The 50p veg challenge…

Lately I’ve taken to popping down to our local market close to closing time on Sunday, the last of the three days it’s open. The two fruit & veg stalls have a habit of offloading anything perishable that hasn’t yet sold for 50p a pot or punnet, or sometimes a mixed bag for £1, or two bowls for £1.50. Since one of The Offspring has become a vegetarian, this has been a bit of a good moneysaver…

I hasten to add that I actually buy everything I can foresee needing for the week at full price & peak freshness on Friday morning, chosen to match whatever fish & meat I’ve found best value for this week & bearing in mind any special events. It’s still a darn sight cheaper than buying it all in the supermarket. What I’ll pick up on Sunday is supplementary to this; sometimes there isn’t very much left, or what’s there isn’t something that any of us will eat, so it would be daft to rely on it. And sometimes it’s a challenge to know how to use up what I’ve found. But also, fun…

This week’s haul includes celery, which is something I use a lot, as a fresh savoury herb in cooking, rather than raw in salads. If I have an absolute glut, I’ll pop some into my dehydrator; it dries quickly & the taste is concentrated. Dried celery is a great standby for soups, as are carrots, which also found their way into my trolley. There’s spring onion, which goes well in stir-fried veg, a tray of aubergines, which a friend gave me an excellent tasty, inexpensive recipe for, and 4 large ripe mangos. They’ll be in my slow-cooker tomorrow turning into chutney, with a couple of large apples from our tree. I picked up two trays of vine-ripened tomatoes, and popped over to the butcher’s stall for some soup bones for £1. That’ll make a lovely middle-Eastern-style soup for our lunches for the week, as the bones are lamb. There was a butternut squash, much loved by our vegetarian, and a marrow; I have plans to try out curried marrow or marrow bhaji…

Not to mention garden produce – the apples are coming down fast now, the quinces are almost ready – and what I can forage from our local hedgerows and even sometimes other people’s gardens. With their permission, of course! Blackberries feature strongly in my plans for the week, mostly fresh or as jam, as does the first “run” of apple butter with windfalls, possibly also using some crab apples from the riverbank; they looked just ripe for picking when I walked my friend’s dogs earlier. The lurcher clearly thought the windfalls were just perfect for eating, too… It’s not going to be a great crop of apples this year, but what’s there has had the grace to ripen up when I actually do have the time to deal with it, for once.

Anyway, the plan is, to record here what I find each week & what I plan to do with it. Then the next week, to report back on whether I did actually stick to my plans, or whether, shame of all shames, we just have some very well-fed chickens… It’s a bit of a challenge to myself, to keep me on track & keep unnecessary expenditure down, but please feel free to join me, in the comments, with suggestions for me, or tell us what you yourself have found or grown, & what you’re going to do with it.

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Home grown Blenheim Oranges.

More treasure – with an interesting twist.

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Warne’s Model Cookery and Housekeeping Book

The autoharp wasn’t the only treasure to come my way yesterday. This elderly cookery book, from 1895, also found its way into my bag. I rather like old cookery books, as much for the social history aspects as for the actual recipes: “The footman is required to make himself generally useful, though, of course, the number of men kept will diminish or increase his work…” I was surprised to find that it, too, is probably worth much more than I paid for it, but I’m not going to part with it until I’ve “mined” it for useful recipes, if ever! There are sections on preserving, pickling, cheesemaking and winemaking as well as everyday cookery, and although I will happily use modern aids and methods, old-fashioned methods have their place in my armoury too. Especially when the modern ones don’t actually work.

Whilst the pages are mostly in good condition and the cover is pretty clean & bright for its age, apart from a few fingermarks, the spine is very worn and only attached by a sliver at the back. And I was intrigued and entertained to find proof that our ancestors didn’t waste anything much:

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Recycling 1895-style!

The adverts are as much fun as the recipes:

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Fancy cooking on one of those?

