Filed under: Composting, Food Waste, Frugality, Herbs | Tags: beans, Bread, Christmas, clothing, food, frugal, Hoop House, Waste reduction
We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family, and now, a week later, I’m putting up the Christmas tree. We produced more garbage last week than normal, but much of it was things our out-of-town company brought with them and bought while they were here, but I really did make up for it this week by cutting food and kitchen waste to ZERO and by reducing and repairing everywhere else I could. Remember, these little things really add up week after week and allow us to live very well on very little. And that’s basically what this blog is all about.
This whole week saw us eating leftover turkey, made into several different ‘creations’. We enjoyed turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce on slices of sourdough bread, 4 quarts of turkey noodle soup, and a 9×12 pan of shepherd’s pie, topped with the leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving. The carcass was cooked down…
… and the only thing I had to buy for the gallon of soup were the noodles and some celery. I had the onions, carrots, and herbs from the garden on hand and used a similar combination of veggies, plus some leftover beans and broccoli from the garden for the pie. Savings: 4 lunches and 4 dinners with enough for company too.
I spent so much time in the kitchen this past week though, that I began to get a little silly: (that’s a Longkeeper tomato I used for the head of Mr. Carrot that was later WASHED, sliced and added to our sandwiches-and we were thankful for fresh garden tomatoes at Thanksgiving!)
Monday- Michael received a little book in the mail from a friend, and I got an unexpected ‘gift’ of 5 uncanceled stamps that were on the envelope when it arrived! I’ll use them to mail some out-of-town Christmas cards next week. Savings: $2.30
Tuesday- My favorite very old slipper socks had seen better days, with their felted soles coming clean off. So, I sewed them back on, repaired a few little holes, and they’re good for another winter! Savings: $15 plus shipping, comparing to a similar pair on Amazon
Wednesday- I mixed up a batch of the same laundry detergent I’ve been using for almost 15 years. It’s environmentally friendly, produces no packaging waste, costs pennies per load and works very well. What else could you ask for?
3 Natural Ingredients + Water= 2 Gallons of Pure Cleaning Power
Here’s the recipe I have used all these years, made in the same free icing bucket I got from a bakery. Consider it an early Christmas gift.
Grate 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha soap into 6 cups boiling water. (This all-natural laundry soap can be ordered online if you can’t find it locally) I use an old box grater on the fine side for this-see photo. And by the way, it’s very easy to grate.
When melted, add 1 c. each of 20 Mule Team Borax and Arm and
Hammer Washing Soda. Bring to a boil, Stir till dissolved and slightly thickened.
In a 2 gallon bucket, put 4 cups hot water, then add the soap mixture, mix.
Fill rest of bucket with cold water. Mix until well blended. Set aside for
24 hrs; it will gel up. I ‘squeeze’ the finished gel with my hands to break it up
somewhat, then use 1 c. per load.
This works beautifully on average dirty clothes. For really oily or dirty clothes, you may want to use more soap, or hot water. I use cold, except for whites. This detergent is safe for greywater and septic systems too! These products can be found in the laundry section of most grocery stores.
NOTE: There will be no color and little scent to this detergent, nor will you see suds. Sudsing agents are added to commercial detergents to help the consumer feel that the product is ‘working’. The suds add nothing to the actual cleaning power of the product.
Savings? I’m going to estimate about $10 per gallon of detergent. This recipe makes 2 gallons or, enough for 32 loads for about $1.00 worth of ingredients.
Thursday- I took advantage of the warm, sunny day we enjoyed before the storms came in to uncover my hoop houses so they could get rained on, get them weeded and then refilled my covered garbage cans that I keep for this purpose with dry, shredded leaves that my city delivers free of charge each fall. I layer my kitchen scraps (greens) with the leaves (browns) on my compost piles all winter, so the finished product has a nice balance of nitrogen and carbon. Free shredded leaves + Free delivery= PRICELESS COMPOST
Friday-Printed some free ‘gift coupons’ (on the back of some pretty papers that I’d gotten years ago as part of a ‘gift pack’) and plan to fill them out for my family members for giving them the ‘gifts’ I wrote about here. Here’s the website to download yours too:
Enjoy your weekend!
Filed under: Climate Change, Global Warming, Mindful Consumerism, Plant based diet, Reducing Waste | Tags: Christmas simplified, Consumerism, simplicity, Waste reduction
Hello readers! Do me a favor, and listen to this beautiful song while you read this post. Just click on the link below:
I’m sitting in the sun on my front porch as I write this, on December 5th, 2013. The temperature is hovering at 70 today. As much as I’ve enjoyed a long walk with a good friend, and working in my garden this morning, all while dressed in a tee-shirt, I know it’s ‘not normal’ for this time of year, although I honestly am not sure anymore what ‘normal’ is on this beautiful planet we call home. I read today about a new study done by some of the world’s top climate scientists that are now saying that “this 2 degree C target that everyone seems to accept now is actually a recipe for disaster.” The study recommended that “fossil fuel emissions should decline by 6 percent per year starting immediately.” http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/study-debuts-ipcc-calls-severe-emissions-cuts-80088
Today’s news also informed me that Al Gore has joined his former boss Bill Clinton at the table and has gone to a vegan diet. http://grist.org/food/al-gore-is-a-vegan-now-and-we-think-we-know-why/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Living%2520Dec%25205&utm_campaign=living
According to the article, the former VP’s reasons aren’t due to health, (although I’m pretty certain he’ll end up healthier because of his new plant-based diet), but because of his very real concerns about how bad raising meat is for the environment, which really is an inconvenient truth for all of us omnivores, isn’t it? Then, to add to my environmental angst, a friend sent me a link with video of freakin’ glacial caves! That’s right, caves that are being formed UNDER the glaciers as they melt and run away. The photography is stunning and the reality of what’s happening will make you weep, but maybe you need to see it too: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/mendenhall-ice-caves_n_4374019.html
I could go on and on and on about the environmental crisis we’re all a part of, but I’m pretty certain I’m preaching to the choir here, so I won’t. Hearing of the death of that icon of social justice, Nelson Mandela, has added yet another note of sadness to my day today. I’m sure you choir members have already recognized the strong connection between environmental degradation and social injustice and inequality; use Mandela’s life as a model, and use this ‘season of giving’ to make a difference in the world, in your life or in someone else’s life. Please consider embracing simplicity, reducing your consumption of everything, eating a plant-based diet and reducing your personal waste during this time of consumption and spending. Let’s do what we can to turn this ‘blue boat’ around.
Filed under: Buy Local, Local Food | Tags: Christmas simplified, Gift Giving
I’ve informed my grown kids and teen-aged grandkids that this year, when they visit from Ohio during the holidays, their gift from Michael and me will be the gift of experience. This just means we’ll take them somewhere fun they’ve never been before. I’m thinking a trip to Wonder Works in Gatlinburg, or to the Blue Moon Dinner Theater to watch their production of ‘A Tuna Christmas’ and a spin around the skating rink at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Lights would make fine memories. Their time here will definitely include a meal at One Acre Cafe, a pizza dinner from Scratch and maybe even cupcakes from Cake Buds. But most of all, I want our gift to support local businesses and be something they’ll remember for years to come. Christmas simplified, fun and local. I’ll let you know how it goes…
Filed under: beekeeping, Canning, Climate Change, Community Building, Community Gardens, Creating Community, Economic Collapse, Emergency Preparedness, Global Warming, Growing Food, Liveable Communities, Local Food, Mindful Consumerism, Peak Oil, Reducing Waste, Resilience, Sustainability, Urban Living | Tags: beekeeping business, food, growing food, networking, simplicity, wood fired oven
For those of you new to this blog, I moved to my 113 year old urban house in the summer of 2012 with a deliberate mission to grow a garden and cultivate a sense of community in my new neighborhood. Today my next door neighbor brought over two slices of still-warm lemon pound cake. I suspect she’d spotted my husband Michael a half hour before, trying to increase his stamina with the daily 2 minute walks he takes (still in his sleep pants!) from our back door to the alley and back, and thought to herself: “That poor old man! I should take him some cake!”. Whatever her reasons, we were both happy with her decision to share. Michael’s happiness was with the delicious cake. Mine was in the fact that I’ve FINALLY been able to ‘connect’ with her. (OK, I loved the cake too) All summer I’d left little bags or recycled butter bowls filled with tomatoes, peppers, herbs and more at her back door, picked fresh from our garden. We’d speak in the back yard, just polite ‘hellos’ and ‘how are yous’ but her kind gesture encourages me now to continue to get to know her, and her pound cake recipe! I’ve spoken lots more with her son and his pup than with her, finding out that they’ve lived there for over 6 years, he’s a grad student, and the dog’s name is Pippa. The point is, sometimes it can be difficult to ‘reach out and touch someone’ but almost everyone will eventually respond to small gestures of food and friendship.
Why do I care so much about getting to know the neighbors? Before moving to our urban home, we’d lived quite remotely in the country and I’d missed having neighbors during that 10 years, but it’s become more than that. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know that I am concerned that our country is facing an economic collapse-in our lifetime-right along with depleted energy and water sources and ever-increasing global temperatures that are already affecting everything in our lives from food supplies to wildlife. To that end, I’ve learned how to grow food for my family, can and preserve it, and cook our meals from scratch. That alone has given me much peace of mind, and empowered me to discover other resiliency strategies. I’ve learned to live by the adage of “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”. Our home is stocked with several months worth of food, fuel and water, we stay out of debt and try to live simply but still yet, I realize there is no hope for any of us outside of a community. We must learn to work with our neighbors in developing sustainable lifestyles based upon reduced consumption and sharing of resources. What good will it do for me to have food and water supplies when my neighbors are hungry and thirsty? How long could WE eat on what I have stored? What if there were bank failures in this country, like the ones in Cyprus this past spring? How would we access cash once the ATM’s were empty? What if there was a massive power failure for an extended period of time? There would be looting and rioting if folks in the South couldn’t buy their Mountain Dew and Moonpies, I tell ya! How would we pump gas into our cars, light our homes, cook or stay warm? How would we flush the toilets and clean our clothes? Do you ever think about these what if’s? I do, and the only way I can rest easy is by being prepared for those scenarios. That includes making sure that my neighbors are too. Then, if those things never happen, we’ve simply got a well stocked pantry and a productive garden, right along with extra toothpaste and a support system too.
I write often about how these changing times demand that we grow a strong local economy. Michael and I have been attending bimonthly meetings for the local ‘Liveable Communities’ group and are greatly encouraged by the sharing and feeling of ‘we’re all in this together’ that we get from the group, but liveable communities really start right. next. door. This holiday season, why not use the natural conviviality of the season to get to know your neighbors better- perhaps take them a card and some cookies, signed with your name and address so they can remember you later too? (I intend to put the internet address of this blog on the cards I hand out too, hoping they’ll read it and get interested in ‘feeding our future’ as well.) I left a card for a neighbor congratulating her on the new beehives I’d spotted in the driveway, and later, when we made a face to face connection, she told me she’d wept when she read the card because she had been so worried about having the bees and how the neighborhood might react to them. She and I are friends now, and she tells me she’ll let me work with her in her hives next spring! I’ve begun talking to another neighbor about his struggling bread baking business, brainstorming with him on the feasibility of building a COMMUNAL outdoor wood-fired oven at the Community Garden next spring. (would the city EVER allow that? We intend to find out!) Not only are we working on ways to build a local foods network, at the same time we’re having fun building friendships and feeding the future. This poster hangs in my kitchen. May it offer you some hope and inspiration too:
Filed under: Cancer, Climate Change, Creating Community, Energy Savings, ENOUGH!, Frugality, Global Warming, Peak Oil, Resilience | Tags: beans, the good life
Note: I wasn’t able to insert any pictures into this post, for reasons I don’t understand. So, use your imaginations, and perhaps I’ll get this ‘bug’ figured out before I post again.
I’ve been too consumed with being a caregiver for Michael to put together a post since Halloween. But, his cancer surgery is over, he’s recovering fairly well, and the doctors feel it was very successful. We are filled with gratefulness during this month of Thanksgiving. He still has one more surgery to go through in a few months, followed by a long round of chemo to complete, but we’re feeling very, very thankful.
All that said, we’re facing some hefty medical bills, so it’s become all the more important that we continue to live within our modest means while also continuing to live well. Lately, living well has included a few little luxuries, like some restaurant meals when energy for cooking lags, some cozy wool socks for both of us, and a few new-to-us books and DVD’s for helping fill the recovery time. Oh yeah, hand-made soaps are an affordable luxury that can make you feel positively extravagant!
Now, let’s focus on this week:
Sunday-Wednesday: I made a pot of great-tasting veggie soup and ate it for several days, taking it in my thermos each morning to the hospital to have for lunch. I also took my travel mug to fill with the free coffee and herbal tea (which was offered to surgery patients and their families), along with fruit, cookies and almonds for snacking on throughout the day. Savings: the one meal I ate in the hospital cafeteria cost me over $5, for not much food, and I estimate the soup cost me maybe $1.00 to make from veggies, rice and beans I had on hand. Since I ate it four days, I’m estimating I saved at least $20.00 or more. AND, since soup is my comfort food, it was actually priceless
Monday: Attended a free screening of a new documentary about the questions and controversy surrounding GMO foods, titled “GMO, OMG”! An unexpected reception afterwards of fruits, cookies, wines, cheeses and bruschetta, all compliments of my local university’s School of the Arts, and time spent with a good friend made it a special evening without spending a dime. If you’re lucky enough to live in a college town, you might be able to take advantage of similar things too. Ditto for dental, medical and other schools. PS Michael and I once got free one hour massages given by graduating students of a local massage school. Priceless!
Tuesday: Started a jar of sprouts for use in sandwiches, salads, and stir fries. Cost for 1 T. mixed seed: 25 cents. Savings: $1.75 since a cup of fresh organic sprouts cost $2.00 WHEN you can find them.
Wednesday: Brought my “pot of celery” inside to live on the kitchen windowsill, hoping it will continue to grow. This plant was started by cutting the root end off of a store-bought stalk of celery and simply laying it on top of some potting soil and keeping it moist. If it produces, I’ll have saved a couple of bucks on celery. If it doesn’t, I’ll still enjoy the greenery during the winter, and can use the leaves in soups and stuff.
Thursday: Walked out of a physical therapist’s office on the third visit because they wouldn’t quote me a cost, or even an estimate. Savings: ???
Friday: Have successfully gone through the first cold week of the season without yet turning on the central heat. We stay close to the gas stove in the living room (and love the glow of the flames!) and have an oil filled radiant heater for use in the kitchen, as well as a small thermostatically controlled heater for use in the bathroom or wherever a bit of heat is needed for a short period of time. We’ve also reinstated our winter ritual of taking our showers back-to-back, while the bathroom is already heated up from the little heater AND the steamy shower.
“They” say that little things don’t count, don’t matter. I beg to differ. It’s the little things, the one and two dollars saved here and there that allow us to live so well on so little. We don’t feel deprived and have enough in our lives to share. I also feel strongly that the premise behind this blog, almost 2 years after I began writing it, is still reason enough to continue it. We are facing hard times, in spite of the fact that the stock market reached an all time high today, in spite of the fact that gasoline is once again below $3.oo a gallon, and in spite of the fact that national health care is becoming a reality. Maybe. This week also saw the world’s strongest typhoon in history, the beginning of the two-week UN Climate talks already beginning to falter after only a couple of days, and closer to home, family in California informs us that water supplies are becoming a huge problem for the Central Valley. You know, that place known as our nation’s bread basket.
The window for making graceful transitions is beginning to close, but we can still 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. Learning to Live Well while living frugally makes the whole process of transition easier. Please feel free to share your own attempts at frugality and living well by commenting below. We’re all in this together you know. Thank God it’s Friday!
Filed under: Climate Change, Growing Food, Local Food, mulch, Resilience, Seed Saving, Sustainability | Tags: beans, Halloween
I attended a lecture last night at Emory and Henry College given by Gary Nahban, a renowned scientist and local foods pioneer. He explained that with the challenges that climate change presents for gardeners, farmers and ranchers, there are ‘best practices’ that are being developed and already being used (in the Southwest) to address those challenges. Practices like building greater moisture-holding capacity and nutrients in soil, (by adding compost and organic matter) protecting our gardens and fields from damaging winds, drought and floods by planting trees, harvesting rainwater, and creating swales and raingardens, reducing heat stress on crops and livestock and, selecting fruits, nuts, succulents and herbaceous perennials that are best suited to a warmer, drier climate can all be used to coax production and increase sustainability. One other thing that he is a big proponent of is seed saving. Seeds saved from plants that have been isolated from other varieties like it and that produced healthy offspring without being coddled during their production periods are going to be the best candidates. Seed saving is a radical resilience idea by the way, something I’ve written about ad nauseum in this blog.
I’ve been thinking about handing out little packets of Hopi Orange Lima Bean seeds tonight, right along with the little candy bars, to my Trick or Treaters. The seeds are not only beautiful, they just happen to be Halloween colors! So, what do you think? Have I gone completely ‘loco for local’ with this idea?
I’ve long been fascinated with these beans, because I happen to believe the Native Americans knew what the hell they were doing and all we need to do is relearn what they figured out long ago to continue to thrive on this warming planet, while using fewer resources to do it. The plants are extremely drought and heat resistant and when dried, can be ground for flour too. The flour can then be used to dredge tasty little goblins in before adding to the kettle:
Happy Halloween Ya’ll! Stay safe tonight!
Filed under: Canning, fall gardening, Frugality | Tags: frugal, reusing, root crops
Well it’s Frugal Friday of course! OK dear readers, I loved reading your comments last week about what you’d been doing to enable yourself to live better on less and I hope you’ll share again now. This week was fairly ordinary, but there always seem to be opportunities to save a bit of money. For example:
Monday- Added some water to the liquid soap that was so thick it wouldn’t pump out of the dispenser. It’s still PLENTY thick and now there’s more of it.
Tuesday- Made some hot pepper jam with THE LAST of my hot peppers. It makes a good hostess gift and people seem to love it poured over a block of cream cheese served with crackers.
Wednesday- When I got out my winter PJ’s, the elastic in the waist had somehow magically stretched out while they lay in the bottom of my winter clothes box this summer. Anyway, it was easy to remove the old piece and install a new one using a safety pin to run it through the casing. Here’s the best part: I was able to use waist elastic from an old pair of yoga pants for this project. And while I had my sewing machine out, I fixed a couple of other things that were needing repaired.
Thursday-After (im)patiently waiting for weeks for the pine needles to fall, I gathered enough at a friend’s house to nicely mulch my newly created blueberry and elderberry beds. Both of these berries like acidic soil and annual mulching with pine needles provides them with a fair amount. She got her side yard raked, I got free mulch!
