Green and Thrifty

When we are home, the girls like to curl up in their rooms like snails, with their electric heaters on. I am trying to find a way to entice them back into the dining room of an afternoon and evening, where there is a fire on anyway, to save electricity. There hasn't been much space in the dining room, because it is a dining room, and has a table taking up most of the available real estate. Today I got Posy to help me move the table lengthways which leaves a good space in front of the fire to perch next to the dog. Then I needed something nice to sit on there. Tempted to run out and buy a little vintage armchair. But no, can't do that. So I wandered around the house until I spied the ottoman in the corner of my room that The Girl had left here when she went to live in a small cupboard of an apartment in the big city. No doubt one day when she finds a slightly larger house she might want it back, but in the meantime, it is perfect in front of the fire. I am so happy to have made our space bigger and refurnished it without spending a cent. Now, to see if my cunning plan works.

I borrowed Matt the Builder's drop saw this week to cut up a bunch off off-cuts from the deck he is making, and also from the fence that was built two years ago when we moved in, so that now I have a lovely big heap of kindling for winter fires. We have wild, windy and cold weather here, and the fire is on all day when we are home. I have the kettle on the fire so that we have free hot water for cooking, dishes and cups of tea.

Matt the builder put up a shelf for me in the laundry, made from spare decking planks. I am so very happy about this, as my old shelf was tiny and too high up for me to reach. It cost me half an hour of builder time, but no materials, as the planks were left over and he re-used the brackets. Now, I challenge any woman out there to refute this statement - the way to a woman's heart is more shelves. Really, It's What Women Want. I generously shared this information with Matt in case he ever needs to impress his girlfriend. I mean, more than he already does.

Here is another project. One of Paul's friends owns a little vintage second-hand shop which is gorgeous and delightful. She bought a set of lovely little chairs at auction and gave Paul the two broken ones, which he gave to me because they don't fit in his shed. Some of the dowels holding the legs together are broken, as is the rush seating. They would be perfect in front of the fire if they were mended, so I am going to sit and look at them for a while until I think of a way to do it without spending any money. I know it can be done. One thought is to cut out the rush seat and put in an upholstered wooden chair pad. My granny used to re-upholster her chairs all the time. I think this might be a good starter project.. any thoughts welcome.

After two years of being totally uninterested, Rosy and Posy have started lighting the fire for me. The catalyst was Paul the fire master telling me that using too much paper to start a fire causes lots of ash, as paper has clay in it.. who knew? So we decided to try and start the fire using only two sheets of our small local paper. I didn't think it could be done, and that was all the challenge the girls needed. They are now totally on top of fire making with minimum paper starters. We are using up lots of twigs instead from our summer fruit tree prunings and the girls have learnt a new skill. We also use walnut shells for firestarters, very effective as they generally still contain a little bit of walnut, and pine cones that come to us from various places, including my mum, who picks them up on her walks and brings me a bagful every now and then. Thanks, Mum:)

Posy made us hot chocolate for a morning in front of the fire treat. She heats up milk on the stove and adds this chocolate syrup which is cheap and wickedly delicious. Secret ingredient is a pinch of chilli powder for an extra hit of heat and warmth.

Paul has been making absolutely wonderful and divine sourdough bread every few days from the starter that my friend Peter gave me a few weeks ago. I killed my starter, so Paul gave me some more. Did I detect a note of smugness at all? Anyway, I am sitting here willing the starter to double in size today so that I can finally get cracking on a loaf of my own. Meanwhile, I have been baking my usual, with (gasp!) storebought yeast. The humiliation..

The rosehips that Katherine and I picked last weekend are bubbling away on the stove to turn into rosehip syrup, and I have been stewing up lots of roadside apples to turn them into apple sauce, which I stashed in pots in the freezer, although Posy keeps sneaking them out and eating them. I figure there are lots of worse things thirteen year olds could be being sneaky about.. By the way, rosehip syrup, though simple to make, is very messy, and makes the kitchen look like a murder has recently taken place. Squashed up boiled rosehips look very... visceral.

Tell me about the green and thrifty adventures at your place this week. I love your stories:)

Later: Benson-the-sneaky-puppy decides that the ottoman is clearly meant for him.


Beznarf27 said…
I love Benson on the ottoman <3 Earl was on Steve's computer desk the other day but that doesn't compare to the heart warm vision of Benson on the ottoman :) Brunhilda is back in force and warmth is basking through our house. I bought a doona cover from the thrift shop that I though was surprisingly heavy for a doona cover and it turns out it was actually a doona IN a cover for $2 "SCORE!" I have been secretly lusting after a cooler doona as Brunhilda makes our house very warm and I like to be cool at night so a cooler doona is the go. I still have cardamom if you would like some? I don't know where you live or I would drop some off when we are next in the city. Send me an email on (note the dots in between the coniferus are to put off spam bots as otherwise I might end up up to my neck in spam so omit them if you actually want to contact me ;) ) Loving your gorgeous life Jo <3
Anonymous said…
I'm with the your girls in feeling the cold. In winter I am usually bundled up in sweaters,wool socks and fingerless mitts...and under a blanket. However I think your warm fire would tempt me and I just love the ottoman and I knew Benson would be on it the moment your back was turned. Ottomans and animals-a match made in heaven.