But some of them would cause hilarity rather than improving sales, in this day & age…

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I hope Her (previous) Majesty enjoyed…

Off now to find out what some of the more arcane ingredients are in modern parlance, always supposing they are available – or indeed legal – today! Saleratus, anyone? Lambstones? Puff paste…?

Catching the moment…

It’s halfway through Sunday afternoon & I’m about to drift off upstairs to my new “sewing station” & try my hand at free-motion quilting. On one of my trusty old Berninas, rather than on the beautiful new-to-me Pfaff computer-that-sews, because I don’t have a darning/free motion foot for that yet! So far today, my feet haven’t touched the ground, so I’m due some down-time, although Sunday is a day most people associate with rest. But sometimes you have to make the best of what comes your way, and catch the moment… make hay while the sun shines, sort of!

We’re just back from an invigorating walk in the sunshine down at the riverbank. As we turned for home, we could see the storm clouds piling up once again on the western horizon, but we were ready for anything it could throw at us, wearing wellies & waterproofs. First thing I did this morning on seeing the sun was to whack the washing into the machine & set it off; the clean stuff went out on the line before 10am and came back in at 2pm, dry as a bone in the stiff breeze and early Spring sunshine. Not that it’s at all warm down here! But the bulbs are up & the flower buds are forming, my chickens are laying fit to bust, the garden birds are pairing up and pottering off with twigs and straw, and although there’ll undoubtedly be some icy bits to get through yet, as well as yet more rain, it’s increasingly obvious that the year has turned once again. I’ve cooked a big roast dinner, which will reappear under various easy-cook leftover-dish guises throughout the week, and trotted round to the local market to hoover up £4.50-worth of last-minute-bargain fruit & vegetables to make soups & puddings with, or to dehydrate & use at another time if I don’t have an immediate use for them. There was even a bag of 18 limes for £1; I can feel some Lime Curd coming on, which will use up some of the egg glut, and maybe I’ll also chuck a few limes into the marmalade I’ll be making in the next couple of days with my pristine little vintage Spong marmalade cutter (£5 at the car boot yesterday, works beautifully) and the two boxes of on-their-sell-by organic Seville oranges I found at the supermarket for £1 the other day.

There is a point to all this rambling on, and it’s this: I could easily have justified having a bit of a lie-in this morning, and thought, well, I’ll do the washing tomorrow. I could equally well not have bothered with the market; we have enough F&V in to see us through the next few days. We could have stayed indoors in the warm, rather than hare off down a sodden pathway in the stiff cold breeze. BUT then I’d most likely have ended up drying the washing indoors, possibly even with electrical help, so it didn’t end up going smelly. I’d have had to pay full price for top-ups of fruit & veg later in the week, and I’d have felt very guilty on the exercise front, as well as stir-crazy. And I’d have missed a bargain sewing box full of intriguing vintage sewing, knitting & crochet patterns, not to mention the sparkle of the sunshine on the racing water and glimmering through the golden skeleton reeds. And that’s exactly what I would have done, without even thinking about it, just a few years ago; just stayed indoors, in the warm. My family will tell you I’ve always been a world-class procrastinator & day-dreamer. But somehow I seem to be learning, at this late juncture, to get up & get going

I know I’m very lucky to be able to seize the ideal moment to do some things now – like I’m carving out 5 minutes to write this – and believe me, it doesn’t always work out this way. But it certainly does feel good to think you’re on top of at least some of the tasks in your life, possibly even a little ahead of the game! And it frees me up, in my head, to go & do something now that I actually want to do…

