Avalok's Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

Hi all, I am a semi-longtime lurker of this forum; have been practising ERE for 2 1/2 years now, and felt it would be helpful to start logging my journey.
I work as a software developer in the West Midlands of the UK; I live with my partner, who is very much involved in this process with me: our goal currently is to save as much as we can to give us more freedom of choice in the future; I am uncertain FIRE would suit us; we are both happy to work somewhat (neither of us hate our jobs), but would value reduced hours and zero debt. I would like to think we could save enough to buy a house outright, and thus need work only to sustain ourselves. That said, I would appreciate other's opinions on this goal.
  • Current total capital: £36,813
  • Current savings rate: 40% (I have only recently begun tracking this again, so this may change a fair bit initially)
  • Our only debt is a mortgage, which we took out April last year
  • My interests are: systems design (incl. software), gardening and permaculture, cycling, reading
Since first reading ERE, we have been actively reducing our reliance on the market economy. Perhaps the biggest push we have made has been to grow as much of our own food as possible with the access to land we have: we have started an allotment, and now a garden we plan to grow more food in.

My motivation for starting a journal was to hold myself better accountable; since moving into our house last year, our monitoring of expenses has become increasingly lax. We haven't regressed to ultra-consumers, but we are not thinking of creative ways to solve our problems any longer, and going to the market instead. My intention is that a log like this will help keep us on course better.

So, greetings to you all; wish you all the best on your own journeys,
Avalok

Hrodwulf
Posts: 11
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 5:20 am

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by Hrodwulf »

Hey Avalok, welcome.

Like you, I've been in the shadows here for quite some time. Coincidence of coincidences, I started journaling today too. Congratulations on the courage to start writing. I look forward to reading your development here.

AxelHeyst
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

Greetings Avalok! Looking forward to watching your progress here.

not sure
Posts: 99
Joined: Fri Feb 05, 2021 2:34 pm

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by not sure »

Hey, Avalok, welcome to the forum!

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

Hrodwulf, AxelHeyst, not sure, thanks for saying hello.

Hrodwulf yes I saw your journal, it's very well written. :) I'm looking forward to hearing more about you and your thoughts.

I mentioned in my initial post how we have put a lot of effort into growing our own food; a big part of stepping that up a level has been to build a polytunnel. This was not a cheap investment, but we felt it had important benefits:
  • In a temperate climate, a greenhouse/polytunnel allows one to grow a greater variety of foods, and over a longer period.
  • Being able to grow a greater variety of foods would provide more learning opportunities and health.

Building the polytunnel has been a great learning experience for myself; having grown up with very little DIY skills, outside of modding PC games (if that counts?) and building computers. The biggest change I have noticed has been my ability to work around roadblocks we come across: early in the build if we encountered an issue not described in the instruction manual, I would feel anxious and frustrated at best, helpless at worst; now I feel determination and confidence in the face of unforeseen obstacles, and my ability to create novel solutions has improved. It has been an unintended benefit to the polytunnel that I now feel so much more capable in taking on DIY projects. I should make clear it isn't complete yet, but I hope to have it done in time for the growing season proper, and will keep you up to date.

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

Right, I have been intending to resume logging my/our progress here, having never developed a habit of it last year (see above). Adding to my journal became one of those things "I'll get round to", and eventually "Ah well, another missed month won't hurt". Thankfully, despite not journaling here, we have still made progress in the past twelve months, but it is a shame that the only log is from my own paper journal for day-to-day tracking (more a todo list, one which does not betray my thoughts). It would have been nice to look back on the previous year and review my thoughts; the ideas that materialised, those that didn't etc. So, just over one year on, here's to another go.

First off, a general (re)introduction overview:
  • Current total capital: £72,966.54
  • Current average savings rate: 52.44%
  • Only debt is still a mortgage, which we are two years into
  • My interests are (still): systems design, gardening/permaculture, cycling, reading
I am pleased with the changes in capital and average savings rate over the past year. Our savings rate has been consistently in this area for some time now. To increase it, two areas we could look at are our food and energy bills. To this end, we have started foraging for firewood, which we are then sawing, splitting and stacking for next winter. I have found this to be thoroughly enjoyable so far: it combines exercise, frugality, and time spent outdoors, with the feel of a craft at each step of the process.

For the past four to five months, we have considered moving towards a land-based lifestyle in the longer term, and there are several schemes in the UK to allow people to do this without the huge capital required to purchase a rural house. These are only ideas; we don't want to commit capital and leave our current jobs yet, but are instead focusing on developing skills that would be useful for a land-based life (see splitting firewood above).

AxelHeyst
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by AxelHeyst »

I really liked your description of being able to work around roadblocks with DIY projects from last year. There's nothing quite like the feeling of deftly sidestepping around a problem with creative thinking, particularly when it involves physical projects and combining parts or processes from "different" things.

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

Thanks AxelHeyst. Being a software developer, and having spent so much time in front of a screen when younger, I have struggled to cope with the fact that there is no undo button in the real world. :D One can only deal with the mess by moving forward. In a way, I prefer this constraint; as you mention, it facilitates creativity.

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

The past week has been good overall: we have managed to stack half of our log store, with a capacity of 1.6m3, with hand sawn and split wood, collected from various local woods. I expect this could cover us for ~two months of use every evening through next winter, which will certainly reduce our energy bills. We have no plan to stop filling the log store, but need to find more wood sources first.

We also made our first plantings of broad beans in the past week. This year has felt a lot less overwhelming than previous; the rhythms of sowing, watering, planting, potting-on etc. feel much more normal. This is the third year we have been trying to grow as much food ourselves as we can, but because of the slow feedback loop (a lesson learnt one year must wait for the next to be applied), it has taken three years to feel like we have even a little grasp on the process. The polytunnel has made a huge difference. This time last year it wasn't finished, so we are experiencing the benefits of it this early into the season for the first time: every plant is much happier under that cover, and it has helped move a lot of seedlings along, so we are able to plant out much sooner than before.
------

I have been oscillating between various other interests for the past two to three weeks. This typically happens once I finish a good book; it can take me several attempts with other books before I find the one I want to read next. In February I finished Braiding Sweetgrass and have been looking for something else to read since. Intrigued by the new sub-forum and Jacob's second Stoa presentation, having considered before the challenge of making this a more-than-individual pursuit, but confused by the terminologies used heavily in the former, I sought out a book to at least describe Spiral Dynamics to a layperson, settling on Ken Wilber's A Theory of Everything solely because it is written in an introductory fashion. I appreciate this isn't the SD book, but it was a lot cheaper. :) I will not part with any thoughts yet, as I only started reading it last night, but plan to do so in future posts.

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

I was away last week with family, and had time to read, and re-read, Ken Wilber's A Theory of Everything. It clarified for me many thoughts I had already had myself: that the majority of political dialogue is focused on one narrow view of the problem, with the solution often being the author's specialism, or involving their political brand. I read the book merely for an explanation of SD, but it goes beyond that model by relating it as part of Wilber's integral theory. I drew many similarities between integral theory and the systems thinking so widespread in this forum. Wilber states that systems thinking is but a composite of his theory, as it deals only with the external world (not consciousness or culture). I guess many of the models from general systems theory are irrelevant when discussing consciousness, and I found his brief criticisms of systems theory helpful as a reminder that it is a means and not an end. The power of some theories can lead me to mistake them as "the truth".

-----

We have had a financially lean month despite a holiday at its end, saving 65% of our income (a new high, beating the previous 62%).
  • Total capital: £76,985.84
  • Average savings rate: 53.32%

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

A busy month.

All the potatoes are in the ground and covered with fleece to keep the frost off. All leeks have been planted also. I have refrained from sowing the tender crops (squash, courgette, sweetcorn) in April for the first time; I am sick of having to shuttle them indoors of an evening, it is bad enough with the tomatoes. So far, we have had very few failures: some cabbages and broccoli wilting/being devoured. I have covered all remaining brassica, including the cauliflower that I planted a week ago, to keep the pigeons off.

I have read a couple of books this month. One about anarchism, its theory and practice, which was recommended to me. And One Up on Wall Street, after seeing the
forum recommendation
from a few years ago. I really enjoyed the latter for its conversational style, being far les dry than other investing books I have read. It has given me the confidence to try picking stocks. I had already come to the conclusion with investing myself, that you need to practice to learn, but I think I required another's voice to accept that.

