FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

Friday, 18 December 2015

Christmas? Yule!

We haven't been able to share a lot of the crafty things we've been doing over the past several weeks, as the majority of them are Christmas gifts for friends and family and we wouldn't want to ruin the surprise. Rest assured that we'll be sharing all once the main event is over and done with.

We'll be going quiet over Xmas/Yule as we believe more than anything that it is a time to be with family and truly "Eat, Drink and be Merry". There's a few projects in the pipeline that we can't wait to share with you, so expect us to return stronger than ever in the new year.

For all of our readers we thank you for being along for the ride with us on this Blog, we hope you have a fantastic festive season whatever manner you choose to celebrate it in, we'll leave you with a quick theory on the origin of the holiday, although as Heathens we're completely biased!

Yule / Jul:
Celebration of the Norse New Year; a festival of 12 nights.
This is the most important of all the Norse holidays. On the night of December 20, the god Ingvi Freyr rides over the earth on the back of his shining boar, bringing Light and Love back into the World. In later years, after the influence of Christianity, the god Baldur, then Jesus, was reborn at this festival. Jul signifies the beginning and end of all things; the darkest time (shortest hour of daylight) during the year and the brightest hope re-entering the world. During this festival, the Wild Hunt is at its greatest fervor, and the dead are said to range the Earth in its retinue. The god Wotan (Odin) is the leader of this Wild Ride; charging across the sky on his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir; a very awe-inspiring vision. In ancient times, Germanic and Norse children would leave their boots out by the hearth on Solstice Eve, filled with hay and sugar, for Sleipnir's journey. In return, Wotan would leave them a gift for their kindness. In modern times, Sleipnir was changed to a reindeer and the grey-bearded Wotan became the kindly Santa Claus (Father Christmas).


Beardology: Product Review: Viking Beard Stuff Xmas Edition

It's Christmas Time, and whilst this oil doesn't smell of mistletoe and wine it does encapsulate the essence of the festive season. If you've been reading our past blog posts then you'll know I've really been looking forward to the release of the VBS Xmas scent. I was a little worried it might be an overpowering cinnamon-fest that was too sickly but the Xmas addition does not disappoint!

The cinnamon and clove balance each other out perfectly, with a hint of pine and mandarin adding volume to the nose-gasm, I can only describe the Xmas scent as what I would imagine Santa's christmas tree would smell like.

So if you have a hairy viking at home in need of a treat then I'd thoroughly recommend slipping one of these in their stocking this Christmas, and if your viking is on the naughty list then in keeping with tradition you should get them a lump of coal, in the form of a beard shampoo bar made using activated charcoal!

At the time of writing you can claim 20% off all products by using the code DECEMBEARD20 at the checkout

You can find the Viking Beard Stuff guys at:



Thursday, 26 November 2015


"Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday celebrated in Canada and the United States as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year."

Being both born and bred in the UK, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving, but many of our readers do, so in the spirit of the holiday I'd just like to appreciate the things in life that I am thankful for.
so in no particular order

Health: I am thankful for my continued good health, we all like to complain about the minor things that ARE wrong with us such as a headache here or a sniffle there, but it's not often we contemplate how many things AREN'T wrong with us. With all the chronic illnesses and challenges other people face, I can't complain about the small problems I have from time to time.

Home: We have been in our house for a year now, and whilst there is still much to do we have already massively improved more than half of the house. The garden has undergone a transformation from the bare square of weeds it once was and is well on the way toward being the productive micro farm we envision for it. The bathroom has undergone a full makeover, the kitchen has been completely replaced, both the kids rooms have been decorated and so has the living room. We've changed both the front and back door for added security and peace of mind, and changed the consumer unit for the electricity supply. We also got a brand new boiler fitted after the old one died in the heart of last winter. So as you can see we've been very busy bunnies over the last year! All that remains really is to get new carpet for the hallway, stairs and landing and the master bedroom, but all in good time, I'm sure we'll get there eventually.

Family: All of the above home improvements could never have been completed without the massive amount of help we've received from family, particularly the father-in-law who seems to have a never ending list of handyman jobs at Fast-SoS HQ. I am thankful for all of my family, but none more than my gorgeous Wife, whose talents never cease to amaze me. Whether it's her kitchen wizardry and the things she is able to do with fabric, or the way she steps up to any challenge thrown at her and is the most amazing mother, I am a lucky man to have her by my side. I'm also thankful for our wonderful children, Little Logan and baby Aurora. Logan is growing in to such a little character, at 3 years old he is so clever, cheeky and fun to be around. We celebrated the birth of our daughter Aurora in April and she has been a ray of light around the house, always so happy and full of life, we are truly blessed to have them both in our lives, no matter how many sleepless nights or stains on the carpet they cause us!