Friday- Harvested 3 HUGE carrots (of about 30) from my fall sown plot at the community garden:
Right before dark, I scavenged for fallen tomatoes underneath certain-to-die-tonight tomato plants at the community garden to add to tonight’s salad, made with our just picked lettuce and dressed with our favorite pennies-per-serving dressing:
Here’s the recipe for that dressing:
1 large clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1/8 tsp salt
1-2 T balsamic vinegar
1-2 T red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
4 T. Olive Oil
Black pepper to taste
In a mortar with a pestle mash the garlic with the salt until they form a paste (or mash the garlic in a press) Transfer the garlic paste to a small bowl or jar, and add the remaining ingredients, whisking or shaking them until the dressing is well combined. Tweak to your own tastes, adding chopped finely herbs if desired.
But here’s the BEST thing of all this week: After waiting (im)patiently for a couple of months for Netflix to stream the remaining 8 episodes of the ‘Breaking Bad’ TV series, and refusing to pay $16 to see them, (after receiving a free year’s subscription as a birthday gift from my daughter), she tired of hearing me whining about it and found this link so that I could watch them for free:
Alright, your turn! Let me know how you were able to live better for less this week! In the meantime, I’ll be watching the Breaking Bad finale-for free
Filed under: Biking, Cancer, Community Building, Community Gardens, Composting, Creating Community, Food Storage, Growing Food, Healthy food, Seasonal Eating | Tags: Farmer's Market, growing food, Hoop House, networking, root crops
Yesterday was our first taste of winter here in NE TN -some of the higher elevations close by had snow flurries and even a bit of sleet! The gray skies and windy conditions forced us to turn on the gas fireplace stove, immediately drawing the cat and dog in close. We picked the remaining tomatoes and then brought the baskets and bins of fresh produce from the porch inside to the pantry to protect it all from tonight’s expected low temperatures. We’ve got two cases of apples to store away, along with onions, grinding corn, butternut and spaghetti squashes, red, yellow and white potatoes and sweet potatoes all cured and waiting for the real cold to move in before we begin eating them daily. You know, when that time that comes after the Farmer’s Market closes next month when there’s very little fresh, local produce available, all these root veggies will be combined with whatever greens and Brassicas we have under the hoops to make lots of great meals. All this food was grown organically on good soil and is full of vitamins and minerals. Soil and compost building is a ‘good investment’ in successful gardening and the resulting fruits and veggies are ‘good investments’ in our health and future well-being.
Every single person that has seen Michael since he’s undergone his cancer treatments has commented, “Well you look good!” Even though his body’s been completely poisoned with the chemotherapy and ravaged by the radiation, he pulled through easier than many his age do and we are certain it’s because he was always investing in good health, even though all the while that damn tumor was growing undetected. Eating healthful foods and getting exercise every day may in fact be the best investment he’s ever made. This picture was made a week ago.
I’m glad the government shutdown was discontinued and the debt ceiling raised, but I think we all know it’s temporary. A friend remarked the other day that she has never EVER tended her garden with as much care as she has this year. Why? I think she’s simply being prudent and wise based on her own observations of how precarious our current economic system is. If ever, in the course of our lives, there was a time to plant food and learn a craft or skill, build a pantry and invest one’s money in one’s life, it is now. I recently offered a talented friend use of my washer and dryer twice a month to do her laundry in exchange for giving me advanced bass lessons while her clothes get clean. Michael and I make our ‘mad money’ by playing with a local band. The better musicians we are, the more likely we are to be hired to play. (AND learning to play any instrument is right up there with learning a foreign language and doing brain exercises as ways to keep sharp as we age) Plus, we have so much fun playing music! I consider the trade another ‘good investment’.
Get to know your neighbors–you’ll need each other as shortages force us to relocalize. Work toward establishing new, more community-based economies. Last week I traded a neighbor some of my fresh organic veggies for a big sack of his pecans. He feels like he got the best end of the bargain, but so do I. That’s what I call win-win. In the business world, networking with others in your line of work is considered important for success. The same holds true in our private lives. Volunteering for your favorite charity, sharing space in the community garden, even joining a church or club are all great ways to network and make friends. Our church community has rallied around us during Michael’s illness and we’ve felt uplifted and empowered by their support. Many studies have proven that a strong social network of friends can stave off depression, dementia and other illnesses. Building those relationships are ‘good investments’ for everyone concerned!
I think by clearly envisioning the joyful, healthy, earth friendly lives we most want and then by making ‘good investments’ during this transition period that we are currently experiencing, we’ll be able to make that vision a reality.
PS I apologize in advance if some the words in this post are highlighted in red and take you to an ad. I have no idea why it’s happening and will try to fix it in future posts.
Filed under: Buy Local, Climate Change, Growing Food, Healthy food, Local Food, Resilience, Seasonal Eating | Tags: Bread, Cooking, Cranberries, Cranberry, Cranberry sauce, food, growing food, Home, Nature Conservancy
Look carefully into the center of this clump of Native grasses…do you see them? They’re cranberries, growing in a wild, Southern Appalachian cranberry bog! What does that mean? They are exactly 33 miles from my front door, which means we can now add CRANBERRIES to the list of local foods that CAN be grown in NE Tennessee. I didn’t even know about them when I wrote last week about our ‘emerging local food economy’. Now, even though it’s a little blurry because it’s a close up, I wanted you to see how delicious they look:
Michael and I drove over to Shady Valley, TN yesterday to attend their annual Cranberry Festival and even though the food, crafts and music were top-notch, the thing that grabbed our attention the most was the tour we got to take of the wetlands and stream restoration work that is taking place on 150 acres that is owned by The Nature Conservancy. Their little 1/4 acre bog preserve is being nurtured into existence by many dedicated volunteers. They have also established cranberry nursery beds, which were in full fruit right now. The Shady Valley Ruritan Club established the beds in 2008 for the purpose of propagating native cranberries and keeping alive the genetic strains from Shady Valley’s five distinct cranberry colonies. Cuttings and plants from these nursery beds provide stock that is transplanted elsewhere in the Conservancy’s restoration area.
More cool news: the endangered ‘bog turtle’ which is only 4″ and a native of this area is making a reappearance in the newly established bog. This little guy feeds on water insects and plants that are typically found in cranberry bogs. No turtle soup for you!
Turns out the festival celebrates a history and heritage dating back centuries to when the valley was filled with wild cranberry bogs left over from the last ice age. More recently, residents of the valley would gather each fall to pick the locally grown cranberries and the resulting harvest became a time for celebration. Now don’t misunderstand: there’s not enough berries yet to go around but, God willing, and if the creeks DO rise, there will be ‘enough’ some day soon to go around. One of the conservationists explained the primary reasons the original bogs failed to thrive was because the water tables had been lowered so drastically by man’s engineering of streams and of course by beaver dams as well. The conservancy has worked hard to restore those streams back to their original paths. This little bog is meant to be natural, with only enough moisture needed to keep the plants’ roots wet, but the guide explained that irrigation would be another way to grow cranberries. Not necessarily a better way, simply another way.
Why am I writing about cranberry bogs? Because I want to get us all thinking about the traditional foods that are grown in our personal food sheds, wherever that might be. The foods that are local and native to your area are easiest to grow and will be sure winners in the future global competition for low energy food sources amidst major climate change. I want YOU to share with growers and CSA owners and market vendors and even your favorite gardener that you’d LOVE to buy their locally grown cranberries (and pecans and cushaw squash too-see recipe below) As I find out about more foods that once were, or could be again, part of our emerging local food economy here in Southern Appalachia (and I’m sure there are plenty more!) I’ll be sure to pass them along to you. In the meantime, here’s a great recipe that uses all three!
Cranberry Cushaw Bread
Yield: 1 loaf
Cranberry Cushaw Bread is the perfect escape from all of the typical Pumpkin recipes at this time of the year! Enjoy this delicious bread over coffee in the morning or for dessert at night while standing over the kitchen sink. (full disclosure: I haven’t made this recipe, but I’m sure going to-it’s ‘the season’ for all its major ingredients!)
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon all spice
a pinch of cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup cushaw puree
1 1/2 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and line a 9 inch loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving 1 inch of parchment paper hanging over two sides of the pan. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine the first 9 ingredients.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Add brown sugar and cushaw puree, whisking until well combined.
Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the center. Using a large spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold together until there are no lumps. Then carefully fold in the cranberries and pecans.
Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake this bread or it can become dry. Let bread rest in the loaf pan for 20 minutes before removing.
Filed under: Uncategorized
So how was your week? It occurred to me while putting together this post that by being careful with my money on many small things, it allows us to be able to afford other, bigger, more important things-like cancer treatments. It’s all a matter of priorities, as they say. So, I may be wrapping duct tape around my shoes to hold them together by spring, but since duct tape now comes in such fashionable colors, it’s all good ;)
That said, I have begun to think about the upcoming holidays already. I have family members that are out of work and struggling to get by, and of course my own budget item for gift giving is a big fat zero right now, so our gift exchanges will need to be greatly simplified this year. But there will be some gift giving and volunteer fun, along with good food, decorations, music, friends and family. I’m already looking forward to it and am planning what I hope will be a welcome gift idea (that I plan to share with you as soon as I can get it together). In the meantime, it’s the day to day expenses that can leave you with more week than money, so I truly hope my attempts will leave you inspired and hopeful, rather than the feeling that you’re a spendthrift. I suspect that most readers of this blog are quite mindful already of what they consume, eat and buy. My Frugal Friday smack down is really just my way of reviewing my own spending habits throughout the week, helping me stay focused on where our money goes. I can blow money right along with the best of ‘em, by the way
Monday- Canned some late season roasted salsa verde using a big bag of tomatillos that was given to me by one of the Community gardeners. I had jalapenos and garlic from my garden to add to it and just enough cilantro leaves in the frig that needed to be used anyway. I really do try to avoid food waste and this made 4 half pints of really good salsa for just a bit of effort! Savings: Roughly $8 at $2 per half pint jar?
Tuesday- Had a wonderful pasta and salad meal at Main Street Pizza Company, a locally owned eatery within an easy walk of our house. A couple of months ago we’d taken advantage of an internet deal they were offering and bought a $30 ‘voucher’ for $15. What a bargain it was, and by going on Tuesday we hopefully gave them a little extra business on what is traditionally any restaurant’s slowest night of the week. Additional bonus: The leftovers we took home fed us the next night too, after adding a salad and some garlic bread. Savings: $15 on the original price of the food, and a few dollars for whatever a dinner at home might’ve cost us PLUS two nights not having to cook!
Wednesday- Mailed a card to Canada using 20-year-old air mail stamps that Michael had held on to all this time. Postage was ‘only’ $1.10 to Canada, but we had three 50 cent stamps so I just put all three on the envelope and put it out on my home mailbox for pickup, saving me a trip in the car to the post office, as well as a wait in what is usually a long line. Savings: $1.10 plus gas to P.O. and a half hour’s time.
Thursday- Returned a 6 month old combination lock to Lowe’s that had become permanently locked, even though I had no warranty. They didn’t question it at all, and replaced it with a new lock. Savings: $6
Friday- Had my teeth cleaned at the local dental hygenist school for free (Seniors are free-that’s me- all others are only $20) Savings: I have no idea since I’ve been using their services 3x a year for 11 years now but I’m thinking $75 at least. And now I’m so close to the school that I can walk or ride my bike so no gas is used to get there either and I get my exercise in for the day! Good health and clean teeth: PRICELESS!
OK, how about you? Where’d you save (or spend) money this week? Do you remember? Take the Frugal Friday test.
Filed under: Closed Loop Systems, Community Gardens, Composting, fall gardening, Growing Food, Healthy food, Local Food, organic gardening, Seasonal Eating | Tags: Compost, food, growing food, Hoop House, nature, raised beds, root crops
“Fall has always been my favorite season.
The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year
for the grand finale.” Lauren DeStefano
Fall is my favorite season too, even though it’s bittersweet for me, knowing what lies just beyond it. I’m still working on my summer to-do list, and now I’m in the midst of my fall list! Many of you have asked me to let you know what’s going on in the garden during each season, so I hope this helps, although I suspect I should’ve written all this out back in August. I hope it will give you an idea of where you need to be now anyway.
All of my raised beds in my community garden plot are now planted to either fall crops or crimson clover, which I like as a cover crop for winter.
I’m harvesting broccoli and lettuces, beets, August-planted potatoes, and carrots there, with the kale, cabbage and cauliflower ready in another couple of weeks. Brussels sprouts remain a mystery to me, but I still plant them anyway. Maybe someday I’ll actually get some sprouts from them!
At home, I’ve started harvesting bok choy:
I always feel like it’s a race to get the late summer plantings almost to harvest stage before the fall equinox, because things really slow down by then. This proves to be especially tricky with Longkeeper tomatoes! I have full-grown plants loaded with green tomatoes now that were set out in August,. If they can just begin to turn pink before our first frost, they will slowly continue to ripen inside the house, allowing us to have fresh tomatoes until about Valentine’s Day- if we don’t eat them all before then. The key is that they won’t ripen if picked green, they must have at least a slight blush of color to continue ripening. I usually plant them out in July, so don’t have as many this fall as in years past, but we’ll still have enough to last til Christmas with any luck. Longkeeper -the name is accurately descriptive. Even though they’re not as sweet and juicy as a summer ripened fruit, they are far, far better than ANY grocery store tomato you might buy in mid winter. And by golly, they’re local ;) Some Farmer’s Market vendor is missing the boat by not selling them during the winter months.
I finished preparing my final bed today, turning in compost and shredded leaves. I’ll add some bone meal to the holes when I plant my garlic there at the end of October, but today I just raked it smooth and planted winter lettuces and spinach, neither of which will be ready until spring. With a simple little hoop house over that bed, those plants will just sit there, almost dormant, right in the row, until late winter. When the days begin to lengthen just a bit, that spinach and cold hardy lettuce will burst to life and offer us fresh greens, just about the time the kale and swiss chard grow tough and we’re tired of them anyway. Last, but not least, the parsnips that were planted way back in July won’t be harvested until after several hard frosts, but before the ground freezes solid (boy did I learn that the hard way!). The freezes sweeten them, and then they’ll keep in the refrigerator for a very long time; I consider it one of nature’s mysteries that just as my vegetable drawers are finally empty of all the fruits and veggies they held all summer, along come the greens, apples, nuts and root crops to fill ‘em up for the winter.
I set up another compost bin today, and will let the one we filled during the summer cook and decompose all winter, hopefully ready for use in the spring, with this new one full and ready for use by next fall. And so the gardening cycle continues. After all this intensive digging, planting, harvesting and storing it’s nice to know we’re moving into a quieter, slower pace in the garden for a few months. God willing, the wheel of good health and fortune will continue to turn and the seed starting trays will be full again come February. Happy Fall Ya’ll!
Filed under: beekeeping, Buy Local, Community Gardens, Growing Food, Healthy food, Local Food, Mindful Consumerism, Resilience | Tags: East Tennessee, food, Geographic information system, Local food
Last week I was part of a panel of local food activists and advocates that were asked to listen to and critique a Milligan College senior that is presenting a paper at the International Food Studies Conference later this month out in Austin TX. It’s an honor for him to have been chosen to present, especially since the other presenters all seem to be authors, professors, and other professionals in the field. I learned a few things during the panel discussion that I wanted to share with you. I have long felt that ‘creating’ a local food economy is the number one thing every city and region in this country could do to protect their citizens and tremendously increase their resilience if times get hard- or even if they don’t. (Of course, times are already hard for many of us-unless you don’t consider our government being shut down a hardship. And consider the ripple effect this is going to create!) But I digress…
I learned that Johnson City and the rest of the Tri Cities Region is moving from our former description of ‘rural area’ to what is now considered an ‘emerging urban area’. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I rather like the rural feel of our area, but I also enjoy the progress I’ve seen in the last decade. Since I can’t change any of that anyway, I simply say “whatever”. What did excite me though was learning that we also have an “emerging local food economy”.
For generations this area was heavily dependent on tobacco subsidies. The farmers that ‘sold out’ when that ended sold good farmland to housing developers who then built tan cookie-cutter suburban homes on our hillsides. Many of those that stayed on their land began to raise cattle and corn, the latter being fed to the former, and the former being shipped more and more frequently to foreign countries like China for consumption there.
So, what do we produce right here at home now? It’s a surprisingly long list. Small farmers and growers are producing many of the following food items: Fresh fruits and many of their value-added byproducts, ie: applesauce, juice and butters; jams, jellies, and syrups; vegetables of every imaginable type; Wheat is being grown in nearby Limestone, as is corn for meal, grits and tortillas. Meat animals of all varieties, along with all of their byproducts – from bacon and eggs to cheeses-are being raised in our region. Cane for molasses and grain for sorghum, bees for honey (and pollination), corn for liquor and grapes for wine are all being produced right here too. So, we have meats, eggs, dairy, fruits, grains, sweeteners and libations. Do we need anything more? I’ll admit that rice, chocolate, bananas, olive oil and citrus would be nice for sure, but it’s a well-known fact here in the South that bacon grease can be used as a substitute for a lot of things ;). All joking aside, I believe alternatives and substitutes would be developed, with those ‘must haves from afar’ considered an occasional treat instead of part of our daily caloric intake. The point is our local farmers are already producing everything we need to eat healthy and varied diets. If all we imported to our supper tables were just a few specialty items, all of this former tobacco land could be used to produce enough of the diverse products we need and want. Supplemented with hunting and fishing, foraging and community gardens, we could be food self-sufficient. If we consumers would vote for these local foods with our forks and our food dollars, small-scale family farms would become an essential part of our lives once again.
Many jobs could be created if there was enough food produced locally to feed us all, energy costs to produce that food would be lowered since it would no longer need to be shipped from around the world, and WE would have the distinct privilege of being able to enjoy the freshest, tastiest food available! Our personal and communal resilience would increase too, since we wouldn’t be dependent on foreign countries, foreign oil, OR the federal government for our food supply.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not. Research tells me that powerful and innovative technology called GIS (Geographic Information Systems) is already being used to strengthen our food system and food access work here in NE TN and SW VA. While that work is progressing, we can make every bite count in the meantime by seeking out whatever local food sources we can. Our demand will eventually create the supply we need to keep us all fed. We are emerging, after all.
Filed under: Buy Local, Climate Change, Community Building, Community Gardens, Creating Community, Global Warming, Healthy food, Liveable Communities, Local Food, Peak Oil, Plant based diet, Resilience, Sustainability | Tags: Bakery, Bread, Farmer's Market, nature, the good life
I haven’t posted here for over 2 weeks…just about the same amount of time I was sick with a virus that I’m pretty sure I picked up from Michael, who’s pretty sure he picked it up while he was in the hospital recently. To say his cancer has kicked his ass-and mine-would be putting it mildly. But we are both doing ever so much better this week and my brain is once again percolating with things to write about.
