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Diary of a week in the Life of Celticspiral's 2007


We have decided to keep a diary for a week to keep track of our expenses and living without electricity or plumbing, to highlight our own awareness of things that we miss or take for granted. We have chosen to live at one with nature in as much as is possible. It is our small contribution to the environment and mother earth for the beauty and magic that we continually experience.

28th January '07


First things first. Every morning begins with bringing in a bucket of rain water from a barrel which is collected from an outhouse roof.

Then it's time to chop sticks to light the range. For the moment we are bringing drinking water from Dave's in a 5ltr. dispensing container which we used for back up when on long trips in the Tigin. We use very little from it as we drink mostly hot water and boiled rain water suits. In time we will use only rain water.

While waiting for breakfast Jimmy begins resizing 3doors, which were lying unused in the outhouses in Longford. There were only two internal ones here and it is necessary to keep the heat within each room once it is generated. At the moment we have sleeping bags nailed to the door frames. Each door is 2" too wide and 1" too long. I lend my assistance by sitting on each one to steady them as Jimmy works up a sweat.

It's boiled eggs for breakfast and endless hot drinks now and for the rest of the day as the kettle is always on the hob.

Wash up is done in a basin and emptied into a bucket to be reused for any odd jobs during the day. For example sprinkling on the concrete floors before sweeping to prevent dust rising, also for washing the range, paint brushes etc.

Doors and dinner are done at the same time, Kenyan Dengu today, it's a spiced mung bean stew, served with Basmati rice very tasty (recipe below).We haven't eaten meat for over two years.


It is our intention here to grow as much of our daily intake as possible, food will be fresher and there will be less trips to town.






After dinner it is time for tunes and a little break before I begin to scrape the old layer of paint dust from the walls. Jimmy then painted the ceiling and the walls, first giving them an undercoat to seal any old paint.

It has been over forty years since their last coat which hadn't much protection from the elements as the windows and doors were only partially sealed, some non existen



Saw dust and paint brushes cleaned and it's time for some air in our lungs. There is a light mist falling and also a cool breeze, but we wrap up and walk through the fields with a view to tree planting, Molly leads the way. We will need to get trees planted within the next 8wks or wait until autumn. wet boots and coats drying near the range and it's time for tea. Pickled veg. with olives and cheese. Molly tucks in too ( as yet she is not a veggie dog !).




t's 6pm and daylight has disappeared, we light the Aladdin lamp. This lamp was found in a shed in longford, we bought mantles and a chimney for it on ebay. We have other oil lamps but this one, while not as pretty as the others shows light as good as electric. Tonight I am knitting and writing today's journal in pen and ink, Jimmy reads, plays tunes and we listen to Radio na Gaelteacht on our wind up/solar powered radio.





We let the range die down and light the bedroom fire, we are heating just the rooms we use.It's time to unwind with a bottle of wine, half on which we drink at the open fire in the bedroom, the rest we take to the bed to review the day's achievements. It is so exciting watching this beautiful place come alive, it feels so responsive to our being here. Sleep comes easily after such a beautiful fulfilling day.

Today's costs:

Food: €4

Heating fuel and lamp oil: €3

Wine: €6

Total : €13


Day 2: 29th January


We lie awake listening to the morning call of a small bird in the long rushes outside.

Soon it's time to arise. We fetch water chop sticks and light the range. Jimmy wastes no time instilling life into the house with some lively tunes. It is such an uplift to the morning to hear his music fill the house, even the birds seem to take time out from their own morning session to listen. He then begins to paint the bedroom walls while waiting for breakfast to cook. We are using up old paint to seal the walls for a dust free environment. We are also insulating the inside of the outer walls and will decide on colours when the plastering work is done. We are using water based colours on the walls and woodwork (doors, frames and dado rails). The ceilings are high (10'high) and every room has dado rails. It is great to be able to touch the walls without getting covered in white chalk.

