Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Yay ... The Cupboard is Done ...

I've finally got the cupboard how I want it.

  It only took an hour or so to empty it out again have a quick wipe around and once it was dry I stuck a few hooks to hang things at the back and sides.

The spare plates went onto the shelf at the back.  We don't use them but if we had guests or family were using the van they might come in handy, and the things that are in day to day use are now all within easy reach and I don't have to lift things out to get to anything.

What works better in the bottom cupboard is to have the shelf unit the other way round, so once again everything is within reach and the only things stood in front of the items on the shelves are my potato bag and the cordials for making up drinks.

The back, hard to get to corner is empty ,.. just a big empty space ... which makes me very happy 😁

Almost as happy as Bella relaxing in the garden next to the pansies.  

She's being a very brave little girl this week as she is the only dog here with me.  Giving Suky and Mavis a break from lively puppy antics while she learns to meet and greet other dogs on our outings without big sisters to hide behind.

Sue xx

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

First Sort Out of the Awkward Cupboard

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to organise the largest of the kitchen cupboards  ... I did get stuck in eventually, but I had put it off and put it off because it's such an awkward cupboard to get things into and out of.

All this stuff was on the top shelf.

It had fitted in because I had made a temporary shelf out of a cardboard box, which gave me a couple of extra surfaces for things that weren't being used right at the back of the cupboard, it was nice to finally just get stuck in, get everything out and give the cupboard a good clean.

I had bought some expandable 'under sink shelves' off Amazon.  They are called that because you can add the plastic slats along the metal rail wherever you need to, so can build your shelves around any pipework etc under a sink.

Anyway I managed to get them to fit neatly at the back of the cupboard on both the top and bottom shelves, and I put back most of the stuff that had been in the cupboard, having had a bit of a sort out.

This is the top shelf.

And this is the bottom shelf.

I quickly shut the door on my tidying and left it at that, but it wasn't sitting right ... I still had a niggle in my head.  The phrase I used above 'things that weren't being used', the amount of plastic boxes and the ongoing awkwardness of reaching things at the back of the cupboard.   I mean who wants to get on their hands and knees on the floor while cooking a meal to get to things at the back of a cupboard  ... not me for sure.

So this morning I'm re-doing it, it's very necessary for my peace of mind  😕🙃🤔

I'll take some photos  ... you'd be shocked if I didn't!!

Sue xx

Monday, 20 May 2019

Smaller and Simpler

The foil on the worktop at home in Wales was running out, so the other day I reached into the cupboard to check for the replacement that I usually have in there, then I realised it came with me last year to the Van when I was setting up this Smaller Life.  

These huge bulk rolls usually last us well over a year, and although you can't buy refills I have always thought that as well as being handy they were convenient to have on the worktop ready to be used and good value for money.  So to have one at both homes was brilliant.

With the realisation that the roll was about to run out and not wanting Alan to have to struggle if it ran out while I was here at the Van this week, I sat at the computer and put in an order for replacements for both rolls.

It was only when the order came two days later that I started to think this through a little bit more.  This is how each of the cling film and foil rolls came packaged.

A double layer of bubble-wrap, wrapped all around a cardboard box that was over the shrink-film wrapping of the plastic dispensing box for the roll of foil.

It really got me thinking, and then I had to smile ...

... as along with the new reusable cleaning cloths I had ordered at the same time as my new rolls of cling-film and foil, I had added to my order at the last minute to avoid paying a postage charge, and the thing I had chosen to add was a pack of Veggio net bags ... so you can avoid using plastic bags for loose vegetables at the supermarket!!

The bags themselves are brilliant, nice and lightweight, with a drawstring top to keep your fruit or vegetables securely inside while they are weighed and on the journey home inside your larger shopping bag.  They each have a tag on them that you can stick any price label to if you are weighing out your own vegetables at the supermarket.

And the two large and two medium sized bags all fit neatly inside the small bag so you can keep them all together when they are not yet in use.

