Filed under: Frugality, Mindful Consumerism | Tags: baking bread, Compost, homemade soup, homemade vegetable broth, polytunnels, shredded leaves, stir fry
I’ve had a fairly busy, productive week, but have nothing scheduled for the next three days: time in which I intend to do some long awaited sewing repairs and try some new recipes. If I waited for ‘things to slow down’ or for ‘a better time’ to get serious about “using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without” it would never happen. Using the resources I have available to me wisely is simply part-of-my-daily-life, and enables me to live more sustainably, more economically, and to be a better steward of the little piece of Earth that I’m responsible for. This week was no different from many, except that I am trying to keep my grocery bills down as much as possible this month since I’ve got a family birthday dinner to prepare next week, as well as the Thanksgiving feast to contribute to, neither of which I intend to scrimp on.
Monday: I had the city deliver a load of clean, dry shredded leaves to my backyard. We use them for layering with ‘greens’ in the compost bins, for mulch around everything and as a soil amendment in our heavy clay soil when preparing new beds. They’re delivered free, and this year I had the load dumped right on top of an old tree stump where the grassy slope makes it hard to cut around! I’m hoping by the time we get to the bottom of the pile next fall that the grass around the stump will be dead and we can then easily convert that area to something beautiful and food-producing. Savings: priceless
Tuesday: In our efforts to keep food costs lower this month, and because we love soup in cold weather, we gladly used the small turkey carcass we were left with after a potluck meal we’d attended on Saturday night to make a pot of turkey/potato soup. Michael spent this cold day in the kitchen simmering it along with a couple of loaves of homemade bread, made using bread flour and yeast both bought in bulk. The only new expense was for fresh celery, which I bought on sale for 88 cents, since we already had the carrots, onions and herbs for seasoning growing in the garden. This pot o’ soup made six generous servings, and with the bread, we figure those meals cost us about 25 cents each It was delicious, healthy and warmed our bellies and the kitchen on a cold day. Savings: Panera Bread Company sells large bowls of chicken noodle soup w/celery and carrots for $3.99, with a slice of bread and a loud TV included in the price. Comparing that, six of their meals would’ve cost us $24.00. OUR soup meals include unlimited bread and free WiFi. Just sayin’…
Wednesday: I harvested four mature cabbages, a bushel of kale, and a ton of onions from my garden beds before the deep freeze hit. Then I covered the plots with hoops and plastic for the remainder of the winter. This is the third year I’ve used the same sheets of plastic and they’re in good shape because I wash, dry and store them away as soon as the weather warms, in order to get more use out their ‘made-from-oil’ life. (under that tunnel is broccoli, kale, chard, lettuces, spinach and more onions…all just waiting in cold storage to be harvested.)
Thursday: I had some cooked rice, fresh snow peas, ginger, broccoli, carrots, peppers and more that needed to be used up. Stir fry to the rescue! I used up some left-from-summer Sesame-Ginger ‘grilling sauce’ that I’d bought at the discount grocery in this mix, and we loved it for supper and again for lunch on Friday.
Friday: The bag I keep in the freezer for onion, celery and carrot tops was full and I was out of my homemade veggie broth, so…
Quarts of organic vegetable broth at most any grocery store are $3.00 each. It’s a great way to use up something that would otherwise be thrown away, and after it’s simmered for a couple hours, the broth is strained and the softened, cooled veggies are given to the neighbor’s chickens as a treat. Savings: $21 since I use reusable canning lids on my jars, and add home grown herbs for flavor. I like saving that kind of money, and I like knowing what’s in my food, don’t you?
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Buy Local, Localization | Tags: beekeeping, Christmas simplified, culintary herbs, Little Free Libraries, Livable Communities, local food systems, medicinal herbs, resilient, transitioning, urban chickens
I’ll immediately apologize to my readers that don’t live in my town, for this post is strictly about events and groups that are inherently ‘local’. Feel free to move on, but I hope you’ll keep reading anyway- I’ve tried to make it interesting to everyone, really. Remember, that the modern industrial capitalist economic and social system, based upon cheap oil and resources, is unsustainable, making a major restructuring of economy and society imperative, and inevitable. Transition contends that citizens and communities need to act proactively and positively at the local scale, in a process of ‘Transition’ and ‘powerdown’ to build localized and resilient communities in terms of food, energy, work and waste. Hence the blog name, Tennessee Transitions.
1. Shopping for Christmas? Check out these products, from Naked Bee! They’re affordable, all natural personal care products AND they’re made right here in our fair city! They produce hair care products, lotions, soaps, lip balms and candles and you can find a store nearby by clicking on this link. If you’re going to buy Christmas gifts, please try to support local businesses. If you buy these products, you’ll be supporting both the manufacturer AND the retailer. Not to mention the gift recipient. Win-Win-Win
2. Tuesday, November 18th, is the date for the bimonthly Livable Communities group meeting. We’ll be meeting at the downtown offices of Insight Alliance, located at 207 E Main St at 5:30 PM. A report has been prepared for us with the final results of the survey that was used to gather information concerning the possibility of a natural foods store in Johnson City. That alone is worth coming to hear about. We’ll also move forward in our plans for continuing the work begun by the Southside Neighborhood Organization (SNO) in placing Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods across town and fill you in on other positive things that are happening in our region.
3. Another meeting? I know, I know, but this one is so important to our current and future abilities to provide food for ourselves. C.O.O.P. (Chickens On Our Property) will hold a short meeting Thursday Nov. 20, 5pm at Willow Tree Coffeehouse (216 E Main Street) to discuss what our next steps should be to stop updates that are being made to the RESIDENTIAL zoning codes – which right now say “no ‘farm animals’ permitted” but are legally trumped by the city codes for animal control which ALLOW for chickens. Honeybees and backyard hens have now been lumped together as ‘farm animals’. This issue concerns any and all who believe in pet rights, self-sufficiency, and food justice.
4. I believe medicinal herbs could regain the prominence and importance they once held in our home medicine chests and first aid kits as we transition to more localized lives. After all, many prescription drugs originated from chemicals found in plants. Bring your brown bag lunch at noon on Tuesday, November 18th, to the Johnson City public library to attend a free presentation :”Herbs and the Natural World.” The presenter will discuss medicinal and culinary herbs and their uses and will offer samples of herbal teas for your tasting pleasure.
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Local food system | Tags: baking bread, elections, sustainability, tenacity, urban beekeeping
I started the following post BEFORE Tuesday’s elections, and almost deleted it as being too ‘Pollyana-ish’ when I came back to it last night. After a lot of thought, I realized it is still relevant. Perhaps more than ever for those of us that are feeling defeated and hopeless about our collective future in this country (and in this state!). I believe if we want to see the changes that are important to us that we have to approach them in a grass roots manner, rather than depending on our government and elected officials . There are tons of quotes about this kind of action, but here are my favorites:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
Remember riding the Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair? When everyone on board would shift their weight to the same side, the round tub would spin dizzily in that direction. It was the shifting together that tilted the thing. We may have lost some momentum Tuesday, but we certainly haven’t left the fair yet! There’s still lots to see and do and experience, under our own terms. We aren’t beholden to donors or voters and we have no term limits.
As I have traveled my path towards personal sustainability and economic well-being, I’ve come to realize that many others are on the same path with me. We may not all call it that, or even realize consciously that that’s what we’re doing, but I’m happy for the company and am feeling pretty confident that we are close to reaching a ‘tipping point’; that is, “the event of a previously rare phenomenon becoming rapidly and dramatically more common.” We’ve reached a critical mass and I think this election will eventually result in reaching that tipping point because the corporate-run government system that remains in power today is flatly incapable of solving our problems. Climate change, global viral pandemics and super bugs, water aquifiers drying up, the coming food collapse and runaway debt aren’t going to be resolved by Republicans or Democrats, since neither party has a real plan for dealing with them. Many folks will realize that soon enough, and will begin looking for other solutions, adding to the shift.
I’ve listened to strangers and friends (and even elected officials) have discussions about backyard chickens and urban beekeeping, community gardens, farmers’ markets, biking and hiking trails, green spaces, local foods, sustainability, walkability scores, alternative energies and more. I’ve read countless newspaper op-eds, books, magazine and internet articles about the efforts individuals and sometimes entire cities are making to transition to a better way of living. I’ve personally witnessed a surge of interest in historical preservation and Livable Community Initiatives, downtown revitalization projects, rails-to-trails conversions, and soon- a downtown observation bee hive and a meadow on the front lawn of the public library-right here in my town! It seems we are redefining the good life for our own selves, in our own localities, in our own terms. In other words, we’re edging closer to that tipping point.
It seems many of us want to move to a different way of eating too. My local food shed is growing: incubator kitchens and community canneries are on the drawing board, two edible Food Forests have been planted and a food coop is being discussed, community gardens are expanding,the needed money has finally been earmarked now for a permanent Farmer’s Market location, and a non profit organization has just opened a year-round local foods grocery! All this in my midsized town of 65,000 people! From small towns to large cities, foodscapes are changing. Schools, prisons and hospitals are offering healthier, locally-grown choices via on-site gardens and networks of local growers. Farmers are working around the inane requirements of the USDA’s “certified organic” and moving to a more inclusive “sustainably grown” label. Small farms are coming back and restaurants are proud to add their ‘locally sourced’ goods to their menus. Friends are milking goats and making cheese, baking their own breads and making beer. We’re tipping all the while.
I’m not going to let the disappointing election results dissuade me in my quest for living a better life on less. It will have the opposite affect in fact, pushing me to work even harder towards finding local, sustainable solutions to the real life problems we all face. I’ve reached my tipping point. Have you?
In honor of the season, I’ve decided to change the focus of this Friday post from frugal to freaky. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if these things are spooky:
Monday: “Most of New Hampshire’s moose have already died. Now Maine’s moose are dying in droves. Why? In winter, they are covered with hundreds of thousands of ticks all busily sucking their blood. This weakens the poor moose so that he dies before spring; he cannot survive the winter. I read about this, and I know it’s true. Local hunters have been reporting back about moose and deer carcasses just crawling with ticks; they just rot where they lie. The predators (coywolves, coyotes, bears, etc.) will not go anywhere near them (wisely). There never used to be ticks in Maine. Some of the local people still don’t believe there are any here. I’ve seen them, though, so I know they are here. I recognize a tick when I see one. Why have ticks moved northwards? Well, we all know why, don’t we?” ~from a friend in Maine. AND confirmed this week while reading Bill Mckibbon’s book “Oil and Honey”. Creepy stuff.
Tuesday: According to Scientific American it takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food. Um, the last time I did math, those were not sustainable numbers. When you think about the possible implications of this, it’s really ominous.
Wednesday: Western drought may now be ‘normal’ and Polar vortex may become ‘normal’. Can you imagine reading (and comprehending) that sentence just ten years ago? Climate Change is frightening!
Thursday: From NBC News today: The number of cases of Ebola in the three hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, just sped past 10,000. That’s scary.
Friday: An October snowstorm that dumps about a foot of snow on NE TN? Chilling!
Sometimes the news is scarier than the zombies roaming the streets. We’ll talk more about some of these scary news stories next week. But for now, I’d like to offer you a frugal, delicious and healthy recipe for a Halloween stew that uses corn, potatoes and
a head lettuce:
Happy Halloween Folks!
Filed under: Community Building, Community Gardens, Local food system | Tags: building community, community, Compost, fruit orchard, green manure, local, sacred
I’ve only lived in this urban area for a bit over two years, but I’m definitely feeling the connections again that I once had with our land at our previous home, which was out in the country. But out there, I only felt a connection with our couple of acres, since there were few personal relationships with others in the area. It seemed to me that those ‘country folks’ that had been a part of that rural area for decades…attending their churches and schools, naming the roads after themselves (true, that), working their land and raising their horses… just weren’t much interested in interacting with ‘new folks’ like us.
After rather unsuccessfully trying to be a part of that community for over ten years, we decided that we might find more of what we were looking for by living in town, so here we are. It’s been a transition for sure-I’m still shocked when an ambulance or fire truck goes wailing by- but overall it’s been a positive experience for us. As I’ve worked these last few weeks in my raised beds in the backyard, and in my plot at the nearby community garden, preparing them for the inevitable sleep that’s soon to come, I’m feeling a sense of belonging again, and a sense of place. I like that feeling of connection and I hold it sacred. Now here’s the thing that’s been going through my mind as I work: A sacred way of life connects us to the people and places around us. That means that a sacred economy must be in large part a local economy, in which we have multidimensional, personal relationships with the land and people who meet our needs, and whose needs are met in turn.
Gardening is like my own personal local economy, employing the same give and take techniques I use with my neighbors and community. I give the soil what it needs to produce, then take what I need for sustenance. After feeding us so well, beginning with fresh peas in April clear through to the almost-ready beds of plump cabbages and jeweled greens that are growing there now, I feel compelled to give back somehow.
To that end, I spent last Saturday with community gardeners planting a mini fruit orchard. Together we planted cherry, plum and apple trees, along with blueberries and grapes. The work was hard but we’ll all be rewarded with abundant organic fruit eventually. And while those trees grow, we’re growing our community too…
I think it’s an act of courage to plant a fruit tree…essentially you’re saying to the Universe that you intend to be around to take care of it for years to come. After the weekend of communal spirit, I have lovingly planted blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and Japanese maples in my own yard this week, and can’t wait to see them grow and prosper. Yes, lovingly. I fed my now-depleted soils with well-aged compost that we’ve been tending all summer, and amended that with a truckload of alpaca manure…
and carefully tucked the new trees and berries in for winter with a quilt of pine straw…
Everyone contributed to my little personal place: the Earth, with her natural abundance of grass clippings, leaves and trees, a friend that was happy to see the pine straw raked off her grass, the funny and furry alpacas that unknowingly contributed their poops- even the city crews that deliver shredded leaves to my yard! So, my garden has become a community effort. In turn, I share my garden abundance with my daughter, who lives on disability and is always ‘food insecure’, and my community. It’s local. It’s shared. It’s sacred. Just sayin’…
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: arugula, barter, fermenting, food waste, gleaning, kvass, Paralytic Ileus, raw milk, rice cooker, Yard Art
I can’t believe it’s already Friday again! I’ve worked hard this week to get some of my fall ‘householding’ chores completed, while taking some time out to just chill after a couple of stressful weeks. I’ve nursed a cold this week too, so I took extra time for rest, relaxation and reflection as well. Living frugally and healthfully allows me to live fully, while using fewer resources and less money. Sweet.
Monday: I’m on a fermentation kick. After 2 weeks in the hospital, many tests, scans, and invasive procedures, Michael’s doctors came to the conclusion that his chemo and surgeries had left him with “Paralytic Ileus”, or simply put, a sleepy colon. In order to ‘wake it up’ he needs to eat probiotics. Read: pricey. His surgeon specifically told me to buy yogurt made with RAW milk, since pasteurization kills a lot of the ‘good bacteria’. Well, raw milk sales are illegal in TN but luckily, I have friends that have bartered jugs of their fresh, raw, goat’s and cow’s milk with me for some of my apple cider and homemade jams. My yogurt maker is working overtime, with delicious results. After doing some research on my own, I learned that yogurt only contains two types of gut-friendly bacteria, while there are several other types of the ‘good guys’ in some of the lesser-known fermented foods. Enter: sauerkraut, pickles, kumbocha tea, kefir, chow-chow and Kvass. What the hell is Kvass? A simple to make fermented drink made from beets…
Since I have a rather large supply of beets this time of year, it was an obvious choice. Peel and chop 2 large or 3 medium organic beets into a half gallon container. Add 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1/4 cup of whey (from that raw milk), and fill with filtered water. Stir to mix, then cover lightly and keep at room temp for 3 days, then refrigerate. When most of the liquid has been drunk, you may fill up the container with water and keep at room temperature another two days. The resulting brew will be slightly less strong than the first. After the second brew, discard the beets and start again. You may, however, reserve some of the liquid and use this as your inoculant instead of the whey. If you’re a Diet Coke freak you MAY not care for Kvass ;) If you love beets like I do, this may be your new favorite beverage. It’s full of vitamins and minerals and the fermentation process kicks them into high gear. I drink 4 ozs, twice a day and am feeling renewed, especially after tending a head cold this week. My friend tells me she sautees the leftover beets in butter and they are yummy. I’ll try it when this jar of kvass is gone. If all else fails, the chickens will like the bottom of the jar beets I’m sure.
Tuesday: Speaking of beets…when I planted my fall beet bed, I transplanted the thinnings to a different bed, since I can’t bear to waste anything. They looked awful!
Savings? I saw organic beets for $3.99 a lb this week at the store. If all four of those little thinnings grow to the size of this half pound one, I figure I’ve saved $8.00 on something most folks throw away!
Wednesday: I have some ‘yard art’ that I bought at a junk store before yard art was even cool. About 5 years ago the top sphere broke off, so I took it to a local shop to have it welded back on. That cost me $16 then. But recently, the guy with the backhoe that dug up my bushes for free, accidentally knocked it over and broke it again…
Savings: $10-$15? I don’t know their value since they’re misshapen and different sizes, BUT there’s enough ‘taters here to make many meals in the months to come. Ain’t it a shame the food that’s wasted in this country? Not on my watch!
Friday: Recently, my beloved rice cooker quit working. Just quit, no power! I remember when I first bought it 6 years ago (on sale of course) that I liked it so much I took it on vacation and used it in the kitchen of the condo we stayed in to cook rice with steamed veggies in the top, oatmeal and soup. (Of course the others that were vacationing with us thought me strange…who cares?) For me, it’s a must-have appliance. The day after it quit working I went to a yard sale and there.it.was…
Good food, good health, good friends. That’s all there is folks, and that’s enough. Have a great weekend!