It's time for breakfast, porridge with sultanas and a dollop of natural yogurt. Jimmy continues to paint and I begin to scrape and sand a window frame. This window adds light to the kitchen from the hall and is a lovely feature.

It's time for a break, we go over to Dave's to pick up a small metal fireplace which he has no use for and will be perfect for our bedroom. It will need a lot of work as there are a number of coats of paint on it.

Today's dinner is left over from yesterday with just some rice to cook. It's flavour seems enhanced in the reheating.

After dinner we take turns scraping the fireplace. I also get on with window sanding while Jimmy fills in ceiling gaps and a few small cracks at the tops of some walls. We took regular breaks as working on the fireplace is heavy going.

After tea which again was Kenyan Dengu it was time for more tunes. As the range was still in full swing I prepared dinner for tomorrow. Jimmy was still on a painting spree and began painting doors and frames in the kitchen, the serviceable brown just has to go.

It's time to retire to the armchairs in front of the bedroom fire. Jimmy reads aloud for a while, then we listen to the 'Big Adventure' on the radio, this week it's sea kayaking and white surf, we are interested as we do as much canoeing as possible. Frank O'Connor's First Confession is being read later so we will listen in the bed with a glass of wine.



Total cost for today:

Food: 90cent

Heating and lamp oil: €3

Wine: €6

Total: €9.90


Day 3: 30th January


A well appreciated rest as we have been flat out for over a week, we moved in on Monday 21st Jan. As usual it's water, sticks and light the range and Jimmy plays some tunes.

It's time for Tai-chi, we have let it slip for a few days. We greet the morning within a magical place just outside at the back of the house. We are surrounded by mountains on three sides, wonderful blue mts. on this beautiful clear morning.

I realise that I haven't mentioned wash and toilet facilities. When we need to, we wash at the basin in the kitchen and we use the dry toilet from the Tigin (our camper van) in our soon to be bathroom.


The range has heated enough for breakfast which consists of fried mushrooms, tomatoes and eggs. We take time to enjoy and appreciate all of our meals as eating is high on our list of pleasures.

Today we concentrate on sealing up gaps where we notice drafts. I mix bonding while Jimmy applies it to the window recesses and to the sides of the front door. The temperature difference is immediately noticeable as there is a sharp south westerly wind about. We take time out for dinner which only needed to be heated, today it is vegetable crumble. We have a good veg. cook book and enjoy the variety of dishes it has to offer.

After a rest and some tunes we picked up two panes of glass which had been taken down from a glasshouse some twenty odd years ago ( Jimmy and Dave keep everything that has a reusable possibility, so hey presto!!!). We then received our first guests to our new home, Dave, with Owen his father. Owen was impressed by the remoteness of the place and the sound of silence. Dave noticed the changes since he had last been here two days ago.


It was time to resize the glass and put it into our kitchen/hall window frame which is now the most beautiful shade of blue. It looks mighty, not to mention adding heat and comfort to both rooms. A little more painting to doors and frames as the light fade


We have a solar charger for our mobile phone which we turn on once a day to check for messages and return calls, we are becoming less and less phone aware.

We have salad vegetables with some seeds and grated cheese for tea. Afterwards we went to longford to collect a door that has been lying in wait in a shed there, we hope it will make for a more secure and draft proof back door. Home to the now toastie bedroom fire and the remains of last nights wine. Jimmy reads and I write the day's journal. Then we listen to a Cork based play on the radio.

Today's costs:

Food: €2

Heating and lamp oil: €3

Total: €5


Day 4: 31st January


It's time to collect water, chop sticks and light the range. Jimmy plays tunes to light fires by. It's a wonderful dry morning for a Tai-chi exercise under the trees.

With further inspection of the door in the daylight we realise that it is rotten. So Jimmy and Dave seal up the existing one and 'there ye have it' draft free. Dave has arrived to help with insulating the walls.

After a breakfast of boiled eggs they set to work on the walls. I take to the outdoors on a tidy up mission. I gathered up the old timbers and broken glass that were boarding up some of the windows and doors. There are some pieces of glass that could be resized for little panes for shed windows


I notice our first flower of spring, a dandelion, it smiled as I took it's picture, me too.





For dinner today we had the remainder of yesterday's vegetable crumble, enough for three. We usually cook enough food for two days at a time. Dave left after dinner, and as we felt tired from the last few days work we decided to call it a day too.








We prepared a stone circle for a small fire under our special trees. We plan to have a celebration later as it is the eve' of Brid to welcome Spring and imbolg.



Time to sprawl in front of the heat of the range,our bodies welcome it. I have a longing for a relaxing soak in our big bath in Longford.We thought about it for a moment, we will sort out a rain water system here in due course and so the moment passes.

The range should have the capability to heat a water cylinder. We are also planning to construct a wooden hot tub and use solar heating. All in good time.....



For tea we have thai combination rice with a nutty wholemeal stuffing, the flavours blend very well together. We re-energise with a walk just as darkness falls. Just what the doctor ordered. I knit for a while and write up the day's events while Jimmy is composing a new tune (Brid's fire wow!). Molly has dinner and rests after her walk, she seems so relaxed here and has settled in easily.







Later we light our special fire and the moon momentarily appeared to greet us from a cloudy sky. It is a very mild night as we enjoy our first outside fire. It would have been a perfect night to camp out, but the tent is in the Tigin, soon....



Today's costs:

Food: €1.30

Heating fuel and lamp oil: €3

Wine: €6

Total: €10.30

Day 5: La le Brid 1st February

8.30 am

The birds draw our awareness to the new day. It sounds like they are in the room. One little one, fleetingly rests on the open window to bid us good day and to say it's time.

Out to breath in the morning air..... it is mild and overcast. We kept the range going last night instead of lighting the bedroom fire, so the hob is warm and soon we have breakfast. Breakfast is the remains of last nights tea which resembles a savory omelette with rice, really tasty.

We need supplies from the builders providers for the wall insulation so I head to town with a list and as luck would have the fish woman from Killybegs comes to town on Thursday's. I spend some time there with her and an elderly man in his eighty's who seems to be buying a weeks supply.

Dave has arrived by the time I return, and both he and Jimmy are again working on the walls. Jimmy is anxious to get them ready for plaster as soon as possible so that we can then put in wooden floors. I make a few mixes of bonding for the window recesses.

For dinner we have potatoe and parsnip mash, glazed carrots and mmm.....mackerel. After dinner work continues on the walls and windows.



It will soon be time to prepare a patch of ground to plant vegetables, Spring is truly here




Cuppa's all round and a little relaxation before Dave heads off.

It's clean up time, all the rooms are habitable although we are using only the kitchen, hall and bedroom for the moment. Jimmy begins digging sods and soil from the back door to reveal a sizeable concrete patch which will help to keep muck from being walked onto our nice clean concrete floors (joke), and I barrow it away.

It's time for time out, so we relax at the fire for a while.

We had salad vegs. for tea. we were not very hungry as dinner was filling. We then made a Brid's cross, my attempts are better not talked about.Jimmy is much better than me at keeping the rushes tight.

Later we spent 3hrs. chatting and relaxing with a bottle of wine in front of the fire


Today's costs:

Food: €7

Heating and lamp oil: €3

Wine: €6

Total: €16

Day 6: 2nd February


What a morning, it's bright sunny and frosty. Energy tunes from Jimmy's magic fingers.




I quickly light the range and we welcome this beautiful day with a Tai-chi. It's a truly good to be alive day. Kippers for breakfast, what a treat.

We need more supplies from the builders providers in town. Two brothers  are the back bone of the yard and shop and more helpful gentlemen you would travel many a mile to meet the likes of. A trailer is needed today so Jimmy attaches it to the jeep and heads down the lane to meet Dave, where they transfer the trailer to the van and they are off to town. It feels like Pa Ingels and Mr. Edwards are heading off with the wagon and may not be back for days. (sad I know!)