I use this blog to
harp on share with you ideas that we can apply to our lives as we transition to a different world from that which we’ve all grown up in; it will surely be a lower energy future, on a planet with serious environmental degradation and climate change, with globalization a hard-earned lesson from the past. Two of the best ways that I’ve found to make that transition to ‘the good life’ involve building resiliency through more localized economies and skill sets and through more interdependence in our individual communities. Both solutions are key to creating more livable communities and offering us a more fulfilling and sustainable life, regardless of what our futures may hold.
If you doubt any of what I wrote in that last paragraph, I have ‘proof’ to offer, not just theory. Here’s my ‘story’. Michael and I have been largely self-sufficient in terms of health, finances and most aspects of our daily lives for a very long time. We liked that
smug snug feeling of being self-reliant. Then we both got sick and had to ask for help with lots of things-from cutting grass to daily meals. (Not feeling nearly as invincible now.) But somewhere along the way, the magic of community kicked in and we were not only helped but uplifted by our circle of friends and community. That circle of love and friendship held healing power as strong as the cancer treatments themselves! Never underestimate the value of cards, emails, prayers, books, visits, phone calls, jars of soup and loaves of bread to someone in need. Using an overused phrase here: “They are priceless”.
Now that I’ve seen first hand the value of communal care, I intend to work harder at being an advocate and practitioner of the concept. As a society it seems we’ve gotten so far removed from ‘knowing thy neighbor’ and feel we don’t have time or energy to develop the friendships and relationships that can be so helpful and valuable to each and every one of us, in good times or in bad. So when I hear about a community-based effort to enrich my life, I intend to share it with you. My hope is that the sharing will inspire us all to look for ways to build our own communities whether they be with neighbors, coworkers, church groups, gamers, gardeners or simply the gay couple next door. There’s strength in numbers.
Now I want to let you know about a new entrepreneur in my neighborhood. Tyler Selby lives in the next block down from me and has started baking and selling artisan breads at the Farmer’s Market in Johnson City. They are fabulous, healthy and go a long way towards making our soups and other plant-based meals filling! I know $6 a loaf may seem a bit high but consider this: Cut into 12 thick slices and then frozen to keep it fresh, we’re able to enjoy the loaves Tyler bakes for 6 meals. Not so bad eh? Of course supporting his efforts will hopefully help his business grow. I’d lots rather walk down the street to get a fresh-baked loaf of bread from someone I know than to get it anywhere else. Kinda like they do in the rest of the world. In a world without refrigeration or electricity, daily bread baking is the norm. (I hear there’s another nearby neighbor that sells fresh fried fish sandwiches out her back door on Fridays but I haven’t found her yet. But I digress…) Tyler plans to apply for a plot in the Carver Peace Gardens next year so that he can grow some specialty grains for his breads. Since he lives only half a block away from the gardens, it seems a perfect fit. The community gardeners, the bakery, and my neighborhood all stand to benefit from Mr Selby’s plans. My secret, long-term plan for that community garden has always been to build an outdoor, wood-fired bread oven so he has tapped into some of my own life blood with his little bakery. I’ll keep you updated on any progress made and perhaps the idea of a community oven may actually come to pass. In the meantime, look for The Selby Bakery at the Farmer’s Market!
Another lovely example of community building popped up online this week. A friend of mine has created a website that highlights some of the natural and beautiful places that her family enjoys visiting in our little corner of NE TN, with the hope that others can use the resources she’s compiled there to find those wild places as well. I smell the makings of a hiking club and family friendly outings in the air! Here’s the web address: http://freshairfamily.weebly.com/ This same friend also took her windfall of organic apples to the community cannery in Telford yesterday where she and her son and a friend processed the fruit into jars and jars of applesauce. Using community resources to enhance our lives is one of the many rewards of all this!
All this is to simply say: Michael and I are living proof that sometimes community is NECESSARY to get things done, to heal, or just get by. Just don’t wait ’til the going gets tough to create those necessary communities-do it today. Hilary was right: It takes a village!
Filed under: Cancer, Resilience | Tags: Environment, First world problem
Even though I’m currently a full-time caregiver for hubby Michael, a lot of his healing time is spent sleeping, giving me more time than usual to devote to quieter activities such as reading, writing, and gardening. The unexpected gift of time has found me moving more slowly through my days, and developing a keener awareness of what’s most important in my life. (By the way, if anyone ever tells you that cancer is a ‘gift’, don’t believe it. That’s crap!) One of the things that I’ve grown fond of saying (and weary of at the same time) is: “Well, at least I don’t have cancer!”. It makes the things I consider whine-worthy seem ‘not so’ when I say that out loud. A trend I’ve recently become aware of is that we have a unique set of problems in our country that are being labeled “First World Problems”. There are complete web sites, stand up comic routines and even a TV show devoted to the ridiculous ‘problems’ we lucky First Worlders experience. Here’s an example:
Some days, and today is one of them, I simply have to laugh to keep from crying. Here are a few ‘problems’ I read about while doing a quick online search:
From today’s local newspaper: “Man reports pistol and briefcase with $2,500 stolen from unlocked vehicle in Roan Mountain”
Copied from the internet: “I went to go babysit for an hour and the kids didn’t even know what their own wi-fi password was.”
And here are some I’ve said myself. Read ‘em, put them into their proper context, and weep.
“The tag on my new shirt is really bugging me”
“My laptop is dying but my charger is all the way upstairs”
“The elevator isn’t working?!!!”
“I ate too much!”
“I need to simplify my life.”
“I need to declutter my stuff.”
“I have too many tomatoes.”
Ahhh, that last one gave me an idea:
We’ll see if they’re gone from the front steps by the end of the day.
What, pray tell, does all this have to do with Transitioning? I don’t know to be honest, but there’s a tie-in here, I’m sure of it. My ‘About Tennessee Transitions‘ page says:
“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. This blog is simply about my attempts to visualize and help create that new way of living!”
Filed under: Cancer, Canning, Food Storage, Growing Food, Healthy food, Local Food, Seasonal Eating | Tags: Bean, beans, Chow Chow, Earth, ORGANIC, root crops, Staycation
Yesterday I wrote about what we can do to contribute to making our towns and cities a better place to live. Today is completely different; I wanted to share with you what I’ve been doing to contribute to making my own life and family a better place to live. I’ve been staying close to home this summer, trying to be on hand as a
gopher caregiver to my husband while he’s going through his cancer treatments. Normally, our summers are filled with camping, gardening, hiking, and playing with the band…
But this summer, we only got in a quick trip to Florida back in May…
And an even quicker trip to Ohio to visit my ‘grandbabies’…
before he was diagnosed with the Big C. So while Michael goes through the healing process, I’ve been growing and preserving the very best food I can to help him win this fight, because I’m a firm believer in the adage…
I’ve been whipping up some ‘Farmaceuticals’ for him to eat once he can enjoy food again. Like many of our modern medicines, all of mine come from the Earth. In my kitchen farmacy, I transformed just-picked zucchini…
into salted, dried chips…
that are great for munching on right out of the jar
Cabbage was fermented from this form…
To this chow chow
Moving on UP to this
Then after the pods were dry…
I waited until a friend came over ;) and while chatting over a cup of tea, I casually set the bowls of beans on the table, and they got shelled out in no time flat! Then the beans were stored in jars until they’re cooked this winter. The fresh beans aren’t nearly as pretty as these dried ones, but they both taste awesome with some of that chow chow on them!
Recently a friend uttered those three special words we all love to hear: LOCAL, ORGANIC, and FREE. So I picked her concord grapes, and loved transforming them from this…
Christmas gifts jars of jelly. Thank you Sara.
This month, as the tomatoes have ripened, they’ve gone from the vine right into the jars and will be used in the months ahead as the basis for many pots of soup, pasta sauces, chilis and casseroles. The 50 jars I’ve canned this summer should last a year…IF I only use one jar a week!
Luckily, onions, potatoes, garlic and winter squashes just needed to be stored away in a dark, dry, rodent- proof place…
Drying some of the garlic allows me to keep it year round though…
Old fashioned, plain green beans are Michael’s favorite and recent research shows they can be effective against cancer:
In addition to all this canning, the freezer’s full of berries, chopped peppers, edamame, peas and pesto, with apples and pecans coming in next month. My young daughter once asked:
How did you spend YOUR summer staycation?
Filed under: Biking, Climate Change, Closed Loop Systems, Community Building, Contributionism, Liveable Communities, Peak Oil, Resilience, Uncategorized, Urban Living | Tags: economic development, fitness trail, One Acre Cafe, rails to trails conversion, Tweetsie Trail
I’ve attended several meetings this week, all aiming to make our community a better place to
love live. Before moving to this area, I’d raised a family and worked a full-time job, with little time or energy left for civic affairs. Perhaps every town and community is as focused as mine on making life better, but I can’t really say since this is the only place I’ve lived that I’ve liked enough to get involved. (Something within me though tells me that MY town is special in this regard.) Over the last couple of days I’ve witnessed over 150 different people come to these meetings straight from work, while on their lunch breaks or during their dinner hour to show their support for initiatives in this area that are important enough to them that they take the time to show up and contribute. Some of us have time, some have special talents, others have lots of energy, a few have money, but we all want to contribute in some way to make our community better. It’s not all altruistic of course, since we will benefit individually as well as collectively from our efforts.
The recently formed Rails to Trails Task Force has been charged with overseeing the conversion of an old railroad system into a 10+ mile long hiking and biking trail by Labor Day of next year. The ‘Tweetsie Trail’ will bring many new visitors and their dollars to our community, while giving those of us lucky enough to LIVE here a free fitness trail that just happens to offer us lots of natural beauty while we get fit and have fun. My city has committed $100,000 to jumpstart this project, that after investing $625,000 to purchase the land itself. The task force meets monthly and manages to get lots of homework done between meetings. All volunteers. All contributing whatever they can.
One Acre Cafe is a soon-to-be-opened restaurant that will be located between our downtown area and the college campus. It will use a nonprofit status and a ‘Pay It Forward’ concept of making sure that everyone eats. If you can pay a bit more for your meal, any extra will go towards buying a meal for someone who can’t afford to pay. If you’re one of those, you can work for an hour at the cafe to earn your meal, all while learning valuable kitchen skills that might eventually earn you a paid job in the food service industry along with that meal. This whole plan is run by volunteers and is operating entirely via donations. It’s been a tremendous undertaking but is becoming a reality due to many, many volunteers contributing. (there’s that word again)
Last but certainly not least, a joint meeting was held yesterday between the Washington County Economic Development Council and the Liveable Communities group to explore the possibility of combining our forces in hopes of being able to make a better contribution (ahem…) to making our region a nicer place to live. A city/county entity combining with a civic group- is that sweet or WHAT? It’s part of contributionism, that’s what.
When I first began thinking about the purpose of this blog, I wanted, most of all, to provide my readers with positive alternatives to the present reality of Peak Oil, Climate Change and an oil-based lifestyle and economy that is unsustainable. I am convinced that a new, clear, vision is what is needed to re-create 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. If you too are interested in these things, simply pick a project that you care about and contribute your unique gifts to it. Our gifts of contributionism will manifest themselves into even more generosity from those affected and will help see us all through times of turmoil. In contrast to the age of oil and money where we can pay for anything and need no gifts, soon it will be abundantly clear: we need each other.
Filed under: Alternative Energy, Backyard Chickens, beekeeping, Energy Savings, Food Storage, Herbs, Resilience, Urban Hens | Tags: beekeeping business, chicken tractor, clotheslines, R.O.I., rocket stoves, the good life, tiny houses
I had a meeting with my financial counselor recently and asked him where I should invest my small inheritance that I received from my mother. I was thinking a CD, Money Market fund, or some other short-term investment where it could earn a bit of interest, yet not be penalized if I needed to use it. His advice? Keep it in my emergency savings account because interest rates are so low still that it wouldn’t be prudent to tie it up in anything right now. The assumption is that rates.will.rise. Yeah, and so will the price.of.things.
So I gave a lot of thought to where I might currently get the best R.O.I. for my little nest egg based on that advice, and came up with the some ideas; while CD’s are currently paying less than 1% interest, and mortgage rates are hovering near 5% now, perhaps I could hold a mortgage for someone? Nah. Not unless they intended to buy a tiny house to live in. The best Return On Investment would come from investing in my household: a new roof, long-term food storage, energy-saving measures or even learning new skills that might prove useful over the rest of my life. Self reliance tools like a pressure canner, a grain mill or sewing machine also came to mind but since I already own those things, I bought a new laptop instead. My old desktop computer was really outdated, and my daughter, whose computer was even older, can still enjoy the old one. I bought it during Tennessee’s annual back to school tax-free weekend and saved enough cash on the tax to pay for a new wireless printer. Both the computer and printer are tools for me, and learning the new Windows 8 operating system has turned out to be a REAL investment in my brain health (or brain degradation, depending on how you look at it). I don’t have a smart phone, (nor do I feel the need for one and the monthly fees to support its smartness), cable TV, a daily newspaper or any number of available technological wonders of the world. A computer is my tool of choice to stay connected to my family, the world, and to you. Besides, I’m writing the next Great American Novel and long hand is soooo 1980′s
I’ve also decided to invest in a rocket stove and a couple of small solar panels too, so that if the grid goes down, I can charge my laptop and my ‘dumb’ cell phone while boiling the water for a cup of herbal tea, using only a few twigs as fuel. Rocket Stoves rock.
Speaking of herbal tea, I’ve also decided it would be wise of me to invest a bit of money, some time and a lot of labor into a new medicinal herb bed so that I can grow some of my family’s medicines. Learning to grow and use plants like Elderberries for making cough syrups, Comfrey for wound care, Feverfew for headaches, Camomile for upset stomachs, and Hawthorne for high blood pressure should keep me and Michael out of the drugstore, more money in our pocket, and healthier to boot. That’s what I call a really good R.O.I. !
Outdoor clotheslines, a chicken tractor and a couple of hives of honey bees will complete my investments for now. The rest will be saved for when we need that new roof on the house-another good investment in our largest asset, which is our home.
It’s true, you can’t buy happiness. That said, I’m sure I could be REAL HAPPY with a European vacation -for about 2 weeks. But what could possibly be a more satisfying start to each and every day than eating a fresh egg that I’ve just gathered at my back door, spreading my morning toast with honey from my own hives, and washing it down with a cup of herbal tea, while writing a new book or reading the morning news on my laptop- all while sitting in my garden? Call me crazy, and I’m sure some of you would, but investing in yourself, your health, your home and your own unique ‘good life’ will give you the very best returns. Guaranteed.
Filed under: Community Building, Creating Community, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, Reducing Waste, Resilience, Sustainability, Time Savers | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, simplicity, the good life
A friend whose opinion I highly value tells me that a simpler, more sustainable, and resilient lifestyle does NOT necessarily need to have an emphasis on frugality and money savings. Her example of how by cutting one another’s hair, she and her husband are free to use the time that it might’ve taken to make appointments, drive to and from the appointments and possibly have to change clothes and drop some other activity at home in order to go to those appointments frees them up to pursue those things. Saving money on the haircuts is secondary to them, in other words.
I’ve given this a lot of thought and feel that she’s (mostly) right. The only difference for me is that being frugal keeps me off the payroll and out of the workplace. Not having to work outside the home for money enables me to have the time I want to garden, play music, volunteer, write and do the hundred other things that make my life feel I’m living the good life.
I think both of us are reaching the same objective, just from a different perspective. I get more emails and questions about how to get out of debt, save money and live on less than any other topic that I cover in this blog. I would prefer to spend more time writing about and advocating for ways that we can form more resilient communities, live and shop more locally, or address climate change and Peak Oil issues, but frugality tops the list of questions- hands down. With yesterday’s U.S. economic headlines of “Walmart earnings disaster exposes a collapsing economy” and “Cisco announces plans to lay off 4,000 employees”, as well as “Dow dropped 225 points today, August 15th” , I suspect frugality will continue to remain popular for both you and me. And so, Frugal Fridays will continue until I can no longer find inspirational things to offer you. (That’ll be the day!) And don’t forget, share your own inspirations in the comments below. You never know who or how much it might help someone.
Which brings me back to this week’s posting of ways I found to live well on less. None of them are life changing, none of them are sexy, but all of them saved me a bit of cash so that I don’t have to find a job in this so-called collapsing economy. And that makes Sam one happy camper. Not having to go to a paying job will allow me to go camping next month too, by the way.
- I made enough pesto to see us through the winter and it’s now taking up valuable real estate in my freezer. I use walnuts in mine rather than pine nuts because they are a: healthier and b: cheaper and c: I can’t tell much difference in my walnut pesto and pine nut pesto. Just sayin’…
- I purchased a used, but like new copy of an Herb book I’d had on my wish list for a long time for $3.99, down from an all time high of $15.00.
- I bid $10 on a pair of Teva- brand sandals on Ebay and won the auction. With shipping, my $65 sandals cost less than $15. They fit, I love them, and they’ll now replace my old Teva’s that were nine years old and had a sole that was coming loose.
- When it came time to get rid of the old sandals, I realized I could reglue it using contact cement I already had on hand. So I glued:
The tip to use contact cement rather than Shoe Goo, which I thought I needed but didn’t have on hand, came from a friend. Thanks Rich! Now I can use the old ones when I work in the garden or wash the car…
- Which is exactly what I did yesterday. I washed and vacuumed the family ride, saving myself at least $6 in quarters, (or $20+ if I’d taken it to a full service carwash) and because it was such a glorious, fall-like day I loved being outside, while listening to some great music-and wearing my reglued sandals.
Using resources wisely-whether it’s money, time or energy- is a talent we all benefit from cultivating. Whatever your reasons are for wanting to become financially stronger, happier, and more resilient, keep in mind it’s never too late to begin that transition that will see you through a collapsing economy and beyond.
Filed under: Cancer, Canning, Composting, Food Storage, Frugality, Growing Food, Healthy food, Herbs, organic gardening, Plant based diet, Resilience, Sustainability | Tags: food, frugal, growing food
It’s now mid-August, and I’m feeling the effects of a late summer garden bounty, weekly grass cutting chores, clearing and preparing garden beds for fall replanting, making pesto, drying herbs, planting seeds and a long list of summer projects still undone; the frequent rains have messed up plans for everything from painting the porch to preparing a black-and-blue berry bed. Even though those projects are important to me, my highest priority is my husband’s cancer treatments and recovery. We’ve had to make choices that support protecting his health, and healing his spirit, and letting go of anything that doesn’t achieve those things.
