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How are the mighty fallen


I am an optimist – at least I am most of the time. However, the recession has hit us rather hard and we are working hard to hang on to the house and, more importantly for me, the garden. I am passionate about my garden – we inherited it from elderly incumbents who could not keep it as they wanted so they moved to a smaller place. Lucky for me! But how to keep up the mortgage payments and the other bills? Despite my age, I am 57, I am a child of the war in as far as my parents were both older than usual and vividly remembered the austerity years. This is also fortunate as I grew up economising and saving every last scrap of everything; waste not, want not was the motto we lived by. Since I found out that we no longer had an income (six months after the event it turns out) I spend every waking hour thinking of ways to save and make they savings go a little further. When I look back to January I realise how much we have changed – for the better in many ways. I used to pay lip service to recycling and dutifully filled my green and blue bins, now I really think about how to re-use everything. What a wastrel I was! We no longer have a cleaner – it always made me feel guilty anyway, but I wanted to buy more gardening time.
I no longer use the tumble drier – washing dries in the kitchen on the maiden; I wash up in the sink to avoid the dish washer; the toaster is banned and we only boil a kettle with just enough water. I shop for food with cash and watch the total like a hawk – if we are near the limit I ditch the items I have purposely put at the end of the belt. Life goes on and the only things that rankle are being cold in the house and stinting the children of the things they have come to expect – they will be better for it I tell myself!
I am the sole carer for my 90 year old mother so I cannot go out to work full time but I tutor children and I barter for things. The bartering came about by accident; my hairdresser immediately became a luxury I could not afford so I decided to grow my hair. However, my lovely hairdresser rang to ask why I hadn’t been in for months. I had to confess and she invited me to go in for a coffee and to pick up some books I had lent her; she cut and coloured my hair there and then for nothing. I could have cried. So, I cooked some flapjacks and took he a bottle of wine from our stash. I am going again in a months time and plan to cook a casserole and pudding as payment! Fat club had to go too – at least that was the plan until I explained to my consultant and she has offered to waive my fees in return for help in setting up her new group. I also go to an exercise class – £4 – I plan to negotiate there too!
The biggest concession to recession is the garden. I need more compost and plants, so I work on my website and hope that people hit less hard will still be buying and I can keep up with the bills until the world economy turns round, as it will, and I can be a little less austere. The need to make the garden pay for itself has never been more true and my vegetable garden is becoming more and more the centre of my efforts – deffinately not a chore but a challenge and a pleasure.
But whatever happens, the spirit of fighting for what we have built up over many years is sustaining in itself and I know I will never go back to wasting anything again – apart from time in the garden!

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Hi GardenMad, Sorry to hear you've been hit hard.

It's amazing what you can save or re-use when you start looking isn't it? I thought you might find freecycle useful ( which lets you offer or ask for second hand items. Everything is completely free so it saves money and stops things going into land fill too.

11 Apr, 2009


Good one Peter i use this a lot and have got and got rid of quite a few items that way, Oh Gardenmad you are brilliant and what a great blog, i too have cut down since not being able to work (am 56 so same generation) i think about things before i get rid too, i have good neighbours one especially who if she buys herself a plant will buy me one too, bless her, i help by getting her husbands paper for him (he has MS) and she is still working part time as a staff nurse, its the little things that count. I have also learnt to accept a gift gracefully without thinking i must get them something back! If good friends they don't expect or want anything back so i just say thankyou very much and repay in other ways, as you say by baking or offering some other service i can do.
Well done you and more power to your elbow!!! Keep smiling!!

11 Apr, 2009


As a child from war time parents [I'm 50 the youngest of 4],I have always lived by the waste not want not mantra. I fully understand the problems of skimping and scraping as my dad was unemployed for much of the early 70's and as a teenager then, i learnt how to do without material things as we were well fed, well never hungry and above all loved. I feel sure your own children will understand and will 'grow' from the experience.

please do keep smiling.

