When the thrifty going gets tough

Will Sheena be back to burning logs by November?

Will Sheena be back to burning logs by November? - Credit: Archant

As I stirred my bucket of paper mush for the umpteenth time I couldn’t help wondering if I’d bitten off more than I wanted to chew, writes Sheena Grant.

My plan to spend the summer making paper briquettes as a free, eco-friendly source of fuel for winter seemed such a good idea when I bought a £20 metal contraption that you load up to squeeze the soaked pulp into solid ‘logs’.

But the reality was proving to be something else. Once the novelty of shredding, soaking, pulping the paper and then turning it into blocks that take ages to dry had worn off, the process started to seem like a very big chore. If I had wanted a new hobby, I would have at least chosen one that was fun.

Efforts to spread the work and engage the youngest member of the household in the process were successful, but only fleetingly. He soon realised what back-breaking monotony it was and wandered off to do something else.

But I’ve persisted and my conservatory is now stacked with blocks of drying pulp. I’ve at least got to cover the cost of my investment before I give up, I thought, as I mashed pulp, almost dreaming of the joy of recklessly splashing out on a load of over-priced wood. So imagine how humbled I felt that evening when I stumbled on an episode of Kevin McCloud’s Escape to the Wild, in which the presenter visits British couples who have moved their families to some of the most inhospitable places on Earth.


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This show, featuring Richard and Ailsa Atkinson and their three children, was thrifty hardcore. The family have bought a piece of jungle in crime-ridden Belize and, with no savings, live on what they can barter for their bananas and coffee. They scavenge on the local dump for plastic bottles, tyres and glass to build an “earthship” home. Their children wield machetes at poisonous snakes and jaguars have eaten one of their dogs. There is no supermarket nearby. The family have to farm their own food. Yet despite the hardships they were happy. They embraced, even enjoyed, the work.

It put my log making into perspective and proved to me yet again that true thrifty living isn’t just about spending less. It’s a way of life.

Email Sheena or tweet using #ThriftyLiving.

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