Tennesseetransitions


What’s for Supper?
July 24, 2014, 9:09 PM
Filed under: Local Food, Seasonal Eating | Tags: , , ,

taters

I really enjoyed the rainy weather here in NE Tennessee last weekend! It got me OUT of the garden and IN-to the kitchen. I finished canning the last of the green beans and cooked a pot for supper, along with those little, teeny, tiny Yukon gold potatoes that you just have to wash- the skins are so thin that no peeling or cutting is even necessary. Most people don’t bother to harvest those babies→ but I gather them all up when we dig our crop, right along with the big ones.  I throw ‘em right in the pot with the beans, chopped onions and a dash of bacon grease. The beans and baby taters, along with our very first ears of Kandy Korn from the corn plot down at the community garden, fat slices of  heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes and grilled garlic bread along with a sliver or two of the leftover rotisserie chicken I splurged on earlier this week make a frugal, dee-li-shus supper with very little prep time.

I also used eggs from my friend’s backyard flock to make deviled eggs  as well as bowls of potato salad and cole slaw that made good use of our home-grown cabbage, carrots, potatoes, red onions and herbs. We enjoyed the salads with our salmon/cucumber sandwiches for lunch today and have enough left for several more meals. Good golly Miss Molly, we’re eatin’ good these days!

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So, what’s for supper at YOUR house? Do you find  yourself eating more local and seasonal foods these days? Got any recipes you want to share? Comment below ↓

 



Bee Informed-This is Truly Foul News!
July 14, 2014, 8:37 PM
Filed under: beekeeping, Uncategorized | Tags:

Bee-HiveAttention Tennessee beekeepers in Washington, Sullivan, Hawkins, Unicoi, Johnson, and Carter counties:  a case of American Foulbrood is being investigated in Kingsport, TN.  State apiarist Mike Studer is inspecting hives to determine whether or not this is an isolated case, but all beekeepers are encouraged to check/inspect their hives.  New beekeepers are encouraged to contact their mentors, an experienced beekeeper, or one of our local inspectors to ensure the health of their hives. It is generally recommended that beekeepers burn the whole hive to help prevent the spread of this disease.  It would be prudent to harvest any honey available and unless you have been cleared by an inspector as free of foulbrood, it is suggested that you not feed your honey back to your bees. You can read more about the disease here:  American Foulbrood Disease

It’s been said that ‘bees are the canary in the coal mine for our food system’. But what can NON-beekeepers do?

1. Encourage your congressman or woman to look at the science behind a class of nerve-poisoning pesticides known as neonicotinoids; there has been a ban on their use in European countries for years (imagine that).  While you’re on the phone with their office…

2. Also let him or her know that the task force that President Obama created just two weeks ago is a good first step to address the issue of rapidly diminishing honey bees and other pollinators, and that you expect their support. Remind Democrats and Republicans  alike that if they eat, they’re involved in this crisis.

3. Support local efforts to block the rewording of our city code that would lump honeybees in with ‘farm animals’ and forbid them as livestock. Stay tuned to this blog for more on that.

4. Consider becoming a beekeeper. We are extremely lucky to live in an area with a very active bee club and a bee supply store! The club will provide you with a mentor and educate you on everything you need to know to be successful.

5. Teach your friends and family that honeybees are responsible for every third bite of food we take and that they are not ‘out to get them’ but are merely ‘out to collect pollen and nectar’. Last week in the community garden, I was helping a group of women that are going through drug and alcohol rehab with their plot, when we saw a honeybee land on a squash flower. One of the young women told her daughter to ‘get away! get away!’ So, I used that quick opportunity to tell her what I’ve just told you. She immediately calmed down and told the girl ‘it was okay now’.  Repeat after me: “It’s okay. They won’t hurt you”.

6. Plant bee-friendly plants wherever you can tuck them in-sunflowers, bee balms, herbs, and about a million others come to mind. From blueberries to hollyhocks, you’ll find it easy to provide them with plants that give them the pollen and nectar they need to make honey and to stay healthy.

7. Avoid lawn chemicals and garden pesticides.

8 When you do eat honey, make sure it’s raw, local honey-it’s a well known fact that eating LOCAL honey daily can help you with seasonal allergies, acting like allergy shots do: a minute bit each day eventually will make you immune to those things that you’re allergic to.

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A Zucchini a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
July 12, 2014, 3:28 PM
Filed under: Healthy food, Local Food | Tags: , ,

I do believe my zucchini have done better this summer than ever before. So well in fact, that I’m giving them away, drying them to add to winter soups and stews, making flavored chips and now-finally!- I’ve discovered some easy and great tasting new recipes. I wanted to share them with you because they both can be made in a few minutes and for just a few cents if you’re growing most of the ingredients. 

Here’s the first: 

Zucchini Parmesan Sammiches

Zucchini Sammiches

From The Moosewood Cookbook:

2 cups diced fresh zucchini

1/2 cup minced onion

1 clove crushed garlic

1/2 tsp. chopped basil

1/2 tsp. chopped oregano

2 Tbs. olive oil

salt, pepper

Fresh tomato slices

1/2 cup freshly-grated parmesan

Saute’ onion and garlic, with salt, basil and oregano, in olive oil until onion is translucent. Add zucchini and saute’ until soft. Spread onto lightly browned toast, topped with thin slices of tomato and a sprinkling of fresh parmesan. (I didn’t have any fresh parmesan, so just used what the ‘canned’ variety. It didn’t melt as well but tasted good nonetheless. Use what you have . This one should be broiled, not grilled. Parmesan loves to broil. And I loved these sammiches!

And here’s a recipe for Savory Zucchini Cakes, from a post that  I made last July:

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http://tennesseetransitions.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/z-cakes-and-chow-chow/

In my opinion, nothing, I mean NOTHING compares to putting an organic, made-from-scratch, grown-in-my-own-garden, meal on the table! The satisfaction of producing one’s own food in a globalized world speaks not only to my environmental consciousness; sharing with you the growing, gardening, cooking and preservation of all that home-grown goodness gives me a sense of connection to my roots and to my community. YOU’RE my community. Thank you! Hope you enjoy your weekend friends! I’m off to the ribbon cutting of my city’s new “Founder’s Park”. It’s a beautiful park, with art, and rushing water and lots of green space-and it’s an 8 minute walk from home. Here’s a pic:

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Adapting to the Heat is Kinda Cool!
July 11, 2014, 8:03 AM
Filed under: Adapting to Change | Tags: , , ,

This blog hasn’t been very active lately, even though I think about it a lot. (that counts doesn’t it?) It occurred to me today that part of the reason I’ve been quiet is because I’m back into that summer time groove of gardening and “puttin’ food by”. It’s such a natural and routine part of my life that I guess I considered it rather, well,  too routine and not interesting enough to write about. So, I tried to look at my daily activities through your eyes, hoping to see some ‘transitioning patterns’ or ideas that I might share with you. 

Transitioning to a way of life that involves using less fossil fuels and adapting to a warming climate can cover a lot of activities, from adapting our daily routines to the vagaries of the weather to eating cooler, lighter foods in summer than those we eat during the colder months. I’ve found that working in the heat of the day makes me pretty miserable so I’m waking earlier and earlier to beat the heat. Right after breakfast I walk to the community garden to inspect the live traps we set each night for the raccoon mama and her teenage son (or daughter) that are waiting, right along with us, for the corn to ripen. So far, we’ve only caught two smallish rats, but regardless of what live animal gets tricked into going into traps, I don’t want them to suffer, like I do, in the heat of the day, so I go early to check, and then to get my days’ gardening chores completed. I finish just as the sweat begins to drip off my chin. After a brief rest at home, I take my daily walk with the dog because I worry about her burning her paws on the asphalt or overheating in her black fur coat. Days are spent in front of the fan, snapping, slicing, dicing-and drinking sweet apple mint tea ;)

This week I’ve been…

canning beans…

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drying zucchini slices…

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and chopping peppers for drying…

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We harvested the onions this week, so I’m taking advantage of the sun to cure them for a few days…

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while cooking our supper too!

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We aren’t doing any baking these days because heating the oven is simply not worth it. My west-facing kitchen windows can really allow a lot of heat in in the late afternoons, even with the shades drawn, so if I’m not using the solar cooker, I cook my evening meal before that happens, generally right after lunch. That leaves me all afternoon and evening to pursue other projects. Last night I cut down a small tree to make way for a greenhouse that’s going to be put in its’ place. Tonight I moved all the rockers and crap things off the front porch and scrubbed the accumulated road dirt and dust off the siding and floor, all while enjoying the shady side of the house in the barefoot comfort of cool hose water. Tomorrow evening I plan to attend the opening reception of a new art exhibit at a nearby downtown gallery called “Lens on the Larder: Food Ways of Appalachia”; I’m already looking forward to walking there in the cool of the evening and enjoying some local foods, photography and stories. Who says transitioning to this way of life is somehow difficult or hard? It often just requires some simple adjustments to our schedules, menus or clothing.

Before the days of central heating and air, everyone worked and slept by the rising and setting of the sun. Farmers and field workers often enjoyed their main meal, or ‘dinner’, at noon, giving them an opportunity to fully refuel after a morning’s work outside, while also offering them a respite until later in the afternoon when the sun wasn’t as high. Front porches served as the warmer-months living rooms, and summer kitchens were screened affairs where the days’ cooking, eating and canning took place. Corn was shucked and beans were broken while sitting under the shade of a tree. Folks were completely tuned in to the sun, the rain and the seasons. I’m trying to adapt to that way of life as well, and though I enjoy turning on the AC at times, I’m happiest with the windows open. Thinking back, I attended an un-air conditioned school and lived in a house without it, all while growing up in central Alabama. We didn’t suffer, it was just part of summer!

I recently covered my upstairs skylight with newspaper to prevent the sun from shining in so brightly, and it really did help with the heat buildup up there! Each evening, when the outside temperature drops to a lower point than the inside air, I turn on the window fans up there to further cool things off. We sleep on the first floor of our home, which is naturally cooler, and have gotten so used to the ‘white noise’ that the fan provides that it’s become like a sleeping pill for us. One summer while I lived in California, the state was experiencing ‘rolling brownouts’ where the electrical usage was cut during the hottest parts of the day. During those times our office ‘adapted’ by allowing us to wear shorts and sandals, changing lunch break times and doing those tasks that didn’t require electricity: filing, phone calls, and data entry on our battery operated lap tops got us through. Our own electric company is working towards a similar setup here in NE TN, where we can voluntarily sign up for ‘time of day’ usage rates, which will be lower than regular rates. It saves them power and us money, but it’s all about adapting any way you look at it.  For me, adapting to the heat just means doing my work in the cooler hours, eating meals on the porch, and napping or reading in the heat of the day. I enjoy a greater sense of resiliency by changing with the seasons and find it’s kinda cool actually!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Eating Humble Pie- June 27, 2014
June 27, 2014, 11:02 PM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , , ,

I have simply been too busy during the day, and too tired at night, to post to my blog this week. That makes me kinda sad because I really enjoy the thinking, researching, picture-taking and writing that a decent post requires of me. Too bad THIS post isn’t one of those ;) But in between the morning spent cutting grass and helping the ‘women in rehab’ in their community garden plot, and the preparing for friends-for-supper-and-drum-circle this evening, I’ll just write a quick, down-and-dirty Frugal Friday post. Regardless of how busy I get, how tired I am or what’s going on in my daily life, frugality isn’t one of those things that I need to research and think about. It’s simply something I do each day, like brushing my teeth. Because our garden is producing regularly now it’s requiring a fair amount of attention, but the pay-off of course is all the fresh organic food we’re harvesting every day. Of course THAT means cooking, preserving and eating it every day too. So, this week’s frugal focus was on food:

Monday: One of the community gardeners put up a unique plant support over the weekend and so I took a picture of his wire shelf turned on end. He is from Thailand. I have noticed over the years of communal gardening that those gardeners that hail from other countries like Russia, Africa, (and Thailand) are excellent scavengers, recyclers and repurposers (is that a word?). The lady from Russia brought her family’s heirloom Russian potato seeds with her when she came to this country and because her yard is too shady to grow there, she sought out a spot in the community garden to allow her to perpetuate her heritage and to grow things like fava beans and artichokes and other strange-to-me veggies. She uses styrofoam meat trays that she cuts into strips and writes on for plant markers, pallet wood for her paths between beds and fallen shrubby sticks for pea and bean supports. She grows bamboo in her shady yard and uses the as tomato stakes. The gardener from Africa several years ago had the prettiest garden you’ve ever laid eyes on, using similar ‘found’ props and techniques. The fellow that has propped up his squash with the wire shelf so it doesn’t get struck by the string trimmers, stops at Starbucks on his way home from work every night  to pick up a supply of spent coffee grounds that he adds to his beds and compost bins, and made unique flea beetle protectors for his eggplants out of plastic jugs that had the bottoms cut off and fine screening stapled to the top. Here’s his ‘trellis’:

plant support(1)

The point here is that those of us here in the United States use far more resources than any other country on Earth and whenever I’m feeling smug about being frugal all I have to do is look at the garden plots belonging to those ‘other countries’ to eat a slice of humble pie. I suspect I’ll be learning lots of lessons from these folks during their time in the community garden. Savings? PRICELESS!

Tuesday: Michael and I harvested our potatoes today, promptly adding home made compost and more of the free shredded leaves that our city delivers to us each fall back to the plot, before replanting it with more beans and squash. We grew 43 pounds of organic Yukon Golds in 40 square feet of soil. The moldy straw that was given to me free, and that we used to ‘hill’ around the ‘tater plants was then moved to the path to top off the cardboard we’d laid there for weed suppression. Using the straw for two purposes (actually three, since it will eventually end up as compost) makes me happy. 43 pounds of potatoes in my currently rat-free cellar make me even happier. I just called Earth Fare, my favorite, and closest, healthy food store to check on the price of their organic Yukons. 5 lb bags are selling for $6.99 and individual pounds are selling for $2.29 lb. I’ve done the math: With sales tax, my 43 lbs would’ve cost me $68.35 there. My seed potatoes cost me about $3, and a very pleasant hour planting them one spring morning back  in April. Savings: $65! 

 

taters,

 

Wednesday:  We went to a luncheon/meeting of our local Community Partnerships group this day. The catered meal was excellent and the plasticware we used to eat with was very high quality (ok, it was almost as nice as my everyday silverware!) so I wrapped up the six pieces that Michael and I had used, tucked them into my purse, and brought them home to wash. I added it to my ‘stash’ of used-just-once plastic ware that I keep with my emergency preps, along with a stack of paper plates and napkins. If the water is ever shut off because of overwhelmed city storm drains ( a real possibility in my town) I just use it and toss it rather than worrying about washing dishes in such a situation. We also take the stash camping and to potlucks too so even though it’s still wasteful to use a disposable ANYTHING, at least they get a second or third or tenth life. But, eating another slice of humble pie here, (I’m getting rather full of it actually) a young mother and daughter that sat at our table not only brought their own water filled bottles, passing up the ubiquitous red plastic cups and sweet tea and disposable bottles of water, they also shared one of the rather large paper plates AND PASSED UP THE DESSERT ENTIRELY! (Now that’s taking things a little too far ;)  ) Savings: No monetary savings since I wouldn’t buy the plasticware anyway. The humble pie was free too.

Thursday: I’m always learning from, and sharing with, the other community gardeners. This week alone we gardeners shared bamboo stakes, seeds, extra plants, tools, energy and friendship. We were also given free soil tests by the owner of Downtown Farming who taught us about our soil’s microbacterial action at our monthly gardener’s meeting. (Thanks again Yancy!)  Savings? Priceless! 

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Friday:  Today I harvested  enough zucchini to serve tonights’ dinner guests stuffed zucchini boats and we enjoyed them along with roasted rosemary/garlic potatoes and cabbage cooked with bacon drippings. I also harvested the first big red onion, the last of the spring planted kale, a huge bag of swiss chard, beets, carrots and enough collards to feed a horse! I also cooked a big pot of collards mixed with sautéed onions and garlic, diced potatoes, black-eyed peas, a jar of home-canned tomatoes and then splashed it all with hot sauce. It was so good that Michael even liked it-and he’s not a collards lover like I am! I didn’t take a picture but you don’t even need a recipe for this dish. I managed to use up a tiny part of what you see here on my kitchen counter:

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Tonight after supper we went to the drum circle in our town’s newest park. It was a lot of fun and it made me kinda misty-eyed being there with good friends, in a beautiful park within walking distance of my home, realizing how FULL my life (and my refrigerator!) are.  If we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. Now is the time to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being

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Frugal Friday- June 20, 2014
June 20, 2014, 10:04 PM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , ,

It’s been a lucrative week in my household, showing once again that frugality, in some cases, can be a decent substitute for a paycheck. The idea that making sure that we aren’t spending more than we bring in isn’t  ‘a job’, but I do liken it to ‘a calling’. The first, and best, way to answer that calling is to track expenses. For 14 years, we have tried faithfully to track every single penny that comes into, and goes out of, our household. Doing this shows us exactly when we’re spending too much in one category or another and then allows us to make adjustments when needed. Food, gasoline, energy and entertainment are all examples of expense categories that allow for some flexibility and seeing what we’ve spent over the previous thirty days (or thirty months!) helps us make those adjustments with ease, both mentally and financially. The idea of tracking expenses came to us via “Your Money or Your Life”, a book we both happened to read at the beginning of our relationship. Both the tracking, and the relationship, have stood the test of time.

Monday: We needed a brighter bulb for a table lamp, and decided to pay a bit extra to get the better lighting quality of an LED bulb (instead of the ‘old’ compact fluorescent type we were replacing), so we bought one at Lowe’s while we were picking up some other home repair items we needed. Not a good shot, but here it is:

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Cost: $27.00

There were a few things on our shopping list that we couldn’t find at Lowe’s, so we went down the street to Home Depot. We found another bulb there with the same watts, lumens, and amperage as the  one we’d just bought from Lowe’s- for $20.00! Cree bulbs have the highest ratings available for residential LED lighting by the way. So, we returned the Lowe’s bulb. Savings: $7.00.  PS Save the receipts and package from these bulbs so that if they don’t meet the promised warranty period you can get a replacement.

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Just an aside: while at Lowe’s we had priced an outdoor flag holder for $9.95, and rejected it as too expensive. While at Home Depot, we found a completely acceptable one for $2.50!  Savings: $7.45. Has Lowe’s gone ‘upscale’ on us? It pays to shop around, whether it’s for lightbulbs or lawnmowers.

Tuesday: After months of eating ice cream during Michael’s chemo treatments, we’re trying to find healthier substitutes, so I’ve started making yogurt once again. Summer time is perfect for this since it produces very little heat in the kitchen and the availability of fresh fruits to add to it are at their peak. I like mine creamy and thick, with ‘real’ chunks of fruit, and local honey as a sweetener. A small container of Greek yogurt is about a dollar. I use powdered milk to make mine in a $10 yogurt maker I’ve had for many years. It holds 8 ‘cups’ and depending on the fruit I use, costs me about 50 cents a cup at most and is delicious. Savings: $4.00

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Just heat the milk to 190 degrees, then let cool to 120 degrees…

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      then add a few Tablespoons of plain yogurt as a starter, pour into cups, and let the magic happen!

Wednesday: My dentist, whom I trust completely, advised me to get the two ‘major’ repair jobs taken care of during this calendar year while I have dental insurance, then to drop the insurance at the end of the year. I take good care of my teeth, getting them cleaned by hygienist students at my local college for free, four times a year, and doing the recommended brushing and flossing daily. My new dental insurance paid for a full set of xrays and will pay 80% of the needed work, after which, I shouldn’t need any more expensive stuff done. (It doesn’t cover ‘false teeth’ should I need those in the future). So, I had the first procedure done this week and will have the next done next month, leaving me still with almost 6 months of coverage before I cancel. My annual premiums are $360, and since this is the first year in my life I’ve ever had dental insurance, maybe I’ll go the next 60 without it again! Savings: $360 a year

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Thursday: Our toilets began having trouble flushing completely. After much plunging, I heard the man next door out in his yard, and, knowing he owns a lot of property around town, went outside to ask him if he could recommend a decent plumber. Turns out, he was in the side yard with his plumber-guess what? His toilets weren’t flushing either, so he had called Roto Rooter to clear his clog. Amazingly, our two houses connect in the side yard, then run out to the city’s sewer lines at the street! So, we agreed we’d split the bill. Of course, Roto Rooter couldn’t open the blockage with their ‘normal’ equipment and said they’d return with their BIG guns. Estimated cost: $350. So, I told the neighbor I’d split the cost with him. Roto Rooter guys returned, and in less than 5 or 10 minutes they’d uncovered the problem, rather smugly announcing that the problem was “feminine products”. I rather smugly pointed to my gray hair and told them then it wasn’t my fault since I’m the only female in my house and I haven’t used “feminine products” in almost ten years! I offered to pay $100 towards the final bill and neighbor man quickly agreed to that deal. Savings: $75.00! just for speaking up!