Friends: We have a great network of people around us, I'd like to thank all of the people in our lives that have supported us in all of life's endeavours, the people that are there for us through thick and thin, all the wonderful customers we have had this year through Lucky Sew & Sew and Thor's Threads, and the people that support us by reading, sharing and commenting on this blog.

Food: I lieu of the thanks giving dinner, this weekend we will be treated to some truly epic food as it is our traditional weekend of putting up the Xmas tree with all of the family. I can't ruin the surprise by telling you all of the delights Carly has planned, but it involved home made pulled pork and I can guarantee that it will be to die for! watch this space and I'll be sure to upload our antics over the next few days

I may not be a wealthy man, but when I think about the the thing things listed above I feel richer than any King, and am content with my Englishman's castle.

If you celebrate Thanksgiving then I hope you have the very best possible holiday, and if you don't celebrate it then maybe it would be a good time to stop for a moment and appreciate the blessings that you do have in your life.


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Beardology: Spitfire Review: OIL, WAX, BALM & COMB GIFT PACK

After being impressed by the Cinnamon Latte oil and balm by Spitfire, I thought I'd try out some of their other products and opted for the Oil, Wax, Balm and Comb Gift pack. I ordered the pack in  Woodsman scent for the bargain price of £7.99 for 10ml or £11.99 for the 30ml option. The picture below shows the size difference between the 10ml and 30ml containers, you really do get a lot more for your money if you go large and pay the extra £4 for 30ml.

I went for the woodsman scent because Spitfire describe it as:
 "Woodsman – Pine needle and cedarwood; both woody scents and very manly. Cedarwood can boost mental clarity and pine needle has a strong cleansing capacity, stimulating body and mind."

Well when it arrived the oil and wax were OK, but the beard balm smelled awful, it was reminiscent of a toilet mint! I checked with the wife to make sure I wasnt losing my mind but she agreed. Hoping that it was a bad batch I messaged Spitfire to tell them that I didn't intend to make my beard smell like a urinal, and they thought that maybe I was sent the wrong thing and said they'd send a replacement out. Credit where it's due the replacement arrived the next day but was identical to the first. If this had been my only experience of Spitfire I would recommend that nobody ever used them again, but I know that at least one of their other scents is good so I wouldn't completely blacklist them, but unless you want your face to smell like a truck stop toilet I'd suggest you steer well clear of the Woodsman scent from Spitfire Grooming Company!

But it isn't all completely bad, their Mo wax is absolutely great, good long lasting hold, not too soft and does the job perfectly. Likewise the beard oil is good for the money, soaks in well and helps to tame the wild hillman look of a bearded biker like myself. The comb is VERY compact, great for use on the go and the hole at the end means it could even go on a keyring.

In summary, value for money cannot be beaten with Spitfire as they are undoubtedly the cheapest around, the customer service is good, lightening fast shipping, good product but the scents can be a bit hit and miss.

Could your council save you £300 on your energy bills?

Do you want lower energy bills? Innovative community 'bulk-buying' scheme aims to slash bills as price hikes bite.

I first heard about this a while ago, and thought that since we all fund the council through our tax it's about time they did something to earn their keep! We have just switched to our local scheme run by Southend Council and I can tell you that their quote was amongst the most competitive, and also gives you the peace of mind that 33% of the energy you use is produced by green sustainable means.

The most informative article I have found on what other councils are offering similar schemes was by The Guardian, I will insert their article below for those interested. It is worth noting the Nottingham Councils aptly named Robin Hood Energy are willing to accept customers that live outside of their geographical locale.

Article by The Guardian:

Local authorities including Southend, Nottingham and Peterborough are offering deals that make what the big six charge ‘look crazy’, with more councils set to follow suit.
Local authorities are starting to challenge the dominance of the big six energy companies by offering gas and electricity direct to the public for the first time since the 1940s. And early evidence suggests that residents who are switching to these local suppliers are saving an average of £250 on their bills.
Some households have managed to lop £400 or more off their annual heating and lighting costs after deciding to “go local”, with one council reporting that 60% of its new customers had never switched supplier before.
With millions of people still overpaying for their gas and electricity, this latest shake-up of the energy market is being described as a way of “putting the power back into the hands of the people” and offering a competitive local alternative to the usual firms.
Which councils are taking part?
Cheshire East council started the ball rolling when it teamed up with independent supplier Ovo Energy to launch its own energy offer, making it the first local authority to sell gas and electricity since these sectors were nationalised in 1948. The venture, called Fairerpower, opened its doors in March this year, and this week revealed it has so far signed up almost 3,000 customers from across Cheshire East, which takes in the towns of Crewe, Knutsford, Macclesfield and Wilmslow.
Peterborough city council’s similar venture, Peterborough Energy, went live in April, and a month later Southend-on-Sea borough council followed suit with Southend Energy. As with Fairerpower, these two are both the result of a link-up with Ovo, which hopes to announce two further “partnerships” by the end of this year.
In all three cases the ventures are run by the councils, though it is Ovo which buys the energy and is in charge of things such as billing. And with all three, only residents of the respective council areas can become customers, although there are hopes of eventually expanding this.
Just over two weeks ago Nottingham city council joined the fray by launching a supplier called Robin Hood Energy which – unlike the others so far – is available to anyone, no matter where they live – though locals get an extra discount. It has set itself a target of signing up 10,000 customers a month, and is going it alone. The company is buying in gas and electricity from the markets, but hopes in future to use energy generated from the city’s incinerator, solar panels and waste food plants.

What are the prices like?
Very competitive. When Guardian Money looked this week, the council suppliers were not offering the absolute cheapest tariffs on the entire market, but were only a few pounds off. And the Peterborough and Southend fixed tariffs in particular may appeal to those who would like a decent chunk of their electricity to come from renewable sources, according to ethical money website That’s because in both cases, 33% of the electricity comes from “green” sources – wind, solar, biomass etc – although Southend also has a 100% green option which costs a little more. In the case of the Fairerpower fixed tariff, the percentage is a lot lower: 15%.
The people who stand to gain the most from switching are those who are sitting on one of the big six companies’ standard tariffs. Ovo Energy told Money that, based on dual-fuel customers who had switched to its three council partners as of 30 August, the current average saving is £251, and adds that the ventures are “successfully converting the ‘stickier’ customers who have not switched for years”.
That figure was borne out by our number-crunching. Money posed as a typical medium-use customer living in Southend and keyed our details into the Southend Energy website. It quoted us £840 a year for its 12-month fixed dual-fuel deal. That’s £254 less than the average £1,094 which an equivalent big six standard tariff customer pays by monthly direct debit, according to Then we tried the same thing with Robin Hood Energy, which quoted us £845. When we repeated the exercise with Peterborough Energy, again posing as a local resident, the results were identical.

There are a handful of slightly cheaper deals out there: extraenergy, First Utility and EDF had deals costing £825, £826 and £830 respectively.
What are people saying?
Becky O’Connor at says the local council-run suppliers “have made astonishing progress in the last year”. She adds: “They are now among the very cheapest deals on the market, taking on the dominant players and making their prices look crazy and utterly unjust.”
She says that the big six – British Gas, EDF, E.ON, npower, ScottishPower and SSE – “are way off the money. We hope they will soon begin to pay the price for being both costly and dirty as more people see the light and switch to cheaper and greener deals.”
What about the customers?
The 680 or so residents who have so far signed up to Peterborough Energy include the city’s mayor, John Peach, who says he is saving £414 a year as a result of switching. Fellow resident Joyce Wheeler, who lives in the Orton area of the city, is saving £265. “This is the first time I have switched energy supplier, and I decided to do so after receiving a letter advertising Peterborough Energy in the post. I was also a little unhappy with my former supplier,” she says. “The saving is fantastic and will mean I can put the heating on a lot more this winter.”
Southend Energy’s 790 customers include Elise Thomas, 86, from Leigh-on-Sea, who rang up after reading about the venture in a leaflet in the council’s Outlook magazine. She was told she could save £437 a year by switching. “I had been with the same company for ages and ages – so long that I can’t remember the last time I switched, as it must have been over 20 years. They had been all right but their bills were massive.” She adds: “I think it’s very entrepreneurial of the council to do something like this.”

Full Guardian article can be found here:

Monday, 23 November 2015

Contemplating Mortality

"Think of your family today and every day thereafter, don’t let the busy world of today keep you from showing how much you love and appreciate your family.” - Unknown Author

This weekend my wifes family suffered a tragic loss, and it is not the first this year.
The world has lost a kind young soul, taken well before his time. My heart goes out to his friends and family, no words can help the pain and nothing will ever replace the loss they have suffered.

We only have a precious little amount of time granted to us, individually we are temporary fixtures on this planet. Too much time and energy is wasted on material things and the rat race of the 9-5 world, when the real wealth we all hold is the people in our lives. So please, I beg you, live your life. Tell those close to you how much you love them, hold them close, laugh with them, LIVE with them. Enjoy every second with them, cherish the precious moments and appreciate the blessings you have in your life. It is so easy to lose sight of the things that really matter. The past is history and the future is uncertain, banish your regrets and worries and live in the here and now as much as you possibly can. Seize the day, chase your dreams and truly LIVE your life.

“Love your family. Spend time, be kind & serve one another. Make no room for regrets. Tomorrow is not promised & Today is short.” - Anon


Garden Update

The weather has been pretty horrendous lately, the mercury has dropped significantly and now that we've had the first frost it feels like winter has finally reared its ugly head.

Last week saw Storm Barney hit our neck of the woods, and the high speed winds tore the felt off the roof of the shed, so there was plenty of fun and games trying to get the felt back on and stapled down to keep the water out.

Since I was already out in it wet and cold I thought I'd make the most of it and managed to get the Garlic planted (which was given to us by a friend that bought it back from France) and pulled up the carrots as I wasn't sure how they'd cope with the frost. Fingers crossed I'm hoping to pull up the parsnips next month just in time for Xmas dinner, although they have been battered by the winds and are looking a little worse for ware. After that there's just the leeks to harvest and we'll be ready to prepare the beds for next years growing and really start to improve the quality of the soil.

Time to get the seed catalogues out!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Beardology: Spitfire Grooming Company Review

Spitfire are one of the cheapest brands out there at the moment so I thought I'd try them out and see what they had to offer, at £6.99 for a 10ml balm and 10ml oil combo pack they are very reasonably priced.

The order was delivered the very next morning from the time of me placing my order, I opted for the Cinnamon Latte scent and the oil and balm are both good, the balm was a much stronger smell that lasted longer than the oil, both were non greasy and absorbed well into the beard and didnt leave it oily. For the price they are good, but 10ml doesn't last long at all so i would avise paying the £2 more to upgrade to the 30ml combo pack.

Great service and great price, product is satisfactory value for money, I look forward to seeing some new scents from Spitfire though, as currently they only offer the same fragrances as the rest of the over-saturated market, and I feel they will need to bring something new to the table unless their only ambition is to be the cheapest but not the best.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Ultimate Prepper Footwear....

An item created to save you from the worst possible pain. No one knows when this disaster may strike next, it could be today, it could be  tomorrow, it could be any time, any place, but one thing is some point in time you WILL step on a Lego brick. are you willing to endanger your family for any longer? 

Lego slippers created to save parents pain of stepping on tiny plastic bricks

The solution is out there people, don't risk the feet of your loved ones!

The Survival Podcast

I've been listening to The Survival Podcast every morning for about a year now, and would go so far as to say that it has changed my way of thinking on many subjects. It is put together by Jack Spirko, an is usually around 1hr - 1hr45mins per episode. The podcast covers every subject imaginable under the survival/prepper banner from Foodstorage to firearms, medicine to permaculture. There are regular guests on the show that are usually experts in their field which means there are always new ideas and perspectives coming through on the show. In Jacks own words:

"The Survival Podcast is a daily online audio show about self sufficiency and self reliance in the modern world. I conceived and created this podcast because over the years I have come to realize how fragile the human condition and the United States economy really is."

I listen each morning in the first hour of the day when there's rarely anybody else around, if you can spare the time to listen to the podcast, maybe on the way to/from work, etc it's a great way to claim back dead time and benefit from it. It has been a driving factor in my own journey towards self reliance and preparedness, and some of the information shared on the show has been absolutely invaluable. Although TSP is based Stateside it still holds great relevance to survivalists in the UK too and doesn't spend too much time on the "Beans and Bullets" style that comes across a lot when trawling through most American material.

I love Jacks style, which his tagline sums up "Helping you live a better life, If times get tough, or even if they don't" it isn't all doom and gloom, and most topics covered are just as beneficial and enriching to life is the shit DOESN'T hit the fan, and if it does? well you'll be one step ahead.

I'll Leave you with the Guiding Concepts for the Survival, as taken from their about page:

"The Guiding Concepts The Survival Podcast are Based On Include
1. Debt is cancer, it is killing our economy and killing the dreams of many Americans. There may be little you can do about the total national debt but you can control your own debt. Do so now!
2. Protecting the environment is a good thing and it should be done. That said climate change is not our most immediate danger. We are not all going to die from global warming, the evidence that carbon is the cause is thin at best. The biggest cause of the green house effect is water vapor, don’t come here looking for activist environmentalism, you will be disappointed.
3. In spite of our view expressed above we are huge supporters of alternative energy such as wind and solar. Primarily because they help to provide more self sufficiency and economic long term stability. The danger of oil is its finite nature and inability to meet long term global demand.
4. Always be frugal, never be “cheap”. One protects your financial position the other always costs you more in the long run.
5. No matter what the sheeple tell you, what you do does matter and you do control your own destiny. Live life to the fullest and understand that you have more control over your life then anyone or anything else."  