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False economies…

Sometimes you just have to buy new. About 6 years ago, I was a member of the European Compact, a group that had vowed not to buy anything new for a year, excepting underwear & a few other items. By and large I didn’t find this too difficult, as it’s the way I choose to live anyway, for ethical reasons as well as pure financial common sense, but when my faithful 15 year old Cannon cooker died, I hit the buffers bigtime. It was followed a succession of Freecycled cookers which just didn’t cut the mustard for a big family at all, starting with a big dual-fuel range cooker that was only half working; I knew it had blown an oven element, but what I didn’t know was that it would almost instantly blow the element I bought to replace it, then a second one a week later. So that went, to be followed by a more modern looking, slightly smaller range with one giant oven. This did work but was wildly uneconomical to run, as try as I might I wasn’t organised enough to fill the oven every time I needed it, and I didn’t like the ceramic hob either. So that was Freecycled onwards, to be replaced by a tiny 50cm cooker, which I thought would be cheaper to run. But sadly I couldn’t fit my saucepans on the hob, so had to cook things in succession & heat them up again to serve, thus using more fuel… eventually I cracked, confessed all to my fellow-Compact members & bought a new modern-style range cooker, “A” rated for efficiency, the cheapest I could find. It didn’t have a couple of features I would have liked but I decided I’d be able to cope without them; it was the best available “fit” within the budget I’d set myself.

It was a classic example of a false economy. The dratted thing broke down majorly twice and had to be professionally mended at a cost of £200+ each time, including parts. If we were going out for the day, someone had to stay in all the time to turn it on at the appropriate hour, as it didn’t have an automatic oven. One by one the gas hobs clogged up beyond my ability to clean them out again, and stopped working altogether (I was down to 2 out of 5 by the end) and the pretty shiny black glass doors showed every splash & fingerprint. When this one too started to blow elements on a regular basis, I realised that it had 4 separate problems & the bill for repair this time would more than likely add up to more than I paid for the flimmin’ thing to start with. It did have some very good features, notably the tall slim oven at the side, which heated up very fast & continued to work all the way through, though it had taken me a while to collect up casseroles, tins & dishes that fitted it, but at the end of the day it just wasn’t up to the job of serious cooking for plenty of people.

So this time I splurged every last penny on a Rangemaster, which I’m hoping will last at least as long as our original Cannon. I was sent to a specific shop, Spillers of Chard, 50 miles away by our local electrical suppliers, Holmans, who have always done me proud but couldn’t match the prices that Spillers can get, as they don’t do anything BUT range cookers. You have to wait for them to build your cooker, and then we had a couple of glitches with the installation process that meant it was two months from ordering to my cooker being installed. And here I would like to give a big pat on the back to Spillers, who have gone above & beyond the call of duty & agreed to refund me a charge for an independent gas engineer to eventually connect it. I’d encourage anyone considering buying a range cooker to consider them before the online-only stores that can match their prices, because the after-sales service has been superb; nothing has been too much trouble & they have stayed in touch without being prompted. I’m planning a return visit soon to stock up on bits & bobs like spare oven shelves & baking tins specifically to fit the ovens, as a transport-free friend needs to visit another shop in Chard, and I’d like to thank them in person.

I’m mentioning this because this week we had to make literally VAST quantities of cake, 300+ servings. Sadly it was for a funeral, for a dear friend who died far too young and far too quickly. And the Rangemaster showed its quality by coping with 3 cooks filling both ovens, turn & turn about, temperatures going up & down as needed, over the course of about 18 hours, because I didn’t have any freezer space free to store pre-cooked cakes! At the same time I was also cooking up vast batches of Two-Quince Marmalade and Apple Butter on the hob, using two BIG preserving pans, and sterilising jars & lids in the ovens between batches of cake. Well-impressed here, and just wanting to repeat that sometimes, it pays to spend more and invest in the right tools for the job when you need them; let’s see if I can manage to remember this myself next time I need to replace something vital!

