Sunday, February 28, 2010

Debt accumulating again

I was doing okay on managing my finances and slowly starting to come out the other side of the expense of moving and starting to be more positive about everything but winter has had a toll and the overdraft and credit card have crept up again with very little to show for it. So, I decided to bite the bullet and post the totals here so that I can (hopefully) take pleasure in seeing those amounts come down. They can't get much higher since they are both more or less at the limit as it is.

Overdraft on 28 Feb 10: 2363
Credit card on 28 Feb 10: 1995,86

To people who don't or never have lived on credit, these will seem like huge amounts. They are. But as someone who spent many years living in the boom time Ireland which encouraged many other silly people as well as me to spend obscene amounts of credit, they don't stress me too much. But then again that's mostly because I try not to think about it. But this card and overdraft are my safety net for emergencies so I need to free them up again just in case. I have started saving a bit over the last few months and I am happy that I am putting enough away to cover my annual expenses as they arise plus a little bit more. I also recently started paying into a pension - could have waited another year to do that and put the money on the card/overdraft instead but I had already been over a year without a pension and didn't want to leave the break any longer than that. And I am one of those strange people who somewhere along the way lost the ability to save properly and finds it easier to pay off debt instead. I am trying to change that and was being quite successful but the move has knocked me off-stride entierely and it's just as much of a struggle, if not more, to get back again.

In addition to the card and overdraft I am still paying off my Irish loan and there is another year and a half to go on that. So although I earn a decent wage, lots of money is already spoken for by the time I get it.

The overdraft and credit card are both Irish so I usually transfer money from my German current account as soon as I get paid to cover my loan payment (plus a small standing order to charity) as well as a payment to my credit card and round the amount up so that at least a small amount goes towards the overdraft as well. Generally the plan is that whatever I then have leftover cash in my current account at the end of the month I will then transfer that as well. Don't often have much left though. Working on it, which I will try to post about later.

Moderating again

Spambots seem to have found me again so the comment moderation has been switched back on to always. Don't remember switching it to only older posts before, which worries me slightly but not too much as I often to things and then forget about them. Now I have a note made as to when I changed the setting back to full moderation so I can look back and remind myself if I need to :-)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shovelling shit and making mincemeat

That pretty much should sum up my day I think. The shovelling shit part is over. The biogarten got its annual delivery of manure during the week so today we transported it from near the gate, where it is delivered over to the deep bed that it goes into. Of course nothing goes quite that smoothly and when I arrived everyone was more or less just standing around looking into the deep bed, which had a pool of water in the bottom of it. The drain seemed to be stuffed up somehow so we couldn't start until that had been sorted out. It took a while to figure out what the problem was and then someone went home to get a power hose attachment yoke to try and flush out the last few inches. In the meantime we got rid of the remains of the very old bottom layer of that bed, which was just too wet to leave there. That was eight or ten wheelbarrowfulls down to the other end of the garden and distributed along the path which is beside the boundary fence. It was raining slightly today after a week of plenty of rain so it was all very muddy. Then we put a layer of leaf mulch into half the bed and then we uncovered the steaming pile of horse manure and straw and started bringing barrowfulls of that over to the bed. Two people had the delightful job of stamping it all down, three shovelled and two transported back and forth. Everybody swapped what they were doing at some stage although it all just happened very easily with no hassle and no major organisation required. Just as it should be.

Once they finally got the drain sorted properly we did the same with the remaining half of the bed. And then the final layer of topsoil (freshly sieved soil from last week) went on. Apparently every other year there is normally another layer of leaf mulch between the manure and the topsoil but this year there was some discussion about whether that insulates it all too much so they decided to try it without.

I am really tired now and I know I will be aching by Monday but it wasn't difficult work really. I like that they just let me work at my own pace (which tends to be a bit slower than most people). I'm more of a tortoise than a hare really.

Before heading to the garden I had been to the market. I decided that I should try and spend as little as possible on food this month, using up what's in the freezer and so on and more or less only buying fresh milk, bread and cheese as needed. Got to the market and realised that I had ordered suet, which I needed to collect today as well as mince to go with it. So this evening I will be trying to make mincemeat using the recipe from River Cottage Year. I'm going to make an ordinary one without meat as well I think and then in a month or so I will buy a shop jar of it and to a taste comparison. Have to go out and get some mixed peel now, don't think this is the time to start trying to make my own candied peel although that's coming soon too I think.