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

P2S Forum

I've been asked a few times now what P2S is so here goes...

P2S - Prepared 2 Survive

P2S is an online survivalism and self reliance forum that differs from most "Prepper" forums as it is UK based (although it does have a small number of members from overseas).

P2S was pretty much instrumental in my personal development, I went there with an open mind and empty head and absorbed the knowledge available there like a sponge. I have met some amazing friends through P2S and certainly wouldn't be heading down the road I am right now if it hadn't been for some incredible people from the forum. Of course all forums when they get to a certain size attract the odd moron, but the admin/mod team have managed for the most part to keep the idiots at bay.

In the years that I have been a member there has always been high levels of activity and a vast wealth of knowledge and content, with so many people with different skills and from different backgrounds it is always well worth a visit.

If you do decide to check it out, just bear in mind that as a new member you don't have access to the full forum, it takes a while before you can see everything on the site. This may seem tedious but it goes a long way to keeping the riff-raff out and is well worth the wait.


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Fast-SoS Halloween


Like Mike

we're going to need a very big newspaper for this one!

Delicious eyeballs

Litte Logan's Birthday is around halloween so we like to have a spooktacular halloween themed birthday party for him and make the most of the spooky decorations available at that time of year. We had jack'o'lanterns carved from the pumpkins grown in the vegetable patch, homemade cakes and snacks and plenty of fun and games. 

the spooky crew at Fast-SOS HQ
At to top off all the fun, it wouldn't quite be Fast-SoS without a bit of drama, so for good measure we accidentally locked ourselves out of the house when we left to go round nanny and Grandad's for the party, so upon our return Fast-Daddy had to break back in to the house dressed as a skeleton. I'm not sure if I was more relieved or concerned that the neighbours didn't report a six foot skeleton breaking in to our house! The problem was hat we left a key in the back of the door so although we had the keys to the house they were useless, and even Logan's little arm was too big to go through the letterbox and pull it out. Luckily we noticed as soon as we left, so borrowed a chisel from the father in law before we returned home, so in less than 5 mins I was in the house and within 15mins the back door was back exactly how it was before. saved me an expensive locksmith callout but it's worrying to think that someone can gain entry to your property silently with basic tools so quickly. From a preppers point of view I may bury/stash a hammer and chisel somewhere in the garden in case it happens again, although if you really wanted to I reckon you could do the same job with a keyring prybar, it'd just be a bit more fiddly.

So that was our fun and games over the all hallows period, how was your halloween?


Friday, 30 October 2015

Resilience: How prepared are you?

What precautions do you have in place to take care of your family in the event of an emergency?

Today we face our own micro disaster at Fast-SoS HQ, National Grid have been replacing the gas lines on our road and from the road up to the meter, so we knew the supply would be on and off during the day, which isn't a problem. However once the work had been done and the engineers tested the system, they discovered that there is a leak somewhere in our property which is above the legal threshold, so they had no choice but to leave the gas disconnected as the engineer deemed that "There was significant and immediate risk of explosion!"  Quite how immediate the danger is we'll never know since we have been explosion free for the last year that we've lived here, but with young children in the house gas leaks are not worth the risk.
So at 5pm last night I came home from work to be told the gas was off. Luckily we still had electric so we can heat the house with a couple of oil filled radiators, national grid gave us a couple of electric hotplates to cook on but I am a bit of a stove hoarder so we had plenty of camping stove alternatives that we could have used if the worst came to the worst. Generally life won't be interrupted too much before the problem is sorted, but it does serve as a reminder that things can and do go wrong.

So many people live in a bubble thinking that an emergency will never happen to them, with most houses unprepared for a short power cut, let alone a disaster that puts the supply out for a couple of weeks. Gone are the days when every house had a decent torch with spare batteries, a box of candles and matches. Our grandparent would always have all of the above, plus a fully stocked larder and a stack of board games big enough to see you through the worst days, and although we now have limitless access to technology and information it seems to have only made us as a society more fragile. We have lost our resilience to adversity and hardship, and those few people that are prepared are seen as the crazy minority. Will they still be the crazy ones when they have light in a street full of darkness? Will they still be lunatics when they have warmth and food whilst others are cold and hungry? It is well within everyone's power to put away a few supplies to make life easier and more comfortable during minor emergencies like a power cut, and it's a great place to start if you haven't looked in to preparedness before. A simple Blackout Box/Bag can be started with a torch and candles and expanded on from there. Maybe you'd like to add a small gas stove? Or maybe you don't mind eating a cold dinner but you'd like to include a camping heater because you feel the cold. Each home/person's needs are different, so try not to get too caught up with lists of items that you find online, as the person that wrote them is likely to have totally different circumstances to you. It is far better to decide what you personally do and don't need, as the internet is filled with as much bad advice as there is good. But don't take my word for it, I'm just a guy on the internet ;)

In a future post I'm going to talk about the "Bug out Bag", why I think everyone should have one, what I think should be in one, and why I don't think you need one. That will all make sense when you read the post, so stay tuned folks.

We'd love to hear from you, what measures do you have in place for when disaster strikes?


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Beardology: Viking Beard Stuff Review

This week I've had the pleasure of trying out some of the products from the guys over at Viking Beard Stuff and wanted to give an honest review on their items:

Viking Beard Stuff Oudh Musk Beard Oil
First up I opted to try their Oudh Musk Beard Oil, which is a limited edition to VBS. The beard product market is saturated with companies selling "Woodsman" and "Citrus Blast" beard oils that are mostly just cheap scented argan or coconut oil, so it was refreshing to see a unique offering from VBS with their Oudh Musk.

Viking Beard Stuff combine a special blend of 100% pure Moroccan Argan Oil, Jojoba Oil and Sweet Almond Oil.

The Oudh scent comes from a resin derived from Agarwood, known in English as Aloes wood. It is the most expensive wood in the world that has acquired worth and value in many cultures for its distinctive dark, rich, mystic fragrance.
Oudh Musk smells good in the bottle, but once it's on and your body heat warms it up it is an amazing unique masculine smell. It is a deep, musky, bitter-sweet and woody scent. The oil has a great consistency and a few drops is plenty to get the job done, it soaks in quickly and doesn't leave your beard greasy, just gives it a natural healthy shine. Even on my Coarse barbed wire beard it has managed to soften the hair a bit and prevent the dreaded beard itch,

Viking Beard Stuff Nordic Breeze Beard Balm
Nordic Breeze was the scent of the beard balm that I tried, according to Viking Beard Stuff the scent "captures the aroma Vikings experienced when breathing in the fresh sea air with background hints of lavender and rosemary from the Heathland." I found it to be quite a sweet herbal scent, pleasant and almost minty, a good contrast to the musk scent I tried in their beard oil. 

Slightly different ingredients list for the balm, it contains a blend of pure Beeswax, Solid Coconut Oil and Sweet Almond Oil.

The beard balm is a good consistency, not too hard so it isn't a chore to use. Although most balms are sold in vaseline type tins, VBS balm comes in a small 30ml jar, it will be interesting to see if this makes it difficult to get to the balm when it starts to run low and that would be my only criticism, other than that it absorbs well, the scent is great and not overpowering.

Viking Beard Stuff Pearwood Beard Comb
Lastly we have the BEAST that is the Viking Beard Stuff Pearwood Beard Comb. Measuring in at a whopping 14cm this is the biggest beard comb I have ever encountered, and whilst it is by no means a pocket comb, it is the best comb I have ever used on my beard. The problem with some beard combs is that the teeth are cut too fine, so any kink in a hair catches and rips out the hair or snaps it, but that is not an issue with the VBS comb which goes through the thickest of beards without a problem. I like that it is a natural material that genuinely could have been used by the vikings. The wood gets coated by excess beard oil/balm so will be well preserved and will season over time to have its own scent unique to the owner based on their preference in products so I'm looking forward to seeing mine evolve. I'd like to see a smaller pocket version to compliment it, I'd also love to see a VBS genuine horn comb to complete the Viking theme. 

To summarise, Viking Beard Stuff make some of the best quality beard products I have come across so far. They have some cool unique scents, are reasonably priced and have great customer service, your beard will be in good hands if you entrust it to their products. I'm looking forward to trying their Earl Grey scent and a little birdy tells me they are just about to bring out a festive beard oil in time for Christmas, so get your orders in guys before they sell out!

At the time of writing this review, the code FACEBOOK10 will get you 10% off your first order, I promise you won't regret it

You can find the Viking Beard Stuff guys at:



Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Beardology: Affairs of the Face

Beards are like manly Marmite, you either love them or you hate them.
For the last couple of years I have beards on and off, it was a constant battle between me and the wife as she hated it, so periodically she would win and the razor would come out. My beard grows incredibly coarse and rough when left to its own devices, so when kissing the fairer sex it is like subjecting them to a scrub with a brillo pad. 

In order to tame my man mane and save it from the dreaded shave, I decided to give some beard products a go and see if they made any noticeable difference. In this modern day and age there is no shame in a man taking care of himself, and nothing could be more manly than a well groomed and well looked after beard. 
I have now tried various brands and different types of products and have a pretty good idea of what does and doesn't work and how to make the most of them, so every now and again I'll be throwing a cheeky beard related post or product review into the mix on the blog

So lets start with the basics: 


This is the easiest thing in the world for those that are able to do it and yet so many men get it wrong.
The sheer number of people that comment when you have a beard with things like "I've always wanted to grow a beard but it just itches too much when I try to grow one" or the classic "I'd love to grow one but my wife/girlfriend hates them"

Gentlemen, you are doing it wrong. 
The stubble itch goes away once the hair gets past a certain length, and it can be greatly alleviated by using oil from day one to keep the skin moisturised so that it isn't irritated as easily.

Speaking of easily irritated, lets get back to the subject of the women. Most women only dislike beards because they are so rough and scratchy on their softer. more sensitive skin, so to stop your beard being public enemy number one, look after it and it will get softer. A lot of men wait until they already have a beard before they think about using oil/balm on it, but the best time to nourish and soften the hair is whilst it is growing.

To summarise, how to grow a great beard: 

Step one: Stop Shaving. 
Step two: Apply beard oil from the start, just a couple of drops a day
Step Three: WAIT. Just wait. Do not be tempted to attempt to trim it prematurely, just wait and you will be rewarded with your beard's full potential.

It's that simple! Now go out and fell some trees, ride a motorcycle and sail the seven seas and all those other things that a bearded man spends his free time doing.

Future Beardology posts will contain product reviews, beard maintenance tips and recipes for creating your own home made beard oils and balms from natural ingredients. You will have to get your own lumberjack shirt, I can't do everything for you.


Tuesday, 20 October 2015

DIY Project: Drinks Can Meths Stove

If you want a cheap, easy and super efficient camping stove that you can make yourself for pennies then this DIY project is for you! Perfect for Festivals, Rallies, Camping and Backpacking Adventures

I've been threatening for a while to do a DIY drinks can stove, and I did finally get round to it!

I went for the penny stove design in the end, tested this evening and it is pretty good for the minimal effort expended. They say a picture paints a thousand words so i'll show you step by step how I did it, there will be a link at the end explaining exactly what to do in each step, here we go:

surprisingly quick and easy to cut the pieces once you get the hang of it.

I cut it with a mini snap off blade, knocked the holes for the jet in with a small brass nail from a picture hook and then crimped with the pliers on the multitool. Then before I assembled it I just quickly ground the burrs off the underside of the jets with the dremel as I read online somewhere that it adversely affects the vapour flow.

et voila! 

onto the burn test....

Having not used one of these before I wasn't exactly sure how much meths it would hold, so may have been a bit over enthusiastic when I filled it! next time I'd put less as this much really wasn't necessary but at least it gave the stove a good test run.

The meths instantly took a flame and burst into life

This went for a couple of minutes before the priming flame died down and the jets ignited. I opted for 6 jets as it is easier to add more holes later than take them away! I think I will make one with many smaller jets to compare and see whether size or quantity is better for boiling water in my set up.

From the time of lighting, it had a continuous burn for around 30 minutes before extinguishing itself once the fuel had run out, and although it looks like a lot of meths it was the smallest splash, it barely looks like any has been used from the bottle.
Once I've made a pot stand at the correct height I'll play with a few other designs/jet configs to see what will boil water in a crusader cup quicker and keep you updated. I'd be interested to see how it performs against my bioethanol crusader cooker unit, a propane gas stove and the bog standard issue hexicooker. I'd like to make one from a smaller red bull can and see if it fits in the crusader base unit. I can see that this pennystove thing will consume me if I'm not careful! 

All in all there are a lot worse ways to spend an hour, its a cracking little stove that will cost most people a penny to make as there are cans everywhere waiting to be upcycled :)

I followed the instructions from this link, very good site, they touch on the size and number of jets in the FAQ:

DISCLAIMER - do as I say not as I do! it is a terrible idea to play with fire and drink alcohol at the same time, I am a delinquent and should not be emulated by anyone!
all joking aside, whilst I may find it amusing, if you cut off your arm, burn down your house or poison yourself on the fumes I take no responsibility, Darwin can take all of the credit for such events!!


Winter Frenzy

Hi folks, 

We've been fairly quiet online of late as we are majorly busy getting Fast-SoS HQ ready for winter and trying to get everything shipshape before the frosts are on us.

We've almost finished fitting the new kitchen, re-decorating it and tiling it out etc, The father-in-law has been worked to the bone! but things are starting to come together now so very soon all should be well and we'll be back to business as usual.

