Filed under: Adapting to Change | Tags: ebola, energy reduction, hacking, herbal remedies, nuclear armament, rainwater harvesting, seed saving, vaccininations, water shortage
Many of our country’s major newspapers ran articles on Friday about how the federal government won’t be sending any reservoir water thru the 500 miles of canals to the Central Valley of California this year for farmers that produce in ‘the nation’s food basket’. Again. Last year, many farmers uprooted orchards or tapped unregulated ground water wells. UNREGULATED GROUNDWATER WELLS concern me, nearly as much as no water. Here’s a blurb from climate.gov, a science and information website: “In California’s San Joaquin Valley, so much water is being pumped from the ground that the land surface itself is subsiding, as many news reports have documented. The Valley is California’s top agricultural producing region, producing much of the nation’s grapes, nuts, and vegetables, and hosting three-quarters of the state’s dairy cows.” I lived in the San Joaquin Valley for over two years, and have seen firsthand the endless oceans of crops that are grown there. No water? Am I the only one that worries about this stuff?
But enough about water wars. Let’s turn our focus to nuclear war. Specifically, the ‘deal’ that’s being negotiated between Iran, the US and its’ allies. My friends aren’t discussing this, I’m not seeing Facebook posts about it, my local leaders nor my local newspaper are touching it. Am I the only one that worries about this stuff?
Vaccines, computer hacking, ebola and crime seem to be highest on American’s minds, according to recent Gallup polls. I’ll admit, all of those things are rather ominous, but they pale in comparison, in my mind anyway, to water scarcity and nuclear proliferation. Am I the only one that worries about this stuff?
Obviously I can’t spend my life worrying about these things, but I can take certain actions to protect myself by carefully safeguarding my health and my private information, by not traveling to Africa (darn it!), and by not frequenting bars at 2 AM. Keeping my phone and computer updated with appropriate anti-hacking/virus software is doable, even for a computer novice like myself. But as I learn to transition to a different world from the one I’ve grown older in, I’ll increase my efforts this year to capture rainwater, save seeds, decrease my energy usage, and teach myself about herbal medicine. Am I the only one that worries about this stuff?
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: baking bread, frugal lifestyle, homemade vegetable broth, popcorn, reusable canning lids
Snow and cold weather continue to hang on here in NE TN, but I’m still enjoying the slower, quieter pace of life it brings. I’m one of the lucky folks that ‘never gets bored’. Add to that the fact that I’m retired and don’t have to get out and fight the weather conditions unless I really want to, and I’m one of perhaps three other people in this corner of the state that’s okay with it. The forecast for tomorrow is much nicer, and by next weekend when I leave for my trip, it’s gonna be beautiful! We plan to use this weekend to finally get our greenhouse set up with a workbench and shelves so we can transplant our tender seedlings into bigger pots as they too wait for warmer weather to go into the garden.
All that is to say that it’s pretty darn easy to not spend money when you don’t get out much. We did stop in Aldi’s twice this week though while we were out and about, and BOTH times found carts that had been left out of the quarter-returning-cart-corral. We put those ‘found’ quarters in each of our vehicles so we’ll always have one available for our own cart, regardless of which we’re driving at the time. Savings: 50 cents. Remember folks, I grew up with parents who were both children of the depression and for better or for worse, their lessons about money and frugality have stuck with me. “A penny saved is a penny earned” and all that… anyway, this week we found opportunities each and every day to remain true to our values. Frugality is a lifestyle for us, just like partying might be for others, or meditation is for monks. Our chosen lifestyle allowed us the financial freedom for me to have retired in my late 40’s and Michael in his mid-50’s, to have no debt whatsover now, and to have choices that we’d never have otherwise. I write about it here because I’m so enamored of it, I want others to experience it as well. I honestly hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy finding quarters in the Aldi’s parking lot.
Monday: We delivered posters for the local university’s ‘School of the Arts’ because we feel it’s a great way to support their work here locally, and of course, because we can sometimes earn tickets to attend events we might not otherwise get to see. Last week’s live play and next month’s Ricky Skaggs concert are plenty of incentive to drive around on cold days to do this. While we were out, we stopped in the new “Spice World” store; they carry Indian foods and spices that you won’t find other places and are very reasonable in price too. While there, Michael picked up a large bunch of cilantro for only 50 cents! (there’s that 50 cents again folks-no amount is too small, it all adds up) We’ve enjoyed several meals this week planned around that sudden windfall and shared them with a hungry young couple that is struggling to make ends meet. I wouldn’t be able to do that if I was struggling financially too.
Tuesday: I had ordered a 25% off book and it arrived in a manila mailer. This time, there were $1.20 worth of stamps on it that had not been canceled out by the post office sorting machinery. If you found $1.20 on the ground, would you leave it there? How about 50 cents?
Wednesday: Yet another cold, snowy day. When life gives you snow, make stock! I’ve written about this process several times so I won’t bore you again but it’s the ultimate money-saving strategy if you’re cooking lots of your meals from scratch, and if you save the onion, celery, carrot trimmings and mushroom stems in the freezer that you’ll surely accumulate from that way of cooking. Then, if you use reusable canning lids, this great-tasting and healthy stock costs pennies per quart for a few peppercorns, bay leaves and dried herbs. In addition to the 8 quarts it made, I saved about $24 over the price of store bought organic broth for those quarts, AND I got this free print called “When Life Gives You Snow…”.
Thursday: I don’t know about you, but we always seem to have paper that fits our printer that has only been printed on one side. Because most of what I print are recipes, music lyrics or other ‘unimportant’ stuff, we’ve gotten in the grand habit of keeping already-used-once-paper in the hopper. Reusing barely-used sheets of paper for this kind of printing has greatly reduced our need for buying reams of new paper, saving money, trees and more!
Friday: Another trip to Aldi’s this morning, to purchase on-sale popcorn, yielded the second quarter find. When we’d shopped there last week with our last $10-off coupon, they didn’t have anything but the microwavable kind. That stuff is 20x the price of the bags of kernels, produces a lot of extra wrapping that can’t be recycled and contains a nasty chemical that’s implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. (My mother died of that horrible disease so it’s a ‘no brainer’ (pun intended) for me to pop my own) On our way OUT of the store last Friday, we picked up a flyer for this week’s sales. The very popcorn I wanted is on sale this week. So tonight I’ll enjoy some freshly popped corn and sip on some organic apple juice, also bought on sale, while watching this week’s epidsode of Downton Abbey on Netflix. I’ll admit, I’m a cheep date and even sing about it with friends from Thistle Dew on this CD!
I’m happy to say I’ve influenced Michael over the years too. He has learned to mark his calendar a week before our on-going 6 month Sirius radio agreement expires, and then calls to cancel it before our credit card gets dinged for another 6 months. Come May, the new car we bought will be 2 years old, and it came with this satellite radio wonder installed free for the first 3 months. We fell in love with it, but when it was time to renew, they wanted some crazy amount each month for it so we called to discontinue it then and were offered increasingly lower offers until they came down to the price we were willing to pay to keep it, which is $5 a month. Almost two years later, we’re still paying that price. When he called to discontinue the service today, the first offer was $89 for the next 6 months. After 3 increasingly lower offers, the operator met our same old price of $5. I’ll be traveling next weekend and will truly enjoy having that along the way. Savings: $64.00!
I hope you won’t let opportunities to save slip by you. Learn to recognize ‘wants’ from ‘needs’ and that will eliminate a lot of unnecessary expenses in your life. Sirius radio is NOT a need, but a nice luxury that is now affordable with just a bit of gentle haggling. You can’t haggle at retail outlets on the things you do need, but by watching for sales, stocking up to take best advantage of them, and by reusing, repurposing, and refusing what you don’t really need, you can win the money game too! Who knows? You may find two quarters to rub together!
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Unconventional Heating Methods | Tags: keeping warm
Have I ever mentioned that this blog is written to encourage us to find ways to live well on less, including less energy? In my personal efforts to transition to a lower energy lifestyle, I’m exploring ways of staying warm without the comfort of a constantly running heat pump. This past week was a challenge, but look at me! I lived to tell about it. (And yes, I’m well aware of the irony of ‘writing’ about this topic, using coal-generated electricity to do so. What can I say?)
I read an article during last week’s Arctic blast reminding me that, before the advent of central heating, the only method of staying warm was to heat the person, not the air. The article described wing-backed chairs and four poster beds with heavy drapes for increasing comfort, as well as pans filled with hot coals to warm the bed. Hot water bottles and room screens placed behind furniture to ‘enclose’ the heat from a fireplace added to our ancestors arsenal of stay-warm tricks. I have no desire to revert back to toasting front, and then back, in front of a fireplace. Not only are fireplaces terribly inefficient, but we’ve simply come too far with technology to go back that far.
That said, I still think it’s important to reduce our energy needs as much as possible, while we still have that option. My number one way of staying warm is to wear Cuddle Duds. I know that’s a brand name, and I’m sure there are others, but the soft and thin insulating qualities of their shirts and pants allows me to wear them with ease under my clothes, while keeping me extremely warm without the added bulk and binding that the old fashioned ‘thermal’ or ‘waffle-weave’ long underwear had. Adding thin fingerless gloves and thick socks with soft shoes kept me comfortable throughout the day, even with the furnace turned quite low or off completely.
Space heaters also saved the day during the frigid days of last week. The new infra-red heaters are energy efficient, light weight and easy to move from room to room. They provide instant heat to the bathroom and by taking our showers back-to-back, the second person is lucky enough to feel like they’re in a steam room! Our flat top oil-filled radiant-style heater is more efficient for long periods of heating. I have one of those in my north facing kitchen that I turn on about 30 minutes before meal prep begins and turn it off as soon as the last dish is washed. I’m also finding the top of the heater is excellent for drying cast iron pots before storing them away, preheating water for a cup of tea or washing dishes, and when I turn it off, the lower residual heat is useful for very quickly drying wet gloves or dish towels.
We’re very fortunate to have an attractive gas stove insert in our living room fireplace which not only puts out amazing heat but allows us to see the flames, which provides a warming effect all on their own. This stove has become our go-to source of heat, enabling us to use the central heat pump only occasionally.
This stove offers me great peace of mind too, knowing that if electric service is interrupted during winter storms, we’ll still be warm. We heated with wood for ten years before moving to our urban home and loved every btu of it, but the clean, easy heat of natural gas is a great alternative.
I’ve found I can deal with heating only the room I’m in, rather than the whole house, and doing so saves enough energy and money to make it worthwhile. Of course doing so leaves the surrounding rooms cooler but that’s where the space heaters come in. We’ve grown accustomed to sleeping in a cool/cold bedroom and I’ve read it’s actually healthier for us. Many years ago I made a bunch of lavender and barley-filled pillows that we heat in the microwave, and then place under the covers before we climb into bed. Between thermal blankets, those warm pillows and the cat, we stay plenty co-zee with no heat source in the house at all while we sleep.
We also keep small ‘lap’ blankets in our favorite living room chairs and they too make a lot of difference in our comfort level when we’re reading, watching a movie or writing blog posts, for example. I’ve found if they’re kept within arm’s reach we use them a lot but if we have to get up for them, not as much. I tire of the draped-over-the-furniture look all the time, but such is a lower-energy life.
Opening (and closing!) curtains as the sun travels across the sky accomplishes two things simultaneously: it allows any available sun to enter the room, helping to heat the room as it does, but it also reinforces our oft- repeated promise to one another that “we REALLY need to wash these windows”! (We’ve made a pact to do that as soon as it warms up a leetle bit more!)
Our 115 year old house is solid, but last winter I made sand-filled draft dodgers from old curtains to use under the doors of the under-stairs and attic cubby holes. They work very well, and I already had the sand, but if I made more, I’d fill them with kitty litter instead, because of it’s lighter weight.
Roll-up shades that practically stick to the windows when pulled down are installed in the kitchen and the music room. We pull them down every night at dusk and if we forget, the colder temps always remind us to, so I know they help too. We raise them to allow the sun back in first thing in the morning.
Another thing I’ve found that helps heat our personal space without cranking up the thermostat is through cooking food. I try to never turn the oven on during the summer, but the winter begs for baking breads or one dish casseroles, pans of sweet potatoes or sweet treats. The residual heat can always be felt for quite a while after the food has finished cooking, making that a win-win in my book. Along with hot soups and spicy foods, cooking and eating warm foods is a sure way to raise our external and internal temperatures!
As I’ve written these things down, I’m realizing that heating my personal space using these methods is certainly more interactive than just setting the thermostat to 70 degrees. Just like with solar installations, there are ‘active’ and ‘passive’ ways of heating, but the increased attention required for living comfortably with less fossil fuel will require us to be more involved and more attentive to temperature changes and weather conditions, as well as some preplanning for our daily activities. That’s a small price to pay for the secure feeling of knowing that we can live ‘well on less’. As those of us ‘in transition’ learn (or re-learn) ways to adapt to climate changes, lower energy supplies and increasing utility costs, I’m certain that people all over the country are using their own creative ways to stay warm. Some of you readers are from much colder climates than Tennessee and I’d love to read your comments about what you’re doing to ‘warm up to new ideas’.
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: Aldi's, butternut pancakes, Longkeeper Tomatoes, saving energy, Sprouts, Valentine's Day
On this evening before Valentine’s Day I’m realizing I haven’t bought my Valentine a card or gift. No worries! Every day is Valentine’s Day with this man and we truly do try to show our love all day, every day. I will mark the day though, by baking him something special… he loves apple/cranberry tarts and I’ve got some fresh apples that I need to use up anyway. I’ll send him an E-Card too, professing my undying love. We are part of a good friend’s CD release party tomorrow night at a local coffee house, and so perhaps we’ll celebrate the occasion there with some hot chai topped with whipped cream. We’re perfect for one another because neither of us has ever felt the need to BUY SOMETHING to show our love.
With that thought though, I will tell you how much I love getting the best deals I can when I do have to buy something. Now that makes me a happy Valentine <3
Monday: I decided to start some more sprouts for adding to salads and sandwiches. 2 T. of seeds makes almost a pint full, for about 25 cents worth of seeds. They taste sooo fresh this time of year, are super easy to do, and heart healthy to boot, fitting in with the Valentine heart theme this week. <3
Tuesday: Continuing along with the ‘heart healthy’ Valentine theme, I tried a new recipe, called “Butternut Buttermilk Pancakes”. We grow lots and lots of butternut squashes each summer and I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use them. THIS was so good, so easy and so frugal, it will make repeat appearances on our table long after Valentine’s Day has passed I’m sure! <3
Butternut Squash Buttermilk Pancakes
-Prep your squash by peeling 1 small butternut and dice into cubes (about 1 1/2-2 cups. ) Boil in water until tender. Drain and mash with a fork. You want at least 1 cup of mashed squash. I used about 1 1/2.
In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups of flour (3/4 cups of each white and wheat flour is nice)
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
-Separate 2 eggs and beat the yolks in a bowl with 1 and 3/4 cups of buttermilk
**If you don’t have buttermilk on-hand you can perform a quick substitution by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to milk or by mixing 1 cup yogurt with 3/4 cup milk.
-Pour egg and buttermilk into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Pour in 6 tablespoons of melted butter. Mix again.
-Fold in butternut squash mash.
-Heat griddle and brown pancakes on each side. Make sure you don’t rush it and cook the cakes through because they tend to take a little longer than regular pancakes.
-Keep warm in the oven and serve with butter and maple syrup!
My notes: Save those egg whites and plan to use them in a skillet of scrambled eggs or some baked goods. I don’t heat up my big 220 volt oven just to ‘keep them warm’. But I do put them in my insulated tortilla warmer to stay warm until the whole batch is cooked. Saving electricity is always a money saver!
Wednesday: Speaking of saving electricity… I recently went to the website for my local power company to take a free online energy evaluation survey of my home. Here’s the link: http://energyright.com/residential/online_energy_eval.html And for doing this, I was sent a free kit of energy saving products, including two compact fluorescent bulbs, a package of switch and outlet sealers, 2 flow restrictors that screw on the end of faucets, an indoor stick on thermometer and more! It arrived this day and made my heart happy <3
Now, even though this has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day, the other thing that happened on Wednesday was that Michael and I got to play music live on WMMT community radio in Whitesburg, KY with two of our dear friends to promote their latest CD. The show was two hours long and we had so much fun! We played, told jokes and discussed with the sweet DJ (in tie dye shirt below) all the ways that folk in Central Appalachia are working to improve their communites. Community and market gardening, teaching and playing the region’s traditional music, making traditional crafts, cooking traditional foods-these are just some of the ways that we’re all working towards preserving our health, environment, heritage and culture. And that is priceless… <3
Thursday: We had company over for supper and so I made a big pot of soup, a huge salad, Michael made fresh loaves of bread, and they brought a vegan chocolate cake! But here’s the best part…we actually had some of our grown-last-summer Longkeeper tomatoes that have been stored away in low boxes under the bureau to add to the salad. Fresh home grown tomatoes in February? Yessss! Heart-healthy and red as any valentine! <3
Friday: Today I used the first of two $10 off $40 coupons I’ve received from the new Aldi’s in town. We stocked up on everything from Fair Trade coffee to organic sugar, and stocked up the shelves in my pantry, you know, in case the zombies come. This too made my heart happy <3
Here’s hoping your Valentine’s Day is simply heart healthy and happy, in whatever way you choose to honor the day. <3
Filed under: Community Building, Transition Towns | Tags: community gardens, greenhouse, public art, scarves farmer's market, VA Campus
Michael and I took a long walk with the dog this afternoon around town. I snapped pictures of things that I found interesting, and thought my local readers might enjoy taking this tour with me. I’m so pleased with the progress we’re seeing and look forward to the time when the postcard scenes that are in my mind become a reality. In the meantime, I’m find I’m fascinated with the journey. By the way, this pictoral shows some of the activity of progress, but it also shows some of the ‘humanity’ that’s often harder to see. (note: double clicking on the pictures will enlarge them)
First stop, about a block away, is just a nice scene that I get to enjoy year round. In the distance, down the hill, are the Carver Peace Gardens…
As I enter this community gardens, I’m thrilled to see that the city has done exactly what I asked them to do! They’ve moved the little unused and inaccessible greenhouse to a much better spot within the garden area and will have water and electric run to it within a few weeks. The addition of this greenhouse means that we’ll be able to not only start herbs, flowers and veggies for the resident gardeners within its’ cozy interior, but hopefully we’ll be able to grow enough to share with other community gardens in town!
After marveling over this gift, we travel on down the street, through a neighborhood that we don’t often walk through. Lo and behold! there’s an empty, sunny, corner lot in the middle of the ‘hood with a new sign planted there…
I love the idea of community gardens and feel it is truly one of the best ways there is to have healthy food on our tables and strong communities! A few more blocks down and we find ourselves on the VA campus, at the intersection of Peace and Freedom. What a wonderful place to be on a beautiful and warm winter’s day…
Circling to the back of the beautiful campus, and into the crown jewel of our fair city, we find ourselves face to face with the new public art sculptures that were installed just this week. I didn’t take this picture because I was there in bright sunlight, but I wanted you to see how beautiful it looks at night.
Leaving the other end of the park, we see the site preparation work that was begun this week for the new Farmer’s Market. This one will have vendor stalls with a roof for rainy days, lighting, bathrooms and more!
As we make the loop through downtown to head back home, we happen to walk past some trees that are wrapped in winter scarves!
Upon closer inspection we read the attached tags…
“I am not lost! If you’re stuck out in the cold please take this to keep warm”
As much as I love our community gardens, public art, Farmer’s Markets, greenways, bikeways and beautiful mountain scenery, THIS stole my heart. The note is right! We are NOT lost; we’re finding our way, inch by inch, and scarf by scarf in a world that I sometimes feel is cold and scary. We’re making the transitions that are necessary to keep us connected and vibrant, but It really does take a village. My village is awesome!