I take the opportunity to prepare dinner. Soon they are back and working on the walls once again. We stop for a dinner of vegetable bolongnese, noodles and potatoes cakes.

Molly has been promised a well deserved grooming and today is the day. I took a chair outside in the afternoon sun and spent some time brushing her as she hadn't been brushed since we moved here. She enjoyed every moment of it and then pranced around showing off her shiny beautiful coat.


After Dave leaves we do some necessary repairs to the tow bar of the small jeep, Molly helps. It is our intention to restore this 1976 jeep to it's former glory and get it road worthy.


The usual end of day tidy up and we are tired. We have mackerel salad for tea as there was some cooked and left from yesterday.

Later we go to Liam's house ( a neighbour and friend) to view Saturn from his telescope. It is mighty to be able to view craters on the moons surface. We are too late to see Saturn as it has passed behind the moon. We have a hot whiskey on this frosty full moon night before heading home.

A few games of cards and a glass of wine and it's time to retire (shhh Jimmy hates to loose).



Today's costs:

Food: €6

Heating and lamp oil; €3

Wine: €6

Total: €15


Day 7: 3rd February


Another bright frosty sunny morning.

Jimmy takes the range apart to see why it smokes so much and why the oven doesn't heat. Oops it practically falls asunder. The screws bolts and nuts are rusted, cracked and some have popped out completly. 45yrs of lying unused in a damp shed has not done it any good. as the range is our main source of cooking and heating it must be capable of giving the best output possible. So it is time to admit that it is not up for the job, we have given it every chance.This is difficult for me because of it's sentimental attachment. Jimmy feels that he could make the necessary repairs to it so that we could install it out in the old pre-famine stone house which we plan to restore and turn into a type of bunk house. So before we put in wooden floors we will replace it.

It's back together and lighting for now and breakfast is soon ready, pancakes with bananas and honey. We intended to plant willow cuttings today, but instead we go to mohill  to check out a sealed fireplace unit for the bedroom, which we bought.It is a cast iron Irish made unit which should keep the room warm overnight and when we are away for a few hours. From there we went to galway to source window boards. It looks like we will need to go to a sawmill to get wider boards than are available in shops.






We lunched in Grappa on the riverbank (we will be back). We browsed around town, picking up some handmade vegetable soap, charcoal and candles.



We made it home just in time to capture the sunset as it disappeared through the mist, a magical sight (surely a must for Jimmy to paint). For tea we had the remainder of yesterdays bolognese.







Today's costs:

Food: €18.50

Heat and lamp oil: €2Total: €20.50




Other expenses for the week:

Fruit: €4; Diesel €10.Later we went to O'Dowds in askleton for tunes and chat. The proprietors Brendan and Brid are most welcoming and supportive of all musicians. Some craic was had by all which was befitting to end this beautiful leisurely day

Total expenses for the week: €103.70

The dairy has been an eye opener for us. Firstly we hardly even noticed not having electricity. Once or twice at dusk I found myself looking for the light switch in the bedroom. We missed not having the internet for research and the laptop to write up the website. We have a generator so we can easily rectify the latter. We learned to be very economical with water when we were on long trips away, some times it was difficult to access, or it may have been frozen. We enjoyed good food and wine; combined work rest and play and are energised to welcome a new day.


Kenyan Dengu: serves four


225g/6ozs mung beans, soaked overnight in enough water to cover.

2tbsp sunflower oil

1 onion chopped

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

2tbsp tomatoe puree

1red pepper deseeded and diced

1 fresh red chili deseeded and chopped( dried are good too)

300ml/10fl ozs veg stock/water

Drain mung beans,put in saucepan and cover with water, bring to boil cover and simmer until tender approx. 1hr. drain and mash.

Heat oil and onion cook stirring occasionally for about 10mins or until golden, add garlic and cook for 2min add tomatoe and cook for 3min.

Stir the mashed beans into the onion mixture. Add the peppers, chili and stock, stir well and simmer gently for ten mins. Transfer to warm serving dish and serve.

Bon appetit

Hard to believe !!