And happily these came with no packaging other than the cardboard information label and hanging strip that held them neatly together.

I've learnt some valuable lessons here.

Firstly, if I had gone to the shop to pick these up instead of ordering online I would have done away with the need for all this packaging..  Secondly, and even more importantly ... do I even need to use foil and cling film?

  I am happily thinking that this will most likely be the last time that I buy a roll of either, and while I have these rolls to use up I will get used to using alternative methods for storing and cooking our foods.   It only takes a little bit of thinking about.

The one really useful bit of packaging was the cardboard box that my delivery came in as it was put to use immediately for the car boot sale to hold all the bits and bobs that we had sorted out for sale. Then it will be used in the shed for storage before finally being the base of the next cremation for a chicken bonfire we may need to have.  Having an elderly flock means these are happening a lot more regularly than they used to  :-(

Sue xx

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Not Adding But Taking Away

Lots of things that no longer add to our lives or belong in our lives were sold today at the car boot sale at Rowen.  We made exactly £85 and had a pleasant morning chatting to folk, and helping them to give us money and take away the things that we no longer need or want.

It was lovely to meet a long term blog reader Gill and her husband Mike too ... they made a few purchases from our tables, hopefully things that they do need and did want.  

Although today's boot sale started off much quieter than usual due to uncertain looking weather, it picked up really well for the last hour or so, and reminded me how much I like the atmosphere at car boot sales.  With most people pleased at their bargains and sellers pleased at the growing pile of coins in their cash boxes.  Folk walking round with their dogs, chatting to people that haven't seen for a while, the aroma of cooking onions and the sound of chatter coming from the village hall, it all adds up to a jolly village-y feel.  We will be back in action, weather permitting, next week too as we have left the truck loaded and will add more stuff to fill the space left by all the things we sold today.

It's good to have less stuff ... this will be an ongoing thing all through this Summer as we are being truly ruthless with our possessions.

Change is feeling good, so very good.

Sue xx

Thursday, 16 May 2019

The Journey - Our New Life in the Country to A Smaller Life

There's been some confusion over my new-ish blog and many questions, rumours and speculation from lots of people ... friends, family and some of my previous blog readers.  Van life suits me just fine, it's something I have always wanted, a smaller life and A Smaller Life are making me so happy but it's been a journey and a half to get here.

With so many questions from so many sources I thought that while I have a little bit of time, the use of the desktop computer and while I had some of the sorted out books to hand to photograph I would put a few records straight.  Pull up your chair, blow on your coffee and get ready for a read.

The books on the table in the top photograph are a few of my favourites, they are books that I have read over and over  ... in some cases since the mid 80's.  Each in their own way, along with other as yet unsorted books, have inspired me and set me on a path for a simpler, slower and more rewarding way of life. 

A box of some of the sorted books that we bought after starting, and whilst living Our New Life in the Country.  Books that although at first glance are on a similar theme to mine, are much more Alan's sort of self sufficiency ... in my opinion more hardcore self sufficiency.  And something I quietly rebelled at almost from day one.  

In my mind I wanted back yard self sufficiency ... a vegetable plot, four hens, an open fire and a larder with enough homemade jams and pickles to see us through the Winter.  Alan was on a slightly different tack and between us we grew our ideas and followed a wider, more diverse road.

Back in the Autumn of 2008 after watching the River Cottage television programmes we went to River Cottage HQ for a day out and met and chatted to the lovely Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.  He had started in his first series in a similar way to my ideas ... small scale self sufficiency to prove you could feed yourself through the year from the garden of a  rustic cottage.  I bought into this. 

He signed our diary for the coming year and confirmed in our minds that changing our lives was what we wanted to do.

Alan meanwhile was buying into the scale that River Cottage had grown into.  The solar energy,  harnessing wind power, making excess food to sell on at farmers markets, having more chickens to have more eggs to make everything self financing and well, just bigger.

