Monthly Archives: December 2015

Chicken Keeping: Routine


So I have shared a few posts about looking after chickens over the last few weeks, but I think it’s about time I told you the day to day caring of chickens. Being frank they’re really easy to care for!


Each morning I get up and let the chickens out, feed them, refill their water and collect any eggs. I also will have a quick look at them to make sure they seem well. They prefer to come out as soon as it is light so I alter the time I let them out as much as I can depending on the time of year.

If I am at home, I like to come out and give them treats in the middle of the day like scrap from the garden (weeds etc.) to munch on or a bit of corn, but if I’m at work I leave some of this for them in the morning.

In the evening, I simply shut them back up and I used to bring in any feeders for them. These days though, I tend to just scatter the food on the floor as mine used to knock their feeders over anyway.

Each week, I give them a good clean using Smite spray and renew their wood shavings. I give their containers a good clean and then refill their grit containers if needed. I tend to have a quick look around their run and coops as well to make sure there aren’t any holes or signs of digging anywhere too.

This is generally the maintenance that I follow with my chickens. As you can see it is very easy to do and doesn’t take much time for their general care, but as you come to love them you will find yourself lingering to have a bit of a chat with them too… or maybe that just my nutty self!

FreEco Bus Land Issues


I’ve been thinking long and hard about whether to write this post, but I figured that in order for this to be a true reflection of my familys’ journey I should share the highs and the lows with you all.


Before Christmas, I was feeling really disheartened with this project. The issue? I couldn’t find any land. In order for this project to be a success for my family, I need the security of knowing that I am operating within the law. I have no desire to be kicked off my own land and thus I need to work out planning permission.

I live in Leicestershire, England and I intend to remain living in this area as I would like to stay near to my children’s current schools, friends, work, etc. The downside of this… Englands policies for projects like I am considering are some of the strictest in the UK.

The little land I have seen for sale or to rent in my area, has been very expensive… as in years and years of me saving to go yet, expensive. Which means the bus idea is likely to be in a few years time yet.

Also, I can’t seem to get my head around the planning permissions and the type of land I need, etc.

wecandoitI am awaiting a book that may help with the planning and the law side of the land and once that has been published and I have read it, I will be sure to pass on the resource with yourselves. For now though, I just thought a bit of an update was needed.

Since Christmas has been and cheered most of us up. I do feel better about it. Yes it means that this project is going to take a longer than I was hoping, but there are still things that I can do from where I am living currently. So I awoke this morning with a new ambition to make do with what I have, whilst I plan and wait for the true FreEco Bus adventure.

So keep reading as I will hope to share all these tips with you as I go along and if you have any requests for future topics, please get in touch and I will do my best to give them a go!



Homemade / Natural Deodrant


So as part of the FreEco Bus journey and my personal journey, it has also been important for me to consider how I will meet my hygiene needs in as eco friendly way as possible whilst still trying to reduce my dependency on money. As part of this I have used a lot of the eco alternatives, both shop bought and homemade.

Here are some eco options to consider and my experiences of them.

crystal-deodorant-travel-salt-of-the-earth-200x2506482Salt Crystals: The ones I used had no scent to them and were used in a similar way to roll on deodorant, except that you need to get you or it wet first. I didn’t notice any bad odor when I used these, but equally didn’t get that nice clean feeling or scent. They left me with damp skin which I didn’t want to dry off in case it rubbed of the salt. They were long lasting though and  they seemed to work ok, not great but ok.  I just found them a bit clumsy and uncomfortable.

Lush Deodrant: I haven’t tried Lush deodorant as I went straight from the above to the homemade alternatives as they are so easy to make, but I have used a lot of Lush products during my transitioning phase with each cosmetic and hygiene product that I use. I use them as they use recycled and/or compostable packaging and they try and reduce the use of chemicals in the products, don’t test on animals… the ethical list goes on. So if you are going to go for shop bought I recommend them!

Homemade Bicarbonate of Soda & Coconut Oil Roll On Deodorant: This is one of my favorites, but I think there are more eco friendly alternatives out there. I like it because it feels like a typical roll on pretty much, you can add scent if you want to but I prefer not too and it is easy to make. The bicarbonate of soda provides the deodorizing effect whilst the coconut oil moisturizes the skin. Simply keep an old roll on tube and when empty wash it out to put the homemade alternative into. Mix enough melted coconut oil (to fill the container when solidified) with 1-2 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda. Then pour into your container and let set.