Filed under: Community Building, Transitioning | Tags: Food Co-ops, Little Free Libraries, meadows, pollinators
This blog is about re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. I’m happy to report that those transitions are taking place in my town and I thought you might enjoy hearing a bit about some of the latest creative projects that are part of that transition process…
The Livable Communities group is made up of citizens that are willing to work towards making Johnson City and the surrounding communities more, well, LIVABLE. Our group has been meeting for about 10 years, waxing and waning with the moons, but we seem to be on a pretty straightforward course now. Some of the things we’re addressing are fairly universal concerns, such as public health and safety issues, while others are more experimental and creative in nature.
There’s a desire amongst our groups’ members to start a food coop, allowing members to enjoy substantial discounts on farm-fresh and bulk foods. We envision a store-front operation where the fair-weather farmers that sell at our summer time Farmer’s markets would have the opportunity to sell their fruits and veggies year round, and a place where you could also purchase anything from jugs of local honey to freshly milled meal or flour, meats, cheeses, and baked goods, for example. To that end, we have developed a survey to determine if the desire of a few might also be the desire of many. Our goal is to have 1,000 responses by the end of October. We only have 250 responders thus far. If you haven’t taken it yet, would you please? You’ll find it here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JCcoopSurvey
Another project our group has decided to take on is the city-wide establishment of Little Free Libraries. These little libraries in a box are stocked by anyone that has an extra book to donate. Take a look at the one I saw just yesterday in a small mountain community nearby…
This particular one was sponsored by that town’s Rotary Club and is much bigger and fancier than most, but the principal of putting books in the hands of young and old alike to read and return remains the same, regardless of size. The hope is that the little libraries will become tiny community gathering spots where folks can take a book, leave a book and share the love of reading. Our Livable Communities group would like to see one in every neighborhood in the city and we’re working on a plan of action to make that happen. Food coops and Little Free Libraries aren’t the only things we care about though. Hiking and biking trails, more green spaces, public art, and a vibrant local and sustainable food supply are just some of the many things that are in our cross hairs. Here’s another LFL that’s right down the street from my house. I love walking by it each day…
Speaking of libraries…yet another project that’s beginning to take shape is the long-talked-about ‘pollinator corridor’ that is to come to life in the mile-long stretch between downtown and the university. The main library will soon have a MEADOW on the front lawn, complete with a filtration system using rainwater harvested from the library’s roof, more art sculpture, a learning kiosk and native plants, flowers and grasses. For my readers that don’t live here, let me introduce you to our beautiful library…
That patch of green on the lower right will soon be converted to a pollinator-friendly meadow. How cool is that? I’ve been searching for ideas to convert my own front lawn from a hard-to-cut slope to something beautiful and fairly maintenance free. Guess what? … (I’ll keep you posted on my lawn’s transition as it occurs.) My house is just 2 blocks from the library. If they can do it, so can I. Like ball fields, if you build it, “they” (the pollinators, who so desperately need ‘safe havens’ of food, water and shelter) will come.
Creating a healthier, more localized food system, sharing our extra resources-from vegetables to books- and planting public green spaces to areas that are beautiful and sustainable are all indications of the winds of change that are blowing across my town and this country. None of these projects are quick and easy but like I always say, the journey is just as exciting as the destination! If you’d like to join the Livable Communities group for our bimonthly meetings, we meet next on Nov. 18th at 5:30 PM in the downtown offices of Insight Alliance. What is your town doing to transition to a more sustainable and livable community? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
I try to be frugal with all my available resources, whether it’s water, fossil fuels, food, or money. There are times when that’s harder than others. This week has been one of those times. I haven’t been frugal with much of anything this week, but I thought it only fair that I share the good and the bad with you so that you can fully understand that it’s all just part of the journey.
Let’s start with last Sunday for a change…
Sunday: Michael woke with cramps and a fever. After having been discharged from the hospital last Friday evening after a major surgery, we knew something was wrong, so back to the ER we went. Luckily, we only live 1.3 miles from the VA campus and after it became obvious that they needed to do stomach scans and that I couldn’t accompany him through that, I was able to come home for lunch, which enabled me to eat some healthy leftovers I had in the ‘frig, as well as let the dog out for a bit. So, Sunday wasn’t too bad-except for the FOX news blaring from that blasted TV in the family waiting room! I brought my MP3 player and library books and Kindle Fire back with me to help pass the time while I waited. Savings made possible by eating lunch at home: At least $5.00, but I stopped on the way home from the hospital when I left the hospital at 8 o’clock that evening and bought a sub for my dinner. I spent $5 but it was a situation that I felt at ease with. I didn’t want to go home to eat alone, it had been a long stressful day, and the sub was delicious!
Monday: The day was pretty enough to hang the wet laundry on the ‘solar dryer’ but I opted for the dryer instead. The convenience factor outweighed the environmental factor on this day. No savings there. But I did put a pot of soup in my solar cooker to simmer all day before I left for the hospital that morning, so I wasn’t tempted to eat out again come supper-time. That worked well, and gave me many bowls of soup throughout the week, and maybe cancelled out the energy used to run the dryer.
Tuesday: I’d been ignoring the creeping mildew on the bottom of my shower curtain liner for weeks and on this day found it disgusting! So, I cut the damn thing off, which was the problem to begin with. It was too long and had allowed soap to accumulate in its’ too-long folds. It’s now the correct length, and looks like new. Instant gratification and I saved about $7 not having to buy a new liner. Check out the before…
And the ‘after’…
Wednesday: By this time, I’m cranky, tired of going back and forth to the hospital, and sick of leftovers. A sweet friend brought me a box of fancy tea, a bar of fancy soap and treated me to Thai food for dinner-AFTER helping me work in the garden! Other friends supported me throughout the week too, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention their kindnesses; recipes for healthy probiotics were typed out and shared with me by one friend, a slice of home-made pound cake for me, along with a quart of raw goat’s milk to make the doctor-recommended yogurt for Michael was given by another, an unexpected lunch date with yet another helped break up a long day, phone calls to check on my well-being, a gallon of fresh apple cider left in my door, offers to let the dog out to pee during my long hours away and emails of love and support all combined to get me through a rough week. PRICELESS
Thursday: After six weeks without a trim, a sign pointing the way to a new hair salon to get my hair washed, cut and dried for $14.99 sucked me in. The shampoo was a luxurious pampering, the cut was perfect, and when it came time to pay, the hairdresser whipped out a coupon for me to use, getting it all for $9.99! Savings: $5.00, plus several compliments later. Money well spent.
Friday: Michael was released from the hospital today and we are happy he’s home. The all-day rain meant I couldn’t hang out clothes, couldn’t work in the garden and couldn’t use my solar cooker. I did get in my early morning walk with the dog before the rains began, and they stopped long enough for me to go help a friend in need this evening. Michael’s on a soft foods diet, so I fixed him scrambled eggs for supper, while I enjoyed the Asian slaw my neighbor brought to me. We had cups of tea with honey, turned on the Halloween lights that I’d strung up to chase away the gloom of the week, and listened to music while we read this evening. Priceless.
From personal health issues to Ebola pandemics, the ability to remain resilient during times of conflict is important. Adapting to change in our lives can mean the difference between simple surviving or thriving. Adaptation can be difficult, and almost always results in added expense. By always being on the lookout for ways I can ‘live well on less’, I can pamper myself with things like restaurant meals, electric clothes drying, haircuts or other treats when I need them most-without guilt, without debt, or without hindering my ability to help others that are trying to get through their week too-at least for now. The day may come when there’s no money or resources for these treats but I’m convinced that COMMUNITY can take up the slack. Remember to always be kind to others; you have no idea what they’re going through. Have a great weekend!
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: bike bag, freezer, frugal, growing food, mints, peppers, reusing, seed saving, velcro
Just because I haven’t posted a ‘Frugal Friday’ in about a month of Sundays, doesn’t mean I don’t constantly strive to live well on less. I’ve just been busy with growing food and preserving it as fast as I can harvest it! Which leads me to last Monday…
Monday: We bought a brand new freezer so that I can freeze more home grown goodies, and stock up on bargains that come our way. Now this wasn’t a snap decision and you can bet I researched far and wide for the best appliance at the best price. With a 10% off sale plus another 10% off for showing Michael’s Veteran’s ID card, as well as free delivery, we got exactly what we wanted. I’d been considering this for two full years but felt it best to wait to really determine if it was a “need” vs a “want” and to make sure that Michael’s cancer was in remission. The answer to both questions turned out to be a big “YES”! Freezers are long term investments and I believe we’ll eventually recoup the money invested by being able to grow more things that don’t can or dry well-stuff like PEPPERS, broccoli, peas, PEPPERS, cauliflower, berries, corn on the cob and oh, did I mention PEPPERS?
Immediate Savings: $120. Long term savings: in addition to lowering our food costs, I decided to put the freezer in front of a completely unused door in my kitchen (after blocking the bottom of the doorway with a sand-filled draft dodger I’d made from old curtains, and by applying silicone caulking that I had leftover from another project around the door frame). Blocking the door like that should help to keep any drafts at bay too.
Tuesday: I harvested some more cuttings from the mint ‘garden’ I’d started earlier this summer. I dried it and will enjoy having spearmint, apple mint, chocolate mint and peppermint tea this winter. (I also plan to buy some tea bag ‘blanks’ and make up some to give as gifts at Christmas.) I’d planted mints before but after a few years they would spread all over the place and become a nusiance so this time I decided to follow the experts’ advice and plant them in pots to avoid that. I salvaged a bunch of recycled #10 cans, punched holes in the bottoms with a nail, spray painted them with leftover bits of paint I’d saved for just such a small project and used the can lids as drip trays. Then I filled the cans with a mixture of ‘reused’ potting soil and homemade compost, put out the word to my friends that I’d like some various mint cuttings and that’s all it took! I lined them up across the front porch railing and enjoy the wonderful scents during the summer and the teas in the winter. Cost: $0
Wednesday: I’m slowly learning to save seed reliably and am reaping the benefits now. The money I save is great but the feelings of self-sufficiency and resilience seed-saving gives me are priceless!
Thursday: Michael’s feeling well enough lately to want to ride his bike again but his strap-on bike bag wouldn’t stay attached to the seat post. Seems the Velcro had just worn out. No problem! I had some wide Velcro scraps in my sewing box so in about 5 minutes I had sewn the new, grippier pieces right on top of the old ones and it works great now. It works so well he could probably haul a trailer behind his bike but that’s another project for another day. Savings: $30. Yes, $30 because that’s what the bike shop wanted for a new bag!
Friday: With the shorter days of September already here, I’ve begun to think about fall gardening chores. The free tree seedlings that my city gives in the spring are tiny, bare root whips but I’ve kept them in pots in my ‘nursery’ area all summer and I believe they are ready to plant now. I hope my Japanese Maples and Serviceberries will provide us with beauty and berries for years to come! Cost: $0 and patience.
And now it’s time to think about fixing supper before we walk downtown for this evening’s First Friday celebration. We’re having Dilly Potato Salad (so I can use up the last of the red potatoes in the pantry before they sprout wings) and Black Bean Burgers using the leftover beans I had from making Mexican Beans and Rice earlier this week. I always scour my frig and cabinets for ingredients that might need to be used up quickly before I plan meals. It’s a good habit that really reduces food waste to almost zero percent. Savings? Priceless! Have a fabulous and frugal weekend!
Filed under: Growing Food, organic gardening | Tags: backyard chickens, comfrey, epsom salts, pollinators
I’ve been gardening for a long time now, but each season brings new lessons to my weedy classroom and this summer of 2014 was no different. I thought I’d share them with you and then I’ll have a permanent record of them too, so that I can refer back to them in the coming years. (Sometimes I don’t ‘pass the test’ the first time and it takes me more than one lesson to ‘get it’).
Lesson: Cleanliness in the garden is next to Godliness. I had planted two patches of basil-harvesting from one on Mondays and then the other on Thursdays-to donate to One Acre Cafe. The plants were beautiful and healthy…
when seemingly overnight they began to yellow and wither in one patch…
Then, sure enough, the problem spread to the other patch a few days later! Hmmm.. the basil plants in my own plot at the Community Garden were fine, other plots had healthy plants and my basil at home was beginning to resemble a small tree. What happened? I think I finally figured it out-I had failed to sterilize my cutting shears with a bleach/water solution between uses! I began carrying a spray bottle of the mix in my basket to the garden each day and spraying it on the blades as I moved about the plot. I gave the almost dead basil a good dose of fish emulsion and stopped all cuttings for about three weeks or more. Eventually the plants recovered, but never to their original robust beauty.
Lesson: Shortcuts don’t always save time. I ran out of Epsom Salts to add to the final few tomato planting holes last spring and I was in too big of a hurry to stop and go buy some more, thinking it wouldn’t matter if I skipped it on those last two or three plants. It DID matter, a LOT! Those plants had blossom end rot on every single tiny tomato they produced; I’d eliminated that problem years ago when I’d learned about the egg shell/Epsom Salt combination.
Lesson: Identify bugs properly. For a couple of months I killed every one of these I could find…
Finally I got smart and put 3 or 4 in a bottle to take to my nearest extension agent’s office. He promptly identified them as Pink Spotted Ladybugs, or 12 Spotted Ladybugs. Both adults and larvae are important aphid predators but also eat mites, insect eggs, and small larvae. Unlike most lady beetles, plant pollen may make up to 50% of the diet, WHICH MAKES THEM IMPORTANT POLLINATORS TOO!
Lesson: Comfrey doesn’t like full sun. I was given several perennial comfrey plants (thanks Barbara!) this spring and planted them on both sides of my house where nothing-NOTHING- was growing. I knew that they spread quickly and that’s what I was looking for because once established, they make really good additions to compost piles AND chickens love to eat them. I want to have chickens again next spring, after we return from a long trip in late winter, so I wanted to get the comfrey established this year. The plants on the shady north side have spread and flowered and done beautifully while the ones I put on the sunny south side have struggled, in spite of regular watering. Luckily, I plan to house my girls on the north side since they don’t like full sun either.
Final Lesson: You can teach an old dog new tricks!
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Canning, Resilience | Tags: beans, growing food, sustainable energy sources
What got me to thinking about Jimmy Carter was hearing that this weekend he’s going to be a keynote speaker at a Muslim convention in Detroit. The man deserved his Nobel is all I can say! Now back to the topic at hand…
I’ll admit it. My zest for canning, drying, freezing and fermenting has changed over the years from a casual experiment into a complete lifestyle change. The first time I slipped hot green beans into a sterilized jar, screwed a metal lid and band on it, and then ate those late summer beans months later at Christmas, my now-40-year old daughter was a newborn, and I was hooked on canning!
Three years later Jimmy Carter became President and just two weeks into his new presidency he began hosting his ‘Fireside Chats’ while wearing a Mr. Rogers cardigan sweater, as he sat by the fireplace in the West Wing of the White House. Those chats encouraged us Americans to use less energy, and told us how important it was to have an energy policy that focused on conserving the nation’s natural resources.
I liked and admired President Carter very much but his message, along with an inflation rate of 20% (!) and a stock market that lost 40% of its’ value in 18 months time was pretty damn scary to me. So, what does a young mother of four little girls do when faced with the war in Vietnam that was in its’ 19th year, Russians standing in long, long lines to get extremely scarce toilet paper, ( I don’t remember why), all while living 600 miles from her nearest relative? Besides stocking up on toilet paper, I began growing food. And canning it. It gave me a sense of self-sufficiency and control over that scary world. Some things never change I guess. 37 years later, we still don’t have that national energy policy, and I’m still keeping our scary world at bay by keeping plenty of TP and beans on hand.
Studies show that people focus more on material things when they feel insecure, and I was certainly insecure as a too-young mom. I’m happy to say that I feel more secure at this stage of my life than I ever have, but I still continue to grow and preserve as much as I can. I’m certain there are still security issues hidden in there somewhere, but by this time, I consider it normal. We all have our ‘issues’ I guess, but if growing food, having a fully stocked pantry, and living by the belief that ‘we are what we eat’ is an ‘issue’ for me, I think it’s a good one to have. Michael was exposed to Listeria earlier this summer due to peaches that were later recalled-oops! and that experience, along with his colon cancer, has certainly made both of us more conscious than ever of how important food is to our health, both mental and physical. Jimmy Carter must be doing something right too-he’ll be 90 years old on October 1st and he’s still building habitats, growing peanuts, and teaching peace. God love him.