We placed an advert in The Farmers Weekly and the Farmers Guardian to test the waters.  Little did we know that within days we would have a phone call, and within weeks we would have upped sticks and moved ourselves and our pets to the opposite end of the country.  Closing a business and changing our lives almost overnight.  It was all an exciting and wonderful adventure.

We kept our diary ... and the ones for years after that.  

Family and friends both old and new helped us build our new life, and we all enjoyed setting things up, life was good.   And although I had many dark days, the excitement of this whole new way of life and blogging about it to my lovely readers kept me sane and made each day seem bearable.

We moved from the first rented farm in Oxfordshire to a smaller place in Berkshire while we saved the deposit for what we thought would be our forever home, and then when we managed that and found this house we moved again.  We've built up a good life here over the last six years and the plan was always after a couple of years to be doing it together ... but plans don't always work out the way you think they will.

Alan never did retire from the day job.  He discovered that he loved his work too much to stop and be a smallholder full time, and between the money it brings in and the way it keeps his mind whirring with ideas, it was something he just couldn't part with and I understand that completely.

But always at the back of my mind was my sort of self sufficiency.

So now this is what I am doing, what we are doing.  Winding down in the gentlest of ways our self sufficient lifestyle in favour of a slower, simpler and yes Smaller Life.  

One in which we take everything we have learned over the years and make it work for us in the way we each want it to work.  Together, always together.  Soulmates don't give up on each other, they bounce ideas off each other, share lives and adventures.  Whether they be big adventures, small adventures or just ideas shared over a cup of coffee sat in the sun in the garden of caravan with dogs snoozing at our feet, birds singing in the trees ... and just a single row of Spring Onions and a rampant Spinach plant growing in an old tin bath.

Sue xx

 If there are any questions please ask them on this post ... I don't normally do Q+As but I will today  :-)

Monday, 13 May 2019

Simplicity is Catching

My blogs are seamlessly merging into each other in my head at the moment as the current Challenge over on my challenge blog is to get Down to Basics.

It started off as a foodie Challenge, emptying the food cupboards gradually as we chomp our way through them in a bid to restock with a more basic range of the simple, healthy foods that we both love. We're doing the Challenge both at the Van and at home here in Wales ... where I am all this week.  

But with the first sale of a large item from the house the Challenge is morphing into an even bigger Down to Basics challenge as I clear and clean my way through the house.  Having just what we need at the Van has highlighted even more the excess we still feel we have here at the house.  

So with the car boot sale season in our area now in full swing we are cleaning, sorting, tidying and clearing out all of the excess with a plan to sell or donate everything that we don't need or use.  

Over the weekend I listed and sold with his permission I hasten to add, Alan's little used massive treadmill running machine, it sold within 24 hours and it's left a lovely clear space in the conservatory.  So this morning the whole room has been thoroughly Spring cleaned and now feels and smells lovely and fresh.

It is very satisfying to see space and have room to move around, so all I am going to add to this room is the small armchair that we currently have in the workshop.  Mostly because I am a big softy and I know Ginger will love to sleep on it out of the reach of a certain little puppy.

I am just waiting for the floor to dry on the other half of the room and then I will put the new tablecloth on the table, bring in the plants that are sat outside in the sunshine and put the rest of the room back together.

It's addictive this clearing out lark ... I wonder if it will continue when I look through the bookshelves as I plan to clean them tomorrow?

Sue xx

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

A Weekend in Pictures and Words

This Bank Holiday weekend Scorton Village was holding its annual Bikes and Barrows Festival,  so after missing it last year we were determined to see as much as we possibly could this year.

Houses and businesses all around the village took part displaying bikes or barrows and in most cases both, in their front gardens and along the street.

In this photo you can see a speeding bicycle has crashed into a wheelbarrow and the rider has been flung over the gate, totally ignoring the policeman with the speed gun (hairdryer).

This one was called 'Pandemonium', the panda outside had a barrowful of food for his little companions that were clamouring at the window.