WP_20151218_004Homemade Natural Deodorizing Spray: This is my favorite for environmental reasons and is the one that I will likely keep, although I may vary it slightly over the years as most people do with homemade recipes. What I did was I kept a pretty old perfume bottle (use pliers to get the spray bit off) to use as a container but any spray bottle will do. Make a herbal infusion (or if you’re a bit lazy like me a tea) with bay leaves and scented herb, I used rosemary to scent. I also didn’t clean my perfume bottle out too much so a bit of that scent comes through. Then when it’s cooled pour the liquid into your perfume bottle and spritz on armpits. Granted it doesn’t last as long as the others and the wetness takes some getting used to, but I like this for the environmental benefits. I have my own bay tree and rosemary plants so I can make this completely from home sourced materials. Therefore it is the most sustainable form of deodorant that I have found so far. I tend to spritz it more often than I would traditional deodorant to make up for how long it lasts. Generally though it seems to work for general day to day use. You might need something stronger if you were doing something more intensive. Generally though I would just wash after those things… but if you can’t then maybe opt for the bicarbonate of soda method above?

I tend to be of the belief that if you eat a healthy diet and maintain good hygiene (i.e. wash regularly) you shouldn’t be too smelly. So something like the natural deodorizing spritz should be enough to give your body a little bit of help. I also oppose the use of antiperspirants as our body has evolved to sweat for a reason! So I really hope this post will give you some ideas to try out some new alternatives, and if one doesn’t work for you keep trying different options.

If you have any other ideas for eco options for deodorant please comment below, ideally homemade with local materials.

Candles: Are they eco friendly lighting?


This week an electrical fault in my house had me considering possible off grid eco lighting sooner than expected.InstagramCapture_729c3b38-bbba-43cf-a76a-b57870781db1Without much thought I went to candles as the most eco friendly form of lighting in my mind, but is it really that straight forward?

The realities and practicalities of using candles was a bit of a shock. I love candles and had been managing to read by candlelight every night for a couple of months. But using it for everything certainly had its challenges.


Granted I let a child do this to me… but you get the concept!

Work days in winter wasn’t the best time to start. Getting dressed in a presentable manner, putting on make up and navigating around the house weren’t impossible but certainly a lot more difficult. I managed it for all three days but did miss lighting and appreciated natural light so much more. For example, cleaning was no longer a night time activity but best left to daylight on days off. And due to work, I didn’t see my house in daylight for the whole three days… which meant it definitely needed a clean by this time.

But also, I didn’t know about the environmental downsides of candles. I did some digging and one article compared burning petrolium based candles to the likes of burning diesel in your car…. not so eco then? But my idea was to eventually get a beehive and use spare bees wax to create my candles with… so would this be more eco friendly than conventional lights? I would still think so, but now I’m concerned about the practicalities of it.

I think my current thinking for the FreEco Bus is to install conventional low energy light bulbs which would be powered by the grid and get a couple of torches or camping lights (which can be recharged) to be powered by solar panels (for necessary use only). So for example when I’m doing my make up, but to try to use beeswax candles for most of our lighting needs.

However, I am still researching this area so it may well changed. Feel free to post your suggestions or good resources in the comments box!

Backyard Chickens: What you need


So getting started with keeping chickens is going to require some equipment. If you are looking to purchase all of this new (which I don’t recommend) you could be spending hundreds of pounds. Makes your first egg more costly than caviar I know! But it is worth it, because other than the initial investment, they are actually quite cheap to keep.


But of course, I don’t recommend you go out and buy everything new as this can be very costly. Often people on freecycle are offering their old chicken coops, feeders, etc. for free so you may get lucky on there, but if not there are lots of second options to buy on places like Gumtree and Ebay if you can’t get it on freecycle.

But that is all well and good, but what do you need?



Chicken Keeping: Raining It’s Pouring

The main thing you are going to need is somewhere to keep your chickens, whether they are to be completely free range or to be kept in a run, your chickens will need some form of housing.

The house needs to be ventilated, protect them from the weather, keep them safe from preditors, have perches for hens to sleep on and a nestbox for them to lay their eggs in.

You will need at least 1 sq ft per bird, but in my opinion the more space you can offer the better. Try and think about how easy it will be to clean, keep them safe from preditors and ease of egg collection when considering the ideal house for your chickens.

I went with a wooden coop as I’m reluctant to purchase plastic products and they wooden ones look better. But be warned the wooden coops are more prone to red mite where as the plastic coops are near enough resistant.

Run / Fencing

WP_20150828_015You need to keep  your chickens safe from preditors. An effective way to do this is to put up fencing or build a run. I made my run out of wooden sticks / posts, chicken wire and netting. When I get my land my chickens will be much more free range but my house is also by a busy road so I keep them in there for protection from that as I don’t agree with wing clipping.

