Finances, Greenhouse Staging and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Well I’ve gone and done it. After three or more years of waiting for Rich to have the time and inclination to build my greenhouse staging, I bit the bullet and ordered some online, just to get me started. It’s three tier staging – 4ft long and 2ft wide and about a third of the total staging I need, but it’s all I can afford (well, I can’t even afford that at the moment) right now. But hey ho, when needs must. And I really really need it this year to get me growing properly. I didn’t want to fill up our conservatory with seedlings that get zapped in the intense heat in there.

So there. It’s a UK company, and it should arrive early next week. And I can do a little bit of rejoicing.

But back to business. And I kind of mean, literally business. If you remember, one of my resolutions that I made earlier this year was to tackle my debt. A lot of this is credit card debt, the sum of which is a result of irresponsible spending, lack of income and more stupidity, a means to an end when at uni and unable to work due to crippleness from working hours on computers (long-time readers will understand the problems I’ve had), all spread over 10+ years of trying to make my way in the world. It’s a horrible big black hole that sucks your earnings, but it’s mostly my fault (although I will lay a little blame on credit card companies that up their APR by 10% with little warning) and it’s just the (heavy) price I have to pay for relying on credit for so long.

I’ve made a spreadsheet of the balance of what I owe on each card, what I’m paying each month, when it’s paid and the interest I’m paying. I managed to switch one card onto a 0% interest card which will help hugely. I’m determined to beat this debt. Thing is, it’s really hard when I’m simultaneously saving up for next year’s tax bill. But there we are, I can’t complain really. It’s my own doing and I’ll just have to live with it until it’s paid off.

In the meantime, my spending is under much tighter control. I’ve never been particularly good with money. I tend to forget how much I’ve spent and then bury my head in the sand and deal with it later. But as I’ve got older, wiser, or just more world-weary I’ve come to realise that this strategy is, of course, a lot of pants and that I need to be much more organised. So I’m reigning in the spending and although Rich and I still have to live a little, things like non-essential clothes and books (waahhh!) and wotnot are on hold. Or at least, I have to work out if I can really really really afford them.

OK, so the greenhouse staging cost me over £80, plus delivery. But I reckon that’s an investment – it’ll last for years (hopefully), I’ll be able to use it to grow my food, and maybe if I sell a few plants out the front, even make a little money back on it. I’ve been seriously fed up with losing plants because the growing conditions in the conservatory aren’t right and I feel like it would be stupid to go yet another year making the same mistakes and getting the same results.

But that’s enough bleating about my finances. I’ve got a LOT of work to be getting on with in the Smallest Smallholding. I only just got around to pruning my Autumn fruiting Polka raspberries (although, last year they fruited for MONTHS on end, fantastic!) under the direction of my mother. It’s good to learn from books but nothing beats practical demonstration. I still have a big buddleia to prune back, and the trees… oh the trees… I think we’ve missed the boat this year on getting them pruned but I might just chance it. The sycamore is a beast and I’ve been posting on the Self-Sufficientish forum for some advice. Seems they’re virtually indestructible so we might give it a go, and then perhaps if it dies plant something a little less thuggish in its place. Birch, maybe.

This weekend I have got to get a few things sown – leeks and more garlic mainly. Between us, Mum and I have a ridiculous amount of seed as we have a penchant for going mental when there’s 50% off. Growing space is definitely going to be a challenge this year but I’ve decided that the flower borders can give way to some veg. I think I may have to get some special growing bags or large pots to house garlic, onions, potatoes and the like. I’m going to get a couple of straw bales in for tomatoes and squash, and then of course there’s the hanging baskets for strawberries and more tomatoes.

Geesh, I’m excited about it all. But still slightly “ARGH!!!” because after a wander around the garden and plots yesterday it’s dawning on me how much I have to do; especially since we’ve vowed to get the overgrown wasteland at the bottom of the garden (where the soil is virtually sand-like) turned into a Mediterranean bee/butterfly/insect-friendly eating area. And then there’s the house.

But you know, I’ll just keep rolling with it and do what I can do. It’s not a competition. And I have my permaculture book to re-read. After all, the Smallest Smallholding is going to be under management, not a dictatorship!

Clearing, weeding, planting, mulching, sowing, clearing, weeding, clearing, clearing, clearing is what’s on the agenda for the next month or so. Spring is definitely on its way, although the wind still bites and I’m not out of my thermal vest just yet. But the crocuses are up, the daffodils are looking promising and everywhere I see buds. Buds!

It feels like it’s been a long slog of a winter, but I’m just as prepared for a long slog of a growing season. But I mean that in a good way!


  1. Well it sounds very promising Lucy, and with your enthusiasm and willpower I’m sure it will work out fine! I love your crocus picture!

  2. Wow!! I feel quite ‘normal’ after reading your post.
    I have also just sat and sorted all my finances and finailly managed to write a list of things to do this year.
    Good luck with it all Lucy looking forward to reading your next installment x

  3. Good luck with your managing your debts, after student years I buried my head in the sand and went travelling for a year leaving the bank loan and credit cards to fend for themselves. I got lucky when I returned they’d all been passed on to two debt management companies that were happy to take a relatively small monthly payment and did not charge me further interest, and eventually gave me a hefty discount to pay off. So well done for tackling them head on, something I never did!

  4. I love reading about your adventures. I’m rally interested in your using straw bales for tomatoes and squash. Have you tried this method before? How did you get on?

    Also, i think your Mediterranean eating area sounds fab. A lovely place to be on a warm summer evening.

    Carrie 🙂

  5. i know its already been said but congrats on the sorting of the finances. it really is to easy to just ignore it.

    as far as a lot of clearing goes, i feel your pain. we have a field (2 acres) that we have been fighting over ownership with next door for the last 11 years. but it has been ruled as ours.

    i was given the task of bring it back up to par. i wish we lost the case now. 11 years plus of untouched, overgrown brambles, weeds, grass and my enemy blackthorn. its all grown over my head and i’m 6 foot. so over the next few weeks i’m going to be pretty busy clearing that 🙁

    all the best

  6. Great news about the greenhouse staging. Sometimes you have to spend the money to break a rut and start moving forward, and this was definitely one of those occasions.

    Like you I want a really good productive garden but without the back-breaking work. The really bad areas of the garden I’m laying down newspapers and brown cardboard over and deep mulching with anything I can get my hands on from the compost bins. If thick enough, the cardboard and newspaper smother the weeds and I don’t have to dig over the soil. It’s worked on two areas and I’m onto the third.

    Is that something that could work for you?

  7. Lucy, when I transfered two credit card balances over to a 0% interest card I opened a new bank account, the bank was doing a good offer with ok interest, the money that I used to pay on the two cards went directly into this new account which was one that tied up the money for 14 months. I paid the minimum payment on the 0% card for the length of the offer, also 14 months. There was then enough cash to pay off the card completely and as we were then used to paying out that amount we continued. OH has just checked the balance this morning and there is £2500 in there and we haven’t missed it one bit. I had friends that said it was a stupid idea as who, in these times, could afford to save that much a month but I had been paying that out each months to cover the credit cards. I had to look at it not as saving but as still making payments the only difference being I got the interest not the credit card company.
    I miss reading about your chickens too, perhaps it is time again.
    Love Kay x

  8. So glad you finally got round to your staging. Was a big problem for me last year (too tight to pay £80.00+) so ended up using those little green ‘tent’ type greenhouses you see at supermarkets which usually come with a clear plastic cover and are quite cheap. I bought a few of those instead which have between three and four shelves so you can use the height of the greenhouse. These go up in spring for seed trays and I take them down again later in the season when I want to fill the greenhouse with a jungle of tomatoes.

    Always end up giving away loads of tomato plants away though as I sow way too many seeds!

    My chickens eat all my daffodils before they can get going, the little monkeys.

    Look forward to seeing pics of your greenhouse ‘in action’.