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Buy Local, Local food system | Tags: community gardens, Livable Communities, local foods locavore local economies
Locavore. Local Food. Local Economy. Local Business. There’s that ‘local’ word again. I sometimes become discouraged at the apathy shown by our government and by consumers over the fragility and quality of our food supply. But Saturday offered a ray of hope here in my town. A local non-profit group, ‘Build It Up East Tennessee’ had announced a community meeting to discuss the particulars of a grant they’ve received that will help 10-15 local residents set up their own ‘market garden’. I attended the meeting simply because I was curious about the program. But there were about 100 others there, and it seemed as though most of them were there because they really wanted to be a part of this initiative to ‘Grow Appalachia’. The stipulations for the growers-to-be were not overwhelming, but firm and fair, specifically designed to get more local foods into our stores and markets, while offering the growers tools, instruction and cash for their crops. The funding is only available for this year, but I think the turnout was a good indicator of how much interest there is in growing and eating local food.
This only shows about a fourth of the people that were at the community meeting
Now, all that said, let’s discuss what this means. Granted, some of the folks are attracted to the idea of making money for doing something they love anyway, (smells like a j.o.b. to me) but several I spoke with seemed drawn to the idea simply because they too, want to see our local food system become sustainable, providing jobs and the freshest food possible. When food grows, families and communities grow too. Growing food also empowers us to live healthy, productive lives. The link is indisputable.
Another personal indicator that the demand is growing, lies in the the number of community garden applications I’ve already received for the 2015 growing season. More than ever, folks that have no place to grow are wanting a plot as well as some direction and community. I’m thinking it’s time to consider (yet) another community garden in another part of town. I’m also noticing more area restaurants touting ‘locally grown’ on everything from pizza toppings to salads to craft beers. Grocers and markets are showcasing ‘locally grown’ produce and products by using specially marked areas and signs in their stores, and our city has begun the process of building a brand new downtown farmer’s market to accommodate the ‘growing’ numbers of vendors that this demand for local foods has created.
So, what’s all this got to do with transitioning? I know that I’m often preaching to the choir here, but just in case you haven’t been indoctrinated yet, our very future lies in being localized. We can no longer safely depend on imports of far-away foods and fuels. The low gas prices here in the US are inadvertently causing serious economic problems in other parts of the world…those places that depend on higher priced oil exports to other first world countries to keep their economies afloat. They are quickly reaching the break even point on their oil drilling enterprises. When they do, will they continue to export oils and fuels to the rest of the world? Do we want to wait to find out if that happens before we DO something? And here’s where the apathy I mentioned sets in. Is setting up a plan for community food security such an outrageous thing to do, even if the exports of cheap goods and food continue to flow into our country? Is wanting the best-tasting, freshest, most nutritious and secure food system we can possibly produce crazy-talk?
I see so many opportunities for local food purveyors to start new businesses, develop new value-added products, and earn a decent income too. We are lucky enough to live in an area with adequate rainfall and moderate temperatures that allow us to grow practically year round. From apple juice to peanut butter, we can ‘make it local’. I’m going to leave you with a cool little app that makes this point. It’s not a download…simply click on the blue link and watch for a few seconds. “Sometimes it only takes a little to change big things”
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: curry powder recipe, egg bloom, seed innoculant, seed starting rack
I put the wrong date on last Friday’s post and confused some folks, so I’m being perfectly clear this time. That confusion caused me to reread my own posts from January of 2014 and helped me remember that EVERY January is a struggle to simply stay warm, put good meals on the table, and remain optimistic that spring will be back soon. This January of 2015 has been no different. I spent the week staying warm by keeping the heat pump on 64 degrees and moving my energy efficient space heaters to whatever room I am in, cooking lots of good food from scratch, all while watering and thinning new seedlings, knowing that spring isn’t far away. And I saved a fair bit of money, while barely leaving the house, proving that frugality comes in all shapes and forms, not just dollars and cents. Read on…
Monday: I finally took the time to figure out why I couldn’t directly download books to my Kindle Fire without first saving them on my computer. It took several hours, but honestly, it’s January… what else is there? Once I figured out the problem, I downloaded 3 books for a total of $1.99! All 3 were written by the same author, whose blog I follow. They were all about gardening and homesteading topics and I certainly feel like I got my moneys’ worth and more!
Tuesday: We had given a friend our old seed-starting light rack when we moved to this urban house from our country home, mistakenly thinking we wouldn’t be gardening as much as we used to at our country place. That friend is no longer in good enough health to garden and offered it back to us just as we were leaving to go purchase the PVC pipe and light fixtures to put together another one. The wooden shelves that support the plant trays were all that was missing from the returned setup. So, we went to a nearby thrift store to see if they had anything suitable for the job. Score! It was the right thickness and just the right size for ripping lengthwise to make two shelves. Price: $2 for the plywood.
Had we purchased the PVC, the shop lights, bulbs and new wood, I feel certain we would’ve had at least $65 tied up in this. Now we’ve got onions, parsley, ‘cat grass’, broccoli and cabbages started. Savings? for tasty organic food and good health? priceless!
Wednesday: Made a veggie curry for supper but ran out of curry powder mid-recipe. No problem. I’ve been blending my own and using this recipe for years now and we love it’s flavor of ‘just the right heat for us’. It takes less than a minute to mix up and saves about $3 over the price of store-bought brands.
4 tsp. ground cumin
3 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/4-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Mix well. Store in airtight container.
Thursday: Used my Gardens Alive $25 off a $25 purchase coupon to order bean and pea innoculant for this summer’s garden. The stuff’s pricey and it’s awesome to get it free. Because it’s only 10 ozs there was no shipping to pay either! Savings: $15
Friday: My friend Sandy keeps a beautiful flock of chickens and works next door, so she dropped off a dozen just-gathered eggs. What a fabulous way to end the week! Sandy and all the other chicken eggsperts know that it’s best not to wash the eggs, because they are covered with a film, called ‘bloom’, when laid. This invisible barrier serves as a protection between the egg and the world, protecting them from external contaminants. Nature is perfect that way. But sometimes, in the middle of winter, the chicken yard can get a bit muddy. I like the visual reminder of ‘where my food comes from’ and don’t mind it one bit. Washing them just before cracking keeps that bloom intact. As usual, our industrial ag system in this country does it wrong. Eggs aren’t washed in Europe and most other countries. Then again, those factory farmed eggs we buy that are clean and perfect looking are a testament to the unnatural conditions that hens are exposed to in those setups. OK, I digress. Savings? About $4.50 for a dozen, cage free, organic eggs. Aren’t they beautiful, mud and all?
Can you spot the factory farmed egg?
Have a great weekend friends! Make soup on this cold weekend ahead, and dream of spring!
Filed under: Adapting to Change | Tags: growing food, health, prosperous, well being
My dictionary defines prosperity thusly: “
Sometimes I’ll get an idea for a post on this blog, but it may take a while for my thoughts to come together enough to be able to convey to you how that idea might pertain to you, especially in the context of transitioning. I’ve given this idea of redefining prosperity a lot of reflection over the last week or so, and then, I got my ‘sign’ that I was on the right track for this post…
This card was given to me by my friend Lisa the day before she left Tennessee to move to Georgia. We were having tea together, and Lisa was leaving the area to basically, redefine her own life. She gave me this card, which happened to be one in a set, created by a favorite author of mine, Sark. Neither of us had any idea that her card would reappear when I needed it most, after being tucked away in a book that I’d had on my nightstand and opened up on a whim last night. How many signs have you been given recently that pointed directly to ‘redefining prosperity’? Exactly. So, after this lengthy introduction, I’ll attempt to make the best of this can of worms I’ve opened. By the way, Lisa did manage to redefine her own prosperity, and is now living in a beautiful log home of her own, doing work she loves and contra dancing on Saturday nights with many new friends in her Georgia community. She doesn’t have a lot of money but I’d certainly call her ‘prosperous’.
I believe that this period of transitioning that we are facing/are a part of, will give us reason to redefine a lot of things in our lives. I’ve held a fascination with Cuba ever since I took Spanish in the 6th grade from a Cuban refugee that I adored. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, that little island nation suffered extreme socioeconomic collapse. To their credit, they named that decade of learning to produce most of their own food and live without, “The Special Period”. (I love that name). They absolutely redefined prosperity for themselves, in spite of starvation and sanctions. To Cubans, prosperity came to mean ‘able to feed themselves’ -and well! Perhaps that’s why I always thought my teacher was so wonderful, because even though she was going through what must have been a very difficult transition of her own, Mrs. Zabarro prospered in her own way. She was able to eventually bring her family members, one by one, to this country, and though they had so little in the way of material things, they were the happiest family I knew! There’s a saying: “Prosperity without well-being is simply a contradiction.” La prosperidad sin bienestar es sencillamente una contradicción.
These real-life stories I’ve shared with you prove that prosperity, when based especially on financial standing, is just not a completely accurate picture of it. My personal redefinition began in 1998 when I attended an eight-week ‘Voluntary Simplicity’ course. Unknown to me at the time, I was obviously seeking answers in my life by taking the course to begin with. After reaching a top rung in my career, raising my children and buying my dream home, I’d begun to realize that my own financial status wasn’t bringing me well-being or happiness. The things that make me feel positively prosperous are good health, loving relationships, close friendships and a sense of having ‘enough’ of the things I need.
As we continue to see the effects of a changing climate, the deterioration of world markets and of our oil-based economy, the erosion of the middle class and peak everything, what new measures of prosperity will we use to determine how we’re doing? The ability to feed ourselves and to produce sustainable, community-supplied energy will be the gold standards of a prosperous community. Being a valid part of a walkable or bikeable community that is able to provide its’ residents with the locally-produced goods and services that are needed for well-being (there’s that word again) will be highly desirable. Gated communities will open their gates or perish.
The new definition of a prosperous person will be defined as one who loves and is loved, one who has enough to share and does so willingly with those who don’t, and one who is willing to be a good neighbor and steward of the Earth. A prosperous person will be someone who will pull her share, can laugh at life, and plays well with others. A prosperous person will be one who has skills and abilities that can earn her a bit of money, and then wisely use her hard-earned cash to purchase the things she cannot produce for herself. A prosperous person will have a center of well being that takes into account all of these aspects of our daily lives. I hope it will be a ‘special period’ for us all.
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: Alid's, arugula, beans, Cleaning Vinegar, frugal, Longkeeper Tomatoes
It’s been a rough week in my household..family members with health issues, middle of winter blahs, and nothing much to look forward to except spring. Even so, I feel blessed each and every day that I’m healthy and that I have ‘enough’. Enough money, food, clothes, love, stuff. I could use a few more homemade chocolate chip cookies in my life, but I’ll live.
Regardless of what goes on in our daily lives, learning to live well with less is a saving grace that will see you through good times and bad. Ask me how I know.
And so, this week was no different in terms of “using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without.” The old saying “when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping” is sooo 80’s! Malls are standing empty all over America, and I’m hoping that they’ll all eventually be converted into indoor garden spaces with all those glass ceilings and atriums being put to good use at long last. But that’s another topic for another day. Today’s topic is frugality, not malls.
Monday: I finally made it to our town’s new Aldi’s grocery store AND used the $5 off $30 coupon they offered. I forgot to take a picture of the coupon before I used it, so I went looking online for one. I didn’t find the actual coupon, but I like the pic I found instead:
“Truth #1: When deciding between eating well and saving money, always choose both”
Tuesday: I stopped by the ‘discount’ grocery store that’s about 8 miles away because I was in that area for other errands. I was hoping to find some more of the veggie burgers there that I’d gotten before. No luck with that, but I did find 3 boxes of Gulf Wax for $2.99 each! I use this mostly for making Buckeye candies for gift-giving at Christmas; just last month I’d run out and had to pay full price for a box, costing me $7.99. Ugh. I bought all 3 boxes they had on the shelf, saving $5 per box over the regular price. The last time I was able to stock up was years ago, when I’d found it for 25 cents a box at a yard sale, and had bought all 6 boxes the lady had, so this deal wasn’t ‘all that’, but the pain of paying full price for that one box made me certain this buy was about as good as I could hope for now. This is what I’m talking about when I advise you to “plan ahead” and to be on the lookout for your future needs. And in the case of this wax, it never goes out of date. I used to use it seal jars of jelly, until I started using reusable Tattler canning lids. Even then, I’d wash it once I opened the jars, and remelt it again for the next jars I filled. My Tattler supply is limited though, so I may go back to pouring that 1/8″ disk of melted wax again, now that I have ample supplies. Total Savings: $15.00.
Wednesday: After a brief hiatus of using antibiotic soaps and cleaners while Michael was going through chemo and radiation treatments, I’m back to using the natural cleaners I’ve used for over ten years. And this time, I found exactly what I was looking for… AND it was 74 cents cheaper per bottle than Heinz White Distilled Vinegar, while being 6% acidic vs 5% for the ‘regular’ white! The higher acidity cleans better too, in my opinion.
Thursday: We made a trip to the ‘Mennonite Bulk Food Store’. We only make it there about once a year, and we ended up spending $60.00. However, about half of that was spent on a 50 lb bag of rolled oats. We eat oatmeal for breakfast every single morning and never, ever tire of it for some reason. Not only do we not tire of it, we ENJOY it with cinnamon, raisins, apples, or honey added. We figure the bags last 6 months so the oatmeal costs us 15 to 20 cents a bowl, depending on what we add to it. Buying the extras at this bulk food store saves a lot if we shop carefully. We noticed that prices on many items today were higher than when we were last there. But the price of the oats remained exactly the same: $29.00!
Friday: I’m doing a lot of cooking from scratch this week, trying to use lots of fresh stuff like kale, cabbage and broccoli from the garden, mushrooms and avocados bought at Aldi’s for 49 cents, and storage crops like apples, parsnips, potatoes and winter squash. We’ve enjoyed a Monday stir fry, a spicy Tuesday Jambalaya, a Wednesday au gratin of potatoes/kale/mushrooms, and a Thursday Curry. Bowls of rice pudding made with added raisins and ‘storage’ apples, and sweet sweet tangelos that were a Christmas gift make good snacks for us.
Tonight, friends are coming over to play music with us, so we’ll have burritos made with refried pintos and rice, topped with grated cabbage and chunks of FRESH Longkeeper tomatoes (will they last until Valentine’s Day?) summer-canned salsa, and some black olives, grated cheese and sour cream that were left-over from a previous get-together we had. The flour tortillas were bought for $1.00 at the discount store, making them 10 cents each. (Heating them briefly in the microwave, with damp paper towels placed between each one, makes them taste completely fresh after I’ve frozen them.)
We’ve just finished the third full week of January, and haven’t spent but about $100 on food this month, including the bulk items we purchased yesterday. But with just a little advance planning, we’re eating delicious, frugal and healthy meals every day in this ‘Winter of Wellness’. Savings? well, you know… priceless!
Filed under: Healthy food, Wellness | Tags: brassicas, exercise, Gardening, non GMO, parsley, Seeds
Almost everything I do has some element of compromise in it. Each time I get into an automobile, buy a new pair of shoes, or even fill up the bathtub I am contributing to the great unraveling. One thing I will NOT compromise on though, is my health. To that end, I’m stealing the name of a series of ‘webinars’ that I’m beginning tomorrow and calling this my own ‘Winter of Wellness’. (if you’re interested in the webinars too, here’s a link to free registration: http://2015.winterofwellness.com/program)
Some of you may know that my husband Michael has recently finished an 18 month long battle with colon cancer, and won the war! But having a front-row seat to that battle has profoundly influenced me to not take my own good health for granted. I’m working hard to remain healthy. I may falter occasionally, but believing that we are what we eat, encourages me to eat healthy to stay healthy. And not coincidentally, I also believe that the hard work of transitioning to a way of life that’s not based on cheap oil, but on local food systems, sustainable energy sources, and resilient localized economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being will demand that we have good health and well being. I try to remember that if none of those things ever fully develop, maintaining good personal health will always be part of the solution to any of life’s problems.
And so, after what seems like only a couple of weeks ago that we planted our raised beds to a winter cover crop…
the cycle of growing my health begins again. We ordered our seeds…
They’re non- GMO and organic which I feel is a good beginning, but planting them is the REAL beginning of this winter of wellness. Onions have just broken the surface with the help of grow lights and heat mats (there’s that compromise again)
…but the parsley will take much longer to germinate. That’s ok though because parsley is a super food AND a biennial which means we don’t have to plant it every year. Some swallowtail butterflies use parsley as a host plant for their larvae and will feed on parsley for two weeks before turning into butterflies. Bees and other nectar-feeding insects also visit the flowers. Birds such as the goldfinch feed on the seeds. I think parsley is really underestimated as a powerful food source. It dries easily and I like adding it to all my winter soups and stews.
I’m enjoying experimenting with some of the endless recipes available on the internet. Trying new dishes like “Spicy Tofu with Sweet Chili/Lime Sauce” served over a bed of quinoa and fresh kale from the winter garden, or “Red Thai Curry” over Basmati rice makes it really easy to eat health-fully when they taste so delicious. The fact that they are so inexpensive is of course, and added plus. But again, we’ve decided to not compromise on the foods we buy, any more than we would on food that we grow. Organic foods have really become comparable to conventionally grown foods in the last year or two, and I like knowing we’re avoiding the chemical baths most of the time.
In addition to growing, cooking and eating healthy foods, we’re increasing our daily exercise as well. That can be the most difficult part of staying healthy for me, but I won’t compromise on that either. Some of my family members that were here for Christmas took a short run (casual observers might’ve called it a ‘forced march’) with me on the new hiking and biking Tweetsie Trail that’s nearby. Our motto is: ‘The family that runs together has fun together’. Whatever…
Plenty of rest, a few dietary supplements, a wonderful ‘world-wide-web’ of supportive friends and family, and an ever-deepening reserve of inner spirituality, combined with healthy food and exercise…SURELY those are the things needed for wellness. Am I missing anything?
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: cement blocks, frugal, saving money, senior discounts
I sometimes worry that my readers (that’s YOU) will become bored with the Frugal Friday theme. Some of you have been faithfully reading my blog for over two years, and I’m pretty sure you ‘get it’ by now: that is, that transitioning to a way of life that’s not based on consumerism or poor use of the Earth’s resources, but on finding creative and practical (and coincidentally) frugal ways to ‘live more on less’ is a mindset and a lifestyle that becomes natural with daily practice. I’m always, always open to suggestions from you as to what topics or subjects you’d find entertaining or helpful. But, as my band likes to tell our audience: “We get requests all the time, but we play anyway!” So, feel free to comment. If I know what the hell I’m talking about, I’ll try to cover it. But for now, know that this was a frugalastic week for me! For me, the saving money part isn’t as important as the saving resources part, and I get serious satisfaction knowing that I’ve prevented a tree, a gallon of oil or water or some other natural resource from being used, cut, mined or burned.
Monday: I took a good friend to lunch at a local eatery for her birthday. She knows me well, and didn’t bat an eye when I told her I planned to pay for the meal with my $10 gift certificate I’d been given just for attending an open house of some new downtown loft apartments. Holy Taco, the food was good!
Tuesday: At a Christmas ‘passing party’ I lucked up and got 3 TN lottery tickets, something I never, ever buy. All 3 were winners, leaving me with $10 cash and my choice of two free $1 tickets or one $2 ticket. I chose the $2 ticket since the winnings were so much higher. With that one I won $4! Is this beginner’s luck or some kind of secret operative to get people to buy more lottery tickets? Michael says lottery tickets are nothing more than a tax on the poor, since they seem to be the ones to buy the most tickets. Regardless, I’ve had fun with my tickets, and since they didn’t cost me anything, I think I’ll take my $4 winnings and buy 4 more tickets. I used the $10 towards a haircut. With the $2 coupon I printed off from the internet, the cut only cost me $3.50. Then I’m going to give my next door neighbor, who is on disability and was ahead of me in the lottery line, two of them. If I win the ‘big one’ from one of the two remaining tickets, I’ll be blogging from paradise next time. If not, I still have a nice haircut.
Wednesday: I noticed a neighbor moving out of his place over the weekend, and soon a he put up a sign out front that said “Moving. FREE Take It All!” He’d piled a bunch of stuff on his recently vacated porch, so I moseyed over. No, actually I almost ran over there, but no one saw me running, so I’ll say I moseyed, sounds better. Anyway, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the exact curtains I’d be holding out for to hang in my bedroom! The drapes were still on the wooden rods even! I brought them home, washed them, painted the rod black (with some leftover spray paint I had saved for just such a small job) and hung them proudly. We did decide to spring for a pair of black metal tiebacks, which ‘completed the look’ I’d been hoping for. Price: $8.00 for the tiebacks (on sale), but finding the perfect curtains and rod for free is priceless. I did price them at Kohl’s… the rods were $12.97 EACH and very similar drapes were $29.00 a pair!
Notice the, count ‘em, FIVE black-framed calligraphy prints above the window. I’d bought three of them at a thrift store for $6 to hang in my bathroom about a year ago and told you about them then. But, lo and behold, when I visited a thrift store in another city, I found two more of the prints, for $1 a piece to add to those first three. The collection of five now hangs over the windows and ties in the furniture and black rod perfectly I think.
Thursday: Lest you think we never do anything besides garden, cook and play music, I’ll tell you that if we never did anything BUT those things, I’d be happy, but we went to the movies last night to see ‘Selma’. The real Selma, Alabama is my hometown so it was a must-see movie for me. Seeing this movie is a perfect example of how being frugal throughout the week allows us to splurge on things that really matter to us. But I’m not ashamed to admit that we were happy to get the senior discount on the tickets, saving $4.00 in the process.
Friday: From $10 bills, all the way down to 49 cent stamps, it all adds up and makes our small income feel like plenty. I received another piece of mail today with its’ stamp uncanceled. I get them pretty regularly this way, and have never had a piece of mail returned to me when I reuse them. That said, I do tend to put them on things that are NOT terribly critical, you know, just in case it didn’t make it. I bet I’ve done this 30 or 40 times, so I consider it perfectly safe. No, 49 cents sure won’t make or break me, but adding it to the savings earlier in the week, I saved approximately $59 AND 49 CENTS!
Be on the lookout for the things you need or want, and then be patient and wait for them to come into your life. My next project requires four concrete blocks. The free stuff on the ‘just moved’ porch yielded one block, which I hauled home. Now that I’ve set my intention, I’m sure the other three will manifest themselves eventually. I’ll let you know. PS Concrete blocks are VERY energy intensive to produce so I’m especially happy to find this one.
Filed under: Adapting to Change | Tags: baker, barter, beekeeping, bike repair, Compost, debt reduction, food insecurity, Gardening, moonshine, small engine repair, soapmaking
365 days in a year. That’s a pretty big block of time you know. Just because you were too tired, busy, or hung over to make some resolutions on New Year’s Day doesn’t mean that less than two weeks later, on this second Monday of the new year, that it’s too late. And you know what? Even if you DID manage to resolve to lose 20 pounds or quit smoking or to stop biting your nails, you can work on those resolutions AND resolve to begin the transition to a way of life that is more outwardly simple yet inwardly rich. Talk about PEACE in the new year! I swear it’s not too late.
Where to begin? Before we get into the how’s, let’s consider the why’s first…
Do you have any debt? Do you depend on electricity or some other source of fossil fuel to heat your home and water, cook your food, or power your car, computer, lights and phone? Do you eat? Do you have good health? Do you have good healthcare? We all deal with these issues and many more in our lives, and chances are, we won’t be able to resolve all of them in 2015, but what we can do is to set aside time to put into learning skills that may prove useful, particularly in a long emergency, a crisis or even a grid down situation. (You’re not still holding on to that same, tired argument that ‘it can’t happen to me’ are you?)
It’s common knowledge that modern grocery stores have approximately a three day supply of food before their shelves are empty. From storms to truckers’ strikes, the nation’s food supply is precarious. It’s also common knowledge that honeybees are responsible for every third bite of food we take. From colony collapse disorder to mites, beekeepers are worried about the future of their hives and our food supply. We are also aware that our new Republican-led Congress is going to do everything in their power to prevent immigrants from entering the United States (who will work in our farmer’s fields?), repeal Obama Care and approve the Keystone pipeline. And that’s just this week. Do we really need any more reasons to begin our personal transition to a better way of life that is 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?
OK, so I’ve convinced you. Now what? Just like with any other big project, you’ll need to take small steps. If food insecurity concerns you, start a compost pile.Today. Put all your kitchen scraps and yard waste in a bin or corner of your yard, and with no help from you, eventually they’ll become rich compost that you can then use to grow something that you love to eat fresh! If personal health issues concern you, see the same advice above…we are what we eat after all, and healthy bodies begin with healthy food. Now, when spring arrives, plant some fruit trees or bushes. They will take several years to produce fruit, and in the meantime you can still be working on resisting biting your nails or getting organized. The activities of planting and taking care of your new fruit or nut trees and your compost pile will improve your health tremendously.
Are you concerned about job security? Why not learn a new skill that would provide you with a new career that could support you in a collapsed economy? Making moonshine comes to mind, as does training to become a knowledgeable herbal medicinalist, firewood or biodiesel supplier, small engine or bicycle repairman or computer repair person. Solar installers, bakers, gardeners, beekeepers, soapmakers and seamstresses do too. You get the idea. All of these ‘second careers’ take time to develop and perfect, but remember, you’ve still got 323 days left of this year alone! And if the economy doesn’t collapse? Great! You’ll still have more money, better health and barterable skills to use. I’ll trade you some of my honey for some of your soap. I’ll trade you some of my corn for some of your moonshine too :) .
If financial insecurity is your yoke to bear, get out of debt. Completely. That way, if you lose your job, you’ll be able to live off the unemployment checks you’ll receive while you look for another. Maybe you can use the time you’re not looking for ‘a job’ to work on those skills we discussed above. And if you don’t lose your job? Great! Getting out of debt will then enable you to start putting more money into your retirement fund and savings. Just one more car payment? Continue paying that same amount each month to your credit cards or other obligations, then learn to pay cash for everything. It’s the most liberating action you can possibly take to blow your world wide open and allow you to have options available in your life that may not have ever been open to you before. Ask me how I know. The quiet peace of being financially stable and having a source of healthy food is actually deafening at times.
To everything there is a season. THIS is the time for us to collectively plan and act early enough so that we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. I swear it’s not too late.
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: adapt, frugal, homesteader, Longkeeper Tomatoes, New Year, Three Sisters, transition
A new year- If I were going to make any resolutions, it would be to continue to find fun ways to be frugal and thrifty. But that’s always my resolve, and I don’t need a new calendar to remind me what it once felt like to have more week than payday and to rob Peter to pay Paul. I I like paying cash for everything and letting my savings grow. And I don’t know about you, but I want to thrive, not just survive while working towards transitioning to a future that is 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.
To that end, my family has enrolled in a year-long analysis of our electric, gas and fuel usage. The program is being offered through a local, grassroots group called G.I.N.I. (Green Interfaith Network, Inc) and is sponsored by Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light. Hopefully the resulting audit will help us learn what we can do to weatherize our 115 year old home and about the financial incentives of doing so. Recording our gasoline and mileage will also help us prepare ourselves both physically and mentally for using our own two legs or public transportation to get us to the places we need to go. It’s hard to make myself walk to the dentist when gas is less than $2.00 per gallon, but I find the exercise helps keep me fit, we’re only putting about 5,000 miles a year on our car, and it makes me feel so much more resilient to know that I’ve structured the bulk of my life into a radius of less than 2 miles. When I’m too old to drive or walk, I’ll get an electric scooter. Go Granny go! Savings? you can’t put a price on independence.
One thing that’s become very apparent to me over the last dozen years or so, is that by always thinking and looking ahead for the things that I need or want, and having patience, I will eventually find them at a good price. It breaks my heart to buy something brand new, knowing that all over America there are thrift stores, yard sales, basements and auction houses absolutely bursting with useful items. I see them every day, everywhere.
Monday: I had asked for a very specific type of slippers for Christmas, knowing they are old fashioned and hard to find, but not wanting anyone to buy them new. Not surprisingly, there weren’t any for me under the tree but I found a pair with the tags still attached at my local thrift store this week for 99 cents! Amazon lists a very similar pair but they are ‘unavailable’. I’m happy.
Tuesday: After having friends over for food and music on Sunday, there were leftover fresh green pepper strips that I’d bought and served with hummus as dippers. I rarely buy them and sure didn’t want to waste them so I decided to make one of my favorite meals: Three Sisters. It’s simple, frugal, healthy and delicious. It uses the traditional Native American trio of corn, beans and squash and since I still have about 15 more large butternut squashes in the cellar, I seasoned and baked a few, then pureed them. After freezing all but two cups, I used it to make this dish…
Directions are simple: Spread hot pureed squash on a warm toasted corn tortilla, top with pinto beans, chopped tomatoes, green peppers, salsa and (leftover from the party too) sour cream. Add a splash of hot sauce if you’re so inclined. Savings? About $2.00 worth of peppers. By the way, these tomatoes were some of the Longkeeper type that we grow each summer for, well, long keeping! While not as good as a ripe August tomato, there are 1,000 times better than a Florida-grown, gassed-to-ripen, January tomato!
Wednesday: I decided I’d best harvest some of the winter onions before this week’s frigid temps moved in. Just-picked onions and fresh tomatoes in January? Priceless!
Thursday: After putting out a request on Freecycle for a VCR player, a friend responded by bringing by one of his extra players he’d put back for ‘hard times’. Savings? Being able to watch some of our old favorite movies again is yet another priceless gift! Thanks Bryan!
Friday: I traded a wanna-be-homesteader friend a stack of Mother Earth News magazines for a jar of her home-made relish. win-win
My New Year’s wish for all of us? That this will finally be the year that we can all become part of a viable, local, food network, that our new Congress will get along, that we’ll all learn to adapt to the changes in our lives and the world, and that we’ll walk and ride our way to good health as we meet our neighbors and form ‘communities of well-being’ amongst ourselves. Oh yeah. May this be the year that we all find our dream slippers at the thrift store too. Happy New Year everyone!
Filed under: Seasonal Eating | Tags: Blue Corn, Breaking Up Christmas, brushcetta, Gardening, hot pepper jelly, Longkeeper Tomatoes, Yukon Gold Potatoes
I remember last spring a young woman I know asked me if my garden really fed Michael and me, or did we just get a “bunch of tomatoes and stuff”? Isn’t it funny how such an innocent question has stayed with me, making me hyper-aware of how I might truthfully answer it? The answer, after really paying attention to it, is “yeah, we do get a bunch of tomatoes and a LOT of ‘stuff’.” I think we’ve managed to eat from our plot every week this year. Some weeks we obviously eat more than others, but most of our meals revolve around what is fresh and what we have a surplus of. Sometimes it’s only a handful of chopped cilantro, and other meals, like tonight’s stir-fry, comes mostly from the garden-everything but the carrots. I kept running out of carrots in late fall each year, so 2014 was the year I was going to make sure I had enough to see me through until spring. So… I grew a ton of them, and then, after harvesting, stored them, along with a ton of beets, all unwashed, in tubs of moist sand’, as my food preservation book instructed me to. This isn’t a great pic but it shows you how promising it all looked the day I stored them away down in the cellar…(the carrots are in the top tub, beets in the bottom one)
I think I added too much water to the sand in the carrot tub and they all rotted and turned to orange pulp in no time! Which of course led to the ‘store-bought carrots’ in tonight’s stir fry and yet another lesson learned. My mom always used to say that I seemed to learn everything the hard way, and it’s nice to know that I wouldn’t have disappointed her with this either. Just sayin’… The good news is that the beets remain firm and look as fresh as they did the day I harvested them in September!
But back to the question at hand: how much DO we eat from our garden? Our soil in our raised beds was the best it’s ever been this year,and it showed in everything we grew, from spring peas right through to the current greens and broccoli…
We patiently waited until today to dig some of our spring-planted parsnips, knowing the soil would be soft and unfrozen after the recent warm spell and last night’s rain. Parsnips are sweeter after they’ve been hit by some hard frosts so we wanted to pick the perfect time to harvest them. They are tremendous, and proved to me just how deep our soils have actually become…
We also still have Yukon Gold potatoes and lots of butternut squash stored with the onions and garlic in the cellar, so tomorrow night’s supper will likely be a big clay cooker filled with rosemary-infused parsnips and squash, a skillet of corn bread made from freshly ground blue corn that I grew and dried two summers ago…
a side of fresh kale seasoned with some of our homemade red pepper sauce and maybe a slice of the left over Christmas turkey. New Year’s Day we’ll have our traditional Hoppin’ John, made with black- eyed peas and fresh-picked collards, served over rice and seasoned with canned tomatoes and peppers, onions and fresh herbs.
We’re having musician friends over on Sunday, January 4th, to celebrate the old Appalachian tradition of ‘Breaking Up Christmas’, and we’ll continue eating from our garden that night too when we serve crocks of summer-canned bruschetta and salsa to serve on baguettes and with tortilla chips, and home-canned red pepper jelly served over cream cheese with crackers, along with pizzas topped with red, green and banana peppers, fresh-cut broccoli, sliced green onions and even some fresh cut Longkeeper tomatoes that are patiently waiting their turn to appear on the table in 2015! So, yes Virginia, gardens can give all year long if only you believe. Season’s Eatings to you and yours.
Filed under: Christmas, Spirituality Practices | Tags: candles, Christmas, meditation, spirituality, tea party
Every now and then I have to go back and read, once again, what this blog is all about. It can become difficult to write about transitioning in fresh and meaningful ways after doing it close to 250 times, so rereading that ‘about’ statement helps keep me focused on the topic at hand. But, as we are drawn more deeply into this season of miracles, I wanted to deviate from my normal topics of energy, frugality, gardening and community. I’d like to offer up some ideas for making this holiday season, well, a little more miraculous than it already is.
My childhood Christmases were not happy occasions, so I tried to make up for them by making sure that my own four children had ‘good’ ones to remember. ‘Good’ then, meant lots of presents, activities, decorations, food and more. Being raised under strict Southern Baptist beliefs had somehow left me as an adult with practically no religious beliefs, so the ‘good’ Christmases I tried hard to give my kids lacked the focus the whole season is based on. Over the years, that lack of religion has gradually turned into something more meaningful and helpful to my soul than any Bible verse I ever memorized: Spirtuality. It’s a word I can’t seem to properly define so I went to my dictionary for a definition: “
I’ve had the most remarkable week already, and it’s only Tuesday! Saturday I walked to the Dharma Center for a two hour guided meditation called “Mindfulness In Times of Madness”. Afterwards, I walked back home feeling like Buddha himself. Sunday I attended the Solstice service at my Unitarian Universalist church and was brought to tears by the music, the candles, the food and the love that filled that space. Celebrating the season with spiritual practices of prayer, inner reflection and song help me realize that I can bring my own light to the winter darkness.
In an effort to continue that morning joy, on Sunday night I decided to attend a ‘Concert for World Peace’ at a nearby healing arts center. Walking there in the cool early evening cleared my head and my heart for what I was about to experience: the concert was presented in Swahili, an ancient Hindi language, using instruments normally heard in Classical Indian music. Though I didn’t understand many of the sacred chants, I’m pretty sure the English translations went something like this: PEACE, LOVE, JOY and THANK YOU. PEACE, LOVE, JOY AND THANK YOU. REPEAT. Remember when the Beatles sang “Love Is All You Need”? And when John encouraged us to “Give Peace a Chance?” I certainly do, and I experienced the outcome at this concert. Did our sacred chant music bring about world peace? No, but the spirit of peace in that room was palpable; it actually had a heartbeat, I swear. By engaging together in a spiritual practice with the forty or so (mostly) strangers we managed to create an opening and a chance for peace to grow, passing it on from right here in my little city around the world and back. If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.
Then yesterday I attended a Christmas Tea, put on by a dear friend of mine. Amid the hustle and bustle of arguably the busiest week of the year, this woman catered to and pampered seven of her many friends with a feast of appetizers, soups, sandwiches, desserts and of course, 3 kinds of TEA, or ‘liquid love’. Served on her heirloom china, we ate, talked, laughed, cried and ate some more. When it was over, we were absolutely FILLED with the light this woman had spent many hours creating for us all. She told us she considers this kind of thing her spiritual practice, her way of serving others and lighting the world. Holding tea parties is as much a spiritual practice as gardening or playing music or writing. Sharing the experience of our tea party with you is my way of lighting my candle off of hers.
Spiritual practices offer me a tangible and concrete way to create harmony and balance in my life, while enabling me to connect more easily with the world as well. I’m working on using my daily walks as yet another spiritual practice, (and it’s called a practice for a reason you know) by greeting passersby, picking up trash, or just simply being aware of my feet making contact with the Earth. Tomorrow will be my first annual Christmas Eve donation to the Red Cross, followed by another walk to a nearby church to attend a candlelight service there. It’s the spirituality, rather than the religious lessons, that I get from these kinds of activities that make them sacred and special.
As many of us rush now through these final couple of days before Christmas to finish the shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning and more-always more- I’d like to suggest that you take time for your own spiritual practices, whatever they may be. The rituals we create in our lives, from knitting to whittling wood, can offer us peace and a sense of purpose, throughout the year, not just Christmas. May your light shine brightly this holiday season. Pass it on.
Filed under: And Justice for All, Letter to Santa, World Peace | Tags: Christmas, justice, peace, Prius, Santa, solar panels, XL Pipeline
Hi Santa, it’s me, Sam. You know, the one that asked for a pony for at least 10 years in a row when I was a kid. Since I never got that pony, I was hoping you’d be willing to make it up to me this year. I haven’t asked for anything from you for about 50 years now, so I figure I’m about due. No, I no longer want the pony, but I was wondering, if, in your travels next Wednesday night, you could bring peace to all of us. I mean, it’s the perfect opportunity since you’ll be flying around the world and all. It’s what we ALL want actually. If you bring world peace, you could probably retire after that. Just sayin’…
Another thing I’d like: a 2 month ‘license’ to study in Cuba. I heard on the radio today that President Obama is going to lift the embargoes on Cuba, which means that I could then go there to see first-hand the unrivaled and sustainable food system that the citizens there created when those embargoes began (coincidentally about the same time I stopped asking for the pony). You could pick me up here on the roof in TN and just drop me off there if you like-it’s only 90 miles. I’ll figure out how to get home later. Then, I could return the favor by using the things I learn there to create a sustainable food system right here at home.
Third Thing: Unconstrained laughter. It’s healthy, contagious, and can probably bring about world peace on its’ own (in the event you don’t have that peace in your bag this year). If you do manage to bring the peace in your bag though, the laughter will be provided by all the happy boys and girls, and you could just skip this one.
Fourth: Santa, I’m really on a roll now. Can you narrow the gap somehow between the rich and the poor? That gap is getting wider and wider and I’m afraid most of the folks I know are going to fall through the crack soon. Economic justice would go PERFECTLY with that world peace. Actually, I’m pretty sure you can’t have one without the other anyway. Think of the advantages Santa: If we had economic justice, I’m pretty confident that social and racial justice would be resolved on their own. All I can say to that is “Joy to the World!”
Fifth: The reason I don’t want the pony any more is because now I’d really rather have a Prius. I feel certain that these low gas prices we’re seeing won’t last forever. I hear Toyota is making them float now, like the old VW Beetles used to. That will be real handy as the oceans rise due to climate change.
Sixth: Speaking of climate change Santa…Can you stop the XL pipeline? Driving my new Prius can help prevent adding more CO2 into the air but if that pipeline is built, my meager efforts to help mitigate the effects of climate change will be for naught. (remember Santa: ‘naught’ is the root of the word ‘naughty’ and I already KNOW how you feel about being naughty.) Stop that pipeline, ok?
And finally: Can you bring me some solar panels for my house? I’ll install them myself, as soon as I get back from Cuba.
See you next Wednesday night Santa. I’m so excited! I’ll bring cookies and milk for us to snack on.
Filed under: Uncategorized
I’ve promised myself I won’t bore you with yet another “50 Thrifty Christmas Gifts” list this week. Or a heartfelt “Have A Crafty Christmas!” or even, “Christmas Gifts for Even the Most Discriminating Relative for Less than Five Dollars”. I suspect you might find such lists and advice simply by googling them anyway.
Instead I just wanted to share with you some of the normal, carry-on as usual, frugal things that have been a part of my life this week. Living frugally doesn’t change just because it’s Christmas. Living frugally doesn’t change ever. It’s a lifestyle that I don’t want to change, since it keeps me in a sweet spot of living well on very little. To that end…
Monday: We applied for the ‘tax relief’ that homeowners age 65 (or disabled) are eligible for, IF your income falls within the income guidelines. We qualified for both city and county discounts, saving us several hundred dollars. Now, if you have to wait a while before you (or your spouse) turn 65 to be eligible for this tax relief, (Michael is the qualifying one in this household, just sayin’ ;) ) you can simply commit to learning to live well on less in the meantime so that you’ll have the money to pay your property taxes when they come due. Or fill in your own blank here, you get the idea. Frankly, I’d lots rather have money set aside to pay my taxes than I would ANY fancy-wrapped Christmas gift. I’ve read many, many true stories of people losing their paid-for homes during hard times simply because they were unable to pay the taxes on them.
Tuesday: I have out of town friends that recently bought a new (to them) home. I wanted to send them a little housewarming gift that was meaningful as well as lightweight to ship. My traditional ‘new home’ gift is a homemade smudge stick and a tin of good tea. My blooming Christmas cactus is just a pretty addition to the picture:
The smudge stick is made by wrapping a healthy sprig of fresh sage leaves tightly with cord or twine, but they can also be made by bundling other herbs, such as cedar. The smudge stick has been traditionally used by Native Americans to purify or bless people or places. The tip of the stick is lit and allowed to burn briefly, until it begins to produce smoke, then is carried through the home (or teepee, as the case may be) to cleanse the space. I’ve given many smudge sticks away over the years and people really seem to like them. I love the idea behind the ritual, it speaks to my own earth-centered spirit, as well as to my frugal sense.
Wednesday: I FINALLY got around to cleaning my window fan before storing it away for the winter. I’d wanted to clean it last fall before storage, but I couldn’t get it apart to save my life..but then again, I was kinda busy trying to save Michael’s life last fall, so my heart wasn’t really into saving this fan then. It works fine, but was sooo dirty that I swore if I couldn’t get it cleaned I was going to buy another fan come spring. Patience, combined with a sunny afternoon on the patio helped the process. That, and removal of a dozen screws of course. Here’s how it looked before (and this picture really doesn’t do the filth justice):
I’m pretty sure this was a health hazard, blowing into my bedroom every summer night. But look how an old toothbrush, an hour’s time, and a little airbed pump blowing OUT cleaned it up…
I figure I saved about $40 by not having to buy that new fan. AND I learned to look more carefully at the ‘cleanability’ of future purchases.
Thursday: I clean my coffee pot each month by running a vinegar/water mixture through it. I try to do it on the first day of each month, just so I can remember it. I also apply the pets flea meds on the 1st, but only April through November. So when December 1st rolled around, I forgot to clean the pot, and just got to it yesterday. Once it drips through the coffee maker, I then pour the hot mixture down the bathroom drains to keep them running clear too. Buy once, use twice. A gallon of Apple Cider Vinegar is about $3. By reusing that quart, I’ve saved 75 cents. Don’t forget, the little things really do add up.
Friday: Speaking of flea meds: the internet store that I order them from offered a 25% off deal plus free shipping if I ordered a 6 month supply, which is what I always order for the best price savings anyway. So, I saved $49.98 on my order by buying in the ‘off season’!
We enjoyed walking downtown with several friends this evening for an open house event to see the new loft apartments that were renovated-from-an-old-produce-market that will soon be leased out, never to be seen by the public again. In a wonderful show of support for this huge project that will hopefully bring more folks to live in our downtown area, several nearby local eateries contributed food that was set out for the lookers. Apt 302 had Holy Tacos, Apt 304 had Main Street Pizza slices, Apt 306 had Ale House beer, Apt 308 had Downtown Deli sandwiches and so on. We ate our way through the building-literally. When we’d seen all the new apartments and tried all the goodies, we were rewarded yet again as we left the building with a $10 off coupon to use towards a future meal at Holy Taco! Merry Christmas to me!!!
Remember: Christmas isn’t just about the gifts-don’t let the pressure of Christmas get to you. It’s just one day. Spend the next couple of weeks listening to all your old Christmas CDs, watching Christmas movies, spending quality time with your loved ones, spreading peace and loving one another. It’s what Jesus preached. And if you do buy some things, please buy from a locally owned business (and then wrap ‘em up in something recycled). By the way, Walmart and Target aren’t LOCALLY owned stores. Those national chain stores just happen to have a store in your town. Just sayin’…
Filed under: Eliminating Waste, Reduce Reuse Recycle Repair, Reducing Waste | Tags: Waste reduction
I wrote last Sunday about how I would attempt to go through the week without creating any waste. You can read about it here. I honestly thought I could go just seven days without putting anything in the bottom of my trash can. Not only did I end up with a whole bunch of crap in it, there was more than usual. The woman that writes the blog “Zero Waste Home” , and inspired me to take this challenge, must be a big fat liar. She’s a model, and lives in Paris, so I already hated her. Now that I know she’s a liar too… well! I’ll unsubscribe from her blog for sure.
Rather than take a picture of my now-garbage, I’ll just list it here:
- A used razor blade-what does the lady do with HERS? I converted to a double edge razor years ago to reduce the environmental impact of disposable razors, but all I can say is that lady and her family must be super hairy. (Remember, she’s a model.) Just sayin’…
- Empty toothpaste and dental floss containers…I used up both this week. It figures…
- Used dental floss. And toothbrushes. Maybe the zero waste lady doesn’t brush or floss. I plan to go back to buying Preserve brand toothbrushes that have handles made from recycled yogurt cups. They used to be quite pricey but have come down since I last checked. When you buy them online, they send you a return mailer to return them in. Check it out: http://www.amazon.com/Preserve-Medium-Toothbrush-Mailer-Assorted/dp/B0041576DO/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1417985147&sr=8-6&keywords=toothbrush+preserve
- Empty medicine bottles. My city’s recycling will not take #5 plastics. I save any food grade #5 containers for sending home leftovers with family and friends, but pill bottles? Maybe the lady never gets a headache? She gives me one.
- Flea med tubes. The first day of this challenge was December 1st, the day I needed to apply the meds to my pets. Damn! Why didn’t I start this on December 2nd? Maybe the lady doesn’t have pets.
- Hard plastic lids from stuff like soymilk, ketchup and vinegar. I bet that bitch doesn’t cook either!
- Tear Strips. I bet she doesn’t eat either.
- Rubberbands from the newspaper. Gah! I’ve saved 25 or so and don’t need or want to save anymore. What can I do with them? We prepaid for a year’s subscription to the paper, so when that runs out in June, I’ll just get the e-edition. Until then, let me know if you need some. I already know Zero Waste Woman wouldn’t DREAM of taking the newspaper.
- Used tissues. I used to be good about using handkerchiefs, and slowly have gotten out of the habit. Time to sew up another batch. (and no doubt, the zero zealot has made color-coded stacks of them for all her family members)
- Restaurant napkins or straws. We went out to eat Monday night and before I could even think about it, much less protest, our server had set our glasses of water on napkins and laid 2 straws down on the table. Health regulations won’t let them ‘take them back’, so the damp napkins were thrown away at the end of the meal, but I brought the straws home, still in their original paper wrapping. I plan to tear one end off of them when I meet HER and blow them in her face. pffftttt!
- A phone charger that mysteriously quit working on Tuesday. Just effin’ QUIT. Oh wait, I guess that zero blowhard doesn’t have cell phones in her house either. No wait, I bet they have one of those emergency crank type of chargers. Surely even THOSE break once in a while though. I (briefly) considered offering this useless piece of shit to one of my enemies just to keep it out of MY trash can but was afraid they might strangle me with it when they found out it didn’t work.
- A bent nail. I hung a Christmas wreath this week. Of course I bent the damn nail. I got it out of the trash can and straightened it out as best I could. Maybe I can use it in drywall to hang my feather duster on.
- A Christmas light string that freaking wouldn’t work, even though it did last year! The string was 30 years old but still-THIS WEEK? That Scrooge doesn’t decorate for Christmas, I’m certain of it. Merry Christmas lady.
- A bubble mailer. I have several of each size stored away for my own (re)uses, and yet, THIS WEEK, a book I’d ordered (Title: 100 Ways To Reuse Bubble Mailers) arrived. Sigh. I’m trying to find that lady blogger’s home address so I can mail her some straws and nails in it.
- Aluminum foil. Like my grandmother and mother before me, I save this stuff, wash it, smooth it out and reuse it until it falls apart in the oven or something. Yeah, this week I was ‘foiled again’ by one of my carefully saved pieces. The good news is, I buy Reynolds brand RECYCLED foil, so sue me.
So, I failed to meet the Zero Waste Challenge this week. The good news is that the experience really did manage to make me hyper-aware of just how much stuff really is going into the landfill because of me each week. My city doesn’t recycle metal cans either, and though I’ve almost stopped buying food in metal, I still have to occasionally. This week there was not one, but two cans. I’m going to wash them, punch holes and make luminaries out of them. Merry Christmas!
I like a good challenge. Whether it’s something as simple as finishing the daily crossword puzzle or as complicated as figuring out how in the hell to replace a broken pipe, I thrive on most challenges. I always learn something when I take on a challenge, even if I’m not able to meet it fully. Most challenges simply present themselves, as in broken pipes. But my current one is different…I’m challenging myself to see if I can cut my waste to nothing, for one week. Just a week, that’s all. There’s this lady whose blog I read, that writes about her zero waste life- she and her family of four, only create ONE QUART JAR OF WASTE PER YEAR. For three years now. Surely I can go a week!
My Zero Waste Week will begin Monday (tomorrow) morning, since that’s the day my garbage is picked up. I chose this week because it’s shaping up to be a busier than usual one, with four meetings, errands to run and appointments to keep. I thought it might be ‘most typical’ of a working woman’s weekly schedule, which makes me pretty sure I won’t be able to go a full week without having something in the garbage can by next Sunday but I’m going to give it my best shot. It may turn out to be the challenge from hell, forcing me to do things radically differently than I do now. My plan is to reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose everything that presents itself as ‘waste’. I’m really hoping my cat Simon doesn’t kill a rodent this week since I normally wrap his little back-door ‘gifts’ in a plastic bag and throw them in the garbage can. (Maybe I can make a special ‘stew’ instead?) I’ll take pictures (will there BE anything to take pictures of if there’s zero waste?) and post the results next Sunday.
Filed under: Frugality, Mindful Consumerism | Tags: baking bread, Compost, homemade soup, homemade vegetable broth, polytunnels, shredded leaves, stir fry
I’ve had a fairly busy, productive week, but have nothing scheduled for the next three days: time in which I intend to do some long awaited sewing repairs and try some new recipes. If I waited for ‘things to slow down’ or for ‘a better time’ to get serious about “using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without” it would never happen. Using the resources I have available to me wisely is simply part-of-my-daily-life, and enables me to live more sustainably, more economically, and to be a better steward of the little piece of Earth that I’m responsible for. This week was no different from many, except that I am trying to keep my grocery bills down as much as possible this month since I’ve got a family birthday dinner to prepare next week, as well as the Thanksgiving feast to contribute to, neither of which I intend to scrimp on.
Monday: I had the city deliver a load of clean, dry shredded leaves to my backyard. We use them for layering with ‘greens’ in the compost bins, for mulch around everything and as a soil amendment in our heavy clay soil when preparing new beds. They’re delivered free, and this year I had the load dumped right on top of an old tree stump where the grassy slope makes it hard to cut around! I’m hoping by the time we get to the bottom of the pile next fall that the grass around the stump will be dead and we can then easily convert that area to something beautiful and food-producing. Savings: priceless
Tuesday: In our efforts to keep food costs lower this month, and because we love soup in cold weather, we gladly used the small turkey carcass we were left with after a potluck meal we’d attended on Saturday night to make a pot of turkey/potato soup. Michael spent this cold day in the kitchen simmering it along with a couple of loaves of homemade bread, made using bread flour and yeast both bought in bulk. The only new expense was for fresh celery, which I bought on sale for 88 cents, since we already had the carrots, onions and herbs for seasoning growing in the garden. This pot o’ soup made six generous servings, and with the bread, we figure those meals cost us about 25 cents each It was delicious, healthy and warmed our bellies and the kitchen on a cold day. Savings: Panera Bread Company sells large bowls of chicken noodle soup w/celery and carrots for $3.99, with a slice of bread and a loud TV included in the price. Comparing that, six of their meals would’ve cost us $24.00. OUR soup meals include unlimited bread and free WiFi. Just sayin’…
Wednesday: I harvested four mature cabbages, a bushel of kale, and a ton of onions from my garden beds before the deep freeze hit. Then I covered the plots with hoops and plastic for the remainder of the winter. This is the third year I’ve used the same sheets of plastic and they’re in good shape because I wash, dry and store them away as soon as the weather warms, in order to get more use out their ‘made-from-oil’ life. (under that tunnel is broccoli, kale, chard, lettuces, spinach and more onions…all just waiting in cold storage to be harvested.)
Thursday: I had some cooked rice, fresh snow peas, ginger, broccoli, carrots, peppers and more that needed to be used up. Stir fry to the rescue! I used up some left-from-summer Sesame-Ginger ‘grilling sauce’ that I’d bought at the discount grocery in this mix, and we loved it for supper and again for lunch on Friday.
Friday: The bag I keep in the freezer for onion, celery and carrot tops was full and I was out of my homemade veggie broth, so…
Quarts of organic vegetable broth at most any grocery store are $3.00 each. It’s a great way to use up something that would otherwise be thrown away, and after it’s simmered for a couple hours, the broth is strained and the softened, cooled veggies are given to the neighbor’s chickens as a treat. Savings: $21 since I use reusable canning lids on my jars, and add home grown herbs for flavor. I like saving that kind of money, and I like knowing what’s in my food, don’t you?
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Buy Local, Localization | Tags: beekeeping, Christmas simplified, culintary herbs, Little Free Libraries, Livable Communities, local food systems, medicinal herbs, resilient, transitioning, urban chickens
I’ll immediately apologize to my readers that don’t live in my town, for this post is strictly about events and groups that are inherently ‘local’. Feel free to move on, but I hope you’ll keep reading anyway- I’ve tried to make it interesting to everyone, really. Remember, that the modern industrial capitalist economic and social system, based upon cheap oil and resources, is unsustainable, making a major restructuring of economy and society imperative, and inevitable. Transition contends that citizens and communities need to act proactively and positively at the local scale, in a process of ‘Transition’ and ‘powerdown’ to build localized and resilient communities in terms of food, energy, work and waste. Hence the blog name, Tennessee Transitions.
1. Shopping for Christmas? Check out these products, from Naked Bee! They’re affordable, all natural personal care products AND they’re made right here in our fair city! They produce hair care products, lotions, soaps, lip balms and candles and you can find a store nearby by clicking on this link. If you’re going to buy Christmas gifts, please try to support local businesses. If you buy these products, you’ll be supporting both the manufacturer AND the retailer. Not to mention the gift recipient. Win-Win-Win
2. Tuesday, November 18th, is the date for the bimonthly Livable Communities group meeting. We’ll be meeting at the downtown offices of Insight Alliance, located at 207 E Main St at 5:30 PM. A report has been prepared for us with the final results of the survey that was used to gather information concerning the possibility of a natural foods store in Johnson City. That alone is worth coming to hear about. We’ll also move forward in our plans for continuing the work begun by the Southside Neighborhood Organization (SNO) in placing Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods across town and fill you in on other positive things that are happening in our region.
3. Another meeting? I know, I know, but this one is so important to our current and future abilities to provide food for ourselves. C.O.O.P. (Chickens On Our Property) will hold a short meeting Thursday Nov. 20, 5pm at Willow Tree Coffeehouse (216 E Main Street) to discuss what our next steps should be to stop updates that are being made to the RESIDENTIAL zoning codes – which right now say “no ‘farm animals’ permitted” but are legally trumped by the city codes for animal control which ALLOW for chickens. Honeybees and backyard hens have now been lumped together as ‘farm animals’. This issue concerns any and all who believe in pet rights, self-sufficiency, and food justice.
4. I believe medicinal herbs could regain the prominence and importance they once held in our home medicine chests and first aid kits as we transition to more localized lives. After all, many prescription drugs originated from chemicals found in plants. Bring your brown bag lunch at noon on Tuesday, November 18th, to the Johnson City public library to attend a free presentation :”Herbs and the Natural World.” The presenter will discuss medicinal and culinary herbs and their uses and will offer samples of herbal teas for your tasting pleasure.
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Local food system | Tags: baking bread, elections, sustainability, tenacity, urban beekeeping
I started the following post BEFORE Tuesday’s elections, and almost deleted it as being too ‘Pollyana-ish’ when I came back to it last night. After a lot of thought, I realized it is still relevant. Perhaps more than ever for those of us that are feeling defeated and hopeless about our collective future in this country (and in this state!). I believe if we want to see the changes that are important to us that we have to approach them in a grass roots manner, rather than depending on our government and elected officials . There are tons of quotes about this kind of action, but here are my favorites:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead
Remember riding the Tilt-A-Whirl at the fair? When everyone on board would shift their weight to the same side, the round tub would spin dizzily in that direction. It was the shifting together that tilted the thing. We may have lost some momentum Tuesday, but we certainly haven’t left the fair yet! There’s still lots to see and do and experience, under our own terms. We aren’t beholden to donors or voters and we have no term limits.
As I have traveled my path towards personal sustainability and economic well-being, I’ve come to realize that many others are on the same path with me. We may not all call it that, or even realize consciously that that’s what we’re doing, but I’m happy for the company and am feeling pretty confident that we are close to reaching a ‘tipping point'; that is, “the event of a previously rare phenomenon becoming rapidly and dramatically more common.” We’ve reached a critical mass and I think this election will eventually result in reaching that tipping point because the corporate-run government system that remains in power today is flatly incapable of solving our problems. Climate change, global viral pandemics and super bugs, water aquifiers drying up, the coming food collapse and runaway debt aren’t going to be resolved by Republicans or Democrats, since neither party has a real plan for dealing with them. Many folks will realize that soon enough, and will begin looking for other solutions, adding to the shift.
I’ve listened to strangers and friends (and even elected officials) have discussions about backyard chickens and urban beekeeping, community gardens, farmers’ markets, biking and hiking trails, green spaces, local foods, sustainability, walkability scores, alternative energies and more. I’ve read countless newspaper op-eds, books, magazine and internet articles about the efforts individuals and sometimes entire cities are making to transition to a better way of living. I’ve personally witnessed a surge of interest in historical preservation and Livable Community Initiatives, downtown revitalization projects, rails-to-trails conversions, and soon- a downtown observation bee hive and a meadow on the front lawn of the public library-right here in my town! It seems we are redefining the good life for our own selves, in our own localities, in our own terms. In other words, we’re edging closer to that tipping point.
It seems many of us want to move to a different way of eating too. My local food shed is growing: incubator kitchens and community canneries are on the drawing board, two edible Food Forests have been planted and a food coop is being discussed, community gardens are expanding,the needed money has finally been earmarked now for a permanent Farmer’s Market location, and a non profit organization has just opened a year-round local foods grocery! All this in my midsized town of 65,000 people! From small towns to large cities, foodscapes are changing. Schools, prisons and hospitals are offering healthier, locally-grown choices via on-site gardens and networks of local growers. Farmers are working around the inane requirements of the USDA’s “certified organic” and moving to a more inclusive “sustainably grown” label. Small farms are coming back and restaurants are proud to add their ‘locally sourced’ goods to their menus. Friends are milking goats and making cheese, baking their own breads and making beer. We’re tipping all the while.
I’m not going to let the disappointing election results dissuade me in my quest for living a better life on less. It will have the opposite affect in fact, pushing me to work even harder towards finding local, sustainable solutions to the real life problems we all face. I’ve reached my tipping point. Have you?
In honor of the season, I’ve decided to change the focus of this Friday post from frugal to freaky. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if these things are spooky:
Monday: “Most of New Hampshire’s moose have already died. Now Maine’s moose are dying in droves. Why? In winter, they are covered with hundreds of thousands of ticks all busily sucking their blood. This weakens the poor moose so that he dies before spring; he cannot survive the winter. I read about this, and I know it’s true. Local hunters have been reporting back about moose and deer carcasses just crawling with ticks; they just rot where they lie. The predators (coywolves, coyotes, bears, etc.) will not go anywhere near them (wisely). There never used to be ticks in Maine. Some of the local people still don’t believe there are any here. I’ve seen them, though, so I know they are here. I recognize a tick when I see one. Why have ticks moved northwards? Well, we all know why, don’t we?” ~from a friend in Maine. AND confirmed this week while reading Bill Mckibbon’s book “Oil and Honey”. Creepy stuff.
Tuesday: According to Scientific American it takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food. Um, the last time I did math, those were not sustainable numbers. When you think about the possible implications of this, it’s really ominous.
Wednesday: Western drought may now be ‘normal’ and Polar vortex may become ‘normal’. Can you imagine reading (and comprehending) that sentence just ten years ago? Climate Change is frightening!
Thursday: From NBC News today: The number of cases of Ebola in the three hardest-hit countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, just sped past 10,000. That’s scary.
Friday: An October snowstorm that dumps about a foot of snow on NE TN? Chilling!
Sometimes the news is scarier than the zombies roaming the streets. We’ll talk more about some of these scary news stories next week. But for now, I’d like to offer you a frugal, delicious and healthy recipe for a Halloween stew that uses corn, potatoes and
a head lettuce:
Happy Halloween Folks!
Filed under: Community Building, Community Gardens, Local food system | Tags: building community, community, Compost, fruit orchard, green manure, local, sacred
I’ve only lived in this urban area for a bit over two years, but I’m definitely feeling the connections again that I once had with our land at our previous home, which was out in the country. But out there, I only felt a connection with our couple of acres, since there were few personal relationships with others in the area. It seemed to me that those ‘country folks’ that had been a part of that rural area for decades…attending their churches and schools, naming the roads after themselves (true, that), working their land and raising their horses… just weren’t much interested in interacting with ‘new folks’ like us.
After rather unsuccessfully trying to be a part of that community for over ten years, we decided that we might find more of what we were looking for by living in town, so here we are. It’s been a transition for sure-I’m still shocked when an ambulance or fire truck goes wailing by- but overall it’s been a positive experience for us. As I’ve worked these last few weeks in my raised beds in the backyard, and in my plot at the nearby community garden, preparing them for the inevitable sleep that’s soon to come, I’m feeling a sense of belonging again, and a sense of place. I like that feeling of connection and I hold it sacred. Now here’s the thing that’s been going through my mind as I work: A sacred way of life connects us to the people and places around us. That means that a sacred economy must be in large part a local economy, in which we have multidimensional, personal relationships with the land and people who meet our needs, and whose needs are met in turn.
Gardening is like my own personal local economy, employing the same give and take techniques I use with my neighbors and community. I give the soil what it needs to produce, then take what I need for sustenance. After feeding us so well, beginning with fresh peas in April clear through to the almost-ready beds of plump cabbages and jeweled greens that are growing there now, I feel compelled to give back somehow.
To that end, I spent last Saturday with community gardeners planting a mini fruit orchard. Together we planted cherry, plum and apple trees, along with blueberries and grapes. The work was hard but we’ll all be rewarded with abundant organic fruit eventually. And while those trees grow, we’re growing our community too…
I think it’s an act of courage to plant a fruit tree…essentially you’re saying to the Universe that you intend to be around to take care of it for years to come. After the weekend of communal spirit, I have lovingly planted blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and Japanese maples in my own yard this week, and can’t wait to see them grow and prosper. Yes, lovingly. I fed my now-depleted soils with well-aged compost that we’ve been tending all summer, and amended that with a truckload of alpaca manure…
and carefully tucked the new trees and berries in for winter with a quilt of pine straw…
Everyone contributed to my little personal place: the Earth, with her natural abundance of grass clippings, leaves and trees, a friend that was happy to see the pine straw raked off her grass, the funny and furry alpacas that unknowingly contributed their poops- even the city crews that deliver shredded leaves to my yard! So, my garden has become a community effort. In turn, I share my garden abundance with my daughter, who lives on disability and is always ‘food insecure’, and my community. It’s local. It’s shared. It’s sacred. Just sayin’…
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: arugula, barter, fermenting, food waste, gleaning, kvass, Paralytic Ileus, raw milk, rice cooker, Yard Art
I can’t believe it’s already Friday again! I’ve worked hard this week to get some of my fall ‘householding’ chores completed, while taking some time out to just chill after a couple of stressful weeks. I’ve nursed a cold this week too, so I took extra time for rest, relaxation and reflection as well. Living frugally and healthfully allows me to live fully, while using fewer resources and less money. Sweet.
Monday: I’m on a fermentation kick. After 2 weeks in the hospital, many tests, scans, and invasive procedures, Michael’s doctors came to the conclusion that his chemo and surgeries had left him with “Paralytic Ileus”, or simply put, a sleepy colon. In order to ‘wake it up’ he needs to eat probiotics. Read: pricey. His surgeon specifically told me to buy yogurt made with RAW milk, since pasteurization kills a lot of the ‘good bacteria’. Well, raw milk sales are illegal in TN but luckily, I have friends that have bartered jugs of their fresh, raw, goat’s and cow’s milk with me for some of my apple cider and homemade jams. My yogurt maker is working overtime, with delicious results. After doing some research on my own, I learned that yogurt only contains two types of gut-friendly bacteria, while there are several other types of the ‘good guys’ in some of the lesser-known fermented foods. Enter: sauerkraut, pickles, kumbocha tea, kefir, chow-chow and Kvass. What the hell is Kvass? A simple to make fermented drink made from beets…
Since I have a rather large supply of beets this time of year, it was an obvious choice. Peel and chop 2 large or 3 medium organic beets into a half gallon container. Add 2 teaspoons of sea salt, 1/4 cup of whey (from that raw milk), and fill with filtered water. Stir to mix, then cover lightly and keep at room temp for 3 days, then refrigerate. When most of the liquid has been drunk, you may fill up the container with water and keep at room temperature another two days. The resulting brew will be slightly less strong than the first. After the second brew, discard the beets and start again. You may, however, reserve some of the liquid and use this as your inoculant instead of the whey. If you’re a Diet Coke freak you MAY not care for Kvass ;) If you love beets like I do, this may be your new favorite beverage. It’s full of vitamins and minerals and the fermentation process kicks them into high gear. I drink 4 ozs, twice a day and am feeling renewed, especially after tending a head cold this week. My friend tells me she sautees the leftover beets in butter and they are yummy. I’ll try it when this jar of kvass is gone. If all else fails, the chickens will like the bottom of the jar beets I’m sure.
Tuesday: Speaking of beets…when I planted my fall beet bed, I transplanted the thinnings to a different bed, since I can’t bear to waste anything. They looked awful!
Savings? I saw organic beets for $3.99 a lb this week at the store. If all four of those little thinnings grow to the size of this half pound one, I figure I’ve saved $8.00 on something most folks throw away!
Wednesday: I have some ‘yard art’ that I bought at a junk store before yard art was even cool. About 5 years ago the top sphere broke off, so I took it to a local shop to have it welded back on. That cost me $16 then. But recently, the guy with the backhoe that dug up my bushes for free, accidentally knocked it over and broke it again…
Savings: $10-$15? I don’t know their value since they’re misshapen and different sizes, BUT there’s enough ‘taters here to make many meals in the months to come. Ain’t it a shame the food that’s wasted in this country? Not on my watch!
Friday: Recently, my beloved rice cooker quit working. Just quit, no power! I remember when I first bought it 6 years ago (on sale of course) that I liked it so much I took it on vacation and used it in the kitchen of the condo we stayed in to cook rice with steamed veggies in the top, oatmeal and soup. (Of course the others that were vacationing with us thought me strange…who cares?) For me, it’s a must-have appliance. The day after it quit working I went to a yard sale and there.it.was…
Good food, good health, good friends. That’s all there is folks, and that’s enough. Have a great weekend!
Filed under: Community Building, Transitioning | Tags: Food Co-ops, Little Free Libraries, meadows, pollinators
This blog is about re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. I’m happy to report that those transitions are taking place in my town and I thought you might enjoy hearing a bit about some of the latest creative projects that are part of that transition process…
The Livable Communities group is made up of citizens that are willing to work towards making Johnson City and the surrounding communities more, well, LIVABLE. Our group has been meeting for about 10 years, waxing and waning with the moons, but we seem to be on a pretty straightforward course now. Some of the things we’re addressing are fairly universal concerns, such as public health and safety issues, while others are more experimental and creative in nature.
There’s a desire amongst our groups’ members to start a food coop, allowing members to enjoy substantial discounts on farm-fresh and bulk foods. We envision a store-front operation where the fair-weather farmers that sell at our summer time Farmer’s markets would have the opportunity to sell their fruits and veggies year round, and a place where you could also purchase anything from jugs of local honey to freshly milled meal or flour, meats, cheeses, and baked goods, for example. To that end, we have developed a survey to determine if the desire of a few might also be the desire of many. Our goal is to have 1,000 responses by the end of October. We only have 250 responders thus far. If you haven’t taken it yet, would you please? You’ll find it here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/JCcoopSurvey
Another project our group has decided to take on is the city-wide establishment of Little Free Libraries. These little libraries in a box are stocked by anyone that has an extra book to donate. Take a look at the one I saw just yesterday in a small mountain community nearby…
This particular one was sponsored by that town’s Rotary Club and is much bigger and fancier than most, but the principal of putting books in the hands of young and old alike to read and return remains the same, regardless of size. The hope is that the little libraries will become tiny community gathering spots where folks can take a book, leave a book and share the love of reading. Our Livable Communities group would like to see one in every neighborhood in the city and we’re working on a plan of action to make that happen. Food coops and Little Free Libraries aren’t the only things we care about though. Hiking and biking trails, more green spaces, public art, and a vibrant local and sustainable food supply are just some of the many things that are in our cross hairs. Here’s another LFL that’s right down the street from my house. I love walking by it each day…
Speaking of libraries…yet another project that’s beginning to take shape is the long-talked-about ‘pollinator corridor’ that is to come to life in the mile-long stretch between downtown and the university. The main library will soon have a MEADOW on the front lawn, complete with a filtration system using rainwater harvested from the library’s roof, more art sculpture, a learning kiosk and native plants, flowers and grasses. For my readers that don’t live here, let me introduce you to our beautiful library…
That patch of green on the lower right will soon be converted to a pollinator-friendly meadow. How cool is that? I’ve been searching for ideas to convert my own front lawn from a hard-to-cut slope to something beautiful and fairly maintenance free. Guess what? … (I’ll keep you posted on my lawn’s transition as it occurs.) My house is just 2 blocks from the library. If they can do it, so can I. Like ball fields, if you build it, “they” (the pollinators, who so desperately need ‘safe havens’ of food, water and shelter) will come.
Creating a healthier, more localized food system, sharing our extra resources-from vegetables to books- and planting public green spaces to areas that are beautiful and sustainable are all indications of the winds of change that are blowing across my town and this country. None of these projects are quick and easy but like I always say, the journey is just as exciting as the destination! If you’d like to join the Livable Communities group for our bimonthly meetings, we meet next on Nov. 18th at 5:30 PM in the downtown offices of Insight Alliance. What is your town doing to transition to a more sustainable and livable community? I’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.
I try to be frugal with all my available resources, whether it’s water, fossil fuels, food, or money. There are times when that’s harder than others. This week has been one of those times. I haven’t been frugal with much of anything this week, but I thought it only fair that I share the good and the bad with you so that you can fully understand that it’s all just part of the journey.
Let’s start with last Sunday for a change…
Sunday: Michael woke with cramps and a fever. After having been discharged from the hospital last Friday evening after a major surgery, we knew something was wrong, so back to the ER we went. Luckily, we only live 1.3 miles from the VA campus and after it became obvious that they needed to do stomach scans and that I couldn’t accompany him through that, I was able to come home for lunch, which enabled me to eat some healthy leftovers I had in the ‘frig, as well as let the dog out for a bit. So, Sunday wasn’t too bad-except for the FOX news blaring from that blasted TV in the family waiting room! I brought my MP3 player and library books and Kindle Fire back with me to help pass the time while I waited. Savings made possible by eating lunch at home: At least $5.00, but I stopped on the way home from the hospital when I left the hospital at 8 o’clock that evening and bought a sub for my dinner. I spent $5 but it was a situation that I felt at ease with. I didn’t want to go home to eat alone, it had been a long stressful day, and the sub was delicious!
Monday: The day was pretty enough to hang the wet laundry on the ‘solar dryer’ but I opted for the dryer instead. The convenience factor outweighed the environmental factor on this day. No savings there. But I did put a pot of soup in my solar cooker to simmer all day before I left for the hospital that morning, so I wasn’t tempted to eat out again come supper-time. That worked well, and gave me many bowls of soup throughout the week, and maybe cancelled out the energy used to run the dryer.
Tuesday: I’d been ignoring the creeping mildew on the bottom of my shower curtain liner for weeks and on this day found it disgusting! So, I cut the damn thing off, which was the problem to begin with. It was too long and had allowed soap to accumulate in its’ too-long folds. It’s now the correct length, and looks like new. Instant gratification and I saved about $7 not having to buy a new liner. Check out the before…
And the ‘after’…
Wednesday: By this time, I’m cranky, tired of going back and forth to the hospital, and sick of leftovers. A sweet friend brought me a box of fancy tea, a bar of fancy soap and treated me to Thai food for dinner-AFTER helping me work in the garden! Other friends supported me throughout the week too, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention their kindnesses; recipes for healthy probiotics were typed out and shared with me by one friend, a slice of home-made pound cake for me, along with a quart of raw goat’s milk to make the doctor-recommended yogurt for Michael was given by another, an unexpected lunch date with yet another helped break up a long day, phone calls to check on my well-being, a gallon of fresh apple cider left in my door, offers to let the dog out to pee during my long hours away and emails of love and support all combined to get me through a rough week. PRICELESS
Thursday: After six weeks without a trim, a sign pointing the way to a new hair salon to get my hair washed, cut and dried for $14.99 sucked me in. The shampoo was a luxurious pampering, the cut was perfect, and when it came time to pay, the hairdresser whipped out a coupon for me to use, getting it all for $9.99! Savings: $5.00, plus several compliments later. Money well spent.
Friday: Michael was released from the hospital today and we are happy he’s home. The all-day rain meant I couldn’t hang out clothes, couldn’t work in the garden and couldn’t use my solar cooker. I did get in my early morning walk with the dog before the rains began, and they stopped long enough for me to go help a friend in need this evening. Michael’s on a soft foods diet, so I fixed him scrambled eggs for supper, while I enjoyed the Asian slaw my neighbor brought to me. We had cups of tea with honey, turned on the Halloween lights that I’d strung up to chase away the gloom of the week, and listened to music while we read this evening. Priceless.
From personal health issues to Ebola pandemics, the ability to remain resilient during times of conflict is important. Adapting to change in our lives can mean the difference between simple surviving or thriving. Adaptation can be difficult, and almost always results in added expense. By always being on the lookout for ways I can ‘live well on less’, I can pamper myself with things like restaurant meals, electric clothes drying, haircuts or other treats when I need them most-without guilt, without debt, or without hindering my ability to help others that are trying to get through their week too-at least for now. The day may come when there’s no money or resources for these treats but I’m convinced that COMMUNITY can take up the slack. Remember to always be kind to others; you have no idea what they’re going through. Have a great weekend!
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: bike bag, freezer, frugal, growing food, mints, peppers, reusing, seed saving, velcro
Just because I haven’t posted a ‘Frugal Friday’ in about a month of Sundays, doesn’t mean I don’t constantly strive to live well on less. I’ve just been busy with growing food and preserving it as fast as I can harvest it! Which leads me to last Monday…
Monday: We bought a brand new freezer so that I can freeze more home grown goodies, and stock up on bargains that come our way. Now this wasn’t a snap decision and you can bet I researched far and wide for the best appliance at the best price. With a 10% off sale plus another 10% off for showing Michael’s Veteran’s ID card, as well as free delivery, we got exactly what we wanted. I’d been considering this for two full years but felt it best to wait to really determine if it was a “need” vs a “want” and to make sure that Michael’s cancer was in remission. The answer to both questions turned out to be a big “YES”! Freezers are long term investments and I believe we’ll eventually recoup the money invested by being able to grow more things that don’t can or dry well-stuff like PEPPERS, broccoli, peas, PEPPERS, cauliflower, berries, corn on the cob and oh, did I mention PEPPERS?
Immediate Savings: $120. Long term savings: in addition to lowering our food costs, I decided to put the freezer in front of a completely unused door in my kitchen (after blocking the bottom of the doorway with a sand-filled draft dodger I’d made from old curtains, and by applying silicone caulking that I had leftover from another project around the door frame). Blocking the door like that should help to keep any drafts at bay too.
Tuesday: I harvested some more cuttings from the mint ‘garden’ I’d started earlier this summer. I dried it and will enjoy having spearmint, apple mint, chocolate mint and peppermint tea this winter. (I also plan to buy some tea bag ‘blanks’ and make up some to give as gifts at Christmas.) I’d planted mints before but after a few years they would spread all over the place and become a nusiance so this time I decided to follow the experts’ advice and plant them in pots to avoid that. I salvaged a bunch of recycled #10 cans, punched holes in the bottoms with a nail, spray painted them with leftover bits of paint I’d saved for just such a small project and used the can lids as drip trays. Then I filled the cans with a mixture of ‘reused’ potting soil and homemade compost, put out the word to my friends that I’d like some various mint cuttings and that’s all it took! I lined them up across the front porch railing and enjoy the wonderful scents during the summer and the teas in the winter. Cost: $0
Wednesday: I’m slowly learning to save seed reliably and am reaping the benefits now. The money I save is great but the feelings of self-sufficiency and resilience seed-saving gives me are priceless!
Thursday: Michael’s feeling well enough lately to want to ride his bike again but his strap-on bike bag wouldn’t stay attached to the seat post. Seems the Velcro had just worn out. No problem! I had some wide Velcro scraps in my sewing box so in about 5 minutes I had sewn the new, grippier pieces right on top of the old ones and it works great now. It works so well he could probably haul a trailer behind his bike but that’s another project for another day. Savings: $30. Yes, $30 because that’s what the bike shop wanted for a new bag!
Friday: With the shorter days of September already here, I’ve begun to think about fall gardening chores. The free tree seedlings that my city gives in the spring are tiny, bare root whips but I’ve kept them in pots in my ‘nursery’ area all summer and I believe they are ready to plant now. I hope my Japanese Maples and Serviceberries will provide us with beauty and berries for years to come! Cost: $0 and patience.
And now it’s time to think about fixing supper before we walk downtown for this evening’s First Friday celebration. We’re having Dilly Potato Salad (so I can use up the last of the red potatoes in the pantry before they sprout wings) and Black Bean Burgers using the leftover beans I had from making Mexican Beans and Rice earlier this week. I always scour my frig and cabinets for ingredients that might need to be used up quickly before I plan meals. It’s a good habit that really reduces food waste to almost zero percent. Savings? Priceless! Have a fabulous and frugal weekend!
Filed under: Growing Food, organic gardening | Tags: backyard chickens, comfrey, epsom salts, pollinators
I’ve been gardening for a long time now, but each season brings new lessons to my weedy classroom and this summer of 2014 was no different. I thought I’d share them with you and then I’ll have a permanent record of them too, so that I can refer back to them in the coming years. (Sometimes I don’t ‘pass the test’ the first time and it takes me more than one lesson to ‘get it’).
Lesson: Cleanliness in the garden is next to Godliness. I had planted two patches of basil-harvesting from one on Mondays and then the other on Thursdays-to donate to One Acre Cafe. The plants were beautiful and healthy…
when seemingly overnight they began to yellow and wither in one patch…
Then, sure enough, the problem spread to the other patch a few days later! Hmmm.. the basil plants in my own plot at the Community Garden were fine, other plots had healthy plants and my basil at home was beginning to resemble a small tree. What happened? I think I finally figured it out-I had failed to sterilize my cutting shears with a bleach/water solution between uses! I began carrying a spray bottle of the mix in my basket to the garden each day and spraying it on the blades as I moved about the plot. I gave the almost dead basil a good dose of fish emulsion and stopped all cuttings for about three weeks or more. Eventually the plants recovered, but never to their original robust beauty.
Lesson: Shortcuts don’t always save time. I ran out of Epsom Salts to add to the final few tomato planting holes last spring and I was in too big of a hurry to stop and go buy some more, thinking it wouldn’t matter if I skipped it on those last two or three plants. It DID matter, a LOT! Those plants had blossom end rot on every single tiny tomato they produced; I’d eliminated that problem years ago when I’d learned about the egg shell/Epsom Salt combination.
Lesson: Identify bugs properly. For a couple of months I killed every one of these I could find…
Finally I got smart and put 3 or 4 in a bottle to take to my nearest extension agent’s office. He promptly identified them as Pink Spotted Ladybugs, or 12 Spotted Ladybugs. Both adults and larvae are important aphid predators but also eat mites, insect eggs, and small larvae. Unlike most lady beetles, plant pollen may make up to 50% of the diet, WHICH MAKES THEM IMPORTANT POLLINATORS TOO!
Lesson: Comfrey doesn’t like full sun. I was given several perennial comfrey plants (thanks Barbara!) this spring and planted them on both sides of my house where nothing-NOTHING- was growing. I knew that they spread quickly and that’s what I was looking for because once established, they make really good additions to compost piles AND chickens love to eat them. I want to have chickens again next spring, after we return from a long trip in late winter, so I wanted to get the comfrey established this year. The plants on the shady north side have spread and flowered and done beautifully while the ones I put on the sunny south side have struggled, in spite of regular watering. Luckily, I plan to house my girls on the north side since they don’t like full sun either.
Final Lesson: You can teach an old dog new tricks!
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Canning, Resilience | Tags: beans, growing food, sustainable energy sources
What got me to thinking about Jimmy Carter was hearing that this weekend he’s going to be a keynote speaker at a Muslim convention in Detroit. The man deserved his Nobel is all I can say! Now back to the topic at hand…
I’ll admit it. My zest for canning, drying, freezing and fermenting has changed over the years from a casual experiment into a complete lifestyle change. The first time I slipped hot green beans into a sterilized jar, screwed a metal lid and band on it, and then ate those late summer beans months later at Christmas, my now-40-year old daughter was a newborn, and I was hooked on canning!
Three years later Jimmy Carter became President and just two weeks into his new presidency he began hosting his ‘Fireside Chats’ while wearing a Mr. Rogers cardigan sweater, as he sat by the fireplace in the West Wing of the White House. Those chats encouraged us Americans to use less energy, and told us how important it was to have an energy policy that focused on conserving the nation’s natural resources.
I liked and admired President Carter very much but his message, along with an inflation rate of 20% (!) and a stock market that lost 40% of its’ value in 18 months time was pretty damn scary to me. So, what does a young mother of four little girls do when faced with the war in Vietnam that was in its’ 19th year, Russians standing in long, long lines to get extremely scarce toilet paper, ( I don’t remember why), all while living 600 miles from her nearest relative? Besides stocking up on toilet paper, I began growing food. And canning it. It gave me a sense of self-sufficiency and control over that scary world. Some things never change I guess. 37 years later, we still don’t have that national energy policy, and I’m still keeping our scary world at bay by keeping plenty of TP and beans on hand.
Studies show that people focus more on material things when they feel insecure, and I was certainly insecure as a too-young mom. I’m happy to say that I feel more secure at this stage of my life than I ever have, but I still continue to grow and preserve as much as I can. I’m certain there are still security issues hidden in there somewhere, but by this time, I consider it normal. We all have our ‘issues’ I guess, but if growing food, having a fully stocked pantry, and living by the belief that ‘we are what we eat’ is an ‘issue’ for me, I think it’s a good one to have. Michael was exposed to Listeria earlier this summer due to peaches that were later recalled-oops! and that experience, along with his colon cancer, has certainly made both of us more conscious than ever of how important food is to our health, both mental and physical. Jimmy Carter must be doing something right too-he’ll be 90 years old on October 1st and he’s still building habitats, growing peanuts, and teaching peace. God love him.
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Contributionism, Mindful Consumerism | Tags: clothing, peace, simplicity, Waste reduction
Filed under: Uncategorized
I reflect often on a question a young man asked of me early this spring…he was looking at the tiny little transplants and emerging seedlings in my backyard garden and asked me, with great sincerity, if we ever really eat much from it. Perhaps to his inexperienced eye the smallness of the plants at the time seemed impossible of feeding anyone beyond a bird. When I reassured him that we eat something from our garden almost every day of our lives, he seemed dubious and wandered off, no longer interested. Funny how such an innocuous question has stayed with me for months. I’ve thought of it almost every time we sit down to eat, and have often wished I had offered him something more concrete than “salads” or “beets” as an answer. I’m an evangelist for growing our own food and his curiosity was the perfect chance to ‘preach it!’. But since I missed my chance with my young friend, I’ll just use this post to ‘preach it’. Remember, it’s my blog, it’s my belief, and so you can read on or hit delete. I’ll never know after all. Just sayin’…
Growing food and preserving it is in my DNA now. I consider it the second best thing people can do to regain control of their lives, right behind getting out of debt. What other activity can you possibly engage in that could provide you with all of your nutritional needs, save you money, taste fabulous, provide you with all the Vitamin D your body needs for good health, and all while getting the exercise you normally have to set aside time for? What other activity can do all that, while at the same time helping you become more resilient to the vagaries of climate change, droughts, trucker strikes, crop failures, food borne illnesses, rising prices, recalls and shortages? Oh yeah, and after all that, growing your own food gives you a reason to write blogs about your garden, try new zucchini recipes, share your extra produce, make special things to offer at gift giving time, learn food preservation skills and last, but certainly not least, gardening gives you a reason to take pictures of your supper to post on Facebook. That last reason might be reason enough for some of us ;)
During the spring and summer months, our meals evolve and revolve around what’s currently growing in our garden. During the fall and winter months, our meals evolve and revolve around what’s currently growing in the garden AND what’s preserved from the previous season. The old song about “Peaches in the summertime, apples in the fall” sums it up pretty well actually. Of course we enjoy a meal out occasionally, just like you do! When we do indulge, we often order foods we don’t or can’t grow. We eat very seasonally and have accepted the fact that it is simply not sustainable to be eating fresh strawberries or tomatoes in January-and they taste like crap anyway. Conversely, it’s a perfectly WONDERFUL feeling to enjoy the frozen berries and jams or canned tomatoes and sauces that we grew the previous summer, throughout the winter. That willingness to live and eat more in tune with the seasons makes every food special- from the box of tangelos my daughter buys from her school fund-raiser for me each Christmas, to the pecans I trade my veggies with a friend for each fall- to everything there is a season.
Now that I’ve preached from my personal pulpit about the blessings of the garden on this fine Sunday, I’ll end this by reminding you that, unlike religion, gardening doesn’t have to be an ‘all or none’ proposition. Start with just one thing you love. Do you like fresh cilantro and hate going to the store just for that item when you want it? Cooler weather is cilantro’s favorite time of year to grow. I have about two million seeds to give away. If you want to plant your own little patch, let me know, I’m happy to share. And guess what? If you let them go to seed, then let some of that seed fall, they’ll often establish themselves permanently that way and you may never have to replant them again. And THAT’S how you get hooked my friends. And THAT can be the beginning of your own ‘garden of eatin’. Just sayin’…
Filed under: Community Building, Creating Community | Tags: beekeeping business
How many times have I discussed ‘community’ on this blog? 20, 50, 100 times? I recently ran into a friend that I seldom get to see and somehow our conversation quickly turned to how difficult it is to form relationships with our neighbors. Often we find others at church, at work, or in groups we belong to that we click with almost instantly, but neighbors?? hmm… Is it simply because with those others, we know from the beginning of the work day, worship service or meeting that we are together for a specific period of time? But neighbors? That’s different, since they’re always there (or presumably so) nor do we share the common bond, other than street address, that we do with other groups we’re a part of.
What can we do about that? I consider myself fairly outgoing, but I find it rather difficult to strike up a conversation beyond “hello” with strangers. Someone that’s rather introverted or shy might find it really difficult. So what can I do? And why bother?
I have so many ideas, but only so much time and energy. Beyond community gardens, I envision a community kitchen/cannery, seed libraries, community owned greenhouses and solar power stations. I’d like to see local food and child care cooperatives, city-wide composting facilities, and local millers, bakers and candle stick makers. You get the idea. Everything that we make, build, grow or cook in our homes and backyards now would be so much more efficiently accomplished if we had the help, talent and energy of many hands. Communes, Intentional Communities and Cohousing are all good solutions to this dilemma, but for those of us that either can’t, or don’t want to be quite that close, our neighbors are the next best thing to safer, more livable and lovable neighborhoods. So, knowing this to be true, why am I so reluctant to form bonds and friendships with my neighbors? My only excuse is that most seem to be transient and I know how much time relationships take. But that’s a cop out. I don’t need to be best friends with my neighbors, just something beyond a “hi, how are you?” relationship.
Here are some ideas I’ve had lately about ways to solve that:
1. I could have a cookout. Post fliers around the neighborhood, pick a time and just do it! Music and badminton and burgers should be enough, right? I don’t know really. Would you go to a cookout where you didn’t know anyone? What if they all bring beer and get drunk and never leave?
2. Hold a ‘Neighborhood Watch’ program, and ask the public safety officer for our neighborhood to help us get organized. Being neighbors is our one common bond after all. I think we need to look at front porches as crime fighting tools, but what about during the winter?
3. It’s the time of year when I have more tomatoes than friends. Sometimes free tomatoes make friends out of strangers, but usually they just disappear (the tomatoes and the people who take them). Should I organize an annual neighborhood yard sale so we’d all have a chance to get rid of our excesses?
4. Speaking of organizing: maybe revitalizing a now-defunct neighborhood association or starting a monthly newsletter might help us all get to know one another better. This seems the best tactic to me.
5. I approached neighbors on each side of me recently to ask how they’d feel about my getting beehives. They both seemed happy about the prospect. Could that be the key to a neighborly bond? Or an eventual lawsuit?
Since many of my neighbors are students and young unmarrieds, with many of the large older homes in this historic district converted to insurance and attorney offices, yoga studios or chiropractors, this whole building community stuff is trickier than usual. I’d love to get some feedback from you in the comments below. Is neighborliness just a 50’s era dream I remember? Do you have a neighbor you can borrow a cup of sugar from? Or am I just borrowing trouble while looking for that cup of sugar?
Filed under: Uncategorized
My area of NE Tennessee experienced tornado touchdowns and warnings last Sunday evening. Shortly after my phone sent out a loud alert signal, the nearby university’s public warning signal began shrieking. The alert on the phone said: “Take shelter immediately”. Damn! I had 5 people coming for dinner in less than an hour and I wasn’t through cooking! I find it amazing now that that was a concern, but it was early in the game and I was still not convinced the tornado was going to materialize. Quickly turning on our weather radio and the television, we could see and hear all the details. Realizing I had ‘some time’ I began to run through my head what we needed to do to stay safe. I immediately filled my washing machine with a full load of clean water, turning it off just as the wash cycle began, then filled the bathtub too. I had previously stored drinking water, but doing those two things gave me another fast and easy 75 gallons of clean water, just in case it was needed. While the tub filled I called my daughter to alert her and offered her advice to move to her bathroom and to take her cat and bed pillow too, so that she could hold the pillow over her head should things start flying around. To calm her fears I explained she should sit in the tub, with pillow over her head and head between her knees. I finished my detailed instructions with some sick humor by saying “and then kiss your ass goodbye”. We both laughed and felt better immediately. Michael went to our root/storm cellar, plugged in our sump pump in case it began to flood, turned on the light and unplugged the dehumidifier. I kept cooking…
Between stirring and chopping, I listened to the radio, watched the darkening sky outside my kitchen window, and went over in my head what else I should do in the next few minutes. Gather important documents? Take food to the cellar? Find my cat? I continued to listen and cook…
As you already know, we were lucky, so very lucky. The tornado touched down about 9 miles from us, barely stirring the leaves on the trees around my house. We got a sprinkling of rain out of it while others lost their homes, cars and security. Our little dinner party turned into more than just a meal with close friends. It became a Thanksgiving celebration on a July evening, so grateful were we all to be skipped by the tornado.
I learned my lesson though. I’m better prepared now. I realize I’d much rather ‘shelter in place’ than go to a public storm shelter, even if my space is just a small room under the kitchen. I’ve moved a transistor radio to the cellar and hung two fold-up, comfortable-enough-to-doze-in canvas sling back chairs down there too. I added a lantern that can be run on batteries or by winding a crank. I bought a box of granola bars along with some other eat out of hand snacks but I’m looking for a rodent proof metal box to store them in before I move them down. I’ve emptied my ‘old’ stored drinking water and refilled my containers with fresh water and I’ve started making hard copies of all my important documents: driver’s license, credit cards, social security cards, wills, and so forth to store in a water proof box. Now, maybe I should add a pillow too, in case I need to put it over my head, put my head between my knees, and kiss my ass good bye?
P.S. It seems bad weather events are a really good starting point for opening a conversation with a neighbor about ways you might weather the next one together, helping one another to prepare for sheltering in place. These kinds of events lower our vulnerability while raising our awareness of how important community can be. More on this in my next post.
Filed under: Local Food, Seasonal Eating | Tags: beans, food, frugal, leftovers
I really enjoyed the rainy weather here in NE Tennessee last weekend! It got me OUT of the garden and IN-to the kitchen. I finished canning the last of the green beans and cooked a pot for supper, along with those little, teeny, tiny Yukon gold potatoes that you just have to wash- the skins are so thin that no peeling or cutting is even necessary. Most people don’t bother to harvest those babies→ but I gather them all up when we dig our crop, right along with the big ones. I throw ‘em right in the pot with the beans, chopped onions and a dash of bacon grease. The beans and baby taters, along with our very first ears of Kandy Korn from the corn plot down at the community garden, fat slices of heirloom Cherokee Purple tomatoes and grilled garlic bread along with a sliver or two of the leftover rotisserie chicken I splurged on earlier this week make a frugal, dee-li-shus supper with very little prep time.
I also used eggs from my friend’s backyard flock to make deviled eggs as well as bowls of potato salad and cole slaw that made good use of our home-grown cabbage, carrots, potatoes, red onions and herbs. We enjoyed the salads with our salmon/cucumber sandwiches for lunch today and have enough left for several more meals. Good golly Miss Molly, we’re eatin’ good these days!
So, what’s for supper at YOUR house? Do you find yourself eating more local and seasonal foods these days? Got any recipes you want to share? Comment below ↓
Attention Tennessee beekeepers in Washington, Sullivan, Hawkins, Unicoi, Johnson, and Carter counties: a case of American Foulbrood is being investigated in Kingsport, TN. State apiarist Mike Studer is inspecting hives to determine whether or not this is an isolated case, but all beekeepers are encouraged to check/inspect their hives. New beekeepers are encouraged to contact their mentors, an experienced beekeeper, or one of our local inspectors to ensure the health of their hives. It is generally recommended that beekeepers burn the whole hive to help prevent the spread of this disease. It would be prudent to harvest any honey available and unless you have been cleared by an inspector as free of foulbrood, it is suggested that you not feed your honey back to your bees. You can read more about the disease here: American Foulbrood Disease
It’s been said that ‘bees are the canary in the coal mine for our food system’. But what can NON-beekeepers do?
1. Encourage your congressman or woman to look at the science behind a class of nerve-poisoning pesticides known as neonicotinoids; there has been a ban on their use in European countries for years (imagine that). While you’re on the phone with their office…
2. Also let him or her know that the task force that President Obama created just two weeks ago is a good first step to address the issue of rapidly diminishing honey bees and other pollinators, and that you expect their support. Remind Democrats and Republicans alike that if they eat, they’re involved in this crisis.
3. Support local efforts to block the rewording of our city code that would lump honeybees in with ‘farm animals’ and forbid them as livestock. Stay tuned to this blog for more on that.
4. Consider becoming a beekeeper. We are extremely lucky to live in an area with a very active bee club and a bee supply store! The club will provide you with a mentor and educate you on everything you need to know to be successful.
5. Teach your friends and family that honeybees are responsible for every third bite of food we take and that they are not ‘out to get them’ but are merely ‘out to collect pollen and nectar’. Last week in the community garden, I was helping a group of women that are going through drug and alcohol rehab with their plot, when we saw a honeybee land on a squash flower. One of the young women told her daughter to ‘get away! get away!’ So, I used that quick opportunity to tell her what I’ve just told you. She immediately calmed down and told the girl ‘it was okay now’. Repeat after me: “It’s okay. They won’t hurt you”.
6. Plant bee-friendly plants wherever you can tuck them in-sunflowers, bee balms, herbs, and about a million others come to mind. From blueberries to hollyhocks, you’ll find it easy to provide them with plants that give them the pollen and nectar they need to make honey and to stay healthy.
7. Avoid lawn chemicals and garden pesticides.
8 When you do eat honey, make sure it’s raw, local honey-it’s a well known fact that eating LOCAL honey daily can help you with seasonal allergies, acting like allergy shots do: a minute bit each day eventually will make you immune to those things that you’re allergic to.
Filed under: Healthy food, Local Food | Tags: home grown food, recipe, Zucchini
I do believe my zucchini have done better this summer than ever before. So well in fact, that I’m giving them away, drying them to add to winter soups and stews, making flavored chips and now-finally!- I’ve discovered some easy and great tasting new recipes. I wanted to share them with you because they both can be made in a few minutes and for just a few cents if you’re growing most of the ingredients.
Here’s the first:
Zucchini Parmesan Sammiches
From The Moosewood Cookbook:
2 cups diced fresh zucchini
1/2 cup minced onion
1 clove crushed garlic
1/2 tsp. chopped basil
1/2 tsp. chopped oregano
2 Tbs. olive oil
Fresh tomato slices
1/2 cup freshly-grated parmesan
Saute’ onion and garlic, with salt, basil and oregano, in olive oil until onion is translucent. Add zucchini and saute’ until soft. Spread onto lightly browned toast, topped with thin slices of tomato and a sprinkling of fresh parmesan. (I didn’t have any fresh parmesan, so just used what the ‘canned’ variety. It didn’t melt as well but tasted good nonetheless. Use what you have . This one should be broiled, not grilled. Parmesan loves to broil. And I loved these sammiches!
And here’s a recipe for Savory Zucchini Cakes, from a post that I made last July:
In my opinion, nothing, I mean NOTHING compares to putting an organic, made-from-scratch, grown-in-my-own-garden, meal on the table! The satisfaction of producing one’s own food in a globalized world speaks not only to my environmental consciousness; sharing with you the growing, gardening, cooking and preservation of all that home-grown goodness gives me a sense of connection to my roots and to my community. YOU’RE my community. Thank you! Hope you enjoy your weekend friends! I’m off to the ribbon cutting of my city’s new “Founder’s Park”. It’s a beautiful park, with art, and rushing water and lots of green space-and it’s an 8 minute walk from home. Here’s a pic:
This blog hasn’t been very active lately, even though I think about it a lot. (that counts doesn’t it?) It occurred to me today that part of the reason I’ve been quiet is because I’m back into that summer time groove of gardening and “puttin’ food by”. It’s such a natural and routine part of my life that I guess I considered it rather, well, too routine and not interesting enough to write about. So, I tried to look at my daily activities through your eyes, hoping to see some ‘transitioning patterns’ or ideas that I might share with you.
Transitioning to a way of life that involves using less fossil fuels and adapting to a warming climate can cover a lot of activities, from adapting our daily routines to the vagaries of the weather to eating cooler, lighter foods in summer than those we eat during the colder months. I’ve found that working in the heat of the day makes me pretty miserable so I’m waking earlier and earlier to beat the heat. Right after breakfast I walk to the community garden to inspect the live traps we set each night for the raccoon mama and her teenage son (or daughter) that are waiting, right along with us, for the corn to ripen. So far, we’ve only caught two smallish rats, but regardless of what live animal gets tricked into going into traps, I don’t want them to suffer, like I do, in the heat of the day, so I go early to check, and then to get my days’ gardening chores completed. I finish just as the sweat begins to drip off my chin. After a brief rest at home, I take my daily walk with the dog because I worry about her burning her paws on the asphalt or overheating in her black fur coat. Days are spent in front of the fan, snapping, slicing, dicing-and drinking sweet apple mint tea ;)
This week I’ve been…
drying zucchini slices…
and chopping peppers for drying…
We harvested the onions this week, so I’m taking advantage of the sun to cure them for a few days…
while cooking our supper too!
We aren’t doing any baking these days because heating the oven is simply not worth it. My west-facing kitchen windows can really allow a lot of heat in in the late afternoons, even with the shades drawn, so if I’m not using the solar cooker, I cook my evening meal before that happens, generally right after lunch. That leaves me all afternoon and evening to pursue other projects. Last night I cut down a small tree to make way for a greenhouse that’s going to be put in its’ place. Tonight I moved all the rockers and
crap things off the front porch and scrubbed the accumulated road dirt and dust off the siding and floor, all while enjoying the shady side of the house in the barefoot comfort of cool hose water. Tomorrow evening I plan to attend the opening reception of a new art exhibit at a nearby downtown gallery called “Lens on the Larder: Food Ways of Appalachia”; I’m already looking forward to walking there in the cool of the evening and enjoying some local foods, photography and stories. Who says transitioning to this way of life is somehow difficult or hard? It often just requires some simple adjustments to our schedules, menus or clothing.
Before the days of central heating and air, everyone worked and slept by the rising and setting of the sun. Farmers and field workers often enjoyed their main meal, or ‘dinner’, at noon, giving them an opportunity to fully refuel after a morning’s work outside, while also offering them a respite until later in the afternoon when the sun wasn’t as high. Front porches served as the warmer-months living rooms, and summer kitchens were screened affairs where the days’ cooking, eating and canning took place. Corn was shucked and beans were broken while sitting under the shade of a tree. Folks were completely tuned in to the sun, the rain and the seasons. I’m trying to adapt to that way of life as well, and though I enjoy turning on the AC at times, I’m happiest with the windows open. Thinking back, I attended an un-air conditioned school and lived in a house without it, all while growing up in central Alabama. We didn’t suffer, it was just part of summer!
I recently covered my upstairs skylight with newspaper to prevent the sun from shining in so brightly, and it really did help with the heat buildup up there! Each evening, when the outside temperature drops to a lower point than the inside air, I turn on the window fans up there to further cool things off. We sleep on the first floor of our home, which is naturally cooler, and have gotten so used to the ‘white noise’ that the fan provides that it’s become like a sleeping pill for us. One summer while I lived in California, the state was experiencing ‘rolling brownouts’ where the electrical usage was cut during the hottest parts of the day. During those times our office ‘adapted’ by allowing us to wear shorts and sandals, changing lunch break times and doing those tasks that didn’t require electricity: filing, phone calls, and data entry on our battery operated lap tops got us through. Our own electric company is working towards a similar setup here in NE TN, where we can voluntarily sign up for ‘time of day’ usage rates, which will be lower than regular rates. It saves them power and us money, but it’s all about adapting any way you look at it. For me, adapting to the heat just means doing my work in the cooler hours, eating meals on the porch, and napping or reading in the heat of the day. I enjoy a greater sense of resiliency by changing with the seasons and find it’s kinda cool actually!
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: Compost, Consumerism, food, frugal, growing food, soil testing, Waste reduction
I have simply been too busy during the day, and too tired at night, to post to my blog this week. That makes me kinda sad because I really enjoy the thinking, researching, picture-taking and writing that a decent post requires of me. Too bad THIS post isn’t one of those ;) But in between the morning spent cutting grass and helping the ‘women in rehab’ in their community garden plot, and the preparing for friends-for-supper-and-drum-circle this evening, I’ll just write a quick, down-and-dirty Frugal Friday post. Regardless of how busy I get, how tired I am or what’s going on in my daily life, frugality isn’t one of those things that I need to research and think about. It’s simply something I do each day, like brushing my teeth. Because our garden is producing regularly now it’s requiring a fair amount of attention, but the pay-off of course is all the fresh organic food we’re harvesting every day. Of course THAT means cooking, preserving and eating it every day too. So, this week’s frugal focus was on food:
Monday: One of the community gardeners put up a unique plant support over the weekend and so I took a picture of his wire shelf turned on end. He is from Thailand. I have noticed over the years of communal gardening that those gardeners that hail from other countries like Russia, Africa, (and Thailand) are excellent scavengers, recyclers and repurposers (is that a word?). The lady from Russia brought her family’s heirloom Russian potato seeds with her when she came to this country and because her yard is too shady to grow there, she sought out a spot in the community garden to allow her to perpetuate her heritage and to grow things like fava beans and artichokes and other strange-to-me veggies. She uses styrofoam meat trays that she cuts into strips and writes on for plant markers, pallet wood for her paths between beds and fallen shrubby sticks for pea and bean supports. She grows bamboo in her shady yard and uses the as tomato stakes. The gardener from Africa several years ago had the prettiest garden you’ve ever laid eyes on, using similar ‘found’ props and techniques. The fellow that has propped up his squash with the wire shelf so it doesn’t get struck by the string trimmers, stops at Starbucks on his way home from work every night to pick up a supply of spent coffee grounds that he adds to his beds and compost bins, and made unique flea beetle protectors for his eggplants out of plastic jugs that had the bottoms cut off and fine screening stapled to the top. Here’s his ‘trellis':
The point here is that those of us here in the United States use far more resources than any other country on Earth and whenever I’m feeling smug about being frugal all I have to do is look at the garden plots belonging to those ‘other countries’ to eat a slice of humble pie. I suspect I’ll be learning lots of lessons from these folks during their time in the community garden. Savings? PRICELESS!
Tuesday: Michael and I harvested our potatoes today, promptly adding home made compost and more of the free shredded leaves that our city delivers to us each fall back to the plot, before replanting it with more beans and squash. We grew 43 pounds of organic Yukon Golds in 40 square feet of soil. The moldy straw that was given to me free, and that we used to ‘hill’ around the ‘tater plants was then moved to the path to top off the cardboard we’d laid there for weed suppression. Using the straw for two purposes (actually three, since it will eventually end up as compost) makes me happy. 43 pounds of potatoes in my currently rat-free cellar make me even happier. I just called Earth Fare, my favorite, and closest, healthy food store to check on the price of their organic Yukons. 5 lb bags are selling for $6.99 and individual pounds are selling for $2.29 lb. I’ve done the math: With sales tax, my 43 lbs would’ve cost me $68.35 there. My seed potatoes cost me about $3, and a very pleasant hour planting them one spring morning back in April. Savings: $65!
Wednesday: We went to a luncheon/meeting of our local Community Partnerships group this day. The catered meal was excellent and the plasticware we used to eat with was very high quality (ok, it was almost as nice as my everyday silverware!) so I wrapped up the six pieces that Michael and I had used, tucked them into my purse, and brought them home to wash. I added it to my ‘stash’ of used-just-once plastic ware that I keep with my emergency preps, along with a stack of paper plates and napkins. If the water is ever shut off because of overwhelmed city storm drains ( a real possibility in my town) I just use it and toss it rather than worrying about washing dishes in such a situation. We also take the stash camping and to potlucks too so even though it’s still wasteful to use a disposable ANYTHING, at least they get a second or third or tenth life. But, eating another slice of humble pie here, (I’m getting rather full of it actually) a young mother and daughter that sat at our table not only brought their own water filled bottles, passing up the ubiquitous red plastic cups and sweet tea and disposable bottles of water, they also shared one of the rather large paper plates AND PASSED UP THE DESSERT ENTIRELY! (Now that’s taking things a little too far ;) ) Savings: No monetary savings since I wouldn’t buy the plasticware anyway. The humble pie was free too.
Thursday: I’m always learning from, and sharing with, the other community gardeners. This week alone we gardeners shared bamboo stakes, seeds, extra plants, tools, energy and friendship. We were also given free soil tests by the owner of Downtown Farming who taught us about our soil’s microbacterial action at our monthly gardener’s meeting. (Thanks again Yancy!) Savings? Priceless!
Friday: Today I harvested enough zucchini to serve tonights’ dinner guests stuffed zucchini boats and we enjoyed them along with roasted rosemary/garlic potatoes and cabbage cooked with bacon drippings. I also harvested the first big red onion, the last of the spring planted kale, a huge bag of swiss chard, beets, carrots and enough collards to feed a horse! I also cooked a big pot of collards mixed with sautéed onions and garlic, diced potatoes, black-eyed peas, a jar of home-canned tomatoes and then splashed it all with hot sauce. It was so good that Michael even liked it-and he’s not a collards lover like I am! I didn’t take a picture but you don’t even need a recipe for this dish. I managed to use up a tiny part of what you see here on my kitchen counter:
Tonight after supper we went to the drum circle in our town’s newest park. It was a lot of fun and it made me kinda misty-eyed being there with good friends, in a beautiful park within walking distance of my home, realizing how FULL my life (and my refrigerator!) are. If we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. Now is the time to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, LED bulbs, leftovers, the good life, yogurt making
It’s been a lucrative week in my household, showing once again that frugality, in some cases, can be a decent substitute for a paycheck. The idea that making sure that we aren’t spending more than we bring in isn’t ‘a job’, but I do liken it to ‘a calling’. The first, and best, way to answer that calling is to track expenses. For 14 years, we have tried faithfully to track every single penny that comes into, and goes out of, our household. Doing this shows us exactly when we’re spending too much in one category or another and then allows us to make adjustments when needed. Food, gasoline, energy and entertainment are all examples of expense categories that allow for some flexibility and seeing what we’ve spent over the previous thirty days (or thirty months!) helps us make those adjustments with ease, both mentally and financially. The idea of tracking expenses came to us via “Your Money or Your Life”, a book we both happened to read at the beginning of our relationship. Both the tracking, and the relationship, have stood the test of time.
Monday: We needed a brighter bulb for a table lamp, and decided to pay a bit extra to get the better lighting quality of an LED bulb (instead of the ‘old’ compact fluorescent type we were replacing), so we bought one at Lowe’s while we were picking up some other home repair items we needed. Not a good shot, but here it is:
There were a few things on our shopping list that we couldn’t find at Lowe’s, so we went down the street to Home Depot. We found another bulb there with the same watts, lumens, and amperage as the one we’d just bought from Lowe’s- for $20.00! Cree bulbs have the highest ratings available for residential LED lighting by the way. So, we returned the Lowe’s bulb. Savings: $7.00. PS Save the receipts and package from these bulbs so that if they don’t meet the promised warranty period you can get a replacement.
Just an aside: while at Lowe’s we had priced an outdoor flag holder for $9.95, and rejected it as too expensive. While at Home Depot, we found a completely acceptable one for $2.50! Savings: $7.45. Has Lowe’s gone ‘upscale’ on us? It pays to shop around, whether it’s for lightbulbs or lawnmowers.
Tuesday: After months of eating ice cream during Michael’s chemo treatments, we’re trying to find healthier substitutes, so I’ve started making yogurt once again. Summer time is perfect for this since it produces very little heat in the kitchen and the availability of fresh fruits to add to it are at their peak. I like mine creamy and thick, with ‘real’ chunks of fruit, and local honey as a sweetener. A small container of Greek yogurt is about a dollar. I use powdered milk to make mine in a $10 yogurt maker I’ve had for many years. It holds 8 ‘cups’ and depending on the fruit I use, costs me about 50 cents a cup at most and is delicious. Savings: $4.00
Just heat the milk to 190 degrees, then let cool to 120 degrees…
then add a few Tablespoons of plain yogurt as a starter, pour into cups, and let the magic happen!
Wednesday: My dentist, whom I trust completely, advised me to get the two ‘major’ repair jobs taken care of during this calendar year while I have dental insurance, then to drop the insurance at the end of the year. I take good care of my teeth, getting them cleaned by hygienist students at my local college for free, four times a year, and doing the recommended brushing and flossing daily. My new dental insurance paid for a full set of xrays and will pay 80% of the needed work, after which, I shouldn’t need any more expensive stuff done. (It doesn’t cover ‘false teeth’ should I need those in the future). So, I had the first procedure done this week and will have the next done next month, leaving me still with almost 6 months of coverage before I cancel. My annual premiums are $360, and since this is the first year in my life I’ve ever had dental insurance, maybe I’ll go the next 60 without it again! Savings: $360 a year
Thursday: Our toilets began having trouble flushing completely. After much plunging, I heard the man next door out in his yard, and, knowing he owns a lot of property around town, went outside to ask him if he could recommend a decent plumber. Turns out, he was in the side yard with his plumber-guess what? His toilets weren’t flushing either, so he had called Roto Rooter to clear his clog. Amazingly, our two houses connect in the side yard, then run out to the city’s sewer lines at the street! So, we agreed we’d split the bill. Of course, Roto Rooter couldn’t open the blockage with their ‘normal’ equipment and said they’d return with their BIG guns. Estimated cost: $350. So, I told the neighbor I’d split the cost with him. Roto Rooter guys returned, and in less than 5 or 10 minutes they’d uncovered the problem, rather smugly announcing that the problem was “feminine products”. I rather smugly pointed to my gray hair and told them then it wasn’t my fault since I’m the only female in my house and I haven’t used “feminine products” in almost ten years! I offered to pay $100 towards the final bill and neighbor man quickly agreed to that deal. Savings: $75.00! just for speaking up!
“Onion” may use feminine products…but I don’t! Color me happy :)
Saturday: That’s right, I didn’t do a damn thing frugal today but I did take some herbal teas and crossword puzzle books to a friend in the hospital, cut my own grass, and bought one of those rotisserie chickens on sale for $3.99 from Krogers to have for supper (with enough leftovers for 2 more meals). But tomorrow I’ll take my cat to the annual vaccination clinic at the nearby high school, where I’ll be able to get his rabies shot then for $10. Savings: $20 Simon is not any happier that he’ll get it for a third of the normal price, but I sure am! (picture above applies to Saturday too)
As always, frugality is not about being ‘cheap’ but smart. Living well on less keeps us long on time and lean on ‘stuff’, but absolutely FAT on all that matters! Please won’t you share your frugal matters too in the comments section below? I’m always inspired by what my readers are doing to stretch their incomes- hey, that means YOU!
Filed under: ENOUGH!, Mindful Consumerism, Sustainability | Tags: conserve, Consumerism, curtail, frugal, recycling, Waste reduction
I write here fairly often about ‘sustainability‘, which dictionary.com defines as: “pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse”. It’s a word that has been bandied about rather loosely over the last decade but it’s the single best word I’ve found to describe the lifestyle that I aspire to, and that I wish for the planet. It’s that “Continual Reuse” that I find difficult to maintain. Actually, I’ve only managed sustainability in just a few areas of my life, and even then only for short periods of time: using clothelines, maintaining compost piles, heating my home for 10 years using only coppiced and downed wood (and then adding the ashes to the garden), harvesting rainwater and refusing bottled water, and creating zero waste. It’s very hard to even grow food sustainably, for I’d have to save all my own seeds to be completely sustainable in the garden.
I’ve come to the conclusion-finally-that I cannot lead a sustainable life. From cradle to cremation, our lives are simply not sustainable in the modern world. I’ve realized that even the Native Americans weren’t living sustainably as they cut down trees for their every use, planted their crops until the soils were so depleted they had to ‘move on’ and made face paints from mineral pigments that they dug from the earth. Believe me when I say that admitting that makes me sad.
However, here’s the good news: we CAN easily practice and produce things in our households that will help us be skilled and resilient in the face of the continuing threats of worsening climate changes, economic instability and inequity and the depleting of the earth’s natural resources. ‘Curtailing’ is a newer buzzword when used in conversations about sustainability. That means buying less, using less, wanting less and wasting less. Curtail means to “cut back” or possibly to “downsize.” It is more reflective of the seriousness of our current situation than the probably more politically acceptable word “conserve.” Conservation often implies a relatively small reduction in consumption, possibly recycling or buying compact fluorescents or maybe buying a hybrid car. If conserve is to be used as a synonym for curtail, it would be appropriate to preface it with some modifier such as “radical” conservation or “extreme” conservation or “rapid” conservation.
Buying Less: I am really trying to ‘curtail’ my driving these days, even though I’ll admit that I don’t do it so much as a frugality measure, but as a health measure. I enjoy getting my daily exercise walking or biking to the places I need to go and have found when I carefully ‘bundle’ my errands, I don’t spend any more time walking them than I did driving them. Without the stress of road rage, I find the time spent is actually conducive to my well-being, beyond the cardio benefits. While running errands recently I’ve noticed birds’ nests, hidden rabbit litters, blooming flowers and the neighbors’ gardens. I’ve witnessed homeless people, panhandlers and drunks too. Being in a car isolates and insulates me from those realities of life, but I’d rather live life with eyes wide open. I’ve saved many dollars on fuel, prevented the release of countless CO2 molecules, and preserved the miles on my car’s engine and tires, all while running errands. Hooray for ‘curtailing’!