A garden full of inflatable unicorns,  the biggest one being on a tiny little tricycle. 

After visiting the Spring Fair in the village hall, where I won a £10 voucher on the Tombola to use in a local pub, we headed for home with tired legs and exhausted doggies.  Bella is learning to handle all the attention that a beautiful, tiny eleven week old Chihuahua pup gets, although by the end of the day she was starting to look a little bewildered. 

After a good day it was only right that we retired to the caravan parks clubhouse for some wine and bingo ... no wins for us this week but a good time was had by all  😃

We took a doggy walk in the direction of the village again on Sunday to wander down a few roads and cul de sacs that we had missed the day before.  The people in this house must have really loved Queen ... they had Queen's greatest hits playing on a loop for all of the three days!!

This knitted bike was lovely,  an enormous amount of effort had gone into making this completely covered and wonderfully colourful. 

And this Barrow planted with vegetables was a work of art.

After a wander through the streets playing spot the bike, spot the barrow, we went onto one of the fields where archery instruction was to be had for a £2 donation to charity.   Alan has always wanted to have a go at this so he paid his money, took all the advice and by his fifth arrow was hitting the bullseye.

Me and the dogs waited patiently while Robin Hood did his thing.

So it was a brilliant Bank Holiday weekend with dry sunny weather throughout,  a tad chilly at times but just being dry was a huge improvement on years gone by.

Alan and Mavis have now headed home and I'm busy having a good clean up of the Van to the sound of snoring doggies and Ken Bruce on Radio 2.

Sue xx

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Three, Two, One


While we settled down with coffee and the papers the dogs played musical beds.



It's a lazy bank holiday weekend for us all, humans and dogs alike.   Whatever you have on the cards I hope it's enjoyable and relaxing.

Have fun.

Sue xx

Friday, 3 May 2019

Re-potting in the Garden

Someone who had given up their caravan had left three stone planters behind, I spotted them in the 'caravan graveyard' one day when we were walking the dogs.  It's the place were anything useful ... including caravans goes to languish before being tipped, burnt or asked for.  I asked for them, and they were mine.

Up to now I have just planted up the middle one as I couldn't find the Red Cordylines that I fancied for the other two locally but I managed to get a pair at Wyevales when I was there for lunch with Mum and the dogs on Wednesday.  I'll get them in over the weekend.  It's sod's law because I spotted two on the plant stall at the street market in Garstang yesterday!  

The rest of the garden is waking up nicely.

These Pansies are adding a real pop of colour. 

This corner bed now seems to be little Bella's toilet area,  she hates wet grass but doesn't mind wet chippings.  Each time she comes out from behind the plants she brings me a piece of bark chip ... as if to say 'Sorry I've just  pooped on your flowerbed, but here's a little present'.

I'll make sure I wear gloves when working in this area ... and only pick high level herbs 😉

The Chives are healthy,  and as you saw in yesterday's post are being used regularly.

I've done my usual trick in the Tin Bath and planted out a tray of Living Lettuces bought from Booths last week for just one pound. You can't go wrong with eight lettuces for that price can you.  They should last me a while.  I'm going to put in a French Bean plant at the back to make use of the trellis.

And I'll most likely add my free Tomato plant from Wyevale that Mum had a coupon for.  Seemingly it's National Gardening Week this week, hence the freebie.

After taking these photos and loading them ready for posting yesterday I went to Aldi for some fresh milk for Alan this weekend, and guess what, this week the centre aisles ...  those amazing but dreaded centre aisles ... were packed to capacity with garden goodies of every description.  

I may have bought a planter or three and a couple of rolls of twig style edging to help me puppy proof the Smaller Garden ... she fits through the tiniest of openings.  But I wasn't tempted in the slightest to buy a chainsaw!!  I see a lot of accidents happening this week if folk buy a chainsaw along with their weekly food shop and then go mad in the garden trimming trees and bushes with no expertise, training or safety equipment.

A and E staff you have been warned!

Sue xx