Deborah said…
Benson the Ottoman Dog is very clever and kind to reinforce the cleverness you showed in placing the ottoman where he could most enjoy it...looks like you're on his cushion from now on.
Planning to make some rose hip syrup myself but can't find enough hips. Will keep looking.
Meg said…
That fire looks so cosy warm and now you have a lovely cushion to sit on when you are sharing its warmth with Benson. Funny how animals have their own plans for your furniture! Meg:)
GretchenJoanna said…
Bread, rosehips, hot cocoa - it sounds like the coziest, best-smelling thriftiness! I wish I were with you today, as it's cold here, and foggy, but it's also technically springtime, and yesterday was hot! no furnace or building a fire (we already cleaned out the stove, etc) so I just keep drinking tea, waiting for the sun to come out so I can get motivated to work in the garden. You are inspiring me to get a sourdough starter going, though, as I had promised myself to do some months ago!!
Anonymous said…
Green and thrifty? I was given(!) a whole alpaca fleece for spinning. I can spin wool, but had never handled alpaca. The animal concerned must have spent its entire life rolling in the dust, and I needed to get rid of most of it before I could card and spin the fleece. Yesterday when we were in town, I spotted the council gardeners planting out some of the tulips our town is known for, and the bulbs were in very large mesh bags. I asked for, and was given, one of the bags. With my husband's willing assistance, I filled the bag, hung it up in the garden and first bashed it with a stick, then blasted it with the leaf blower. It was fun! There is a lot of free entertainment left in that fleece, and then it will be spun, washed and knitted into something approaching free clothing. Win!

Benson is a very wise dog.

Linda in NZ
You've been busy as usual. Lots of good green and thrifty activities on the go. Look forward to seeing what you come up with for the chairs. Best of luck with sourdough starter take 2. No big green and thrifty activities here - just the many little things that all add up.
Hazel said…
I've swapped bantams eggs for broccoli stalks and sad lettuce (the greens are ostensibly for the chickens but sometimes they find their way into our dinner!), white borage seedlings for vegetable plants and best of all, I'm working on swapping herbs for credit at our village pub :-)
*Vegetarians and the squeamish stop here*
As I was driving home last week the car in front hit a pheasant. I stopped and she was still alive so I put it under a blanket in my boot (trunk?) and drove the mile home where my husband despatched it. I wish I'd been able to do it myself at the time and in retrospect, I wasn't going to make anything worse for the her which is my fear so maybe I should have tried. A couple of days later I made pheasant curry, the cats had pheasant liver for tea and the dog had pheasant stock on her dinner for a few days...
Jo said…
Fran, that was indeed an excellent op-shop score. Nice! Thanks so much, I would still love the cardamom, I had, of course, been completely vague and forgotten, it was in the category of 'things I vaguely try to remember as might be important'. Sigh. That is a ridiculously large portion of my brain space..

Marieann, yes, I am a layers girl myself. I end up looking more or less spherical in winter..

Deborah, yes, it was thoughtful of me to provide extra sleeping space for the dog. Good luck with finding rose hips. Katherine and I have been keeping an eye out during the year for rose bushes. Katherine led us us unerringly back to the patches she has had her eye on since summer..

Meg, Benson has plans for most of our furniture, and all the plans involve sleeping..

Gretchen Joanna, the sourdough was wonderfully successful! Fingers crossed I can keep it up. Have fun with a sourdough starter.. just throw equal quantities rye flour and water in jar. There, done. It's one of those things that, like you, takes me months, but then takes 90 seconds to actually do..

Linda, that was the most creative way I have ever heard to clean an alpaca fleece! Although to be honest I do not hear many stories about cleaning alpaca fleeces.. now that is what i call slow clothing.. love it! Do let us know what you make when you get to that bit..

Laura, it's all the little things that make up a life, which goes in one direction or another. As long as we are heading in the right direction..

Hazel, so first of all, swapping herbs for alcohol, brilliant! And second of all, I am so impressed that a)you did the responsible thing with the pheasant. Like you, I don't know how to dispatch a pheasant, and clearly you did what you could at the time, and b) you know how to make a curry out of an actual dead bird with feathers on (ok, I am sure it didn't have feathers on by the time it got in curry, but you know what I mean..)
Really, you should be the one with the blog. Every time I read your comments, I want to know more. Please start a blog.

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