I’ve still found time to do a fair amount of canning this summer, including some pint jars of tomatoes today. Why do I add this time consuming job to an already too-long to-do list? Let me count the ways…
- Canned and cooked tomatoes are rich in Lycopene, long thought to prevent cancer. New research shows that it may only be useful in preventing prostate cancers. Michael has colon cancer, so tomatoes and all the wonderful dishes that include them will always be featured on our supper table. I mean ALL he needs is prostate cancer now, right? Just sayin’…
- Putting food by is a skill, an art, and an act of resilience and sustainability. If this blog is about nothing else, it’s about those things!
- My favorite brand of canned tomatoes recently jumped from 50 cents a can to 75 cents a can. That’s a 50% increase folks! When I save and replant my own seeds, make my own compost and reuse my own reusable canning lids to seal the jars, my tomatoes are essentially FREE. If you’re a regular reader of this blog , you know that being frugal is a priority of mine, one that allows me the freedom and luxury of living very well on a small income.
- Lastly, a well-stocked pantry offers me a sense of security, allows me to eat healthy, organic, good-tasting food every day of my life- not just during June, July or August- and gives me a tremendous sense of well-being. I don’t look at preserving food as simply ‘another thing I need to do’, but as a CHOICE and a blessing. I think that last part is what makes it fun and easy for me to face basketfuls of fresh fruits or veggies every day or so in the kitchen. It’s a mindset.
Speaking of mindsets… I grew up in a home/religion/time that taught me that “Idle hands are the Devil’s handiwork”, and even though I don’t believe that shit for one minute, the lesson stayed with me, and now, sixty years later, I have trouble being ‘still’. Or just ‘being’- not doing. To help remedy that, I’ve gone back to my old daily meditation practice and am reminded once again why it’s called a ‘practice’. But then again, many things in life require practice. Take these tomatoes, for example. I’ve been canning for almost 40 years, but today, when I opened the canner after the timer went off, I was greeted to floating tomatoes all over the top of the water! Not only did one jar not seal, it must not’ve been screwed down at all because the ring, lid and rubber were all floating. I assume it’s because I wasn’t being mindful, and simply failed to screw it down. That’s where my mindfulness practice of mediation becomes helpful. With a full regimen of cancer therapies added to my daily rounds, I’ve found myself being careless or mindless more and more often. This is NOT how I want to spend my days, and so I sit, cross-legged, eyes closed, just focusing on my breath. And all.those.tomatoes.
Filed under: Alternative Energy, Cancer, Closed Loop Systems, Energy Savings, Peak Oil, Resilience, Sustainability | Tags: Solar, sustainable energy sources
It’s the dog days of summer, almost mid-August. Back in June I wrote a post called “Room for Improvement” which is about my ongoing efforts to reduce my energy needs and costs. My intention then was to find something I could do each month to make that happen, and then let you know if it was something that I felt might be doable and useful for your household too. July brought a diagnosis of “The Big C” to my hubby and our lives have changed drastically since that post was written. In other words, I wasn’t able to make improvements in my energy usage in July, nor even think about how I might make that happen. John Lennon famously said: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”. (That said, it also points to my not-so-famous quote: “Prepare today for tomorrow; Screw that ‘location, location, location- it’s ‘Resilience, Resilience, Resilience’.”)
But never fear! I’ve found a way to offer you some inspiration in spite of my own dismal energy cutting efforts last month. I asked my super
heroes friends that live in Cottage Grove, Oregon to share pictures and a writeup about their latest in a very long line of personal efforts to reduce their energy dependence and they have come through with a knockout project that sounds easy enough that it can be duplicated for little money and just a bit of work. I hope you’ll enjoy this ‘guest blog’, and if you know of others that are trying to transition to a life that isn’t 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, please direct them to me if they’ve got ideas to share here on this blog.
Guest Blog by Dale Lugenbehl and Sandy Aldridge
“If you’re interested in a very effective way to reduce your home energy usage, you might be interested in a solar-powered outdoor shower. Although this may sound like more than a home handyperson might tackle, it’s actually quite manageable. We built one ourselves and are delighted with the final outcome. It has reduced our electrical use for the entire year by between 15 and 20 percent because we are able to turn off our hot water heater for 4-5 months and simply shower outside. We live in Western Oregon; if you live in a high solar area, you might be able to use your shower all year around.
Initially we built a 4×8 foot shower stall—one end for changing and one for showering–out of inexpensive cedar fence boards (59 cents each), laid a floor of pavers that were seconds (cost 40 cents each), and used a black camp shower bag ($8.95) for the shower. That worked well for one summer but we were really looking forward to not needing to hoist the bag of water up each time we wanted to shower. This spring we finished the actual batch heater that allows us to have a hot (!) shower any time of the day or night without hoisting the bag up into a tree and without using any electricity whatsoever.
The core of the system is a plywood box that contains a used, but not leaking, electric hot water heater which we got for free from a neighbor who was replacing his (One might also be found at a recycling center for a few dollars.). After checking to make sure it didn’t leak, we stripped off the outer sheet metal jacket and underlying foam insulation. Then we wire brushed (or one could sand) the metal surface and painted it black for maximum solar absorption.
Meanwhile, we had cut and painted the pieces of plywood that would eventually house the water heater. At this point, we lined the plywood box with polyisocyanurate rigid foam insulation (found at lumber yards and home improvement centers), that is covered with shiny aluminum to reflect any sunlight that enters the box onto the black tank.
Once the tank was installed, the top of the box was covered with a used patio slider door (34” x 76”). We actually got a new one for free (double pane glass! ) from a dealer who had one he couldn’t sell because it had a small scratch on it. Then we sealed the edge of the glass and plumbed the tank to the water supply and the shower itself and, voila, outdoor shower that uses zero electricity.
NOTE TO CITY DWELLERS: This same design can also be used to preheat water going into your regular household hot water heater. In our case, we opted for the outdoor shower because of complexities created by the original design of the house—the sun being on one side and the water heater on the other beyond a sunroom that we had added on several years ago.”
We haven’t listed all the parts above so there are other costs but we were able to do this for less than $200. The plans that we used for the solar heater came from the Extension Service of Oregon State University (first published in March 1986). The same plans we used are available on-line as a PDF file at http://solaroregon.org/residential-solar/swh-batch-doc . The plans are simple and straightforward. If you have questions, write to us at email@example.com or visit our website at http://ahimsaacres.org/
Sam here: Can’t you just imagine taking a solar heated shower under the stars?
Filed under: Biking, Buy Local, Community Building, Energy Savings, fall gardening, Frugality, Growing Food, Local Food, Peak Oil, Resilience, Seasonal Eating, Seed Saving, Sustainability | Tags: frugal, growing food, root crops, sustainable energy sources
It’s time again for a little of this and a little of that…things I’d like you to know about if you don’t already, things that interest me, things that might help you in your own personal journey to freedom-however you might define that. None of these things would make a full length post, but still-I thought you might want to know -just sayin’...
1. Tennessee’s annual tax-free holiday weekend begins at 12:01 a.m on Friday, August 2 and ends Sunday, August 4 at 11:59 p.m. If you’re planning to buy school clothes, school supplies, or a new computer, THIS is the time. Here’s a list of everything that’s eligible:
2. It’s time to start planning for a fall garden. My friend Emily wrote today: “There’s still time and so much more to plant! •Beets • Kale • Broccoli • Kohlrabi • Chinese Cabbage • Lettuce • Cabbage • Radishes • Carrots • Scallions • Cauliflower • Spinach • Chicory • Turnips • Collards • Swiss Chard”. Like she says, there are a number of things that will do well before really cold weather, if your soil is vibrant and healthy.. I was left with seed potatoes from this spring so I planted them last night and should get a crop of ‘new potatoes’ (the small ones that don’t develop tough storage-quality skins) before cold weather. PLUS we are in a waning moon phase, which is the best for planting underground crops like beets, onions and yep, ‘taters! I plan to start seeds tomorrow for bok choy and will set out my late June planted Longkeeper Tomatoes next week. They’re about this high now and should produce a good crop of fresh tomatoes that, with any luck, we’ll be eating fresh on Valentine’s Day! They’re not as good as summer grown tomatoes, but a whole lot better than Florida grown winter tomatoes. AND they’re not GM tomatoes. AND they’re locally grown. AND I’ll be eating them fresh this winter. Just sayin…
3. So, what if your soil isn’t vibrant and healthy? I think the best advice I could give you would be to clear it off of old plant debris as soon as your plants have spent themselves, add chopped leaves, compost, aged or composted manures, and then plant a green cover crop of buckwheat. It’ll flower in a month and give the bees something to eat during the waning days of summer when not much else is blooming. Once it blooms, but before it goes to seed, cut it down, and replant the area to a cold weather green manure that can stay in place until spring. My personal favorite is Crimson Clover, but many folks like winter rye or hairy vetch. The clover seed was $3 a pound this year-last year it was $1.65 a pound at the same store! I’m thinking I’ll plant a separate patch and let it go to seed so that I can harvest my own next spring-just in case it shoots up to $5 a pound next fall. Seed saving is the most critical gardening skill you can have if you want to be self-sufficient and sustainable. Just sayin’…
4. I was recently honored to be asked to be a member of the Board for the Tweetsie Historic Trail Association (THTA), a local non-profit organization whose objective is to assist in the creation of the multi-use Tweetsie Trail between Johnson City, TN and Elizabethton, TN, a neighboring town 10 miles away. Here’s a link to our website:
Johnson City purchased the old Tweetsie Railroad System last year and has now formed a powerful Task Force that is charged with seeing the former route become a biking, hiking and recreational reality. The Task Force met this week at the Memorial Park Community Center and I was frankly AMAZED at all that’s going into this project. Here’s a link to a story about the meeting, written by a Times reporter that was also there, so I won’t bother to rewrite it for you now: http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/article/109866/rails-to-trails-task-force-sets-pace-for-new-10-mile-recreational-trail-between-johnson-city-elizabethton
So what do sales tax exemptions, fall gardens and rails-to-trails conversions have to do with the focus of this blog? A lot actually. Finding ways to lower our income and energy needs, whether directly, like using money-saving strategies or indirectly, like learning to grow and preserve our own food and health, can offer each of us a sense of self sufficiency and resiliency that many of us are seeking in our lives. Preserving green spaces and utilizing energy-free transportation methods are investments that we’ll all reap the benefits from, long after the last oil well is dried up. Participating in groups like these offer us an enlivened sense of community well-being. Another THTA board member told me that the railroad retains the right to reclaim this railway, should the need ever arise to resume rail car deliveries of goods and/or people. The assumption is that Peak Oil will indeed necessitate the need for the railroad to reclaim it eventually. Just sayin…
Filed under: Cancer, Canning, Healthy food, Local Food, Plant based diet, Seasonal Eating | Tags: Farmer's Market, Fermentation, food, frugal, growing food
I read other blogs and often get good ideas and recipes from them. Some are so good I then want to share them with you. My attempts to make appealing food for Michael while his appetite is so severely affected by his chemo treatments, and yet still keep our meals healthy, local, frugal, and easy for me to prepare, set a pretty high bar. But Zucchini Cakes definitely made the cut. When I was cooking them, Michael was not feeling well (or hungry) but I tempted him with one and it worked its’ magic on those compromised taste buds of his and he ate that cake and then another! This makes great use of a good-sized zucchini (and I’m always looking for solutions to that wonderful dilemma!) and used up the last bit of buckwheat pancake mix I had left in a bag in the freezer. These Z Cakes are good for any meal, but for breakfast we ate them with fresh peaches and homemade bread toasted and spread with some of the strawberry jam I made recently. We ate the remaining cakes with Potato/Leek Soup for lunch but I plan to make some more soon for supper, with corn on the cob and a cold pasta salad. That’ll keep Michael coming back to the table I’m sure!
Here’s the recipe: (you’re welcome)
Savory Zucchini Pancakes
2-ish cups grated zucchini (blot or drain to remove excess moisture)
2 eggs, beaten
Approx. 1/4 cup chopped green onion (or any onion can work)
About 1/2 cup grated cheese (a dry, flavorful one like Parmesan is good)
Roughly 1/2 cup pancake mix (I used buckwheat. But, you can use flour plus 1/2 tsp each salt and baking powder)
Optional: cracked black pepper, sour cream garnish
Mix first three ingredients together. Mix cheese and pancake or flour mix together separately, then add to the first bowl, stirring just until moistened.
Fry large spoonfuls in hot vegetable oil, flattening with spatula to get the right pancake thickness.
Here’s one final tip for making Z Cakes: If you’re overwhelmed with zucchini right now, grate it and freeze in 2 cup portions in freezer bags. thawing just long enough to be able to stir into to the cake batter. GREAT way to have your cake and eat it too.
Last weekend, my friend Katie ‘gifted’ me with a 9 pound cabbage and a recipe for her aunt’s ‘Chow Chow’, which is a Southern condiment made of shredded cabbage, green tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices that can be made as sweet or as spicy as you like. After the veggies have sat in a salt brine overnight, you make a spiced syrup to mix into them, then seal it in jars for Christmas gift giving or eating on soup beans or however you like it best. Or, you can set the jars along the fence and just admire them…
Not only does this food fit my requirements of being frugal and seasonal, it earns extra points in my opinion for using easily available locally grown foods (no matter where you live!) and for being so very healthy. I’ve just begun learning about the health benefits of fermented foods. They introduce helpful probiotics to our guts. And even though Michael’s chemo and radiation treatments are (hopefully) killing his body’s cancerous cells, at the same time they’re killing his ‘normal’ cells too. Enter Chow Chow. Even though this particular recipe is not a true fermented product since it uses vinegar, rather than TIME, to ferment, it’s still good food, packed with antioxidants. Just don’t give me any of yours for Christmas, I’ve got plenty of my own now.
Aunt Elizabeth’s Chow Chow
4 quarts green tomatoes (about 30, sliced)
6 pounds cabbage
2 quarts onions. (5 lbs)
3 hot peppers
12 green peppers (3 ½ lbs)
1 ½ cups table salt (non iodized)
Cover all of these ingredients and let stand overnight. (It all fit perfectly in my 4 quart slow cooker.)
Next day, (after you’ve had Z Cakes for breakfast!), drain well. Then…
Combine and boil for 5 minutes:
2 quarts vinegar (I like Apple Cider, but you can use your favorite)
5 pounds sugar (I only used 2 ½)
6 tablespoons dry mustard
5 tablespoons celery seed
2 tablespoons turmeric
6 tablespoons flour
Add the chopped vegetables and bring to a boil until slightly thick. Pour in sterilized jars, covering the veggies. Seal. Can this Chow Chow just as you would other pickles in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Makes 10 pints; crisp and delicious.
I promise my next post will NOT be about food.
Filed under: Buy Local, Canning, Frugality, Healthy food, Herbs, Local Food, Mindful Consumerism | Tags: Farmer's Market, food, frugal, growing food
I can’t believe it’s Friday again. Between hospital visits, gardening and canning, it’s been a busy, busy week. But I’m pleased that I’ve been able to avoid the extra expense of eating out, and have managed to have decent meals all week, without a whole lot of cooking. But first, let’s look at the week:
Monday: After paying almost four dollars for 2 cups of coffee at the hospital cafe, I made up my mind then and there to always bring my own. And so I did each day: water, coffee, tea or juice traveled in our refillable mugs and bottles each day. Savings Tuesday thru Friday: $16
Tuesday: Walked to the Thrift Store to take advantage of their monthly BAG SALE, where you can stuff a 13 gallon plastic bag with as many articles of clothing as you can fit in it for $12.00. I found 3 pairs of capris, one pair of jeans, 2 teeshirts, one skirt and one blouse that I liked and that fit me. I also bought a like new retro over- the- headboard- lamp, complete with a pull chain off/on switch for the dark side of my guest room bed, and a Pyrex dish with matching lid. Total Spent: $16.00 Both the Pyrex dish and the headboard lamp reminded me SO MUCH of my grandmother, and that’s priceless!
Wednesday: I walked to the Farmer’s Market and bought a large, locally grown eggplant for $1.00. Savings over grocery store price: 99 cents. Later in the morning, asked for, and received, a like new waffle iron/griddle from a fellow Freecycler! Savings: $65.34, according to Amazon! Not familiar with Freecycle? Go here: freecycle.org and enter the name of your town. It’s that simple to get rid of
crap good stuff you don’t want, and find things you need.
Thursday: Signed up for auto bill pay for my monthly health insurance premium. No more monthly stamp or envelope. Savings: $5.52 a year for stamps, plus 12 envelopes
Friday: Canned 7 quarts and 4 pints of green beans. Used reusable Tattler lids instead of one-time-only metal lids. Savings: About $1.75? The lids have long ago paid for themselves, because this is about the 7th or 8th year I’ve used them. Here’s a picture, you can buy them yourself at http://www.reusablecanninglids.com or on Ebay:
Now, about that eggplant: (see Wednesday). I made Ratatouille for supper tonight with it, and cooked it in my brand new in the box Lodge cast iron dutch oven that I traded a friend for, in exchange for a few trips to the airport. We both felt we got a good deal- he saved parking fees and I saved $35 on the pot that I needed to replace after mine cracked a couple of months ago. Because I had every ingredient that it requires except the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it was extremely cheap to make. I served it over pasta and used leftover hamburger buns buttered and sprinkled with garlic salt and toasted in place of Italian bread. Total cost to me: About $2.50, including the pasta-the buns were free at the bread store because I bought $5 worth of other stuff there, so I didn’t count them.
Here’s the recipe: 4-6 healthy servings when served over rice or pasta. It’s fabulous!
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium eggplant, (3/4 pound), diced
1 medium zuchinni, quartered and diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
6 tomatoes (2 pounds), diced
1 tsp fresh oregano, roughly chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, roughly chopped
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T. capers, drained and chopped (I don’t use these)
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced
What you Do:
1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zuchinni and bell pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook for 5 more minutes. All vegetables should be tender.
2. Stir in the oregano, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook for one additional minute. Remove from heat and add balsamic vinegar and capers, if using them. Garnish with basil and serve over rice or pasta.
OK, your turn. What ways did you find this week to save money or reduce your expenses? There’s always something to learn from one another, so do tell!
I enjoy sharing this blog with all of you, but I really write it for ME…writing helps me sort things out in my head and in my real life. With that, I’m telling you, dear readers, that my beloved husband Michael has been diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer and will begin intensive chemo and radiation treatments on Monday. The good news is that the doctors are assuring us that they can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Now, don’t go getting your panties in a wad… any of you that know me well, should know by now that humor is my greatest weapon during troubled times, and in a situation like the big “C”, I simply HAVE to find the silver lining, or I’ll feel defenseless. I’ve already thought of one silver lining to this mess: For as long as we can remember, Michael can walk out the door in the summer, and mosquitoes will instantly land on him and bite him. I’m willing to bet money that once the chemo is running through his blood tomorrow, the mosquitoes will no longer find him tasty. We’re almost out of our current bottle of “Bug Potion #9″ so the therapy is beginning just in the nick of time Maybe we can even plan a picnic supper down by the lake before the summer’s over.
