Growing our own food – frugal food, self reliance and the learning of new/old skills.

A great post with lots of info and inspiration for living off your own (smallish) piece of land. Recommended read!


Things are so tough for many out there right now and it heartens me to see so many young ones returning to the habits of older generations, growing some of their own food. This may end up a long post for regular readers who have heard it all before but this is for those who are thinking maybe they would like to try for a garden, or grow on what they are already doing.

When we moved here there was just lawn and we shopped like everyone else. This was 3 months after we moved in, a wee vegetable garden had been put in (bottom corner) Excuse the dead branches by the house, this was Roger thinning out a dead vine!

IMG_0033 Our garden has grown over the years but it was only last summer we decided to really go for it and see how far we could go with “eating…

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Our Global Culture of Greed: Politics and Priorities

Sunnmørsfæring - Herøy kystmuseum
A sweeping glance at western society indicates by our very striving for it, that our priority is acquisition; acquisition of wealth, possessions – he or she who dies with the most toys, wins.

In simplified terms, at the beginning of the twentieth century, a lot of work was needed to bring about a healthy redistribution of wealth, and in the decades following the war this goal was achieved to the point that prosperity was probably more evenly distributed than it had been since our species’ long-gone egalitarian hunter-gatherer incarnation. And yet the pendulum of acquisition continued its swing, gaining momentum in the decades following the Golden Age of capitalism. Redressing previous centuries’ social inequity turned a corner into the dim alley of greed.

But while most regular people have no time to contemplate the reason for their hamster-like tackling of the treadmill, with great energy and enthusiasm pursuing their hectic, circular path, what we invest our time and money in is, by default, our priority. We can’t point a blaming finger at the corporate looters who engineered the culture of greed, without acknowledging our own part in the system, which is, our investment in terms of time and money in the cycle of acquisition.

Our ancestors traditionally owned very little, and what they did possess, they valued, because they had to make, or at the least recycle, everything from clothes to tools, further back also having to procure the raw materials. Many people in non-western countries still own very little, but visitors from the west often remark on the generosity in the face of poverty that these people demonstrate, and with what freedom they share what they do have.

In contrast, in the west today we suffer from consumer paralysis, such is the bewildering array of product choices laid before us – but do these choices really bring us the personal satisfaction we hope for, or like sugar molecules, are our purchases empty of real value, only keeping us in thrall to rampant consumerism?

The story of the rich man and the fisherman illustrates the irony of our position. A wealthy man vacationing on an idyllic isle observes a local relaxing beside the sea, feet up and pipe in mouth, early one afternoon after a short day’s fishing. The rich man encourages the simple man to work harder in order to accrue more money, with which to increase his fleet and his wealth, so that in time he may be able to work less hours and spend more time relaxing, feet up and pipe in mouth…

If we stopped the treadmill for a brief moment, we might consider why we are bound to this endless cycle of acquisition. If we, as individuals, continue in this rut, what will be the footprint we leave behind, the impression we leave on life? If we aim to possess only what we value, and value the things we possess, we may find life a lot simpler and more fulfilling. We may even be able to throw ourselves clear of the enslaving treadmill and pioneer a new course for our lives.

Our lifestyle in the wealthy west has implications for people both in our local societies and globally. Healthy redirection is possible if we re-evaluate our priorities, the process of which, contrary to gloomy expectations, is bound to bring beneficial effects not only to the currently disenfranchised, but to our middle-class selves as well, as we rediscover the pleasure of simple things and of possessing things we truly value.


DIY with the Good Oil


the good oil

There’s a a bit of debate around coconut oil and whether it is the queen of oils – coconut oil has a cult following, but mainstream medicine is rather less enthused about its health benefits over other oils. However, let’s remember this is the same mainstream medical fraternity which has been slow to recognise the brain-gut connection, or call out the everyday chemicals we’re exposed to as health risks.

For me the jury’s still out. So for the purposes of this post, I’d recommend any decent oil which you can get at a reasonable price because I’m not here discussing ingestable uses. I have a bucket of coconut oil because a large amount can be bought at a reasonable price, and I might have mentioned, I’m thrifty and love a good bargain!

And really, the point of this post is saving money by using things you have at home instead of needing to buy a product.

Make up remover and skin cleanser

A small amount of oil on a damp makeup removal pad or cottonwool removes make up, including eye make up which requires oil-based removers, and cleans the skin. You can follow this step with a clean damp pad wiped over the face. I have found this routine has worked very well for my skin without the use of any other products.


As above, put a small amount of oil onto a damp pad and wipe on to the face.  Coconut oil leaves a light and not unpleasant film.

Hand and body cream

It also makes a great handcream, or body or foot lotion, rubbed straight from the pot into the skin, especially dry patches. Used straight, it will leave an oily residue, which can be dabbed lightly with a towel to reduce.


Mixed with baking soda, coconut oil is a surprisingly effective deodorant! The baking soda being the active ingredient, just mix with enough oil to be a carrier for the powder. Rub in about a thumbnail sized amount every morning.


Nappy/diaper rash cream. I use this on the Burglar both to prevent and to treat light cases of nappy rash and redness.


Oil can be used as a conditioner and especially an intensive conditioner. A word of warning though – use oil very sparingly and dissolved in water on the hair, as it can be difficult to remove the residue if too much is used. Ask me how I know.

And once again: Chaos Girl 1, Big Business 0


And here is a great page on the different kinds of oils and their best uses in cooking.



On the Virtues of Baking Soda


by kat on flickr

by kat on flickr

I love baking soda (or bicarbonate of soda, or bicarb) at least as much as I love vertical storage. It’s a staple of the clean, green, frugal home. I hardly ever use it in baking in fact (ok I don’t bake a lot), but I have a bucketload of it on account of all the other things it does for me.


Most people now know of its cleaning virtues. These cannot be overstated. Bicarb has superlative cleaning qualities which scrub stove tops and basins like nothing I have ever come across. This pleases me. Product makers have latched on to this, and many have cleaning products with added baking soda, but that’s all a gimmick in my opinion, as baking soda alone does the trick just fine. I do not know whether baking soda’s cleaning virtues are owed solely to its abrasive qualities, but I suspect not, on account of my second most favourite use – as a hair cleanser.


I have tried the no ‘poo route, but that did not ever work for me. I have a pretty neutral hair type, but no ‘poo never left me feeling completely clean. Bicarb however is the shizznit.

I keep a jar of the powder in the bathroom, sprinkle a teaspoon onto wet hair, and scrub in and leave till the end of my shower. For the kids I have some ready mixed in water. This just prevents powdery messes and wastage, but you can do whatever works for you.

Maybe it depends on what you require of your hair, but I require mine to be clean, soft and if possible shiny, and I find that baking soda does all that – without the use of conditioner, although for longer hair with split ends it might be a good plan to condition the ends anyway.


I sometimes use it as a body and face scrub, and it leaves skin feeling surprisingly soft. However, though many sites recommend baking soda for skin scrubs, others warn against using it on skin (it has a pH of 7 while skin is 4.5-5 – not being a dermatologist, I don’t know how relevant this is but it can’t be worse than using soap.). So be warned, and make up your own mind about this one.


And how could I forget deodorant. In a fit of frugality I once came across recipes for homemade deodorant. Some involved specialised ingredients, melting, fiddling and well, patience. I figured the common ingredient to all was baking soda, so that was probably the most active ingredient, and so, being the cut-the-crap kind of person I am (or just lazy), I went with just those two ingredients. Since I have a bucket of coconut oil in the house (on account of I’m loving that too), I used that as the medium. Coconut oil in our temperate climate is usually a solid,  so I mashed the baking soda into the oil in a jar, and then put it in my bathroom cupboard. That’s it. To use, just scoop a thumbnail sized amount or so, and rub in.

Amazingly it’s really not messy. It doesn’t stain clothes or leave a residue on the skin. I don’t do fuss, and this couldn’t be easier. I gave it the sniff test under stiff conditions, and it truly is effective. There may be a period of adjustment as your body learns to do without the ingredients of regular deodorant it has been exposed to for years, and if real irritation occurs, it’s always best to stop, but for many people, like me, it’s a brilliant and cheap alternative.

Score for the earth and my pocket. How much would you save not buying cleaning products, shampoo, and deodorant, really?

Of course, there are even more uses for baking soda than I’ve listed here; if you want to know more, here is some further reading……