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.

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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.

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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’.

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 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:

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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

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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!

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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)

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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:

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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!

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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…

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

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

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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…

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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…

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into salted, dried chips…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

that are great for munching on right out of the jar

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Cabbage was fermented from this form…

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To this chow chow

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My heirloom Hopi Orange Lima beans started out small…

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Moving on UP to this OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then after the pods were dry…

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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!

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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…

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

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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!

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

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

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

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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:

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How did you spend YOUR summer staycation?



Focus on Tomatoes

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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



Cool Off With a Hot Shower!

It’s the dog days of summer, almost mid-August. Back in June I wrote a post called “Room for Improvement” which is about my ongoing efforts to reduce my energy needs and costs. My intention then was to find something I could do each month to make that happen, and then let you know if it was something that I felt might be doable and useful for your household too.  July brought a diagnosis of “The Big C” to my hubby and our lives have changed drastically since that post was written. In other words, I wasn’t able to make improvements in my energy usage in July, nor even think about how I might make that happen. John Lennon famously said: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”. (That said, it also points to my not-so-famous quote: “Prepare today for tomorrow; Screw that ‘location, location, location- it’s ‘Resilience, Resilience, Resilience’.”)

But never fear! I’ve found a way to offer you some inspiration in spite of my own dismal energy cutting efforts last month. I asked my super heroes friends that live in Cottage Grove, Oregon to share pictures and a writeup about their latest in a very long line of personal efforts to reduce their energy dependence and they have come through with a knockout project that sounds easy enough that it can be duplicated for little money and just a bit of work. I hope you’ll enjoy this ‘guest blog’, and if you know of others that are trying to transition to a life that isn’t based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being, please direct them to me if they’ve got ideas to share here on this blog.

Guest Blog by Dale Lugenbehl and Sandy Aldridge

“If you’re interested in a very effective way to reduce your home energy usage, you might be interested in a solar-powered outdoor shower. Although this may sound like more than a home handyperson might tackle, it’s actually quite manageable. We built one ourselves and are delighted with the final outcome. It has reduced our electrical use for the entire year by between 15 and 20 percent because we are able to turn off our hot water heater for 4-5 months and simply shower outside. We live in Western Oregon; if you live in a high solar area, you might be able to use your shower all year around.

Initially we built a 4×8 foot shower stall—one end for changing and one for showering–out of inexpensive cedar fence boards (59 cents each), laid a floor of pavers that were seconds (cost 40 cents each), and used a black camp shower bag ($8.95) for the shower. That worked well for one summer but we were really looking forward to not needing to hoist the bag of water up each time we wanted to shower. This spring we finished the actual batch heater that allows us to have a hot (!) shower any time of the day or night without hoisting the bag up into a tree and without using any electricity whatsoever.

The core of the system is a plywood box that contains a used, but not leaking, electric hot water heater which we got for free from a neighbor who was replacing his (One might also be found at a recycling center for a few dollars.). After checking to make sure it didn’t leak, we stripped off the outer sheet metal jacket and underlying foam insulation. Then we wire brushed (or one could sand) the metal surface and painted it black for maximum solar absorption.

Meanwhile, we had cut and painted the pieces of plywood that would eventually house the water heater. At this point, we lined the plywood box with polyisocyanurate rigid foam insulation (found at lumber yards and home improvement centers), that is covered with shiny aluminum to reflect any sunlight that enters the box onto the black tank.

Once the tank was installed, the top of the box was covered with a used patio slider door (34” x 76”). We actually got a new one for free (double pane glass! ) from a dealer who had one he couldn’t sell because it had a small scratch on it. Then we sealed the edge of the glass and plumbed the tank to the water supply and the shower itself and, voila, outdoor shower that uses zero electricity.

NOTE TO CITY DWELLERS: This same design can also be used to preheat water going into your regular household hot water heater. In our case, we opted for the outdoor shower because of complexities created by the original design of the house—the sun being on one side and the water heater on the other beyond a sunroom that we had added on several years ago.”

We haven’t listed all the parts above so there are other costs but we were able to do this for less than $200. The plans that we used for the solar heater came from the Extension Service of Oregon State University (first published in March 1986). The same plans we used are available on-line as a PDF file at http://solaroregon.org/residential-solar/swh-batch-doc . The plans are simple and straightforward. If you have questions, write to us at ahimsaacres@gmail.com or visit our website at http://ahimsaacres.org/

Solar Water Heater

Sam here: Can’t you just imagine taking a solar heated shower under the stars?



Z Cakes and Chow Chow

I read other blogs and often get good ideas and recipes from them. Some are so good I then want to share them with you. My attempts to make appealing food for Michael while his appetite is so severely affected by his chemo treatments, and yet still keep our meals healthy, local, frugal, and easy for me to prepare, set a pretty high bar. But Zucchini Cakes definitely made the cut. When I was cooking them, Michael was not feeling well (or hungry) but I tempted him with one and it worked its’ magic on those compromised taste buds of his and he ate that cake and then another! This makes great use of a good-sized zucchini (and I’m always looking for solutions to that wonderful dilemma!) and used up the last bit of buckwheat pancake mix I had left in a bag in the freezer. These Z Cakes are good for any meal, but for breakfast we ate them with fresh peaches and homemade bread toasted and spread with some of the strawberry jam I made recently. We ate the remaining cakes with Potato/Leek Soup for lunch but I plan to make some more soon for supper, with corn on the cob and a cold pasta salad. That’ll keep Michael coming back to the table I’m sure!