Consider where you will place your run as chickens are good at creating mud pools. I know this from experience, but I gave them a patch of my garden that was full of sandy soil where nothing was growing to scratch about in.

Again the more space you can provide in my opinion the better for your chickens health.

Note in order to be fox proof fencing needs to be at least 6ft high and partially buried. I overcame this through using netting instead as a roof on our run.

If you haven’t got a dusty soil in their run, then provide them with a dust bath in their run as this helps keep mites away.


You will also need somewhere to provide your food and water for your chickens.

chicken feedersI did get feeders, but a lot of the feeders on the market aren’t weather proof and the alternatives are really expensive. I’m yet to find the weatherproof options on freecycle. Now, I mostly just scatter the food on the ground during the winter and check every now and then to make sure they have enough.

As for water, I recommend the gravity water options, they’re easy to fill and my chickens like to knock bowls of water over. They don’t tend to do that with these.

Medicine, Cleaners, Food, etc.

I recommend you purchase the following:

  • Gentian Violet & Antiseptic Spray – This dyes and cleanses a wound. The dye prevents other chickens pecking the wound. (Looking for more natural alternatives)
  • Smite – This should be used to disinfect your coop as it prevents red mite. (Looking for more natural alternatives)
  • Pellets – I use organic pellets (80% of diet)
  • Corn – I use organic (20% of diet)
  • Garden scraps – I supplement their diet with scraps from my mums allotment and my garden.
  • Grit – This is small stones and oyster shells that they use for calcium and to grind down their food.
  • Woodshavings – to put in their coop

I think that’s the main bits really, other than the actual chicken of course! If you have any specific questions, feel free to get in touch or comment below.

Water Conservation Attempts


So this week I have been thinking about water conservation and sources of water.


Fresh water is not an infinite resource

I know that when I get the FreEco Bus I want to be off-grid for water, so I need to carefully consider my land to ensure that there is a nearby stream that I could use or the likelihood of creating a good well. I will also need to consider how I will purify this water for consumption. I will also be trying to collect rain water as well. But right now, as a preparatory step for being off grid, I need to be focusing my efforts on water conservation.

Current Useage

According to a water calculation the average water useage per person per day is 150l. Our useage before being particularly concerned with water conservation was 102l per person per day according to a calculation I did (details are below). They suggested that this was as low as I could get it, but that wasn’t good enough for me. There is no way I can justify 102l per person to day taken from the environment. Imagine carrying that amount each and every day? So I needed to make some drastic measures.

Where is the water going?

The first thing I did was work out where I use water at the moment.

  1. Drinking – minor useage in comparison but still something to consider
  2. Cooking – including scrubbing muddy veg and boiling potatoes
  3. Washing Dishes – by hand using a washing up bowl
  4. Washing Clothes – A+ rated washing machine still uses a surprising amount of water
  5. Bathing / Showering – Usually share the one bath between us with medium level of water
  6. Hand Washing – Tap running
  7. Toilet Flushing – Often… kids ey?
  8. Brushing Teeth – Turn the tap off whilst brushing
  9. Watering Plants – House plants mainly
  10. Animals Drinking  – Rabbits and chickens water bottles and bowls
  11. Washing the Car – Rarely… it’s a mess. If so, couple of buckets
  12. Goldfish – In a tank currently that gets changed every 2-4 weeks