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                    “Onion” may use feminine products…but I don’t!  Color me happy :)

Saturday: That’s right, I didn’t do a damn thing frugal today but I did take some herbal teas and crossword puzzle books to a friend in the hospital, cut my own grass, and bought one of those rotisserie chickens on sale for $3.99 from Krogers to have for supper (with enough leftovers for 2 more meals). But tomorrow I’ll take my cat to the annual vaccination clinic at the nearby high school, where I’ll be able to get his rabies shot then for $10. Savings: $20  Simon is not any happier that he’ll get it for a third of the normal price, but I sure am! (picture above applies to Saturday too)

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As always, frugality is not about being ‘cheap’ but smart. Living well on less keeps us long on time and lean on ‘stuff’, but absolutely FAT on all that matters! Please won’t you share your frugal matters too in the comments section below? I’m always inspired by what my readers are doing to stretch their incomes- hey, that means YOU!



Lessons on Less

I write here fairly often about ‘sustainability‘, which dictionary.com defines as: “pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse”. It’s a word that has been bandied about rather loosely over the last decade but it’s the single best word I’ve found to describe the lifestyle that I aspire to, and that I wish for the planet. It’s that “Continual Reuse” that I find difficult to maintain. Actually, I’ve only managed sustainability in just a few areas of my life, and even then only for short periods of time: using clothelines, maintaining compost piles, heating my home for 10 years using only coppiced and downed wood (and then adding the ashes to the garden), harvesting rainwater and refusing bottled water, and creating zero waste. It’s very hard to even grow food sustainably, for I’d have to save all my own seeds to be completely sustainable in the garden.

I’ve come to the conclusion-finally-that I cannot lead a sustainable life. From cradle to cremation, our lives are simply not sustainable in the modern world. I’ve realized that even the Native Americans weren’t living sustainably as they cut down trees for their every use, planted their crops until the soils were so depleted they had to ‘move on’ and made face paints from mineral pigments that they dug from the earth. Believe me when I say that admitting that makes me sad. 

However, here’s the good news: we CAN easily practice and produce things in our households that will help us  be skilled and resilient in the face of the continuing threats of worsening climate changes, economic instability and inequity and the depleting of the earth’s natural resources. ‘Curtailing’ is a newer buzzword when used in conversations about sustainability.  That means buying less, using less, wanting less and wasting less. Curtail means to “cut back” or possibly to “downsize.” It is more reflective of the seriousness of our current situation than the probably more politically acceptable word “conserve.” Conservation often implies a relatively small reduction in consumption, possibly recycling or buying compact fluorescents or maybe buying a hybrid car. If conserve is to be used as a synonym for curtail, it would be appropriate to preface it with some modifier such as “radical” conservation or “extreme” conservation or “rapid” conservation.

Buying Less: I am really trying to ‘curtail’ my driving these days, even though I’ll admit that  I don’t do it so much as a frugality measure, but as a health measure. I enjoy getting my daily exercise walking or biking to the places I need to go and have found when I carefully ‘bundle’ my errands, I don’t spend any more time walking them than I did driving them. Without the stress of road rage, I find the time spent is actually conducive to my well-being, beyond the cardio benefits. While running errands recently I’ve noticed birds’ nests, hidden rabbit litters, blooming flowers and the neighbors’ gardens. I’ve witnessed homeless people, panhandlers and drunks too. Being in a car isolates and insulates me from those realities of life, but I’d rather live life with eyes wide open. I’ve saved many dollars on fuel, prevented the release of countless CO2 molecules, and preserved the miles on my car’s engine and tires, all while running errands. Hooray for ‘curtailing’!

Consume Less

Using Less:  I’m also conserving more energy these days; both mine and the electric company’s! With the arrival now of truly hot weather, I rise earlier so that I can run my errands and work in the garden before the heat of the day settles in. That gives me the rest of the day to guiltlessly enjoy reading, cooking, napping, playing music or writing, all the while sipping ice tea under the fan. Not a bad trade-off, this ‘conserving’ ;)

Wanting Less: Seems like recently I’ve forgotten my own advice about buying more ‘stuff’ and I found my closets and corners filling up once again. Getting into the habit of buying somehow magically leads to buying even more. A new dress can lead to a new pair of shoes to match it, which leads to a new car to drive around town looking good in while you’re wearing the new dress and shoes. Ask any star. But it’s just a habit. Of course knowing something and doing something about it are two completely different things. I smoked for many years even after I realized how bad it was for me and the planet. Smoking was a habit, and so is excessive shopping. But-more good news!- the habit can be broken and with the release of its’ grip, you automatically begin to want less. I’m no minimalist, but to know with certainty that point of having ‘enough’ is priceless to me. And wanting less is the key to that knowing. 

Wasting Less: My friend Sandy tells me: “A low consumption lifestyle is the ultimate waste reduction strategy.”  I enjoy the challenge of not being wasteful. I’m not talking about just drinking the last sip of milk, I’m talking about buying the milk in a returnable glass jug! I’m not talking about eating the apples before they go bad, I’m talking about composting the cores and feeding the seeds to the chickens! I’m not talking about recycling your #2 plastic bottles, I’m talking about drinking out of a glass for goodness’ sakes! I really can say with confidence that I don’t ‘waste’ anything. Like developing the habit of ‘wanting less’, it’s become such an ingrained habit in me that the concept of wasting anything is strange. Yet I see (on those daily walks in my urban area) senseless waste each and every day. From an uncancelled postage stamp to an unwanted article of clothing, you’ll find very little waste in my life. I’m proud of that. But you know what? It doesn’t matter that I’m not able to live 100% sustainably; what matters is the trying.

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Frugal Friday- June 13, 2014

It’s Friday the 13th AND a full moon! Seems like an auspicious way to begin post number 2-0-1- on this blog. Since returning from my trip to Ohio, I’ve been distracted with gardening and meetings, and festivals and meetings and shelling peas and meetings and out of town company and oh yeah, did I mention meetings? This week I’ve really tried to concentrate on eating from our garden every day, as well as walking and biking as much as possible to get where I need to go. When I left town to travel to Ohio, I filled up for $3.32 a gallon, but when I got there, gas was $3.99 a gallon! If that’s not incentive to park the car, I don’t know what is, yet the city where my family lives just had bumper to bumper traffic everywhere! Before I get on to my personal efforts to live fully and frugally beneath my means, I wanted to show you a picture I took in downtown Columbus of a new ‘car rental’ system they have there…

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The Car2Go system is brilliant for use in a big town. A one time membership fee of $35 gets you a swipe card. The card readers are on the dash of the car. Swipe your card, the doors unlock, then the reasonable pay by the minute-mile-or hour fees are charged to your credit card. Park it when you’re done in one of many many spaces allocated for them. They’re perfect for one, they’re fuel-efficient because of their small size and as  you can see, you can park two cars in the space that one car normally takes up! Talk about frugal! The only bad thing is having to live in a big town to take advantage of this. No thanks, I’ll just walk.

OK, before I get started on ‘this week’: a few of my close friends have said, from time to time, “you didn’t do such and such on Monday, it was Wednesday!” Whatever. The point here is not to give you a play by-play rundown of my week but instead, to simply show that every single day there are opportunities in our lives to save time, energy and resources. Living well on less is a way of life. Even on Mondays. Or Wednesdays. Just sayin’…

Monday: We had two compost bins but wanted to start a third one so we can be sure to have enough compost made this fall and next spring to add to our garden beds. The two bins we already had-and love-were $75 each last time I priced them (that’s them on the right, below) but with graduation gifts and travel expenses this month, there’s simply not enough money right now to buy another. But-we had a small section of wire fencing that we’d used several times to trellis growing vegetables, so we rolled it up, stuck it in the corner beside the other two and said ‘good enough’! It works fine and didn’t cost us a dime. And, as  you can see, it’s already filling up!

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Tuesday: Speaking of graduation expenses, or special gift giving occasions: I’m always on the lookout for the perfect gift for such events. A few months ago I was in my favorite thrift store and found this little gem for 50 cents:

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It had a lot going for it, from my point of view: it looked brand new, but no new resources were used for me to purchase it used, I wrote a personal note to put inside with the $100 bill I gave my graduating granddaughter, so no card had to be bought and then thrown away, nor did I need any wrapping paper. AND she’s got the little box for as long as she wants it to store ‘stuff’. Cheap? Nah, Sweet!

Wednesday: With summertime comes mosquitoes. I was hopeful that Michael’s chemo treatments would make him less desirable to the biting buggars but that doesn’t seem to be the case so it was time, once again, to mix up a batch of my infamous ‘Bug Potion #9′. Here’s the ‘recipe’: it makes 2 cups and usually lasts all summer. We keep it in repurposed spice jars, along with some cotton balls, in the camper,the car, the kitchen and the bathroom!

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1 cup witch hazel
1 cup rubbing alcohol
8-10 drops peppermint oil

Shake well, store in a tightly capped container so that alcohol doesn’t evaporate. Applying this with a cotton ball as soon as possible after being bitten results in better effectiveness.

Thursday: I signed up on-line to join the Adult Summer Reading program at my local library. Just for doing that, when I went in to the library today, I received a free tote bag, bookmarks, and a book of my choice! And for each book review I post on their website, my name will also be entered into a weekly drawing! Does your library offer such sweet deals? Check it out-pun intended.

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Friday: I invite company over at least once a month so my house will get cleaned. (oh surely you do that too! ;)  This week we had an out of town band stay with us overnight and the upstairs guest quarters were looking, um…kinda shabby. The night stands and table belonged to my grandmother and looked as old as she did-hey! she was 101, and she deserved to display all those years proudly, just like this furniture does:

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  I spent $40 on new knobs and paint, a few pleasant hours on the patio and think the 3 pieces look pretty nice. I’ve also got enough paint left to do another small project so I’ll be on the lookout at yard sales this summer for a scuffed-but-solid table or stool to use it on- perhaps as a Christmas gift for my daughter? I just don’t know what to do with the paint cans once they’re empty. Any ideas?

 

I hope you’re carrying the ideas of Frugal Friday with you throughout your week, and that you’re inspired to make the best use possible of whatever resources present themselves in your life before looking ‘elsewhere’ for the things  you need. Enjoy the weekend-frugally of course!



Just Getting Started

This is my 200th post on this blog but I feel like I’m just getting started. Some of those posts may have you rolling your eyes by now (growing food, building community and frugality are my personal favorites) but today’s post covers all of those topics in one! I am a recently elected co-chair of the local Livable Communities Group, a group that’s been meeting for about ten years, but has recently partnered with Community Partnerships, another group that was originally established under the direction of the Washington County Economic Development Council. Recently we’ve become re-energized by all the good things that are happening in our town and have adopted a long range plan to address some of the issues that Johnson Citians that attended the Economic Summit in 2011 felt were key in making our community more livable and lovable. Not surprisingly, green spaces, hiking and biking trails, public safety, expanded public transportation options, community gardens, farmer’s markets and a more localized economy topped the list. One answer that stood out in the survey was to “grow and connect to our local foodshed”, and that drumbeat seems to be growing louder and louder.

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It was announced in the local newspaper last week that the city doesn’t have the funds available to do the site preparation work for the long-promised new Farmer’s Market, and conversations that I’ve had recently with the market manager (he’s also the market board president-isn’t that a conflict of interest???) lead me to believe that if we really want to ‘grow and connect with our local foodshed’  the time has come to consider other options. And THAT is what the Livable Communities meeting being held tomorrow morning at the One Acre Cafe will be about. We’ve invited the director of Appalachian Sustainable Development to speak with us about the possibility of forming a food co-op; a worker-owned, community-based cooperative effort to help our residents be able to make that connection. I’ve been told that if our current Farmer’s Market vendors had a venue for selling their stuff during the colder months, that they’d be more willing to extend their growing seasons. This sounds like it might be a doable solution for that problem, allowing the summer-time market vendors to have a year-round income while allowing us eaters to have AFFORDABLE fresh locally-grown produce in addition to meats, cheeses, kitchen staples, home brews, and canned and baked goods, all in one location, all the time. If you eat, you’re part of this conversation.

I’ve been a member of two different food co-ops. The first was in the late 70′s.  I joined a worker-owned co-op that operated a store front which became like a second home and provided me with affordable, healthy foods like natural peanut butter and rice cakes, whole grain flours, eggs, oil, honey, cheeses and so much more. Four kids can go through a lot of that stuff you know. By paying an annual membership fee you got the food at a reduced price, but if you volunteered to work in the store a couple hours a month, you got an even larger reduction! Everything was ordered in bulk then divided up once it was delivered to the store. Our family refilled the same peanut butter and honey jars and Tupperware containers (remember Tupperware?) over and over and over, keeping endless amounts of trash from the landfill in the process. This was before curbside recycling was available-hell, this was before bottled water! Which makes me wonder if the ease of recycling now is truly progressive or simply relieves our conscience? But I digress…

The second coop I belonged to never had a store front, so the food was delivered to a remote parking lot, and was then taken home by members to divvy it up before it landed in the proper kitchen. The truck was always late, the orders always had something missing, and it was not ideal by any means. I don’t want to do that anymore.

After the ASD presentation of different co-op models, we’ll break for lunch at the cafe, then our group will be taking a tour of a possible location for such a store, right downtown, just a couple of blocks from the not-gonna-happen ‘new’ Farmer’s Market. If this is something  you’re truly interested in, feel free to join our group at 10 AM Monday, June 9th for this information gathering meeting. 

Last, but not least, keep in mind that I write this blog to offer you what I hope are resilient and creative, if not challenging, solutions for living well while transitioning to a world that holds the triple threats of climate change, energy and resource depletion and the ever-growing income inequity in the US and our globalized world.  But after 200 posts, I’m just getting started!

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The Good Life- Staying Cool, Hippybilly Music and Lightning Bugs
May 23, 2014, 9:39 PM
Filed under: ENOUGH!, Frugality | Tags: , , , , ,

Whew! It’s been a busy week. We had a gig with our band, the plot that’s being grown in the community garden for donation to the One Acre Cafe had to be planted, and overriding everything else, was Michael’s final week of chemotherapy. Let me repeat that: it was Michael’s final week of chemotherapy! We’re tired but happy today and are looking forward to a healing holiday weekend of music, food and friends. Some weeks offer more opportunities for frugality than others, but this wasn’t one of them, so I had to really stretch to reconstruct the week to see if there were ways we managed to save a dime or two. We did okay, in spite of our busy schedules.

Monday- In the process of making the ‘calling card of the South’ (sweet tea :) ) for a meeting I was hosting, I poured the boiling hot water for the tea into my glass carafe and it busted immediately. Of course. My initial reaction was one of panic, thinking I’d need to run to the store to buy another. Not! Instead I went to the cellar and found one of those half-gallon canning jars that won’t fit in my canner, and filled it with the hot water and tea bags. I mean, canning jars are MADE for hot water, right? And I liked the look of the tea in the jar, so served right from it, even garnering a compliment on how ‘cute’ the jar was. ‘Cute’ canning jar, who knew? The point is, I didn’t have to buy anything, and was able to make use of something I already had on hand. You know my mantra: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”…

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Tuesday: A cool, rainy day led to making soup and baking bread, two of our favorite things. We probably won’t be making either one now until fall, so this batch was especially good, but bittersweet. We figure the bread costs about 25 cents per loaf and this soup was from a bag that I’d picked up at the discount grocery for $2.00; two pounds of Bob’s Red Mill Veggie Soup Mix, to which I added some garden carrots and onions, limp celery, a jar of home canned tomatoes and the last of the Christmas turkey I had in the freezer. Turns out the mix will be enough to make four pots of soup, so it was quite a value! And awful good too, even if it is May!

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Wednesday: Michael and I are members of a little band that plays what we call “HippyBilly” music. We have BIG fun playing with our friends and sometimes we even make a bit of money doing so. This week we each made $25 for one hour of playing and that will sure come in handy when I travel to Ohio next week to watch my granddaughter graduate from high school!

Thursday: With the weather warming, we’ve started running fans in our upstairs and master bedroom window all night. The fans bring cool outside air in and help keep the whole house cooler throughout the day. We haven’t had to turn on our AC yet, and I hope we don’t all summer! We have one of those indoor/outdoor thermometers so when we see the outside temps drop below the house temp, we know it’s time to turn the fans on. We’ve also begun turning on the bathroom ventilator fans when we shower, closing blinds and drapes to keep the sun out, and have replaced our heavy winter bedding with light-weight summer stuff. We’ve also switched to bedtime showers, because after grubbing around in the garden all day, not only are we dirty, the showers cool us down just before bed, and makes sleeping much more comfortable. My kitchen windows face west, so I’ve also started cooking our dinners in the morning while it’s cool in there. Once it’s cooked, we usually go outside or for a walk while the kitchen cools. All these little changes in routines and being proactive at keeping the heat out, rather than reactive once it’s heated up, help keep the house cooler and our electric bills lower. It’s lots more expensive to air condition a house than  it is to heat it, and I’d rather spend that extra money on camping trips or music festivals in the summer. I know this is easy for me to say in May. We’ll talk again in August to see how that’s working out for us ;)

Friday: We drove to the oldest town in Tennessee this evening, a mere 9 miles away, to attend the unveiling of the soon-to-be-opened Farm Store and accompanying wall murals, as well as to enjoy the weekly ‘Music on the Square’ that’s offered free (donations gladly accepted) to the public during the summer. Sitting in our lawn chairs, listening to good live music, enjoying the cool breeze as I spotted the first lightning bug of the summer, in a beautiful little town square, I felt rich beyond compare. Lots of folks were eating ice cream cones, but we’d just eaten our supper, so we simply waited until we got home, where we ate our fudge bars right out of our freezer. They were cold and sweet and cost $3.00 for a box of twelve, making them 25 cents each. The single cones that were selling like hot cakes downtown were $4 each. You do the math.

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P.S. The 9 mile trip was the farthest we’ve been in our car in ages, but well worth the trip to hear the music and to spend time with our friends and neighbors. Frugality is really all about the dozens of little choices we make each and every day, whether we’re making choices about what to eat, what to buy or how to spend our time and energy. I’ve come to realize one really important thing though about this way of living: my life is rich, so I don’t need to be!



Here we go again…

Are  you sick of my posts about gardening? If so, just hit delete today, because it’s really all that’s on my mind during these long days of spring. I’ve got lots more good topics for transitioning lined up for the near future, some I can barely wait to share with you, but today, it’s all about gardening.

Before we get started on this though, a little personal history and philosophy might be in order. I’m a Tennessee Master Gardener and the coordinator of my city’s largest (to date) and oldest community garden, but I’m hoping that (at least!) a dozen more communal gardens will be surpassing our size in the near future. I feel that growing food is a life skill like no other. Gardening can offer resilience in the face of adversity, whether that’s due to climate change, skyrocketing food prices, personal money hardships, or food sensitivities. It builds self-sufficiency, enhances my sense of empowerment, and oh yeah, provides me with great-tasting and healthy food. My garden offers me a respite from a life filled with the blur of technology, stress and diversions and actually serves as my personal sanctuary when I go to kneel at its’ weedy altar. Oh yeah, did I mention it provides me with great-tasting food?

This post is simply my way of sharing some of what I’ve learned over the years with other gardeners that might be struggling to get their own pots and plots in good shape right now. There are lots of good gardening advice online, so if I don’t cover your question in this short post, you can find the answer somewhere on the world-wide web or in a good gardening book at the library. Or post your questions in the comments section at the end, maybe I’ll have an answer.

Q: How far apart should I plant my (fill in the blank)?

A: If you have rich soil that has adequate amounts of a plant’s needed nutrients, count on them growing well. Read that as large. Space accordingly. A big ole’ heirloom tomato plant that’s growing in a well-maintained raised bed that’s filled with rich homemade compost and lots of organic matter can easily grow to 3′ wide and 6′ tall! If your soil isn’t so good, it won’t grow that large and  you might get by with spacing them 18″ apart. I’ve seen gardeners that plant tomatoes and peppers 3-4″ apart! I apologize for the quality of this bad picture, but I want you to look closely at this: there are twelve, count them, TWELVE tomato plants in that little bitty bed!

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The spacing in my cabbage patch shown below is good on the left side with four plants, but too close on the right, which has five plants and shows the fourth one almost lost! These were ‘early’ small cabbages. Had they been a later, heavier variety, I would’ve only planted one row of them down the middle.

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Tomatoes and squash like a lot of air circulation, as that keeps many of the diseases that they’re susceptible to at bay.  Try to visualize a full-grown August tomato plant when considering how far apart to set them out. However, if we’re talking about carrots, go with 1″ apart thinning to 2″ when they’re up and recognizable. Squash on the other hand need 2-3′ all around to produce well.  These next two pics show how much room I give them. Both beds will be completely covered soon with the zucchini and yellow squash vines! You’ve got to visualize how big the mature plants will be!

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Like carrots, green beans and peas are planted closely, about 2″ apart, again, depending on the variety you’re planting. Read the back of the seed package if all else fails. If your seeds are old, plant thicker than normal, and if they all come up, just thin to an appropriate distance apart. In the pic below, the beans were planted 2″ apart, but birds and rabbits have done a pretty good job of ‘thinning’ for me.

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The sugar snap peas below were planted very closely around the edges of a square bed and as  you can see are flowering well now. I set the tomato cage in the center for the peas to be supported by, knowing that by the time the tomato needs the space, the peas will be history. Once the tomato fills the cage and is growing well, I’ll plant basil around the edges where the peas were…these three are good companion plants because the tomatoes need a lot of nitrogen and the peas are ‘nitrogen-fixing’ plants, which means they can literally pull it from the air and store it in the soil for use by the next crop. Basil and tomatoes are not only compatible when eaten together, the sharp smell of basil deters pests from the tomatoes when they’re grown together. How cool is THAT?

 

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Q: Why are my young plants turning purple?

A: Did you plant the purple variety?  Likely because your soil is low in phosphorus or because the soil temp is still too cool.

Q: Why are my plants turning yellow?

A: It’s usually caused by a nitrogen deficiency. Fish Emulsion is a good organic source of nitrogen. While young plants are growing feed every week, moving to every two weeks later in the season.

Q: Why do I have huge green plants but no broccoli heads?

A: Too much nitrogen is generally the cause of overgrowth with no fruit set.

Q: Nothing seems to be doing well this year

A: A simple test kit can go a long way towards helping you decide what your garden soil needs or doesn’t. Even though they’re inexpensive, share the cost with a friend or neighbor or two. You generally only need to test once or twice to determine your soil’s Ph and then again after making any needed adjustments, but the kits have enough solution to do it over and over. If  your Ph isn’t in the correct range no matter how rich your soil is, the plant roots won’t be able to draw the nutrients from that soil to help them thrive.

As I’ve written all of this I realize that gardening is kind of like beekeeping… ask 10 people how to do something and you’ll get 10 different answers but maybe this will be of some help to you dear readers. I believe that growing and eating locally grown foods, in season, is the single best thing one can do to improve their health, their personal economy, and the environment. Plant something, ok?



Frugal Friday- May 16, 2014

This weeks’ rain and cooler weather have been welcome visitors to my spring garden! Bok Choy, spinach, cilantro and broccoli have been the stars this week, with peas in full bloom. We’ve tried to plan our meals around these seasonal treats, because they’ll be gone soon, at least until fall.

Monday: Speaking of cilantro: I had such a surplus of this pungent spicy herb that I decided to try to preserve some it. After reading over several different methods, I took the easy way out by shoving handfuls of the plant, tender stems and all, into my blender. I simply poured enough olive oil to help the process, added some salt, and pureed it to a thick paste. Then I scraped about 2 Tablespoons of the green goo into empty ice cube trays and froze it. When solid, I popped them out and into freezer bags. I tried two of the cubes last night in a curry dish that called for fresh cilantro. Maybe not quite as good as the fresh, but definitely a nice flavor.

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BEFORE:

 

 

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The only thing I’d do differently would be to simply drop the thick paste by tablespoons onto a cookie sheet instead of ice trays. Less cleanup and easier to remove. Savings? With organic cilantro selling for 99 cents a bunch, I think I must’ve cut at least 5 bunches from my little patch, leaving enough to continue using fresh for a while longer and enough to go towards reseeding. One time years ago I bought a little tray of these little frozen cubes (only MUCH smaller!) at Trader Joe’s for about $3.00. Based on that, I’d say I saved at least $9.oo on this easy project.

Tuesday: On my daily walk I saw that my neighbor had put out a couple of carpets and rugs for trash pickup. I brought home the smallest one because it was very pretty, clean and just the size and combination of colors I needed for a bedside rug in my bedroom! I returned a bit later to take a picture of the larger one to show ya’ll how nice it was but it had already been claimed from its’ street-side ‘grave’. So I took a pic of the one I got. Very pretty I think:

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Savings? Well the main reason I hadn’t bought such a rug was because the ones I saw in the stores and admired were always too expensive for my tastes, running from $25-$45. I always say if I’m patient enough, I’ll find just what I want for a fraction of the price, or better yet, in the trash!

Wednesday: Michael’s favorite old gardening shorts had gotten a hole worn in them. I spent a few minutes patching them with an old scrap of muslin I had (which is what old feedsacks and consequently, our grandmother’s long-wearing dresses were made from) and I expect he’ll get plenty more garden mileage out of them. Savings: Does anyone REALLY need new shorts to garden or cut the grass in?

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Thursday: Michael loves A-1 Steak Sauce, even though we never eat steak. He likes it on eggs, hash browns and more. A-1 is expensive. (I mean really, what the hell’s wrong with ketchup???) Anyway, he bought a store brand this week for half the price and likes it just fine. Savings: $2.25 a bottle.

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Monday through Friday:  We’re eating more and more fresh food from our garden and the remains of last summer’s bounty that’s left in the freezer so it will be fairly empty when the space is needed again. This requires creativity on the cook’s part. This week we’ve enjoyed Shepard’s Pie, stuffed with broccoli, beans, greens and carrots and topped with mashed potatoes made from the last of the 50 pound bag I’d bought for a few dollars, Pasta Primavera Sauce simmered with frozen tomatoes, peppers, squash, and mushrooms, Fish Fillets with corn on the cob and homemade slaw, and after a long day in the garden, we enjoyed big fruit smoothies for supper one night, using up frozen bananas and berries that I found hiding in the bottom of the freezer! Savings: A week’s worth of meals using whatever’s on hand saved enough money to enable us to eat out one night! Priceless

There are many benefits to living frugally. Being a mindful consumer and an even more mindful NONconsumer inspires an attitude of gratitude and contentment within me, it increases my resilience to be better able to withstand shortages, inflation, losses or emergencies in life by encouraging me to be resourceful and to find creative ways to ‘use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without‘ and is better for the environment because I generate less waste and consume fewer resources. Oh yeah, it saves me tons of money too ;)

 

 

 



One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Fifty!
May 13, 2014, 9:06 PM
Filed under: Bulk Buying | Tags:

A couple of months ago all my stored potatoes that I’d grown last year ran out or rotted. So what’s a thrifty potato lover to do when it’s late winter and potatoes are selling for $1 a pound? Buy them in bulk!  I ran across a fifty pound bag for $8.00 and decided I’d try to get as much mileage as I could out of it before they rotted too. I used the last of them today and only had two in the whole bag go bad. Compost.

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I’m always thinking of things I might write about on this blog, so once I brought the bag home I decided to keep track of the different ways I used the bounty, so that I could share with you, you lucky devil, the incredibly diverse ways one can serve a potato. Several of these meals were shared with company, and several were repeated too, not so much because I felt the need to use the potatoes up quickly, but because the dishes were good, and (mostly) healthy. And frugal. Did I mention  forty cents a pound?

Eat your <3 out:

  • Shepherd’s Pie
  • Potato, Carrot and Cabbage Stew
  • Garden Potato Medley (it’s a warm potato salad that includes beans and veggies)
  • Veggie Stock (used potatoes in place of turnips)
  • Tex-Mex Potatoes
  • Pan-Fried Potatoes
  • Baked Potatoes
  • Twice-Baked Potatoes (OMG!)
  • Eggs and Hash Browns
  • Burritos with Beans, Diced Potatoes, Salsa and Guacamole
  • Herb-Roasted potatoes
  • Potato and Pinto Bean Soup
  • Buttered potatoes simmered with fresh green beans
  • Perogies
  • Potato Salad
  • Potatoes and Spinach in Garlic-Red Chili Sauce
  • Aloo Gobi (an Indian dish that has cauliflower and tomatoes)
  • Mashed Potatoes with Milk-gravy
  • Potato Cakes (made from the leftover mashed)
  • Potato Latkes (at Passover)
  • Potato/Leek Soup
  • Oven ‘Steak’ Fries
  • Curried Potatoes
  • Gave my daughter 5 lbs
  • Donated a bag to the local food pantry

I’m kind of glad they’re gone now. I’ve got potatoes planted in my garden and I should be digging around for those first tender, papery-skinned red ones real soon. It was a fun ‘challenge’ for me to use the bag up without resorting to potato juice or potato eye soup or something equally disgusting.

And now, a poem:

One potato, two potato, three potato, four

Using 50 pounds, you’ll want no more!

Cook ‘em in the oven

Or cook ‘em in the crock

At forty cents a pound

They’ll keep you out of hock!

 

 

 



Frugal Friday- May 9, 2014

As the weather has warmed this week, I’ve begun to settle into a new routine built around the daily heat buildup. I’m in the garden most days before 9 AM, and back in the house by 10:30 or so, leaving me most of the day for everything else, before going back to the garden after supper and working in the evening coolness until 8:30. Even that schedule hasn’t allowed me to get everything done that needs to be done, although I know this will pass once everything is planted and mulched. Some days, in spite of best intentions, everything else never happens. It’s busy times like this that I want to take shortcuts on cooking, errands and more. Shortcuts usually cost me in some way, but I’ve managed to keep meals healthy and other commitments minimal in order to stay on track.

Monday- I wanted to file a final state and federal 2013 tax return on behalf of my mom, who passed away  in 2013, since she was due a $350 refund. They were far more complicated than AARP volunteers were willing to tackle, so I worked out a ‘deal’ with a local CPA. His normal fee for preparing the returns BEFORE April 15th would’ve been $175. By filing  online for an extension and then waiting until May 1st, he only charged me $100. I saved $75 AND will get back the $350! Net Gain: $275. 00!

Tuesday: Because I had put off some errands last week, I had a long list of them this week but actually saved a bit of gas money in doing so. Locally, gas has taken a sharp hike upwards in recent weeks, so every bit helps. Then, when I stopped at the post office to buy a couple books of stamps, I was told I could purchase them in the future directly from my mail man when he makes his daily rounds as long as I have exact change or write a check. (I also bought some odd stamp denominations while there in order to use up some older stamps that weren’t the full 49 cent price) Gas savings by combining errands? About $3 I’d say.

Wednesday- Reversed ceilings fans for summer time and turned off pilot light to the gas stove in the living room. Savings? Cool!

Thursday: Shopped at my local discount store and got several good deals, including four organic tomatoes for $1 and one pound bags of red lentils for 50 cents a bag, and they weren’t even out of date! I love red lentils in curries and other dishes but they’ve gotten so pricey I rarely buy them anymore. But at this price, I bought 10 pounds. Savings: Last time I bought them they were $2.99 a lb, so I figure I saved about $25.00

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Friday: Used my fuel bucks to save 30 cents a gallon on my weekly fill up. Savings: $2.16

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And once again I conclude this episode of Frugal Friday with: “Size doesn’t matter. Whether food, energy, money, or time, using our resources wisely and frugally can lead to big payoffs in all areas of our lives.” (this message brought to you by Tennessee Transitions) ;)



Redefining Prosperity (and a Spring Recipe)

There’s nothing I love more than spending time with my family and gardening. I’ll be going to Ohio in a couple of weeks to watch my granddaughter graduate from high school, so in the meantime, I’m getting my garden in. This is consuming my days, not leaving me with much time to write, which is why blog posts will be scarce as hen’s teeth for a while. There’s always much to do: weeds to pull, seeds to plant and water, beds to mulch and so on. For me, this time spent on my knees at my weedy altar will pay off all year in the form of lower food bills and many, many meals on my table. Growing food is like printing my own money. And if that’s not reason enough, last evening, right at dusk, I spotted a male and female American Goldfinch sitting on the top of nearby tomato cages and suddenly, all my tiredness and the worries of the world simply slipped away…

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This week we’re enjoying bushels of fresh spinach, along with lettuces, broccoli, kale and cilantro. I’ve finally mastered the secret to cilantro: I let it reseed itself so I don’t have to monitor and water and baby it like I did when I was planting it myself. Once you get it established you can treat it like a perennial.  Soon we’ll have  bok choy, new potatoes and sugar snap peas and strawberries to go with our daily salads, all the while continuing to eat the canned, dried and frozen foods from last year’s harvest. Tonight for supper we’ll enjoy a dish that we love when we have the needed ingredients growing in the garden-I’ve included the recipe below-(I added some leftover Italian turkey meatballs to simmer in the sauce-yum!) and corn on the cob I had in the freezer. That’s it below. The next picture shows how much food can be grown in a very small space-less than the footprint of a compact car in fact. That bed has 40 heads of garlic, 8 heads of cabbage, 10 bunches of cilantro, 6 heads of broccoli, and enough spinach to make me give it away by the bagful. Soon it will all be harvested and will then be filled with peppers and tomatoes and more.

 Potatoes with Spinach in Cilantro-Red Chili Sauce  IMG_0342

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 cup water
1 pound new potatoes, scrubbed and halved
1 large tomato, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 tablespoon firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
8 ounces fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

In a medium saucepan over medium-high, heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they turn reddish brown and smell nutty, 5 to 10 seconds.

Immediately add the garlic and chiles. Saute until the garlic is lightly browned and the chiles blacken, about 1 minute.

Sprinkle in the turmeric, the carefully pour in the water. Stir to deglaze the pan, releasing any browned bits of garlic.

Add the potatoes, tomato, cilantro, brown sugar and salt. Stir once or twice, then bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fall-apart tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Add the spinach, a couple of handfuls at a time, stirring until wilted, 2 to 4 minutes per batch.

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This blog is all about finding new measures of prosperity in our lives. Many folks define prosperity by how much money they make, how big their house is, or how new their car is. I adopted new measures of prosperity when I went through my mid life crisis 15 years ago and began to simplify my life. Now,  my personal measure of prosperity is based on how much food I can grow, along with having no debt and owning a car I may never replace. Life is good, very, very good.



Lean In

When we were kids, my group of friends would always say “Lean in!” when we had something earth-shaking we wanted the others to hear. We all knew it was time  to ‘listen up’ and ‘pay attention’. So, lean in, I’ve got stuff to share. I’m noticing more and more and MORE that average, every day folks are beginning to transition their lives. In some cases its subtle, in others, major. But, as Bob Dylan sang to us 50 years ago, “the times they are a’changing”.

For example, yesterday I read a blog post from an ordinary suburbanite mom that was encouraging her readers to prepare for emergencies by putting together bug out bags for each family member, complete with a list of suggested items to include. In part it reads: “I am not talking fear or panic.  I am promoting intelligent, practical, thoughtful preparation.  I don’t know what is around the corner, but I must admit to a growing need to learn all that I can and adjust my outlook to one of greater self-sufficiency and resilience”.  I totally agree with her, and have had my own bug out backpack for over 10 years now, but her post reminded me that I should recheck and update it. With the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing over the last few years, and becoming more extreme it seems with each passing season, it’s a suggestion that every person should consider. My friend in Pensacola, FL is unable to get to work due this week due to washed out bridges and roads from Tuesdays’ storms, while many in Mississippi and Alabama are devastated and homeless after getting hit by tornadoes. This ‘before and after’ picture is from his Facebook page…

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Are you prepared for such things? Lean in and take heed.

I’ve noticed an uptick in local community gardens and food forests. There’s keen interest in the canning classes I enjoy giving…

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…as well as a renewed desire to learn other kitchen skills such as pie and biscuit making and cooking meals from scratch. Classes are full for cheese-making, bread-making, fermenting foods, as well as making yogurt, kombucha and kefir. Workshops on everything from organic gardening and building raised beds to woodworking and soap-making are sold out. The local beekeeping school had 400 people attend this year, by far the largest number ever, and clandestine chicken coops are all over the city now. I  went to a well-attended lecture Tuesday night at the local college, called “Brightening the 21st Century” given by ‘The Solar Sister’. Her story of turning an old chicken coop located on the nunnery grounds where she lives, into an environmental learning center was enjoyed by the room full of folks that were there. During April, our local university held a month-long calendar of Earth Day celebrations and events for the first time ever. When I left the lecture hall, I saw this out in the hall and wanted to show you too: the ‘Mixed Paper’ and “Cans&Plastic” bins both had stuff in them, but the container on the far right which was marked “LANDFILL” was empty.

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In the two years I’ve lived in my urban neighborhood, the number of red recycling bins I see out on the curb on Monday mornings has quadrupled. (That’s not saying a whole lot, since I had to call the truck drivers almost every week for the first month or two we lived here because I was the only one on the street at the time that was putting it curbside and they would ‘forget’ to stop), but the point is, lean in here, more people are recycling, growing some of their own food, and using renewable energy than I’ve ever noticed. I received an email from a friend just this morning: “I finally ordered my own solar cooker today!” Lean in friends, this is all good news!

People are also learning to reuse and repair again, as well as recycle. The local shoe and bike repair shops have long ‘wait times’ they are so busy. I recently went to a small engine repair shop to pick up new belts for my 23-year-old tiller and  was fifth in the line of customers buying their own parts to repair their own stuff. My youngest daughter has recently begun to renew her long-neglected sewing skills, and the Bernina sewing shop that opened downtown a couple of years ago seems to be always quite busy. Lean in: people are indeed transitioning to a future that is based on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being.

I am thrilled to see the changes taking place! Not only are we taking control of our lives again, according to recent articles I’ve read, we’re also saving more for retirement and carrying far less debt than we were when the ‘economic depression’ began in 2008. That downturn has brought about some rather nice changes in my own life: in response to lower incomes and higher prices, my circle of friends has been getting together for potlucks and cookouts and birthday celebrations more often these days, ending these festive times with board games or music jams. Fuhgeddaboud cover charges or drinks by the glass. We brew our own beer or wine or herbal sun tea and enjoy the comfort of being in our own homes, saving clubs and restaurant outings for rare special occasions. Now there’s even talk of forming an intentional community, right here in our urban area! There’s hope and light everywhere, you just gotta lean in to find it.

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Frugal Friday- April 25th, 2014

As the weather warms, I’m enjoying being in the garden and eating fresher home-grown foods, while still using up the bounty from last year’s garden. We ate beets, carrots, parsnips, green onions, lettuce and spinach this week, and because Michael’s chemo treatments don’t allow him to eat raw foods, I tried a new recipe for Creamed Spinach. It was really, really good. With a lot of sunshine, we cooked outside this week, on the grill and in the solar cooker, and even went to a picnic last night, so I know summer’s on its way. As you know, frugality isn’t just about saving money. It’s equally about saving time, resources, and energy (both personal and grid type). This week was a strange conglomeration of all of those things, with less about money than usual.

Monday: Got my old washing machine repaired, and it only cost $120, and that included two visits to my home-one to diagnose the problem, and the second visit to replace the part that had to be ordered. It’s running great, and I’m happy that it wasn’t the kind of repair bill that made me question whether I should fix it or buy new. Savings over new: Geez, who knows? The point is really about taking care of, and using up, what we already own, rather than buying new.

Tuesday:  Every freaking day is Earth Day as far as I’m concerned. We cannot ‘save the earth’ only recognizing it one day a year and after 40+ years of ‘celebrating’ the day, I see more environmental destruction and degradation than ever. That said, I still feel a ‘thrill’ when it’s mentioned, or when I know deep down inside that I’m living it every day, in every way, that I possibly can. In light of that, Earth Day is always the time of year that I’m trying to get my garden plot ready for planting and heavy summer production. Living in a downtown urban area doesn’t lend itself well to finding animal manure for composting and fertilization, unless you count the piles of dog shit in the park. But a fellow gardening friend took pity on my whining about the lack of poo,  and we were both able to drive our trucks on a beautiful spring morning out into the country, to a local alpaca farm, where the animals’ owner filled both trucks with huge loads of FREE composted manure with her little mini front loader! Not only did I get to personally meet the gang responsible for this wonderful windfall…

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…when I got back to the community garden, I got help unloading it from several friends that happened to be in the wrong right place at the wrong right time! Priceless!

