About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Crossing things off the list

For someone who doesn't like to-do lists, I've found the list I made earlier in the summer surprisingly helpful. The first thing, as I said at the time, was to make me realise that I couldn't do it all. Since all my tasks are self-imposed, that meant that I could then decide to just give up on some of them.

The other effect was to level the priorities. Whereas before, I was thinking, I can't do that job, because there's this other job that's more important, and then not doing either job, once I had a list, I felt free to do any of the jobs, without worrying about whether it was the most important thing or not.

Here's how my list looks now. The grey items are things I've given up on, but the other crossed out ones are things I've actually done. There are a lot of things still on the list, but it was quite nice going through and seeing how many I've crossed off in the last two months.

  1. String up peas
  2. sow more peas, and beans, and replacement carrots, and fennel, and broccoli
  3. plant out French beans
  4. pot on tomatoes
  5. clear ash out of tapped bucket (missing trowel) and start making comfrey tea
  6. improve slug defences for brassicas and strawberries
  7. inspect and register septic tank
  8. unblock kitchen drain
  9. arrange book club meeting (choose book)
  10. finish camera bag (find suitable washers)
  11. seal bathroom floor
  12. paint kitchen cupboard doors
  13. add decoration to kitchen cupboards
  14. clear, level and lay kitchen floor
  15. ditto hall floor (edging strips)
  16. brick arch over fireplace (get more bricks)
  17. strip rest of wallpaper
  18. plaster around fireplace
  19. remove radiator
  20. paint sitting room walls
  21. empty room, lift carpet, sand and polish floor
  22. clean up beam
  23. make and install solar panels
  24. finish insulation and ceiling in store room
  25. loft insulation
  26. rig up doorbell
  27. put cupboards/shelves in store room
  28. renovate boots
  29. harvest oak leaves; make cordial and wine (get more buckets)
  30. ditto elderflowers
  31. sorrel cordial?
  32. pull up rest of horsetail for plant food/blight treatment
  33. paint dresser
  34. finish making laundry basket
  35. mend laundry bag
  36. mend trousers and skirts (mine and Ian’s)
  37. make new woodstore roof
  38. weave bench seat from leylandii offcuts
  39. treat wooden chairs for outdoor use
  40. put extra shelf in airing cupboard
  41. finish plastic bag sandals
  42. take lavender cuttings
  43. replace tent poles
  44. clear out fridge
  45. book musician for September
  46. ditto October
  47. book musician for November
  48. rewrite music website in nice tidy code
  49. tidy up archive
  50. publicity for July/August music
  51. collect wild garlic seeds when ready and sow
  52. ditto pak choi, cabbage, probably onion and parsnip too
  53. write blog posts
  54. find out about greenhouse for sale; ?dismantle, move and assemble
  55. make press for sawdust briquettes
  56. make solar dehydrator
  57. get sawdust; make briquettes
  58. fix spare room skirting boards
  59. bedroom ceiling
  60. fix cornices
  61. paint wardrobe
  62. fix wardrobe
  63. strip/paint bedroom walls
  64. fix kitchen cupboard door
  65. learn Welsh
  66. plan and prepare dinner EVERY DAY
  67. WASH UP!

I'll tell you about a couple of the bigger jobs. Since we replaced all the floors last year, we needed to put down new floor covering. I'd done the dining room, bathroom and spare room, the bedroom got its old carpet back; next on the list was the kitchen.

Just as a reminder, here's the kitchen as it was when we bought the house...

Gorgeous seventies vinyl, with gaffer tape

... and here it is after we replaced the floorboards:

An improvement, certainly, but not quite the look we were going for.

I investigated vinyl in various forms. The maximum length of our kitchen, going into doorways, is more than 4m in both directions (yes, I do know how lucky I am!) which means we couldn't get a single sheet of vinyl to cover the whole lot; there'd have to be joins. Since we had to have joins anyway, I decided on vinyl tiles. You can get self-adhesive ones nowadays, but they're not really sticky enough, especially if you have a less-than-optimal surface to lay them on, and I wasn't prepared to line the floor with hardboard before I started this job. I went for old fashioned tiles, which turned out to be quite heavy, somewhat flexible, and double sided. That is, the pattern, such as it is, runs right through the tile and shows on both sides. It does not mean that you can stick the tiles down either way up. I learned this from experience. The tiles are slightly curved and if you put them down the wrong way up, the edges curl upwards, which is not good. Luckily I'd bought some spares. The good thing about tiles, spares notwithstanding, is that I only needed to buy enough for the floor I was covering, not for all the bits under cupboards that would end up as offcuts with sheet vinyl.

Before doing the floor, though, I wanted to tart up the cupboard doors. First a coat of paint and then, because that made the room look rather clinical, some kind of decoration. I dithered over this for ages - I had an idea of what I wanted, but wasn't at all sure of how to achieve it. Eventually, in spite of misgivings about the whole thing going horribly wrong, I settled on stencils. My sister stencilled navy blue ivy leaves around her student room, back when stencilling was fashionable, and they looked really good.