Goals and Changes Made


Fresh water is not an infinite resource

  1. In terms of drinking water I haven’t really changed this nor aim to reduce it as a family we don’t really drink enough. So the aim is really to reduce our use of fruit juices and drink more water and herbal teas which can be sustained when we go off-grid.
  2. Cooking – Our use of water for cooking is minor, however I noticed that I would leave the tap running when cleaning vegetables which was wasteful. Now I use a salad bowl which I fill to a certain level and scrub my veg in that. I then keep the dirty water and use it water the house plants instead. This conserves some water and adds nutrients from the mud to my house plants. Win win really!
  3. Washing Dishes – Currently I am using tap water in a washing up bowl to wash my dishes which is a relatively good level of water useage and possible sustainable off grid. In the longer term though I would like to use rain water for this instead to get me used to collecting the water for use and also conserve a bit more from the tap water. In order to do this I need to source some more water storage containers as the one I have at the moment will no be enough.
  4. Washing clothes – Currently I am using my washing machine. The aim is to use grey water or collected water to wash my clothes and no longer rely on the washing machine. I am considering getting a hand crank washing machine and mangle instead to use collected water and save energy in the future.
  5. Currently me and my girls share a bath, well actually take turns as we can’t all fit anymore! This used less water than each of us showering individually, especially with the length of time my girls would take in there. However, in order to be off-grid we are going to have to be even more frugal with our water than that. It is likely to be a good old strip wash most days. To get used to this we are taking the odd strip wash now but not every day to get used to it. I actually felt surprisingly clean using this method, but need to work on the hair washing technique! Gradually we will increase this to be mostly strip washing with the occasional bath.
  6. As for hand washing, we only really do it when our hands are dirty so it’s not too big a deal. To reduce it a bit, if I’ve just got a bit of soil on them when I’ve been in the garden and it’s a rainy day then I’ve been a rather odd lady rinsing them in a puddle haha! I guess really what I’m saying is in the future I will be looking to use more rain water for this.
  7. In terms of toilet flushing I think this is the one I am most concerned with at the moment. I can not install a compostable toilet in my rented house (I will get one put in the bus though). It’s really hard to get out of the habit of flushing so much though. Currently I am using grey water from our baths to flush when possible and generally trying to operate the (sorry folks) if it’s yellow let it mellow technique. It’s taking a bit of getting used to but I think if I can get a couple of buckets for the bathrooms to store grey water, we could definitely start using mostly grey water for our flushing.
  8. For brushing our teeth I have started getting a small container full of water to rinse with which is making us more mindful of how much we use. It’s the equivalent of a cup of water most days now. Which I think would be continued, but in the future we would look at using rain or collected water for this.
  9. Plants are no longer using tap water, they are using grey water, washed vegetable water or rain water now which will be continued
  10. The animals are drinking a bit more rain water that I have collected now. I am introducing this gradually to make sure they don’t get unwell with it, but hopefully they will be drinking rain or collected water in the future.
  11. Generally I use two or three bucket loads of water to wash my car, I haven’t washed it recently but I aim to use rain water to wash my car in the not too distant future. I will let you know how I get on!
  12. As for the goldfish, eventually I will be looking to get a pond for him as I think he would be happier there and it would be better for the diversity of my land too (when I get it). For now though he is using tap water, but I am going to see about rain water next time he gets cleaned out.

The main things I’ve learned is that I’m going to need an awful lot of water containers, big and small to make this more accessible and possible. Also, a great way to conserve water is to imagine carrying it for the purpose you are using it for. If carrying 10 buckets (guessing here) to heat and fill a bath with sounds like hard work, you will find a way to reduce it!

You can get details on your home water use here: STWater

The Joys of Chicken Keeping


WP_20150828_015Back in the summer, me and my daughters welcomed a couple of chickens into the family. We got them to provide ourselves with a local source of protein.

I’m a vegetarian (my children are… mostly) and a lot of the protein sources I was using were heavily processed, packaged and shipped. I hadn’t been a huge egg eater until this point and then as part of my eco-friendly ideals I decided that eggs should really form one of our main sources of protein.

I hated the factory farming and the uncertainty about the conditions the chickens from shop bought eggs were living in and I thought well you can’t really get a more local source of protein than eggs from your own backyard can you?

So I attended a chicken keeping course (details below) and a few months later we went to collect our chickens. They are called Melody and Maisy. They are hybrid chickens so are really good layers. They were rescued from a family friend, who kindly donated them to us for free.

I was surprised by how great chickens are as pets let alone anything else!

They make some lovely noises when I go past them or come home and they’re not too noisy to annoy the neighbors thankfully. I don’t have a cockerel so that also reduces the noise.


Chicken Keeping: Drying Melody After a Bath

Some of my family members were surprised to know that hens can still lay eggs without cockerels. In fact I personally prefer these eggs as a vegetarian as I know the egg will not create an actual chick.

But also, they are surprisingly tame and have brilliant personalities. Maisy is our naughty hen who likes to try and escape the run as often as she can and gets in the way whenever you try and clean her out. Melody on the other hand, is nice and laid back.
WP_20150828_017They both produce eggs nearly every day. Between the two of them I generally will come out with about 10-12 eggs a week. I give half to my parents and the other half I keep for us.

Maintenance and care is really easy, they’re fun to watch, they produce eggs and you know exactly where they come from and how the chickens have been treated. What more could you want?

I will write a little bit more about the general care and tips for chicken keeping in future posts but for now I just wanted to introduce our lovely pair of chickens and recommend that everyone should get some!

And don’t worry this lovely twosome have a very clear place in the FreEco Bus Plans!

The chicken keeping course I attended was at Bank View Farm