I intend to be with him every step of the way, but it’s going to require a bit of extra planning on both our parts to not buckle in to eating restaurant meals when neither of us want to cook, and to keep up with our gardening and canning efforts-after all, we’ll still be wanting to eat our familiar and healthy homegrown food long after the cancer treatments are over. The doctors tell us that because Michael IS so healthy otherwise (low blood pressure and cholesterol, no diabetes or heart problems) his chances of beating this are good. We attribute that to a healthy diet and daily exercise. Period.
We’ll be using more gasoline due to the 5x a week radiation treatments at the hospital, more air conditioning to help Michael stay comfortable during his illness, and spending more money on health care bills and prescriptions. To combat these larger daily expenses, I suspect that my blog posts will focus a bit more than usual on frugality, but perhaps even more than that, on finding and sharing ways to become more resilient in our every day lives. For me, that will include paying better attention to my own self care, balancing caregiving with community building (after all, it took ALL the Kings’ horses and All the Kings’ men to put Humpty back together again), and probably exploring new meal ideas for those times when he has no appetite and I don’t want to cook, as well as new waiting room hobbies.
This blog is about transitions, after all, and even though this is a transition we didn’t expect, I’m hoping my grandmother’s old adage will remain true: “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”. Boy, are we gonna be strong when this is all over! It’s a new trail we’re blazing here (as it has been for countless others unfortunately) and I hope you’ll join me for the ride. And now, since I don’t take and save pictures for sharing on this blog that are in any way related to ‘The Big C’, I’ll leave you with this link to my favorite You Tube video of all times. It’s so worth the click.
Filed under: Food Storage, Frugality, Growing Food, Healthy food, Herbs, Local Food, Seed Saving | Tags: frugal, growing food, root crops, Waste reduction
As Detroit signs the papers on their 18 BILLION dollar bankruptcy case, leaving many of their city workers without health care or pensions, I’m doing all I can to avoid bankruptcy and stay healthy in my own little ways.
That said, here’s some of the little things I’ve done this week to save a dime or two:
Last Saturday: Found a deluxe wire grill basket at the thrift store for $10 but felt that was a bit high. Went back on Wednesday, after thinking about it for 4 days, and it was marked down to $6.oo! Just in time for grilling all these fresh summer veggies from the garden. Savings: $4.00
Sunday: Made a day- long car trip so packed a tuna sandwich, chips and a drink from home for my lunch. Stopped at a beautiful overlook in the mountains to eat. Savings: About $5.00 I’m Lovin’ It!
Monday: Had to accompany Michael to doctor in the morning for some testing and knew ahead of time it was going to be a few hours. Took my library book so I could avoid shooting the newscaster on FOX TV, my own mug of coffee, along with a fresh peach and some trail mix to munch on. Savings: About $5.oo on snacks, plus a life
Tuesday: Harvested about 30 pounds of potatoes from my little patch. Cost to plant: $2.50 Savings: 30 pounds of organic potatoes- Are you kidding? About $60.00 I’d say!
Wednesday: Pulled the straw off the old potato patch (see Tuesday), and used it to cover a patch of newly planted grass seed in my yard. Savings: $4 for another bale of straw and about 30 cents on the grass seed because Master Gardener’s get a 10% discount at the local garden store! Mailed my daughter a card that I’d saved from my mother’s stash after she passed away, and glued an uncancelled stamp that was peeled off a piece of mail that I’d received. Additional Savings: At least $1.00 for stamp and card
Thursday: Used the.last.bit. of toothpaste from the tube that was ‘empty’ over two weeks ago. I always cut the tops of ‘empty’ tubes off and dip my brush down in the open tube, allowing me many more cleanings before it’s REALLY empty! Like this:
Savings? Enough to make the quick ‘snip’ worthwhile!
Today: Harvested seeds from my heirloom slo-bolt cilantro, along with enough chamomile flowers to make several cups of tea, which is good as a sleep aid or to dispel stomach gas. Savings: $2.50 for the original packet of seeds and perhaps $1 for two cups of organic tea. Not to mention the rich feeling of self reliance and sustainability growing herbs and saving seeds gives me.
OK, it’s your turn again! What did you do this week to save a dime or a dollar? Comment below so we can all benefit. A dollar saved… yada yada yada…
Filed under: Creating Community, Crowdsourcing, Liveable Communities, Local Food, Resilience | Tags: maker faire, maker space
Baader-Meinhof is the phenomenon where one happens upon some obscure piece of information– often an unfamiliar word or name– and soon afterwards encounters the same subject again, often repeatedly. Anytime the phrase “That’s so weird, I just heard about that the other day” would be appropriate, the utterer is hip-deep in Baader-Meinhof. This post is about my most recent Baader-Meinhof experience-Maker Faires and Maker Spaces. I’ve been reading about them on the internet for a month or so, and had planned to write a post here about them when I’d gathered enough information. Then a blog I follow did a post about a big one in Detroit, complete with YouTube video, a Forbes Magazine did a story about the Fayetteville, NY Public Library that is offering its’ patrons a permanent Maker Space, and today I literally stumbled across this:
The second annual Maker Faire will be held this coming Sunday, July 14th, at the Kingsport, TN Civic Auditorium, from 1-6 PM. The event is free and is part of the nine day annual FunFest. The following short article may help you understand what it’s all about…
Above: Huge vats of paella at San Francisco, CA Maker Faire, May, 2013
“Maker Faires bring together families and individuals to celebrate the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset and showcase all kinds of incredible projects. At a Maker Faire, you’ll find arts and crafts, science and engineering, food and music, maybe fire and water but what makes this event special is that all these interesting projects and smart, creative people belong together. They are actively and openly creating a maker culture.”
“In its simplest form, Maker Faire creates conversations with Makers. It is a show-and-tell format for people of all ages that brings out the “kid” in all of us. Maker Faire is a community-based learning event that inspires everyone to become a Maker and connect to people and projects in their local community. Yet, Maker Faire is a “fair” which should be fun and engaging.”
“Maker Faire provides a venue for makers to show examples of their work and interact with others about it. Often there is no other place to show what they do, because these activities are out of the spotlight of traditional art or science or craft events. DIY often is invisible in our communities, taking place in shops, garages and kitchen tables. So the goal of the event is to make visible the projects and ideas that we don’t encounter every day. Maker Faire, like any fair, might include traditional forms of making but it is primarily designed to be forward-looking, exploring new forms and new technologies.”
R2D2 robots at San Francisco, CA Maker Faire May, 2013 Note: There will be robots at the Kingsport Faire too!
” Maker Faire is interactive and educational in all kinds of ways. Maker Faire is not a passive sit-down experience; it’s a hands-on experience that you grab hold of. From simple conversations and detailed explanations to amazing do-it-yourself demonstrations, Maker Faire is all about participation and sharing. Many Makers develop exhibits with hands-on activities; others bring unusual objects that we don’t see every day. All of that creates a stimulating event.”
What Maker Faire is Not
“Maker Faire is not a trade show. Maker Faire is an opportunity for people to share ideas and projects. So Maker Faire is non-commercial in nature, in that we don’t want it dominated by traditional sales and marketing. We hope to create authentic interactions that satisfy each person’s interests. At the same time, we’re not anti-commercial. We are grateful to have businesses as sponsors. We also allow makers to show their work and offer items for sale. We want to help makers succeed in starting a business, if that’s their goal. However, we don’t want to change the look and feel or spirit of the event.”
What’s this got to do with Tennessee Transitions? Everything actually. I’ve spent a year and a half writing this blog about how a shift is taking place, how 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. I write about how now is the time for us 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. Somebody must be listening because Maker Faires are perfect examples of what I’m talking about, I just didn’t know that’s what it was called!
Well, ‘F’ used to mean ‘Failure’ but thinking about it in this new context gives ‘F’ a whole new meaning! Just for fun I decided to keep track last week of some of the normal, every day things I do to help stretch our income. I thought I’d share them with you here, in hopes that it will inspire you or give you some of your own ideas. So, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours
1. Donated Blood at the Red Cross, and received coupons for a free frozen yogurt from Marble Slab Creamery AND a coupon for 6 free games of bowling
2. Stopped at Starbucks on my way to give blood and walked out with a big ole’ bag of coffee grounds to add to my compost pile
3. Fed my friend’s chickens and cats while she was away on vacation in exchange for 2-3 freshly laid eggs a day, along with orders to harvest the fast- growing zuchinnis, yellow squash and cucumbers from her garden each day
4. Took my car for an oil change and was given a free car wash in the deal
5. And finally, peeled an uncanceled stamp off a piece of mail and reused it. What? You don’t do that? All I can say is, “why not”?
So dear readers, what ‘eFFin’ Frugal things do you do to stretccchhhh your income? Please share in the comments section below.
Filed under: Climate Change, Community Building, Creating Community, Global Warming, Peak Oil, Resilience, Transition Towns | Tags: networking, Transition Initiative
Increasingly, governments and disaster planners are recognizing the importance of social infrastructure: the people, places, and institutions that foster cohesion and support. “There’s a lot of social-science research showing how much better people do in disasters, how much longer they live, when they have good social networks and connections,” says Nicole Lurie, a former professor of health policy who has been President O’Bama’s assistant secretary for preparedness and response since 2009. This writer definitely considers my locally based connections-from my church to my band- to all be invaluable parts of my social network, but because of our unique geographical constraints in this Appalachian region, almost everyone involved in my various networks is separated from one another by miles and miles of highway. The very people who I might need to depend on in a disaster or an emergency, or simply in a localized economy, don’t really exist for me.
To that end, I’ve been seriously considering trying to form a social/community infrastructure like the ‘Transition Initiatives’ I’ve been reading about and studying for the last couple of years. The core purpose of the Transition Initiative is to address, at the community level, the twin challenges of Climate Change and Peak Oil, and this blog was so named because of my desire to meet those challenges. But, even as the Transition movement continues to spread around the world, my personal efforts seem to be trivial and I am unable to influence anything at a local, much less a national level. I find myself paralyzed between the apparent futility of the small-scale and impotent in the large-scale. However, The Transition Initiative works right in the middle, at the scale of the community, where actions are significant, visible, and effective.
Yesterday, the President delivered a major speech on climate change and I was happy to hear his climate action plans. I really want to believe that we still have time to slow down the heating and CO2 emissions, so that we won’t have to adapt to a hotter, crazier climate. When I first began to pay attention to what was then called the inconvenient truth about “Global Warming”, I had high hopes that the world would understand the problems and find ways to reduce the warming. Now, ten years later, what we’re experiencing has been changed to the more encompassing term of “Climate Change”, the deniers have pretty much been drowned out and proven to be wrong, but my hopes for solutions have fallen. I’m noticing more and more books, websites and articles are dealing with how societies can adapt to climate change vs how we might mitigate or forestall it indefinitely.
Consequently, now that we’ve officially moved more to an adaptation mode, I think forming a local Transition Initiative should be my next step. Will you take a look at the Transition Network’s website here: http://www.transitionus.org/, subscribe to their digital newsletter, and seriously give consideration to attending an informational meeting about such an endeavor this fall? I’ve been reluctant to even suggest starting such a group for fear that it might end up falling on my shoulders completely, but the more I read about these initiatives in the US (currently 139 towns in 35 states, including our nearest neighbors in Asheville, NC) and around the world (463 in 43 countries) the more I’m convinced that it would allow us to face the future in a way that is more vibrant, abundant and resilient. Please feel free to send your comments to me privately or even better, post them publicly below to start this conversation now. If there’s enough interest, we’ll set a date, time and place to begin mulling over the possibilities together. What will it be-mitigation or adaptation?
Filed under: Alternative Energy, Energy Savings, Mindful Consumerism, Resilience | Tags: solar panels, sustainable energy sources, water heater timer
I know a lady that, over a decade, blew through over a quarter million dollars and is now living in a one bedroom low-rent apartment, with an old car in the driveway. I’d say there’s some room for improvement there. I know a couple that earns six figure incomes each year and yet they both have to work overtime and part time jobs in order to cover their monthly bills. I’d say there’s some room for improvement there too eh? Heck, my next door neighbors NEVER EVER open their windows, choosing instead to have their indoor air constantly controlled via air or heat. Again…room for improvement. So far this summer, we’ve only used our AC once on a 90 degree afternoon and the rest of the time we have our windows open and use fans to cool us. But there’s always room for improvement, especially when living in a 113 year old house.
Lately I’ve been trying to focus on ways to use less energy. And sometimes it takes spending a little to save a little. Last month we installed a water heater timer and this month we installed some roll up shades on our west-facing kitchen windows. An investment of less than $20 and 15 minutes time was a small price to pay to make our kitchen more comfortable. I suspect that in time, these little investments will be returned to us by way of lower electric bills.
My hope is that WHEN the day comes that we can install solar panels, all of the energy reductions that can be made will have already been made, which is the first step when considering solar as an alternative energy solution for your home. What little (or BIG) improvements have YOU made to make your home more energy efficient? Please share your comments below, so we can all learn how we can lower our energy use, while simultaneously making our lives more resilient too!
Filed under: Uncategorized
OK, if not there, how about in some corner of your community?
It’s this simple: Composting your kitchen, yard and garden wastes would reduce landfill space and the taxes that must be collected to pay the waste disposal companies, and the finished compost will improve your garden soil’s health. From prisons to schools, and from churches to neighborhoods, composting efforts have begun to expand as people are beginning to recognize the value of all those organic materials that they’ve been throwing away all this time. If you can’t or don’t want to build your own compost bin, perhaps you’d take it to a central collection point that’s not in your backyard? Evidently, there’s a growing awareness of the value of compost. We had a recycling revolution, now we need a composting revolution.
I read an article about a suburban neighborhood that had decided to start their own community composting system. The 8 families involved lived in a cul-de-sac with a center island of weeds and grass that no one wanted to maintain. So they put the little space to good use and built some nice compost bins-everyone chipped in a bit of cash to buy the lumber and wire and then they spent a pleasant afternoon building the bins. Afterwards, they shared a potluck supper and consecrated the new bins with their leftovers. I loved the idea and have since learned that communities across the UK and the US have started communal compost facilities. This kind of compost-and-community building is one that is adaptable to all kinds of living and gardening situations- from condominium complexes, public housing projects or McMansion neighborhoods- to community or private garden sites.
Communal compost bins can range from fancy store bought compost tumblers to cinder blocks that are dry stacked. I like the bins shown in these pictures, but the possibilities are limited only be imagination.
Speaking of imagination: Will Allen, the man behind Growing Power, a nonprofit organization that teaches the citizens of Milwaukee, WI how to grow their own fresh food (even in the dead of winter!) has a huge community composting system that collects over 43 MILLION pounds of waste per year, from their local coffee shops and breweries, grocery stores and co-ops. That’s Mr. Allen below: King of the Compost Mountain. Oh yeah, he was also awarded the freaking McArthur Genius Award last year for his efforts. That’s right, Genius.
New York City has many communal composting facilities and sells the finished compost back to its’ residents under the tongue-in-cheek name of ‘Paydirt’. The program offers classes and workshops on indoor (vermicomposting) and outdoor composting, a compost hotline (1-800-POOP?), a Compost Map of places you can drop your deposits and even offers a “Master Composter Training Program”!
But just this past April, my local County Commission approved a $5.9 million, 10-year agreement with Waste Management to send its solid waste to Johnson City-owned Iris Glen Environmental Landfill. Solid waste INCLUDES food scraps (garbage), yard and garden waste. And I love that name: Iris Glen Environmental Landfill. *snort* Makes it sound all flowery or something doesn’t it? Have you been there? It ain’t flowery, trust me!
Now all of my regular readers should know by now how much I love me some Johnson City, TN, but we are really dropping the ball on city-wide and community-led composting efforts here. If my personal efforts of dumping my kitchen waste, grass clippings and shredded leaves into a couple of cheap backyard bins can produce enough rich, fertile compost to keep my intensively-raised vegetable growing beds in good health year after year after year, IMAGINE what a city-led effort could do!
In response to the problems created by an economy in crisis and an uncertain energy future, (the war drums are beating AGAIN damnit!) we must transition to a more resilient lifestyle. Using the waste in our lives to make compost that will then enable individuals and farmers to grow healthy food without the chemical fertilizers currently being used to do so is just one more way to kill two birds with one stone. For those of us living in urban and suburban areas, collectively making the stuff could be the best way to go. If you agree, please let our county and city council members know this is a concern and a possible solution. They’re really tired of hearing from me. And besides, then it wouldn’t be in YOUR backyard, it would be in OUR backyard.
Filed under: Growing Food, Healthy food, Local Food, organic gardening | Tags: bean tower, beans, food, garlic scapes, growing food, harvesting, outdoors, peas, plants, spinach, squash blossoms, weeding
You may have noticed I’m not posting as often as I did back during the winter. That’s because I’m busy gardening and playing music again. But, as promised, I will try to give you updates on what I’m doing currently in the garden so here goes. I am:
2. Cutting garlic scapes off so more energy now goes into the bulb, rather than seeds. I posted last year about ways to use them in your meals so I’ll just give you a link here rather than repeat all of that.
3. Enjoying the beauty of the yellow crookneck squash blossoms. Mine are in the showy all-male cycle of their short lives, soon to be followed by females. When those appear, we’ll hand pollinate them early in the morning while they’re opened, to ensure a bigger crop. It’s done with a little water-color paint brush we keep for that purpose but you could probably use any old toothbrush you might have lying around. Here’s how to tell the difference: In the top photo, you’ll see a tiny ‘baby’ starting to form just BEFORE the blossom opens. The bottom photo shows the male blossom almost ready to open, but no baby.
5. Piling the second layer of straw up around my potato plants. Straw is an easy way to keep the potato bug population down. In fact, we have NEVER seen a potato bug on our plants in the decade we’ve been planting potatoes. It’s far easier than hilling up dirt around the plants, and serves as a weed suppressing mulch at the same time.
6. Drawing out the garden beds on paper to refer to next spring so we don’t replant the same crop in the same spaces. We try hard to rotate things in a 3 year cycle. This rotation helps keep insect pressure down. If you’re like me, you WON’T remember in a year or so what went where. Just draw it!
9. Harvesting the last of sugar snap and garden peas, spinach and the last of the gorgeous spring planted lettuces. But that’s ok, they’ll be back in the fall! Check out today’s pickins’:
10. Pulling out the spent peas and bolting spinach. Tomorrow I plan to add some compost where they were, then replant to squash we’ve got waiting in our little ‘plant nursery’. Planting squashes every 3 or 4 weeks prevents us from being overwhelmed with too much at one time AND ensures that when the squash vine borer finds one, we’ll have a new healthy plant to take its’ place. It’s a hassle, but keeps us in squash for months.
11. Stringing the Hopi Lima beans up our ‘bean tower’ made from a repurposed, inverted clothes line umbrella. Nice thing about this tower is that it’s lightweight, folds flat for easy storage under the tool shed and will last for decades!
12. Last but not least, I’m growing awareness of the importance that gardening provides to my health and to my family’s resilience against food shortages or rising prices. And that’s priceless.
Filed under: Climate Change, Community Building, Creating Community, Global Warming, Liveable Communities, Uncategorized | Tags: Commons, Farmer's Market
There’s a contest going on to name the new green space currently being referred to in blueprints as “Founders Park”. The new space in downtown Johnson City will feature an amphitheater, bike racks, green spaces, bridges, benches, night lighting, walking trails and other amenities, and part of it is intended to serve as a water retention pond during periods of heavy rain. Since the new park is just a few blocks from my home, with plans for the new Farmer’s Market to be built right next to it, I feel pretty sure it will become a frequent destination for me once it’s completed.
In keeping with our new mayor’s call to “let the voice of the people be heard”, the public has been invited to vote for their favorite name for the new park. There’s a list of potential names that you can vote on here: http://surveymonkey.com/s/namethegreenspace . While reading over the naming possibilities there, I realized the name ‘Commons’ was definitely favored, and I couldn’t agree more. Commons refers to the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. Isn’t THAT refreshing??? So often public arenas, parks and other facilities are named after the person or company that donated the most money to it, and I am really happy that our city’s officials are letting ‘the people’ choose the name. I’m hopeful that this new park will serve as an anchor and a communal space for all of us to enjoy.
Sharing the gift of common green space is an ideal way for us to reweave our connection with community, and to support other small-scale local responses to the global challenges of climate change, economic hardship and shrinking supplies of cheap energy. Together, these small-scale responses make up something much bigger, and help show the way forward for governments, business and the rest of us.
Filed under: beekeeping, Buy Local, Climate Change, Emergency Preparedness, Food Storage, Global Warming, Growing Food, Local Food, organic gardening, Peak Oil, Plant based diet
I’ve been out of town and quite busy lately, so I haven’t had much time to write. But I’m back now, and full of ideas on how I can continue to transition to a hotter, leaner world than the one I’ve grown old in. I had to pull out all of my spring planted bok choy this week, because it all went to seed before ever forming heads. I’d even bought an early variety of seed this year, hoping to nip that problem in the bud-literally. At least the spinach and peas are still holding their own, giving us frequent spinach salads, mixed with raw peas, lettuce and arugula, then topped with mandarin orange slices, farmer’s market goat cheese and some of the pecans that I bartered for last fall. (In my haste to eat it, I forgot to take a picture but trust me, it’s good :D) Potatoes, peppers, squash and tomatoes are knee high now, and all the beans are up. I’ve planted green beans, Hopi Orange Limas, and Edamame this year- we love them all! With a full bed of carrots, beets and parsnip seeds tucked in to the soil, I think I’m done with planting-for now! But I mourn those lost Bok Choy cabbages… I remember calling the county extension agent the first year I lived in East Tennessee, inquiring about reliable veggie varieties for spring. He told me then that spring-planted brassicas don’t normally do very well here, and sadly, he was right. But next spring I’m going to be ready, and will have a cooler, richer spot with a bit of shade for them to finish their last few weeks of growth under. That’s the great thing about gardening, isn’t it? There’s always ‘next year’. Or IS there?
In 1962 Rachel Carson wrote ‘Silent Spring’, the book that is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement in this country. Earth Day began in 1970, as a direct result of Ms. Carson’s expose of the detrimental affects of pesticides and pollution-especially on birds. 50 years later, more pesticides, and now genetically modified seeds that have built-in weed killers bred into them, are wreaking havoc on our honeybees. Recent news stories have been all about how the most recent US Farm Bill proposal will continue to subsidize large ag conglomerates that grow (mostly GMO) corn, wheat, soybeans, rice and cotton, all while offering little or no help whatsoever to small farmers-you know, those hard working folks that are raising grass fed meats, free range chickens, heirloom and organic veggies and low spray fruits. Meanwhile, GMO seeds continue to spread world wide (even a variety that has never been approved by the US or any other country was found growing in Oregon recently!) honeybees keep dying, while we’re all fat, sick and nearly dead from eating the Standard. American. Diet. (S.A.D., ain’t it?)
I’m well aware that I am constantly repeating myself in these blog posts about eating a more sustainable, more local, more organic and more home-grown plant-based diet, but I’m not about to remain silent about something I feel so strongly about. I’m pretty certain you can find lots of blogs to read that will present an opposing point of view if you’re at all interested in it. But honestly folks, such a diet really seems to be the easiest and best thing we can do to boost our own health and that of the planet, while spending less AND improving our resilience in the face of climate change, reduced oil reserves and a falsely propped up economy.
I recently wrote a post titled “Empower House” about how we can turn our homes into places of production rather than just viewing them as a place to store our stuff. I don’t know about you, but I
LIKE LOVE the feeling of empowerment and self reliance that eating this way brings to my life. My garden will never be able to supply my family with all of our food needs, but by growing those things we like fresh, and then having some food storage in the pantry, root crops in the cellar, extra water on hand and buying staples like beans, rice, pasta, yeast, wheat and toilet paper (don’t forget the toilet paper!) in bulk, I feel pretty certain that we’ll manage fairly well if times get hard. And even better if they don’t!
I really don’t want to be viewed as ‘Chicken Little’, yet, like Rachel Carson, I feel like the earth and all her life-giving support systems are crying out for our care and attention. Will we eventually see a Silent Spring? Will our honeybees survive to continue to pollinate our crops? Now that we’ve reached the milestone of 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the very air we breathe, the chances are, shall we say, breathtaking.
Filed under: Alternative Energy, Biking, Energy Savings, Growing Food, Local Food, organic gardening | Tags: Bike Kitchen, Blackberry Winter, eggshells, epsom salts, growing food, plants, water heater timer, worm tea
It’s that time again when I’ve got a few things I want to share with you, none of which are enough to write a whole post about. But here’s proof that good news comes in three’s:
Our one year old hot water tank quit working recently. I wanted a tankless, on- demand water heater to replace it. The good news is, the company that made the old heater is a LOCAL MANUFACTURER! American Water Heaters are made right here in good old Johnson City and are sold nationwide at places like Lowe’s and Sears. They agreed that it must be their defect so they replaced it. With the exact same model. They don’t make tankless heaters :( That was also the ‘bad’ news, because they wouldn’t give us a credit or refund, only an even exchange. So, we installed the next.best.thing. to a tankless -a $42 water heater timer. We set it to come on at 8 AM and go off at 8 PM but of course, you’d set yours for whatever works best for your lifestyle, since there are 14 possible settings on them. It’s a well-known fact that water heating is the single largest energy user in American homes, and installing the timer has reduced our electric bill quite a bit. Even though it goes off at 8 PM there’s always plenty of pretty hot water at 8 AM the next morning too! That tells me none of us need to be heating our water 24 hours a day, it’s merely a convenience we’ve all come to rely on as a result of decades of cheap energy. A timer like this is a completely painless way to reduce your household energy needs and make your life a lee-ttle bit more resilient in the process. Now granted, it’s no solar panel, but then again, it didn’t require a second mortgage either. I also found out that if we’d had to trash the old heater, the metal in it had some monetary value and could’ve been recycled; we had 4 people stop by and ask for it in the couple of days it laid in the yard waiting to be picked up by the company! Just sayin’…
If you have an adult bicycle you no longer use, I know of three places that could use it. First is the local Family Promise organization; they help homeless families transition to homes of their own. Sometimes those families have no transportation and a bike can certainly make their lives easier. They can be reached Mon-Fri by calling Aaron at 202-7805. Next is the ETSU Yellow Bike program that fixes up donated bikes, paints ‘em
red yellow, then ‘rents’ bikes to students for free to help them get around campus more easily. Contact them about your donation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And last, but not least, if your old bike is in pieces, those pieces can all be used by the nonprofit Little City Bike Collective, which rebuilds and repairs bicycles for FREE. Their shop is located at 209 E Unaka Ave in JC. Here’s the link to their Facebook page. Make some space in your garage this spring, and make someone’s life easier by donating to one of these fine causes. And if you’re reading this and don’t live in Johnson City, I bet these same types of organizations in your community could use your old bikes too. Just sayin’…
After recently experiencing ‘Blackberry Winter’ here in Appalachia,we’re finally moving into a season of daily gardening now, and I hope to share tips with you over the summer that will help make your food growing more successful. I sure hope you’ll do the same and share any tips you’ve found that work for you in the comments section below. We started long ago saving our eggshells all year long, drying them, then grinding them in a little mini food processor-a mortar and pestle works well too, as long as the shells are good and dry. Then we add a handful to the planting holes of peppers and tomatoes which provides them with calcium and prevents blossom end rot, something we rarely experience any more. We also add a Tablespoon of Epsom Salts to those holes to provide magnesium as well. What better way to use your egg shells, eh? We finish by adding some compost to the hole, then fertilize with some ‘worm tea’ and stand back! Just sayin’…
Filed under: Alternative Energy, Climate Change, Community Gardens, Global Warming, Growing Food, Local Food, organic gardening, Peak Oil, Resilience, Transition Towns | Tags: Farmer's Market, growing food, hive bodies, raised beds, Solar Cooker, sustainable energy sources
I’ve been pretty busy with spring chores lately: building raised beds for our community garden plot…
cutting grass and making hot compost with the clippings, playing music, hosting company, working out and watching it rain a lot. But it’s mid-May folks, and I’m still making soups! I normally don’t make soups in warm weather, I like to reserve it for those cool days of fall and winter but last Thursday I had a guest for lunch and even though we were able to enjoy eating out on the patio for the first time this season, and it was sunny enough to cook it in my solar cooker…
the fact remains, I was making soup on May 2nd! Then, last weekend we had a house full of company from Nashville, so we decided to go to Asheville for the day. It was so windy and cool there that folks had coats and hats on all day. ‘course, we had fun in spite of the wind…
By the time the company left on Sunday, it was so cool and rainy I decided to make soup again, which we enjoyed again on Monday-May 6th and I gave the last bowl to my brother on May 7th, another cool day. It has gradually warmed this week, and I’ve been busy weeding and planting, but lo and behold, Sunday and Monday night low’s are forecast to be in the 30′s!!! If that ain’t soup weather I don’t know what is! My fall-planted pansies are still blooming their hearts out, and the lettuce hasn’t gone to seed yet. So I keep cutting it, thinking that any day I’ll see it elongate and begin going to seed, but so far, it’s holding well. And because it was a fall planted variety, it’s especially well suited for cool weather. Last year, I harvested a huge batch of honey in May, which was the earliest my bees had ever filled their supers, and that was simply because spring had arrived so early in 2012. This year, there’s not much honey flow at all because it’s been so wet and rainy. This week saw a RECORD BREAKING heat in Michael’s hometown in California, with 18″ of snow last week in Minnesota. “Record ‘latest ice out dates’ have been and will be set this year for many Minnesota lakes; a problem for some anglers this weekend as they gear up for the Minnesota fishing opener. Some may actually take their ice augers with them across the far north rather than lugging the boat along“. My friend from Oregon writes that her normally rainy, rainy season that used to last through May and often June too, has been replaced this year with weeks and weeks and weeks of dryness. You know, Portland, that rainy place.
This weather weirdness has made gardening difficult for me. I still haven’t planted my tomatoes or peppers, and just this week finally planted summer and winter squash, green beans, edamame and limas. Last year I picked my first beans in early June! If all this rain keeps up, I’m afraid my potatoes will rot before they produce, and the seeds I planted will be washed away. The good thing about raised beds in wet weather is that they drain faster. Conversely, the bad thing about raised beds in dry weather is that they drain faster.
So, why am I rehashing the spring weather? I just want folks to recognize and accept the fact that climate change is real, it’s happening and our weather is going to become even more unstable because unfortunately, we’ve reached the tipping point and the planet simply can’t ‘normalize’ anymore. We can’t change the weather, that’s a fact. All we can do now is to take steps to become more resilient. In order to survive and thrive in turbulent times we need to organize ourselves at the grassroots level to carry out a series of transitions-not only in terms of food and farming, but also in transportation, housing, health and education. From the state-wide climate action meeting I attended this week, to realtors touting a home’s walkability score as a selling point, we’ve started that transition. Just this week, Sebastopol,CA became the second town in that state to mandate that solar panels be installed on every new home built. The economic law of supply and demand ensures that the new mandates will begin to bring the price of the roof top electricity makers down to an affordable level for many more of us eventually. Community supported agriculture, community gardens and farmer’s markets continue to grow each year while 54 public schools are being closed in Chicago next year because of their being underutilized. Tennessee Transitions tries to explore some of the ways that we can gracefully make our own transitions to a rapidly changing climate and economy. After all, it’s not just the weather that’s weird.
I went to a meeting this evening of the LCAT- Local Climate Action Team. I was grateful to see over twenty people in attendance, but I found it incredulous to find out that (only) 18% of the American population is ‘ALARMED’ about climate change. Going around the room, we introduced ourselves and told why we were there. For me, my personal concern for fighting hunger has made me keenly aware that our current globalized food system is being affected by both Peak Oil as well as climate change. (Thanks Rev. John Shuck for linking and sharing this guide from your blog) For others that were present, their faith and their feeling that they should be involved in ‘Creation Care’ brought them there. Still others were scientists and researchers that have studied hard data and know the issues. Last but not least were the activists that have long seen “the writing on the wall”.
The speaker for the meeting was Dr. Tony Delucia, a public health expert that explained to us exactly how climate change is affecting our collective health. His computerized research data shows that, beginning in about 2020, rising temperatures and CO2 levels will cause an additional 18,000 heat related deaths each year! Climate change is relevant to all of us, unless perhaps, you’re already 90 years old. That said, the elderly are among those that will be hardest hit by heat waves-and of course, the droughts that often accompany them. (That’s where the food system gets involved too, and my personal concerns as well.)
Everyone present was interested in a better quality of life, and we plan to advocate for a cleaner, cooler future by working with the network of energy distributors throughout Tennessee to reduce our dependency on dirty coal by encouraging energy efficiency. We’re not just talking about changing our light bulbs here. We’re talking about smart meters, renewable power, monetary incentives for customers to purchase Energy Star appliances, bulk light bulb purchases, energy-efficient measures and other new programs. A sheet was passed around for each of us to check off ways we might like to help in this effort, and there really was something for everyone. I decided to be a blogger and letter writer, attend regular climate vigils, be a phone bank volunteer and serve as a musician when appropriate-maybe I’ll even write a song! How can you help? In the interest of promoting a deep understanding of the issues we face, please consider passing this post along to someone you care about, or leave your comments below so we can all be part of the discussion of how we can effectively create a better quality of life.
Filed under: Buy Local, Composting, fall gardening, Growing Food, Local Food, organic gardening, Resilience, Seasonal Eating, Sustainability | Tags: Farmer's Market, growing food, plants
I was in the grocery store the other day and overheard the produce manager telling a customer that the store had no lettuce, and wouldn’t have any for a week because the refrigerated truck hauling it across the country from California had broken down and the lettuce rotted before it could be off-loaded to another truck. This is one of those ‘Things that make me go, “hmmmm” ‘. So, let’s think about that… According to Purdue University’s Dept of Horticulture and Landscape website, (a most trusted source of food growing info for me) 81% of our nation’s lettuce is grown in California and 17% is grown in Arizona. Lettuce is a cool season crop, and needs lots of water for best growth. I have to question, why are we growing this staple in the freaking dessert??? Then of course after harvesting, it has to be immediately washed, chilled, packed, and then loaded onto refrigerated trucks for its’ 5 day trip across the country, where it’s then unloaded at distribution centers, then reloaded onto yet another truck for delivery to our favorite stores. Then we DRIVE OUR CARS to those stores to buy it, DRIVE HOME and put it in our refrigerators. Does any of that make sense to you? Nah, me neither.
That’s a picture of my current lettuce ‘patch’. This same amount could be grown in two window boxes with about 50 cents worth of seed. I consider growing lettuce a super bargain because it’s what I call a ‘cut and come again’ crop. Many many many bowls of lettuce have come from this little four-foot row. You can also see I’ve got my tiny bok choi planted beside it, for once it turns hot, the lettuce will be pulled out to make room for this new veggie, followed by collards in summer’s heat, followed by kale in the fall. All in about 4′ of space. There’s also some onions growing there, so I have a ready-made salad, free of e-coli and chemicals, and grown without any fossil fuels. My lettuce is nutrition packed because I always cut it the day I plan to use it. Factoid: once a fruit or veggie is cut, it begins to immediately lose it’s nutrient density.
If ever, in the course of a life, there was a time to plant food, build a pantry and invest one’s money in one’s life, it is now. Between Monsanto pouring millions of dollars into its’ efforts to control the world’s food supply…
the mystery of the disappearing honeybees still unresolved, with the 2013 Farm Bill losing its’ clout to help small farmers, and broken down lettuce trucks all over the interstates, the time to secure YOUR future is now. This spring. Here’s a money-and-fossil-fuel free way to start your own seeds…
When you’re cracking your eggs, tap them 3/4 of the way up the shell, rather than right in the middle. Don’t rinse the shells, that’s a waste of water and nutrition! The resulting ‘egg pot’ will be deep enough to start lettuce plants in, then you can transplant the whole thing right into a bigger pot, or a window box or your garden row. The shell will provide the little seedling some calcium, while it composts away to nothingness.
My favorite farmer..
is going to help me put together another small raised bed tomorrow. I plan to add homemade compost and manure, then plant it to a fast-growing green manure crop of buckwheat-followed by clover. By fall it’ll be ready to plant with more lettuce, some beets and broccoli, and I won’t be worrying about the truck breaking down, the price of fresh veggies, or what’s for supper! It’s a good feeling
Filed under: Climate Change, Earth Day, Global Warming, Green Cleaners, Reducing Waste | Tags: growing food, Waste reduction
On this Earth Day, I’m in the middle of a thoughtful and troubling book with the same title as this post. It’s written by Helen Caldicott, and her message is so much on my mind today that I felt inspired to tell you some of what I’m learning from her book. First let me say that the author spoke right here in my city last year, and I MISSED HER TALK!! Michael heard her speak many years ago, out in California, but I wasn’t able to go hear her locally, and I’ve regretted it ever since-especially now that I’m reading this book. Ms. Caldicott is a co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility and was named one of the most influential women of the twentieth century by the Smithsonian Institute. She hosts the weekly radio program “If You Love This Planet” and is the author of numerous books, none of which I’ve read-until now. Since I don’t want this post to turn into a book report, I decided to pick one thing that I can do to make a better world, and let you read the book for yourself (yes, it’s in the library).
