud.

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And there we have the eight things I discovered about housekeeping, based on my experience in three different houses. Some seem obvious now, but, looking-back, I hadn’t considered any to be obvious then. Others I still consider a surprise, even now I’m more familiar with them. And, of course, I’m probably missing many things that I now take so easily for granted that I can’t even conceive having had a problem with them — even if I did. But these are the things that stick in my mind as things I would have liked to have known, or known more about. Not that you’ll pay them any attention or fully understand them until you’ve lived them, of course. It’s more of a heads-up.

What aspects of housekeeping surprised you when you discovered them? Is there anything that prepared you for certain situations? Feel free to share your own experiences in the comments!

TTFN and happy housekeeping!