Tennesseetransitions


Adapting to Change

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

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

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

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

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



T.G.I.F.F. (thank God it’s frugal Friday)

Note: I wasn’t able to insert any pictures into this post, for reasons I don’t understand. So, use your imaginations, and perhaps I’ll get this ‘bug’ figured out before I post again.

I’ve been too consumed with being a caregiver for Michael to put together a post since Halloween. But, his cancer surgery is over, he’s recovering fairly well, and the doctors feel it was very successful. We are filled with gratefulness during this month of Thanksgiving. He still has one more surgery to go through in a few months, followed by a long round of chemo to complete, but we’re feeling very, very thankful.

All that said, we’re facing some hefty medical bills, so it’s become all the more important that we continue to live within our modest means while also continuing to live well. Lately, living well has included a few little luxuries, like some restaurant meals when energy for cooking lags, some cozy wool socks for both of us, and a few new-to-us books and DVD’s for helping fill the recovery time. Oh yeah, hand-made soaps are an affordable luxury that can make you feel positively extravagant!

Now, let’s focus on this week:

Sunday-Wednesday: I made a pot of great-tasting veggie soup and ate it for several days, taking it in my thermos each morning to the hospital to have for lunch. I also took my travel mug to fill with the free coffee and herbal tea (which was offered  to surgery patients and their families), along with fruit, cookies and almonds for snacking on throughout the day. Savings: the one meal I ate in the hospital cafeteria cost me over $5, for not much food, and I estimate the soup cost me maybe $1.00 to make from veggies, rice and beans I had on hand. Since I ate it four days, I’m estimating I saved at least $20.00 or more. AND, since soup is my comfort food, it was actually priceless 😉

Monday: Attended a free screening of a new documentary about the questions and controversy surrounding GMO foods,  titled “GMO, OMG”! An unexpected reception afterwards of fruits, cookies, wines, cheeses and bruschetta, all compliments of my local university’s School of the Arts, and time spent with a good friend made it a special evening without spending a dime. If you’re lucky enough to live in a college town, you might be able to take advantage of similar things too. Ditto for dental, medical and other schools. PS Michael and I once got free one hour massages given by graduating students of a local massage school. Priceless!

Tuesday: Started a jar of sprouts for use in sandwiches, salads, and stir fries. Cost for 1 T. mixed seed: 25 cents. Savings: $1.75 since a cup of fresh organic sprouts cost $2.00 WHEN you can find them.

Wednesday: Brought my “pot of celery” inside to live on the kitchen windowsill, hoping it will continue to grow. This plant was started by cutting the root end off of a store-bought stalk of celery and simply laying it on top of some potting soil and keeping it moist. If it produces, I’ll have saved a couple of bucks on celery. If it doesn’t, I’ll still enjoy the greenery during the winter, and can use the leaves in soups and stuff.

Thursday: Walked out of a physical therapist’s office on the third visit because they wouldn’t  quote me a cost, or even an estimate. Savings: ??? 

Friday: Have successfully gone through the first cold week of the season without yet turning on the central heat. We stay close to the gas stove in the living room (and love the glow of the flames!) and have an oil filled radiant heater for use in the kitchen, as well as a small thermostatically controlled heater for use in the bathroom or wherever a bit of heat is needed for a short period of time. We’ve also reinstated our winter ritual of  taking our showers back-to-back, while the bathroom is already heated up from the little heater AND the steamy shower.

“They” say that little things don’t count, don’t matter. I beg to differ. It’s the little things, the one and two dollars saved here and there that allow us to live so well on so little. We don’t feel deprived and have enough in our lives to share. I also feel strongly that the premise behind this blog, almost 2 years after I began writing it, is still reason enough to continue it. We are facing hard times, in spite of the fact that the stock market reached an all time high today, in spite of the fact that gasoline is once again below $3.oo a gallon, and in spite of the fact that national health care is becoming a reality. Maybe. This week also saw the world’s strongest typhoon in history, the beginning of the two-week UN Climate talks already beginning to falter after only a couple of days, and closer to home, family in California informs us that water supplies are becoming a huge problem for the Central Valley. You know, that place known as our nation’s bread basket.

The window for making graceful transitions is beginning to close, but we can still create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. Now is the time to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. Learning to Live Well while living frugally makes the whole process of transition easier. Please feel free to share your own attempts at frugality and living well by commenting below. We’re all in this together you know. Thank God it’s Friday!