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Contributionism, Mindful Consumerism | Tags: clothing, peace, simplicity, Waste reduction
Filed under: Uncategorized
I reflect often on a question a young man asked of me early this spring…he was looking at the tiny little transplants and emerging seedlings in my backyard garden and asked me, with great sincerity, if we ever really eat much from it. Perhaps to his inexperienced eye the smallness of the plants at the time seemed impossible of feeding anyone beyond a bird. When I reassured him that we eat something from our garden almost every day of our lives, he seemed dubious and wandered off, no longer interested. Funny how such an innocuous question has stayed with me for months. I’ve thought of it almost every time we sit down to eat, and have often wished I had offered him something more concrete than “salads” or “beets” as an answer. I’m an evangelist for growing our own food and his curiosity was the perfect chance to ‘preach it!’. But since I missed my chance with my young friend, I’ll just use this post to ‘preach it’. Remember, it’s my blog, it’s my belief, and so you can read on or hit delete. I’ll never know after all. Just sayin’…
Growing food and preserving it is in my DNA now. I consider it the second best thing people can do to regain control of their lives, right behind getting out of debt. What other activity can you possibly engage in that could provide you with all of your nutritional needs, save you money, taste fabulous, provide you with all the Vitamin D your body needs for good health, and all while getting the exercise you normally have to set aside time for? What other activity can do all that, while at the same time helping you become more resilient to the vagaries of climate change, droughts, trucker strikes, crop failures, food borne illnesses, rising prices, recalls and shortages? Oh yeah, and after all that, growing your own food gives you a reason to write blogs about your garden, try new zucchini recipes, share your extra produce, make special things to offer at gift giving time, learn food preservation skills and last, but certainly not least, gardening gives you a reason to take pictures of your supper to post on Facebook. That last reason might be reason enough for some of us ;)
During the spring and summer months, our meals evolve and revolve around what’s currently growing in our garden. During the fall and winter months, our meals evolve and revolve around what’s currently growing in the garden AND what’s preserved from the previous season. The old song about “Peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall” sums it up pretty well actually. Of course we enjoy a meal out occasionally, just like you do! When we do indulge, we often order foods we don’t or can’t grow. We eat very seasonally and have accepted the fact that it is simply not sustainable to be eating fresh strawberries or tomatoes in January-and they taste like crap anyway. Conversely, it’s a perfectly WONDERFUL feeling to enjoy the frozen berries and jams or canned tomatoes and sauces that we grew the previous summer, throughout the winter. That willingness to live and eat more in tune with the seasons makes every food special- from the box of tangelos my daughter buys from her school fund-raiser for me each Christmas, to the pecans I trade my veggies with a friend for each fall- to everything there is a season.
Now that I’ve preached from my personal pulpit about the blessings of the garden on this fine Sunday, I’ll end this by reminding you that, unlike religion, gardening doesn’t have to be an ‘all or none’ proposition. Start with just one thing you love. Do you like fresh cilantro and hate going to the store just for that item when you want it? Cooler weather is cilantro’s favorite time of year to grow. I have about two million seeds to give away. If you want to plant your own little patch, let me know, I’m happy to share. And guess what? If you let them go to seed, then let some of that seed fall, they’ll often establish themselves permanently that way and you may never have to replant them again. And THAT’S how you get hooked my friends. And THAT can be the beginning of your own ‘garden of eatin’. Just sayin’…
Filed under: Community Building, Creating Community | Tags: beekeeping business
How many times have I discussed ‘community’ on this blog? 20, 50, 100 times? I recently ran into a friend that I seldom get to see and somehow our conversation quickly turned to how difficult it is to form relationships with our neighbors. Often we find others at church, at work, or in groups we belong to that we click with almost instantly, but neighbors?? hmm… Is it simply because with those others, we know from the beginning of the work day, worship service or meeting that we are together for a specific period of time? But neighbors? That’s different, since they’re always there (or presumably so) nor do we share the common bond, other than street address, that we do with other groups we’re a part of.
What can we do about that? I consider myself fairly outgoing, but I find it rather difficult to strike up a conversation beyond “hello” with strangers. Someone that’s rather introverted or shy might find it really difficult. So what can I do? And why bother?
I have so many ideas, but only so much time and energy. Beyond community gardens, I envision a community kitchen/cannery, seed libraries, community owned greenhouses and solar power stations. I’d like to see local food and child care cooperatives, city-wide composting facilities, and local millers, bakers and candle stick makers. You get the idea. Everything that we make, build, grow or cook in our homes and backyards now would be so much more efficiently accomplished if we had the help, talent and energy of many hands. Communes, Intentional Communities and Cohousing are all good solutions to this dilemma, but for those of us that either can’t, or don’t want to be quite that close, our neighbors are the next best thing to safer, more livable and lovable neighborhoods. So, knowing this to be true, why am I so reluctant to form bonds and friendships with my neighbors? My only excuse is that most seem to be transient and I know how much time relationships take. But that’s a cop out. I don’t need to be best friends with my neighbors, just something beyond a “hi, how are you?” relationship.
Here are some ideas I’ve had lately about ways to solve that:
1. I could have a cookout. Post fliers around the neighborhood, pick a time and just do it! Music and badminton and burgers should be enough, right? I don’t know really. Would you go to a cookout where you didn’t know anyone? What if they all bring beer and get drunk and never leave?
2. Hold a ‘Neighborhood Watch’ program, and ask the public safety officer for our neighborhood to help us get organized. Being neighbors is our one common bond after all. I think we need to look at front porches as crime fighting tools, but what about during the winter?
3. It’s the time of year when I have more tomatoes than friends. Sometimes free tomatoes make friends out of strangers, but usually they just disappear (the tomatoes and the people who take them). Should I organize an annual neighborhood yard sale so we’d all have a chance to get rid of our excesses?
4. Speaking of organizing: maybe revitalizing a now-defunct neighborhood association or starting a monthly newsletter might help us all get to know one another better. This seems the best tactic to me.
5. I approached neighbors on each side of me recently to ask how they’d feel about my getting beehives. They both seemed happy about the prospect. Could that be the key to a neighborly bond? Or an eventual lawsuit?
Since many of my neighbors are students and young unmarrieds, with many of the large older homes in this historic district converted to insurance and attorney offices, yoga studios or chiropractors, this whole building community stuff is trickier than usual. I’d love to get some feedback from you in the comments below. Is neighborliness just a 50′s era dream I remember? Do you have a neighbor you can borrow a cup of sugar from? Or am I just borrowing trouble while looking for that cup of sugar?
Filed under: Uncategorized
My area of NE Tennessee experienced tornado touchdowns and warnings last Sunday evening. Shortly after my phone sent out a loud alert signal, the nearby university’s public warning signal began shrieking. The alert on the phone said: “Take shelter immediately”. Damn! I had 5 people coming for dinner in less than an hour and I wasn’t through cooking! I find it amazing now that that was a concern, but it was early in the game and I was still not convinced the tornado was going to materialize. Quickly turning on our weather radio and the television, we could see and hear all the details. Realizing I had ‘some time’ I began to run through my head what we needed to do to stay safe. I immediately filled my washing machine with a full load of clean water, turning it off just as the wash cycle began, then filled the bathtub too. I had previously stored drinking water, but doing those two things gave me another fast and easy 75 gallons of clean water, just in case it was needed. While the tub filled I called my daughter to alert her and offered her advice to move to her bathroom and to take her cat and bed pillow too, so that she could hold the pillow over her head should things start flying around. To calm her fears I explained she should sit in the tub, with pillow over her head and head between her knees. I finished my detailed instructions with some sick humor by saying “and then kiss your ass goodbye”. We both laughed and felt better immediately. Michael went to our root/storm cellar, plugged in our sump pump in case it began to flood, turned on the light and unplugged the dehumidifier. I kept cooking…
Between stirring and chopping, I listened to the radio, watched the darkening sky outside my kitchen window, and went over in my head what else I should do in the next few minutes. Gather important documents? Take food to the cellar? Find my cat? I continued to listen and cook…
As you already know, we were lucky, so very lucky. The tornado touched down about 9 miles from us, barely stirring the leaves on the trees around my house. We got a sprinkling of rain out of it while others lost their homes, cars and security. Our little dinner party turned into more than just a meal with close friends. It became a Thanksgiving celebration on a July evening, so grateful were we all to be skipped by the tornado.
I learned my lesson though. I’m better prepared now. I realize I’d much rather ‘shelter in place’ than go to a public storm shelter, even if my space is just a small room under the kitchen. I’ve moved a transistor radio to the cellar and hung two fold-up, comfortable-enough-to-doze-in canvas sling back chairs down there too. I added a lantern that can be run on batteries or by winding a crank. I bought a box of granola bars along with some other eat out of hand snacks but I’m looking for a rodent proof metal box to store them in before I move them down. I’ve emptied my ‘old’ stored drinking water and refilled my containers with fresh water and I’ve started making hard copies of all my important documents: driver’s license, credit cards, social security cards, wills, and so forth to store in a water proof box. Now, maybe I should add a pillow too, in case I need to put it over my head, put my head between my knees, and kiss my ass good bye?
P.S. It seems bad weather events are a really good starting point for opening a conversation with a neighbor about ways you might weather the next one together, helping one another to prepare for sheltering in place. These kinds of events lower our vulnerability while raising our awareness of how important community can be. More on this in my next post.
Filed under: Local Food, Seasonal Eating | Tags: beans, food, frugal, leftovers
I really enjoyed the rainy weather here in NE Tennessee last weekend! It got me OUT of the garden and IN-to the kitchen. I finished canning the last of the green beans and cooked a pot for supper, along with those little, teeny, tiny Yukon gold potatoes that you just have to wash- the skins are so thin that no peeling or cutting is even necessary. Most people don’t bother to harvest those babies→ but I gather them all up when we dig our crop, right along with the big ones. I throw ‘em right in the pot with the beans, chopped onions and a dash of bacon grease. The beans and baby taters, along with our very first ears of Kandy Korn from the corn plot down at the community garden, fat slices of heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes and grilled garlic bread along with a sliver or two of the leftover rotisserie chicken I splurged on earlier this week make a frugal, dee-li-shus supper with very little prep time.
I also used eggs from my friend’s backyard flock to make deviled eggs as well as bowls of potato salad and cole slaw that made good use of our home-grown cabbage, carrots, potatoes, red onions and herbs. We enjoyed the salads with our salmon/cucumber sandwiches for lunch today and have enough left for several more meals. Good golly Miss Molly, we’re eatin’ good these days!
So, what’s for supper at YOUR house? Do you find yourself eating more local and seasonal foods these days? Got any recipes you want to share? Comment below ↓
Attention Tennessee beekeepers in Washington, Sullivan, Hawkins, Unicoi, Johnson, and Carter counties: a case of American Foulbrood is being investigated in Kingsport, TN. State apiarist Mike Studer is inspecting hives to determine whether or not this is an isolated case, but all beekeepers are encouraged to check/inspect their hives. New beekeepers are encouraged to contact their mentors, an experienced beekeeper, or one of our local inspectors to ensure the health of their hives. It is generally recommended that beekeepers burn the whole hive to help prevent the spread of this disease. It would be prudent to harvest any honey available and unless you have been cleared by an inspector as free of foulbrood, it is suggested that you not feed your honey back to your bees. You can read more about the disease here: American Foulbrood Disease
It’s been said that ‘bees are the canary in the coal mine for our food system’. But what can NON-beekeepers do?
1. Encourage your congressman or woman to look at the science behind a class of nerve-poisoning pesticides known as neonicotinoids; there has been a ban on their use in European countries for years (imagine that). While you’re on the phone with their office…
2. Also let him or her know that the task force that President Obama created just two weeks ago is a good first step to address the issue of rapidly diminishing honey bees and other pollinators, and that you expect their support. Remind Democrats and Republicans alike that if they eat, they’re involved in this crisis.
3. Support local efforts to block the rewording of our city code that would lump honeybees in with ‘farm animals’ and forbid them as livestock. Stay tuned to this blog for more on that.
4. Consider becoming a beekeeper. We are extremely lucky to live in an area with a very active bee club and a bee supply store! The club will provide you with a mentor and educate you on everything you need to know to be successful.
5. Teach your friends and family that honeybees are responsible for every third bite of food we take and that they are not ‘out to get them’ but are merely ‘out to collect pollen and nectar’. Last week in the community garden, I was helping a group of women that are going through drug and alcohol rehab with their plot, when we saw a honeybee land on a squash flower. One of the young women told her daughter to ‘get away! get away!’ So, I used that quick opportunity to tell her what I’ve just told you. She immediately calmed down and told the girl ‘it was okay now’. Repeat after me: “It’s okay. They won’t hurt you”.
6. Plant bee-friendly plants wherever you can tuck them in-sunflowers, bee balms, herbs, and about a million others come to mind. From blueberries to hollyhocks, you’ll find it easy to provide them with plants that give them the pollen and nectar they need to make honey and to stay healthy.
7. Avoid lawn chemicals and garden pesticides.
8 When you do eat honey, make sure it’s raw, local honey-it’s a well known fact that eating LOCAL honey daily can help you with seasonal allergies, acting like allergy shots do: a minute bit each day eventually will make you immune to those things that you’re allergic to.
Filed under: Healthy food, Local Food | Tags: home grown food, recipe, Zucchini
I do believe my zucchini have done better this summer than ever before. So well in fact, that I’m giving them away, drying them to add to winter soups and stews, making flavored chips and now-finally!- I’ve discovered some easy and great tasting new recipes. I wanted to share them with you because they both can be made in a few minutes and for just a few cents if you’re growing most of the ingredients.
Here’s the first:
Zucchini Parmesan Sammiches
From The Moosewood Cookbook:
2 cups diced fresh zucchini
1/2 cup minced onion
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 tsp. chopped basil
1/2 tsp. chopped oregano
2 Tbs. olive oil
Fresh tomato slices
1/2 cup freshly-grated parmesan
Saute’ onion and garlic, with salt, basil and oregano, in olive oil until onion is translucent. Add zucchini and saute’ until soft. Spread onto lightly browned toast, topped with thin slices of tomato and a sprinkling of fresh parmesan. (I didn’t have any fresh parmesan, so just used what the ‘canned’ variety. It didn’t melt as well but tasted good nonetheless. Use what you have . This one should be broiled, not grilled. Parmesan loves to broil. And I loved these sammiches!
And here’s a recipe for Savory Zucchini Cakes, from a post that I made last July:
In my opinion, nothing, I mean NOTHING compares to putting an organic, made-from-scratch, grown-in-my-own-garden, meal on the table! The satisfaction of producing one’s own food in a globalized world speaks not only to my environmental consciousness; sharing with you the growing, gardening, cooking and preservation of all that home-grown goodness gives me a sense of connection to my roots and to my community. YOU’RE my community. Thank you! Hope you enjoy your weekend friends! I’m off to the ribbon cutting of my city’s new “Founder’s Park”. It’s a beautiful park, with art, and rushing water and lots of green space-and it’s an 8 minute walk from home. Here’s a pic:
This blog hasn’t been very active lately, even though I think about it a lot. (that counts doesn’t it?) It occurred to me today that part of the reason I’ve been quiet is because I’m back into that summer time groove of gardening and “puttin’ food by”. It’s such a natural and routine part of my life that I guess I considered it rather, well, too routine and not interesting enough to write about. So, I tried to look at my daily activities through your eyes, hoping to see some ‘transitioning patterns’ or ideas that I might share with you.
Transitioning to a way of life that involves using less fossil fuels and adapting to a warming climate can cover a lot of activities, from adapting our daily routines to the vagaries of the weather to eating cooler, lighter foods in summer than those we eat during the colder months. I’ve found that working in the heat of the day makes me pretty miserable so I’m waking earlier and earlier to beat the heat. Right after breakfast I walk to the community garden to inspect the live traps we set each night for the raccoon mama and her teenage son (or daughter) that are waiting, right along with us, for the corn to ripen. So far, we’ve only caught two smallish rats, but regardless of what live animal gets tricked into going into traps, I don’t want them to suffer, like I do, in the heat of the day, so I go early to check, and then to get my days’ gardening chores completed. I finish just as the sweat begins to drip off my chin. After a brief rest at home, I take my daily walk with the dog because I worry about her burning her paws on the asphalt or overheating in her black fur coat. Days are spent in front of the fan, snapping, slicing, dicing-and drinking sweet apple mint tea ;)
This week I’ve been…
drying zucchini slices…
and chopping peppers for drying…
We harvested the onions this week, so I’m taking advantage of the sun to cure them for a few days…
while cooking our supper too!
We aren’t doing any baking these days because heating the oven is simply not worth it. My west-facing kitchen windows can really allow a lot of heat in in the late afternoons, even with the shades drawn, so if I’m not using the solar cooker, I cook my evening meal before that happens, generally right after lunch. That leaves me all afternoon and evening to pursue other projects. Last night I cut down a small tree to make way for a greenhouse that’s going to be put in its’ place. Tonight I moved all the rockers and
crap things off the front porch and scrubbed the accumulated road dirt and dust off the siding and floor, all while enjoying the shady side of the house in the barefoot comfort of cool hose water. Tomorrow evening I plan to attend the opening reception of a new art exhibit at a nearby downtown gallery called “Lens on the Larder: Food Ways of Appalachia”; I’m already looking forward to walking there in the cool of the evening and enjoying some local foods, photography and stories. Who says transitioning to this way of life is somehow difficult or hard? It often just requires some simple adjustments to our schedules, menus or clothing.
Before the days of central heating and air, everyone worked and slept by the rising and setting of the sun. Farmers and field workers often enjoyed their main meal, or ‘dinner’, at noon, giving them an opportunity to fully refuel after a morning’s work outside, while also offering them a respite until later in the afternoon when the sun wasn’t as high. Front porches served as the warmer-months living rooms, and summer kitchens were screened affairs where the days’ cooking, eating and canning took place. Corn was shucked and beans were broken while sitting under the shade of a tree. Folks were completely tuned in to the sun, the rain and the seasons. I’m trying to adapt to that way of life as well, and though I enjoy turning on the AC at times, I’m happiest with the windows open. Thinking back, I attended an un-air conditioned school and lived in a house without it, all while growing up in central Alabama. We didn’t suffer, it was just part of summer!