The state of affairs in the vegetable garden at the moment is:

The runner beans are now finished for the year, we had so much produce from this plant that we were giving them away by the bag load as we got sick of eating them in the end! next year we'll hopefully be using them as part of the feed for our quails and chickens.

The peas didn't do very well but I suspect it was down to overcrowding, we still managed to have a couple of meals out of them though and they were the most delicious peas we'd ever eaten, full of flavour.

The leeks are coming along and doing well, we're looking forward to when they're ready.

The pumpkins are all ready just in time for Little Logan's birthday around halloween and we think we might make a pumpkin cake from them.

The cucamelons came up out of the ground but didnt bare fruit, they were planted late and didnt pay off.

Our Spinach grew like crazy and is still growing now, another green that we're hoping to throw to the poultry to give them some variety.

The Carrots and Parsnips have formed a miniature forest in their raised bed so we're hoping to have some delicious roots out of there in the near future.

A friend of ours recently journeyed over to France and came back with some real French garlic bulbs and has given us some to plant, they smell absolutely divine and are bursting with flavour so we'll be getting some in the ground later this month and potentially won't need to buy any again, more on that in a future post.

How did your gardening efforts go this year, how did your garden grow?


Monday, 28 September 2015

Sharpen Scissors - Quick Fix

Both of our businesses involve spending a large amount of time cutting fabric, and dull scissors are pretty much the bane of my life.

As some of you are probably well aware, A really quick way to get them making clean cuts once they start to lose their edge is to fold a sheet of tinfoil so it is several layers thick and cut the foil with the scissors and they'll be cutting like new again in no time. Try it out on an old pair of kitchen scissors and you won't be disappointed.

Another way to do it is to cut sandpaper folded so its rough both sides, but that is a much more abrasive method that shouldn't be necessary unless the scissors are totally blunt.

If you want REALLY sharp scissors then you can also sharpen them on the unglazed ring on an upturned ceramic mug, but that isn't quite as easy to do, and not everyone needs their scissors that sharp.


Thursday, 17 September 2015

Our Quail Tale: Building the Coop

Many thanks to the guys at P2S for getting me hooked on this idea!

Our intention was to start off with half a dozen quail as our first venture into keeping livestock/poultry, then possibly expand the flock and get a few chickens too once we were comfortable with it.

We really loved the idea of being able to get fresh eggs every day, and know that they are not pumped full of chemicals and hormones. It is also a great way to get the kids involved with responsibilities like filling up their water/food, collecting eggs etc, a real hands on learning experience to teach them to value and respect animals and appreciate what work goes in to the food on our plates.

As with all things, I wanted to try and do this on a shoestring budget. We are planning on getting the Quails after winter so that gives me a fair amount of time to put a coop together. I have absolutely zero experience or skill with DIY so if I can do it then any brummy idiot can. The only tools I have used is a saw, drill and staple gun, so nothing fancy or difficult.

I got all of the timber for free as they were offcuts/scrap from the lumber yard at work, the hinges for the doors were stripped off an old door that was being thrown out and the screws I already had knocking about in the shed. the only thing I have actually paid for was the wire mesh, and to be honest I could probably have wombled that too if I had been patient and kept an eye on the skips, or tapped up a plasterer to see if he had some left over. Rather than use chicken wire which is too flimsy, or weld mesh that is too expensive I have opted to go for EML (plasterers metal lath) as it can be picked up for a fraction of the price of any alternative.

I started off with a basic frame, I didn't put supports at the ends as the legs will eventually be screwed through the ends to give strength there.

I am planning to do a double hutch type design, the top level will have a cage floor that the muck can fall through on to a tray, and the bottom level will have a solid WBP ply base. The plan is that we will start off half a dozen "pet" quails in the top for eggs, and then if we need to quarantine and for any reason, or to clean/maintain the coop then at least we can make use of the bottom deck. Also since it will have a solid floor if we decide to breed them for meat also then we can use that level for this purpose.

The footprint of the coop is roughly 4ft by 2ft and headroom is about 18 inches per level. I made up the two frames, screwed the OSB roofs on both and put the ply bottom in to the other, then stapled the mesh onto the sides etc.

Next the legs are screwed on to pull the whole thing together. I still need to staple the mesh on front and back and finish the doors off. Once it's finished we're hoping to paint the whole thing and get the kids involved, maybe make potato stamps to put eggs and chick designs on the frame.

So far the whole thing has cost me about £8 so needless to say I'm happy with the budget on this project. The most difficult thing is trying to find the time to get outside and finish it off, with two kids under the age of 3, 2 businesses and a full time job, time is my most precious commodity.


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