Other purchases from the market:
Cream chees with chives and garlic
Lamb's lettuce (way too expensive but I have a craving for salad all of a sudden)
4 slices of ham for toasted ham and cheese sandwiches this evening

I forgot to ask what type of beans they were - they were dried, purple ones. I have to soak them overnight and then cook them for about an hour. Going to have an Eintopf for dinner tomorrow I think. As well as that I'll use some of the mince to make a bolognese sauce and that should leave me sorted for lunches and dinners for next week.

The rain cleared off after an hour or so in the garden this morning and by about half-twelve it was lovely and sunny. Even some of the Germans took off their jackets. I'd been in a long sleeve t-shirt with a short sleeve t-shirt over it since I arrived and was plenty hot on my back where the sun was shining. All the crocus were open by then as well and there are hundreds of snowdrops. Saw bees busy at work on some of the flowers too. Spring has really arrived this past week and it feels like it's going to move in really quickly now. Happy days!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Kitchen done

Finally finished switching the tupperware into the dresser in the kitchen and the baking stuff I don't use quite as often into the cupboard which is now in the sitting room. Somehow feel like I have ended up with lots more space. Cleared off the window sill as well, which has been accumulated lots of rubbishy bits and bobs in between the few plants I still have. Moved them all off and cleaned the window sill properly and got rid of all the rubbish (including finding a small something which I had intended sending to a friend for her birthday a month ago and then couldn't find to send it!). Looks much better now. I also moved the oven off the top of the washing machine onto the counter and put the oils and vinegars that were there onto the washing machine. I will not be able to use the machine with that stuff on top of it but my reasoning at this stage is that it means I will need to move all of that off the top of the machine at least once a week which should stop too much mess accumulating in the spare space. It's nice to be able to sit in there again.

I was up early this morning getting my lodger up and going with him to register at the town hall and then the dole office. So that's a start anyway. He even went to the bank after I had gone to work and sorted out a moratorium on his loan repayments and has written a letter to his landlord to officially hand in his notice on his flat up north and arrange to pay him the last three months (notice period) rent as soon as he has found work again. I managed to get some information from the Spanish consulate to start him thinking about dealing with the formalities around the apartment he inherited from his dad over a year ago as well so it feels like slowly he is starting to look forward. It's a good feeling which I am just trying to appreciate without worrying too much about the two steps back which might follow this one forward.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Still haven't finished the kitchen but have switched on the internet radio to Today FM's oldie show and am heading in there now. I'm sure it'll be fine once I get started.

Random thoughts: wish I had been taught/learned critical thinking. Wish I rememberd how to construct a proper essay.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Information is vital

The problem with vigilence is, I think, that in order for it to be vigilence you have to keep at it all the time. Which gets boring and annoying after a while. I had so much to deal with in moving here that I spent a few weeks trying to figure out where to buy food, found the local farmers' market and that was pretty much it really. I knew that there were only a couple of organic suppliers there but as the whole organic v. local issue isn't black and white anyway that's okay too. This week I have the week off work and so I went to the market yesterday (Wednesday) and at a later time (around 11.30 - it's open from 9 to 13 on Wednesdays) than normal. It wasn't half as busy as on a Saturday at 8 o'clock so I took the opportunity to actually ask a few of the farmers about their set-up. First up was the poultry and game supplier. I remember asking them at the beginning whether they were organic and although they weren't they did give me a leaflet that explained what was free-range and what not. As this leaflet said that the egg-laying hens were free-ranging and the meat birds were barn-reared I felt like at least I knew where I stood, could get free-range eggs and, since they also sold the egg-laying hens when they came to the end of their commerically useful egg-laying days, I could get chickens to use for casseroles and so on that I knew were free-ranging as well. Anyway, I hadn't seen those leaflets for a while and had wondered anyway how things would be in winter (assuming, based on some of the blogs I read, that most hens are not too interested in spending time outside in the ice and snow) so I decided to ask again. They don't have anything free-ranging I was told, no-one could have that much land available. Big shock there. I asked them about their stocking density and they said that while the allowable amount is 8 per square meter, they have 6. However, having googled it, I found that the rules which are currently being debated at EU level fix maximum stocking densities measured in weight per square metre of floor area and farms that meet the conditions set down can rear up to a maximum of 39 kg per square metre, equivalent to between 17 and 18 chickens per square metre (at the average UK slaughter weight of 2.2kg). So now I'm very confused. If what they said was true then that seems very good (and they definitely said that they do not use any cages). But it seems so far away from what the official line is aiming for. And of course there is the possibility that I misunderstood them and they said 18 and 16 rather than 8 and 6 although I don't think so. They did also say that I would be more than welcome to come and visit anytime so I think I will try and do that this summer - apparently the boss is always happy to meet anyone who is interested and frequently has groups from schools etc out there. I wouldn't be allowed into the barns themselves but could see into them and otherwise the only place that is off limits is the slaughter house.