I recently covered my upstairs skylight with newspaper to prevent the sun from shining in so brightly, and it really did help with the heat buildup up there! Each evening, when the outside temperature drops to a lower point than the inside air, I turn on the window fans up there to further cool things off. We sleep on the first floor of our home, which is naturally cooler, and have gotten so used to the ‘white noise’ that the fan provides that it’s become like a sleeping pill for us. One summer while I lived in California, the state was experiencing ‘rolling brownouts’ where the electrical usage was cut during the hottest parts of the day. During those times our office ‘adapted’ by allowing us to wear shorts and sandals, changing lunch break times and doing those tasks that didn’t require electricity: filing, phone calls, and data entry on our battery operated lap tops got us through. Our own electric company is working towards a similar setup here in NE TN, where we can voluntarily sign up for ‘time of day’ usage rates, which will be lower than regular rates. It saves them power and us money, but it’s all about adapting any way you look at it. For me, adapting to the heat just means doing my work in the cooler hours, eating meals on the porch, and napping or reading in the heat of the day. I enjoy a greater sense of resiliency by changing with the seasons and find it’s kinda cool actually!
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: Compost, Consumerism, food, frugal, growing food, soil testing, Waste reduction
I have simply been too busy during the day, and too tired at night, to post to my blog this week. That makes me kinda sad because I really enjoy the thinking, researching, picture-taking and writing that a decent post requires of me. Too bad THIS post isn’t one of those ;) But in between the morning spent cutting grass and helping the ‘women in rehab’ in their community garden plot, and the preparing for friends-for-supper-and-drum-circle this evening, I’ll just write a quick, down-and-dirty Frugal Friday post. Regardless of how busy I get, how tired I am or what’s going on in my daily life, frugality isn’t one of those things that I need to research and think about. It’s simply something I do each day, like brushing my teeth. Because our garden is producing regularly now it’s requiring a fair amount of attention, but the pay-off of course is all the fresh organic food we’re harvesting every day. Of course THAT means cooking, preserving and eating it every day too. So, this week’s frugal focus was on food:
Monday: One of the community gardeners put up a unique plant support over the weekend and so I took a picture of his wire shelf turned on end. He is from Thailand. I have noticed over the years of communal gardening that those gardeners that hail from other countries like Russia, Africa, (and Thailand) are excellent scavengers, recyclers and repurposers (is that a word?). The lady from Russia brought her family’s heirloom Russian potato seeds with her when she came to this country and because her yard is too shady to grow there, she sought out a spot in the community garden to allow her to perpetuate her heritage and to grow things like fava beans and artichokes and other strange-to-me veggies. She uses styrofoam meat trays that she cuts into strips and writes on for plant markers, pallet wood for her paths between beds and fallen shrubby sticks for pea and bean supports. She grows bamboo in her shady yard and uses the as tomato stakes. The gardener from Africa several years ago had the prettiest garden you’ve ever laid eyes on, using similar ‘found’ props and techniques. The fellow that has propped up his squash with the wire shelf so it doesn’t get struck by the string trimmers, stops at Starbucks on his way home from work every night to pick up a supply of spent coffee grounds that he adds to his beds and compost bins, and made unique flea beetle protectors for his eggplants out of plastic jugs that had the bottoms cut off and fine screening stapled to the top. Here’s his ‘trellis’:
The point here is that those of us here in the United States use far more resources than any other country on Earth and whenever I’m feeling smug about being frugal all I have to do is look at the garden plots belonging to those ‘other countries’ to eat a slice of humble pie. I suspect I’ll be learning lots of lessons from these folks during their time in the community garden. Savings? PRICELESS!
Tuesday: Michael and I harvested our potatoes today, promptly adding home made compost and more of the free shredded leaves that our city delivers to us each fall back to the plot, before replanting it with more beans and squash. We grew 43 pounds of organic Yukon Golds in 40 square feet of soil. The moldy straw that was given to me free, and that we used to ‘hill’ around the ‘tater plants was then moved to the path to top off the cardboard we’d laid there for weed suppression. Using the straw for two purposes (actually three, since it will eventually end up as compost) makes me happy. 43 pounds of potatoes in my currently rat-free cellar make me even happier. I just called Earth Fare, my favorite, and closest, healthy food store to check on the price of their organic Yukons. 5 lb bags are selling for $6.99 and individual pounds are selling for $2.29 lb. I’ve done the math: With sales tax, my 43 lbs would’ve cost me $68.35 there. My seed potatoes cost me about $3, and a very pleasant hour planting them one spring morning back in April. Savings: $65!
Wednesday: We went to a luncheon/meeting of our local Community Partnerships group this day. The catered meal was excellent and the plasticware we used to eat with was very high quality (ok, it was almost as nice as my everyday silverware!) so I wrapped up the six pieces that Michael and I had used, tucked them into my purse, and brought them home to wash. I added it to my ‘stash’ of used-just-once plastic ware that I keep with my emergency preps, along with a stack of paper plates and napkins. If the water is ever shut off because of overwhelmed city storm drains ( a real possibility in my town) I just use it and toss it rather than worrying about washing dishes in such a situation. We also take the stash camping and to potlucks too so even though it’s still wasteful to use a disposable ANYTHING, at least they get a second or third or tenth life. But, eating another slice of humble pie here, (I’m getting rather full of it actually) a young mother and daughter that sat at our table not only brought their own water filled bottles, passing up the ubiquitous red plastic cups and sweet tea and disposable bottles of water, they also shared one of the rather large paper plates AND PASSED UP THE DESSERT ENTIRELY! (Now that’s taking things a little too far ;) ) Savings: No monetary savings since I wouldn’t buy the plasticware anyway. The humble pie was free too.
Thursday: I’m always learning from, and sharing with, the other community gardeners. This week alone we gardeners shared bamboo stakes, seeds, extra plants, tools, energy and friendship. We were also given free soil tests by the owner of Downtown Farming who taught us about our soil’s microbacterial action at our monthly gardener’s meeting. (Thanks again Yancy!) Savings? Priceless!
Friday: Today I harvested enough zucchini to serve tonights’ dinner guests stuffed zucchini boats and we enjoyed them along with roasted rosemary/garlic potatoes and cabbage cooked with bacon drippings. I also harvested the first big red onion, the last of the spring planted kale, a huge bag of swiss chard, beets, carrots and enough collards to feed a horse! I also cooked a big pot of collards mixed with sautéed onions and garlic, diced potatoes, black-eyed peas, a jar of home-canned tomatoes and then splashed it all with hot sauce. It was so good that Michael even liked it-and he’s not a collards lover like I am! I didn’t take a picture but you don’t even need a recipe for this dish. I managed to use up a tiny part of what you see here on my kitchen counter:
Tonight after supper we went to the drum circle in our town’s newest park. It was a lot of fun and it made me kinda misty-eyed being there with good friends, in a beautiful park within walking distance of my home, realizing how FULL my life (and my refrigerator!) are. If we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. Now is the time to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, LED bulbs, leftovers, the good life, yogurt making
It’s been a lucrative week in my household, showing once again that frugality, in some cases, can be a decent substitute for a paycheck. The idea that making sure that we aren’t spending more than we bring in isn’t ‘a job’, but I do liken it to ‘a calling’. The first, and best, way to answer that calling is to track expenses. For 14 years, we have tried faithfully to track every single penny that comes into, and goes out of, our household. Doing this shows us exactly when we’re spending too much in one category or another and then allows us to make adjustments when needed. Food, gasoline, energy and entertainment are all examples of expense categories that allow for some flexibility and seeing what we’ve spent over the previous thirty days (or thirty months!) helps us make those adjustments with ease, both mentally and financially. The idea of tracking expenses came to us via “Your Money or Your Life”, a book we both happened to read at the beginning of our relationship. Both the tracking, and the relationship, have stood the test of time.
Monday: We needed a brighter bulb for a table lamp, and decided to pay a bit extra to get the better lighting quality of an LED bulb (instead of the ‘old’ compact fluorescent type we were replacing), so we bought one at Lowe’s while we were picking up some other home repair items we needed. Not a good shot, but here it is:
There were a few things on our shopping list that we couldn’t find at Lowe’s, so we went down the street to Home Depot. We found another bulb there with the same watts, lumens, and amperage as the one we’d just bought from Lowe’s- for $20.00! Cree bulbs have the highest ratings available for residential LED lighting by the way. So, we returned the Lowe’s bulb. Savings: $7.00. PS Save the receipts and package from these bulbs so that if they don’t meet the promised warranty period you can get a replacement.
Just an aside: while at Lowe’s we had priced an outdoor flag holder for $9.95, and rejected it as too expensive. While at Home Depot, we found a completely acceptable one for $2.50! Savings: $7.45. Has Lowe’s gone ‘upscale’ on us? It pays to shop around, whether it’s for lightbulbs or lawnmowers.
Tuesday: After months of eating ice cream during Michael’s chemo treatments, we’re trying to find healthier substitutes, so I’ve started making yogurt once again. Summer time is perfect for this since it produces very little heat in the kitchen and the availability of fresh fruits to add to it are at their peak. I like mine creamy and thick, with ‘real’ chunks of fruit, and local honey as a sweetener. A small container of Greek yogurt is about a dollar. I use powdered milk to make mine in a $10 yogurt maker I’ve had for many years. It holds 8 ‘cups’ and depending on the fruit I use, costs me about 50 cents a cup at most and is delicious. Savings: $4.00
Just heat the milk to 190 degrees, then let cool to 120 degrees…
then add a few Tablespoons of plain yogurt as a starter, pour into cups, and let the magic happen!
Wednesday: My dentist, whom I trust completely, advised me to get the two ‘major’ repair jobs taken care of during this calendar year while I have dental insurance, then to drop the insurance at the end of the year. I take good care of my teeth, getting them cleaned by hygienist students at my local college for free, four times a year, and doing the recommended brushing and flossing daily. My new dental insurance paid for a full set of xrays and will pay 80% of the needed work, after which, I shouldn’t need any more expensive stuff done. (It doesn’t cover ‘false teeth’ should I need those in the future). So, I had the first procedure done this week and will have the next done next month, leaving me still with almost 6 months of coverage before I cancel. My annual premiums are $360, and since this is the first year in my life I’ve ever had dental insurance, maybe I’ll go the next 60 without it again! Savings: $360 a year
Thursday: Our toilets began having trouble flushing completely. After much plunging, I heard the man next door out in his yard, and, knowing he owns a lot of property around town, went outside to ask him if he could recommend a decent plumber. Turns out, he was in the side yard with his plumber-guess what? His toilets weren’t flushing either, so he had called Roto Rooter to clear his clog. Amazingly, our two houses connect in the side yard, then run out to the city’s sewer lines at the street! So, we agreed we’d split the bill. Of course, Roto Rooter couldn’t open the blockage with their ‘normal’ equipment and said they’d return with their BIG guns. Estimated cost: $350. So, I told the neighbor I’d split the cost with him. Roto Rooter guys returned, and in less than 5 or 10 minutes they’d uncovered the problem, rather smugly announcing that the problem was “feminine products”. I rather smugly pointed to my gray hair and told them then it wasn’t my fault since I’m the only female in my house and I haven’t used “feminine products” in almost ten years! I offered to pay $100 towards the final bill and neighbor man quickly agreed to that deal. Savings: $75.00! just for speaking up!
“Onion” may use feminine products…but I don’t! Color me happy :)
Saturday: That’s right, I didn’t do a damn thing frugal today but I did take some herbal teas and crossword puzzle books to a friend in the hospital, cut my own grass, and bought one of those rotisserie chickens on sale for $3.99 from Krogers to have for supper (with enough leftovers for 2 more meals). But tomorrow I’ll take my cat to the annual vaccination clinic at the nearby high school, where I’ll be able to get his rabies shot then for $10. Savings: $20 Simon is not any happier that he’ll get it for a third of the normal price, but I sure am! (picture above applies to Saturday too)
As always, frugality is not about being ‘cheap’ but smart. Living well on less keeps us long on time and lean on ‘stuff’, but absolutely FAT on all that matters! Please won’t you share your frugal matters too in the comments section below? I’m always inspired by what my readers are doing to stretch their incomes- hey, that means YOU!
Filed under: ENOUGH!, Mindful Consumerism, Sustainability | Tags: conserve, Consumerism, curtail, frugal, recycling, Waste reduction
I write here fairly often about ‘sustainability‘, which dictionary.com defines as: “pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse”. It’s a word that has been bandied about rather loosely over the last decade but it’s the single best word I’ve found to describe the lifestyle that I aspire to, and that I wish for the planet. It’s that “Continual Reuse” that I find difficult to maintain. Actually, I’ve only managed sustainability in just a few areas of my life, and even then only for short periods of time: using clothelines, maintaining compost piles, heating my home for 10 years using only coppiced and downed wood (and then adding the ashes to the garden), harvesting rainwater and refusing bottled water, and creating zero waste. It’s very hard to even grow food sustainably, for I’d have to save all my own seeds to be completely sustainable in the garden.
I’ve come to the conclusion-finally-that I cannot lead a sustainable life. From cradle to cremation, our lives are simply not sustainable in the modern world. I’ve realized that even the Native Americans weren’t living sustainably as they cut down trees for their every use, planted their crops until the soils were so depleted they had to ‘move on’ and made face paints from mineral pigments that they dug from the earth. Believe me when I say that admitting that makes me sad.
However, here’s the good news: we CAN easily practice and produce things in our households that will help us be skilled and resilient in the face of the continuing threats of worsening climate changes, economic instability and inequity and the depleting of the earth’s natural resources. ‘Curtailing’ is a newer buzzword when used in conversations about sustainability. That means buying less, using less, wanting less and wasting less. Curtail means to “cut back” or possibly to “downsize.” It is more reflective of the seriousness of our current situation than the probably more politically acceptable word “conserve.” Conservation often implies a relatively small reduction in consumption, possibly recycling or buying compact fluorescents or maybe buying a hybrid car. If conserve is to be used as a synonym for curtail, it would be appropriate to preface it with some modifier such as “radical” conservation or “extreme” conservation or “rapid” conservation.
Buying Less: I am really trying to ‘curtail’ my driving these days, even though I’ll admit that I don’t do it so much as a frugality measure, but as a health measure. I enjoy getting my daily exercise walking or biking to the places I need to go and have found when I carefully ‘bundle’ my errands, I don’t spend any more time walking them than I did driving them. Without the stress of road rage, I find the time spent is actually conducive to my well-being, beyond the cardio benefits. While running errands recently I’ve noticed birds’ nests, hidden rabbit litters, blooming flowers and the neighbors’ gardens. I’ve witnessed homeless people, panhandlers and drunks too. Being in a car isolates and insulates me from those realities of life, but I’d rather live life with eyes wide open. I’ve saved many dollars on fuel, prevented the release of countless CO2 molecules, and preserved the miles on my car’s engine and tires, all while running errands. Hooray for ‘curtailing’!
Using Less: I’m also conserving more energy these days; both mine and the electric company’s! With the arrival now of truly hot weather, I rise earlier so that I can run my errands and work in the garden before the heat of the day settles in. That gives me the rest of the day to guiltlessly enjoy reading, cooking, napping, playing music or writing, all the while sipping ice tea under the fan. Not a bad trade-off, this ‘conserving’ ;)
Wanting Less: Seems like recently I’ve forgotten my own advice about buying more ‘stuff’ and I found my closets and corners filling up once again. Getting into the habit of buying somehow magically leads to buying even more. A new dress can lead to a new pair of shoes to match it, which leads to a new car to drive around town looking good in while you’re wearing the new dress and shoes. Ask any star. But it’s just a habit. Of course knowing something and doing something about it are two completely different things. I smoked for many years even after I realized how bad it was for me and the planet. Smoking was a habit, and so is excessive shopping. But-more good news!- the habit can be broken and with the release of its’ grip, you automatically begin to want less. I’m no minimalist, but to know with certainty that point of having ‘enough’ is priceless to me. And wanting less is the key to that knowing.
Wasting Less: My friend Sandy tells me: “A low consumption lifestyle is the ultimate waste reduction strategy.” I enjoy the challenge of not being wasteful. I’m not talking about just drinking the last sip of milk, I’m talking about buying the milk in a returnable glass jug! I’m not talking about eating the apples before they go bad, I’m talking about composting the cores and feeding the seeds to the chickens! I’m not talking about recycling your #2 plastic bottles, I’m talking about drinking out of a glass for goodness’ sakes! I really can say with confidence that I don’t ‘waste’ anything. Like developing the habit of ‘wanting less’, it’s become such an ingrained habit in me that the concept of wasting anything is strange. Yet I see (on those daily walks in my urban area) senseless waste each and every day. From an uncancelled postage stamp to an unwanted article of clothing, you’ll find very little waste in my life. I’m proud of that. But you know what? It doesn’t matter that I’m not able to live 100% sustainably; what matters is the trying.
Filed under: ENOUGH!, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, Resilience, Reuse | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, recycling, simplicity, the good life, Waste reduction
It’s Friday the 13th AND a full moon! Seems like an auspicious way to begin post number 2-0-1- on this blog. Since returning from my trip to Ohio, I’ve been distracted with gardening and meetings, and festivals and meetings and shelling peas and meetings and out of town company and oh yeah, did I mention meetings? This week I’ve really tried to concentrate on eating from our garden every day, as well as walking and biking as much as possible to get where I need to go. When I left town to travel to Ohio, I filled up for $3.32 a gallon, but when I got there, gas was $3.99 a gallon! If that’s not incentive to park the car, I don’t know what is, yet the city where my family lives just had bumper to bumper traffic everywhere! Before I get on to my personal efforts to live fully and frugally beneath my means, I wanted to show you a picture I took in downtown Columbus of a new ‘car rental’ system they have there…
The Car2Go system is brilliant for use in a big town. A one time membership fee of $35 gets you a swipe card. The card readers are on the dash of the car. Swipe your card, the doors unlock, then the reasonable pay by the minute-mile-or hour fees are charged to your credit card. Park it when you’re done in one of many many spaces allocated for them. They’re perfect for one, they’re fuel-efficient because of their small size and as you can see, you can park two cars in the space that one car normally takes up! Talk about frugal! The only bad thing is having to live in a big town to take advantage of this. No thanks, I’ll just walk.
