the skinflint philosopher

Attempting to thrift our way to a better life, with a toddler in tow!


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Treasure in the garden

The new rental gaff has not much in the way of a garden, but it has a three tiered patio system with a few beds, and is a definite sun trap so I’m already thinking tomatoes. There is also a little bodged wooden conservatory that will be great to bring on anything, as it is ferociously hot at the moment (and no doubt ear piercingly cold in the winter).

Before we get started though we discover amid the dandelions and other weeds, a few surprises left by the last tenant.

Prodigious quantities of mint. With the hot June/July sun, and a determination to keep up our good water drinking habits we developed while travelling in the campervan, Digger and I have taken to putting a sprig of this in a jug of water and leaving it on the dining table at all times. Tiddler not so keen, but we are keeping very mintly hydrated as a result.

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The forgotten veg patch. Leeks going to seed, potatoes and gnarly carrots- all a bit left to their own devices but I used to make a stock and soups.

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More herbs- Rosemary and thyme, evoking our Greek travels. The mug, a gift for me on Tiddler’s birth from a sadly now passed friend, M, the jokey slogan on it exactly her take on things to a tee.

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Flowers in need of some TLC

 

The best surprises though came in terms of the wildlife. Tiddler of course was straight in there, picking up all the snails, and her new favourite thing, these little critters.

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The birds flit from side to side in the overgrown hedges, and after a few days of putting out seed we see them gaining more confidence with the feeder, and grateful for the water. Robins, blackbirds, pigeons, and sparrows so far, and more that I am yet to identify. Skitter skitter skitter go their feet on the conservatory roof.

But the best is yet to come, as Tiddler runs in shouting ”I’ve seen a snake!” We hotfoot it out there fearing adders, but spot this female slowworm instead, and as the days go by we spot her and her other half on a regular basis, particularly in the early mornings before the sun is up, sunbathing themselves by the snapdragons.

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Tiddler and her cousins run wild as various forms of make believe wildlife themselves.

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Given that I have missed a lot of the planting slots, I cheat and head to a local plant sale to pick up a few established seedlings to replace the vegetables I have dug up. Tomatoes, courgettes and french beans to start with, I’ll let you know how it all goes if my not-sure-if-they-actually-are green fingers can get busy in between the obligatory slowworm hunting and woodlice husbandry.

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Diado and Baba vs Tom and Barbara

I’m aware this blog has changed focus a bit in recent months, what with all the travelogues, and now we have arrived in Bulgaria I clearly need to update the Home page that details us trying to live a thrifty life back in the British Isles so we could try and save enough money to stop working and get over here! So this post is a little nod back at the original thriftiness and skinflintery ideas, while continuing to update on our life here.

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Lured here by the low land prices that allow many to achieve the ‘Englishman’s castle’ idea that is nigh impossible back home on our cramped and increasingly expensive Sceptred Isle, most ex-pats in Bulgaria will turn up with all their worldly possession on the back of a lorry, but not necessarily have the necessities for the Bulgarian way of doing things, or the language skills to facilitate accessing life here. They may be retiring here, or have simply chosen to sell up and move out and try their hand and luck. Some come with practical skills, much in demand of others in the ex-pat community all trying to improve and renovate their old houses and land, and others seek online work teaching Japanese school children English to help pay their way. What is clear however, is that many may have felt that the land and property prices at a pittance were a true reflection of the cost of living, which it is definitely not.  Land is cheap because so many Bulgarians have gone, spreading out across the rest of Europe and further afield. So the ex-pats cannot rely on their incomes here, or their savings. They must, as the remaining Bulgarians do as a fact of daily life, start to become partially self-sufficient.
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We are far more fortunate as we have my in-laws here. We have turned up with little in the way of our own possessions (our household goods and Digger’s tools are all in storage at my parent’s house in the Westcountry) but have been able to move straight into a fully furnished and equipped flat, and therefore while paying bills will have no rent. We also this winter are saving a considerable amount of money on food purchases because Diado and Baba (Tiddler’s grandparents) have a huge stockpile of preserved garden produce that we are dipping into. I worry to Digger that we will limit what they themselves can eat, but he assures me they have far more than they can possible get through. In the early days at their house and in the flat, I keep finding secret stashes of food. It is like treasure troves of epic proportions, of peaches and apricots, tomatoes and cherries. There are chutneys and syrups, cordials and purees, compotes and sauces. There is no space in the freezer for the few purchases we wish to make.


I am in awe of the labour that has gone in, matter of course, to ensuring thrift and zero food waste. Sweetcorn has been planted, and grown, and cut, and shucked, and par-boiled, and bagged and frozen, just so Tiddler can turn her nose up at it at our dinner table. Herbs have been gathered and chopped and dried, plum and cherry halves have been laid out in the summer sun, and now stored in a twisted pillow case. This is a generation, and a culture who understand the value of the bounty of a harvest. They have so much that they can teach us.

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(Any non-British readers trying to make sense of the title- please see here)