Another vat of apples on my new pride & joy...
Another vat of apples on my new pride & joy…

Freecycle Chutney…

Well, what else can I call it? We’re not short of apples on our own big Blenheim Orange tree this year, although it’s hardly a bumper crop, but I’d gathered a handful of those pretty little red crab apples from the riverbank to make some crab apple jelly with. However there weren’t an awful lot on the tree, and I know other people like to use them too, so I didn’t feel I could be greedy & help myself to too many. There are other trees I know of, but they’re quite a walk off the road and the weather’s pretty soggy just now. And I’d found some other interesting-looking crab apple recipes online; several chutneys, crab apple butter, and slow-roasted crab apples, to name but a few, which looked well worth a try. I also seemed to be rather short of jars; the box I thought was still out in the garage, wasn’t, when I went hunting for it. So I asked on one of our local Freecycle groups, both for crab apples and for jars. And I was lucky enough to get two replies, one from Maggie whose elderly mother loves honey & goes through at least a jar a week, so had a full box of jars saved up, and one from Stan, who said he had not crabs, but apples…

Oh boy, does he have apples! I am now suffering from serious orchard envy. He and his wife moved to their cottage 20 odd years ago, on retirement, and he has been building up his orchard ever since. Sadly he’s struggling to manage his garden now, as his wife is very ill and he’s finding it hard to bend, but the place should be declared a national treasure. There are all the well-known varieties, and some lesser-known trees too, grown from cuttings, interspersed with gooseberries, currant bushes and an enormous row of runner beans. Anyway I helped myself to three huge bags of windfalls, mostly of small yellow apples with little red splashes, which taste a little like Golden Delicious, and he handed me a bag of jars too. I’ve promised him a jar of the results, and some Egremont Russets, too, as his Russet has stopped a-russetting & now bears pretty, delicious red apples that only bear a slight resemblance to an Egremont.

On the way home, I spotted some small red fruits lying on the road into town, and realised there’s a crab apple in a roadside garden there. So I pulled into the nearest car park, plucked up my courage & knocked on the door. The owners professed themselves delighted to let me pick up their windfalls too. So I came home absolutely laden with bounty…

I mixed the little yellow apples & the red crab apples with a couple of damaged quinces from our own garden, which won’t keep until I get round to making the quince marmalade; I’m willing to bet that the crabs & quince will make up for any lack of zing from the yellow ones. The slow-cooker is full to the brim of apples, cranberries, rosemary, onions & garlic turning gently into chutney, and I stuffed both my big preserving pans full to bursting with apples & boiled them up to make lots of pretty pink juice for crab apple jelly. The drippings from 4 muslin bags have now filled the 10-litre pan, and the chickens will dine well on the fruit pulp tomorrow. But I hadn’t thought about sugar… it would take every ounce we currently have, and then some, to turn that lot into jelly. So off to the supermarket I shall hurtle, tomorrow, and trust that they’ll have enough; they don’t always have the big bags.

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We won’t eat all this ourselves. Apart from the jars I’ll return to the donors, I like to make up a basket of home-made things – I hesitate to call them goodies – for various family members at Christmas. Some will get given to produce stalls in support of one organisation or another & some will be inflicted on absent offspring’s flatmates. I will go out & gather more crabs, to try the slow-roast idea, when the weather’s not quite so damp. But I still have rather a lot of apples to process/give away/eat and I haven’t even really started on our own home-grown ones yet!

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Don’t get me wrong; I am actually really grateful for all this & will do my best not to waste any of it. I’m just goggling a bit at the sheer size of the task I have before me! And it triggers some interesting thoughts about life before or without freezers & dehydrators, as the seasons turn. I may have to haul out some demijohns…

Awesome…

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A few years back, there was a little shop in our town, in the same row that I tried running a shop in more recently. It was an absolute treasure trove of gorgeous vintage & antique household textiles & haberdashery, and the elderly lady who ran it was friendly, helpful, kindhearted (she often let me have part-skeins of embroidery thread from workboxes for, say, 10 or 20p) and inspirational. It featured in several national magazines as one of those quirky & glorious one-off emporiums that we British can excel at, given half a chance & reasonable business rents & rates. But sadly the rent & rates edged upwards as the proprietor’s health edged downwards, and eventually she had to give up. I always wondered what had happened to her stock… Quoting from elsewhere online:

“I’ve had an unexpected & astonishing weekend. It was our annual Folk Festival, when the population of our little town goes from 5,000 to about 20,000 for two days of colourful, musical mayhem. But I hardly got to see any of the processions, workshops, dances etc. because early on, I stumbled across an absolute treasure trove. There was a small market down one of the back streets, and someone  was selling off some old textiles etc. at very sensible prices. I’m “doing” a major festival as a trader later this summer & have been terrified I don’t have nearly enough good stock; things I’m proud to be rehoming at a profit, if you know what I mean. But I was able to pick up some very nice things at a very decent price, even if we’ll be eating beans for the rest of the month!