OK, before I get started on ‘this week’: a few of my close friends have said, from time to time, “you didn’t do such and such on Monday, it was Wednesday!” Whatever. The point here is not to give you a play by-play rundown of my week but instead, to simply show that every single day there are opportunities in our lives to save time, energy and resources. Living well on less is a way of life. Even on Mondays. Or Wednesdays. Just sayin’…
Monday: We had two compost bins but wanted to start a third one so we can be sure to have enough compost made this fall and next spring to add to our garden beds. The two bins we already had-and love-were $75 each last time I priced them (that’s them on the right, below) but with graduation gifts and travel expenses this month, there’s simply not enough money right now to buy another. But-we had a small section of wire fencing that we’d used several times to trellis growing vegetables, so we rolled it up, stuck it in the corner beside the other two and said ‘good enough’! It works fine and didn’t cost us a dime. And, as you can see, it’s already filling up!
Tuesday: Speaking of graduation expenses, or special gift giving occasions: I’m always on the lookout for the perfect gift for such events. A few months ago I was in my favorite thrift store and found this little gem for 50 cents:
It had a lot going for it, from my point of view: it looked brand new, but no new resources were used for me to purchase it used, I wrote a personal note to put inside with the $100 bill I gave my graduating granddaughter, so no card had to be bought and then thrown away, nor did I need any wrapping paper. AND she’s got the little box for as long as she wants it to store ‘stuff’. Cheap? Nah, Sweet!
Wednesday: With summertime comes mosquitoes. I was hopeful that Michael’s chemo treatments would make him less desirable to the biting buggars but that doesn’t seem to be the case so it was time, once again, to mix up a batch of my infamous ‘Bug Potion #9′. Here’s the ‘recipe’: it makes 2 cups and usually lasts all summer. We keep it in repurposed spice jars, along with some cotton balls, in the camper,the car, the kitchen and the bathroom!
1 cup witch hazel
1 cup rubbing alcohol
8-10 drops peppermint oil
Shake well, store in a tightly capped container so that alcohol doesn’t evaporate. Applying this with a cotton ball as soon as possible after being bitten results in better effectiveness.
Thursday: I signed up on-line to join the Adult Summer Reading program at my local library. Just for doing that, when I went in to the library today, I received a free tote bag, bookmarks, and a book of my choice! And for each book review I post on their website, my name will also be entered into a weekly drawing! Does your library offer such sweet deals? Check it out-pun intended.
Friday: I invite company over at least once a month so my house will get cleaned. (oh surely you do that too! ;) This week we had an out of town band stay with us overnight and the upstairs guest quarters were looking, um…kinda shabby. The night stands and table belonged to my grandmother and looked as old as she did-hey! she was 101, and she deserved to display all those years proudly, just like this furniture does:
I spent $40 on new knobs and paint, a few pleasant hours on the patio and think the 3 pieces look pretty nice. I’ve also got enough paint left to do another small project so I’ll be on the lookout at yard sales this summer for a scuffed-but-solid table or stool to use it on- perhaps as a Christmas gift for my daughter? I just don’t know what to do with the paint cans once they’re empty. Any ideas?
I hope you’re carrying the ideas of Frugal Friday with you throughout your week, and that you’re inspired to make the best use possible of whatever resources present themselves in your life before looking ‘elsewhere’ for the things you need. Enjoy the weekend-frugally of course!
Filed under: Food Cooperative, Liveable Communities | Tags: Climate Change, Farmer's Market, Food Co-ops, frugal, Income Inequality, Livable Communities, One Acre Cafe, recycling, Resource Depletion, the good life, transition, Waste reduction
This is my 200th post on this blog but I feel like I’m just getting started. Some of those posts may have you rolling your eyes by now (growing food, building community and frugality are my personal favorites) but today’s post covers all of those topics in one! I am a recently elected co-chair of the local Livable Communities Group, a group that’s been meeting for about ten years, but has recently partnered with Community Partnerships, another group that was originally established under the direction of the Washington County Economic Development Council. Recently we’ve become re-energized by all the good things that are happening in our town and have adopted a long range plan to address some of the issues that Johnson Citians that attended the Economic Summit in 2011 felt were key in making our community more livable and lovable. Not surprisingly, green spaces, hiking and biking trails, public safety, expanded public transportation options, community gardens, farmer’s markets and a more localized economy topped the list. One answer that stood out in the survey was to “grow and connect to our local foodshed”, and that drumbeat seems to be growing louder and louder.
It was announced in the local newspaper last week that the city doesn’t have the funds available to do the site preparation work for the long-promised new Farmer’s Market, and conversations that I’ve had recently with the market manager (he’s also the market board president-isn’t that a conflict of interest???) lead me to believe that if we really want to ‘grow and connect with our local foodshed’ the time has come to consider other options. And THAT is what the Livable Communities meeting being held tomorrow morning at the One Acre Cafe will be about. We’ve invited the director of Appalachian Sustainable Development to speak with us about the possibility of forming a food co-op; a worker-owned, community-based cooperative effort to help our residents be able to make that connection. I’ve been told that if our current Farmer’s Market vendors had a venue for selling their stuff during the colder months, that they’d be more willing to extend their growing seasons. This sounds like it might be a doable solution for that problem, allowing the summer-time market vendors to have a year-round income while allowing us eaters to have AFFORDABLE fresh locally-grown produce in addition to meats, cheeses, kitchen staples, home brews, and canned and baked goods, all in one location, all the time. If you eat, you’re part of this conversation.
I’ve been a member of two different food co-ops. The first was in the late 70′s. I joined a worker-owned co-op that operated a store front which became like a second home and provided me with affordable, healthy foods like natural peanut butter and rice cakes, whole grain flours, eggs, oil, honey, cheeses and so much more. Four kids can go through a lot of that stuff you know. By paying an annual membership fee you got the food at a reduced price, but if you volunteered to work in the store a couple hours a month, you got an even larger reduction! Everything was ordered in bulk then divided up once it was delivered to the store. Our family refilled the same peanut butter and honey jars and Tupperware containers (remember Tupperware?) over and over and over, keeping endless amounts of trash from the landfill in the process. This was before curbside recycling was available-hell, this was before bottled water! Which makes me wonder if the ease of recycling now is truly progressive or simply relieves our conscience? But I digress…
The second coop I belonged to never had a store front, so the food was delivered to a remote parking lot, and was then taken home by members to divvy it up before it landed in the proper kitchen. The truck was always late, the orders always had something missing, and it was not ideal by any means. I don’t want to do that anymore.
After the ASD presentation of different co-op models, we’ll break for lunch at the cafe, then our group will be taking a tour of a possible location for such a store, right downtown, just a couple of blocks from the not-gonna-happen ‘new’ Farmer’s Market. If this is something you’re truly interested in, feel free to join our group at 10 AM Monday, June 9th for this information gathering meeting.
Last, but not least, keep in mind that I write this blog to offer you what I hope are resilient and creative, if not challenging, solutions for living well while transitioning to a world that holds the triple threats of climate change, energy and resource depletion and the ever-growing income inequity in the US and our globalized world. But after 200 posts, I’m just getting started!
Filed under: Growing Food, organic gardening | Tags: beans, Compost, food, growing food, Master Gardeners, plants, raised beds
Are you sick of my posts about gardening? If so, just hit delete today, because it’s really all that’s on my mind during these long days of spring. I’ve got lots more good topics for transitioning lined up for the near future, some I can barely wait to share with you, but today, it’s all about gardening.
Before we get started on this though, a little personal history and philosophy might be in order. I’m a Tennessee Master Gardener and the coordinator of my city’s largest (to date) and oldest community garden, but I’m hoping that (at least!) a dozen more communal gardens will be surpassing our size in the near future. I feel that growing food is a life skill like no other. Gardening can offer resilience in the face of adversity, whether that’s due to climate change, skyrocketing food prices, personal money hardships, or food sensitivities. It builds self-sufficiency, enhances my sense of empowerment, and oh yeah, provides me with great-tasting and healthy food. My garden offers me a respite from a life filled with the blur of technology, stress and diversions and actually serves as my personal sanctuary when I go to kneel at its’ weedy altar. Oh yeah, did I mention it provides me with great-tasting food?
This post is simply my way of sharing some of what I’ve learned over the years with other gardeners that might be struggling to get their own pots and plots in good shape right now. There are lots of good gardening advice online, so if I don’t cover your question in this short post, you can find the answer somewhere on the world-wide web or in a good gardening book at the library. Or post your questions in the comments section at the end, maybe I’ll have an answer.
Q: How far apart should I plant my (fill in the blank)?
A: If you have rich soil that has adequate amounts of a plant’s needed nutrients, count on them growing well. Read that as large. Space accordingly. A big ole’ heirloom tomato plant that’s growing in a well-maintained raised bed that’s filled with rich homemade compost and lots of organic matter can easily grow to 3′ wide and 6′ tall! If your soil isn’t so good, it won’t grow that large and you might get by with spacing them 18″ apart. I’ve seen gardeners that plant tomatoes and peppers 3-4″ apart! I apologize for the quality of this bad picture, but I want you to look closely at this: there are twelve, count them, TWELVE tomato plants in that little bitty bed!
The spacing in my cabbage patch shown below is good on the left side with four plants, but too close on the right, which has five plants and shows the fourth one almost lost! These were ‘early’ small cabbages. Had they been a later, heavier variety, I would’ve only planted one row of them down the middle.
Tomatoes and squash like a lot of air circulation, as that keeps many of the diseases that they’re susceptible to at bay. Try to visualize a full-grown August tomato plant when considering how far apart to set them out. However, if we’re talking about carrots, go with 1″ apart thinning to 2″ when they’re up and recognizable. Squash on the other hand need 2-3′ all around to produce well. These next two pics show how much room I give them. Both beds will be completely covered soon with the zucchini and yellow squash vines! You’ve got to visualize how big the mature plants will be!
Like carrots, green beans and peas are planted closely, about 2″ apart, again, depending on the variety you’re planting. Read the back of the seed package if all else fails. If your seeds are old, plant thicker than normal, and if they all come up, just thin to an appropriate distance apart. In the pic below, the beans were planted 2″ apart, but birds and rabbits have done a pretty good job of ‘thinning’ for me.
The sugar snap peas below were planted very closely around the edges of a square bed and as you can see are flowering well now. I set the tomato cage in the center for the peas to be supported by, knowing that by the time the tomato needs the space, the peas will be history. Once the tomato fills the cage and is growing well, I’ll plant basil around the edges where the peas were…these three are good companion plants because the tomatoes need a lot of nitrogen and the peas are ‘nitrogen-fixing’ plants, which means they can literally pull it from the air and store it in the soil for use by the next crop. Basil and tomatoes are not only compatible when eaten together, the sharp smell of basil deters pests from the tomatoes when they’re grown together. How cool is THAT?
Q: Why are my young plants turning purple?
Did you plant the purple variety? Likely because your soil is low in phosphorus or because the soil temp is still too cool.
Q: Why are my plants turning yellow?
A: It’s usually caused by a nitrogen deficiency. Fish Emulsion is a good organic source of nitrogen. While young plants are growing feed every week, moving to every two weeks later in the season.
Q: Why do I have huge green plants but no broccoli heads?
A: Too much nitrogen is generally the cause of overgrowth with no fruit set.
Q: Nothing seems to be doing well this year
A: A simple test kit can go a long way towards helping you decide what your garden soil needs or doesn’t. Even though they’re inexpensive, share the cost with a friend or neighbor or two. You generally only need to test once or twice to determine your soil’s Ph and then again after making any needed adjustments, but the kits have enough solution to do it over and over. If your Ph isn’t in the correct range no matter how rich your soil is, the plant roots won’t be able to draw the nutrients from that soil to help them thrive.
As I’ve written all of this I realize that gardening is kind of like beekeeping… ask 10 people how to do something and you’ll get 10 different answers but maybe this will be of some help to you dear readers. I believe that growing and eating locally grown foods, in season, is the single best thing one can do to improve their health, their personal economy, and the environment. Plant something, ok?
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: ceiling fans, Consumerism, energy savings, frugal, fuel savings, lentils, pilot lights, Waste reduction
As the weather has warmed this week, I’ve begun to settle into a new routine built around the daily heat buildup. I’m in the garden most days before 9 AM, and back in the house by 10:30 or so, leaving me most of the day for everything else, before going back to the garden after supper and working in the evening coolness until 8:30. Even that schedule hasn’t allowed me to get everything done that needs to be done, although I know this will pass once everything is planted and mulched. Some days, in spite of best intentions, everything else never happens. It’s busy times like this that I want to take shortcuts on cooking, errands and more. Shortcuts usually cost me in some way, but I’ve managed to keep meals healthy and other commitments minimal in order to stay on track.
Monday- I wanted to file a final state and federal 2013 tax return on behalf of my mom, who passed away in 2013, since she was due a $350 refund. They were far more complicated than AARP volunteers were willing to tackle, so I worked out a ‘deal’ with a local CPA. His normal fee for preparing the returns BEFORE April 15th would’ve been $175. By filing online for an extension and then waiting until May 1st, he only charged me $100. I saved $75 AND will get back the $350! Net Gain: $275. 00!
Tuesday: Because I had put off some errands last week, I had a long list of them this week but actually saved a bit of gas money in doing so. Locally, gas has taken a sharp hike upwards in recent weeks, so every bit helps. Then, when I stopped at the post office to buy a couple books of stamps, I was told I could purchase them in the future directly from my mail man when he makes his daily rounds as long as I have exact change or write a check. (I also bought some odd stamp denominations while there in order to use up some older stamps that weren’t the full 49 cent price) Gas savings by combining errands? About $3 I’d say.
Wednesday- Reversed ceilings fans for summer time and turned off pilot light to the gas stove in the living room. Savings? Cool!
Thursday: Shopped at my local discount store and got several good deals, including four organic tomatoes for $1 and one pound bags of red lentils for 50 cents a bag, and they weren’t even out of date! I love red lentils in curries and other dishes but they’ve gotten so pricey I rarely buy them anymore. But at this price, I bought 10 pounds. Savings: Last time I bought them they were $2.99 a lb, so I figure I saved about $25.00
Friday: Used my fuel bucks to save 30 cents a gallon on my weekly fill up. Savings: $2.16
And once again I conclude this episode of Frugal Friday with: “Size doesn’t matter. Whether food, energy, money, or time, using our resources wisely and frugally can lead to big payoffs in all areas of our lives.” (this message brought to you by Tennessee Transitions) ;)
Filed under: organic gardening, Seasonal Eating, Voluntary Simplicity | Tags: food, frugal, growing food, plants, raised beds, recipe, simplicity, the good life
There’s nothing I love more than spending time with my family and gardening. I’ll be going to Ohio in a couple of weeks to watch my granddaughter graduate from high school, so in the meantime, I’m getting my garden in. This is consuming my days, not leaving me with much time to write, which is why blog posts will be scarce as hen’s teeth for a while. There’s always much to do: weeds to pull, seeds to plant and water, beds to mulch and so on. For me, this time spent on my knees at my weedy altar will pay off all year in the form of lower food bills and many, many meals on my table. Growing food is like printing my own money. And if that’s not reason enough, last evening, right at dusk, I spotted a male and female American Goldfinch sitting on the top of nearby tomato cages and suddenly, all my tiredness and the worries of the world simply slipped away…
This week we’re enjoying bushels of fresh spinach, along with lettuces, broccoli, kale and cilantro. I’ve finally mastered the secret to cilantro: I let it reseed itself so I don’t have to monitor and water and baby it like I did when I was planting it myself. Once you get it established you can treat it like a perennial. Soon we’ll have bok choy, new potatoes and sugar snap peas and strawberries to go with our daily salads, all the while continuing to eat the canned, dried and frozen foods from last year’s harvest. Tonight for supper we’ll enjoy a dish that we love when we have the needed ingredients growing in the garden-I’ve included the recipe below-(I added some leftover Italian turkey meatballs to simmer in the sauce-yum!) and corn on the cob I had in the freezer. That’s it below. The next picture shows how much food can be grown in a very small space-less than the footprint of a compact car in fact. That bed has 40 heads of garlic, 8 heads of cabbage, 10 bunches of cilantro, 6 heads of broccoli, and enough spinach to make me give it away by the bagful. Soon it will all be harvested and will then be filled with peppers and tomatoes and more.
Potatoes with Spinach in Cilantro-Red Chili Sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup water
1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 large tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
8 ounces fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
In a medium saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they turn reddish brown and smell nutty, 5 to 10 seconds.
Immediately add the garlic and chiles. Saute until the garlic is lightly browned and the chiles blacken, about 1 minute.
Sprinkle in the turmeric, the carefully pour in the water. Stir to deglaze the pan, releasing any browned bits of garlic.
Add the potatoes, tomato, cilantro, brown sugar and salt. Stir once or twice, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fall-apart tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
Add the spinach, a couple of handfuls at a time, stirring until wilted, 2 to 4 minutes per batch.