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Wednesday:  Expecting company for dinner, I decided that my stove top could use a good scrubbing and cleaning. I like to line my burner pans with foil to catch drips, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to scrub them. It was time to change the foil. See how clean it looks now? This was a 15 minute job (I should’ve taken a before picture for comparison but forgot to) Savings? Hours of scrubbing!

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Thursday:  Remember my telling you about how Michael and I enjoy volunteering with our local university’s arts department? Not only is it a great way to support the arts, we earn free tickets for our time too. But all of the volunteers were invited to a wonderful end of year ‘thank you’ picnic last night, complete with an old-time band and contra dance after the meal! The catered meal was fabulous, we got to meet and eat with old friends, and then dance off the calories afterwards. Savings? Priceless!

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Friday: Continuing the cleanup of my oven required me to use a Brillo-type steel wool pad on some spots. I always cut the new pads in two, which sharpens my scissors and results in fewer pads being thrown away due to rust. 1/2 a pad almost always does the job. Savings? Well, it’s like getting a free box cutting them in half like that, AND it cuts down on the waste they make since they rust badly if  you try to ‘save’ them after a use. Just sayin’…

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As  you see, there were no big dollar savings this week to speak of, but again, all the little things do add up to  big savings in all the areas of our lives. Whether it’s cutting brillo pads in two or dancing and picnicking with friends, I consider it an art to live my life in an abundant and meaningful way as I transition to a lifestyle that is based on lower energy, less money, climate changes and an economy that will NEVER return to “the way it used to be”. I hope my blog  inspires you to find your own ways to become more creatively resilient, and to use your own local resources to their fullest. Have a beautiful weekend!



Ding! Ding! Ding!

 

Image I recently touched on a concept called “The Green Triangle” that was put forth by author, editor, and simple living adherent, Ernest Callenbach. Seems he was able many years ago to put into words a principle that I’ve often used to guide me in my daily choices and decisions concerning my money, my health or the environment. The principle that relates these three points is: Anytime you do something beneficial for one of them, you will almost inevitably also do something beneficial for the other two – whether you’re hoping to or not.

I’ve also written several times about ‘win-win’ situations. Here, here and here for example. The Green Triangle is a ‘win-win-win’ situation in my eyes and as someone who cares deeply about those three things, I find it a helpful tool. I’ve used it so often over the years that I rarely ask myself anymore, “Self? What does the Green Triangle indicate in this situation?” But, it wasn’t- and isn’t- always that easy, so I thought perhaps it might be helpful to you if I could tell you of a few instances when it’s been a guiding light for me.

I long fretted over “Which is best? Local? Organic? Grass Fed?” Where my food is concerned, my health was my first consideration. So with staying healthy as my primary motivator, I felt comfortable with answering those questions by adopting a plant-based diet. Period.  As it turns out, by not buying meats, I’m improving my arteries, while saving money (beans, grains, nuts, eggs and greens are far cheaper sources of protein than meat)  AND protecting the environment from the harm that Big AG conventional meat producers are causing. Green Triangle =ding!ding!ding!

Whenever I walk or ride my bike, I’m putting the Green Triangle into effect. I’m saving gas money and wear on my car, I’m improving  my clogged arteries, and not contributing to the CO2 emissions that driving causes. ding!ding!ding!

Occasionally though, it’s not so clear-cut or even when it is, it’s not so easy to adhere to my own principles. When Michael and I were dating many years ago we had an old, heavy cooler that I couldn’t give away, try as I might. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, we simply wanted to buy a lighter one, with wheels and drink holders and little dividers inside that kept your hummus from touching your lettuce or whatever. I distinctly remember standing in the backyard and Michael saying to me that he felt we are responsible for the things we purchase until the end of that things’ life cycle. That simple statement stayed with me, and  the longer I live with it, the more I see how true it is. We didn’t buy the new cooler then, nor have we ever bought another one, because the karma of keeping the damn old thing boomeranged, as karma does, you know. Years later, a friend was moving and offered us his ‘old’ cooler-and it was just what we’d wanted! We still have the ‘old old’ one, which I use for protecting tender young plants on cold spring nights ;),  as an extra camp seat, and  as storage for camping gear during the off-season. We never did have to spend the $30 dollars a new one would’ve cost us, the landfill is STILL minus one steel cooler, and  I rest easy knowing I made a good decision. ding!ding!ding!

cooler

Before I close, I want you also to understand that making good choices, whether using the Green Triangle or by following the advice found in my fortune cookie, is still really hard. I don’t always make the best food choices or purchasing decisions (did I ever tell you about my weakness for chocolate chip mint ice cream or my Imelda Marcos style shoe collection??), and some days I don’t gave a rat’s a## about the polar bears (ok, that’s not quite true) but being ever-mindful about my consumption of every thing that comes through my life has saved me lots of cash, helps me stay healthy and hopefully, has saved a polar bear somewhere as well. Maybe this Green Triangle thing can help you make better choices too. ding!ding!ding!



Frugal Friday- April 11, 2014

I’ve stayed at home most of this week, either in the garden or finishing up some easy ‘indoor’ projects that were on my winter ‘to-do’ list. Un huh, I KNOW winter is over but such is life. I save the most time, energy and money when I stay home, because I don’t spend money here, so there’s not a lot of dollar savings this week, but one special one I want to share with you.

Monday: In my position as the Carver Peace Gardens coordinator, it falls to me to make sure the tools and equipment we offer the community gardeners are kept in working order. Enter: ‘Big Red’ the 20+ year old Troybilt tiller that’s still got plenty of life left in her if people would just treat her kindly. Anyway, seems a gardener pulled Big Red out of the toolshed and ‘she was broken’. As in, one of the handlebars made of 1″ steel tubing was sheared in two. We are a nonprofit of course, and our bank account reflects that. (There’s really no bank account, it’s all kept in an envelope in my desk drawer ;) because the bank wanted a $3 a month service charge for balances under $1000.) Which is every month. But I digress..I figured a weld would fix it so I called the nearby high school and spoke with the weld-shop instructor there, who said if we’d bring Big Red to their on- campus shop, the students would fix her pronto. I did, the instructor was the only one on hand when I arrived, so he welded it expertly for free for me in about 5 minutes. I don’t know what this would’ve cost to have it welded at a local shop but the instructor’s good nature and encouragement to bring all my future welding projects to the school was: Priceless

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See that large black spot of welding on that handlebar, down near the engine? Fine job!

Tuesday: Last week Michael and I met friends at a local bakery for breakfast. Smoky Mountain Bakers in Roan Mountain has great breakfast sandwiches, along with fresh breads and pizzas that are baked in their wood fired oven. We paid $1 a piece for bagels to bring home and it inspired Michael to try his hand at making them. Though not as beautiful as the bakery’s -YET- the cinammon/raisin wonders were really delicious and we figured they only cost about 10 cents a piece to make. He made six on his first attempt, saving us $6.00 since there was also tax on those bakery bagels. Let me say this about those bakery bagels before I move on:  The hard working couple that own that Roan Mountain bakery (and all other entrepreneurs like them) deserve our business and support but that’s simply not possible since their bakery is a 35 minute drive from my home. To my knowledge, there are no locally owned bagel shops near me, and until there is, we’ll continue to make our own baked goods. The Farmer’s Market is opening next weekend, with several vendors selling fresh baked bread there that we’ll try to support during the summer months when we don’t like to heat up the kitchen with oven baking anyway. But, that’s next week. Just sayin’

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Wednesday: This time of year finds us watering trays of seedlings twice a day, using almost 1/2 gallon each time. We’ve started pouring the water collected in our dehumidifier into the watering can and using that de-gassed  water for this chore. Savings: 7 gallons a week x 4 weeks= 28 gallons, enough to wash my car and a sink full of fresh spinach! I’m noticing more documentaries, webinars, books and blogs devoted to our growing water crisis, and I heard a speaker at the local college last night say our next wars will be over water, not oil. If not already, we all might as well get accustomed to being as frugal with our water as with everything else in our lives. Do  your part, don’t waste a single drop!

Thursday: About that speaker: our local college brought him here from Berea College in KY as part of their month-long Earth Day celebration. His name is David Cooke, and he is the director of Grow Appalachia, a nonprofit that is planting seeds for a sustainable future here in the Southern Appalachians. His foundation is doing good work and he’s trying to expand their reach into my area of TN, which is why he was here. There was no charge for the presentation, there were great snacks, and I got a free Earth Day tee shirt, all while listening to an engaging speaker talk about some of the very things this blog ponders! Again, if you live in or near a college town, take advantage of all they offer beyond the paid classes! My new teeshirt —————————————–>sam with t shirt 4

Friday: OK, I’m stretching here, including this on Frugal Friday, but it’s definitely consistent with what this blog is all about, and that is eating locally, using resources wisely, and building community. New neighbors have been moving in this week and I decided to take them a spring time loaf of Lavender Tea Bread as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ gift. I’ll be dropping it off to them this afternoon when I walk by their house to go to the drugstore. As a special bonus, I’m going to give you the recipe for this bread because it is frugal and fabulous. It used my home-ground locally raised wheat, eggs from my friend Sandy’s eggs, lavender from my own plants and sugar, lots of sugar ;)

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Lavender Tea Bread

3//4 cup milk (I used soy)

2 TB dried lavender flowers, finely chopped or 3 T fresh flowers

2 C all purpose flour (I used half AP and half wheat)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

6 TB butter, softened

1 C Sugar

2 large eggs

 

 



“The Hungry Time”

If you or someone you know eats, you’re part of this conversation. Native Americans referred to this very time in our annual trip around the sun as ‘The Hungry Time’; that period between the last of the stored fall provisions and the beginnings of the new spring bounty. For all of wildlife this is that time. It is believed that many of the early Pilgrims, already sick and weak,  finally starved during the Hungry Time in this strange, new land. Many beekeepers will often successfully see their hives make it through a long cold winter, only to have them succumb to starvation now since there is very little available for them to eat, and all of their stored honey from last fall has been eaten.

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Gardening, canning and storing food in my pantry or root cellar increases the personal food security of my family and makes it easier for us to eat well year ’round. But for someone that tries to eat seasonally as often as I can, this can be a time of ho-hum meals made from the last of the butternuts and spaghetti squash that we enjoyed so much from November to March, the last of the beets, sweet potatoes and parsnips and the over-wintered kale and spinach that we fought to keep alive in the garden rows throughout the deep freezes! Looked at from the perspective of a hungry bird or a starving Pilgrim though, I am rich indeed. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re not hungry either. I’m thankful for that, as I know you are too.

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But what about those that are hungry, and getting hungrier? Their growling bellies are loud, but their need is silent. The price of food and gasoline is creeping upwards while many of them are still struggling to pay those February and March heating bills that are overdue. Undeveloped areas for wild animals are being displaced by mega-malls and soccer fields, while farmers are spraying their fields to kill every living thing in them so they can plant their GMO crops of corn, soybeans and cotton yet again this summer. Is there any help or hope for the hungry ones? I know this problem up close and personal and have come up with a few ideas that might help all of us survive and thrive during ‘The Hungry Time’ and beyond.

1. Start at home: Vow to STOP, not just reduce, your food waste. It’s simple really: plan your menus before you shop (and then eat or share your leftovers). This one practice saves me more time, money  and waste than any other single thing I do in my life.

2. Plant some milk weed, bee balm and sunflowers for the butterflies, birds and bees this summer. Your pretty petunias in a pot on the porch and the stale bread you throw out on the lawn don’t offer any nutrition for them. While you’re at it, put in a birdbath and feeder.

3. Plant a backyard (or a front yard!)  garden, and in there, ‘Plant a Row for the Hungry‘.

4. Volunteer at One Acre Cafe, a local not-for-profit restaurant that is making big strides in our community to see that ‘everybody eats’. If you don’t live in NE TN, find a similar place where you live. A soup kitchen, a community garden, or food pantry would all welcome  your help and help someone that’s hungry sleep better.

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5. Consider a fast fast. That’s not a typo. This is simply done by eliminating one meal a week from our diets and instead, giving the food or money we would’ve spent on that meal to someone that’s hungry. And please know that even though Second Harvest and other pantries will lovingly accept your food donations, they have the purchasing power to feed 4.3 meals for EVERY DOLLAR YOU DONATE.

6. Give food as gifts. I suspect many people could use the food but are ashamed to make that known. In place of yet another can of car wax or tee shirt, consider restaurant or grocery store gift certificates. Cookbooks, kitchenware, cooking, canning or gardening lessons, bags of worm castings or organic compost, potted herbs or seeds would all make thoughtful gifts that can help with hunger. Such gifts also cut down on consumer waste and unwanted clutter.

Growing, planting, donating and fasting are all effective ways to reduce hunger, but of course they won’t eliminate the problem. What would? If I was Queen of the World, I’d start my reign by teaching every child how to grow some food and then cook what they grew. From scrambling an egg to cooking dried beans to grilling some veggies, if they know how to grow and cook it, it would open doors for them all their lives. Many people have never been taught, nor had the opportunity, to learn how. The unknown is scary. Those of us that are lucky enough to have these skills take it for granted that anyone can cook. Not. Make it less scary by teaching someone to do this. And did you know that folks that receive SNAP benefits can purchase food plants and seeds with SNAP? I don’t believe it’s so much a factor that they WON’T buy those things with their benefits, I believe most of them DON’T know what to do with a cabbage or tomato plant or seed once they get them home. And before I get dethroned? I’d require every school yard and park in the country to have community gardens. If they became as plentiful as grocery stores, it would become second nature. The last thing I’d do before they pried my tiara off? I’d outlaw GMO’s and Bayer’s famous neonic pesticides, making what foods we do have safer for all of life on this planet. But then again, that’s probably why I’m not the Queen. But at least my subjects wouldn’t be hungry!



Frugal Friday- April 4, 2014

Ahhh, another day, another dollar fifty cents-and my two cents worth. I hope you’ll share with me in the comments section at the end of this post how you’ve managed to save  your precious time, money or energy recently. And speaking of saving time, this’ll be relatively short because I’ve got a busy afternoon and evening planned-playing music with a friend and then going downtown for the monthly First Friday celebration-both frugal and fun choices!

Monday: We had our annual income tax returns prepared for free by AARP volunteers. This is the 5th year for doing so, and they’re always pleasant, well-trained and helpful. Savings: I just called a well-known national tax service to see what the basic charge is for a simple joint return and was quoted roughly $125-$250! So, I saved a lot going with AARP. You must be over 55 to qualify for this service. Um, let’s just say I qualify.

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 Tuesday: I’ve mentioned this several times before, but since it’s such an easy savings and I can make it basically from what would otherwise be food waste, I keep making  fresh  vegetable stock when I run out. This week I canned 7 quarts plus an extra 2 quarts for the freezer. Cost of a good quart of store-bought broth is $1.89. Savings: $17.10 plus tax and all those metal cans or tetrapaks!

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Wednesday: Because it was such a beautiful spring day, and because I knew I’d be hard pressed to get supper on the table with all I had to do that day, I decided to make a ‘Solar Stew’ of pinto beans, tomatoes and butternut squash. I put all the ingredients in the cooker about 9:30 AM, and when we were ready to eat at 6 PM it was perfectly done! Savings? Well, we’re often tempted to eat out at the end of a busy day when neither of us wants to cook so there’s that. And of course, the peace of mind that comes from knowing that I didn’t have to leave my crockpot plugged in all day while I was away is priceless.

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Thursday: I try really hard not to take advantage of this freebie because I don’t want to abuse it and lose the privilege for everyone: at my local library, no late fees are due if  you are 60 or older. (Yet another reason to enjoy being a senior) I had borrowed a book a few weeks ago that I needed as a reference for a presentation I was giving and was late returning it. Fines forgiven: $1.60!

Friday: We don’t make many new purchases but when we do, we always do our homework first and that’s how we managed to save big bucks at the register when we bought our new gas grill today. A completely unadvertised fact is that Lowe’s gives a 10% discount if  you present your Veteran’s ID card at checkout. Tonight: Grilled Portobello sandwiches on Onion Faccocias, with the mushrooms bought from Kroger on Tuesday with a 5% senior discount, and the buns bought from the day-old bread store at 75% off regular price. We’d been using charcoal for the last two summers, but I like the additional security that a gas grill offers me in case of an extended power outage. But listen up: new gas grills don’t come with a propane tank. That’s an extra $49.95, which you lose when you exchange it for your next filled tank anyway. So, I drove over to my local recycling center where I picked  up what looked to be an almost new (empty) one for free. We took that with us when we went to buy the grill and exchanged it for a filled tank for $19.95. Savings: With the veteran’s discount, we saved a cool $25 on our total purchases, plus I saved $30 on a the tank. A total of $55 saved just by practicing a bit of mindful consumerism!

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This girl loves saving money, but I also love reusing, repurposing, reducing and recycling resources. I find it more than coincidence that these activities often seem to be interrelated. I also find it pretty cool that choosing what’s best in terms of money or the environment often turns out to be best for my health as well. That concept is called ‘The Green Triangle’ and is a useful tool when you’re trying to live lightly. We’ll talk more about it next week, ok?

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Resilience Rocks

I write about resilience in this blog fairly often. I read or hear about extraordinary resilience among other people seeking their freedom through their own actions and get inspired. And as I seek resilience in my own life, I often feel as though I’m thriving, in an abundant and meaningful way. My household waste is minimal, and the inputs into my life seem to equal the outputs-some days. But I realize that every time I turn the key in my eco-friendly car, that so-called balance is destroyed. Every time I flip the switch on a compact fluorescent bulb I’m reliant on the electric company. Every time I eat fair trade, organic store-bought food, I’m reliant on a producer, and a truck and some oil somewhere along that long line. Every time I turn on the low-flow shower, I’m reliant on my water company, and rain, and God, and dams and waste water treatment plants. So how resilient am I, really? By myself, not very I’m afraid. Resilient communities are another matter altogether. They are the future. Communities that can supply food, water, energy and needed services are literally a detox for Western countries and are even being embraced in rural India as a way to help individual villages improve nutrition and food supplies, stop migration into large, crowded cities and improve quality of life.

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<———–Rooftop solar panels in Saudi Arabia!                        

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Chard and Sweet Potatoes growing in downtown Charleston, SC

 This NOT an impossible dream folks. I see evidence of transitioning taking place every week it seems, in one form or another. Author James Kunstler writes: “Much of America east of the Mississippi is full of towns that are waiting to be reused, with much of their original equipment intact. The lucky suburbanites will be the ones with the forethought to trade in their suburban McHouses for property in towns and small cities, and prepare for a vocational life doing something useful and practical on the small-scale, whether it’s publishing a newsletter, being a paramedic, or fixing bicycles.” 

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So, I traded in my suburban life for a country cabin and now for an urban lifestyle in this medium sized town I live in and love. “Prepare for something useful and practical on a small-scale?” I want to be the ‘Herb Lady’ in my neighborhood. You know, the person you’d go to if you had a headache, a toothache or an upset tummy and couldn’t get to, or afford to go to, a doctor. The sort of eclectic old sage you’d seek out for advice about how to treat a burn, a sore throat or iron-poor blood. I enjoy very much growing things, and have been learning about the many practical uses of apothecary herbs. We’re all familiar with the culinary herbs, but medicinal herbs, now that’s a whole other world! I’m going to start experimenting on myself, beginning with using rosemary to improve memory. As soon as I remember where I put it ;)

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 So, tell me, what are  you doing to become more resilient in  your personal life, or in your community? Are you working in community gardens, or planning biking trails? Is serving as a midwife or backyard mechanic  your thing? Is your town talking about a future based on local and small scale, rather than always bigger? I hope to have some super exciting news about resilience in my community to share with you very soon. In the meantime, please leave your own ideas and comments below. Inspire us all-please.



Downtown Farming

Most of my readers know that I live downtown and am excited to be a part of the urban revitalization that is taking place in my community. For two years, the very premise of this blog has  been about finding ways and means that will enable us to transition, gracefully if you will, to a lifestyle that is more sustainable, resilient and fulfilling than the one that we find ourselves in today. It’s about re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. For me, the good life involved moving from our acreage in the country to an urban area with high walkability, a nearby community garden, and where I can work alongside my neighbors to help ‘be the change I want to see’. What I discovered this afternoon is all that.

