Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Money, Money, Money...

Well, you can't do any project with out money and this project that we are embarking upon is certainly no exception. In fact it is going to take a whole lotta money. So the first place to start is your own finances. Sit down and work out what you can afford and what you are going to have to borrow. Keep in mind, particularly in the current mortgage climate, that the intrest rates will rise again, so will you be able to afford the payments then. We are lucky enough to be able to make a substantial down payment on a property but we will still need help. So once we had sorted out in our heads how much we could afford and how much we could reasonably pay back each month, it was time to book an appointment with a mortgage advisor. We opted for the mortgage advisor with our current mortgage lender. We felt they would be more likely to offer us the best deal as they knew our history and knew that we are 'payers of our mortgage'. We didn't have a property in mind at the time so don't be afraid to go and ask for advice, just have a ball park figure of how much the properties you are considering are and that is enough.

Due to the substantial deposit, the addition to our current mortgage that they would be able to offer was substantial also! However, as I advised above, be realistic with what you can pay back, remember there is no point chasing a dream that you have to give back in 5 years time, if a bit of forward planning could have avoided the heartache. As a result we were set that we wouldn't want to take out the full amount as we weren't sure of my financial position when we move. Unfortunately we may end up moving away from the area so much so that I am forced to give up my job, therefore we would need to be comfortable living on just one wage until I am back in work or the property is (hopefully) paying for itself!!
The trip to the bank was definately reassuring, not only did they confirm that financially we were capable of doing this project but also provided guidance on how we should go about transferring mortgages, when to sell our house and how the moving process works.
If your dream involves something that you know little about then don't be worried about asking someone who knows, whether it is a professional, like we saw, or (if your dream is make your own honey) that bloke down the road who has hives! Particularly with hobby dreams, people who already do it can imagine nothing more that spending an hour, or more, tlaking with a willing listener about their passion!!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Homemade Strawberry Jam


  • 1kg strawberries, hulled

  • 1kg jam sugar

  • juice of 2 lemons


  1. Wash, drain and hull the fruit and place into a non-metallic bowl. Sprinkle over lemon juice and sugar, gentle mix until fruit is well coated. Cover with a tea-towel and leave overnight.
  2. Tip the fruit and sugar into a heavy based pan. Heat gently until the sugar melts completely, don't let the mixture come to the boil before all the sugar has melted.
  3. Turn up the heat and boil hard for exactly 4 minutes. Take off the heat and do the saucer test*. If jam is not ready then return to the boil for another 2 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and swirl in the butter. Skim of any scum that forms. Cool for 10 - 15 minutes. Stir gently and pour into sterilised jars. Seal.
    Keeps for approximately 3 months.

*The saucer test: place a suacer into the freezer for about 5 minutes. When ready for the test, remove from the freezer. Drop a spoonful of the jam onto the saucer. Leave for about 5 minutes. Run your finger through the mixture, if it wrinkles then the jam is ready.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Saturday 7th March - Property Viewing

Off we went to look at another property. And here are the particulars:

Bedrooms: 4
Bathrooms: 2
Land: 4.5 acres
Stables. Separate Double Garage. 'Community' feel

You approach the house up a farm track, so the property itself is set far back from the road. It is part of a development, appearing to consist of the converted barns of the old farm, and amounts to 6 attached properties. The one that we were looking at being one of the end properties. First impressions were good, although once again we hadn't been expecting so many houses in the area. We were aware that this property was attached but didn't realise it was to 5 other properties. However, the owner was quick to point out that they felt very secure here as everyone knew each other and knew who should be about and who shouldn't. They also didn't feel like the other houses encroached onto the property as their front door was essentially facing all the other properties back doors, so in the summer they had privacy as the neighbours were all using their front gardens on the other side.

Inside, the property was clean and bright and modern. There was plenty of space with the rooms being very large. 4 decent sized bedrooms, one of which was en suite, meant that there was plenty of room for us to 'expand'. The only thing I was unsure of was the upstairs hall, it felt very narrow and a bit claustrophobic, but again not so much as to make the property unlivable!! I particularly liked the kitchen, not as big as I would have been looking for but enough room for a decent sized table and plenty of easy to reach aplliances (included in sale).

The land that comes with the property runs along the bottom of the development and extends to
4.5 - 5 acres. This is currently used as grazing land for horses and is split into three or so paddocks. The stable block was at the bottom of the garden, beyond the garage, so was amazingly accessable to the house, and consisted of three stables and a tack room. The current owners didn't have horses at present but were renting the fields and stables to a local horse owner. The land was restricted in its usage to equestrian purposes only which would cause us some issue. Ideally we are looking for a property with out buildings we can convert as it is often much easier to get planning permission for a conversion that it is to get permission for a new build. Also, as with this property the designation of the land could cause problems.

All in all though a very desirable property. Not perfect for our needs but useful in what it can show us, particularly, once agaian, to see the land size, as one big expanse of land, as this gives the best idea of what we are getting. So the decision has been made that we need no more than 6 acres (unless its a bargain property, in which case we wouldn't turn away something with more), so we are looking for between 4 and 6 acres. And some convertable outbuildings...

..not too much to ask... is it?

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Continual Inspiration...

There is always need for inspiration when planning anything, and something as large as we are planning needs that little bit more. Drive and ambition take you so far, they are what get you out of bed and fill you with the feeling of 'I can achieve this' but Inspiration helps you over come those obstacles and fuels your drive to achieve.

I have been roaming around looking for said inspiration, what can I aspire to achieve. And I have come across many blogs, of regular people, just like me who have achieved and that is enough to let me know that it is possible! Blogs like: The Smallholder's Diary. I will be a regular visitor to the site to see how his dream of having a fully functioning vegetable garden is progressing! And also getting a load of tips along the way. He is also the proud owner of several chickens, which I am very interested in as I am still, in fact more keen than ever, to have chickens. I will be looking at plans when the time comes and batting my eyelids at dad, who is VERY handy and already as keen as me to get to work!! Although, self sufficiency is not the main aim of our move, I am a keen gardener and a vegetable patch and fruit trees is most definitely on the cards. I intend to do a small selection of posts on some of the smaller projects that I will be undertaking in the interim between moving and well.. now. The uncertainty of our move time makes me unsure as to how big a gardening challenge I should undertake but it is hard to stay away!

I encourage those who are interested in self-sufficiency to take a browse around, there are so many out there whose dreams are now reality. I will bring you updates as I find more inspiration.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Every So Often A Sulk Helps...

Yes, it is true, every-so-often a good sulk helps because it helps you realise that whatever you are doing is obviously not working and something needs to change! (So you aren't sulking, you are being Pro-Active!!) So what was my sulk? Basically along the lines of:

'Why is EVERY other area of Scotland selling properties that are ideal for major knock down prices except where we want!!!?'

Stamp, Sulk, Mope, Whinge, Whine ... Action.

I decided that there was absolutely no way that no one on the entire western end of the central belt was hanging on to their rural property. Its impossible, particularly as everywhere else seems to have an abundance (which incidentally is a disco for small cakes) of properties that fit the bill. So I went for some serious searching and my labours were fruitful. For some reason, known only to those involved, rural properties in said area are sold by specialist Solicitors (as a general rule). I managed to find some great properties which we are hoping to get a booking to see, still need to see what's out there.

So the lesson here is persevere, if you think it should be out there, then it probably is, you just have to know where to look. I am actually quite enthused if even only for the reason that I have solved a problem and learnt a small (but useful) lesson!
This is one of the sites that I have discovered:
Managed to find a couple of likely candidates from here. Still a bit on the pricey side but at least they are close to what we are after!