This blog is all about finding new measures of prosperity in our lives. Many folks define prosperity by how much money they make, how big their house is, or how new their car is. I adopted new measures of prosperity when I went through my mid life crisis 15 years ago and began to simplify my life. Now, my personal measure of prosperity is based on how much food I can grow, along with having no debt and owning a car I may never replace. Life is good, very, very good.
Filed under: Contributionism, Creating Community, Reduce Reuse Recycle Repair, Resilience, Transitioning | Tags: beekeeping, bug out bags, city chickens, Earth Day, emergency preparedness, growing food, lean in, repairing stuff, Solar Cooker, sustainable energy sources, the good life, Waste reduction
When we were kids, my group of friends would always say “Lean in!” when we had something earth-shaking we wanted the others to hear. We all knew it was time to ‘listen up’ and ‘pay attention’. So, lean in, I’ve got stuff to share. I’m noticing more and more and MORE that average, every day folks are beginning to transition their lives. In some cases its subtle, in others, major. But, as Bob Dylan sang to us 50 years ago, “the times they are a’changing”.
For example, yesterday I read a blog post from an ordinary suburbanite mom that was encouraging her readers to prepare for emergencies by putting together bug out bags for each family member, complete with a list of suggested items to include. In part it reads: “I am not talking fear or panic. I am promoting intelligent, practical, thoughtful preparation. I don’t know what is around the corner, but I must admit to a growing need to learn all that I can and adjust my outlook to one of greater self-sufficiency and resilience”. I totally agree with her, and have had my own bug out backpack for over 10 years now, but her post reminded me that I should recheck and update it. With the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing over the last few years, and becoming more extreme it seems with each passing season, it’s a suggestion that every person should consider. My friend in Pensacola, FL is unable to get to work due this week due to washed out bridges and roads from Tuesdays’ storms, while many in Mississippi and Alabama are devastated and homeless after getting hit by tornadoes. This ‘before and after’ picture is from his Facebook page…
Are you prepared for such things? Lean in and take heed.
I’ve noticed an uptick in local community gardens and food forests. There’s keen interest in the canning classes I enjoy giving…
…as well as a renewed desire to learn other kitchen skills such as pie and biscuit making and cooking meals from scratch. Classes are full for cheese-making, bread-making, fermenting foods, as well as making yogurt, kombucha and kefir. Workshops on everything from organic gardening and building raised beds to woodworking and soap-making are sold out. The local beekeeping school had 400 people attend this year, by far the largest number ever, and clandestine chicken coops are all over the city now. I went to a well-attended lecture Tuesday night at the local college, called “Brightening the 21st Century” given by ‘The Solar Sister’. Her story of turning an old chicken coop located on the nunnery grounds where she lives, into an environmental learning center was enjoyed by the room full of folks that were there. During April, our local university held a month-long calendar of Earth Day celebrations and events for the first time ever. When I left the lecture hall, I saw this out in the hall and wanted to show you too: the ‘Mixed Paper’ and “Cans&Plastic” bins both had stuff in them, but the container on the far right which was marked “LANDFILL” was empty.
In the two years I’ve lived in my urban neighborhood, the number of red recycling bins I see out on the curb on Monday mornings has quadrupled. (That’s not saying a whole lot, since I had to call the truck drivers almost every week for the first month or two we lived here because I was the only one on the street at the time that was putting it curbside and they would ‘forget’ to stop), but the point is, lean in here, more people are recycling, growing some of their own food, and using renewable energy than I’ve ever noticed. I received an email from a friend just this morning: “I finally ordered my own solar cooker today!” Lean in friends, this is all good news!
People are also learning to reuse and repair again, as well as recycle. The local shoe and bike repair shops have long ‘wait times’ they are so busy. I recently went to a small engine repair shop to pick up new belts for my 23-year-old tiller and was fifth in the line of customers buying their own parts to repair their own stuff. My youngest daughter has recently begun to renew her long-neglected sewing skills, and the Bernina sewing shop that opened downtown a couple of years ago seems to be always quite busy. Lean in: people are indeed transitioning to a future that is based on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being.
I am thrilled to see the changes taking place! Not only are we taking control of our lives again, according to recent articles I’ve read, we’re also saving more for retirement and carrying far less debt than we were when the ‘economic depression’ began in 2008. That downturn has brought about some rather nice changes in my own life: in response to lower incomes and higher prices, my circle of friends has been getting together for potlucks and cookouts and birthday celebrations more often these days, ending these festive times with board games or music jams. Fuhgeddaboud cover charges or drinks by the glass. We brew our own beer or wine or herbal sun tea and enjoy the comfort of being in our own homes, saving clubs and restaurant outings for rare special occasions. Now there’s even talk of forming an intentional community, right here in our urban area! There’s hope and light everywhere, you just gotta lean in to find it.
Filed under: Community Gardens, Earth Day, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, Reducing Waste | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, growing food, outdoors, root crops, Solar Cooker, the good life, Waste reduction
As the weather warms, I’m enjoying being in the garden and eating fresher home-grown foods, while still using up the bounty from last year’s garden. We ate beets, carrots, parsnips, green onions, lettuce and spinach this week, and because Michael’s chemo treatments don’t allow him to eat raw foods, I tried a new recipe for Creamed Spinach. It was really, really good. With a lot of sunshine, we cooked outside this week, on the grill and in the solar cooker, and even went to a picnic last night, so I know summer’s on its way. As you know, frugality isn’t just about saving money. It’s equally about saving time, resources, and energy (both personal and grid type). This week was a strange conglomeration of all of those things, with less about money than usual.
Monday: Got my old washing machine repaired, and it only cost $120, and that included two visits to my home-one to diagnose the problem, and the second visit to replace the part that had to be ordered. It’s running great, and I’m happy that it wasn’t the kind of repair bill that made me question whether I should fix it or buy new. Savings over new: Geez, who knows? The point is really about taking care of, and using up, what we already own, rather than buying new.
Tuesday: Every freaking day is Earth Day as far as I’m concerned. We cannot ‘save the earth’ only recognizing it one day a year and after 40+ years of ‘celebrating’ the day, I see more environmental destruction and degradation than ever. That said, I still feel a ‘thrill’ when it’s mentioned, or when I know deep down inside that I’m living it every day, in every way, that I possibly can. In light of that, Earth Day is always the time of year that I’m trying to get my garden plot ready for planting and heavy summer production. Living in a downtown urban area doesn’t lend itself well to finding animal manure for composting and fertilization, unless you count the piles of dog shit in the park. But a fellow gardening friend took pity on my whining about the lack of poo, and we were both able to drive our trucks on a beautiful spring morning out into the country, to a local alpaca farm, where the animals’ owner filled both trucks with huge loads of FREE composted manure with her little mini front loader! Not only did I get to personally meet the gang responsible for this wonderful windfall…
…when I got back to the community garden, I got help unloading it from several friends that happened to be in the
wrong right place at the wrong right time! Priceless!
Wednesday: Expecting company for dinner, I decided that my stove top could use a good scrubbing and cleaning. I like to line my burner pans with foil to catch drips, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to scrub them. It was time to change the foil. See how clean it looks now? This was a 15 minute job (I should’ve taken a before picture for comparison but forgot to) Savings? Hours of scrubbing!
Thursday: Remember my telling you about how Michael and I enjoy volunteering with our local university’s arts department? Not only is it a great way to support the arts, we earn free tickets for our time too. But all of the volunteers were invited to a wonderful end of year ‘thank you’ picnic last night, complete with an old-time band and contra dance after the meal! The catered meal was fabulous, we got to meet and eat with old friends, and then dance off the calories afterwards. Savings? Priceless!
Friday: Continuing the cleanup of my oven required me to use a Brillo-type steel wool pad on some spots. I always cut the new pads in two, which sharpens my scissors and results in fewer pads being thrown away due to rust. 1/2 a pad almost always does the job. Savings? Well, it’s like getting a free box cutting them in half like that, AND it cuts down on the waste they make since they rust badly if you try to ‘save’ them after a use. Just sayin’…
As you see, there were no big dollar savings this week to speak of, but again, all the little things do add up to big savings in all the areas of our lives. Whether it’s cutting brillo pads in two or dancing and picnicking with friends, I consider it an art to live my life in an abundant and meaningful way as I transition to a lifestyle that is based on lower energy, less money, climate changes and an economy that will NEVER return to “the way it used to be”. I hope my blog inspires you to find your own ways to become more creatively resilient, and to use your own local resources to their fullest. Have a beautiful weekend!
Filed under: Biking, Climate Change, Green Triangle, Mindful Consumerism, Plant based diet, Reducing Waste | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, vegetarian, Waste reduction
I recently touched on a concept called “The Green Triangle” that was put forth by author, editor, and simple living adherent, Ernest Callenbach. Seems he was able many years ago to put into words a principle that I’ve often used to guide me in my daily choices and decisions concerning my money, my health or the environment. The principle that relates these three points is: Anytime you do something beneficial for one of them, you will almost inevitably also do something beneficial for the other two – whether you’re hoping to or not.
I’ve also written several times about ‘win-win’ situations. Here, here and here for example. The Green Triangle is a ‘win-win-win’ situation in my eyes and as someone who cares deeply about those three things, I find it a helpful tool. I’ve used it so often over the years that I rarely ask myself anymore, “Self? What does the Green Triangle indicate in this situation?” But, it wasn’t- and isn’t- always that easy, so I thought perhaps it might be helpful to you if I could tell you of a few instances when it’s been a guiding light for me.
I long fretted over “Which is best? Local? Organic? Grass Fed?” Where my food is concerned, my health was my first consideration. So with staying healthy as my primary motivator, I felt comfortable with answering those questions by adopting a plant-based diet. Period. As it turns out, by not buying meats, I’m improving my arteries, while saving money (beans, grains, nuts, eggs and greens are far cheaper sources of protein than meat) AND protecting the environment from the harm that Big AG conventional meat producers are causing. Green Triangle =ding!ding!ding!
Whenever I walk or ride my bike, I’m putting the Green Triangle into effect. I’m saving gas money and wear on my car, I’m improving my clogged arteries, and not contributing to the CO2 emissions that driving causes. ding!ding!ding!
Occasionally though, it’s not so clear-cut or even when it is, it’s not so easy to adhere to my own principles. When Michael and I were dating many years ago we had an old, heavy cooler that I couldn’t give away, try as I might. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, we simply wanted to buy a lighter one, with wheels and drink holders and little dividers inside that kept your hummus from touching your lettuce or whatever. I distinctly remember standing in the backyard and Michael saying to me that he felt we are responsible for the things we purchase until the end of that things’ life cycle. That simple statement stayed with me, and the longer I live with it, the more I see how true it is. We didn’t buy the new cooler then, nor have we ever bought another one, because the karma of keeping the damn old thing boomeranged, as karma does, you know. Years later, a friend was moving and offered us his ‘old’ cooler-and it was just what we’d wanted! We still have the ‘old old’ one, which I use for protecting tender young plants on cold spring nights ;), as an extra camp seat, and as storage for camping gear during the off-season. We never did have to spend the $30 dollars a new one would’ve cost us, the landfill is STILL minus one steel cooler, and I rest easy knowing I made a good decision. ding!ding!ding!
Before I close, I want you also to understand that making good choices, whether using the Green Triangle or by following the advice found in my fortune cookie, is still really hard. I don’t always make the best food choices or purchasing decisions (did I ever tell you about my weakness for chocolate chip mint ice cream or my Imelda Marcos style shoe collection??), and some days I don’t gave a rat’s a## about the polar bears (ok, that’s not quite true) but being ever-mindful about my consumption of every thing that comes through my life has saved me lots of cash, helps me stay healthy and hopefully, has saved a polar bear somewhere as well. Maybe this Green Triangle thing can help you make better choices too. ding!ding!ding!
Filed under: Alternative Gifting, Buy Local, Earth Day, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism | Tags: Bread, Consumerism, Creating community, Earth Day, Farmer's Market, food, frugal, frugality, Grow Appalachia, Lavender Tea Bread, water conservation, wood fired oven
I’ve stayed at home most of this week, either in the garden or finishing up some easy ‘indoor’ projects that were on my winter ‘to-do’ list. Un huh, I KNOW winter is over but such is life. I save the most time, energy and money when I stay home, because I don’t spend money here, so there’s not a lot of dollar savings this week, but one special one I want to share with you.
Monday: In my position as the Carver Peace Gardens coordinator, it falls to me to make sure the tools and equipment we offer the community gardeners are kept in working order. Enter: ‘Big Red’ the 20+ year old Troybilt tiller that’s still got plenty of life left in her if people would just treat her kindly. Anyway, seems a gardener pulled Big Red out of the toolshed and ‘she was broken’. As in, one of the handlebars made of 1″ steel tubing was sheared in two. We are a nonprofit of course, and our bank account reflects that. (There’s really no bank account, it’s all kept in an envelope in my desk drawer ;) because the bank wanted a $3 a month service charge for balances under $1000.) Which is every month. But I digress..I figured a weld would fix it so I called the nearby high school and spoke with the weld-shop instructor there, who said if we’d bring Big Red to their on- campus shop, the students would fix her pronto. I did, the instructor was the only one on hand when I arrived, so he welded it expertly for free for me in about 5 minutes. I don’t know what this would’ve cost to have it welded at a local shop but the instructor’s good nature and encouragement to bring all my future welding projects to the school was: Priceless
See that large black spot of welding on that handlebar, down near the engine? Fine job!
Tuesday: Last week Michael and I met friends at a local bakery for breakfast. Smoky Mountain Bakers in Roan Mountain has great breakfast sandwiches, along with fresh breads and pizzas that are baked in their wood fired oven. We paid $1 a piece for bagels to bring home and it inspired Michael to try his hand at making them. Though not as beautiful as the bakery’s -YET- the cinammon/raisin wonders were really delicious and we figured they only cost about 10 cents a piece to make. He made six on his first attempt, saving us $6.00 since there was also tax on those bakery bagels. Let me say this about those bakery bagels before I move on: The hard working couple that own that Roan Mountain bakery (and all other entrepreneurs like them) deserve our business and support but that’s simply not possible since their bakery is a 35 minute drive from my home. To my knowledge, there are no locally owned bagel shops near me, and until there is, we’ll continue to make our own baked goods. The Farmer’s Market is opening next weekend, with several vendors selling fresh baked bread there that we’ll try to support during the summer months when we don’t like to heat up the kitchen with oven baking anyway. But, that’s next week. Just sayin’…
Wednesday: This time of year finds us watering trays of seedlings twice a day, using almost 1/2 gallon each time. We’ve started pouring the water collected in our dehumidifier into the watering can and using that de-gassed water for this chore. Savings: 7 gallons a week x 4 weeks= 28 gallons, enough to wash my car and a sink full of fresh spinach! I’m noticing more documentaries, webinars, books and blogs devoted to our growing water crisis, and I heard a speaker at the local college last night say our next wars will be over water, not oil. If not already, we all might as well get accustomed to being as frugal with our water as with everything else in our lives. Do your part, don’t waste a single drop!
Thursday: About that speaker: our local college brought him here from Berea College in KY as part of their month-long Earth Day celebration. His name is David Cooke, and he is the director of Grow Appalachia, a nonprofit that is planting seeds for a sustainable future here in the Southern Appalachians. His foundation is doing good work and he’s trying to expand their reach into my area of TN, which is why he was here. There was no charge for the presentation, there were great snacks, and I got a free Earth Day tee shirt, all while listening to an engaging speaker talk about some of the very things this blog ponders! Again, if you live in or near a college town, take advantage of all they offer beyond the paid classes! My new teeshirt —————————————–>
Friday: OK, I’m stretching here, including this on Frugal Friday, but it’s definitely consistent with what this blog is all about, and that is eating locally, using resources wisely, and building community. New neighbors have been moving in this week and I decided to take them a spring time loaf of Lavender Tea Bread as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ gift. I’ll be dropping it off to them this afternoon when I walk by their house to go to the drugstore. As a special bonus, I’m going to give you the recipe for this bread because it is frugal and fabulous. It used my home-ground locally raised wheat, eggs from my friend Sandy’s eggs, lavender from my own plants and sugar, lots of sugar ;)
Lavender Tea Bread
3//4 cup milk (I used soy)
2 TB dried lavender flowers, finely chopped or 3 T fresh flowers
2 C all purpose flour (I used half AP and half wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 TB butter, softened
1 C Sugar
2 large eggs
Filed under: Eliminating Hunger | Tags: beans, Bread, frugal, growing food, leftovers, One Acre Cafe, plants, The Hungry Time, Waste reduction
If you or someone you know eats, you’re part of this conversation. Native Americans referred to this very time in our annual trip around the sun as ‘The Hungry Time’; that period between the last of the stored fall provisions and the beginnings of the new spring bounty. For all of wildlife this is that time. It is believed that many of the early Pilgrims, already sick and weak, finally starved during the Hungry Time in this strange, new land. Many beekeepers will often successfully see their hives make it through a long cold winter, only to have them succumb to starvation now since there is very little available for them to eat, and all of their stored honey from last fall has been eaten.
Gardening, canning and storing food in my pantry or root cellar increases the personal food security of my family and makes it easier for us to eat well year ’round. But for someone that tries to eat seasonally as often as I can, this can be a time of ho-hum meals made from the last of the butternuts and spaghetti squash that we enjoyed so much from November to March, the last of the beets, sweet potatoes and parsnips and the over-wintered kale and spinach that we fought to keep alive in the garden rows throughout the deep freezes! Looked at from the perspective of a hungry bird or a starving Pilgrim though, I am rich indeed. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not hungry either. I’m thankful for that, as I know you are too.
