Thursday 27 December 2018

How did I do against my self reliance goals 2018?

It's that time of year again where I look at how I've done against some self reliance goals I set myself earlier in the year. Looking back I'm really pleased with all we've managed to achieve this year and I seem to have managed to at least tick a few things from the list!

#### And Don't worry I know some people are chomping on the bit to see the new kitchen - a short video tour will be uploaded soon I promise! ####

Community -

Well I think I can safely say I'm a fixture of the village now, I'm involved with a few few things now!

The play group has run all year and we have had a great friend join our ranks to help, so with three of us running it and a healthy number of mums and dads turning up each week it seems like the playgroup will run for much longer yet! I'll have been going to the playgroup for five years in the spring and helping to run it for two, such a great way for families to meet each other and hopefully makes new parents feel much less isolated.

I've also tried to help at the children's school where I can as it does feel like the heart of the village.

After completing the school library in time for the opening of the new school in January, I seem to have been roped into a few more projects since then.

I got invited to a meeting about the new school garden have ended up being far more involved that I ever intended. 

It's going to be an amazing space for the kids though and I can't wait to see it all growing next year!

I also joined the scouts in the spring as a Beaver leader in training. My eldest goes to beavers and loves it but they were short of leaders. It's been a huge commitment and a steep learning curve but one I've really enjoyed, I've also roped in two really good friends to do it with so it's been a great laugh at times as well.

Childcare in the village has also been amazing, I have a great group of friends and we all happily look after each others children, even the nursery said they've never known a place like it. When I helped with my brothers roof this Autumn, I found help with the kids really easy. I feel very blessed to have the friends that I do live so close to me.

Lastly I've organised a "dads night out" with dads from a few of the local schools. The mums have been having them for years and seem really organised with it (a meal etc). Fed up of waiting for someone else to do it, a friend and I just picked a date and invited everyone we could to the one pub on that night. In the end we had over 20 dads turn up and everyone had a great night - not sure everyone had a great Saturday morning though...

Children and Family
I feel really guilty this year that I haven't been able to find the time to go on holiday with my wife and the kids, each time I've been so busy working on the house so I've missed out. Instead my wife has gone with family or friends and I've been a bit gutted. to miss out on a fun holiday when they're so young is rubbish and I hope never to do it again.

I certainly feel I've neglected my wife this year as we've had very little time with just the two of us and that's something I wanted to improve on last year. Now the children are getting a little older the grandparents seem a little more willing to have them for sleepovers so hopefully next year we might get a few more nights where we can go out!

One thing I did start doing this year (as the boy is now old enough) is to start walking the mile to and from school when it's dry enough. This has been some time that I've really treasured, the children open up and talk about their day far more than when we just drive it. We've also been learning about nature together and trying to remember tree and plant names as well as their uses. It's also kept them (and me) far fitter and healthier.

They've also helped me lots with the animals and when we've done things in the garden, never as much as I'd like, because school and stuff gets in the way, but they've still been great and I'm always shocked by how much they know. They've also loved it when I've gone into school to help and spent time there, my youngest already thinks he goes to school he's that comfortable there.

Building Projects

Well this is a big one this year!

It's been constant and has been my main focus this year. I was determined to have Christmas dinner in the new kitchen and be using the new bedroom upstairs. We knocked through upstairs in February this year, just before the "beast from the East" struck.

Then I spent the summer doing lots of work downstairs, building new chimneys and knocking down walls.

We managed to eat Christmas dinner in the extension this year which was my main aim for the year. It's still not finished but its looking good and is usable. I've made everything from scratch as well, this has meant that everything has taken more time but it's saved us lots of money and is better quality than what we could afford otherwise.

Building our own bed is something I've always wanted to do, a weird life goal but I'm really chuffed I managed to do that this year as well, a simple bed but I'm not one for lots of frills!

I'm still miles off where I want to be with the house. I was hoping to have most things wrapped up by now but I haven't even started on the walk in pantry and utility, nor have I finished the one bathroom upstairs or the landing. I guess it's plenty to keep me busy in the new year - I don't have to look far for jobs to do!

Off Grid

Like I put in my goals for the year we haven't got much of a budget for this at the moment so it's just trying to do what I can.

I did manage to make a composting toilet! This has been on my to-do list for year so I'm so glad I finally managed to do it. Its been great to have an outside loo as our other ones are upstairs which isn't very handy if you've been working outside and covered in mud! I was pleased I managed to make it out of mainly recycled materials as well, seems very in keeping with what it's trying to achieve.

I've been using it since I made it and can report that it works great, no real smell even in the hot summer months.

I've also made small steps in increasing water storage with more water butts added around the place. Nowhere near enough but it's a good start and was helpful with this hot summer we had this year, they were cheap and inexpensive so I hope to get more yet.

The other major one was to have a wood fired range in the new kitchen, this gives us a cooking option that isn't dependant on have power, always good to have a second option! It also provides lots of heat so with the other stove lit the whole house can be heated off grid.


I've tried not to take on too much carpentry work this year but have ended up with a few bigger jobs. A music studio and desk for one, as well as my brothers huge roof this Autumn and some other smaller commissions.

I've also managed to do some more talks at garden clubs, something I really enjoy and I hope to get more work like this in the future.

Developing my writing has been a real ambition for me this year as well. I've been in quite a few magazines both national and local. I was really pleased to be the feature article on last months Country Smallholding magazine (January), especially as it was really hard to write for me as it wasn't in my usual style.


Well I failed on this one!
It came to a point in the spring where I just gave up and concentrated on the house. We still had lots of crops from there but it was nothing like it was the year before. This also meant that our seed saving suffered as well.

The weeds have pretty much taken over in the main veg garden and I'm not even sure where the soft fruit is anymore! Luckily a friend came over the other day and we managed to clear out 32 beds ready for next year.


It's not something I've blogged about yet, but back at the end of the summer I sold all the sheep.

It's not a decision I came to lightly and it's something I plan to blog and write about in the future. The jobs with them always seemed to come at the wrong time- when the pressure was already on. They were bringing very little enjoyment and were a constant stress and worry through the spring and summer.

I might get some in the future but for now it's a massive weight off my shoulders and one less thing to worry about.

We still have a good number of chickens here and they've not caused too many problems this year.


Well this year I put my back badly out and broke my toe as well as not giving myself much time off. So I doubt I'm doing that well on my goals on this one.

I have started walking a lot more, as well as walking to school I've also taken to the beautiful Malvern Hills at least once a week with friends and feel much better for it.

I've also taken up Aikido. I used to practice Kung Fu but when the smallholding and children came along it had to take a back seat. When looking at what I could do to improve my core strength locally I came across a local Aikido club that sounded nice and friendly and as I've enjoyed martial arts in the past thought it might be a good fit.

I went for a taster session and really enjoyed it. It's respectful, calm and peaceful but a lot of fun. I've been going twice a week since the spring and it gives me a few hours where I can think about nothing else. I've also noticed that I've become a bit more flexible and I'm using my body differently as you're not trying to use strength all the time.

I also managed to go on a butchery course earlier in the year and develop some skills that way, as well as buying books and reading about subjects I enjoy, foraging with the children for example.

If you've made it this far, well done! It's a long post!

There's still loads I could have done better with and lot of things to work on, but overall I'm really pleased with how this year has gone and what we've managed to achieve. We've worked hard and at times have felt drained but we have created such a great space to live in and are a part of our wonderful village.

I've been thinking of some goals for next year and I'm really looking forward to what the new year will bring.


  1. Wow, I am very impressed with all you managed to achieve this year.

    1. Still loads I could have done and my life balance still wasn't right. A good year though.

  2. I think you've done just brilliantly Kev, I feel quite exhausted just reading about it all, but well done, your family must be so proud of you. It can only get better too, once you've got the house sorted you should have a lot more time for other stuff...but you'll probably still not have enough time for it all!

    1. I have a few more projects in the pipeline! You know me, never one to finish a job fully! Lol!

  3. I reckon you should have a huge but gentle pat on the back.
    Getting rid of the sheep was probably a good idea, People think you just let them live in a field and that's it but for the income they take up a heck of a lot of time!
    Hope you get your produce garden sorted this year and make sure you have a holiday with the children! That's something we always did and they do remember them.

    1. Yeah I was gutted about the holiday but we got so much done here in the end. The sheep is just a massive weight off my shoulders, I lost sight of why I was keeping them I think. Maybe one for another day.

  4. I think by spending so much time with your family, you've done a great job! The other stuff will work itself out, but your kids will always remember these days, just being around their parents. Kudos on taking time for yourself as well. Just get better about time with your wife - so important! I know she's proud to be with a master craftsman and hands on dad.. Looking forward to seeing more of your woodworking skills and the outside work. It may seem overwhelming, but I think you have your priorities right where they belong! Happy New Year to you and yours..

    1. I think sometime my work life blanacw gets out of wack but because I do so much of my work at home in still around the kids! So that's a plus.

  5. I loved this post. It's wonderful that you've accomplished so much, and also how you've analyzed and restructured priorities as needs required. I really like that you included family and community in your goals list. People often mistake "self-reliance" to mean isolation and that is so not true! It truly requires a community of like-minded folks pulling together toward a common goal.

    Congratulations on your progress. You are staying the course! I admire that.

    1. Thanks Leigh, fairly sure I got the idea from you a few years ago. It seems a great way to set some quite large goals and work towards them.
      Community is so often left out. As someone that has dedicated 20 years or more to learning about self sufficiency, doing it on my own would be nearly impossible. Not only that things are more fun surrounded by friends.

  6. Your building work looks amazing. I will be awaiting a look at the kitchen in more detail like most of your readers. Must have been hard to sell the sheep. I know how much work they can be and sometimes it feels like they just seem to want to die a different method every day of the week. Vigilant eyes on them at all times are needed. Now pigs, pigs I can get behind, the only problem I have ever seen with pigs was some mothers were super protective and would chase you and ram you. Other than that, they have more live young, so you get more bang for your buck, they are clean, poop in one place like a hamster if you give them enough room. Dont have to be sheared, they are quite clever and if injured will find you and let you know it, so you can treat it. And obviously if you are into making it, ham is a very hot barter product. Well done on your chickens. And your table looks lovely!

    My year has been a wash out. Cant wait to see the back of it and to move forward again. Have to start over again for the billionth time. I am not even sure what I can grow here in Scotland, the wind is so harsh I think it will burn the ground so I will have to think about mulch. We will see.

    Happy new year! Wishing you an amazing one!

    1. It's mad that you're now in Scotland. I hate moving and hope to come out of here in a box. I've only lived in three houses my whole life, this one should see us out!
      Scotland poses some questions about growing, but plenty you can I'm sure. A fun challenge no doubt, be a much shorter season as well I'm sure. Have you got a greenhouse?

    2. No green houses. We will have to sort out a lot of it all. we need to cut down at least 6 trees to make the roof safe and because they pose some problems in them selves. one is completely dead and its actually peeling all it bark off. and one is a scots pine that only has branches on one side from the winds down the hills. I am thinking of those small walk in ploy tunnels. No glass to be broken in the winds and just every year thinking we have to replace some of the plastic. not ideal but I dont know how else to grow here. no one has a veg plot and there are lots of allotments that are vacant, this tells you a lot about the weather and that people give it up as a fools errand. We will try really hard, but it will be complete trial and lots of error!

  7. Kev, I also forgot to ask what make is your new range in the kitchen I showed my sister your new range cooker and she says she would like something like this for the cottage.. thanks

    1. It's a La Nodica Rosa XXL. They have loads though so worth checking our their website. Not the easiest to light and get going but once it is you're away!

  8. If I did half as much as you have done I would be very proud, as you should be. good work Kev!


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