It turned out that deciding on stencils was a long way from the end of the story. Since stencils aren't fashionable now, they're really difficult to get hold of. I certainly couldn't find any in local shops. Vinyl stickers are widely available and seemed like a good idea, avoiding issues of smudging the edges, but much searching revealed that these are almost all huge. I just want a bit of detail round the corners of the cupboard doors, not designs big enough to cover a whole wall. After that diversion I returned to stencils, found a good online supplier, then suffered from too much choice. When there's a vast range to choose from, it's all too easy to get drawn into thinking we must have exactly the right one. I needed not one but two designs, one for the cupboards and one for the drawers, and these beautiful designs were pretty expensive. I could end up paying forty quid before I'd even started the work, and quite possibly still mess it up. Finally, I found a small, cheap stencil (I think it was £3.50) that, with a bit of masking tape, could be used for both designs.

Doctored stencil

I managed to get the paint on tolerably well. There was a bit of smudging round the edges if you look closely...

A nice bit of stencilling, just for Susie

... so I find it's best not to look too closely. Once I'd levelled the floor with offcuts of the bathroom vinyl (new floor panels matched old boards at the edges, but not in the middle, thanks to a sagging joist) and laid the floor tiles, the finished result looked like this:

Finished kitchen, if you ignore the wall tiles and that bit over the cooker.

I rather like the fact that the floor tiles look old already. Brand spanking new just isn't my style.

The other big project I've done recently is to overhaul the website for our music events at the local hotel. I won't write much about this because it would get very boring, but I've done a bit of html programming before, and the site we inherited was created in sitebuilder, which builds the most hideous code I've ever seen. Every time I had to update the site it made me wince.

The other motivation for rewriting the site was to include online payments. It was something we'd been meaning to set up, but it came to a head when we booked a band who are frankly out of our league (Mad Dog Mcrea! We can't believe they're really coming to Devil's Bridge!) and when their agent confirmed the booking he said, "...and could you give me the web address for your online ticket sales, please." Ah, um, yes, well...

So I rewrote the website, registered with HMRC, opened a new bank account, and signed up with an online credit card processing company. All of this took rather a long time, but having got to the end of it, I'm really quite proud of the result, so here it is: Wild West Wales.


  1. Crikey, I'm exhausted after reading all that. Your kitchen looks splendid (though I have to say I thought the 70s cupboards looked quite groovy - but I know they often look a lot better in small photos than in real life). Had a bit of a crossing things off the list day today - managed to finally sort our chicken and duck accommodation (creosote/disinfectant - cough splutter). I'm so impressed at some of the things you included on your list - notably sorrel cordial. The mind boggles. Have you done it / tried it before? I quite like the taste of sorrel but cannot imagine it as a cordial. And washers for a camera bag... intriguing.

    1. The main reason for painting the cupboards was to lighten the room. The kitchen windows face west towards the hillside and there's a conservatory roof out there as well, so there's not a huge amount of light coming into the room. It's amazing how much difference it made painting those cupboards, though on a bright sunny morning like today it's still not the most attractive place to be, especially when the washing up's waiting.

      I haven't tried sorrel cordial (and still haven't - you'll notice it's on the 'given up' list). I thought it might be a bit like still lemonade.

      As for the camera bag - it will have feet, and the feet require washers on the inside of the back so they don't rip the fabric. Not very interesting really.

  2. I was intrigued by the sorrel cordial too.
    Good job with the cupboards. And the band booking/website.

    My to-do list has been rather neglected over the summer. It would seem not going on a week/fortnight summer holiday this year meant going on several shorter trips and consequently it felt as though I was always coming or going with not long enough in between to get anything major achieved.

    Oh well. Back to routine this week.

  3. Love what you have done to the kitchen Rachel, well done. Also, have just ordered four tickets for your November function, it looks brilliant so we are coming along and bringing some friends :-) Also, a bit of feedback,the wild west website is very easy to navigate and the payment quick and fuss free. (Susiegee)

  4. Hi Rachel.

    Firstly, kudos for making that list and getting stuff done. I usually make lists and forget that I have, lol. Recently though, I did make a list and went through it this morning and realised: Hey, I've actually made a bit of progress! ^_^ You're always such an inspiration to me.

    Secondly, the new kitchen looks great! I quite like the stencils too and agree the "old" looking tiles are way nicer a style.

    In Barbados we usually see Sorrel growing around Christmas time and people make drink from it then. I'm pretty sure that they include some shots of rum in it too. I vaguely remember the taste of plain ole sorrel drink and liking it a lot. The mass produced carbonated stuff is a joke and not good for you anyways.

    The website looks good - not tickets for me though, haha! Thanks for the Sitebuilder tip too. It's hyped up a lot, so I've considered it once or twice, but I DESPISE ugly code too, so I won't bother with it. :)

    Glad to know you're still updating your blog and doing well. Mine has fizzled but I'm thinking to do a combo journal, work in progress sort of thing. Heck, I MYSELF am a work in progress, aren't we all?

    Cheers and be well.


  5. Hi Dana,
    Always nice to hear from you - you say such encouraging things! :-)

    It's nice to know that sorrel does make a good drink. I'm not sure I'll get round to trying it this year, but maybe next year.

    I thought I'd been neglecting the blog a bit (you'll see why when I finally get the next post finished), but yes, I guess it's still ticking over. This blog is a hobby, so if I don't feel like writing it, I don't! On the other hand, I don't want to neglect my readers entirely, so, um, more anon...


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