After a lot of thought, several conversations, and some quiet meditation time on this matter, I know what I can do to make a better world. It came to me while recalling a conversation that I had at church yesterday with my friend Deanna. She said my blog inspires her; not necessarily to DO something, but it simply inspires her. And you know what? That’s good enough. I hope I can inspire you too, just like Ms Caldicott has inspired me with her writing. I changed my damn light bulbs years ago, I gave up meat, I grow food, geez, I even moved to town so I could become more dependent on my feet and my bicycle to get me to the places I need to go. I carry my tote bags to the store, I make my own green cleaners, and I don’t throw things ‘away’ (since there is no ‘away’) and still, the CO2 levels are rising, the seas are rising and the temperatures are rising. In other words, I don’t feel like my individual actions are having much effect except on my own personal life. But yet another conversation just this morning has given me a new idea. Tonya said ‘we need POLICIES’ to be made to protect the earth and our grandchildren. President O’bama will make his decision about the Keystone Pipeline project by the end of the year. The State Department’s official public comment period about it is now. You can sign a petition against the Tar Sands project by signing it here: http://act.350.org/letter/a_million_strong_against_keystone/ OR you can make your voice heard by sending an email to: email@example.com. I’m trying to make a better world by inspiring you to help make policies that will be best for the future of our country and our planet. I’ve never asked anything of you, dear reader. But this is important.Please take one minute-today!- to comment. One minute. One Earth. Pass it on too, then let me know in the comments section below if you’re inspired enough to take action. Together, we can do this.
Filed under: Backyard Chickens, beekeeping, Climate Change, Community Building, Community Gardens, Creating Community, Earth Day, Peak Oil, Resilience, Urban Hens, Urban Living | Tags: next door
I thought you might need some good news, something to brighten this dreary post-bombing day. Here’s what’s beautiful in my neighborhood this week:
* My daily walk took me on a different route, where I discovered a lively new beehive in one neighbor’s suburban driveway! I wrote a card and told ‘them’ I was very happy to see their bees and that I support their efforts, then delivered it in person to their door. If you see your neighbor planting a garden, tending their chickens, hanging their clothes out or some other such similar effort to live their urban life in a way that supports the things you care about, a supportive voice might be appreciated by them~and, you may make a new friend in the process!
* I’m making more of a point to engage the two young men that live next door to us. They have a new puppy, are grad students at the local university and seem truly nice. They’re slowly warming up by asking questions about us, our dog, our current backyard project of raised bed building, etc. It’s nice to know Ryan and what’s-his-name :( OK, so I forgot one name, but I’ll make it a point to ‘get it’ again soon-the pup’s name is Pippa)
* We’re taking part in our neighborhood’s annual cleanup tomorrow, as part of the Great American Cleanup. I plan to go over early to help the graffiti cleanup team, then Michael and I are giving a ‘State of the Community Garden’ address at the community center.
* Our ‘neighborhood association’, a fun, loose-knit group, is planning a walk-about porch party May 4th. Similar to the Christmas walk-about, neighbors walk to the designated hosts porches this time, where we’ll be served each family’s signature drink and a
#!hor derve?&% snack. I love this idea and am already looking forward to my new hood’s annual July 4th party too! You can start a similar group for your hood by signing up at: https://westholston.nextdoor.com/refer/?is=nfhd (and if you let me REFER you before you launch your own website, we’ll BOTH win a $50 Starbucks gift card. It’s an easy, relaxed way to stay connected with your neighbors, I promise. And of course, if you ever ARE in a ‘lock in/cell-phones-down’ situation like those folks are in Boston today, you can still connect and communicate.
“From oil dependence to local resilience”. I feel strongly that building community with our neighbors is going to be KEY to our ability to respond to the challenges of climate change, resource depletion and global inequity that we are facing. Seeing the residents of cities and towns come together when they are under duress-from Newtown to Boston-proves that it’s our neighbors and friends that we’ll turn to when times are hard. Making those connections is so much easier, and definitely more fun, when you’re NOT in a stressful or tragic situation. It’s spring- get out and find out what’s beautiful in your neighborhood too!
Filed under: Composting, Mindful Consumerism, organic gardening, Peak Oil, Uncategorized, Urban Living | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, growing food
We’ve been busy here these last couple of weeks on our little patch of urban. We planted 7 blueberry bushes that were dug up from a friend’s blueberry patch. They’re only ‘sticks’ now, but in two years we’ll be blueberry rich!
We’ve also built two more 4′x20′ raised beds for our community garden plot, planted peas, onions and potatoes and are nurturing our tomato and pepper seedlings in the greenhouse, which has required twice-a-day watering and venting this week with the heat we’ve had. So, even though that’s a pain for sure, it’s only for a month or two, and raising our own seedlings allows me to choose my very favorite varieties and is much cheaper than buying transplants. Because I have more time than money, it makes sense to take the time to do this and I’ve learned what I call a ‘life skill’-how to reliably raise healthy plants from seeds. Now, about those raised beds…
I’m always searching for frugal and healthier ways of doing things and I’ve found a good alternative to using treated wood for my raised beds. This ‘recipe’ for treating your own wood is as close to organic as I’ve found, while being effective in it’s ability to protect wood from rot. And it’s a much healthier choice for my vegetables and for the environment than pressure treated woods. I got the idea from Organic Gardening magazine many years ago, and the beds we left behind when we moved last summer were still holding pretty firm 8-9 years after building them-from plain pine lumber. I put 5 coats of this on every surface of the wood, using an old cheap brush for the chore, letting it soak in and dry between coats. Years ago, I got lucky at a yard sale and bought 8 boxes of paraffin wax for $2. About the same time, I was given several gallons of boiled linseed oil, so I haven’t had to buy those things to make this preservative until now. When we made our beds those many years ago, paint thinner was about $6 a gallon; now it’s $10.95 and a box of paraffin wax is at least $6! (By the way, if you have a veteran’s ID card, show it upon checkout at Lowe’s or Home Depot for a 10% discount) Before I buy any more paraffin wax though, I’ll just save candle stubs and melt them to make it, unless someone gives me a good reason why that wouldn’t work. Anyway, here’s the recipe:
1. Slowly melt 1 ounce of paraffin wax over low heat in a double boiler (do not heat over a direct flame).
2. Outdoors, carefully pour just under a gallon of solvent (mineral spirits, paint thinner, or turpentine, at room temperature) into a bucket; then slowly pour in the melted paraffin, stirring vigorously.
3. Add 3 cups of exterior varnish or 1½ cups boiled linseed oil to the mix, stirring until the ingredients are blended.
4. When the mixture cools, either dip your lumber into it or brush it onto the wood, making sure that you thoroughly coat all surfaces, especially the cut ends. Dipping the boards for 5 to 15 minutes allows the repellent to soak more deeply into the wood.
When we constructed our first bed in our new garden space last fall, we drove our 26 year old ‘farm’ truck to a nearby horse barn and filled it with free manure and bedding, then mixed that with the garden soil and compost and let it rot all winter. But we want to plant these two new beds right away, so we’ll have to wait until this fall to add horse manure to them, or risk frying all our seedlings. Frugal note here: If you have an old truck that you only use for hauling stuff occasionally like we do, you can register it as a farm vehicle and your insurance is much, much cheaper that way. Ain’t she a beaut? You should see the other side
All this is simply to say that frugality allows us to live well on less. Much less. I’ve found that by waiting for things to ‘come to me’, rather than buying them right away almost always pays off. Yesterday during my bimonthly thrift store trip, I finally found the right sized lamp shade I’d been searching for for 50 cents, the exact burgundy-colored set of placemats I’d been wanting for $1, and a cool set of professionally framed prints in the perfect color to match my bathroom for $6. I’d been on the lookout for all these items for months, it’s just that the stars and moon must’ve lined up just right on this particular day. Planning ahead and being patient paid off.
I’ve also found that growing your own food is like printing money. Just like the sharply higher prices I quoted for the paint thinner and wax, food prices have risen sharply too. Growing our own allows us to eat fresh, organic food for a fraction of what that same food would cost in the store or at the market. I harvested a large produce bag of kale and a head of cabbage this week from last fall’s garden and I still have lettuce and parsley going strong too.
Combined with a few basic staples from my pantry, that’s enough for a gourmet meal of Soba Noodles with Kale and Peanut Sauce with a side of stir-fried cabbage on Friday, a pot of Potato-Kale soup with a side of Fusion Slaw on Saturday, and finally, a fiery Chinese stir-fry on Sunday, using the last of the shredded cabbage and kale, along with home-grown sprouts, red and green peppers, carrots, snow peas and celery, all ‘put by’ last fall.
The purpose of this blog is to share ideas that might inspire you to begin transitioning to a lower-energy, lower-consumption, lower-income lifestyle-if times get hard or even if they don’t. Even though I’ve been on a media fast for a few weeks, I’ve still managed to hear about many scary things going on in our government, in our country and in our world. I may not be able to control those things, but I can sure as hell control how I spend my money, who I vote for, how I spend my time and what I eat. And that’s saying a lot, don’t you agree?
Filed under: Frugality, Green Cleaners, Sustainability, Urban Hens | Tags: frugal, leftovers, vinegar, voting
It seems about once a month I have several little ideas I want to share with you, none of which could make a complete post by themselves. So I’ve decided to make ‘Just Sayin’ a regular feature of this blog so I’ll have a way to do just that. Many of you have told me you like it and it gives me a way to clear my head of what I wanted to tell you-any of you that know me well, know that my memory sucks, so it’s best if I do it this way.
I’ve come across an idea that is so simple, frugal and useful I can’t believe I haven’t tried it before now. You know those household cleaners that are orange based? If you’ll save your orange peels (minus the white, pithy part) in a jar covered with white vinegar, let it sit a few weeks, then strain it into a (repurposed) spray bottle, you can use it diluted or full strength for cleaning anything but wood and clear glass. It smells nice, uses up all those winter citrus peels, and is One.More.Thing. you don’t need to buy. Just sayin’…
Speaking of vinegar… did you know that if the vinegar you buy doesn’t say that it’s made from ‘whole grains’, ‘fruits’ or ‘wine’ that it’s made instead with a starter that comes from petroleum? How UNsustainable is that? Check the labels on off -brands of vinegars since I assume if you are eco-concious enough to be making and using your own homemade green cleaners, you care about such things. One of these days I’m going to make some vinegar from my own starter and when I do, I’ll write about it here. In the meantime, check out this new Heinz Cleaning Vinegar, with 6% acidity, compared to 4 or 5% for other brands. Just sayin’…
Another ‘a-ha!’ moment came to me recently. Years ago, when I first began using cloth bags for carrying my purchases, I’d forget to bring them to the store with me. That is, until I started keeping them in the car. I don’t eat out often, but I’ve noticed that many times, it’s more food than I can eat so I’d have to ask for a f-f-f-ffoam container to hold my leftovers. I solved the problem by keeping my own takeout container in my car too. Ditch the foam. Just sayin’…
I’ve attended a couple of city commissioner candidate forums recently and have narrowed my choices down to the two that I feel will best be able to guide my community during these transitional times of energy depletion, climate change and economic sequesters, fiscal cliffs and recessions. They also assure me they’re okay with backyard-hens, and that sounds good to me. Please find out where your candidates stand on issues that are important to you before you vote. Just sayin’…
Filed under: Global Warming, Herbs | Tags: cyber attacks, European banks, Monsanto!, North Korea
Destroyed by MTV,
I hate to bite the hand that
Feeds me so much information
The Pressure’s on the screen
To sell you things that you don’t need
It’s too much information for me
Duran Duran – from the song, Too Much Information, 1993.
This was a hit song twenty years ago. I didn’t even own a computer then and had no idea that today the Internet would be such a big part of my life. I never have watched much TV, but the modern-day miracle of the world-wide web has allowed me to “take a trip and never leave the farm”. It is my go-to source for everything from recipes to world news to this blog. This weeks’ massive global cyber attack caused me some minor irritations, while I was also dealing with some major computer hassles due to problems with my virus protection software. Not a good combination on yet another coldish, gray day at the end of this long-ass winter. But you know what? Because I couldn’t get to Word Press to write this post, and because I was running an hours-long scan on my system, I was forced (oh no!) to do other things with my time. Here’s what I did instead:
Visited a friend who sent me home with potted herb plants and fresh cut arugula
Went to my tai chi class AND worked out in the gym
Cooked a delicious slooww food meal and used the arugula, along with lettuce and kale from my raised bed, to make a fine salad to go with it
Finished reading my library book
Made a big bowl of popcorn and watched an old VHS movie-yes VHS! (as part of my ongoing effort to declutter and get rid of stacks of them that are taking up valuable real estate in my den, I’m rewatching all the oldies before making a decision on what to keep, and what to get rid of-it’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it. Watch for them soon on Freecycle!)
Took the dog for a walk
Dreaming of summer, I hemmed a pair of shorts
Walked down to the community garden just to see how everyone’s plot looked
Made phone calls to some of my mom’s old friends in Florida and Alabama
Practiced music pieces that Michael and I are working on for upcoming events
Because I ended up having SUCH a fine day sans computer yesterday, I decided today was another opportunity to disconnect from my virtual online life. So this morning I visited another friend, ran lots of small errands I’d been putting off for two weeks, enjoyed seeing more friends that stopped by to visit us, did some house work, cut the grass, straightened up the tool shed, met even more friends at a new-to-us-restaurant for dinner tonight, practiced our music again, worked on my ‘brain games’ and now, here I am, sitting in front of the computer that is, once again, behaving ‘normally’, and enjoying writing again, while wondering where the line crosses between enjoyment and TMI.
I’ve been feeling pretty blue lately, blaming it on the lousy weather, personal grief, and this weeks’ bleak news of Monsanto’s Protection Act victory, more climate change denial from lawmakers and those hell-bent on the X#%##%*!L Pipeline, the fragile European banking system, North Korea rattling their sabres and more. And that was just THIS WEEK in the news! I’ve decided to go on a news fast. I’m feeling powerless and hopeless and I don’t function well when I feel this way. So, a big “Thank You” to the cyber attackers for helping me overcome my internet and news addiction. It lifted my funk and brought me a renewed awareness and appreciation for all I have to be thankful for. The break also helped me to refocus on the very intent of this blog, which is to discover ways for you to unplug from mainstream assumptions about learning and living, disconnect from the artificial process of life and discover the freedom and joy in learning and living more authentically within your community and without overwhelming you. Let me know if it ever becomes ‘TMI’, ok?
Filed under: Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, Voluntary Simplicity | Tags: simplicity
My 86-year-old mother died Monday, twelve years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Being a child of ‘The Great Depression’ defined her, and ultimately, me too. She was one of the few moms that worked a full-time job when I was growing up during the 50′s, but because of her sheer thriftiness and frugality she was able to keep making her house payments long after she and my dad divorced, finally paying my childhood home off. When President Carter closed Air Force bases around the country as a budgetary measure, she was forced to transfer to Florida in order to keep her civil service job, so she sold that very modest home, and used the proceeds and her savings to pay cash for a new condo right on the water. Over the next 25 years I believe she saved close to a quarter million dollars, all the while only averaging about $18,000 a year. I did the math just now for the first time ever. She must’ve saved close to 50% of her income every year!
Oh, but she led a good life, even on so little. She took ballroom dance lessons, tithed to her church, enjoyed wearing fashionable clothing, eating out, drinking wine and laying on the beach in her down time. She sent me and my four children a gift check for every single birthday and Christmas, took occasional weekend gambling cruises on Mississippi River boats, once or twice enjoyed a Caribbean cruise on a luxury liner, and came to visit us in Virginia and Ohio twice a year. In other words, she didn’t lead a deprived existence at all. She was a creative genius when it came to finding the funds to do the things she enjoyed, all while saving 50% of her paycheck. The dance lessons lasted for almost 15 years and began with a free trial lesson, followed by paid ones until she got good enough to compete. At that point she got to participate at greatly reduced prices and enjoyed good health and great joy while doing so. Her clothes (2 very full closets worth!) came from the base thrift stores and yard sales. (All that dancing allowed her to wear the petite sizes that were always available in such places) She drank Two Buck Chuck wine (or it’s local equivalent), went to gamble with a $10 limit and quit when she lost it or won, whichever came first, always bought used furniture and appliances and paid cash for her new cars, although I only remember her ever buying two new cars during that 25 year period that she worked. I believe the 10 day cruises were offered to her half off because she agreed to spend her evenings dancing with the other paying guests. And last but not least, while she was teaching Sunday School and supporting her church financially, she was teaching me to be frugal too. She also taught me there’s a huge difference between being frugal and being cheap. Frugal is delaying pleasure and instant gratification to make a big purchase or to pay off debts. Cheap is when your spending habits affect your quality of life, or when you never splurge a little even when you do have the money to spend. I believe the difference also lies in the mindset we have around money. If you feel deprived, neither cheap nor frugal feels good or right. Mom never complained about money or the choices she made, so I don’t believe she felt deprived. “Satisfied” would more appropriately describe her attitude.
So, what’s the point of this tribute to frugality? The Alzheimer’s diagnosis and subsequent assisted living and nursing home care took every dime she had, but I’m forever thankful she had saved and planned for that possibility. As a young bride and mother, I went through a period when I wanted nothing to do with Mom’s frugality. I saw it as deprivation. Of course my overconsumption and overspending finally led me to a personal ‘fiscal cliff’. I could jump off, or retreat. I chose the latter. And by applying the lessons I’d been taught, I began to see how it really was all about the choices I was making, not how much or how little money I had. As I began to experience the joys of living debt free, and the freedom it brought to my life, it became easier and easier to change my own relationship with money. Far from feeling deprived, you can color me satisfied too. Following Mom’s examples of living
within beneath my means, and without debt, has enriched my life immeasurably. Thanks Mom!
One more thought before I close: I hope none of you will confuse frugality with poverty. The course I took when I reached my fiscal cliff, and eventually shared with others because of its profound affect on my life, was called “Voluntary Simplicity”, never to be confused with INvoluntary Simplicity, which IS a forced deprivation of the basics of life. Our national economy, as well as those of countries from Greece to China, has reached its own fiscal cliff but no one seems to be paying attention. A continually growing economy is no longer healthy, but a cancer. Like Alzheimer’s, we’ve collectively forgotten how to live within our means, choosing instead to borrow from tomorrow to pay today’s debts. Teach your children well, they’ll thank you some day.