But what about those that are hungry, and getting hungrier? Their growling bellies are loud, but their need is silent. The price of food and gasoline is creeping upwards while many of them are still struggling to pay those February and March heating bills that are overdue. Undeveloped areas for wild animals are being displaced by mega-malls and soccer fields, while farmers are spraying their fields to kill every living thing in them so they can plant their GMO crops of corn, soybeans and cotton yet again this summer. Is there any help or hope for the hungry ones? I know this problem up close and personal and have come up with a few ideas that might help all of us survive and thrive during ‘The Hungry Time’ and beyond.
1. Start at home: Vow to STOP, not just reduce, your food waste. It’s simple really: plan your menus before you shop (and then eat or share your leftovers). This one practice saves me more time, money and waste than any other single thing I do in my life.
2. Plant some milk weed, bee balm and sunflowers for the butterflies, birds and bees this summer. Your pretty petunias in a pot on the porch and the stale bread you throw out on the lawn don’t offer any nutrition for them. While you’re at it, put in a birdbath and feeder.
3. Plant a backyard (or a front yard!) garden, and in there, ‘Plant a Row for the Hungry‘.
4. Volunteer at One Acre Cafe, a local not-for-profit restaurant that is making big strides in our community to see that ‘everybody eats’. If you don’t live in NE TN, find a similar place where you live. A soup kitchen, a community garden, or food pantry would all welcome your help and help someone that’s hungry sleep better.
5. Consider a fast fast. That’s not a typo. This is simply done by eliminating one meal a week from our diets and instead, giving the food or money we would’ve spent on that meal to someone that’s hungry. And please know that even though Second Harvest and other pantries will lovingly accept your food donations, they have the purchasing power to feed 4.3 meals for EVERY DOLLAR YOU DONATE.
6. Give food as gifts. I suspect many people could use the food but are ashamed to make that known. In place of yet another can of car wax or tee shirt, consider restaurant or grocery store gift certificates. Cookbooks, kitchenware, cooking, canning or gardening lessons, bags of worm castings or organic compost, potted herbs or seeds would all make thoughtful gifts that can help with hunger. Such gifts also cut down on consumer waste and unwanted clutter.
Growing, planting, donating and fasting are all effective ways to reduce hunger, but of course they won’t eliminate the problem. What would? If I was Queen of the World, I’d start my reign by teaching every child how to grow some food and then cook what they grew. From scrambling an egg to cooking dried beans to grilling some veggies, if they know how to grow and cook it, it would open doors for them all their lives. Many people have never been taught, nor had the opportunity, to learn how. The unknown is scary. Those of us that are lucky enough to have these skills take it for granted that anyone can cook. Not. Make it less scary by teaching someone to do this. And did you know that folks that receive SNAP benefits can purchase food plants and seeds with SNAP? I don’t believe it’s so much a factor that they WON’T buy those things with their benefits, I believe most of them DON’T know what to do with a cabbage or tomato plant or seed once they get them home. And before I get dethroned? I’d require every school yard and park in the country to have community gardens. If they became as plentiful as grocery stores, it would become second nature. The last thing I’d do before they pried my tiara off? I’d outlaw GMO’s and Bayer’s famous neonic pesticides, making what foods we do have safer for all of life on this planet. But then again, that’s probably why I’m not the Queen. But at least my subjects wouldn’t be hungry!
Filed under: Canning, Food Waste, Frugality, Green Triangle, Mindful Consumerism, Reducing Waste
Ahhh, another day, another
dollar fifty cents-and my two cents worth. I hope you’ll share with me in the comments section at the end of this post how you’ve managed to save your precious time, money or energy recently. And speaking of saving time, this’ll be relatively short because I’ve got a busy afternoon and evening planned-playing music with a friend and then going downtown for the monthly First Friday celebration-both frugal and fun choices!
Monday: We had our annual income tax returns prepared for free by AARP volunteers. This is the 5th year for doing so, and they’re always pleasant, well-trained and helpful. Savings: I just called a well-known national tax service to see what the basic charge is for a simple joint return and was quoted roughly $125-$250! So, I saved a lot going with AARP. You must be over 55 to qualify for this service. Um, let’s just say I qualify.
Tuesday: I’ve mentioned this several times before, but since it’s such an easy savings and I can make it basically from what would otherwise be food waste, I keep making fresh vegetable stock when I run out. This week I canned 7 quarts plus an extra 2 quarts for the freezer. Cost of a good quart of store-bought broth is $1.89. Savings: $17.10 plus tax and all those metal cans or tetrapaks!
Wednesday: Because it was such a beautiful spring day, and because I knew I’d be hard pressed to get supper on the table with all I had to do that day, I decided to make a ‘Solar Stew’ of pinto beans, tomatoes and butternut squash. I put all the ingredients in the cooker about 9:30 AM, and when we were ready to eat at 6 PM it was perfectly done! Savings? Well, we’re often tempted to eat out at the end of a busy day when neither of us wants to cook so there’s that. And of course, the peace of mind that comes from knowing that I didn’t have to leave my crockpot plugged in all day while I was away is priceless.
Thursday: I try really hard not to take advantage of this freebie because I don’t want to abuse it and lose the privilege for everyone: at my local library, no late fees are due if you are 60 or older. (Yet another reason to enjoy being a senior) I had borrowed a book a few weeks ago that I needed as a reference for a presentation I was giving and was late returning it. Fines forgiven: $1.60!
Friday: We don’t make many new purchases but when we do, we always do our homework first and that’s how we managed to save big bucks at the register when we bought our new gas grill today. A completely unadvertised fact is that Lowe’s gives a 10% discount if you present your Veteran’s ID card at checkout. Tonight: Grilled Portobello sandwiches on Onion Faccocias, with the mushrooms bought from Kroger on Tuesday with a 5% senior discount, and the buns bought from the day-old bread store at 75% off regular price. We’d been using charcoal for the last two summers, but I like the additional security that a gas grill offers me in case of an extended power outage. But listen up: new gas grills don’t come with a propane tank. That’s an extra $49.95, which you lose when you exchange it for your next filled tank anyway. So, I drove over to my local recycling center where I picked up what looked to be an almost new (empty) one for free. We took that with us when we went to buy the grill and exchanged it for a filled tank for $19.95. Savings: With the veteran’s discount, we saved a cool $25 on our total purchases, plus I saved $30 on a the tank. A total of $55 saved just by practicing a bit of mindful consumerism!
This girl loves saving money, but I also love reusing, repurposing, reducing and recycling resources. I find it more than coincidence that these activities often seem to be interrelated. I also find it pretty cool that choosing what’s best in terms of money or the environment often turns out to be best for my health as well. That concept is called ‘The Green Triangle’ and is a useful tool when you’re trying to live lightly. We’ll talk more about it next week, ok?
Filed under: Community Building, Contributionism, Creating Community, Herbs, Resilience | Tags: biking, Compost, growing food, Midwife
I write about resilience in this blog fairly often. I read or hear about extraordinary resilience among other people seeking their freedom through their own actions and get inspired. And as I seek resilience in my own life, I often feel as though I’m thriving, in an abundant and meaningful way. My household waste is minimal, and the inputs into my life seem to equal the outputs-some days. But I realize that every time I turn the key in my eco-friendly car, that so-called balance is destroyed. Every time I flip the switch on a compact fluorescent bulb I’m reliant on the electric company. Every time I eat fair trade, organic store-bought food, I’m reliant on a producer, and a truck and some oil somewhere along that long line. Every time I turn on the low-flow shower, I’m reliant on my water company, and rain, and God, and dams and waste water treatment plants. So how resilient am I, really? By myself, not very I’m afraid. Resilient communities are another matter altogether. They are the future. Communities that can supply food, water, energy and needed services are literally a detox for Western countries and are even being embraced in rural India as a way to help individual villages improve nutrition and food supplies, stop migration into large, crowded cities and improve quality of life.
<———–Rooftop solar panels in Saudi Arabia!
Chard and Sweet Potatoes growing in downtown Charleston, SC
This NOT an impossible dream folks. I see evidence of transitioning taking place every week it seems, in one form or another. Author James Kunstler writes: “Much of America east of the Mississippi is full of towns that are waiting to be reused, with much of their original equipment intact. The lucky suburbanites will be the ones with the forethought to trade in their suburban McHouses for property in towns and small cities, and prepare for a vocational life doing something useful and practical on the small-scale, whether it’s publishing a newsletter, being a paramedic, or fixing bicycles.”
So, I traded in my suburban life for a country cabin and now for an urban lifestyle in this medium sized town I live in and love. “Prepare for something useful and practical on a small-scale?” I want to be the ‘Herb Lady’ in my neighborhood. You know, the person you’d go to if you had a headache, a toothache or an upset tummy and couldn’t get to, or afford to go to, a doctor. The sort of eclectic old sage you’d seek out for advice about how to treat a burn, a sore throat or iron-poor blood. I enjoy very much growing things, and have been learning about the many practical uses of apothecary herbs. We’re all familiar with the culinary herbs, but medicinal herbs, now that’s a whole other world! I’m going to start experimenting on myself, beginning with using rosemary to improve memory. As soon as I remember where I put it ;)
So, tell me, what are you doing to become more resilient in your personal life, or in your community? Are you working in community gardens, or planning biking trails? Is serving as a midwife or backyard mechanic your thing? Is your town talking about a future based on local and small scale, rather than always bigger? I hope to have some super exciting news about resilience in my community to share with you very soon. In the meantime, please leave your own ideas and comments below. Inspire us all-please.
Filed under: Buy Local, Community Building, Growing Food, Liveable Communities, Local Food, organic gardening, Resilience, Sustainability, Urban Living | Tags: Downtown Farming, growing food, hydroponics, the good life, urban revitalization, walkability
Most of my readers know that I live downtown and am excited to be a part of the urban revitalization that is taking place in my community. For two years, the very premise of this blog has been about finding ways and means that will enable us to transition, gracefully if you will, to a lifestyle that is more sustainable, resilient and fulfilling than the one that we find ourselves in today. It’s about re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. For me, the good life involved moving from our acreage in the country to an urban area with high walkability, a nearby community garden, and where I can work alongside my neighbors to help ‘be the change I want to see’. What I discovered this afternoon is all that.
Housed in an old brick bakery just behind the Farmer’s Market, on the corner of Buffalo and Cherry St is ‘DOWNTOWN FARMING’, a great new store for organic and hydroponic gardeners. I know this isn’t a great picture, but wait ’til you step inside! It was raining like crazy outside but the worn wooden floors and brick walls were as warm and welcoming as Kyle’s smile was. The store been closed for 2 hours when we arrived, but the shopkeeper, Kyle, opened the door and invited us in like we were old friends when he saw us peeking in the windows. He told us about all the products that were for sale; many familiar, some new and strange, but he also shared with us the owners’ mission: to be an integral part of this urban community while advocating the growing of sustainable, local, organic food. There were bags of organic worm castings, soil mixes, and fertilizers, along with the fans, lights and other components to put together your own hydroponics system. In fact, we took pictures to show you what they had growing there, at the tail end of the most vicious winter we’ve seen in recent history:
We bought a package of sage seeds from Seeds of Change but they also had a full rack of heirloom seeds from Sow True Seed Company, from nearby Asheville, NC. I could see this store becoming a wonderful replacement for the recently-moved Mize Farm and Garden store, minus the poisons. They had growing pots and trays for sale, but could use some tools and a few more familiar gardening needs to fill that niche easily. I hope you’ll pay them a visit, support their early efforts and let them know what you’d like to see them stock. I think they’re ‘all ears’ and might be willing to fill the empty spot in our hearts and gardens that Mize once occupied. ‘Downtown Farming’ indeed! Those two little words embody the very essence of this blog.
Store hours: Monday-Friday 10 AM to 6 PM
Saturday 8 AM to 2 PM
Closed Sunday and Monday
Honey bees, honey bees, hear what I say!
Your Master, poor soul, has passed away.
His sorrowful wife begs of you to stay,
Gathering honey for many a day.
Bees in the garden, hear what I say!
Northern Europeans brought to Appalachia a custom that when a beekeeper died, the survivors must go tell the bees of their master’s death, persuading them to stay rather than take wing and follow the master to heaven. When we moved in 2012 from our country home to the urban home that we live in now, the new buyers wanted me to leave my bees with them. Luckily, since I wasn’t dead but simply leaving, I felt I should be the one to tell them so. One of my very first lessons as a new beekeeper had been given to me by a man who had been keeping bees for over 40 years. I was so afraid of being stung, I would actually hyperventilate when it came time to get in the hives. He told me to take off my gloves and to rub my bare hands all over the wooden hive parts so that my bees would become acquainted with my smell and would not attack me as if a stranger. I did as I was instructed, knowing that a honeybee’s sense of smell is their strongest natural sense. And from that magic moment forward, those little girls only stung me if I accidentally crushed one. (Well, there was that time that I made the fatal mistake of returning the honey supers to the hives at the end of a long honey harvest day after dark…) Anyway, it only made sense when I left them in the care of their new owners that I should say ‘goodbye’. I cried that day, but the young couple that had bought the place were eager and happy to become their new caretakers, so I knew they would be ok in the end. I even gave them a copy of ‘Natural Beekeeping’ as a house-warming gift.
I’m very thankful that this area of NE TN has a large, active beekeeper’s club. This coming weekend they’ll be holding their annual ‘Bee School’. Rather than me write out all the details about it, I’m just going to link you to them here. I’ll be giving a class at the school on Friday night about ‘Natural Beekeeping’. I
killed kept bees unsuccessfully for the first five years I had them before finally accepting that what I was doing simply wasn’t working very well . It was then that I began to follow my own instincts about what might be best for the bees, and that lead me to a wonderful book called, appropriately enough, “Natural Beekeeping”. I borrowed it three times that winter from the library, and finally realized I had to own it for myself. It revolutionized my thinking about what was really best for the bees and I began to follow the advice the author had given. The following three years I stopped using harsh chemicals and began learning and using other methods of keeping them healthy. It involved a completely wholistic approach, akin to having a successful organic garden by starting with building healthy soil. Guess what? The bees not only survived, they were thriving, and that last summer before moving, I not only had the best honey harvest I’d ever had, I was able to split hives because their colonies had grown so large!
We’ve all heard about Colony Collapse Disorder, and the serious issues honeybees face. I’d like to simply say this: if you can’t keep bees yourself, please plant native flowers and trees that bloom at different times to provide local bees with the pollen and nectar they need to survive, avoid using toxic chemicals in your garden and yard, and continue to fight against GMO plants. And please, go tell the bees how much we love and need them!
Filed under: Energy Savings, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, organic gardening, Time Savers | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, homemae bread
I’ve had lots of opportunities to save money lately. Some by sheer luck, some because of diligence on my part. I’ve learned that normally though, the best way to ‘save money’ is to not spend it to begin with, and that’s always my first line of thinking. I’ve also found it to be true that if I will wait a day or two before buying something, I often realize I didn’t need it after all. Or, if I wait LONG ENOUGH, often the very thing I need comes my way anyway. From a swatch of turquoise fabric to repair a pillow sham to an electric heater that I needed in my cellar to keep pipes from freezing, planning ahead and being patient always pays off. Of course, sometimes opportunity knocks in the most unexpected ways and places and I have to ‘listen’ to hear that knock when it occurs.
Monday: Got my teeth cleaned at the local dental hygienist school. My dental insurance only pays for two cleanings a year. Because I have a tendency towards gum problems, I’ve found that if I have mine cleaned 3-4x a year, that really keeps the problems minimized. The dental clinic at the school will clean them twice a year, and for seniors, it’s free. They’ll also take x rays for free, then make copies for me to take to my regular dentist for $20. To top off that sweet deal, they always send me home with a ‘goodie bag’ that has a new toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste and a box of floss in it. Sometimes there are samples of mouthwash, specialty brushes or coupons for toothpaste too in the bag as well. Because I’ve been getting my teeth cleaned so regularly for years now, (even though I begrudge having to go) I haven’t had to have any other work done at all. Prevention is the best medicine, that’s for sure. If you live near a university, check out the services they offer. I’m able to ride my bike to the college, and my dentist is so close I don’t bother, I just walk there. Savings: Good Dental Health?=Priceless!
Tuesday: Speaking of the local university: Michael and I volunteer for the School of the Arts in order to earn free tickets to the event of our choice each spring and fall. We like to deliver the posters for those events because many of them are close enough by that they can be delivered while on our daily walks to the nearby businesses. Sometimes we’ll usher too, allowing us to see a show that way. Many of these events are followed by a free buffet of fruits, veggies and hors d’ oeuvres (did I spell that right?) that we’re invited to enjoy. Savings: Most tickets to these events are $15-$20 each. Date Night of Music/Film/Presentations and food=Priceless!
Wednesday: I’m cooking multiple things together more and more often, to save time and energy. This week I again filled my clay cooker with recently-harvested carrots, parsnips and brussels sprouts, along with some leftover cubed chicken, and tossed it all with about a quarter cup of needs-to-be-used Italian dressing and some fresh sprigs of rosemary. Cooking the dish at the same time Michael’s home-made bread baked saved an hour of electrical usage, and provided us with two delicious meals!