There are two reasons for the large jump in capital from last month: a pay increase, and our selling our car. We are going to be car sharing with a family member for the foreseeable future. Neither of us use our cars very often, and so we have agreed to split the outlays and share one. It'll be interesting to see how this goes: growing up in a Western middle class household, you don't get used to sharing, but I am hopeful that this will work well. My wallet will certainly approve. :)
  • Total capital: 82,039.62
  • Average savings rate: 54.62%

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

My laptop screen cracked a couple of months ago, and I have been using an external monitor since, as I wanted time to consider which panel to replace it with. My laptop (a ThinkPad T420) can be modified to accept a FHD IPS display, but this is a harder upgrade to perform than replacing the panel with a like-for-like.

Today I finally got round to fixing it. I chose a better resolution panel, but one that is plug-in compatible with the laptop; the FHD upgrade would have been unjustifiably expensive. The whole process was quite easy, taking around an hour. I have experience of this, as I was heavily into PC gaming as a teenager, but laptops are considerably more awkward to work on, on account of their size. I chose this laptop specifically because it is so repairable (and it has a solid keyboard), so it has been great to make use of that feature. Here are a couple of pictures showing how modular the laptop is.

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Today should be our last frost, so we have put our cucumbers in the ground. Last year they suffered from cucumber mosaic virus, so I have cleaned the walls of the polytunnel with dilute vinegar and am going to keep a better eye out for aphids this year. There are two varieties: Merlin a salad type, and Calimbo a pickling type.

Image

Image

bos
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Location: The holy roman empire

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by bos »

Looking good. salads are really great to grow, since they are expensive to buy fresh.

I personally found that growing food that has value or is unique in the sense that I cannot buy it, gives the most satisfaction.
Half a year of growing for 10 kilo of potatoes, which comes in around 9 euro here, just doesn't motivate in the longterm I found.

candide
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Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by candide »

It is always great to see some one pursuing the renaissance man ideal.

I am loving the variety and spirit of your journal.

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

@bos I try to prioritise "value veg" too, but I love growing potatoes too much to shirk them. The process of planting them, earthing them up, and finally lifting them to see what size crop one has is extremely satisfying. I also enjoy having a stash of potatoes around, meaning one less thing to lug back from the shops on a regular basis. They are the one exception I have to the rule.

@candide thank you! I read your original journal last night and found it really interesting; you look to have a lot of skill in woodworking. I plan to move onto your Origins entries next. :)

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

I turned the active compost pile into the second "curing" bay last week, as it was pretty much full. This tends to be on a twice-yearly cycle. I do not believe I have mentioned previously, but we have been using a compost toilet in the fashion of Joseph Jenkins for over a year now. The amount of organic matter we get from this (see picture) is more than enough to mulch the polytunnel, all our garden beds, and provide compost for plant propagation! I was very surprised by quite how much was produced [insert joke about being full of sh*t here]. The system is pretty low maintenance: I empty the buckets into the bay around once a week, which takes about fifteen minutes (including cleaning them). It has become a normal part of the weekly routine now. :D

The curing pile will probably sit for another six months before we start to use it. I have found that this isn't sufficient to prevent weed germination, but I don't have the time to create a third bay, and the bays need to be rotated before any seeds can perish. This year I have found regular hoeing will see off any weeds that do make a go for it. We also have bindweed creeping in from our neighbours garden, and a tangled root system had developed at the bottom of both compost bays, so I have carefully removed as much as possible and quarantined until I am confident the roots have perished. I do not want to risk spreading bindweed to other parts of the garden. The picture shows the amount of roots I removed from the first bay, the second produced probably double.

Image

Image

I plan to share pictures and go through a more detailed overview of our allotment sometime tomorrow...
Last edited by avalok on Tue Jun 07, 2022 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.

shaz
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Location: Colorado, US

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by shaz »

God speed your quest to eradicate bindweed.

Nice compost bin. It looks like your compost toilet does a good job.