I got chatting to the guy selling them & eventually, after a bit of digging, it emerged that it was leftover stock from one of the little shops in town, one of my favourite-shops-of-all-time in fact, that stopped trading a few years ago when the proprietor became too elderly & ill to carry on. The end result is that I shall be talking to him later in the week about the rest of her leftover stock, which sadly has not been well-stored in the interim, but still has value of a kind, even if a fair bit of it isn’t saleable any longer. I actually think I’m very privileged to be handling some of these items; think lace baby bonnets going back to the early 1800s, hand-embroidered Victorian bloomers, 30s crepe-de-chine hankies edged with handmade lace – that sort of thing.”

Some of it is literally shredding in our hands; for example the silk/glazed cotton/lace cushion cover above, which is most likely French (there’s another one, in even worse condition, with Souvenir de France embroidered on it. A good clue as to its origins, I feel!) where the cotton backing & lace are intact but the weft threads of the cover have just gone to dust; the warp threads are all that’s holding that embroidery together. The baby bonnet, which is the piece I recognised from the old shop, is also shredding to dust as it’s handled; several years crumpled into sealed black plastic binliners in a hot loft have not done much for the development of age-stains & mould spots, either. It’s a shame to touch it & hasten its decline and I feel quite inadequate to the task of trying to preserve what’s left in decent condition. But I suspect it would just end up at the Tip otherwise, if unsold. And I know that the old lady, and the untold hundreds of stitchers behind her, stretching back at least as far as 1800, would be far happier to see what remains of their exquisite work being used & admired, even if that means cutting it up to remake into something new, than made into J-cloths & used for wiping sinks.

So now I have a huge task before me; I need to learn as much as possible, in as short a time as possible, about lace, so that I don’t accidentally destroy or flog off for pennies, something wonderful that should remain intact & be properly preserved for posterity… It’s a great opportunity, but also a huge responsibility.

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Best of British…?

As those of you who know me personally know, whilst DS3 is studying in Chile, I am making use of the space he isn’t using to try to earn the money to go out to visit him. To that end I’ve spent the last few weeks emptying his room of all the shop & other debris that had come to rest there & redecorating it. As the lovely old sash window in there doesn’t “fit” properly any more following a doomed attempt at revamping it, I also made up a roman blind from two inexpensive remnants of rather-exclusive furnishing fabric, an old slatted blind & some leftover calico. Although I didn’t get the slats quite straight, I’m really quite pleased with the result (for £11.50) & hope it will make the room far more pleasant in winter as it’s 3 layers thick & fits the window recess very snugly.

So now we have a young German student staying for 2 weeks in there. He’s a lovely studious lad who DS3 would have got on with very well. This is the first time we have played “host family” as we’ve never had any spare rooms until now, and I’ve been perplexed by some of the instructions I’ve been given; to start with, the organiser told me, “Don’t go to any great trouble with food; they don’t like British food anyway, so just get in some extra pizzas – you know, the sort of thing teenage boys like.”

Hmm – here we are, in the middle of some of the UK’s finest farming country, with easy & relatively cheap access to some of the best fresh food that Britain has to offer. Surely we can do better than additive-laden supermarket pizzas? And these kids come from rural Germany’s agricultural heartland; I was saddened to find that his parents had sent him with a suitcase full of vitamins & fibre supplements. They had evidently been forewarned that British food was awful… it seems it’s a self-perpetuating situation! They don’t like British food, so only offer them the very worst of it because they’re not going to eat it anyway. Bless the boy, he’s tucked happily into pasta, rice, potatoes, pancakes, chicken, eggs & vegetables, which is the sort of thing he likes best & we eat all the time, and hasn’t cost us a penny in extra pizza rations!