Filed under: Alternative Energy, Backyard Chickens, beekeeping, Closed Loop Systems, Emergency Preparedness, Energy Savings, Food Storage, Herbs, Rain Barrels, Resilience, Urban Hens, Urban Living | Tags: beer making, Summer Kitchen, water systems, wood fired oven
Here’s an example: Let’s say you have a beehive and a little coop with a couple of laying hens in the backyard. And let’s also say you have a modest vegetable garden, a few fruit trees, a strawberry patch and some blueberry bushes planted out by the shed. The one thing all those things need for survival is water. Now, suppose your region suffers through a drought like the one that’s been going on in the midwestern states for several years now and water rationing becomes a reality in your town. Or suppose storm-produced flooding or power outages overwhelms and shuts down your city’s municipal water system. How would you take care of your water needs? Our great grandparents had wells, springs, cisterns and outhouses for dealing with their water needs but we modern urban dwellers are completely dependent on complex, energy- intensive water systems.Why not put in place your own water system? Here’s some ideas to help you do just that:
- Landscape your yard with a rain garden to capture and divert excess rainwater into an area that your bees and fruit trees can easily access
- Set up rain barrels, using your roof as the channel device
- Install an underground tank in the yard, a dirt-floored cellar or even under a deck to store even more rainwater. If underground storage isn’t feasible, above ground tanks are available, and now you can buy slimlined tanks that form a fence, serving dual purposes:
One option for an almost endless supply of drinking water is to purchase a gravity-feed counter top water filtration system that uses no electricity and very long-lasting carbon filters that can clean raw, contaminated water well enough to allow you to drink it. This is our home’s ‘drinking station’ and I’ve read where this particular type of filtration system is used by Vista and Peace Corps workers to enable them to have clean drinking water while working in third world countries.
At the very least, you can also store extra drinking water in jugs in the basement or even under the beds-anywhere it won’t freeze. Humans and pets can go for weeks without food but only a couple of days without water. When tornadoes or storms are bearing down on us is NOT the time to think about emergency water. Plenty of clean water can be provided right from your own home with a little advance planning.
What are some other ways your home can become empowered to support YOU?
- A small solar array can provide you with some hot water or generate a bit of electricity, and with prices at an all time low, coupled with tax incentives, solar has become more affordable
- Using your backyard to grow a mini orchard, a garden- and perhaps raise some meat rabbits in hutches- could go a long way towards feeding your family
- Hanging your clothes to dry outside on a clothesline or inside on a rack
- Growing fresh herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes
- Brewing your own wines and beers in the basement can make hard times a little less so
- Adding a small solar greenhouse over a south-facing window of your home can provide you with fresh food in winter AND be an extra source of heat
- Building a wood fired brick oven on the back patio can provide you with a wonderful way to cook food and heat water if the power is out-or not
- Or convert that patio into a full-blown screened in ‘summer kitchen’ with running water from, you guessed it, your stored rainwater
- … the list of things your home can be empowered to do is almost endless.
Many people make money by using part of their home for a purpose other than simply shelter and refuge; from renting a spare bedroom to offering daycare, the possibilities are endless. One very popular family owned pizza shop in the heart of our downtown has built a wood fired brick oven that’s used for baking their pies, and they live upstairs. Root cellars and basements can be mighty useful for food and pantry storage as well as work space. Garages can be converted to workshops, studios and more.
The systems you put into place in your home make you able to produce more, become less dependent, and live a better life. Whether it’s a water, energy, or food system, the synergies between these systems compound this effect. Just like in the case of modern-day financial assets, savings or investment accounts get increasingly valuable due to compounding over the long term. Empower your home to take care of your needs!
Filed under: Climate Change, Community Building, Global Warming, Peak Oil, Resilience | Tags: simplicity, woodstove
There’s a useful parable about a man who comes upon a sparrow along the edge of a road. The sparrow is lying on its back with its feet sticking upward. The man asks the sparrow what it is doing. “I heard that the sky is falling,” the bird replies, “and I want to hold it up.” The man laughs at the bird. “You believe that you can hold up the whole sky?” “No,” the bird says. “But one does what one can.”
With all the problems of the world, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, or to feel as though the things we’re doing can’t possibly make a difference. Been there, done that. In fact, I still feel that way some days. Happily, today’s not one of ‘those days’ though.
I’ve had the luxury of keeping warm with an energy-efficient wood stove for the last 10 winters, but that all changed when we moved to our current home last summer. Now we’re keeping the thermostat low while trying to stay comfortable in a 113 year old house. It seems my hands are always cold, especially at night while I’m in bed reading, covered up to my neck with quilts. The hand that holds the book outside the covers freezes! Or when I am at my desk, my ‘mouse hand’ always seems extra cold. Then I saw this idea on the internet and knew that even I could do this simplest of things to feel more comfortable. I’ll let the pictures tell this simple story:
I really can’t believe how much warmer and more comfortable I feel using my ‘new’ fingerless gloves! The pictures I saw online of this project all showed them made using heavy knit sweaters, but I felt I wouldn’t be comfortable with all that bulk and I was right. The thinner knit is perfect for me. If you haven’t already tried this remedy I suggest you go to the back of your closet right now, find an old sweater you don’t wear anymore and cut the sleeves off, then cut a thumb-hole. You can sew it all up and make it nice and neat, or you can do like I did and just leave it as is and be warmer within 5 minutes. Whatever your choice, you won’t be disappointed in the comfort they offer, I promise you. Oh yeah, if you don’t cut too much sleeve off the sweater, you can turn that raw edge under and have yourself a vest or shell to wear under other things. It’s still hard for me to believe that something this small made such a difference in my comfort.
Of course my cold hands aren’t part of the world’s problems, but the reality is that we are fast approaching a tipping point tin terms of climate disruption, food production, financial
sequestering meltdown and Peak Oil. (Yes, I KNOW the stock market is breaking records and I personally couldn’t be happier about that, but knowing that what goes up must come down concerns me too.) So, cold hands aside, with problems this big, what can I do about them? Like the sparrow, one does what one can. Whether it’s growing a tomato in a pot, or participating in a rally against the proposed XL pipeline, we can all do something.
What are you doing to help mitigate the coming changes in our world? What are you doing to make your life and that of your family and community more resilient and self-sufficient? Do you feel overwhelmed~ or empowered? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. Tomorrow might be ‘one of those days’ for me and your comments might be exactly what I need to get through it.
Once again, I’ve got a number of things on my mind, none of which would make a complete post here, but collectively, add up to some kind of whole at least.
I’m doing more and more Asian/Indian cooking these days, because their way of eating focuses on grains and veggies, with a tiny piece of meat or fish used almost like an afterthought. This kind of plant-based eating appeals to Michael and me because it’s healthy for us, it’s more frugal to eat this way, and it’s certainly more sustainable for our planet. This new-to-me way of eating is a far cry from the deep-fried diet of meat and potatoes that Paula Dean and I grew
fat up on. I’ve been on a steep learning curve, but I’ve discovered a couple of things that have saved me some time and money (and really, it doesn’t get any better than that does it?)
Did you know you can freeze fresh ginger? Growing up in the deep south, ‘Ginger’ was a girl’s name, not something you ate. Ever. But it turns out that if you peel the root then wrap it in waxed paper, and slip that into a freezer container, you can then remove it from the freezer when you need it and slice off a chunk the size you need. Frozen ginger is pretty easy to slice, and easier to grate than fresh! And after grating my knuckles one too many times, I got a ginger grater, which I really enjoy using. Because it’s a well made and simple tool, has no batteries or moving parts, I’ll have it the rest of my life I’m sure. Just sayin’…
Speaking of ginger, I’ve been reading about that it’s not as hard to grow as I once thought, so I’m going to start some in a pot this spring and see what happens. Freezing will kill the plant, so by planting it in a pot, I can bring it inside each winter. That might become one less thing to add to my grocery list. If you’ve got any experience growing ginger, I hope you’ll share it in the comments section below.
Another item used often in my new favorite way of cooking is curry powder. The mixes I found weren’t to my liking, and pricey to boot, so I made up the following recipe and it’s got just enough ‘heat’ for me and a great flavor. By the way, buying fresh spices in bulk online saves me a bundle. Just sayin’…
Homemade Curry Powder (medium heat)
4 tsp cumin powder
3 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne or chili powder
Now, on a completely different track, I wanted to share with you some repurposed things I’ve been having fun with lately. The first was making tote bags from empty 40 lb bird seed bags. Use a Micro Tex needle and nylon thread for this. I spent a fun snowy afternoon with a bird feeding friend recently and we made this. You can find directions all over the internet so I won’t repeat them here, but these are durable, cool looking totes. Just sayin’…
I was at a local thrift store recently and saw a bed skirt/dust ruffle in a cheerful blue and yellow print that reminded me of a dear friend’s kitchen. This friend had celebrated a milestone in her life recently and I had been trying to come up with something special for her to commemorate the occasion. So, I bought the skirt for 50 cents and made this for her in less time than it would’ve taken me to ‘go shopping’ for a gift. I didn’t have a pattern, I just wrapped it around me and cut where I thought I should. Turns out, I’ve got enough of it left to make 3 or 4 more just like it. Not a bad way to say “you’re special” for just about a dime, eh? Just sayin’…
OK, so what do all these things have in common? Seemingly not much. BUT! creating a way of living that’s based on self-reliance, creativity and frugality will enable us to re-create and transition to a future in ways that aren’t based on cheap, plentiful oil, but on our own skills. Whether it’s sewing, cooking, repairing things or making new ones, those skills will save you money and will enable you to be far more resilient during hard times. Just sayin’…
Filed under: Canning, Climate Change, Community Gardens, Composting, Frugality, Peak Oil, Rain Barrels, Resilience, Voluntary Simplicity | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, growing food, outdoors, simplicity
I can’t believe February’s almost over and I haven’t written a post all month. I’ve been quite busy working on some small home projects, tackling a small mountain of sewing repairs, finishing up January’s library loans, and taking part in some time consuming committee work at my church. They’re all fine, indoor activities for what I’m hoping will be our final Winter month, but I’ll be sooo happy when I can get outdoors again and begin planting and gardening.
My New Year’s resolution to slow down to the ‘speed of
light life’ is starting to have an effect. I’m finding more time to be spontaneous, and more time to do those things that are most gratifying to me. I gain a lot of pleasure in being a domestic Goddess and don’t consider it ‘gender inequality’, but that’s just me. And even though retirement has certainly given me extra time in my daily life, that extra time had become so filled with activities, that I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by them all. Retirement also comes with a fixed income and I wanted to focus my life energy on trying to maximize that income, all the while increasing my happiness and well being quotas. Slowing down and eliminating some of the to-do’s allows that to happen. After a hiatus from gardening last summer due to our mid-season move to town , I truly missed the growing, preserving and of course, the fresh food that we’ve come to depend on from our garden. We’ve witnessed rising food prices this winter; $4 a pound for butternut squash, for example, along with questionable food products (horsemeat burgers anyone?), Listeria and Salmonella scares at our beloved Trader Joe’s stores, and according to the January 15th ‘U.S. Drought Monitor’, moderate to exceptional drought still covers 58.9% of the contiguous U.S. (And by the way, what the hell has happened to gas prices this week?)
So,what’s a body to do? My plan is to grow more food and then find ways to do it more sustainably. This is the year I hope to become more adept at having no- or-low-till beds, seed saving, cover cropping and succession planting, mulching and capturing rainwater to irrigate with during the dry spells, making compost with nothing more than leaves and urban-sourced manures, and tending vermiculture bins- all of which will reduce my dependence on ‘store bought’ inputs. Market prices for food and gasoline, the lingering drought, the state of Georgia making thirsty gulping noises again along with North Korea behaving very badly all serve to make life feel so out of control that I find growing food is the best medicine for my personal angst. It’s a 2-part strategy since it’s not just the food, but the actual being in the garden that offers me peace in troubled times. I’m gardening this year as if my life depended on it.
P.S. I thought some of you might be interested in attending this lecture:
Filed under: Backyard Chickens, Food Storage, Food Waste, Frugality, Peak Oil, Reducing Waste, Urban Living | Tags: beans, food, frugal, the good life
Some of you know that my hubby is from England, but some of you also know that I’m originally from Alabama, and where I’m from, ‘Hodge Podge’ never referred to food, but to a confused mixture of things. Seems his use of the word is perfect for leftovers though, right matey?
It’s the last day of January, and my last day of blogging about food~at least for now. I’m not feeling too well this evening, but luckily, I’d managed to put together Pad Thai for supper tonight before I started feeling icky, and coupled with a slice of homemade bread, it was wonderful. Putting a good meal on the table is really easy though when you have “Hodge Podge”, which is Michael’s word for ‘cleaning out the refrigerator and making a meal of it.’ For some reason, I think it sounds more appetizing to call it Hodge Podge, rather than ‘leftovers’~ I mean you KNOW what your leftovers were from supper last night, but Hodge Podge, well, you just never can tell! Whether it’s a few leftover potatoes or polenta, a bit of beans or greens, a cup of pasta topped with parmesan cream or pesto, a crust of bread, or half a jar of fruit, it doesn’t matter whether it ‘goes together’ or not, it’s always an eating adventure to have Hodge Podge and a good way to clean out the frig and resist the siren call to ‘eat out’.
But tonight, we’re going to talk about the southern version of this term too, because I have a little of this and a little of that I wanted to share with you, and since none of it is seemingly related, I’ll call it Hodge Podge too:
1. My C.O.O.P. cofounder friend Emily and I will be offering a new ‘Backyard Henkeeping’ class this coming Saturday morning, Feb. 2nd, at Mize Farm and Garden supply in Johnson City. The class will be from 10 to noon and if you stay til the second hour, you’ll receive a $5 off voucher for anything in the store! Please call to preregister: 434-1800
2. Did you know that you can rehydrate and plump dried plums (aka prunes) by simmering them in a little pan of water for 5 or 10 minutes? They are sooo good that way!
3. Storing fresh cilantro or parsley in a jar of water in the frig keeps it fresh for about two weeks! Snip off the bottom of the stems, insert into half full jar of water, then cover loosely with a plastic bag… PS Make sure the leaves are dry when you cover, so don’t wash them until you’re ready to use them.
4. I save the dessicant packs that come in new shoes, backpacks, and pill bottles. The little bags are used to absorb moisture and adding them to my jars of dried fruits, herbs and vegetables, keeps them from molding. Once the bags stop absorbing moisture, they can easily be rejuvenated by putting them in my dehydrator at 300 degrees for about 3 hours. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can recharge them by placing them on a cookie sheet in the oven but I’d sure try to find a way to do this when I had the oven on low for some other purpose; perhaps while baking some potatoes, or even a crock of baked beans. You can also buy silica gel at a craft store and make your own dessicant packs, but why not ask everyone you know to simply save theirs for you and you’ll have plenty of them in no time!
Well, I guess those four things ARE related, seeing as how they’re all about food, but regardless, I’m calling it a Hodge Podge of ideas, just because I think it’s a cool term. Let this be the year that we start to lay the groundwork for a way of life that’s many, many times more productive, meaningful, and bountiful than the one we have today. Peak Oil and Climate Change be damned, transitioning to a different way of living is a journey~ enjoy it!
Filed under: ENOUGH!, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, Plant based diet, Resilience
Grocery store clerks have told me that they’re often amazed and amused by the customers that tell them “I only came in for bread”, yet they’ve also got a can of refried beans, a package of Oreos, a pound of cheese and a frozen box of Stouffer’s Lasagne on the checkout belt, right along with that bread. A $2 loaf of bread turns into $20. Or more. I’ve done it myself of course but the reminder remains: “Step Away from the Store!” The tendency to pick up impulse items is even stronger when there’s a storm forecast. You know, “just in case”. In this month of winter storms, W4 tax forms, new year resolutions, and a promise on my part to spend January writing about food on this blog, today seemed to be perfect for continuing that theme. (For non-local readers, Tennessee is under a ‘state of emergency’ as I write this, due to icy and snowy conditions.) But I digress…
My post earlier this week focused on a way to easily prepare healthy and delicious food, at minimal cost. Homemade soups are filling and are an excellent way to use up leftovers or small amounts of beans, grains and veggies, that by themselves, wouldn’t feed more than one, let alone a hungry family. Now granted, my ‘souper’ meal didn’t compare to the meal served Monday to President O’Bama and his 220 guests at the inaugural luncheon. Celebrating the theme of the inauguration, “Faith in America’s Future”, artisanal, sustainable and, where possible, local foods were used, though some items came from the West. The three-course farm-to-table menu included steamed lobster tail topped with a New England clam chowder sauce, placed atop vegetables. Hickory grilled bison tenderloin (sourced from South Dakota) with a wild huckleberry reduction was the entree, joined by vegetable sides, including a red potato horseradish cake. The grand finish was President Obama’s favorite dessert, pie: Hudson Valley Apple Pie, with sour cream ice cream and maple caramel sauce, accompanied by artisan cheeses and honeycomb. Wines were from New York and California. The very fact that this Presidential meal was planned to highlight local and sustainable foods tells me that there’s real change in the air concerning our food system. I’m not so sure about that whole “Faith in America’s Future” theme, but it sounds good, doesn’t it?
Meanwhile, moving back to the reality of feeding ourselves and our families within the confines of our personal budgets: those impulse buys can wreck your food budget. The safest and easiest way I’ve found for sticking to my own budget is to stay out of the stores, food or otherwise. There’s an old saying that goes like this: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”. It’s my personal mantra and I always feel positively virtuous when I can follow it. It’s probably saved me thousands and thousands of dollars over the years, yet at the end of the day, I never feel deprived, but rich beyond the normal measure of what money can buy. I am a lucky woman, and I know it.
Making a menu plan and a shopping list really help me stick to what I need when I finally do go to the store. I try to go only once a month for my main shopping, and rarely will go again for just one item. I’ve found I can often substitute one item for another, or leave an ingredient out altogether without degrading whatever I’m cooking. ‘Doing Without’ can save a trip to the store and a twenty spot.
I read a book several years ago named “Hungry Planet” that was a pictoral essay of what other families around the world eat. I picked three from it that I thought might better make my point:
Food expenditure for one week: $31.55
Favorite Food: Potato soup with cabbage
The Aboubakar family of Breidjing Camp
Food expenditure for one week: 685 CFA Francs or $1.23
Favorite food: Soup with fresh sheep meat
United States: The Revis family of North Carolina
Food expenditure for one week: $341.98
Favorite foods: spaghetti, potatoes, sesame chicken