FAST Blog: Family Homestead

Permaculture, Preparedness, Homesteading & Survival

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thanksgiving?


"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.

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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.

http://spitfiregroomingcompany.co.uk/products/oil-wax-balm-comb-gift-pack
https://www.facebook.com/spitfiregrooming/
http://spitfiregroomingcompany.co.uk/
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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.
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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 Good-with-money.com. 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 uSwitch.com. 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.
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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 Good-with-money.com 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: http://www.theguardian.com/money/2015/sep/26/lower-energy-bills-town-hall-local-authorities
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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



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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!
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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.



https://www.facebook.com/spitfiregrooming/
http://spitfiregroomingcompany.co.uk/
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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 certain....at 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!


http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/lego-slippers-developed-to-save-parents-the-pain-of-stepping-on-tiny-plastic-bricks-a6737641.html
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The Survival Podcast



www.thesurvivalpodcast.com

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."  
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Tuesday, 17 November 2015

P2S Forum

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


P2S - Prepared 2 Survive

www.p2s-prepared2survive.co.uk

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.




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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Fast-SoS Halloween

Spooky!



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?

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Etsy

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