I’ve had many friends who have tried doing this in the past, and I’m well aware that we have been very lucky in “our” undemanding student, but one constant complaint has been that they’ve cost more to feed than you’re paid to have them. This is definitely not going to be the case with ours! I’m also aware that I’m very lucky to be in a position to make huge economies of scale when it comes to catering; I can scoop up a big bag of parsnips, say, for £1 towards the end of Sunday’s market, and know that I will have no trouble at all using them up before they become inedible. Though if there were only one or two of us, I’d still buy them, and preserve the ones I couldn’t use straight away.

And the preserving season is going into full swing now; hardly a day goes by when I’m not out foraging for more wild food, making jam, jellies, butters or curds, loading my dehydrator or trying to hollow out more space in the freezer. It’s an awful year for apples & figs down here, but the cherry plums are so laden that we’re in danger of losing more branches, the quinces have done OK, the Japanese Wineberries have exceeded all expectations, the raspberries seem to have got a second wind, and if the weather stays reasonable for a couple more weeks, it promises to be a bumper blackberry crop. So I shan’t repine for my missing Blenheim Oranges, but will make the most of what I’ve got, and be utterly thankful for the freedom to get on with it this year!

How to find the happy medium?

Having now discovered the joys of decluttering, I have got to the point where once or twice recently I’ve wanted things, only to discover that I’ve given them away… It was bound to happen eventually. The thing is, I really don’t want to backslide either financially (“I’ll just go out & buy another”) or in hoarding terms (“I’ll find somewhere to keep this, it might just come in useful…”) so somehow I have to find a middle way. Easier said than done!

I know that when it comes to my stall, I want to up my game & just have stuff that’s irresistible, on a stall that looks inviting. In some ways, less is more, here; I suspect that some of the things I’ve been puzzling over as to why they haven’t sold, have simply been buried in the melee as people turn my stock over to see what else I’ve got. I need a certain amount of variety so that things don’t get stale & I’m not trotting out the same old, same old every month; it’s good to give things a “rest” from time to time and always have something new. Well, as new as “vintage” can be! But at the same time it’s easy to accrue far too much stuff, some of it not as nice…

I also need to look at the materials I keep for our own craftwork; I have an ideal opportunity for this coming up as I replace some inappropriate storage with something that will fit the space more neatly, blend in with the rest of our furniture nicely and also provide more & better storage. I think it’ll take twice as much stuff as the present “storage solution” but I shall try to make sure it doesn’t have to; I suspect that half of what’s currently buried in the old sideboard will no longer be useful to us and can be given away! And there’ll be more room for dancing too – one of my teens can be entertained indefinitely  & inexpensively with henna, kohl, fabric, chiffon, sequins, bells, Bollywood & Egyptian music and a small audience or a few “pupils” …

I still have two biggish items that haven’t sold on Ebay. One I will hang onto & try other routes for selling; it’s worth what I’m asking for it & I’m not going to part with it for less than I paid for it, just wait until the right buyer comes along, which will happen eventually. I might even take it to Boscombe Vintage Market this weekend.  The other, my much-loved Jones embroidery machine on a Singer treadle – well, I have to admit I didn’t really want to sell it anyway! Once the new storage is installed (starting this afternoon, I hope) it can come back in from the garage and be put straight back into use. There are still other biggish things, that are less useful, that can be sold to make more space, not to mention about 500 excess craft books…

And it would be useful now to make some more money, as well as space. I’ve had a breather after closing down the shop, which was longer than intended thanks to bits of Boscombe Clock Tower falling through the roof of the Royal Parade, forcing the cancellation of last month’s Market. I’ve meant to do a couple of car boot sales, but other things have taken priority; sadly those other things (my father-in-law’s terminal illness in another country, Olympic tickets and 3 birthdays) have cost us quite a lot of money and I need to cut unnecessary spending hard and top the family coffers back up next month. So hold onto your seat belts for a month of making do & mending, foraging, freezer-emptying, inexpensive home-grown fun & generally wringing every ounce of value out of each & every penny!