Good Investments

Yesterday was our first taste of winter here in NE TN -some of the higher elevations close by had snow flurries and even a bit of sleet! The gray skies and windy conditions forced us to turn on the gas fireplace stove, immediately drawing  the cat and dog in close. We picked the remaining tomatoes and then brought the baskets and bins of fresh produce from the porch inside to the pantry to protect it all from tonight’s expected low temperatures. We’ve got two cases of apples to store away, along with onions, grinding corn, butternut and spaghetti squashes, red, yellow and white potatoes and sweet potatoes all cured and waiting for the real cold to move in before we begin eating them daily. You know, when that time that comes after the Farmer’s Market closes next month when there’s very little fresh, local produce available, all these root veggies will be combined with whatever greens and Brassicas we have under the hoops to make lots of great meals. All this food was grown organically on good soil and is full of vitamins and minerals. Soil and compost building is a ‘good investment’ in successful gardening and the resulting fruits and veggies are  ‘good investments’ in our health and future well-being.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Every single person that has seen Michael since he’s undergone his cancer treatments has commented, “Well you look good!” Even though his body’s been completely poisoned with the chemotherapy and ravaged by the radiation, he pulled through easier than many his age do and we are certain it’s because he was always investing in good health, even though all the while that damn tumor was growing undetected. Eating healthful foods and getting exercise every day may in fact be the best investment he’s ever made. This picture was made a week ago.

michael on bike

I’m glad the government shutdown was discontinued and the debt ceiling raised, but I think we all know it’s temporary. A friend remarked the other day that she has never EVER tended her garden with as much care as she has this year. Why? I think she’s simply being prudent and wise based on her own observations of how precarious our current economic system is. If ever, in the course of our lives, there was a time to plant food and learn a craft or skill, build a pantry and invest one’s money in one’s life, it is now. I recently offered a talented friend use of my washer and dryer twice a month to do her laundry in exchange for giving me advanced bass lessons while her clothes get clean. Michael and I make our ‘mad money’ by playing with a local band. The better musicians we are, the more likely we are to be hired to play. (AND learning to play any instrument is right up there with learning a foreign language and doing brain exercises as ways to keep sharp as we age) Plus, we have so much fun playing music!  I consider the trade another ‘good investment’.

IMG_1668

 Get to know your neighbors–you’ll need each other as shortages force us to relocalize. Work toward establishing new, more community-based economies.  Last week I traded a neighbor some of my fresh organic veggies for a big sack of his pecans. He feels like he got the best end of the bargain, but so do I. That’s what I call win-win. In the business world, networking with others in your line of work is considered important for success. The same holds true in our private lives. Volunteering for your favorite charity, sharing space in the community garden, even joining a church or club are all great ways to network and make friends. Our church community has rallied around us during Michael’s illness and we’ve felt uplifted and empowered by their support. Many studies have proven that a strong social network of friends can stave off depression, dementia and other illnesses. Building those relationships are ‘good investments’ for everyone concerned!

I think by clearly envisioning the joyful, healthy, earth friendly lives we most want and then by making ‘good investments’ during this transition period that we are currently experiencing, we’ll be able to make that vision a reality.

PS I apologize in advance if some the words in this post are highlighted in red and take  you to an ad. I have no idea why it’s happening and will try to fix it in future posts.



First World Problems
September 11, 2013, 4:48 PM
Filed under: Cancer, Resilience | Tags: ,

Even though I’m currently a full-time caregiver for hubby  Michael, a lot of his healing time is spent sleeping, giving me more time than usual to devote to quieter activities such as reading, writing, and gardening. The unexpected gift of time has found me moving more slowly through my days, and developing a keener awareness of what’s most important in my life. (By the way, if anyone ever tells you that cancer is a ‘gift’, don’t believe it. That’s crap!) One of the things that I’ve grown fond of saying (and weary of at the same time) is: “Well, at least I don’t have cancer!”. It makes the things I consider whine-worthy seem ‘not so’ when I say that out loud. A trend I’ve recently become aware of is that we have a unique set of problems in our country that are being labeled “First World Problems”. There are complete web sites, stand up comic routines and even a TV show devoted to the ridiculous ‘problems’ we lucky First Worlders experience. Here’s an example:

690

Some days, and today is one of them, I simply have to laugh to keep from crying. Here are a few ‘problems’ I read about while doing a quick online search:

From today’s local newspaper: “Man reports pistol and briefcase with $2,500 stolen from unlocked vehicle in Roan Mountain”

Copied from the internet: “I went to go babysit for an hour and the kids didn’t even  know what their own wi-fi password was.”

And here are some I’ve said myself. Read ’em, put them into their proper context, and weep.

“The tag on my new shirt is really bugging me”

“My laptop is dying but my charger is all the way upstairs”

“The elevator isn’t working?!!!”

“I ate too much!”

“I need to simplify my life.”