Housed in an old brick bakery just behind the Farmer’s Market, on the corner of Buffalo and Cherry St is ‘DOWNTOWN FARMING’, a great new store for organic and hydroponic gardeners. I know this isn’t a great picture, but wait ’til you step inside! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was raining like crazy outside but the worn wooden floors and brick walls were as warm and welcoming as Kyle’s smile was. The store been closed for 2 hours when we arrived, but the shopkeeper, Kyle, opened the door and invited us in like we were old friends when he saw us peeking in the windows. He told us about all the products that were for sale; many familiar, some new and strange, but he also shared with us the owners’ mission: to be an integral part of this urban community while advocating the growing of sustainable, local, organic food. There were bags of organic worm castings, soil mixes, and fertilizers, along with the fans, lights and other components to put together your own hydroponics system. In fact, we took pictures to show you what they had growing there, at the tail end of the most vicious winter we’ve seen in recent history:

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A 5 foot tall blooming sunflower, along with fully grown peppers, lettuces and tomatoes were all growing there in the confines of those brick walls!

We bought a package of sage seeds from Seeds of Change but they also had a full rack of heirloom seeds from Sow True Seed Company, from nearby Asheville, NC. I could see this store becoming  a wonderful replacement for the recently-moved Mize Farm and Garden store, minus the poisons. They had growing pots and trays for sale, but could use some tools and a few more familiar gardening needs to fill that niche easily. I hope you’ll pay them a visit, support their early efforts and let them know what you’d like to see them stock. I think they’re ‘all ears’ and might be willing to fill the empty spot in our hearts and gardens that Mize once occupied. ‘Downtown Farming’ indeed! Those two little words embody the very essence of this blog.

                           Store hours: Monday-Friday 10 AM to 6 PM

                           Saturday 8 AM to 2 PM

                          Closed Sunday and Monday

                          downtownfarming.net

                          downtownfarming@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Frugal Friday- March 21st, 2014

Boy howdy, can I tell it’s spring! I am busy every day with community garden and personal garden stuff, as well as all the other things that fill up my calendar. It’s during times like this that I see money slip through my fingers more easily, spending more on things like restaurant meals or car washes or bakery cakes instead of home cooking and backyard car washes. Tracking our expenses for 15 years now tells me instantly where our money goes so it’s easier to stop the bleeding when it begins. As busy as this week has been, I’ve tried to be frugal:

Monday: Put a new double-edged blade in my old razor. I bought the razor new for $5, along with 10 blades, in 2008. Since then, I’ve bought another box of 5 blades, with 2 left. So, that means I’ve used 12 blades in about 6 years. That’s right, 12 blades in 6 years! The secret? After every single use, I drag the wet blade across a scrap of denim, then coat it with baby oil using the handy little brush that came with it, before putting it back in its box. I read the tip about using the denim right after I’d bought the razor and have been amazed at how long the blades can last by taking the few seconds it takes to sharpen and oil them after each use. If you try this, all you need to do is make a few quick strokes UPWARDS, against the ‘nap’ of the denim, like you would if  you were shaving. I think I paid about $3 for the box of five extra blades. I’m very pleased that I’m no longer throwing away ‘disposable’ razors and that I’m saving $1-$2 a month on their cost. Savings over 6 years? A LOT. And I get a MUCH closer shave than I ever did with triple edge blades. Just sayin’. (yeah, you get used to the sharp blade after just a couple of uses and I rarely cut myself)

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Tuesday: I’m putting my Sam’s Club membership to good use. I’ve started buying #10 size cans of peaches, then dividing them into smaller containers which I freeze. Michael did the math for me: we were buying the smaller cans at 4.2 cents per oz, the larger ones are 2.3 cents an oz. When thawed, they are as good as they were when the can was opened, with no degradation in texture or flavor.  Savings: 50%! I’ll be looking for other bulk buys like this in the future.

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Wednesday: Notice that large can pictured above: See how it says “California Peaches”? Nope, not local. Michael’s chemo treatments have left him with compromised taste buds and he CRAVES the cool sweetness of them so much that he blew through all the Georgia peaches that I’d canned last summer before Christmas! Who am I to deny him peaches simply because they’re not local? But this day wasn’t about peaches, it was about tomatoes instead. I told you recently that the president of the California Tomato Growers Association was quoted on NPR as saying that because of the ongoing drought there, as well as the lack of high Sierra snow pack (and spring melting) that this year, instead of that states’ farmers providing US consumers of tomato products with their normal 90% of all processed tomato products, THEY WOULD BE PROVIDING ZERO PER CENT! There’s simply not enough water available to grow them this year. What’s a person to do? Well,  you can convert your front yard to tomato production and can your own sauces and salsas OR you could hope that  you run across the sweet deal I found yesterday at the discount grocery: 30 full-sized cans of seasoned diced tomatoes, all with long ‘sell by’ dates, for 25 cents a can. I found the same brands in Krogers for 90+ cents a can, so savings on the tomatoes alone were $19.50 or more. I also bought 4 name brand jars of salsa for 50 cents a jar and some organic cooking sauces for 30 cents a jar! Be sure to check out your local ‘discount grocery’ too for super savings like these, but when you find great deals, stock up, because chances are they won’t be there when you go back!

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Thursday: This was Michael’s birthday. I cooked his favorite meal, African Peanut Stew, using  many ingredients that we’d grown and preserved. No restaurant meal for him, he wanted this instead. A pot of it, served over rice, costs less than dessert would’ve at any restaurant in town. Plus, we had enough left for 2 more full meals. I had made some chocolate chip cookies for a meeting the day before, so that’s what we had in place of a cake, along with some of his beloved peaches, and called it a birthday. He was happy, so that was priceless.

Friday:  Planted peas, onions, potatoes, beets and carrots. Walked to the drug store, Dollar General, the music store, the community garden, the library and the Buddhist Dharma Center. Ate “leftovers and peaches” for lunch. Washed and vacuumed the car in the back yard. Gave myself a manicure. Attending a fund-raiser dinner tonight for One Acre Cafe, and will make a donation with the money I saved.

“Living well on less” is my mantra, I hope you don’t get tired of hearing about it and I hope it inspires you to seek out all the ‘little ways’ that you can keep money in your pocket too, all while making your life more resilient- and fun!



Unfinished Business

My home is starting to resemble a plant nursery and I’m missing the sweet little greenhouse we had at our old place. It required a pretty large investment of time and money to put that kit together, but it was done with patience and care, and still stands, over 10 years later, on top of a windy hill, seemingly no worse for the wear…

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The cheap-ass greenhouse that was erected on the nearby grounds of a local city park just two or three winters ago is falling apart, with the doors ripped off of their cheap plastic hinges, one ventilated window gone and a whole side panel broken in two. But the basics are there, along with water and electricity to it. I’ve tried to steer clear of it, because I foresaw it as the ‘problem child’ that it’s actually become. It sits completely empty, while the trays and little pots of herbs and vegetables I’m trying to start here at home struggle to find enough sunlight to thrive. It would take time, energy and a real commitment to get that greenhouse back into usable condition, and to work out a system for making it productive and useful.

I took part in December in the inaugural planting of our city’s first ‘Food Forest’, on the grounds of a nearby church that offered the flat, sunny lot next to it as a place to plant native species of fruit and nut trees that will someday offer fresh food to passersby.

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Summer plans are to add berries, build an outdoor cob oven, set up rain barrels and plant sunflower hedges there, all while using permaculture and sustainable growing principles. This project will require sustainable human-powered energy and a long term commitment to be successful.

My friend Sarah, a full time student and mother of two with a hard working hubby that struggles to keep his company afloat, writes that she would like to transition to a gluten-free diet, but a perfunctory check revealed that one pound of almond meal cost $12.99! This very issue has been simmering on my brain’s back burner ever since watching a ‘Transition Towns’ documentary about how a once-struggling food co-op in a small Oregon town turned the tide when they added a worker-owned bakery to their little natural foods store. Then, serendipity showed her head and this month’s issue of the long-running magazine Mother Earth News arrived in my mailbox the other day, with a feature article about the money saving and community-making opportunities that are open to members of buying clubs and food co-ops; yet another worthwhile project requiring a long term commitment, but since we all have to eat, doesn’t this one make long term  sense? Here’s a picture of the market I belonged to many years ago…

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What do all these things have in common? They’re all unfinished business-projects or ideas that need a  bit of attention, dedication, money, or energy to make them useful and workable, as well as helpful and sustainable for our entire community! I’ve only named a few projects that could quickly improve our resilience and self sufficiency if we’d just get behind them and see them to completion. From this blog’s outset, I’ve written that “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.” We don’t necessarily need to start from scratch to make this a reality. Let’s help complete what’s already been started and grow from there. If you’re reading this as a local reader, please join the bimonthly ‘Livable Communities’ group when we meet at 5 PM today at my house to find ways to do just that. There will be cookies.

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Go Tell the Bees
March 11, 2014, 9:08 PM
Filed under: beekeeping | Tags:

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Honey bees, honey bees, hear what I say!
Your Master, poor soul, has passed away.
His sorrowful wife begs of you to stay,
Gathering honey for many a day.
Bees in the garden, hear what I say!

Northern Europeans brought to Appalachia a custom that when a beekeeper died, the survivors must go tell the bees of their master’s death, persuading them to stay rather than take wing and follow the master to heaven. When we moved in 2012 from our country home to the urban home that we live in now, the new buyers wanted me to leave my bees with them. Luckily, since I wasn’t dead but simply leaving,  I felt I should be the one to tell them so. One of my very first lessons as a new beekeeper had been given to me by a man who had been keeping bees for over 40 years. I was so afraid of being stung, I would actually hyperventilate when it came time to get in the hives. He told me to take off my gloves and to rub my bare hands all over the wooden hive parts so that my bees would become acquainted with my smell and would not attack me as if a stranger. I did as I was instructed, knowing that a honeybee’s sense of smell is their strongest natural sense. And from that magic moment forward, those little girls only stung me if I accidentally crushed one. (Well, there was that time that I made the fatal mistake of returning the honey supers to the hives at the end of a long honey harvest day after dark…) Anyway, it only made sense when I left them in the care of their new owners that I should say ‘goodbye’. I cried that day, but the  young couple that had bought the place were eager and happy to become their new caretakers, so I knew they would be ok in the end. I even gave them a copy of ‘Natural Beekeeping’ as a house-warming gift.

I’m very thankful that this area of NE TN has a large, active beekeeper’s club. This coming weekend they’ll be holding their annual ‘Bee School’. Rather than me write out all the details about it, I’m just going to link you to them here. I’ll be giving a class at the school on Friday night about ‘Natural Beekeeping’. I  killed kept bees unsuccessfully for the first five years I had them before finally accepting that what I was doing simply wasn’t working very well . It was then that I began to follow my own instincts about what might be best for the bees, and that lead me to a wonderful book called, appropriately enough, “Natural Beekeeping”. I borrowed it three times that winter from the library, and finally realized I had to own it for myself. It revolutionized my thinking about what was really best for the bees and I began to follow the advice the author had given. The following three years I stopped using harsh chemicals and began learning and using other methods of keeping them healthy. It involved a completely wholistic approach, akin to having a successful organic garden by starting with building healthy soil. Guess what? The bees not only survived, they were thriving, and that last summer before moving, I not only had the best honey harvest I’d ever had, I was able to split hives because their colonies had grown so large!

We’ve all heard about Colony Collapse Disorder, and the serious issues honeybees face. I’d like to simply say this: if you can’t keep bees yourself, please plant native flowers and trees that bloom at different times to provide local bees with the pollen and nectar they need to survive, avoid using toxic chemicals in your garden and yard, and continue to fight against GMO plants. And please, go tell the bees how much we love and need them!

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Frugal Friday: March 7, 2014

I’ve had lots of opportunities to save money lately. Some by sheer luck, some because of diligence on my part. I’ve learned that normally though, the best way to ‘save money’ is to not spend it to begin with, and that’s always my first line of thinking. I’ve also found it to be true that if I will wait a day or two before buying something, I often realize I didn’t need it after all. Or, if I wait LONG ENOUGH, often the very thing I need comes my way anyway. From a swatch of turquoise fabric to repair a pillow sham to  an electric heater that I needed in my cellar to keep pipes from freezing, planning ahead and being patient always pays off. Of course, sometimes opportunity knocks in the most unexpected ways and places and I have to ‘listen’ to hear that knock when it occurs.

Monday: Got my teeth cleaned at the local dental hygienist school. My dental insurance only pays for two cleanings a year. Because I have a tendency towards gum problems, I’ve found that if I have mine cleaned 3-4x a year, that really keeps the problems minimized. The dental clinic at the school will clean them twice a year, and for seniors, it’s free. They’ll also take x rays for free, then make copies for me to take to my regular dentist for $20. To top off that sweet deal, they always send me home with a ‘goodie bag’ that has a new toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste and a box of floss in it. Sometimes there are samples of mouthwash, specialty brushes or coupons for toothpaste too in the bag as well. Because I’ve been getting my teeth cleaned so regularly for years now, (even though I begrudge having to go) I haven’t had to have any other work done at all. Prevention is the best medicine, that’s for sure. If you live near a university, check out the services they offer. I’m able to ride my bike to the college, and my dentist is so close I don’t bother, I just walk there. Savings: Good Dental Health?=Priceless!

Tuesday: Speaking of the local university: Michael and I volunteer for the School of the Arts in order to earn free tickets to the event of our choice each spring and fall. We like to deliver the posters for those events because many of them are close enough by that they can be delivered while on our daily walks to the nearby businesses. Sometimes we’ll usher too, allowing us to see a show that way. Many of these events are followed by a free buffet of fruits, veggies and hors d’ oeuvres (did I spell that right?) that we’re invited to enjoy. Savings: Most tickets to these events are $15-$20 each. Date Night of Music/Film/Presentations and food=Priceless!

Wednesday:  I’m cooking multiple things together more and more often, to save time and energy. This week I again filled my clay cooker with recently-harvested carrots, parsnips and brussels sprouts, along with some leftover cubed chicken, and tossed it all with about a quarter cup of needs-to-be-used Italian dressing and some fresh sprigs of rosemary. Cooking the dish at the same time Michael’s home-made bread baked saved an hour of electrical usage, and provided us with two delicious meals! 

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Thursday: My favorite nearby farm and garden store held a ‘moving sale’ recently, and just like with ‘moving’ yard sales, things were marked down to rock-bottom prices. We snagged bags of organic soil amendments for 75% off!. Savings: Home-grown organic food-You guessed it-Priceless!

Friday: My nearby IGA grocery store closed last Friday, but I’ll use this example for today. I went in on the last day they were open, searching for a bargain, on foot. I ended up calling Michael to come pick me up and to bring some of my cloth tote bags because I got many many bags of food at 75% off! I spent $35 so that same stuff would’ve cost about $140. Savings: $105! I’m not happy about this though-I’d lots rather have this small hometown grocery open and within a 6 minute walk of my back door. The closing of this store leaves me and everyone living within a 4 mile radius living in a food desert now, forcing US to drive to the nearest store, or to catch a bus. I could go on and on about the issues this raises, but this post is not about that so I won’t go there-for now.

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”

Elise Boulding  from the blog http://otrazhenie.wordpress.com/



Hope Springs Eternal

Last Saturday our temperatures here in NE TN were a perfect promise of spring, so I got to my plot in the community garden and spent a very pleasant hour or so turning under the green manure crop of Crimson Clover while adding some organic amendments to the soil. The next day’s rain was the perfect finish. Now it will have a couple of weeks to break down before I plant ‘spring things’ there. It’s a rare fall that I get the planting of my winter cover crop timed perfectly so that it will fill in, without going to seed, before the cold weather fully hits, but I managed to last fall. Remember this?

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The now-brown quilt of clover served as a natural cover through the winter, and will now finish its’ part in the garden’s life by adding nitrogen-rich organic matter to my slowly improving soil. I added blood meal, rock phosphate powder and homemade compost to the bed and then tilled it all under. I plan to try a no-till method in some of my beds this year, in hopes that the earthworms will drag the compost and other amendments down deep to the plants root area where it’s needed most. I vowed when I started these beds from scratch last spring that as soon as the clay was broken down I’d stop tilling. I hope that time has come, for using a tiller is not sustainable and my goal is to garden productively without using fossil fuels or the pesticides and fertilizers that are made from them. I’m still not there, this picture proves it, but I do hope to be some day soon.

diggin' in for spring

In the meantime, I’m babying my starts of onions, kale, chard, cilantro and parsley that are growing on a make shift book case-turned-plant-rack.

Veggie Starts

They’ll get transplanted to 4″ pots, slowly hardened off, and tucked into the prepare beds by the end of the month, along with potatoes, peas, beets, carrots, cabbage and broccoli-all ‘cool season crops’ too. After many satisfying meals this winter using our stored, canned and frozen fruits and veggies it will be wonderful to once again have fresh foods to add to the table. While I wait for the lettuce, peas and strawberries, I’ve started sprouting seeds in the kitchen to give us ‘something fresh’ right now. Sprouting is easy-peazy- something even I can’t mess up!

The winter was really tough on the fall-planted kale, chard and lettuces. The ‘polar vortex’ ripped the plastic off both hoop houses the night it blew in and all that survived was the spinach. This picture was taken on December 17th, when those things were holding some promise for spring:

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All that’s left of that promising bed are the spinach plants, (lower left) which are still too small to harvest. Hopefully, not for long.

In writing this post, I realize how many times I’ve used the word ‘hope’. My garden is always full of hope, if nothing else. I hope the seeds will sprout, I hope for a bountiful harvest, I hope the food we grow will nourish us and I hope that by showing you, my reader, how much can be grown with so little time, space and energy that it will inspire you to try your hand at growing something this spring too. All indications are that we will definitely see rising food prices as the year goes on. We already are actually. Hoping that won’t happen isn’t enough for me though. In a world where I often don’t feel I have much control over much of anything, growing my food empowers me like nothing else does! Right along with filling my pantry and my belly, gardening fills me with peace of mind and the knowledge that regardless of what happens in the world, I’ll always have the knowledge and skills to provide for myself and others. Hope really does spring eternal in the garden!



Good to the Last Drop

It’s been said our next wars won’t be over oil, but water. When I lived in California a dozen years ago, everyone living in the suburbs had sprinkler systems, set on timers, that would come on and go off at predetermined times and days. Most houses didn’t have individual water meters, and were only billed a set fee each month. This of course led to serious water wastefulness and more than once I witnessed sprinklers running while it was raining. I also witnessed sprinklers that had gotten knocked awry and were simply filling the gutters. I saw first-hand the giant irrigation sprinklers on wheels that covered entire fields, the canals that had been built EVERYWHERE to channel snow melt water down to the valley from the Sierra Nevada mountains, and yet more growing fields that were customarily flooded to give the food grown there the moisture it needed to survive. I even remember seeing road side signs in some areas asking voters to ‘say yes’ to allow water to be channeled from the Colorado River to the Central Valley. It’s a freaking desert there folks, yet it’s considered “our nation’s breadbasket”!

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Meanwhile, record-breaking droughts are occurring on the West Coast of North America, as life-changing flooding is occurring in England-both events that have long been warned would occur due to our changing climate. And we here in the modern world keep right on shitting in our clean water supplies and using tremendous amounts of water to extract shale oil from rock for crying out loud! I know I’m not alone in my concerns about the ability to grow enough food to feed ourselves in a water-challenged world, not to mention the health challenges and risks that such a scenario will pose. It’s no longer a matter of IF this comes to pass, but WHEN. Looks like it’ll be 2014.

So, what can we do, as individuals and as communities? I say WE because if you are alive, you’re part of this conversation. There are many small things we can do in our homes and daily lives to reduce our water needs, and even though I suspect I’m preaching to the choir  repeating them here, just consider them ‘gentle reminders’. I disagree that individual efforts to use fewer resources of any kind are for naught so I’m always looking for creative new ways to conserve them. And with water savings, I often get to see the tangible results, whereas with other resources it’s not so immediately apparent.

1. Shower Less-because Michael has had surgical wounds and vacuum systems and chemo pumps attached to his body since last June, out of necessity he’s had to shower less often. NO ONE has refused to hug him yet, so it’s a water intensive ‘habit’ we Americans need to seriously reconsider. As per their custom, his English family only bathed him once a week as a child.  gasp! yet he STILL managed to survive!