I also took the chance to chat to the guy I buy most of my veg from. When I spoke to him at the beginning he said everything was organic and we chatted a bit about how nice it was for me to be able to buy stuff directly from the person who had grown it. I heard him recently telling someone else that not everything came from his farm so I was curious about what had changed. I started off asking about whether the eggs he sells are free-ranging and he said yes, all of his hens have access to outside all the time (plus another invitation to come out any time and have a look around). I then asked him if he grew all the veg himself and he said that he bought in some stuff, mostly the different mushrooms, from other farmers in the area who wouldn't necessarily find it worth their while to have their own market stall.

I think sometime in the summer I definitely need to find a friend with a car or hire a car and take a few days off work and go driving around to visit all of these places and get to know them all a bit better.

Random photo of the other thing I did manage to do yesterday, which was finish a dishcloth which was last in a pile I was sending to my brother. I've done a few now in the sideways square shape which involves starting with one stitch and then increasing one every line until you get to the size you want then decreasing one every line until it's back to one. It really is a great way to practice a technique as I've always been a bit hit and miss with increasing before - I even did one this time which was in stocking stitch so that involved increasing in purl as well, which was a bit tricky but I think I've figured it out now.

I like this photo the best though - something about a nice pile that is very satisfying. I need to knit lots more dishcloths so that I can have a few for myself as well!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Things have a way of not quite turning out the way you thought

Tried to talk to my lodger yesterday and realised that not only does he have zero interest in any of the things that I am trying to learn about and take into consideration in the way I live my life (where food comes from, the state of the planet and how our actions actually mean something), he also has a very different idea of what me helping him entails than I do. After a three-hour late night conversation I think I managed to make the point that me accepting him the way he is (e.g. doing nothing to fix his problems and just letting him 'think' until he has figured things out) also involves the reverse of him accepting me the way I am (trying to live a life where I keep a nice house, cook and eat properly, have a bit of a routine, try and do things). I don't know if he really heard what I was saying but at least I have said it. Why the hell these conversations need to happen on the day I start my period I don't know as the fact that I kept crying undoubtedly didn't help matters. Not to mention that the puffy-eyed look I have today really does nothing for me. Oh well, c'est la vie. It did mean a slower start to the day than planned and I'm not feeling quite so active as I wanted to be. Had thought I would do the kitchen stuff this evening but just remembered that I have choir this evening. At least I did get to the market.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Irish Sally Gardens

I have added a link to the lovely Rebecca's paypal store, where you can purchase the e-booklets she has written over the last couple of years with all of the basics on various homesteading/smallholding activities like keeping goats and growing vegetables. I don't generally want to fill up my blog space with lots of ads or commercial activity but every once in a while I think helping someone out who is fighting to keep the life they have built up for themselves and their children is a worthwhile thing to do. Although I haven't actually bought any of these e-booklets myself yet I have attended one of Rebecca's kitchen workshops, where I went to her lovely smallholding in the Leitrim countryside and learned how to felt and I'm sure her e-booklets are just are useful and practical as her workshop proved to be.

Not much else to blog about now or else I have so much to say I can't get it all out. Am just back from a few days with a friend in Brussels and have the rest of the week off work as well so I hope to get a few things done that have been bothering me in the house. And I need to kick my lodger's ass into gear to get out and find a job pronto. Or at least to get out and do something, anything apart from sleep all day and watch DVDs all night. It's still cold and snowy but it is starting to feel like spring despite that - it didn't get dark until after six today. Hooray!

Plan for tomorrow:

Go to farmers' market in the morning - have milk ordered and have to let beef farmer know how much suet I want (yes, I am this far behind in the stuff I planned to do for christmas that I am only now getting around to getting my hands on some suet in order to have a go at making my own mincemeat) done - also ordered beef mince to go with the suet and found preserved ginger in the health food shop on the way home as well as took the time to chat a bit more to some of the farmers about their operations, which was interesting

Go to post office to send off two parcels I should also have sent weeks ago just back from doing that - actually found a third package I also should have sent to Ireland a while ago. Ooops

Go for a walk or, if it's raining, head to the swimming pool for an hour I walked home from choir (about 35 minutes) and that will have to count as my walk

Sort out the kitchen - move around the tupperware and baking stuff so that the things I need often are more accessible. Clean fridge. am going to do this today (Thursday) instead

Sit down at table for three meals and once for a cup of tea and a snack. since my table is still full of tupperware I didn't achieve this one either although I didn't buy any takeaway crap either and did eat proper food - no proper breakfast (did sit down for a cup of tea and had some chocolate with it for a sugar rush to get me out and about) but leftover lentil stew for lunch and bread roll with some garlicy cream cheese for a quick tea before choir as well as a cup of tea plus yummy macaroon from the market for a four o'clock snack

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Light ritual

Went to the Candlemas (Lichtmess) ritual this evening. Was interesting and I am very glad I went. After the ritual was finished we took a few minutes more and each pulled one card from a new set of angel cards which our hostess was given recently. Mine said "you are your own dance". I like it, it fits me and my life at the moment in many different ways.

Friday, February 05, 2010

February week 1 gone already

So much for posting every day. My friend H. has been staying with me while he tried to find a job in this part of Germany. He's originally from a town an hour or so away from here and his mum lives just across the border from there in Holland. So he has been staying with me. He started his new job today, in a town about 40km away. They're providing accomodation, at least for the first few months so he'll just be back occasionally on his day off. He couldn't really handle not having a telly though and spent nearly the whole time on the internet watching films. He copped on yesterday that there are lots of films to be seen on the internet that haven't even come out in Germany yet. He was like a little kid. I really hope this job works out for him. He has a serious drink problem and it sort of feels like this might be his last chance to sort himself out. After being offered this job he even said something to me about how he would have to be careful with drink if things were going to work out. Closest he's ever come to really admitting and accepting he has a problem so it made me feel hopeful. He has an offer to go back and work in the hotel in the Black Forest where he first did his apprenticeship (and then worked for 15 years or so) starting in March so if what he has now doesn't work out he has something else lined up. But I hope what he has started now does work out as it's a much better situation for him I think.

Anyway, with him spending all the time on the internet I couldn't really get to blogging. Tomorrow will be a busy day. In the morning I'm meeting up with the other people who work in the garden for their annual outing. Instead of just a meal this year they've organised a walking tour around the 'Altstadt' (old town) of Dusseldorf which I think will be really interesting. We'll go for a meal and a beer or two in one of the breweries afterwards.

Then, in the evening I'll head off to the next in the annual circle rituals which I've been going to. After the last one just before Christmas I wasn't honestly too sure that I'd bother going to the next one. But when the hostess sent me an email last week asking if I would be joining them and giving the details it sounded interesting. It's a Candlemas ritual (if the online translations have gotten it right) for cleansing and preparing for the new beginning. I'm still very deep in a winter funk and I know I wouldn't have gone looking for something to do but the note at the end of the invitation really did catch my interest: "during the ritual we will change clothes; we will put away our dark winter clothes (symbol for energy which has been used up) and pull on white/light clothes." It can take me months to 'wake-up' again after the winter and it might be that this is what I need. I planned to take down the Christmas decorations last weekend but didn't get very far. So I will do that tomorrow instead in preparation for this ritual. Putting away the artificial light that I have had in my life for the last month or so and getting ready for the light of spring to arrive. For the ritual tomorrow we also have to bring a white candle with us as well as a glass which has special meaning for us. Not sure yet, what glass I'll bring. Can't think of any off-hand which are particularly special for me although I do have one jar which was my mum's and her mum's before her, which I've always had a fondness for. And the German word for glass is the same as the word for jar so I'm not sure which is meant. Now just need to find something bright to wear and decide what food to bring. Might just be lazy and buy a block of cheese and dig another jar of chutney out of the cupboard. Depends on how well I sleep tonight probably :-)