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

Some pictures of how the allotment is progressing:

Image
Spinach, after picking. I forgot to take a picture beforehand 🤦‍♂️ I fear this will bolt now, but we have had more from these plants than in previous years. I am shocked by how rapidly the leaves replenish; sometimes overnight.

Image
Lettuce, for hearts. We also have cut-and-come-again in the polytunnel.

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Garlic, planted from bulbs grown last year. They are developing rust now, but I don't expect that to harm them bulbing.

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Broad beans. Some of the pods are nearly swollen enough to pick, but the majority are some weeks off yet.

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First early potatoes, with second earlies still under fleece. I uncovered the firsts only because they were pushing the fleece up.

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Calabrese. I had to bodge the cover for these; no available mesh was long enough, so it is two pieces of fleece held together by a garden peg, which you can see in the top centre of the picture. So far it has held together fine.

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The leeks are still small, but they are growing far faster than last year, so I am hopeful.

There is still plenty to be planted: squash, courgette, corn, runner beans, sprouts, swede. I am prone to forget just how early it is, but this has been the most successful year by far.
Last edited by avalok on Tue Jun 07, 2022 11:28 am, edited 1 time in total.

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

I feel as though this month has flown by, though I cannot well remember what I have done. I have planted some of our tomatoes in the polytunnel this morning, and plan to plant the sweetcorn later today. This year I am going to try the three sisters method for growing corn, runner beans and squash together. Apparently this is difficult to achieve in the UK, but I fancy trying something different that could be a challenge to time correctly; unbelievably everything is going so smoothly so far that I feel the need to introduce my own challenges. :D

This month I read The End of Alchemy by Mervyn King, former governor of the BoE. The book is mainly a discussion of the causes of the GFC, and his proposals to resolve the underlying disequilibrium in the global economy. I found it interesting, if only because it gave me a better understanding of underlying long term interest rates over short term central bank rates, and how such long term forces exert great control over economies. Suffice to say I found his solutions uncompelling in that they require international cooperation to resolve an issue that is not obvious on a day-to-day basis, and for which there is little electoral pressure in the West. Cooperation regarding climate change, with its greater hold on political dialogue in the West, gives me little reason to hope that the underlying disequilibrium could be preemptively solved. King points out that the alternative is a corrective depression. I've now picked up Catton's Overshoot, which I listened to Michael Dowd's narration of at the end of last year. The narration is good, but I feel I absorbed a high level understanding only, so I bought a copy of the hardback when it was going cheap with the aim of grasping the predicament Catton lays out better.

-----
Average savings rate continues to creep upwards, thanks in part to the car sale, but also to pay increases that are beating even our (higher than UK average) inflation rate.
  • Total capital: £85,556.02
  • Average savings rate: 55.5%

avalok
Posts: 101
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2021 4:42 am
Location: West Midlands, UK; Walkscore 73

Re: Avalok's Journal

Post by avalok »

I've been reflecting on something I said in my first post:
avalok wrote:
Fri Mar 05, 2021 2:05 pm
I am uncertain FIRE would suit us; we are both happy to work somewhat (neither of us hate our jobs), but would value reduced hours and zero debt.
I think what I really meant here is "semi-ERE", and I was making a distinction between ERE and semi-ERE on the grounds of whether one is continuing to work. This now seems somewhat naive to me. ERE is not defined by its FI component, but resilient life design instead, and one can be doing this whether they need to work or not. As Jacob puts it in the book:
Because of its flexibility and adaptability, it is important to realize that the web of goals strategy essentially is a process-oriented strategy rather than a goal-oriented strategy. On the meta level, a process-oriented strategy is primarily aimed at living, with goals being accomplished as side effects
If the focus and definition of ERE is on its resilient systems lifestyle design, semi-ERE is a bit of a misnomer; can anyone half-do resilient lifestyle design? The point of this is not to criticise others who use the term semi-ERE, or myself for alluding to it, but to validate paths different from the one presented in the book. Examples abound of those exemplifying the ERE-way without following the script to the letter, AxelHeyst comes to mind.

This is all very obvious to me now, though I don't know when it became so. It is still easy to fallback to fixating on the FI goal; a single number is a clearer focal point that an entire web. Perhaps writing this down will better reinforce the web-focus for me.

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