2. Flush Less- “When it’s yellow let it mellow, when it’s brown flush it down”.  Better yet, install a composting toilet. Here’s a download for a FREE book to help you in that direction: http://humanurehandbook.com/contents.html

3. If  you MUST water the lawn, convert it to food growing areas first. Then MULCH those areas to prevent evaporation and run off. Most municipalities will deliver a load of shredded leaves in the fall for just that purpose. Mine does anyway.

Grow Food, Not Lawns

4. Harvest rainwater-in barrels, buckets, ponds or whatever you can manage and use it to water your garden, house plants, etc.

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5.  Use low-flow shower heads and flow restrictors on all your faucets. They’re easy to install and will pay for themselves quickly.

6. Only run your dishwasher and washing machine when full. If  you need more dishes or clothes to last until they’re full, figure out a way to get enough extra to make that happen-yard sales often have dishes, glassware and clothing to make that an inexpensive and earth friendly option.

7. Use a phosphate-free laundry detergent, then reroute the drainage from  your washing machine to a home orchard or garden or permaculture swales. I used to do this when I lived in Florida, and had THE BEST oranges and grapefruits with no other irrigation used. This concept is called “Gray Water” and there are lots of books and websites that explain it in detail.

8. Wash your own car at home, with a spray nozzle on the hose. Save money, save water, get exercise and free Vitamin D while you’re at it!

9. Water your garden or landscape plants in early morning, and at soil level rather than from above. If watered during the heat of the day, much of the water can be lost to evaporation.

10. Route the water from your dehumidifier to somewhere BESIDES the drain. Taking the drainage tube off completely will fill the reservoir, allowing you to capture it for watering houseplants, filling the dog’s bowl, filling the washing machine or flushing the toilet. You can do the same with water harvested from window air conditioners, rinsing dishes, washing vegetables, or rinsing sprouts.

11. Plant native and drought tolerant vegetables, berries, small fruits and trees. They naturally use less water.

12. When rinsing recyclable food containers, don’t wash them separately. Rinse them when  you are already hand or electric washing the rest of the day’s dirty dishes. Try using one of the other sources of ‘free’ water I’ve mentioned above. I’ve watched people quite devoted to recycling use 5 gallons of water to rinse out one ketchup bottle before placing it in their recycling bin. REALLY?

13. Cover cooking pots, preventing much evaporation and preventing the food from .

14. Protect your water shed: Don’t flush drain cleaners or medications. Don’t use drain cleaners, bluing agents or garbage disposals. Don’t spray your lawn with weed killers or other poisons-there are many environmentally-friendly alternatives available now. Fence your cows, horses or other livestock out of creeks and streams. 

These ideas and practices are small steps, but there are much larger ones that can be taken to protect our oceans, rivers, lakes and streams as well. For example:

DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE LARGE OIL TANKERS.

LINE YOUR COAL ASH PONDS TO PREVENT LEAKING INTO PUBLIC WATER SUPPLIES.

MAKE SURE YOUR FACTORY’S WASTE REMOVAL PIPES DON’T HAVE LEAKS. 

DON’T BUILD OIL PIPELINES THAT ARE 2,151 MILES LONG WITHOUT PLANNING FOR SPILLS AND LEAKS.

wait! INSTEAD, DON’T BUILD OIL PIPELINES TO BEGIN WITH.

AND FINALLY, WHEN YOU BUILD YOUR NEXT OCEAN-SIDE NUCLEAR REACTORS, MAKE SURE YOU INSTALL THE POWER GENERATORS ABOVE SEA LEVEL. YOU KNOW, JUST IN CASE THERE’S AN EARTHQUAKE OR TSUNAMI OR SOMETHING. 

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It’s About Time!

clock     As I listened to my husband’s metronome keeping time while he practiced some music, and as I heard the minutes ticking by on the old mantle clock, I realized I haven’t been able to post here as often as I like lately because of time constraints. But, I always seem to make time for the things that are most important to me, and this blog is one of those things. I’m currently putting together a presentation on ‘Natural Beekeeping’ for the local beekeeper’s annual school that’s coming up in March; it’s a topic that would never have been considered 10 years ago when we first got into beekeeping! But with the passage of time has come new knowledge of how to be better beekeepers without using all the harsh methods that we were advised to use then. Now there are practices that offer the bees kinder, gentler, more natural ways of maintaining good health in their hives. (here’s a link to more info about the bee school: http://www.wcbeekeepersassociation.com/

Michael and I are also marking time again while he undergoes his final chemo treatments. We’re on Week 3 of 10, spaced every other week, so we’re looking at mid-June before it’s all done. With spring  just 3 weeks away, the demands of serving as the coordinator of the community garden are at a seasonal high, marked by meetings, plantings, grant writing and more. To that end, there will be a seed swap and giveaway this evening at the Carver Center, (where the gardens are located) at 6 PM.  You don’t have to have seeds to swap, just a true desire to plant some, whether at the community garden or in your own home garden. Following that will be the application and screening process of potential new gardeners to fill the five vacant plots that are available this spring. If you’d like to have a plot, be sure to be there at 7 PM for that. It’s important to be ON TIME. Michael has decided to start a monthly newsletter for the Community Garden and has been spending a lot of his time putting together the first edition.

There’s also our church that we like to contribute our time, talent and money to, friendships to nurture, new songs and music to learn and play, soups to simmer and loaves of bread to bake, errands to run and exercise to make time for each day as well. Oh yeah, and watching Netflix too! All these things take time, and when  you’re ‘our age’, they demand plenty of rest as well, but luckily, I find writing is restful for me. I like writing this blog, sharing with you ideas that we can use to make our lives more resilient, healthier or simply more joyful! The ideas take time to research, to write about, and certainly to implement, but I consider it time well spent. Our retirement years have been fulfilling and busy to say the least, but these activities serve to give meaning and purpose to my life, and I get back far more than I give.

I’ve recently accepted the position as the chair for the ‘Livable Communities’ group that is a subcommittee of  a larger group called “Community Partnerships”. We have developed a strategic plan based on feedback that was given at the Economic Summits that took place in 2011 and 2012. Turns out that the results of the surveys that were taken at those summits show that some of the very things that I’ve been  writing about here are also the very things that folks felt were most important to them: supporting local food growing efforts by developing community gardens while at the same time increasing our resilience, beautifying the city by increasing greenway spaces, improving public transportation, developing interconnected beautiful, clean and safe bike and walking paths, and encouraging new and repurposed commercial and residential development in the downtown area, are just some of the things that our group will be looking at. They’re important enough to me to make the time to help implement them, and will be an endless source of  things to share with you on this blog in the months to come. I like the solutions-oriented approach we’re using, and feel it’s a good use of our time together. Our meetings will be held only every other month, with the next one scheduled for March 18th at 5 PM at my house. A schedule any more ambitious than that might prove to be too time consuming, but, every other month? Even I can fit that in, and I hope you can too!  We’d love to have your input and ideas, as well as your TIME, in helping our community become a more livable and resilient place to live. Yes, it IS about time you joined us. If  you need directions, let me know. Check us out on Facebook in the meantime:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Livable-Communities-and-Community-Partnerships-Group/163798207018404

One final note:  After giving this post a bit more thought, I want to make this clear: this is NOT meant to be a guilt-inducing blog post! Working parents, students, business owners, caregivers and all you others that are already busier than you want to be shouldn’t feel that my invitations to ‘come’, ‘join’ or ‘help’ are slanted at you. You’re already doing your part! I’m appealing here to those lucky souls like myself that have empty nests, work only a few hours a week, or just, in general, find themselves with time to spare. Forming friendships and working on projects that help me as much as the one’s they’re designed for, all while improving my own life as my community becomes a better place to live, is a win-win situation for me. Pick something that’s important to you and carve out some time for it. You won’t be sorry, I’m sure of it.

DO something!



Happy Valentine’s Day- just another Frugal Friday
February 14, 2014, 3:10 PM
Filed under: Frugality, Mindful Consumerism | Tags: ,

Those of us in the South have had quite an interesting ‘weather week’ with lots of snow and ice. Yeah, even the beaches of North Carolina have turned from white sand to white snow.

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Weather like this induces a very strong cocooning, or nesting, instinct in me, so I’ve spent a great deal of time at home, especially grateful that I don’t HAVE to get up and out to work in the mornings anymore. After several days of it however, even I can get a case of ‘cabin fever’, and with today’s sunshine, that’s kinda where I am.

Monday: Our trash is picked up on Mondays, and this snowy one found me with no garbage bags to reline my kitchen can with.  Necessity is the mother of invention: I emptied a bag of cat food that morning…. You guessed it already:

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Works great, and repurposes something that would’ve been difficult to recycle, since my city only takes printed single layer type papers and this heavy duty bag has a ‘plastic’ type coating. * A Star Is Born!!  Bags that hold 25-50 lbs of dog food, bird seed, potatoes and other ‘stars’ will no doubt debut in my trash can from now on. Savings?? I don’t know but I think it’s priceless when I can find a new use for something that would otherwise be thrown away.

Tuesday: Speaking of finding new uses for things in order to avoid throwing them away: We don’t buy much prepackaged food, but I always save those that come with waxed-paper bags inside and use them for layering between tortillas and pancakes before freezing or to wrap sandwiches in. You can easily pull the bags apart to make a flat sheet of strong waxed paper for this purpose:

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By the way: Can  you read the 25 cent price written on the package of whole wheat tortillas on the left? That was a bargain that came from the discount grocery I wrote about a couple of weeks ago here. I hope you can find one in your area too!

Wednesday: I like to mail cards for special occasions to my grandteens and this Valentine’s Day was no exception. I bought the cards last year AFTER Valentine’s Day for 25 cents each. Savings: The cards were originally $2 each, so I saved $3.50 AND I used some of my ‘recycled’ stamps on them! That kind of savings allows me to slip them each some cash in the cards too! They’re old enough to have their own spending money and it’s always nice to have a little extra jingle in your pocket when  you’re a teenager! 

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Thursday:  A quick walk to the thrift store last week yielded a scrap of turquoise fabric from one of the store’s ‘craft bins’. It was perfect for a patch job I needed to make on a pillow sham that I’d also bought at the same store some time ago. The scrap was so small that they store didn’t even charge me for it!

                        Before:                                                                                                                                                                                          After:

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I know, I know, a small hole is no big deal, but this sham is part of a comforter set, and my eye was always drawn to it when I looked at it on my guest room bed. Now I really have to look for it. Savings: ”Nothing ventured, nothing gained”. I’m happy with it now, and it only cost me a bit of time, which, as  you can see, I had plenty of this week!

Friday:  OK, here’s this week’s BIG savings: When my mom passed away last March, my brother and I split the remaining cash she had in one of her accounts but because the account was tied to MY social security number, I recently received the IRS 1009 Form showing the whole amount as my income! I called the company where the account had been held, and they told me you have to make changes like this before December 31st in order to have two separate 1099′s issued. Hmmm… Gentle but firm questioning on my part revealed that there’s a special form that I can include with my tax return, and that my brother will include with his tax return, which will make us equally liable for the portion we actually received. The form arrived in the mail today, and it’s quite simple to understand-apparently, even ‘Jack and Diane’ can do this, since those were the names used on the form’s example! Long story made short here, splitting this tax liability will keep my annual income down into the level that I want it to be in order to be able to take advantage of senior tax savings on my county and city personal property taxes, as well as keep me within the income limits to continue to qualify for my sweet O’bamacare health insurance policy. Savings: Literally, hundreds of dollars!

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Here’s my last thoughts on this snowy week to share with  you, my sweet readers:

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Resilience with Oven Canning?
February 10, 2014, 10:23 PM
Filed under: Alternative Energy, Canning, Food Storage, Oven canning, Resilience | Tags: ,

I canned my first jars of green beans when I was 21 years old. Forty years and thousands of jars later, I’ve never poisoned anyone with the foods I’ve put by. I attribute that to the fact that I am a complete NAZI about always, always, always using the safest approved methods for canning fresh foods. Cutting corners during canning is like cutting your own throat. Now, all that said, I want to introduce you to a ‘new’ method of canning I tried recently. It is NOT an extension approved method, but I was so intrigued with the idea I had to at least try it. You can google ‘oven canning’ and find ten sources for it and ten against it. It’s not meant to be used for wet foods, or those with fats in them, only for dry goods.

I like to buy foods in bulk because when I do, I’m supporting a small, locally owned business, packaging is greatly reduced, and because it’s usually more cost efficient to do so, both in terms of price per unit and in terms of environmental impact. The only con is having to store the stuff. I often store bulk items in five gallon food grade buckets, plastic lined tins, or gallon sized jars. My thinking is that by sealing some of those dry goods in smaller containers, (including the bags and boxes of  ‘regular sized’ products that I open) I can store them more easily on my pantry shelves and that those sealed jars will be far better at keeping oxygen, moisture and bugs out of the pantry, which are the big threats to any food. Please understand, I’m not depending on this method to make the food safe to eat later, I’m just hoping it will keep the already safe foods that I do keep in my pantry, fresh longer. That’s a big difference from canning fresh foods! This method is being touted as being able to keep food fresh for 10-20 years, but my plans are simply for 1-2 years, just like with my regular canned goods.

This method was just as easy as it looks. I sterilized and dried two dozen jars, set them upright on rimmed cookie sheets, and then filled the jars, leaving 1/2″ headroom. Putting them on cookie sheets keeps them stable while in the oven, catches any spills, and if breakage were to occur, would make it lots easier to clean up. I then placed the cookie sheets with the filled jars in a preheated 200 degree oven for one hour. Just before the hour was up, I simmered my lids and rings in a saucepan of water to sterilize them and to soften the rubber seals. After reading this tip online (and you know, if you read it on the internet it MUST be true ;) ) I sterilized some USED lids that I had saved for a craft project and screwed them down tight with the rings, returning the jars to the oven for another half hour. I let everything cool there overnight, and this morning, voila! All but one jar had sealed, even though I’d used the recycled lids. I love being able to see at a glance what I’ve got stored in the jars! Now I’m planning to use some half-gallon canning jars that were given to me but that were too tall for my canner, to oven-can some whole grain flours, dog biscuits and the freshly ground grits and corn meal that I buy at the Farmer’s Market.

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The news is full of dire weather and climate change forecasts, predictions of food and energy shortages due to the prolonged drought in our western states, and rising prices because of it all. I’m certain our futures will be lived under dramatically changed circumstances and resilience is the key to improving our quality of life, regardless of all that. Using resources I already have on hand to keep food fresher longer (I’d LOVE to get away from a freezer altogether!) is just another form of resilience. And that’s awesome. Next up this summer: using this same technique in my solar oven!



A Mid-Winter Festival of Bannocks, Roots, Seeds and Groundhogs

groundhog-day-groundhogA little history lesson today dear readers:  February 2nd was an important day in the Celtic calendar. This ancient holiday earmarked the midpoint of winter.  As winter stores of food began to be used up, Imbolc rituals were performed to ensure sufficient food supplies until the harvest six months later. Imbolc was a feast of purification for the farmers, and the name oímelc (“ewe’s milk”) is likely in reference to the beginning of the lambing season, when the ewes came into milk. Imbolc celebrations were marked by bonfires, special foods, and the old tradition of watching to see if serpents or badgers came from their winter dens~ perhaps a precursor to the North American Groundhog Day.  One of the special foods that was prepared for the feast was bannocks, or bannock bread. A blogger that I like to follow posted a recipe for these last summer and today was the day I finally tried my hand at it. These little breads were quite good!

Easy Bannocks

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or melted butter
  • 3/4 cup water

Measure dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Stir to mix.  Pour oil (or melted butter) and water and stir to make a ball.

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead gently about 10 times.  Cut the dough ball into 4 equal balls and pat into a flat circles ~ 3/4 to 1 inch thick.

Cook in a greased frying pan over medium heat, allowing about 5-10 minutes for each side. Best when served hot.navajo-fry-bread

This is a perfect recipe to round out a meal that may be a bit on the lean side, and has ingredients that most of us have already on hand. (Other recipes suggest adding a bit of sugar or blueberries to the dough) They were more biscuit like than I imagined them to be, so next time I’m going to flatten them more, cook in less time and I imagine it will make more than four that way too. I’m going to try making them over a fire the next time we go camping! Imagine-hot bread when  you’re camping!

To go with our bannocks, I made a  stew of sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage and tomatoes simmered in a quart of  home-made veggie broth, all of which we’d produced ourselves, so the only thing store-bought was the peanut butter, soy sauce and spices that made this recipe from my favorite old Moosewood cookbook perfect for the affair!

As we ate this ‘root crop’ feast, we were reminded of how concerned over their stored food supplies the ancient Celts must have been at this time of year, hoping the rituals they performed during Imbolc would protect their food and their farmers and  see them through ’til spring. We were also very thankful that we live in a time when food supplies are available year ’round.

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To ensure my own crops were ‘sufficient to last until spring’,  I decided today was the day I’d go back to my plot at the community garden and dig those parsnips that I’d deliberately left behind, so I could see how they would fare with the minus zero temps we were expecting at the time. The parsnips were crunchy and in good shape!  They had actually begun to sprout new green growth underneath that 2″ layer of leaves I’d piled on!

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I found one more Imbolc-like reason to celebrate today:  Our annual seed order arrived in the mail AND a local nursery donated lots of seeds to our community garden, so there’s PLENTY to celebrate and look forward to!

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To everything there is a season… and for every purpose under heaven. During these dismal final weeks of winter, I sometimes have to look really hard for those signs, but they’re there! The sun was out just long enough this morning that when Phil the groundhog poked his head out, he saw his own shadow, so, according to the legend, spring will arrive early this year. If that’s not something to celebrate, nothing is! Join me next year for the SECOND ANNUAL IMBOLC FESTIVAL-you’re all invited!

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Frugal Friday-January’s over!!!

I spent most of this week just like last- trying to stay warm. In between times I cooked a fair amount, wrote some long overdue letters (on yard sale stationary and mailed them with ‘salvaged’ stamps~read on!), and did a lot of reading. Not too much excitement when it’s this cold.

Monday: Mailed my annual bundle of used greeting cards to St Jude’s Ranch. Children that live there use the card fronts (if they’re not written on) to recycle into new cards that they then sell to earn money. I wrote here about it last year, but I have a lot of new readers since then, so I thought it might be something they’d like to know about too.  Repurposing those cards is even better than recycling them, and makes me even happier when I can mail them for free. Yes, that’s right…this week I mailed the cards and a small package to my daughter, all free, because I keep getting things in the mail that don’t have their stamps canceled! And just to add frosting to the cake, I was even able to reuse the original envelopes that those uncanceled stamps were stuck to, which meant I didn’t have to peel off the stamps, nor buy mailing envelopes!  Postage savings: 8 stamps at the new rate of 49 cents each= $3.92 plus whatever new mailers might’ve cost me!

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Tuesday: After reading more than once about how the ongoing drought in California is forcing farmers to reduce their crops this year, and in some cases not plant at all, I decided that it would be prudent of me to increase my supply of almonds, which I truly enjoy eating as a healthy, out of hand snack almost daily. Sure enough, the price has already increased a bit, but not nearly as much as predicted so I stocked up and decided it was time to get out my Seal-A-Meal and vacuum seal them all in order to keep them fresh longer. Nuts will be stay fresh for 6-12 months in the freezer, but by sealing out all the oxygen they’ll last 2-3 years! Perhaps by then the drought will be over and almond growers won’t be forced to pay premium prices for the water their orchards need to survive. That is, if there are any bees left to pollinate them.   Anyway, this sealer came in handy, and I even made up some snack-sized bags to throw in our backpacks when we go hiking or travel. I bought my sealer and several rolls of bagging plastic for $20 at a yard sale, so I know they can be found second-hand, but it seems to me it would be one of those things that could be part of a ‘tool lending library’ since they’re not used every day. Just sayin’…

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Wednesday: Made my second visit to a ‘Discount Grocery Store” near my home. If I’m very careful, I can find some good bargains, but most of their stuff is boxed, convenience type foods, canned goods and snacks, all things that I try to avoid. They did have a small section devoted to some healthier things like name-brand organic products, protein bars and milk shakes, along with many condiments and international style cooking sauces. There were fresh Pepperidge Farms breads and buns for 99 cents, and lots of bulk packages of frozen foods like fish, chicken and burgers too. I didn’t find any out of date items though, so I got a few things that really were rock bottom prices but I’m sure their inventory changes daily and you may not be able to find the same things I did. The point is, there are more and more of these discount stores popping up, and perhaps you might get lucky enough to find one in your town too. They’re certainly worth a try! The first time I visited this little store, it was summer, and they had a fair selection of fresh fruits and vegetables too, but not any this week. I didn’t take a picture, but I was able to buy a Nutella equivalent, Jif brand Hazelnut Butter,  for $1.00 a jar! I bought five jars to give to my daughter who loves the stuff, but can’t afford  what I thought was normally $3-4 a jar, even though I now see that Amazon is selling it online for $10.00  a jar! Savings: $45.00!!! (and now that I see that ridiculous price, I may go back tomorrow to pick up some more jars for her)

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Thursday: Stitched up a long tube of fabric cut from an old curtain, filled it with sand and used it to block the cold air coming into my bathroom from the unheated bedroom connected to it. I could’ve used grits, rice, buckwheat or kitty litter, but sand was what I had on hand. Yeah, I could’ve rolled up a towel too, to stuff underneath the door, but the tube can also be moved around to different doorways and is easier to ‘move out of the way’ when I do want to open the door, and it hangs over the knob when not in use.

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Friday: Found a brand new 3M scrubber in the street when I took my walk. I’ll cut it into 3  pieces (sharpening my scissors at the same time) and use them for scrubbing pots and pans. Savings: $2 or so for three scrubbies?

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That’s it folks! I may not have any Frugal Friday tips to share next week IF the weather warms and I get to be outside more. As important as I consider frugality is to our being able to live well on less, living a simple life that focuses on mindful consumerism and built-in resilience is even more so. Reduce, reuse, repurpose THEN recycle is what I strive for in all my buying decisions. For example, before I bought the Jif for my daughter, I called her and made her promise me that she’d wash the plastic jars when they were emptied and use them for storing things around her kitchen and apartment, or at the very least recycle them. Being the good recycling Nazi that I am, I’ll take pictures of the ways she finds to use them and include them in a future post. And as much as I like the convenience of sealing bulk-bought foods in smaller quantities I really HATE using rolls of plastic to do it. So, I’ve decided to try ‘Oven Canning’ to get the same results and I’ll be reporting on that method next week. What are YOU doing to “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without?” Please feel free to post your comments and ideas below, and to share this blog with anyone you think might enjoy it-or not ;)



“I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take it Anymore!”

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Let me begin this long rant by saying I already miss Pete Seeger and I’m quite tired of freaking five degree temps, so maybe that’s colored my usually optimistic outlook on things. I should also tell you that the provisions put forth in the new Farm Bill are confusing, and that I voted for O’Bama. Both times. I think his State of the Union address last night was beautiful oration, and I did like a lot of what he had to say, but I totally disagreed with his call to retrofit our economy for natural gas. He’s going to make it easy for businesses to open factories that run on natural gas, by cutting governmental red tape. He never mentioned that 90% of the oil and gas wells drilled in America today are fracked — there could be no oil and gas boom without it. Everyone knows that there are no easy answers to the problems of Peak Oil and the fact that we’ve, well, peaked. However, he did say “… the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” Thank  you Mr. President for that acknowledgement. But shouldn’t the conversation from our nation’s leader at this point include at least some mention of alternatives to an energy-dependent future besides “In the coming months, I’ll (build on that success) by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump“?  By God, if we had to pay the true costs of gasoline at the pump we’d ALL be riding our bikes, taking a bus, a train or walking! Our pump prices don’t even begin to reflect the environmental costs of that fuel.  Just sayin’… And our food prices don’t reflect their environmental costs either, but I’m digressing here. 

WHERE is the conversation about plans for mass transit and alternative transportation systems? WHERE  is the conversation about retrofitting older buildings and factories and homes with simple systems like insulation, solar panels and windmills? WHERE is the conversation about our nation’s cities and towns converting public lands and commons areas to growing spaces, to food forests and community gardens? WHERE is the conversation about Americans needing to learn the skills needed to produce the foods and goods and tools and services we need to become self sufficient? Those conversations really do take place on millions of websites, in magazines and living rooms, but they’re never spoken of by our government. Well, I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!

In the last year or so I’d begun to feel somewhat hopeful that maybe the economic and financial experts hadn’t gotten it quite right, and that maybe our economy IS recovering. I’d also begun to feel that maybe the energy experts hadn’t gotten it quite right either and maybe we haven’t reached Peak Oil-yet. But as O’Bama said himself: “climate change is a fact”, and those of us lucky enough to live in First World countries can not ‘carry on as usual’ and expect that to change. I truly fear for my grandchildren at this point. I fear that they won’t have enough food, clean water and air to live healthy and productive lives. The government is paying some growers in California to not plant again this year because of lack of water. Let me say that again: The government is paying growers in California to not plant again this year because of lack of water. The ongoing drought in our nation’s breadbasket is so very serious and when I hear our President speak about ‘setting new (MPG) standards for our trucks’ it makes me angry.

You ask, “So, what are you gonna do about it?” I’m going to keep on writing about, talking about, and working for, the changes I think need to take place. But I’m going to write a little longer, talk a little louder and work a little harder. I’m going to continue to grow and preserve as much of my food as I can and teach others to do the same. I’m going to walk and carpool more-the walking keeps me healthy and doesn’t add to our environmental problems. I’m going to support local organizations like One Acre Cafe and The Livable Communities Group that are working to make a difference in our community, not by offering handouts, or asking for them, but that are “leaning in”, to use a new catch-phrase, to find out first hand what’s needed to make lives better. I’m going to learn new skills and share them with others whenever I can. I’m going to get more involved with politics so that the type of leaders we need to make big change get elected. I’m gonna write letters to the editor and sign petitions. And that’s just for February folks!  I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!

The ‘About’ page of this blog, written exactly two years ago states: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!” I still believe in this statement fervently. I hope you do too.

lomax



Frugal Friday- January 24, 2014

With the extreme cold, I’ve found myself staying home more, cooking a lot, and making some minor changes in order to stay warm without having a $400 electric bill. Maybe one of these tips will help you reduce your energy costs and keep your home cozier too!

Monday: It was a  pleasant day but I knew the cold was returning that night so I washed the car at the quarter car wash then brought it home to vacuum it. I also spent time in the sunshine, soaking up Vitamin D while cutting back all the frozen and dead leaves from my kale plants and reinstalling the plastic covered hoops that had blown off in the last ‘Polar Vortex’ (which is why they froze to begin with!). My hope is that they will resprout once things begin to warm up again. Gardening is always a learning experience, and this is just part of that. Savings: $2.50 for the vacuum job, and if the kale resprouts, it will seem quite valuable indeed, coming back from the dead and all. At the very least, the knowledge I gain in growing food is always invaluable.

Tuesday: I fixed my own food dehydrator!!! It was no longer putting out any heat, even though the fan was blowing. I took the back of the dryer off, found a loose wire that seemed to lead to a sheared-off doohickey. I called the toll-free number for the manufacturer, where I spoke with their tech guy, who diagnosed it as  needing a new thermostat. After trying to find the part online at a cheaper price than the $35 that was quoted me, I bit the bullet and ordered it and was able to install the new part with very little trouble. High Five! The dehydrator now works even better than it did when new so I spent a very cold day drying a bunch of apples that were beginning to shrivel in storage. Now I have a 3 lb coffee can FULL of dried apple slices to use in my daily oatmeal. Dehydrating foods is a practical and easy way to preserve fresh foods for long term storage, and actually retains more vitamins that other preservation methods. They take up much less storage space and weigh a lot less than canned or frozen foods, and if, like me, you have limited storage space, that’s a big plus. Savings: 15 lbs of organic apples=$30. Feeling of self sufficiency and competence: pricelessIMG_0131

Wednesday: The cold sets in…Michael made bread, using bread flour bought in a 25 lb sack for less than $9, 2 teaspoons of yeast bought in one pound foil-packed bags for less than $5 and a tsp of salt. Total cost per loaf: about 25 cents. But wait! The savings continue…while the baking stones preheated, I decided to use that time to bake some white and sweet potatoes on them, along with a pan of Shepherd’s Pie and a tin of egg shells (yes, egg shells are saved year round and dried; after drying them I grind them up for adding to my tomato and pepper planting holes each spring-doing so adds calcium and helps prevent blossom end rot).  The Shepherd’s pie and one loaf of bread made 6 servings, which fed us, along with some unexpected overnight company.  Then we enjoyed the company, along with the baked potatoes and some chicken and veggie leftovers the next day, finishing the impromptu meal with some summer-canned peaches for dessert. Heating the oven once yielded two loaves of bread, and two large meals. I’m already considering what other things I can cook while next week’s loaves are baking. Spinach lasagne maybe, more potatoes and a pan of macaroni and cheese perhaps? With just a little advance planning, cooking multiple meals offers time and energy savings.

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Thursday: The deep freeze continues…more time spent indoors, playing music, making soup, and dreaming of spring. I don my silk long johns underneath my clothes, and add more quilts to the bed. Heat pumps are notoriously ineffective in this kind of weather and we’ve found that by closing off unused rooms and dressing in layers we stay warmer. I stream free movies and hem pants while drinking herbal tea and staying by the gas stove.

Friday: Zero degrees overnight last night, and I’m feeling like I live in Antarctica instead of Tennessee. Michael dons his long johns. We bring in the old kerosene heater from the shed, and fill it with $4 a gallon fuel. Using it and the gas stove in the living room we stay toasty without having to use the heat pump much at all. Two weeks ago I went shopping for an electric space heater, but the cheapest I found was about $40. Instead, I bought one for six dollars at the thrift store. It’s running on low down in the cellar, keeping our water pipes from freezing.  I also installed some more foam insulators behind the wall switches and outlet plates, after buying a package of 14 for less than $2.  Savings: $34 on the heater and perhaps hundreds of dollars and much aggravation saved over NOT having frozen or burst water pipes. Feeling cozy: priceless.

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Seed (and other) Freedoms
January 20, 2014, 9:36 AM
Filed under: Growing Food, Seed Saving | Tags:

If we wait for governments it will be too little too late. If we act as individuals it will be too little. But if we act as communities, it might just be enough.. just in time.”~author unknown…

Today, January 20th, thousands of folks in communities all over Europe are coming together in mass force to show that they do too. They are coming together to let their Parliament know that the recent proposals around seeds are NOT acceptable. Their demands are quite simple really:

1. People, whether they be farmers or gardeners must not  be obliged to buy seeds or other “plant reproductive material” from commercial providers. Any regulation must guarantee the rights of farmers, gardeners and all collectives to use, exchange and sell their own seeds and plants, to respect all Human Rights Declarations and the International Plant Treaty (ITPGRFA).

2. The industry standard should not be the adopted standard for the seed and plant market. It implies a technical and legal definition that natural plants cannot comply with and it does not recognise the significance of biodiversity.

3. Freely reproducible plants should not be subject to compulsory registration for varieties or certification of seeds and plants. Biodiversity should take precedence over commercial interest, as it is a public good, just like water.

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 Seeds are our future. Even if you’ve never grown a single basil plant, your very life depends on seeds. There is absolutely no reason to be passing laws like the European Parliament is considering. The very Pilgrims that settled on our shores of North America brought with them their favorite seeds. The Native Americans shared more seeds with them, keeping them from starvation. What if England had not allowed those Pilgrims to save and bring their own seeds? How different our history would’ve been! Seed saving is as individual a right as any article of the Constitution and Europeans are smart to stop the regulations before they take hold. Would you march for seeds in this country? Does it take much for you to imagine the US making laws that govern our seed supply? Can you say Monsanto?

This spring I hope you’ll consider planting an open pollinated seed and letting it grow, away from other plants like it, so it won’t crossbreed. Consider sharing a few with a friend or neighbor. When it’s time, pick a few leaves or beans or whatever it bears, leaving some to stay on the plant. Leave it alone then. Let it simply sit there storing all its’ remaining energy in the seeds that its’ forming. When the plant dies and when the seed pods are fully dry, pick them then and store them away for next year. Seeds are the best insurance money can’t buy. In brutally difficult times, seeds have been used in place of money. Could that happen again? Do you want our seeds to be regulated in any way? Neither do I.

I haven’t done a lot of seed saving because I don’t have a lot of growing room and because seeds have historically been so cheap and readily available. Seed saving can be a gamble if not done properly, and, by nature, I’m not much of a gambler. Hybrid seeds are dependable, cheap and easier to grow than open pollinated for the most part. BUT they’re  a false insurance, offering absolutely no protection for the future-you know, our grandchildren for example. I’ve written here a couple of times about saving seeds from my beloved Hopi Lima Beans..

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and I’ve saved cilantro, edamame and a few others but I think it’s time I begin to learn the complexities and vagaries of seed saving from plants that would truly offer lots of flavor and nutrition in case of ‘hard times’ or seed regulations. I also like the idea of learning a new skill. If seed saving is something that interests you, I suggest reading a book titled “The Resilient Gardener” by Carol Depp. Even if you decide not to save any seeds, it’s an interesting read and may inspire you to give it a try.

Since today is Martin Luther King’s birthday, I’ll be part of the noon parade to commemorate his life and the struggles that blacks have gone through to gain their personal freedoms. How appropriate that Europeans are marching for theirs today as well! I’m using the day as a reminder to protect my own freedoms. I hope you’ll join me!

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Frugal Friday- Christmas Revisited

Christmas has come and gone again but it’ll be back as soon as I get all the holiday decorations put away, so I thought perhaps it’s not too late to share with you some of the frugal gifts that were given  in our household this year. Maybe  you’ll find an idea that you can use for your next gift giving occasion. Remember I wrote about my intention to give my family members the gift of an EXPERIENCE, rather than a THING? We had a really fun Christmas weekend, eating at  locally owned restaurants and driving to nearby Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, TN where we spent many fun-filled hours at Wonder Works.

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A good time was had by all, and I think they’ll remember our time together far longer than they’d remember yet another DVD or blouse. I didn’t spend any more money than I normally would’ve, and there was nothing to wrap. However, over the last few years I’ve started gifting them with little things I find at yard sales or thrift shops; things that I think they may need or enjoy, and I always tell them they are second-hand, right along with the wrapping paper, which I haven’t had to buy in many years, since I save all kinds of ‘gift wrap’-from flower bouquet cellophane wraps to wine bags to baskets!  The ‘wrap’ is half the fun! They are always AMAZED at the quality of these sometimes-found gifts and I really enjoy the creativity of wrapping them.

For example, Daughter #1 collects an expensive Pfaltzgraff dinnerware pattern called “Naturewood” and for several years running I’ve been able to find at least one piece to add to her ever-growing collection, often for only a dollar or so. (Psst! If you see this pattern at a yard sale this summer, pick it up for me, will  you? I’ll go as high as TWO DOLLARS for the right piece ;) )

plateOther gifts included  a beautiful pair of black leather ladies’ gloves, size Small, that I found in an alley on one of my daily walks last winter, and that fit Daughter #1′s tiny hands perfectly, a brand new  turquoise-colored  Kitchen Aid mixing bowl that I found on top of a trash pile on another daily walk, and that matched Daughter #2′s new kitchen colors exactly. She tells me it is now the most used and loved thing in her kitchen. Go figure-that’s it on the bottom…bowl

There were brand new tubes of ‘Silk and Shine’ lip balm for Daughter #3, (that I’d received in a free  bag of socks from a fellow Freecycler). The tubes fit perfectly in a beautiful little purple satin/jewel-crusted  box I’d received as a wedding favor and amazingly, this daughter is positively ADDICTED to ‘Silk and Shine’ so I knew she’d love them. She did…      silk

And last, but not least, there was a brand new ‘gift set’ of Tarot Cards for Daughter #4 that I bought for $1 at a thrift store, then wrapped in a ‘silvery’ scarf which I’d paid 50 cents for. Since Daughter #4 loves all things blingy and all things mystical, it was a magical little gift for her.

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I didn’t intend for today’s edition of Frugal Friday to be all about Christmas gifts, but maybe by sharing these ideas with you, it will inspire you to be on the lookout throughout this new year for your own little finds that will make thoughtful and fun gifts for your loved ones next Christmas. Don’t be ashamed to share with the recipient the origins of your gifts either! If they are as delighted as my kids were with their gifts, they too might be inspired to gift others with found objects, and so on, and so on, until maybe some day Christmas gift-giving will become an acceptable occasion to ‘trade’ things we don’t want for things we love. It’s become an accepted practice now with my family, (but really, do they have much choice?)  and my hope is that it will be with yours too. Even if we spend a lot of money on gifts for everyone in our family, nothing we buy could give them as much happiness as the gift of attention and love. That said, it’s lovely to have a beautifully wrapped gift under the tree with your name on it! I dislike waste, whether it’s food, money, or tangibles but this practice of repurposing, regifting, buying used and offering more experiences and time together not only uses fewer of the earth’s dwindling resources, it results in far less clutter (and waste) for everyone involved and it allows me to give freely to my kids while staying true to my values. Not to mention, it’s a lot of fun to practice Frugal Friday every day and in every season!

PS About those daily walks: you wouldn’t believe some of the things I’ve found lying in the streets, on the sidewalks and in the alleys! Either people are extremely careless with their things and are losing them somehow or, in the case of those items that have obviously been deliberately thrown away, they have so much unwanted ‘stuff’ they can think of nothing else to do with it. In either case, I’m irritated by the gross excess and happy if I can find a new owner for it. We lived out in the country before moving to this urban area in 2012, and in my 10 years of daily walks there, I don’t think I ever found anything more valuable than a deflated basketball and a rotten jack o’ lantern! Do you find this to be true where you live? Have we really become such mindless consumers that we throw stuff away just to make room for more stuff?  I’ll take pics from now on of the things I find and share them with you on the pages of this blog. Feel free to share  your ‘finds’ with me too. Surely I’m not alone in this ‘discovery’!



I have a dream too
January 15, 2014, 9:38 PM
Filed under: Contributionism, Resilience | Tags: ,

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 If you knew that I am from Selma, Alabama and that I suspect my father was a Klan member, you might assume I am a racist. I used to be. Talk about transitions…

I’ve felt rather uninspired and unmotivated lately. Typical winter blahs. That is, until today. I spent some time reading some of Dr. Martin Luther King’s letters and speeches, and doing so has lifted me up. After reading his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” I felt shame in my ongoing pity party. His reply about “being unable to sit idly by while injustice prevailed” to the  criticisms he had received from his own colleagues about his actions being “unwise and untimely” reiterated my innermost thoughts. My purpose in writing this blog is not precisely about injustice, at least not the civil rights injustices Dr King gave his life for. But there was a lesson for me in his letter, and I don’t feel I can sit idly by either while the injustice I see all around me continues. I witness the earth being destroyed (mountaintop removal legislative action is underway in Tennessee, my adoptive state), as our oil-weary world continues to chase the ‘false prophets’ of shale gas and ‘clean coal’. I witness economic injustice, social injustices, joblessness and homelessness, hunger and poverty. I see politicians that set their own rules (can you say Gov. Chris Christie?) and corporations that do too. And yes, I still see racism. Using the occasion of Dr. King’s birthday, I realized that I have a dream too! I don’t want to make a name for myself, I just wanna make a difference. So I’ll continue to write this blog, since I don’t know anything else to do.

I can only write about those things I know, and the longer I write this blog the more I realize how precious little I really know about the larger world. But I know what works for me, in my life, and I can continue to write about those things. You don’t have to read it, the writing is cathartic for me; But I hope you will. My dream is that perhaps it will inspire you to find ways to make a difference, to do things differently, to overcome your own biases and to become as resilient as Dr King was. We can’t all be world leaders, but we CAN learn ways to lead lives that are significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. All together now: “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.”  Martin would be proud, I’m sure of it.

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The Long Winter
January 8, 2014, 8:41 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized

williams-the.long_.winter-1953-cover-cMy children used to love for me to read the ‘Little House’ books by Laura Ingalls Wilder to them, and since I still have the complete set I read them again myself every few years. This is one of those years. Between the ‘Polar Vortex’ and ‘The Big C’, my world has narrowed considerably this winter. Luckily I’m (mostly) quite happy to be a homebody and reading is something I truly enjoy. That Ingalls family had a tough life, but daughter Laura recounts their true family stories as though they were fairy tales. I don’t have that rosy view she enjoyed but I do enjoy a good story and so I thought on this long winter’s night, you might too. So, gather round chil’rens..

Once upon a time there was an old hippie hippy hip couple that sometimes couldn’t even agree on how to spell what they were. Ma liked to write, while Pa liked to read. Ma liked to make soup, Pa liked to make bread. Pa liked to play banjo, and Ma liked to play bass. In spite of their differences, they were happily living in the mountains of Tennessee. But then came the winter of 2014, and one night the temperature dropped to a frigid -4 degrees! The old couple found themselves not feeling very well and looking for ways to stay warm too. They had installed pull-down shades and heavy lined curtains on their windows, they were wearing multiple layers of clothing, including what Ma liked to call ‘indoor gloves’. But they were still cold! And so they cooked. Ma made big pots of soup using fresh ingredients from their outdoor hoop houses and things they’d grown and preserved during the summer and Pa made crusty loaves of hot bread to go with it all. And it was good…

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But the old couple still felt cold and out of sorts. Just about the time that frost had begun to form on the dog’s water bowl, a good friend very much like “Mr. Edwards” from the Little House books (who coincidentally had described himself as “a wildcat from Tennessee” and which came very close to describing this friend too) came by with a jug of homemade ‘tonic’, thinking it might be just the thing to help them ‘feel better’…

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And so ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’ and ‘Mr. Edwards’ commenced to ‘feeling better’ after their fine meal of soup and bread. They lit some candles and lit a fire and sure enough, the magic tonic began to help them all feel better, including ‘Mr. Edwards’ who had never felt bad to begin with! Before they all knew what hit them, the guitar and banjo, the fiddle and the bass came out and the three friends picked and played and sang and danced for hours. When the tonic was finally gone, they threw one final log on the fire, crawled into their feather beds, pulled up the thick homemade quilts to their ears and fell fast asleep. The end.



And the beet goes on…

My beloved grandmother died 10 years ago today, at the age of 100. She taught me a lot of things growing up; from useless nonsense like: “Never wear white shoes after Labor Day”,  to priceless information on how to cook vegetables and raise “Food”…

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But this Southern girl had never eaten, nor even seen, a parsnip, until I married my London-born husband. Nor did I care to. His love for this carrot-like root vegetable prevailed however, and now I love them as much as he does. So much so that I now plant them in my fall garden. Much like cool weather greens, parsnips ‘sweeten up’ after a few hard frosts. Since we recently had some nights down in the teens, I figured that was cold enough to sweeten them, so I walked down to my plot in the community garden today and harvested some of the parsnips and carrots I’d planted there last August. Aren’t they beautiful? They look good enough to eat, huh?

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I harvested 5 pounds of those fat, stubby carrots that grow so well in the fall, and 3 pounds of the parsnips, along with some ‘spring’ onions too! None of these veggies were protected in any way except for a 2″ ‘blanket’ of shredded leaves, proving that you don’t have to use expensive greenhouses or heavy cold frames or even plastic covered hoops for these cold-hardy varieties. As an experiment though, I decided to leave some of them in the ground because I’m curious to see how they fare after being in the ‘deep freeze’ we’re expecting next week-temps are predicted to be -4 Monday night! I’m hopeful they won’t freeze and get mushy but the only way to find out is to let them be. I’ll post later to let you know how they fare. I couldn’t bear to lose a single beet though so I harvested all of them.

Even though this time of year can certainly cause the window of locally grown foods to narrow considerably, there are still many fresh foods that can survive winter growing conditions or can be stored fresh without any or much preservation. Last week I took the fourth cutting of broccoli side shoots since the main heads were cut in early October and harvested 2 fresh heads of cabbage at the same time. Brussels sprouts look like they’re surviving with the sheet of plastic I put over them around Thanksgiving. I’m harvesting kale and parsley from my hoop house twice a week, but I’m pretty sure I lost my Swiss Chard during the recent cold night when the wind took the plastic off the hoops that covered the plants. That happened a few years ago, and even though the plants looked completely dead I left them in the ground, and because they are biennials, they literally came back to life the following spring in a beautiful flush of growth! I’m hoping for the same this time too, because I failed to save the seeds from those plants that reinvented themselves in spite of the odds, but you can be sure I will this time if I get a repeat performance. I did notice that the tiny spinach and bitter greens that were in that same hoop house didn’t seem to be bothered too much by the unfortunate exposure so I fully expect to be eating them by late February. 

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I went to the grocery store today and noticed price increases in canned beans, tomatoes and milk. I suspect that may be due to the continuing severe drought in California. It’s been said that our next wars will be over water instead of oil. Those of us lucky enough to live in a place with an annual rainfall of 52 inches don’t have to worry too much but that could change tomorrow. I like knowing that I can grow fresh food year round with very little irrigation necessary, but a few rain barrels under the downspouts is still a good insurance policy! But there’s been no increase in the costs of my beans and tomatoes-in fact, I want to show you the last four Longkeeper tomatoes I have been waiting on to ripen-we ate fresh tomatoes in our salads the day after Christmas and I suspect these last ones will fully ripen in the next week or two… note to self: plant earlier next summer so we’ll have enough to last through more of the winter.

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Starting the new year with boxes of locally grown apples and tangelos from Florida, white and sweet potatoes that still have our garden’s dirt clinging to them, baskets of butternut squashes, garlic and shallot bulbs, and all the other canned, frozen and dried goodies that I’ve put up and written about in the pages of this blog gives me a sense of gratitude and comfort. Having the skills needed to provide yourself with good food, regardless of winter storms or droughts, regardless of Peak Oil or ruined Fukushima nuclear reactors, will hold you steady all your life. No doubt I’ll suffer some losses to this extreme cold snap that’s headed our way-probably my beautiful rosemary bush or some of the fruits and berries that were planted last summer. But it’s not the end of the world, and the setbacks continue to teach me new lessons that were begun by my grandmother 60 years ago. The BEET goes on.

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Good Luck with That!

I cooked my traditional dish of Hoppin’ John today, using home-canned peppers, tomatoes, veggie broth and a package of the frozen Sofritos that my Puerto Rican friend Daniel taught me how to make last summer from my garden’s excess. IMG_0104

So today, all I had to do was open the jars, pressure cook the dried peas for 15 minutes, and add 2 cups of last night’s leftover rice, along with some precooked vegan sausage crumbles I had in the freezer. I love this time of year when I’m able to cook most of our meals using the fruits of my summer labor and dried beans and grains bought in bulk! Eating this way also helps me get ‘back in the groove’ of eating healthfully after the excesses of the holidays. I know, I know, “good luck with that!” Property taxes, car insurance and the season’s highest heating bills all have to be paid in January and cooking this way feeds us well for mere dimes. Really. I also took advantage of the warm, sunny day to uncover my raised beds and cut some fresh kale to go with this. Quickly stir fried in red-pepper oil, it was the perfect go-with for the Hoppin’ John. We eat this dish (with a coin hidden in the pot-whoever finds it in their bowl will be blessed with wealth) with greens every year. Don’t you love family traditions?

New Year Resolutions; I have two:

Resolution #1. Get Fit. I want to ride my bike UPHILL  (important skill when  you live in the mountains), run in the annual Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5k race again (along with 5,000 close friends), and climb Chimney Top Mountain on January 1st, 2015 (with a much smaller group of friends) that do it every New Year’s Day. We did it with them in 2008 and have always said we’d do it again. One year from today, we’ll be there and I’ll post a picture. I know, I know, “good luck with that!” Here I am after the last time I did that climb:

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Resolution #2. Become a better bass player, which is going to require a lot of daily practice on my part. I know, I know, “good luck with that too!”

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Eating healthy, staying fit, staying out of debt and living ‘well with less’, making home-made music, gardening and canning, hiking, bike riding and spending time with family and friends is really how I want to live my life, this year and always. May YOU be so lucky too! Happy New Year! 



Transitions R Us
December 29, 2013, 9:20 PM
Filed under: Christmas, Economic Collapse, Transition Towns | Tags: ,

 I got an Earth Fare gift card and a tiny blue tooth ear receiver for Christmas. I got a cold and  a box of tangelos too. But I am very happy. The cold is almost gone, the tangelos will soon be too. I’ll use the gift card to take advantage of those Earth Fare weekly freebies that require you to make a $5 to $10 purchase, extending its’ value even further, and I’m looking at the ear piece as an investment in my health since I’ve heard that holding a cell phone to my ear could be unhealthy for my brain. My Ohio family members came for a visit, and my “locally grown” family members joined us for fun, food and games around the table. I’m really happy that our celebration was such a simple affair. No one had to worry about ‘outdoing’ one another gift-wise, or had to be concerned about how they might afford more expensive gifts and none of us have to find a place in our homes or closets for yet another doodad or article of clothing. We’ve left Gifts R Us behind.

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Looking back, the transition we’ve gone through to get to this happy place has been a perfect example of what this blog is about. Transitions take time, and in my family’s case, more than a decade. How long might we expect it to take a society, one based on infinite growth, using finite resources, to transition to one that’s built on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being? If our economy and society collapse, I’d say we’ll do it (one way or another!) in less than a decade, but it would be a time of great duress for everyone. Just ask Cuba. I propose that we not wait for a societal collapse but instead begin the hard work NOW of transitioning to that new way of living and being that we want to be a part of. A gradual and graceful transition to that new lifestyle is still my Christmas wish and my New Year’s resolution. I hope you and your family will join me and my family for Transitions R US. To inspire you, here’s a link to a full length film about the Transition movement. It’s an amazing story about how Transition groups around the world are responding to the challenges of depleting and costly energy resources, financial instability and environmental change.

http://www.transitionnetwork.org/transition-2



“So This Is Christmas”…

…”and what have  you done? Another year over, a new one just begun”… and so the song goes. The tune has been stuck in my head for days, and at one point almost drove me mad, until I stopped long enough to really listen to what the universe was trying to tell me, and realized I needed to write it down. After looking forward to Christmas for weeks, now it’s finally here. I relax, knowing  the anticipation of an event contributes to the happiness of the event itself.  Vacations and family visits and concerts are like that too. Last night I sat alone in my candle-lit living room, reliving how much fun it was to wait until my four young daughters had finally fallen asleep on Christmas Eve so Santa could then begin fulfilling their dreams. It was the anticipation of their Christmas morning delight that was so meaningful for me. I am taking some time today to reconsider what Christmas means to me now that they’re all grown up.  At first glance, this post may appear to have nothing to do with transitioning, but as I re-read my own words on the “ABOUT” page of this blog, I realize that the changes I am going through in regards to Christmas are very relative to seeing the world in a new light, and so I’d like to share these thoughts with you today:

I remember one year asking my Grandmother, who was in her 70′s at the time, what she wanted for Christmas and she said there was no longer any thing she desired. She told me that some day I’d feel that way too, but at 24 years old I couldn’t imagine ever feeling that way. At the time I saw the world as FULL of things that I wanted! But here I am now,  agreeing with her. Don’t get me wrong…the lure of advertising and bright, shiny new things call out to me just like everyone else but I very rarely feel moved enough to buy them. I’ve found my groove where money is concerned and my life has actually become simpler and richer because of my personal refusal to consume, just because I can

 I wanted curtains for my living room for close to a year and a half after moving here. I knew what color and style I wanted but couldn’t justify the cost. Then suddenly, the very curtains I desired were offered to me by a good friend back in September- she found them hanging at her windows when she moved into her new home, but didn’t need them. I love them and am so glad I waited until they came to me, rather than me moving heaven and earth to get them right now! I feel lots more satisfaction with them than if I’d gone out and bought them right away. Again, I think it was the anticipation of finding what I wanted, (with a zero price tag to boot!), that made the bare windows easy to live with for so long. In this culture in which instant gratification abounds, the fun of anticipation is often forgotten. 

Today finds me anticipating the arrival tomorrow of my family and grandchildren. It’s a wonderful feeling and extends the whole Christmas ‘event’ out another day. No post-Christmas let down here! Michael and I plan to go to a friend’s house this evening and share coffee and desert with them and several other close friends. The anticipation of that is wonderful in and of itself, and reminds me once again that we don’t need to pursue happiness since we have the ability to create happiness all around us. 

As the curtains draw closed on another Christmas day, I realize “so this is Christmas…” and I am happy. I hope you are too. Merry Christmas!

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Frugal Friday- December 20, 2013
December 20, 2013, 10:24 PM
Filed under: Buy Local, Christmas, Food Waste, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, Reducing Waste | Tags: ,

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve entered a period wherein I’m ‘looking for the easy way out’ and frugality is lower on my priority list than usual. It’s due to the fact that we’re facing the winter equinox tomorrow, and, like clockwork, I’m feeling ‘old and gray and in the way’, I’m wearing my fat pants again, and I have a lot of extra things going on each day.  So, saving a buck seems pointless right now. Luckily, my winter blues always disappear when the days begin to lengthen and by the New Year, my resolutions seem bright and promising. So, given the current context, I’m digging deep this week to find things I’ve done that promote my own motto of “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”. 

Monday- Fully aware that this is a ‘first world problem’, I decided I needed to clear out the refrigerator and top freezer of leftovers, both frozen and fresh, so this has been a week of…leftovers, both frozen and fresh. I’ve managed to use up withering potatoes, a sprouting onion, bits of corn, bread ends, tomatoes and broccoli as well as repurposed butter bowls filled of various soups. Our meals have been…creative. And extremely frugal. Savings: nothing fresh was bought at all this week, not even bananas! But we did have fresh greens and cabbage from the hoop house, as well as local apples we’d bought in October (and stored in the cellar), tangelos bought from a band student’s fund-raising efforts, and smoothies made from frozen berries and bananas. Let’s put it this way: we’ve eaten plenty well this week, and I’m still wearing my fat pants, so we sure didn’t go hungry. And now I have room to accommodate the holiday goodies and meals that will surely be a part of next week’s meals when family arrives!

Tuesday- This really works. Rub a walnut meat on a scratch and it will cover it. I’d read about this many times but finally decided to try it. These pictures don’t do it justice but I thought it was amazing how well it worked. Savings: $3.49 plus tax for a ‘scratch remover’ pen.

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   Wednesday:  Used Freegal™ Music Service to download three more free MP3 songs. You can do this once a week from the Freegal catalog that contains millions of songs that includes Sony Music’s legendary artists catalog. I’ve managed to download entire CD’s by  going here and entering my library card number. Savings: $3 each week!

Thursday: One day not so long ago, I hurriedly poured one cup of water through the top of my coffee pot, but forgot to push fresh coffee in the basket. The resulting brew was as fresh and good as the coffee I’d made that morning with those same grounds! So… I’m getting one extra cup a day now without using any extra coffee. The trick is to pour the water over the spent grounds, because simply adding the extra cup in during the first brewing of the morning just seemed to make the original 2 cups weaker. It’s like reusing a tea bag for a second cup. You DO reuse your tea bags, right?  Savings: one extra (free) cup of home-brewed coffee per day= what? $1.40 a week?

Friday- Made my dog a happy one by pouring the liquid from a jar of veggies over her dry kibble. I didn’t do this JUST today, I’ve been doing it for  years but it did occur to me today that it was something I could share with you on this Frugal Friday. She loves the extra bit of flavor that the liquids from canned or cooked foods (think tuna, corn, potatoes, pasta) provides to her boring meals.  Plus they would otherwise be poured down the drain, so it’s one more way to reduce my food waste too. Savings: good pet health is priceless and I think the extra vitamins in the liquids are good for her!

There won’t be a frugal Friday post next week because I’ll have a house full of family visiting from Ohio then, but there’s certain to be some good tips the following week…waste always seems to be more abundant during the holidays but I’m going to make an extra effort this holiday season to eliminate it as much as possible-starting with reusable gift bags, recycled paper and bows, and repurposed gifts in some cases! One more thing while we’re talking about spending (and saving!) money this holiday season:

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In the ‘Nick’ of Time

Even though the full moon that’s been keeping my kitty-kitty prowling and meowing around the house during the night is postcard beautiful…

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the cold, short days really are cause for prayer and Prozac. For those of us that love to garden this is the time of year that we begin to truly miss kneeling at our weedy altars. The answer to this annual crisis is found in my mailbox, right there with the Christmas cards and end-of-the-year requests for charitable donations. Just in the ‘nick’ of time, the seed catalogs arrive! The colorful, mouth-watering, dream-inducing wish-books can transport me right back to warm days and garden plots.

Today’s ‘crop‘ of catalogs…

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inspired me to get outside and remove the plastic from my hoop houses so I could harvest some fresh kale and parsley… 

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to add to tonight’s soup…

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In my winter hoop house and in the kitchen, kale is king. After some hard frosts, it sweetens up, is easy-peazy to grow, and hearty enough to withstand serious cold with just a little protection. And check out the nutritional qualities of this super food:

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While I was in the garden, I took a peek at another bed that I’d planted with Red Sails lettuce, chard, spinach and some micro-greens called Claytonia and Mache’. Here’s that bed on Oct. 25th:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s what it looks like today, Dec. 17th:

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Come late winter, when I feel like I can’t possibly look at another plate of kale, the spinach and chard will be filling this space with their tender sweetness that can’t be duplicated with winter varieties. Just in the Nick of Time.



Adapting to Change

This is a long, picture-less post but I’ve got a lot on my mind…

I had a bad day. Hell, I had a bad week! Michael had to have a second unexpected surgery on Tuesday (that went very well) , the weather’s been gray and cold, I’m not ‘ready’ for Christmas, nor do I have any spirit for it, and I’m simply tired of cancer and all it entails. Even as I write this, I realize I’m whining and that people don’t read this blog because they want to hear about my problems.  I hope you’re reading it because you are, like me, looking for inspiration and optimism in finding ways to deal with the challenges of Peak Oil, Climate Change and Economic Collapse that we’re facing in our lives and our world. You can delete this post now if you can’t handle some negativity because that’s how I’m feeling today, with a sense of urgency about the transitions that need to take place in our lives, in our households and in our communities. Surely I’m not alone?

Over the last five years I’ve studied countless books, blogs and articles to try to understand the issues that I then try to relay to you in this blog, without any hysteria or hype, just the facts ma’am. However, I’m noticing a change of tone in the things I’m reading these days. Rather than authors writing about mitigation techniques, which the dictionary defines as lessening the force or intensity of something unpleasant, they’re now discussing adaptation, which is defined as altered behaviors. In other words, it’s the next step after mitigation. The latest things I’m reading are now focusing on how we’ll have to adapt to all kinds of differences in our daily lives, as the energy supplies, infrastructure, resources, money and water dry up. We’re wayyy past changing lightbulbs and clipping coupons folks!

Locally, I’ve heard stories from people I know and trust about how they’re trapping and killing backyard squirrels to supplement the beans on their dinner tables. I’ve listened to a well-educated and intelligent family member cry over her inability to find a decent paying job, even though she’s living in a major metropolis area and has put out many applications. I’ve seen firsthand the uptick in folks coming to the churches, food pantries and soup kitchens for food,  some WHILE ON THEIR LUNCH BREAK from school or work. I’ve heard from car dealers about the shortage of affordable and reliable used cars for sale across the country and from renters about the shortage of affordable, decent places to live. I’ve witnessed the progression of gold and silver buyers, the ‘cash for your title’ outfits, and the “Payday Loan” sharks that are renting cheap buildings and catering to the poorest among us. I can’t help but notice the number of one hundred year storms that have occurred in the last couple of years alone, while more and more cities and states are leaving the storm damages and destroyed infrastructures to be dealt with by the survivors. I’ve also learned that some countries are already putting into place strategies and transition plans to enable their populations to weather what’s coming.  In other words, we’re no longer doing much mitigating, we’re adapting already!

I know part of the reason that I feel as though Pollyanna has left the building is that we’ve almost reached the winter solstice and the coldest, darkest days of the year are upon us, and that Michael’s health care is wearing us both down. But we are adapting to our new circumstances, and finding ways to not just survive this, but to improve our lives and thrive. Even on the bad days like today. And this I know too: Liveable communities that have learned to produce food, energy, water, products, and incomes locally will not only survive but thrive too. These re-localized economies will interconnect with others globally.  They will prosper together. A decentralized network like this will grow very quickly as word of their success grows. Soon, these communities will not only replace the things that were lost with the demise of the global economy, they will find ways to improve upon them.  To do better than what’s possible in our current global systems and lives. That all makes a bad day seem better :D



Frugal Friday-with a recipe!
December 6, 2013, 11:08 PM
Filed under: Composting, Food Waste, Frugality, Herbs | Tags: , , , , , , ,

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…

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… 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!) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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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

                                       Before:                                                                                                               After:

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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

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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.

LAUNDRY DETERGENT

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:

http://act.newdream.org/page/s/simplify-holidays-coupon-book  

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Enjoy your weekend!



Blue Boat Home

Hello readers! Do me a favor, and listen to this beautiful song while you read this post. Just click on the link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtZUM0JhLvc

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 

Can you find the two people in this shot?Image

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.




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