Long time no see…

I know it’s been a whole month since I posted, but I’m not referring to that – it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to see quite so much of our floor! I’ve been busy, very busy, decluttering like mad. It’s needed doing for a very long time, and bringing all the shop & market stock back here tipped it from something that really needed doing, to something acute – if I didn’t do it, I was going to go under mentally, or break my neck tripping over a pile of something. There are still a few piles hanging around, waiting for new homes, but I reckon I’ve reduced the rubble by something like three-quarters over the last four weeks. Some things have been sold on, although the last vintage market was cancelled, but most have been given away, either to charity or on Freecycle/Freegle, and some even dumped.

It’s interesting that now the kids are older (youngest now rising 17) the resistance to change has diminished. When they were younger, they’d complain about the mess, but often actively derail my attempts to actually do anything about it. But now, they’re helping me clear & deep-clean, and are full of ideas as to how we might redecorate & reorganise; we may not always see eye-to-eye about this, but it feels like a huge step forwards. I think I’ve been too easily discouraged in the past; there was a point about two weeks ago, when I seemed to have been working flat out for two weeks but it didn’t look any different. At that point, I nearly went under & gave up, but thanks to an inspirational thread over on MSE, and having a bit more time on my hands, I kept going this time and now it’s really beginning to look like the home that I’ve always wanted to live in.

Some of the things I’m parting with I’m very sad to see go, but I have to face the fact that one lifetime is too short to do everything I’d like to do & learn everything I’d like to learn, and one household, shared with 6 other people, isn’t big enough for 2 treadle sewing machines and 9 spinning wheels. And I was spending too much time looking after things, or indeed looking for things, to actually achieve very much at all!

But some of my attempts to reduce my hoards have been blind alleys… this morning, I emptied & cleaned the fridge. I’d decided that some of my beloved cultures had to go, too – one of my “endearing eccentricities” as DD1 calls them, is a belief that we in the West don’t eat or drink nearly enough traditionally-preserved or cultured foods, or a wide enough variety of foodstuffs, for optimum health – but I failed miserably! I’d just about brought myself to the point of pouring the milk-Kefir down the sink when DD1 announced that she loved the stuff & would take over responsibility for it. The Kefir a l’uovo smelt gorgeous, so that got refreshed too, and the ginger-beer Kefir is a household staple, much loved & drunk daily by several of us. The sourdough starter’s in regular use & I have some Kimchi virtually every day; that only left the Kombucha, where I’ve had first my old SCOBY, then a newly-bought one, die on me in short order for no apparent reason. So I’d made up my mind that I’d stop making that, but I came across a bottle at the back of the fridge, and I’d forgotten just how lovely it tastes! Oh dear, there’s no hope for me, is there?! But the small amount of work & space involved in looking after my “fridge-pets” pales into insignificance beside the complex, healthy & above all, delicious tastes they reward me with, for almost no money. However, the four half-empty jars of mayonnaise, several “stubs” of home-made jam and three bottles of tomato ketchup did get rationalised…

One positive thing that has emerged from the chaos; I’d forgotten just how nice some of the things I’d accumulated were, even if it’s no longer appropriate for me to hang onto them. Below is a pic of one little beauty that I rescued, looking very sad & with bits hanging off her, from a street market about 18 months ago. A bit of elbow-grease & know-how returned her to working order & decent appearance quite quickly & she’s on Ebay now. She’s not a practical wheel to spin on for any length of time, unless you have tiny feet & a lot of patience, and want very fine yarn, but isn’t she pretty?!