Thursday: My favorite nearby farm and garden store held a ‘moving sale’ recently, and just like with ‘moving’ yard sales, things were marked down to rock-bottom prices. We snagged bags of organic soil amendments for 75% off!. Savings: Home-grown organic food-You guessed it-Priceless!
Friday: My nearby IGA grocery store closed last Friday, but I’ll use this example for today. I went in on the last day they were open, searching for a bargain, on foot. I ended up calling Michael to come pick me up and to bring some of my cloth tote bags because I got many many bags of food at 75% off! I spent $35 so that same stuff would’ve cost about $140. Savings: $105! I’m not happy about this though-I’d lots rather have this small hometown grocery open and within a 6 minute walk of my back door. The closing of this store leaves me and everyone living within a 4 mile radius living in a food desert now, forcing US to drive to the nearest store, or to catch a bus. I could go on and on about the issues this raises, but this post is not about that so I won’t go there-for now.
“Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”
Filed under: Community Gardens, fall gardening, Growing Food, Healthy food, organic gardening, Resilience, Seasonal Eating, Sustainability | Tags: Compost, growing food, Hoop House, root crops, seed sprouting, tilling
Last Saturday our temperatures here in NE TN were a perfect promise of spring, so I got to my plot in the community garden and spent a very pleasant hour or so turning under the green manure crop of Crimson Clover while adding some organic amendments to the soil. The next day’s rain was the perfect finish. Now it will have a couple of weeks to break down before I plant ‘spring things’ there. It’s a rare fall that I get the planting of my winter cover crop timed perfectly so that it will fill in, without going to seed, before the cold weather fully hits, but I managed to last fall. Remember this?
The now-brown quilt of clover served as a natural cover through the winter, and will now finish its’ part in the garden’s life by adding nitrogen-rich organic matter to my slowly improving soil. I added blood meal, rock phosphate powder and homemade compost to the bed and then tilled it all under. I plan to try a no-till method in some of my beds this year, in hopes that the earthworms will drag the compost and other amendments down deep to the plants root area where it’s needed most. I vowed when I started these beds from scratch last spring that as soon as the clay was broken down I’d stop tilling. I hope that time has come, for using a tiller is not sustainable and my goal is to garden productively without using fossil fuels or the pesticides and fertilizers that are made from them. I’m still not there, this picture proves it, but I do hope to be some day soon.
In the meantime, I’m babying my starts of onions, kale, chard, cilantro and parsley that are growing on a make shift book case-turned-plant-rack.
They’ll get transplanted to 4″ pots, slowly hardened off, and tucked into the prepare beds by the end of the month, along with potatoes, peas, beets, carrots, cabbage and broccoli-all ‘cool season crops’ too. After many satisfying meals this winter using our stored, canned and frozen fruits and veggies it will be wonderful to once again have fresh foods to add to the table. While I wait for the lettuce, peas and strawberries, I’ve started sprouting seeds in the kitchen to give us ‘something fresh’ right now. Sprouting is easy-peazy- something even I can’t mess up!
The winter was really tough on the fall-planted kale, chard and lettuces. The ‘polar vortex’ ripped the plastic off both hoop houses the night it blew in and all that survived was the spinach. This picture was taken on December 17th, when those things were holding some promise for spring:
All that’s left of that promising bed are the spinach plants, (lower left) which are still too small to harvest. Hopefully, not for long.
In writing this post, I realize how many times I’ve used the word ‘hope’. My garden is always full of hope, if nothing else. I hope the seeds will sprout, I hope for a bountiful harvest, I hope the food we grow will nourish us and I hope that by showing you, my reader, how much can be grown with so little time, space and energy that it will inspire you to try your hand at growing something this spring too. All indications are that we will definitely see rising food prices as the year goes on. We already are actually. Hoping that won’t happen isn’t enough for me though. In a world where I often don’t feel I have much control over much of anything, growing my food empowers me like nothing else does! Right along with filling my pantry and my belly, gardening fills me with peace of mind and the knowledge that regardless of what happens in the world, I’ll always have the knowledge and skills to provide for myself and others. Hope really does spring eternal in the garden!
Filed under: Climate Change, Growing Food, mulch, Reducing Waste | Tags: drought, growing food, nuclear reactors, oil pipelines, rain barrels, Waste reduction, water savings
It’s been said our next wars won’t be over oil, but water. When I lived in California a dozen years ago, everyone living in the suburbs had sprinkler systems, set on timers, that would come on and go off at predetermined times and days. Most houses didn’t have individual water meters, and were only billed a set fee each month. This of course led to serious water wastefulness and more than once I witnessed sprinklers running while it was raining. I also witnessed sprinklers that had gotten knocked awry and were simply filling the gutters. I saw first-hand the giant irrigation sprinklers on wheels that covered entire fields, the canals that had been built EVERYWHERE to channel snow melt water down to the valley from the Sierra Nevada mountains, and yet more growing fields that were customarily flooded to give the food grown there the moisture it needed to survive. I even remember seeing road side signs in some areas asking voters to ‘say yes’ to allow water to be channeled from the Colorado River to the Central Valley. It’s a freaking desert there folks, yet it’s considered “our nation’s breadbasket”!
Meanwhile, record-breaking droughts are occurring on the West Coast of North America, as life-changing flooding is occurring in England-both events that have long been warned would occur due to our changing climate. And we here in the modern world keep right on shitting in our clean water supplies and using tremendous amounts of water to extract shale oil from rock for crying out loud! I know I’m not alone in my concerns about the ability to grow enough food to feed ourselves in a water-challenged world, not to mention the health challenges and risks that such a scenario will pose. It’s no longer a matter of IF this comes to pass, but WHEN. Looks like it’ll be 2014.
So, what can we do, as individuals and as communities? I say WE because if you are alive, you’re part of this conversation. There are many small things we can do in our homes and daily lives to reduce our water needs, and even though I suspect I’m preaching to the choir repeating them here, just consider them ‘gentle reminders’. I disagree that individual efforts to use fewer resources of any kind are for naught so I’m always looking for creative new ways to conserve them. And with water savings, I often get to see the tangible results, whereas with other resources it’s not so immediately apparent.
1. Shower Less-because Michael has had surgical wounds and vacuum systems and chemo pumps attached to his body since last June, out of necessity he’s had to shower less often. NO ONE has refused to hug him yet, so it’s a water intensive ‘habit’ we Americans need to seriously reconsider. As per their custom, his English family only bathed him once a week as a child. gasp! yet he STILL managed to survive!
2. Flush Less- “When it’s yellow let it mellow, when it’s brown flush it down”. Better yet, install a composting toilet. Here’s a download for a FREE book to help you in that direction: http://humanurehandbook.com/contents.html
3. If you MUST water the lawn, convert it to food growing areas first. Then MULCH those areas to prevent evaporation and run off. Most municipalities will deliver a load of shredded leaves in the fall for just that purpose. Mine does anyway.
4. Harvest rainwater-in barrels, buckets, ponds or whatever you can manage and use it to water your garden, house plants, etc.
5. Use low-flow shower heads and flow restrictors on all your faucets. They’re easy to install and will pay for themselves quickly.
6. Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when full. If you need more dishes or clothes to last until they’re full, figure out a way to get enough extra to make that happen-yard sales often have dishes, glassware and clothing to make that an inexpensive and earth friendly option.
7. Use a phosphate-free laundry detergent, then reroute the drainage from your washing machine to a home orchard or garden or permaculture swales. I used to do this when I lived in Florida, and had THE BEST oranges and grapefruits with no other irrigation used. This concept is called “Gray Water” and there are lots of books and websites that explain it in detail.
8. Wash your own car at home, with a spray nozzle on the hose. Save money, save water, get exercise and free Vitamin D while you’re at it!
9. Water your garden or landscape plants in early morning, and at soil level rather than from above. If watered during the heat of the day, much of the water can be lost to evaporation.
10. Route the water from your dehumidifier to somewhere BESIDES the drain. Taking the drainage tube off completely will fill the reservoir, allowing you to capture it for watering houseplants, filling the dog’s bowl, filling the washing machine or flushing the toilet. You can do the same with water harvested from window air conditioners, rinsing dishes, washing vegetables, or rinsing sprouts.
11. Plant native and drought tolerant vegetables, berries, small fruits and trees. They naturally use less water.
12. When rinsing recyclable food containers, don’t wash them separately. Rinse them when you are already hand or electric washing the rest of the day’s dirty dishes. Try using one of the other sources of ‘free’ water I’ve mentioned above. I’ve watched people quite devoted to recycling use 5 gallons of water to rinse out one ketchup bottle before placing it in their recycling bin. REALLY?
13. Cover cooking pots, preventing much evaporation and preventing the food from .
14. Protect your water shed: Don’t flush drain cleaners or medications. Don’t use drain cleaners, bluing agents or garbage disposals. Don’t spray your lawn with weed killers or other poisons-there are many environmentally-friendly alternatives available now. Fence your cows, horses or other livestock out of creeks and streams.
These ideas and practices are small steps, but there are much larger ones that can be taken to protect our oceans, rivers, lakes and streams as well. For example:
DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE LARGE OIL TANKERS.
LINE YOUR COAL ASH PONDS TO PREVENT LEAKING INTO PUBLIC WATER SUPPLIES.
MAKE SURE YOUR FACTORY’S WASTE REMOVAL PIPES DON’T HAVE LEAKS.
DON’T BUILD OIL PIPELINES THAT ARE 2,151 MILES LONG WITHOUT PLANNING FOR SPILLS AND LEAKS.
wait! INSTEAD, DON’T BUILD OIL PIPELINES TO BEGIN WITH.
AND FINALLY, WHEN YOU BUILD YOUR NEXT OCEAN-SIDE NUCLEAR REACTORS, MAKE SURE YOU INSTALL THE POWER GENERATORS ABOVE SEA LEVEL. YOU KNOW, JUST IN CASE THERE’S AN EARTHQUAKE OR TSUNAMI OR SOMETHING.
Filed under: beekeeping, Buy Local, Community Building, Community Gardens, Contributionism, Earth Day, Liveable Communities, Local Food | Tags: networking
As I listened to my husband’s metronome keeping time while he practiced some music, and as I heard the minutes ticking by on the old mantle clock, I realized I haven’t been able to post here as often as I like lately because of time constraints. But, I always seem to make time for the things that are most important to me, and this blog is one of those things. I’m currently putting together a presentation on ‘Natural Beekeeping’ for the local beekeeper’s annual school that’s coming up in March; it’s a topic that would never have been considered 10 years ago when we first got into beekeeping! But with the passage of time has come new knowledge of how to be better beekeepers without using all the harsh methods that we were advised to use then. Now there are practices that offer the bees kinder, gentler, more natural ways of maintaining good health in their hives. (here’s a link to more info about the bee school: http://www.wcbeekeepersassociation.com/
Michael and I are also marking time again while he undergoes his final chemo treatments. We’re on Week 3 of 10, spaced every other week, so we’re looking at mid-June before it’s all done. With spring just 3 weeks away, the demands of serving as the coordinator of the community garden are at a seasonal high, marked by meetings, plantings, grant writing and more. To that end, there will be a seed swap and giveaway this evening at the Carver Center, (where the gardens are located) at 6 PM. You don’t have to have seeds to swap, just a true desire to plant some, whether at the community garden or in your own home garden. Following that will be the application and screening process of potential new gardeners to fill the five vacant plots that are available this spring. If you’d like to have a plot, be sure to be there at 7 PM for that. It’s important to be ON TIME. Michael has decided to start a monthly newsletter for the Community Garden and has been spending a lot of his time putting together the first edition.
There’s also our church that we like to contribute our time, talent and money to, friendships to nurture, new songs and music to learn and play, soups to simmer and loaves of bread to bake, errands to run and exercise to make time for each day as well. Oh yeah, and watching Netflix too! All these things take time, and when you’re ‘our age’, they demand plenty of rest as well, but luckily, I find writing is restful for me. I like writing this blog, sharing with you ideas that we can use to make our lives more resilient, healthier or simply more joyful! The ideas take time to research, to write about, and certainly to implement, but I consider it time well spent. Our retirement years have been fulfilling and busy to say the least, but these activities serve to give meaning and purpose to my life, and I get back far more than I give.
I’ve recently accepted the position as the chair for the ‘Livable Communities’ group that is a subcommittee of a larger group called “Community Partnerships”. We have developed a strategic plan based on feedback that was given at the Economic Summits that took place in 2011 and 2012. Turns out that the results of the surveys that were taken at those summits show that some of the very things that I’ve been writing about here are also the very things that folks felt were most important to them: supporting local food growing efforts by developing community gardens while at the same time increasing our resilience, beautifying the city by increasing greenway spaces, improving public transportation, developing interconnected beautiful, clean and safe bike and walking paths, and encouraging new and repurposed commercial and residential development in the downtown area, are just some of the things that our group will be looking at. They’re important enough to me to make the time to help implement them, and will be an endless source of things to share with you on this blog in the months to come. I like the solutions-oriented approach we’re using, and feel it’s a good use of our time together. Our meetings will be held only every other month, with the next one scheduled for March 18th at 5 PM at my house. A schedule any more ambitious than that might prove to be too time consuming, but, every other month? Even I can fit that in, and I hope you can too! We’d love to have your input and ideas, as well as your TIME, in helping our community become a more livable and resilient place to live. Yes, it IS about time you joined us. If you need directions, let me know. Check us out on Facebook in the meantime:
One final note: After giving this post a bit more thought, I want to make this clear: this is NOT meant to be a guilt-inducing blog post! Working parents, students, business owners, caregivers and all you others that are already busier than you want to be shouldn’t feel that my invitations to ‘come’, ‘join’ or ‘help’ are slanted at you. You’re already doing your part! I’m appealing here to those lucky souls like myself that have empty nests, work only a few hours a week, or just, in general, find themselves with time to spare. Forming friendships and working on projects that help me as much as the one’s they’re designed for, all while improving my own life as my community becomes a better place to live, is a win-win situation for me. Pick something that’s important to you and carve out some time for it. You won’t be sorry, I’m sure of it.
Filed under: Frugality, Mindful Consumerism | Tags: tax help, Valentine's Day
Those of us in the South have had quite an interesting ‘weather week’ with lots of snow and ice. Yeah, even the beaches of North Carolina have turned from white sand to white snow.
Weather like this induces a very strong cocooning, or nesting, instinct in me, so I’ve spent a great deal of time at home, especially grateful that I don’t HAVE to get up and out to work in the mornings anymore. After several days of it however, even I can get a case of ‘cabin fever’, and with today’s sunshine, that’s kinda where I am.
Monday: Our trash is picked up on Mondays, and this snowy one found me with no garbage bags to reline my kitchen can with. Necessity is the mother of invention: I emptied a bag of cat food that morning…. You guessed it already:
Works great, and repurposes something that would’ve been difficult to recycle, since my city only takes printed single layer type papers and this heavy duty bag has a ‘plastic’ type coating. * A Star Is Born!! Bags that hold 25-50 lbs of dog food, bird seed, potatoes and other ‘stars’ will no doubt debut in my trash can from now on. Savings?? I don’t know but I think it’s priceless when I can find a new use for something that would otherwise be thrown away.
Tuesday: Speaking of finding new uses for things in order to avoid throwing them away: We don’t buy much prepackaged food, but I always save those that come with waxed-paper bags inside and use them for layering between tortillas and pancakes before freezing or to wrap sandwiches in. You can easily pull the bags apart to make a flat sheet of strong waxed paper for this purpose:
By the way: Can you read the 25 cent price written on the package of whole wheat tortillas on the left? That was a bargain that came from the discount grocery I wrote about a couple of weeks ago here. I hope you can find one in your area too!
Wednesday: I like to mail cards for special occasions to my grandteens and this Valentine’s Day was no exception. I bought the cards last year AFTER Valentine’s Day for 25 cents each. Savings: The cards were originally $2 each, so I saved $3.50 AND I used some of my ‘recycled’ stamps on them! That kind of savings allows me to slip them each some cash in the cards too! They’re old enough to have their own spending money and it’s always nice to have a little extra jingle in your pocket when you’re a teenager!
Thursday: A quick walk to the thrift store last week yielded a scrap of turquoise fabric from one of the store’s ‘craft bins’. It was perfect for a patch job I needed to make on a pillow sham that I’d also bought at the same store some time ago. The scrap was so small that they store didn’t even charge me for it!
I know, I know, a small hole is no big deal, but this sham is part of a comforter set, and my eye was always drawn to it when I looked at it on my guest room bed. Now I really have to look for it. Savings: ”Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. I’m happy with it now, and it only cost me a bit of time, which, as you can see, I had plenty of this week!
Friday: OK, here’s this week’s BIG savings: When my mom passed away last March, my brother and I split the remaining cash she had in one of her accounts but because the account was tied to MY social security number, I recently received the IRS 1009 Form showing the whole amount as my income! I called the company where the account had been held, and they told me you have to make changes like this before December 31st in order to have two separate 1099′s issued. Hmmm… Gentle but firm questioning on my part revealed that there’s a special form that I can include with my tax return, and that my brother will include with his tax return, which will make us equally liable for the portion we actually received. The form arrived in the mail today, and it’s quite simple to understand-apparently, even ‘Jack and Diane’ can do this, since those were the names used on the form’s example! Long story made short here, splitting this tax liability will keep my annual income down into the level that I want it to be in order to be able to take advantage of senior tax savings on my county and city personal property taxes, as well as keep me within the income limits to continue to qualify for my sweet O’bamacare health insurance policy. Savings: Literally, hundreds of dollars!
Here’s my last thoughts on this snowy week to share with you, my sweet readers: