Simplifying Life – The Next Steps

At the moment I feel that our plans are in limbo. I know that it’s to do with the time of year as we take ourselves off at every opportunity to make the most of the Summer. It shouldn’t be a surprise really as this happens every year and we try not to plan any large projects throughout the Summer months but it does mean that we lose some of our momentum.

So this post will hopefully act as a reminder of all that I feel that we have achieved so far in simplifying our lives and hopefully inspire us to continue on our journey.

Things we have done so far….

  • Moved house and paid off our mortgage.
  • Made energy-saving measures and lowered our fuel bills.
  • Set up my own home based business.
  • Begun to grow and brew our own.
  • Decluttered our possessions.

Things that need work on……..

  • Lower our fuel bills even more to save money and the enviroment.
  • Declutter more and learn to live with less.
  • Grow more of our own fruit and vegetables.
  • Look at other streams of income which are not reliant on employment by others.
  • Streamline our finances to enable us to save for our future plans.

I’m sure that there are many more things that will be added to the to do list over time, how about you – what have you already done towards achieving a simpler life?

A Weekend In Wensleydale

School was closed for the day on Friday so this meant one thing – a long weekend away in the caravan. We try to keep the journeys short on weekends away so that we can set off  as soon as the boy returns home from school and hopefully arrive at our destination in time for tea.

With this in mind we decided to stay within our home county of Yorkshire and visit one of our favourite areas  – Wensleydale.

Wensleydale

This is such a lovely part of Yorkshire, most people will have heard of it because of the  famous cheese that is produced here but there is so much more to this area. The scenery is typically English, rolling hills and dry-stone walls, picture perfect market towns and centuries old farms.

Our reason for visiting this weekend was that we had booked tickets for an intriguing attraction called “The Forbidden Corner“, billed as the strangest place in the world  – who could resist!

The place can only be described as part eccentric folly, part labyrinth. You enter through the gaping mouth of a stone giant and are plunged into an Alice in Wonderland world of puzzles and riddles. Around every corner you are faced with a surprise, it just gets curiouser and curiouser……..

The entrance to the underworld…..

If you go down to the woods today…….

…..be sure of a nice surprise!

I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t want to spoil any surprises for future explorers however in our opinion this has to be the best attraction we have visited in the UK. We all agreed that without a doubt it most definitely lived up to its claim of being the strangest place in the world!

One Man’s Junk……

I think that I may have mentioned before that Mr S is a hoarder. We often come to blows over things that magically appear in our house that other people see no good reason to keep. Like some people rescue injured animals he rescues unwanted junk.

The reason he does this is that to him it’s not junk, one day it will come in handy. For what god only knows but there it sits in the house until I can’t take it anymore and I blow a fuse (for which I’m sure he has a replacement stashed away).

This “treasure” then disappears never to be seen again into the garage or the shed – out of sight out of mind for both of us.

There is a fatal flaw in all of this though – our garage is not a tardis.

It has become apparent that something has to be done. While we were planning the vegetable garden we decided we needed not one but two more sheds! One for potting plants, the other for storage.

The potting shed is needed, at the moment potting up is done outside if fine but more often than not in the house which is not ideal. The other reason is because all of the garden tools are scattered over half an acre of garden because we have no storage space for them, and guess why we have no storage space for the things that we need to store? Because our shed and garage are full of useless junk!

Actually I am being a little unfair here. A lot of what is hidden away are remnants from the past, extra materials from our house renovation, materials from when Mr S worked for himself but the point is still the same – it is not needed and taking up valuable space and it is valuable because we were considering the purchase of more storage space.

It’s amazing what the thought of spending money on something we already have but is under utilised can do – this week Mr S began a clear out in earnest.

One full sack followed another into the trailer and then off it went to the waste tip. The best thing about this (beside actually being able to walk into the garage) – after only one day of clearing he had cashed in enough scrap metal and spare cable to pay for the new potting shed!

Village Life – A Gala and the Olympic Torch

It has been a busy few days in the village and this has meant that not much has got done at home.

On Saturday afternoon our village hosted its annual gala. This was the first year in many that I have had no direct involvement with the event as in past years I have helped with the village schools tombola stall as my son was a pupil there (he’s now moved on to High School).

So this year was enjoyable as I was able to have a good look round and I truly appreciated what our village council had arranged. As the gala is a non commercial event all the stalls support local organizations and charities. I visited our village’s allotment society stall and bought 4 asparagus plants for £1 And 4 tomato plants for £2! Great bargains.

The village council had arranged a bouncy castle and a climbing wall for the children which were free to use and a great success, in the main arena there was an impressive display from a bird of prey expert.

Following that a re-enactment society set up camp on the field and recreated skirmishes from the English civil war, interesting and relevant as the local area featured prominently in the English Civil War.

The event lasted well into the evening with local bands playing on the main stage creating a mini music festival. It was a great event and one I hope continues for many more years to come.

Following the weekends events the Olympic Torch relay passed through the village. It was an added bonus for us as it actually passed by the end of our street. The amount of people who had actually come out for this once in a lifetime glimpse was amazing!

We met up with the other members of our family that also live in the village, even my nephew the youngest family member was there to join us.

After a long wait there it was burning bright, a brief glimpse and then it was gone.

When Only a 4 x 4 Will Do

Ok, we’re the Simplicity Family and we drive a gas guzzling 4 x 4. Sounds like a confession doesn’t it?

Well it is and I have to confess that it doesn’t sit quite right with our ideals.

Whilst I sympathize with those who think that 4×4’s are the machines of the devil and I agree that in a lot of cases they are driven unnecessarily there are times when only a 4×4 will do…….

In our defence we have been running it for quite a few years now, have maintained it and run it for more than the all too common 3 year turnover. This is far better for the environment than changing every few years as the amount of energy required to produce a new car is massive. I guess what I am saying that it isn’t black and white and let’s face it is driving any car enviromently friendly?

One Lovely Blog Award

I’ve just been nominated for my first blog award! Annie at Biocadence passed to me the One Lovely Blog Award.

There are some fun rules that go with accepting this award…….

First you must thank the giver and link back to them: That one is easy. Thank you Annie, receiving this award made my day  🙂

Second I need to share seven possibly unknown things about myself, so here goes……

1. I am terrified of crabs. This goes back to when I was 5 years old and one bit my big toe in the sea at Scarborough.

2. When I was 16 dyed my hair purple. When I was 18 I had dreadlocks. I may look like a respectable(ish) Mum now but I’m a hippy at heart.

3. I have a cat called Purdy, she is 14 years old and has adopted me as her human.

4. I was once a bass guitar player in a band.

5. My secret guilty pleasure is Disney World in Florida. I’m not a Disney fan but that place is like a complete contrast and escape from everyday life.

6. I’m a left handed capricorn.

7. I hate celery but I love pickled eggs!

Third is to nominate 15 other blogs you like for this award.

So in no particular order these are the blogs that I nominate……..

  1. The Hedge Combers
  2. Lightlycrunchy
  3. Journey To The Green Dream
  4. Carina of Devon
  5. Minamalist Living
  6. The Happy Hippy
  7. A Good Day To Live
  8. Persuing Enough
  9. A Life in the Country
  10. Notes From The Frugal Trenches
  11. Living Lagom
  12. Backyard Feast
  13. The 10 Year Challenge
  14. Live Nakedly
  15. Back Road Journal

I hope you visit everyone’s blog and are as impressed with them as I am, there are some truly inspirational people out there – Enjoy!

Gardeners’ World Live

This weekend we visited Gardeners’ World Live at the NEC in Birmingham. This was our first visit to a garden show of this scale and so we were unsure about what to expect.

My first thought upon entering the main hall was that I was impressed with the volume of stands however upon looking more closely most of them were trade stands selling all manner of things, a lot unrelated to gardening!

Things improved considerably upon entering the RHS Floral Marquee. What an amazing sight! I have to say that we were really impressed by the scale of the stands put on by the various associations and nurseries.

Amazing Alliums

Just a small part of Birmingham City Councils award-winning display

Lilies in all their splendor

The show gardens outside were impressive and gave lots of inspiration as many featured a lot of vegetable growing. It’s at time like this that it would be nice to have a small compact garden. To recreate a garden with this much impact over half an acre would certainly be beyond our budget!

The Water Wise Garden by Brett Hardy

Coming Out To Play? by Adam Frost

For us the highlights were:

The displays in the floral marquee for sheer impressiveness

The show gardens for inspiration

Monty Don 🙂

The lows of the show were:

The sheer volume of people made it difficult to view the show gardens

In our opinion too many non relevant trade stands

The pull along trolleys – our ankles suffered!

The main highlight for me though was seeing my gardening hero Monty Don. The presenter of Gardeners’ World and a self-taught gardener, he gave a frank and insightful talk on the filming of Gardeners World which takes place in his own garden. Having seen and heard him live I can only say that I admire him even more!

Monty Don

In all we had a great day out and spoke to some interesting people who are passionate about what they do, however I’m not sure we would visit again. We felt that the commercial element outweighed the horticultural aspect of the show. Some people would find the shopping a great benefit and judging by the amount of trolleys piled high with plants and garden accessories many did but for us we felt the amount of information available was overwhelmed by the trade aspect.

So will we being going next year? Probably not – I think that this garden sums it nicely…….

I’d rather be in the garden by Helen Stewart

The Uncomfortable Truth

Sometimes you happen upon something in the media that makes you sit up and think and occasionally really rocks you to your core……that’s what happened to me today.

For a while now I have been thinking in detail about what I eat, I guess that when you are growing your own food this is to be expected. I have not eaten meat for nearly 25 years, not because I don’t like the taste of it but because of the issues with animal welfare. At the weekend I saw a piece on TV about the slaughter of male calves in the dairy industry and this led me to contemplate  adopting a vegan diet.

Whilst searching for more information about becoming vegan on the internet I came across the documentary “Earthlings”

EARTHLINGS is a powerful and informative documentary about society’s treatment of animals, narrated by Joaquin Phoenix with soundtrack by Moby. This multi-award winning film by Nation Earth is a must-see for anyone who cares about animals or wishes to make the world a better place.”

I wasn’t quite prepared for what followed and although I am quite aware of many of the topics cover in the documentary Earthlings has got to be the most important film I have ever seen. Yes it is shocking, brutal and very, very hard to watch however I firmly believe that every person should watch it, so that they are able to make informed decisions. The film offers footage that most people would rather not see, and rather not contemplate but if you are prepared for an emotional and intellectual challenge then you must watch it.

So am I changing my diet for a vegan one? Watch the documentary, I think that you’ll find the answer to that question there.

You can watch Earthlings online at http://www.earthlings.com/ 

A Tale of Two Campsites – The Mawddach Estuary

As much as we had enjoyed our time at Bala and the challenge of climbing Snowdon I was looking forwarded to moving on to our next stop. This was the place of childhood memories, I was returning to my special place.

The sun shone as we set up (thankfully we had the foresight to make the most of this) and our pitch offered us the most amazing views over the estuary.

A quick lunch and we were off on our bikes to explore the Mawddach trail and cross the bridge across the estuary into Barmouth.

The Mawddach Trail is a stunning multi-use path following the old disused railway line along the edge of the beautiful Mawddach estuary in Southern Snowdonia. The trail stretches for fifteen kilometres (nine and a half miles) between the towns of Dolgellau and Barmouth and is traffic free making it ideal for walkers and cyclists

Unfortunately this was to be the last of the sunshine as the weather took a turn for the worse during the week. This meant that we had to review our plans and in doing so I was able to revisit a few of my childhood holiday haunts. This is the beach that I spent many a warm summer day exploring, as you can see we were the only ones to brave it that day!

Although the weather stopped us from doing a lot of the outdoor activities that we had planned (if anyone saw the news from last week you’ll have seen just how bad the weather was, luckily our campsite wasn’t one of the ones that flooded!) we still had a fantastic time and made the most of it by keeping dry in various tea shops enjoying Welsh cakes and Bara brith.

A Tale of Two Campsites – Bala Lake

Our first stop in Wales was at a campsite right on the edge of Bala Lake, or to give it its proper name, Llyn Tegid. It was a change to be actually staying by Bala as in the past this had always been a place for a quick stretch of the legs and a picnic before carrying on to our intended holiday destination on the coast.

The campsite that we had booked for the first four nights was larger than the campsites that we usually chose and with our arrival coinciding with the Jubilee weekend it meant that it was full to capacity. The reason for us chosing this site though was that it was situated right on the shore of the lake and had its own launching beach – perfect for a bit of paddling in our canoe.

The main event that we had planned for this leg of our stay was to climb Mount Snowdon (number 2 on the bucket list – that’s one thing that I can now tick off!).  Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa to give it its Welsh name is the highest peak in Wales and England only topped in the British Isles by Ben Nevis in Scotland.

We’d planned our route before hand and had chosen the Pyg track for our ascent and the Miners track for the descent.

The PYG track is both the shortest way up Snowdon, and the one that involves the least amount of ascent. Despite this, it’s not the easiest path up as it can be steep and rocky in places but the paths are reasonably straightforward to follow.  It is 5.5km in length and involves around 800m of ascent. It’s said that the views of Snowdon are among the best of any route up.

We set off in light rain and were amazed by the sheer number of people who had also planned a bank holiday climb.

The gradient soon picked up and the path got rockier.

Soon we were rewarded with our fist view of the summit.

At the summit we were rewarded with one of the best mountain views in Britain, it was truly awe-inspiring and made even better as the cloud lifted offering us a panoramic view of North Wales.

The descent along the Miners Path started off as a steep scramble downwards towards the lake but soon the path widened and levelled out to make an enjoyable walk back to where we had begun.

We made our way back wearily with a quick stop in Bala to pick up fish and chips then time for a relaxing paddle on the lake to finish the day.