Friday 1 October 2021

Home Economics: September Report

Apple tree on October 1.

It has rained almost every day since I put little wormies on the raised bed to eat the slugs and snails, which  tokens well for my beleaguered rhubarb and blackcurrant bushes. The instructions said to keep the worm-treated area wet for two weeks after application, and the recent weather has saved me the bother of watering. 

I am feeling much better about my skills as a gardener, for I used to compare myself to the reputation of a former occupant, who kept the garden very nicely apparently. I have since concluded that he did this with all kinds of ghastly chemicals, leaving behind dead soil teeming with pests. 

The little wormies, marketed as "Nemaslug," only cost £13.50, but they were perhaps our weirdest purchase this month. Our most life changing purchase was a television for, lo, we have not had one since we left the Historical House over 3 years ago. Televisions have become very large and very flat, but we went with a relatively smaller one, marketed for kitchens and bedrooms, so that it would not dwarf the Interwar Flat. Now we can watch "Montalbano" without getting cricks in our necks from peering at a computer on the coffee table. And of course our most elegant purchase was my boots.

Various expenses piled up, so I was sure we had overspent on food. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that we were under budget on groceries and just over on wicked old restaurants, bars, cafes and takeaways.

September 2021: Groceries--£296; RBCT--£156.89

(August 2021: Groceries--£288.35; RCBT--£153.22)

Groceries are a relatively boring expense, but the RBCT fund was happily spent on (and during) our trip to the Borders (Chinese takeaway; beer and crisps; bottled water from W.H. Smith); Cafe Nero on the way to Carfin; a spontaneous late lunch at the pizzeria after Mass at Carfin; pastries from Twelve Triangles; Chinese takeaway after cider making; B.A.'s pub date with pals; coffee and pastries at La Barantine; and beer and meat pies at the pub where it all began. If that doesn't sound like a lot--well, this is Britain. It's expensive. 

Fuel is going to be super-expensive here this winter, and we can't all go to The Elephant House to keep warm, like J.K. Rowling way back when, because it has been badly damaged by fire. I took a picture, deciding that it's not disaster tourism when you actually live there. Behold:

Apparently there are many reasons gas and electric are going to cost so much in Britain this winter: a combination of not fracking the North Sea, wind farms without wind, having only a two-day reserve, and Russia being mean and sneaky. We are also going to have food shortages because of COVID, the Polish truck drivers and fruit pickers going back to Poland (aka Brexit), and a lack of CO2 to pump into meat. Apparently this CO2 is necessary to extend the shelf-life of meat, and since meat is already kept in cold fridges as it is, this makes me think Lent can't come soon enough. 

One of my financial goals for October is to not turn on the heat. I thought this terribly brave until I found out that most people in Britain don't turn on the heat until we set the clocks back, which this year is on October 31. Nevertheless, SSE took our money right away, so this month we paid £90 in advance for gas and electricity, and a further £9.50 to SSE in boiler insurance. 

A specifically household goal is to always have enough food in the house to weather other people's panic buying. We have many tins of tomatoes and--that reminds me--I must find some tins of pumpkin puree before Canadian Thanksgiving. 

I went to Real Foods today to look, and they were out of pumpkin. A helpful salesgirl told me that the new pumpkin might not arrive until the end of October, and although my eyes bugged in dismay, I did not tell her how unfair it is to have pumpkin in time for the special day for one Edinburgh minority group (Americans) and not for that of the smaller one (Canadians). 


  1. Your shopping bill is very civilised, we are getting ripped off something terrible here. I do think the loo roll run of 2020 and the current petrol run have been amplified by the UK press, leading to the self-fulfilling queues everywhere. There are reports elsewhere that international ports are jammed and that, plus folk in the panics, will lead to shopping panics come December. I will be clearing a fitted wardrobe and making a pantry out of it this month and pulling out the electric fire to get the chimney cleaned and the fire lighting for the first time since I was a child. This place is too cold and I am too arthriticky for a bad winter without power. I suggest you slowly but surely get your baking, dry goods and cleaning products in order too for the winter. I hope you find your pumpkin puree. One of my Italian neighbours is growing pumpkins in his front garden. So if you need one in an emergency let me know! Sinéad.

    1. Thank you! I have started to do the shopping for my Christmas baking. No pumpkin yet so far, but I think I might be able to find it in the "American food" section at Harvey Nicholls. Overpriced but there you are.

  2. Are there any pie pumpkins being harvested right now? (I don't know if people even grow them in the UK.) If there are, it's pretty easy to make your own pumpkin puree: cut the pumpkins in half, scoop out the goop, and roast them cut-side down for 45-60 minutes at 350F. After that you can puree the flesh in a food processor, if you have one, or give it a good whack with a pastry cutter or potato masher (which is what I do).

    1. Thank you! I may have to do this.

    2. I'm much lazier: I roast the pumpkins whole and then cut and scoop when they are cooked and soft! We've already made (and eaten) roast pumpkin, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin pancakes this September :D

  3. It looks like there are cans of pumpkin available on, if you get desperate. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!