The End of The Holidays

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Well the summer holidays are over, my lazy afternoons lounging in the garden are coming to an end, Debbie and the twins are back at school/college and Jennie is back at work (Steph started last week).  It’s been fun, but I’m looking forward to doing more stuff again, DIY, hiking, cycling and gym work, exploring, reading and TV shows (for the really rainy days).

Truth be told I’m a little tired and not because I’m doing too much, but because of doing too little and eating too much.  I’ve spent the last hour reading about the latest theories relating to exercise and the details are all a little mind blowing.  In summary though it seems fairly straightforward:

Always exercise at a high intensity, alternate cardio, strength training and rest days, don’t do more than 30 intense minutes at a time and move around a lot for the rest of the day.

If I do any more than this then I’m probably over-training.  The other metric that I like is:

Don’t do more than 4000 calories a week of training, if your goal is health, this excludes walking and cycling around town, shopping, housework and gardening.

So for me that might mean 2*1200 calorie days, 3*700 calorie days and 2*300 calorie rest days totalling 5100, more than 4000 because I’ve included all of my activity.  I could do more but then I need to remember it’s not for health reasons, it might be because I’m loving exploring a new place, challenging myself or because I’m fuelling an exercise addiction.

The end of the holidays also means spending some serious time improving things.  Sorting out the new raised beds in the garden, deep cleaning the house, decorating etc. there’s nothing in life more motivating than progress!  One thing I’m not keen to change too much is my mornings, especially my weekend mornings which I’m absolutely loving: waking at 7am, cycling to the pool, swimming for 15 minutes, relaxing for another 30, cycling to the Beach Terrace Cafe, reading for an hour, walking into town and then back to pickup my bike and cycling home.  My weekday routine is a bit more taxing because the leisurely 7am start is swapped for 6am, but that means that if I compress things a little I have time for Caffe Nero too.  I will be doing more than a 15 minute swim eventually though, it’s low currently because I’m on a ladder, climbing a two step rung every day, I’m currently at 30 lengths, I might stop at 50.

I’ve been looking into our smallholding plans in more detail for the last couple of days and while the dream is still alive, I’m forced to confront some difficult truths:

  1. We can’t currently afford a property and land that’s not a fixer-upper project and I don’t want that right now.  I don’t have the energy to renovate a house and turn an overgrown field into a self sufficient garden
  2. The costs keep piling up for the things I want, wind turbine and solar, a big greenhouse, a hyper insulated home, dozens of raised beds etc.
  3. My dream version of a smallholding will take an extraordinary amount of work and I’m going to want it to be pleasing to the eye, clean, well designed and tidy.  I can achieve that in a small garden at home, with the messier crops at the allotment, but how likely is that with cows creating a muddy mess everywhere!
  4. Making the leap too early into smallholding doesn’t give me the opportunity to explore other lifestyle options that might work out better for me
  5. Smallholding would be best to do with Debbie as a partner, i.e. once she’s decided to retire and at the earliest that’s likely to be several years away, probably 8+ years away.
  6. If creating my dream allotment takes a long time I’m likely to get discouraged if I don’t have someone else there to work alongside me
  7. Smallholding only works for us if we can invest now and significantly reduce our cost of living as a result.  I’m not convinced that we can achieve that objective, it might actually be easier to achieve in our existing house, setting up a smallholding can be really expensive, especially as I don’t want a large one, from which I will sell most of my produce
  8. Many of my smallholding objectives, except keeping animals, I can achieve in my current house, with relatively few costs, a bigger greenhouse, more raised beds, an allotment, space to freeze crops, more foraging
  9. Keeping animals carries with it a lot of responsibilities, potential costs and potential heartache.  Just looking after three cats can sometimes feel like a chore and even though animals, especially chickens, are quite productive it’s foolish to ignore the difficulties

The result of this joint soul-searching is as follows:

  1. We are going to commit to this house for the medium term and make the moderate investments that make sense financially over the next few years, like a utility room, freezer, larger greenhouse
  2. I’m going to pursue my gardening ‘passion’ for a few years to see whether I get bored, expanding to an allotment if I can get one and growing more at home too
  3. We will revisit the situation when Debbie starts to think seriously about retirement, will we have the energy as we get older, do we have enough money, will it create an environment that grandchildren would benefit from, can we get people to help us
  4. I’m going to explore different lifestyle options, while I’m not tied down by an allotment to see if they are rewarding enough
  5. I will continue to chart my journey towards or away from self sufficiency on by blog, specifically at

One things for shore, those lifestyle experiments will involve more than I did this afternoon, reading, cleaning, vacuuming and washing, oh and I did fit in a 45 minute nap in the sun and chats with the kids.

As an aside the keyboard I’m writing this on is driving me crazy, in theory it’s a great keyboard, a real ThinkPad laptop keyboard, packaged up for desktop use and connecting over Bluetooth.  The reality is very different though, constantly losing connection, missing keystrokes, and running out of battery.  I’ve bought a replacement that’s identical in all respects except it’s USB connected, this one is going to take up duty on the keyboard table attached to my exercise bike.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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