11 Apr, 2009


Yes - here's another who remembers the war years and was taught nor to waste anything. It's stood me in good stead over many troubles, like when my husband (now ex) was on strike and getting the dole and I discovered I could buy a pound of bacon pieces for 4p at the butchers which went to make quiches or steamed puddings; when the last recession hit when I was alone and I used to come home from work and go straight to bed and read so I kept warm and didn't use electricity; and now - using vegetable peelings to make gravy, turning left-over veggies into soup etc...... I could go on and on. It's amazing where all the ideas come from, but we get through it don't we? Good luck to you Gardenmad. Chin up! :o)

11 Apr, 2009


I'll join the list of being a child of war time parents. I'm 50 this year and grew up with the waste not want not motto. Over the years it has paid for itself too.
Like you, I found out 6 months down the road that we no longer had an income.....ended up working two jobs to make ends meet. Becoming a single Mum of two children and being thrifty to put food in their stomachs and a roof over their heads. No money for extras. Like Nariz....using the vegetable peelings for making gravy, left over veg for soup, stretching out the grocery money by buying pork ends and chicken scraps etc for soups and stews, picking out sweaters for the yarn to reuse, making pillow cases out the edges of worn out sheets, turning the furnace right down and using blankets and sweaters instead, using vinegar and baking soda to clean everything, hand washing and line drying. The list goes on.....
Good luck Gardenmad. We are all thinking of you. :o)

11 Apr, 2009


Thank you all for the kind words - it is such a morale boost to know that there are people out there doing exactly the same as me! I have had a brill day in the garden today (just a few hours out for teaching; was very tempted to go and blow the money on garden stuff but resisted). I have put in the potatoes and garlic and made room for a couple more beds for veg. I want to plant veg in between some of my plants but am lacking courage at the moment. Never mind, the wood from dead branches is being put to good use on the chiminea and husband and 14 yr old are doing manly things with sticks! I'm going to have a glass of wine and eat rhubarb!!!

11 Apr, 2009


You are an inspiration, Gm1. You can hold your head up and be very proud of yourself.

I am so sorry that you are a victim of the recession - but of course, not the only one, as we've read.

I was a 'war baby' so I do know how my parents, especially my mum, scrimped and saved. It's amazing how you can make things stretch when you have to.

Good luck with all your endeavours. X

11 Apr, 2009


I read your blog and thought it could be me! Until recently I cared for my Mum until she passed away (13 years on carers allowance and income support means you dont have much to live on for extras) and now although i work most of my money goes out in rent and bills and with two teenagers i do feel guilty when i cant buy them things (ex husband who hasnt paid anything since he left 14 years ago!) and its different when i do without but when they come to me and ask for new shoes and i have to tell them to wait till pay day (end of the month!) I started my garden as a hobby and now it is becoming more important in feeding us during the summer months and trying to sort out the garden for during the winter also. I like your tips and could do with more!

14 May, 2009


Thankfully I was spared those terrible years ( 1939-1945) not being born until '63 but my mum and dad are both in thier eighties now and remember how everyone scrimped and saved and made ends meet, your blog truelly opened my eyes and even left a tear as its awful to think of people struggling in these times. I know from your blog your a stayer and wont let this beat you. Like Genuisscruffy I to have to survive on carers allowance and income support as I look after my angel (Mrs. digs) who has been in a wheelchair for about six years now (she'll be 31 in September) so we do know about hardship. Before she became ill she was a specialist geriatric nurse who looked after all their medicines and the like (far to complicated for me) and I was a lowly lorry driver but we were both earning V. good money, About £1000 per week joint. We had a lovely house with nice gardens (complete with gardener to look after it) went to lovely far off places for our hols and generally didn't worry to much about the future. Now as I say with only benefits to survive on, recycling is not only fassionable its essential for us. so good luck to you and your family and dont even think about giving in to it, fight for every last penny and as I have found you can sort of 'enjoy' the challenge.
big BIG Hugs and Kisses to you and yours.....Ian

P.S. your garden looks wonderful and well worth hanging on to.

23 May, 2009


I can't tell you how much these messages have meant to me - thank you. We keep going on and enjoying all we can. I will still fight for what we have and for my family who mean so much.

24 May, 2009


good on ya to you and yours..........Ian

24 May, 2009

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