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Here’s the recipe: (you’re welcome)

Savory Zucchini Pancakes

2-ish cups grated zucchini  (blot or drain to remove excess moisture)

2 eggs, beaten

Approx. 1/4  cup chopped green onion (or any onion can work)

About 1/2 cup grated cheese (a dry, flavorful one like Parmesan is good)

Roughly 1/2 cup pancake mix (I used buckwheat. But, you can use flour plus 1/2 tsp each salt and baking powder)

Optional: cracked black pepper, sour cream garnish

Mix first three ingredients together. Mix cheese and pancake or flour mix together separately, then add to the first bowl, stirring just until moistened.

Fry large spoonfuls in hot vegetable oil, flattening with spatula to get the right pancake thickness.

Here’s one final tip for making Z Cakes: If you’re overwhelmed with zucchini right now, grate it and freeze in 2 cup portions in freezer bags. thawing just long enough to be able to stir into to the cake batter. GREAT way to have your cake and eat it too. 😉

Last weekend, my friend Katie ‘gifted’ me with a 9 pound cabbage and a recipe for her aunt’s ‘Chow Chow’, which is a Southern condiment made of shredded cabbage, green tomatoes, onions, peppers and spices that can be made as sweet or as spicy as you like. After the veggies have sat in a salt brine overnight, you make a spiced syrup to mix into them, then seal it in jars for Christmas gift giving or eating on soup beans or however you like it best. Or, you can set the jars along the fence and just admire them…

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Not only does this food fit my requirements of being frugal and seasonal, it earns extra points in my opinion for using easily available locally grown foods (no matter where you live!) and for being so very healthy. I’ve just begun learning about the health benefits of fermented foods. They introduce helpful probiotics to our guts. And even though Michael’s chemo and radiation treatments are (hopefully) killing his body’s cancerous cells, at the same time they’re killing his ‘normal’ cells too. Enter Chow Chow. Even though this particular recipe is not a true fermented product since it uses vinegar, rather than TIME, to ferment, it’s still good food, packed with antioxidants. Just don’t give me any of yours for Christmas, I’ve got plenty of my own now.

Aunt Elizabeth’s Chow Chow

  • 4 quarts green tomatoes (about 30, sliced)

  • 6 pounds cabbage

  • 2 quarts onions. (5 lbs)

  • 3 hot peppers

  • 12 green peppers (3 ½ lbs)

  • 1 ½ cups table salt (non iodized)

Cover all of these ingredients and let stand overnight. (It all fit perfectly in my 4 quart slow cooker.)

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Next day, (after you’ve had Z Cakes for breakfast!), drain well. Then…

Combine and boil for 5 minutes:

  • 2 quarts vinegar (I like Apple Cider, but you can use your favorite)

  • 5 pounds sugar (I only used 2 ½)

  • 6 tablespoons dry mustard

  • 5 tablespoons celery seed 

  • 2 tablespoons turmeric 

  • 6 tablespoons flour

Add the chopped vegetables and bring to a boil until slightly thick. Pour in sterilized jars, covering the veggies. Seal. Can this Chow Chow just as you would other pickles in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Makes 10 pints; crisp and delicious.

I promise my next post will NOT be about food.



The Big “C”
July 21, 2013, 8:27 AM
Filed under: Cancer, Healthy food | Tags: ,

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I enjoy sharing this blog with all of you, but I really write it for ME…writing helps me sort things out in my head and in my real life. With that, I’m telling you, dear readers, that my beloved husband Michael has been diagnosed with colo-rectal  cancer and will begin intensive chemo and radiation treatments on Monday. The good news is that the doctors are assuring us that they can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Now, don’t go getting your panties in a wad… any of you that know me well, should know by now that humor is my greatest weapon during troubled times, and in a situation like the big “C”, I simply HAVE to find the silver lining, or I’ll feel  defenseless. I’ve already thought of one silver lining to this mess: For as long as we can remember, Michael can walk out the door in the summer, and mosquitoes will instantly land on him and bite him. I’m willing to bet money that once the chemo is running through his blood tomorrow, the mosquitoes will no longer find him tasty. We’re almost out of our current bottle of “Bug Potion #9” so the therapy is beginning just in the nick of time 🙂 Maybe we can even plan a picnic supper down by the lake before the summer’s over.

I intend to be with him every step of the way, but it’s going to require a bit of extra planning on both our parts to not buckle in to eating restaurant meals when neither of us want to cook, and to keep up with our gardening and canning efforts-after all, we’ll still be wanting to eat our familiar and healthy homegrown food long after the cancer treatments are over. The doctors tell us that because Michael IS so healthy otherwise (low blood pressure and cholesterol, no diabetes or heart problems) his chances of beating this are good. We attribute that to a healthy diet and daily exercise. Period.

We’ll be using more gasoline due to the 5x a week radiation treatments at the hospital, more air conditioning to help Michael stay comfortable during his illness, and spending more money on health care bills and prescriptions. To combat these larger daily expenses, I suspect that my blog posts will focus a bit more than usual on frugality, but perhaps even more than that, on finding and sharing ways to become more resilient in our every day lives. For me, that will include paying better attention to my own self care, balancing caregiving with community building (after all, it took ALL the Kings’ horses and All the Kings’ men to put Humpty back together again), and probably exploring new meal ideas for those times when he has no appetite and I don’t want to cook, as well as new waiting room hobbies.

This blog is about transitions, after all, and even though this is a transition we didn’t expect, I’m hoping my grandmother’s old adage will remain true: “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”. Boy, are we gonna be strong when this is all over! It’s a new trail we’re blazing here (as it has been for countless others unfortunately) and I hope you’ll join me for the ride. And now, since I don’t take and save pictures for sharing on this blog that are in any way related to ‘The Big C’, I’ll leave you with this link to my favorite You Tube video of all times. It’s so worth the click.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcYsO890YJY




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