“I need to declutter my stuff.”

“I have too many tomatoes.”

Ahhh, that last one gave me an idea:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ll see if they’re  gone from the front steps by the end of the day.

What, pray tell, does all this have to do with Transitioning? I don’t know to be honest, but there’s a tie-in here, I’m sure of it. My ‘About Tennessee Transitions‘ page says:

“If we collectively plan and act early enough, we can create a way of living that’s significantly more connected, more vibrant and more fulfilling than the one we find ourselves in today. Now is the time to take stock and to start re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. This blog is simply about my attempts to visualize and help create that new way of living!”

 



Frugal Friday August 30th

I’m on a writing roll friends, and since I didn’t get around to it last week, today is the day for… FRUGAL FRIDAY. It’s been a difficult week for my husband and consequently, I’ve wanted and needed to be home with him as much as possible. I walk the dog for a half hour each morning, and that’s about it. That said, when you don’t start the car, go out to eat, go into stores or out with friends, YOU DON’T SPEND ANY MONEY! I don’t recommend this forced method of saving however, because it can lead to…writing too many blog posts.

I rescued another stamp this week that had arrived in my mailbox uncanceled and used it to mail a card to a sick friend. I don’t go to many yard sales and thrift stores, but when I do, I always look for cards and stationery. I have a nice assortment of both now, and rarely have to buy an appropriate card at full retail price. Of course, using ‘recycled’ postage stamps to mail them makes the endeavor practically free. I really do enjoy sending cards and letters to folks, but felt it was wasteful of Earth’s resources, since most cards are thrown away within a week of receiving them so this practice of buying second-hand allows me to indulge without being wasteful . Here’s the latest stamp that came to me uncanceled-on my birthday earlier this month- which was like ‘frosting on the cake’ so to speak.  ;D

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Speaking of greeting cards… a ‘ritual’ that began quite unexpectedly has turned into an annual reaffirmation for me. Four years ago Michael gave me a beautiful and sentimental anniversary card. I told him it was perfect and that he could just give it to me every year after that. So he does, adding a new inscription to it each August. I still love it, and look forward to its yearly return. Savings: who knows?  but it’s priceless to me!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I answered a posting on Freecycle this week for an offer of 3 vials of the same vet-recommended flea and tick medication (read: EXPENSIVE)  that I was already applying to my dog each month, and was so grateful to be chosen to receive it. Savings: $36.00 hmmm maybe I’ll send that Freecycler a thank you card with my next recycled stamp ;D (Here’s Junie showing off her stash)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I picked up a book that was on hold for me at the library this week. Not only do they call me when it’s ready for pickup, they send me a complimentary email reminder when it’s due too!  Since I walked over to get it, I didn’t even use any gasoline! Public Library Privileges: PRICELESS! And see here how beautiful my library is:

johnsoncitypgpics

I enjoy making a meal out of essentially ‘nothing’ and put this one together initially because of the four potatoes I’d failed to harvest earlier: I stir fried the chard leaves and diced potatoes with the onions, cooked the green beans with the dill, and threw the beets in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes while the rest of it cooked. I sliced the tomatoes just as they were, had some leftover cornbread and apple mint tea with it, and it was more than enough for two meals. (I added the ‘Appalachian Grown Certified Local’ twist tie to the picture  just because it came on a bunch of kale I’d bought at the Farmer’s Market in early spring and I thought it was kinda novel- and it was appropriate for this local food too. I’m easily amused these days, can you tell?)
Savings: I don’t know…what would that organically grown produce cost me? Three or four dollars I’d say!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hope your Labor Day Weekend is anything BUT laborious!



A Pictoral: How I Spent My Summer Staycation

 Yesterday I wrote about what we can do to contribute to making our towns and cities a better place to live. Today is completely different;  I wanted to share with  you what I’ve been doing to contribute to making my own life and family a better place to live. I’ve been staying close to home this summer, trying to be on hand as a gopher caregiver to my husband while he’s going through his cancer treatments. Normally, our summers are filled with camping, gardening, hiking, and playing with the band…

196425_10151168258554695_1504663206_n

But this summer, we only got in a quick trip to Florida back in May…

Paradise

And an even quicker trip to Ohio to visit my ‘grandbabies’…

100_1260

before he was diagnosed with the Big C. So while Michael goes through the healing process, I’ve been growing and preserving the very best food  I can to help him win this fight, because I’m a firm believer in the adage…

let-food-be-thy-medicin-100-Days-of-Real-Food.jpg

I’ve been whipping up some ‘Farmaceuticals’ for him to eat once he can enjoy food again. Like many of our modern medicines, all of mine come from the Earth. In my kitchen farmacy, I transformed  just-picked zucchini…

zucchini_01_-utehohmann

into salted, dried chips…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

that are great for munching on right out of the jar

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cabbage was fermented from this form…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To this chow chow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My heirloom Hopi Orange Lima beans started out small…

bean tower 2

Moving on UP to this OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then after the pods were dry…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I waited until a friend came over 😉  and while chatting over a cup of tea, I casually set the bowls of beans on the table, and they got shelled out in no time flat! Then the beans were stored in jars until they’re cooked this winter. The fresh beans aren’t nearly as pretty as these dried ones, but they both taste awesome with some of that chow chow on them!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Recently a friend uttered those three special words we all love to hear: LOCAL, ORGANIC, and FREE. So I picked her concord grapes, and loved transforming them from this…

grapes basket

To these Christmas gifts jars of jelly. Thank you Sara.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This month, as the tomatoes have ripened, they’ve gone from the vine right into the jars and will be used in the months ahead as the basis for many pots of soup, pasta sauces, chilis and casseroles. The 50 jars I’ve canned this summer should last a year…IF I only use one jar a week!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Luckily, onions, potatoes, garlic and winter squashes just needed to be stored away in a dark, dry, rodent- proof place…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Drying some of the garlic allows me to keep it year round though…

100_0826

Old fashioned, plain green beans are Michael’s favorite and recent research shows they can be effective against cancer:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In addition to all this canning, the freezer’s full of berries, chopped peppers, edamame, peas and pesto, with apples and pecans coming in next month. My young daughter once asked:

cannedzombies

How did you spend YOUR summer staycation?



Focus on Tomatoes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s now mid-August, and I’m feeling the effects of a late summer  garden bounty, weekly grass cutting chores, clearing and preparing garden beds for fall replanting, making pesto, drying herbs, planting seeds and a long list of summer projects still undone; the frequent rains have  messed up plans for everything from painting the porch to preparing a black-and-blue berry bed. Even though those projects are important to me, my highest priority is my husband’s cancer treatments and recovery. We’ve had to make choices that support protecting his health, and healing his spirit, and letting go of anything that doesn’t achieve those things.

I’ve still found time to do a fair amount of canning this summer, including some pint jars of tomatoes today. Why do I add this time consuming job to an already too-long to-do list? Let me count the ways…

  • Canned and cooked tomatoes are rich in Lycopene, long thought  to prevent cancer. New research shows that it may only be useful in preventing prostate cancers. Michael has colon cancer, so tomatoes and all the wonderful dishes that include them will always be featured on our supper table. I mean ALL he needs is prostate cancer now, right? Just sayin’…
  • Putting food by is a skill, an art, and an act of resilience and sustainability. If this blog is about nothing else, it’s about those things!
  • My favorite brand of canned tomatoes recently jumped from 50 cents a can to 75 cents a can. That’s a 50% increase folks! When I save and replant my own seeds, make my own compost and reuse my own reusable canning lids to seal the jars,  my tomatoes are essentially FREE. If you’re a regular reader of this blog , you know that being frugal is a priority of mine, one that allows me the freedom and luxury of living very well on a small income.
  • Lastly, a well-stocked pantry offers me a sense of security, allows me to eat healthy, organic, good-tasting food every day of my life- not just during June, July or August- and gives me a tremendous sense of well-being.  I don’t look at preserving food as simply ‘another thing I need to do’, but as a CHOICE and a blessing. I think that last part is what makes it fun and easy for me to face basketfuls of fresh fruits or veggies every day or so in the kitchen. It’s a mindset.

Speaking of mindsets… I grew up in a home/religion/time that taught me that “Idle hands are the Devil’s handiwork”, and even though I don’t believe that shit for one minute, the lesson stayed with me, and now, sixty years later, I have trouble being ‘still’. Or just ‘being’- not doing. To help remedy that, I’ve gone back to my old daily meditation practice and am reminded once again why it’s called a ‘practice’. 😉 But then again, many things in life require practice. Take these tomatoes, for example. I’ve been canning for almost 40 years, but today, when I opened the canner after the timer went off, I was greeted to floating tomatoes all over the top of the water! Not only did one jar not seal, it must not’ve been screwed down at all because the ring, lid and rubber were all floating. I assume it’s because I wasn’t being mindful, and simply failed to screw it down. That’s where my mindfulness practice of mediation becomes helpful. With a full regimen of cancer therapies added to my daily rounds, I’ve found myself being careless or mindless more and more often. This is NOT how I want to spend my days, and so I sit, cross-legged, eyes closed, just focusing on my breath. And all.those.tomatoes.

Health Insurance




%d bloggers like this: