Filling My Days with Frugality

We’ve been busy here these last couple of weeks on our little patch of urban. We planted 7 blueberry bushes that were dug up from a friend’s blueberry patch. They’re only ‘sticks’ now, but in two years we’ll be blueberry rich!  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We’ve also built two more 4’x20′ raised beds for our community garden plot, planted peas, onions and potatoes and are nurturing our tomato and pepper seedlings in the greenhouse, which has required twice-a-day watering and venting this week with the heat we’ve had. So, even though that’s a pain for sure, it’s only for a month or two, and raising our own seedlings allows me to choose my very favorite varieties and is much cheaper than buying transplants. Because I have more time than money, it makes sense to take the time to do this and I’ve learned what I call a ‘life skill’-how to reliably raise healthy plants from seeds. Now, about those raised beds…

I’m always searching for frugal and healthier ways of doing things and I’ve found a good alternative to using treated wood for my raised beds. This ‘recipe’ for treating your own wood is as close to organic as I’ve found, while being effective in it’s ability to protect wood from rot. And it’s a much healthier choice for my vegetables and for the environment than pressure treated woods. I got the idea from Organic Gardening magazine many years ago, and the beds we left behind when we moved last summer were still holding pretty firm 8-9 years after building them-from plain pine lumber. I put 5 coats of this on every surface of the wood, using an old cheap brush for the chore, letting it soak in and dry between coats. Years ago, I got lucky at a yard sale and bought 8 boxes of paraffin wax for $2. About the same time, I was given several gallons of boiled linseed oil, so I haven’t had to buy those things to make this preservative until now. When we made our beds those many years ago, paint thinner was about $6 a gallon; now it’s $10.95 and a box of paraffin wax is at least $6! (By the way, if you have a veteran’s ID card, show it upon checkout at Lowe’s or Home Depot for a 10% discount) Before I buy any more paraffin wax though, I’ll just save candle stubs and melt them to make it, unless someone gives me a good reason why that wouldn’t work. Anyway, here’s the recipe:

1.   Slowly melt 1 ounce of paraffin wax over low heat in a double boiler (do not heat over a direct flame).
2.   Outdoors, carefully pour just under a gallon of solvent (mineral spirits, paint thinner, or turpentine, at room temperature) into a bucket; then slowly pour in the melted paraffin, stirring vigorously.
3.   Add 3 cups of exterior varnish or 1½ cups boiled linseed oil to the mix, stirring until the ingredients are blended.
4.   When the mixture cools, either dip your lumber into it or brush it onto the wood, making sure that you thoroughly coat all surfaces, especially the cut ends.  Dipping the boards for 5 to 15 minutes allows the repellent to soak more deeply into the wood. 

When we constructed our first bed in our new garden space last fall, we drove our 26 year old ‘farm’ truck to a nearby horse barn and filled it with free manure and bedding, then mixed that with the garden soil and compost and let it rot all winter. But we want to plant these two new beds right away, so we’ll have to wait until this fall to add horse manure to them, or risk frying all our seedlings. Frugal note here: If you have an old truck that you only use for hauling stuff occasionally like we do, you can register it as a farm vehicle and your insurance is much, much cheaper that way. Ain’t she a beaut? You should see the other side 😀


All this is simply to say that frugality allows us to live well on less. Much less. I’ve found that by waiting for things to ‘come to me’, rather than buying them right away almost always pays off. Yesterday during my bimonthly thrift store trip, I finally found the right sized lamp shade I’d been searching for for 50 cents, the exact burgundy-colored set of placemats I’d been wanting for $1, and a cool set of professionally framed prints in the perfect color to match my bathroom  for $6. I’d been on the lookout for all these items for months, it’s just that the stars and moon must’ve lined up just right on this particular day. Planning ahead and being patient paid off. 


I’ve also found that growing your own food is like printing money. Just like the sharply higher prices I quoted for the paint thinner and wax, food prices have risen sharply too. Growing our own allows us to eat fresh, organic food for a fraction of what that same food would cost in the store or at the market. I harvested a large produce bag of kale and a head of cabbage this week from last fall’s garden and I still have lettuce and parsley going strong too.


Combined with a few basic staples from my pantry, that’s enough for a gourmet meal of Soba Noodles with Kale and Peanut Sauce with a side of stir-fried cabbage on Friday, a pot of Potato-Kale soup with a side of Fusion Slaw on Saturday, and finally, a fiery Chinese stir-fry on Sunday, using the last of the shredded cabbage and kale, along with home-grown sprouts, red and green peppers, carrots, snow peas and celery, all ‘put by’ last fall.

The purpose of this blog is to share ideas that might inspire you to begin  transitioning to a lower-energy, lower-consumption, lower-income lifestyle-if times get hard or even if they don’t. Even though I’ve been on a media fast for a few weeks, I’ve still managed to hear about many scary things going on in our government, in our country and in our world. I may not be able to control those things, but I can sure as hell control how I spend my money, who I vote for, how I spend my time and what I eat. And that’s saying a lot, don’t you agree?



2 Comments so far
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Nice post Sam- glad you found that lampshade! Elizabeth

Comment by Elizabeth Malayter

Good Post. Looks like a great sustainability effort. Thanks.

Comment by informationforager

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