Using Less: I’m also conserving more energy these days; both mine and the electric company’s! With the arrival now of truly hot weather, I rise earlier so that I can run my errands and work in the garden before the heat of the day settles in. That gives me the rest of the day to guiltlessly enjoy reading, cooking, napping, playing music or writing, all the while sipping ice tea under the fan. Not a bad trade-off, this ‘conserving’ ;)
Wanting Less: Seems like recently I’ve forgotten my own advice about buying more ‘stuff’ and I found my closets and corners filling up once again. Getting into the habit of buying somehow magically leads to buying even more. A new dress can lead to a new pair of shoes to match it, which leads to a new car to drive around town looking good in while you’re wearing the new dress and shoes. Ask any star. But it’s just a habit. Of course knowing something and doing something about it are two completely different things. I smoked for many years even after I realized how bad it was for me and the planet. Smoking was a habit, and so is excessive shopping. But-more good news!- the habit can be broken and with the release of its’ grip, you automatically begin to want less. I’m no minimalist, but to know with certainty that point of having ‘enough’ is priceless to me. And wanting less is the key to that knowing.
Wasting Less: My friend Sandy tells me: “A low consumption lifestyle is the ultimate waste reduction strategy.” I enjoy the challenge of not being wasteful. I’m not talking about just drinking the last sip of milk, I’m talking about buying the milk in a returnable glass jug! I’m not talking about eating the apples before they go bad, I’m talking about composting the cores and feeding the seeds to the chickens! I’m not talking about recycling your #2 plastic bottles, I’m talking about drinking out of a glass for goodness’ sakes! I really can say with confidence that I don’t ‘waste’ anything. Like developing the habit of ‘wanting less’, it’s become such an ingrained habit in me that the concept of wasting anything is strange. Yet I see (on those daily walks in my urban area) senseless waste each and every day. From an uncancelled postage stamp to an unwanted article of clothing, you’ll find very little waste in my life. I’m proud of that. But you know what? It doesn’t matter that I’m not able to live 100% sustainably; what matters is the trying.
Filed under: ENOUGH!, Frugality, Mindful Consumerism, Resilience, Reuse | Tags: Consumerism, frugal, recycling, simplicity, the good life, Waste reduction
It’s Friday the 13th AND a full moon! Seems like an auspicious way to begin post number 2-0-1- on this blog. Since returning from my trip to Ohio, I’ve been distracted with gardening and meetings, and festivals and meetings and shelling peas and meetings and out of town company and oh yeah, did I mention meetings? This week I’ve really tried to concentrate on eating from our garden every day, as well as walking and biking as much as possible to get where I need to go. When I left town to travel to Ohio, I filled up for $3.32 a gallon, but when I got there, gas was $3.99 a gallon! If that’s not incentive to park the car, I don’t know what is, yet the city where my family lives just had bumper to bumper traffic everywhere! Before I get on to my personal efforts to live fully and frugally beneath my means, I wanted to show you a picture I took in downtown Columbus of a new ‘car rental’ system they have there…
The Car2Go system is brilliant for use in a big town. A one time membership fee of $35 gets you a swipe card. The card readers are on the dash of the car. Swipe your card, the doors unlock, then the reasonable pay by the minute-mile-or hour fees are charged to your credit card. Park it when you’re done in one of many many spaces allocated for them. They’re perfect for one, they’re fuel-efficient because of their small size and as you can see, you can park two cars in the space that one car normally takes up! Talk about frugal! The only bad thing is having to live in a big town to take advantage of this. No thanks, I’ll just walk.
OK, before I get started on ‘this week': a few of my close friends have said, from time to time, “you didn’t do such and such on Monday, it was Wednesday!” Whatever. The point here is not to give you a play by-play rundown of my week but instead, to simply show that every single day there are opportunities in our lives to save time, energy and resources. Living well on less is a way of life. Even on Mondays. Or Wednesdays. Just sayin’…
Monday: We had two compost bins but wanted to start a third one so we can be sure to have enough compost made this fall and next spring to add to our garden beds. The two bins we already had-and love-were $75 each last time I priced them (that’s them on the right, below) but with graduation gifts and travel expenses this month, there’s simply not enough money right now to buy another. But-we had a small section of wire fencing that we’d used several times to trellis growing vegetables, so we rolled it up, stuck it in the corner beside the other two and said ‘good enough’! It works fine and didn’t cost us a dime. And, as you can see, it’s already filling up!
Tuesday: Speaking of graduation expenses, or special gift giving occasions: I’m always on the lookout for the perfect gift for such events. A few months ago I was in my favorite thrift store and found this little gem for 50 cents:
It had a lot going for it, from my point of view: it looked brand new, but no new resources were used for me to purchase it used, I wrote a personal note to put inside with the $100 bill I gave my graduating granddaughter, so no card had to be bought and then thrown away, nor did I need any wrapping paper. AND she’s got the little box for as long as she wants it to store ‘stuff’. Cheap? Nah, Sweet!
Wednesday: With summertime comes mosquitoes. I was hopeful that Michael’s chemo treatments would make him less desirable to the biting buggars but that doesn’t seem to be the case so it was time, once again, to mix up a batch of my infamous ‘Bug Potion #9′. Here’s the ‘recipe': it makes 2 cups and usually lasts all summer. We keep it in repurposed spice jars, along with some cotton balls, in the camper,the car, the kitchen and the bathroom!
1 cup witch hazel
1 cup rubbing alcohol
8-10 drops peppermint oil
Shake well, store in a tightly capped container so that alcohol doesn’t evaporate. Applying this with a cotton ball as soon as possible after being bitten results in better effectiveness.
Thursday: I signed up on-line to join the Adult Summer Reading program at my local library. Just for doing that, when I went in to the library today, I received a free tote bag, bookmarks, and a book of my choice! And for each book review I post on their website, my name will also be entered into a weekly drawing! Does your library offer such sweet deals? Check it out-pun intended.
Friday: I invite company over at least once a month so my house will get cleaned. (oh surely you do that too! ;) This week we had an out of town band stay with us overnight and the upstairs guest quarters were looking, um…kinda shabby. The night stands and table belonged to my grandmother and looked as old as she did-hey! she was 101, and she deserved to display all those years proudly, just like this furniture does:
I spent $40 on new knobs and paint, a few pleasant hours on the patio and think the 3 pieces look pretty nice. I’ve also got enough paint left to do another small project so I’ll be on the lookout at yard sales this summer for a scuffed-but-solid table or stool to use it on- perhaps as a Christmas gift for my daughter? I just don’t know what to do with the paint cans once they’re empty. Any ideas?
I hope you’re carrying the ideas of Frugal Friday with you throughout your week, and that you’re inspired to make the best use possible of whatever resources present themselves in your life before looking ‘elsewhere’ for the things you need. Enjoy the weekend-frugally of course!
Filed under: Food Cooperative, Liveable Communities | Tags: Climate Change, Farmer's Market, Food Co-ops, frugal, Income Inequality, Livable Communities, One Acre Cafe, recycling, Resource Depletion, the good life, transition, Waste reduction
This is my 200th post on this blog but I feel like I’m just getting started. Some of those posts may have you rolling your eyes by now (growing food, building community and frugality are my personal favorites) but today’s post covers all of those topics in one! I am a recently elected co-chair of the local Livable Communities Group, a group that’s been meeting for about ten years, but has recently partnered with Community Partnerships, another group that was originally established under the direction of the Washington County Economic Development Council. Recently we’ve become re-energized by all the good things that are happening in our town and have adopted a long range plan to address some of the issues that Johnson Citians that attended the Economic Summit in 2011 felt were key in making our community more livable and lovable. Not surprisingly, green spaces, hiking and biking trails, public safety, expanded public transportation options, community gardens, farmer’s markets and a more localized economy topped the list. One answer that stood out in the survey was to “grow and connect to our local foodshed”, and that drumbeat seems to be growing louder and louder.
It was announced in the local newspaper last week that the city doesn’t have the funds available to do the site preparation work for the long-promised new Farmer’s Market, and conversations that I’ve had recently with the market manager (he’s also the market board president-isn’t that a conflict of interest???) lead me to believe that if we really want to ‘grow and connect with our local foodshed’ the time has come to consider other options. And THAT is what the Livable Communities meeting being held tomorrow morning at the One Acre Cafe will be about. We’ve invited the director of Appalachian Sustainable Development to speak with us about the possibility of forming a food co-op; a worker-owned, community-based cooperative effort to help our residents be able to make that connection. I’ve been told that if our current Farmer’s Market vendors had a venue for selling their stuff during the colder months, that they’d be more willing to extend their growing seasons. This sounds like it might be a doable solution for that problem, allowing the summer-time market vendors to have a year-round income while allowing us eaters to have AFFORDABLE fresh locally-grown produce in addition to meats, cheeses, kitchen staples, home brews, and canned and baked goods, all in one location, all the time. If you eat, you’re part of this conversation.
I’ve been a member of two different food co-ops. The first was in the late 70’s. I joined a worker-owned co-op that operated a store front which became like a second home and provided me with affordable, healthy foods like natural peanut butter and rice cakes, whole grain flours, eggs, oil, honey, cheeses and so much more. Four kids can go through a lot of that stuff you know. By paying an annual membership fee you got the food at a reduced price, but if you volunteered to work in the store a couple hours a month, you got an even larger reduction! Everything was ordered in bulk then divided up once it was delivered to the store. Our family refilled the same peanut butter and honey jars and Tupperware containers (remember Tupperware?) over and over and over, keeping endless amounts of trash from the landfill in the process. This was before curbside recycling was available-hell, this was before bottled water! Which makes me wonder if the ease of recycling now is truly progressive or simply relieves our conscience? But I digress…
The second coop I belonged to never had a store front, so the food was delivered to a remote parking lot, and was then taken home by members to divvy it up before it landed in the proper kitchen. The truck was always late, the orders always had something missing, and it was not ideal by any means. I don’t want to do that anymore.
After the ASD presentation of different co-op models, we’ll break for lunch at the cafe, then our group will be taking a tour of a possible location for such a store, right downtown, just a couple of blocks from the not-gonna-happen ‘new’ Farmer’s Market. If this is something you’re truly interested in, feel free to join our group at 10 AM Monday, June 9th for this information gathering meeting.
Last, but not least, keep in mind that I write this blog to offer you what I hope are resilient and creative, if not challenging, solutions for living well while transitioning to a world that holds the triple threats of climate change, energy and resource depletion and the ever-growing income inequity in the US and our globalized world. But after 200 posts, I’m just getting started!
Filed under: Growing Food, organic gardening | Tags: beans, Compost, food, growing food, Master Gardeners, plants, raised beds
Are you sick of my posts about gardening? If so, just hit delete today, because it’s really all that’s on my mind during these long days of spring. I’ve got lots more good topics for transitioning lined up for the near future, some I can barely wait to share with you, but today, it’s all about gardening.
Before we get started on this though, a little personal history and philosophy might be in order. I’m a Tennessee Master Gardener and the coordinator of my city’s largest (to date) and oldest community garden, but I’m hoping that (at least!) a dozen more communal gardens will be surpassing our size in the near future. I feel that growing food is a life skill like no other. Gardening can offer resilience in the face of adversity, whether that’s due to climate change, skyrocketing food prices, personal money hardships, or food sensitivities. It builds self-sufficiency, enhances my sense of empowerment, and oh yeah, provides me with great-tasting and healthy food. My garden offers me a respite from a life filled with the blur of technology, stress and diversions and actually serves as my personal sanctuary when I go to kneel at its’ weedy altar. Oh yeah, did I mention it provides me with great-tasting food?
This post is simply my way of sharing some of what I’ve learned over the years with other gardeners that might be struggling to get their own pots and plots in good shape right now. There are lots of good gardening advice online, so if I don’t cover your question in this short post, you can find the answer somewhere on the world-wide web or in a good gardening book at the library. Or post your questions in the comments section at the end, maybe I’ll have an answer.
Q: How far apart should I plant my (fill in the blank)?
A: If you have rich soil that has adequate amounts of a plant’s needed nutrients, count on them growing well. Read that as large. Space accordingly. A big ole’ heirloom tomato plant that’s growing in a well-maintained raised bed that’s filled with rich homemade compost and lots of organic matter can easily grow to 3′ wide and 6′ tall! If your soil isn’t so good, it won’t grow that large and you might get by with spacing them 18″ apart. I’ve seen gardeners that plant tomatoes and peppers 3-4″ apart! I apologize for the quality of this bad picture, but I want you to look closely at this: there are twelve, count them, TWELVE tomato plants in that little bitty bed!
The spacing in my cabbage patch shown below is good on the left side with four plants, but too close on the right, which has five plants and shows the fourth one almost lost! These were ‘early’ small cabbages. Had they been a later, heavier variety, I would’ve only planted one row of them down the middle.
Tomatoes and squash like a lot of air circulation, as that keeps many of the diseases that they’re susceptible to at bay. Try to visualize a full-grown August tomato plant when considering how far apart to set them out. However, if we’re talking about carrots, go with 1″ apart thinning to 2″ when they’re up and recognizable. Squash on the other hand need 2-3′ all around to produce well. These next two pics show how much room I give them. Both beds will be completely covered soon with the zucchini and yellow squash vines! You’ve got to visualize how big the mature plants will be!
Like carrots, green beans and peas are planted closely, about 2″ apart, again, depending on the variety you’re planting. Read the back of the seed package if all else fails. If your seeds are old, plant thicker than normal, and if they all come up, just thin to an appropriate distance apart. In the pic below, the beans were planted 2″ apart, but birds and rabbits have done a pretty good job of ‘thinning’ for me.
The sugar snap peas below were planted very closely around the edges of a square bed and as you can see are flowering well now. I set the tomato cage in the center for the peas to be supported by, knowing that by the time the tomato needs the space, the peas will be history. Once the tomato fills the cage and is growing well, I’ll plant basil around the edges where the peas were…these three are good companion plants because the tomatoes need a lot of nitrogen and the peas are ‘nitrogen-fixing’ plants, which means they can literally pull it from the air and store it in the soil for use by the next crop. Basil and tomatoes are not only compatible when eaten together, the sharp smell of basil deters pests from the tomatoes when they’re grown together. How cool is THAT?
Q: Why are my young plants turning purple?
Did you plant the purple variety? Likely because your soil is low in phosphorus or because the soil temp is still too cool.
Q: Why are my plants turning yellow?
A: It’s usually caused by a nitrogen deficiency. Fish Emulsion is a good organic source of nitrogen. While young plants are growing feed every week, moving to every two weeks later in the season.
Q: Why do I have huge green plants but no broccoli heads?
A: Too much nitrogen is generally the cause of overgrowth with no fruit set.
Q: Nothing seems to be doing well this year
A: A simple test kit can go a long way towards helping you decide what your garden soil needs or doesn’t. Even though they’re inexpensive, share the cost with a friend or neighbor or two. You generally only need to test once or twice to determine your soil’s Ph and then again after making any needed adjustments, but the kits have enough solution to do it over and over. If your Ph isn’t in the correct range no matter how rich your soil is, the plant roots won’t be able to draw the nutrients from that soil to help them thrive.
As I’ve written all of this I realize that gardening is kind of like beekeeping… ask 10 people how to do something and you’ll get 10 different answers but maybe this will be of some help to you dear readers. I believe that growing and eating locally grown foods, in season, is the single best thing one can do to improve their health, their personal economy, and the environment. Plant something, ok?
Just because we’ve had the coldest temperatures this week that I’ve ever seen here in Tennessee, that doesn’t mean that frugality was forgotten. As a matter of fact, every time I hear that heat pump come on, I’m reminded of how we need to be cutting back on the smaller luxuries now, in order to meet the higher electric bills that weather like this will surely bring! Although it’s been a challenge to keep warm, we’ve managed just fine, and now that temperatures are rising a bit, perhaps we can return to daily walks and go back to our ‘normal’ bedtime. We’re finding ourselves in bed a bit earlier each night, mostly in pursuit of staying warm. Even though last night was a ‘Three Dog Night’, we had to make do with the cat sleeping on our bed and the dog on her own bed. TVA has asked people to keep their thermostats at 68 during the day and to conserve on electricity in whatever ways we can. Conservation has always been the key to lower energy usage, as it is for living well on less in general. This week was really no different. Making pots of soup and homemade breads, along with oven-baked meals of typical winter fare such as Shepard’s pie, baked potatoes, Lasagne, brownies and zuchinni bread, along with breakfast-for-supper one night, we’ve eaten well, splurged on a take and bake pizza (using a coupon of course) one night, enjoyed company eating with us two evenings, and still stayed within our budget. I’m ever so thankful for a warm house and plenty to share!
Monday: Not knowing if Tuesday’s Zumba class would be canceled due to the weather, (it was) I took the time to make what are called “Dance Socks” to cover my shoes. They are mere circles of spandex that fit snugly around the ball of the shoe, allowing the shoe to slide easily on the wood floors of a dance studio. When my instructor offered to let me borrow a pair until I could buy my own, I was shocked when she said they sell online for $9 a pair. They work very well, but really…$9 for a circle of spandex? So…I looked through my overstuffed sewing tote and found a tube of spandex cuffing material that had been on the bottom of a teeshirt sleeve. I wrapped it tightly around my shoe and made a seam. Savings: $9 PLUS $3.99 for shipping. It works like a charm too. Check it out:
Tuesday: Even though the thermometer was hovering below freezing, the seedlings of broccoli, cabbage, onions and more that are growing under lights on the seed rack upstairs are getting large enough to transplant from their tiny 4-cell packs into larger 3″ pots. We save and reuse both sizes each year and never have to buy them. But we do take the time to bleach and disinfect them before each reuse, in order to keep blights and soil borne plant diseases from spreading. Because of the sheer numbers, this can take a while. So I hit on the idea of letting them all soak in the bleach solution in the bathtub. Voila! If you take your bath first, you can also kill two birds with one stone by simply reusing the bath water for this job. Savings? It’s been so long since we’ve had to buy planting or transplanting pots that I don’t even know what they cost these days. I just love reusing something that most people throw away-including the bath water ;) Save those seedling cups folks and reuse them for your own seed starting needs!
Wednesday: We had not been out of the house except for brief walks since Saturday night, and we still had the second of those Aldi’s $10 off $40 coupons (that I’d told you about last week) set to expire on this day. Not! We scraped off the car and drove the mile to the store, and enjoyed the fact that there were only about 4 other people in there with us. We made it home with our stash just before the snow started falling again. Savings: $10- and the trip to the store relieved the cabin fever too.
Thursday: This was the coldest day of the week. We decided to walk to the community garden to see how things were looking there. I decided it was certainly cold enough to wear my latest thrift store find: a rather strange but very well made zip-up stocking cap that can be pulled up over my nose to almost meet the visor, for the grand price of 50 cents. It was brand new and perfect for such a day. Even though it’s no fashion statement (or is it?) I love it! Savings: What’s a frost-bite free face worth? priceless!
Friday: We are ushering at a Shakespeare production (Dr Faustus) at the college tonight, which will be followed by a reception (read: free food!) This gives us a chance to get out of the house after being homebound most of the week, be with friends, eat great catered food AND watch the performance. Savings: $40 for two tickets. Sweet!
We also played our monthly gig at a couple of nearby nursing homes, earning a bit of ‘mad money’, while having fun, and hopefully bringing some light to those folks that live there. Here’s a tip: If you can’t seem to get warm, GO TO A NURSING HOME! Because so many of the residents are immobile, those older folks just HAVE to have it warm, and boy howdy, you will warm up as soon as you walk in! (summer or winter) Play and sing for an hour and they may pay you too ;)