Tennesseetransitions


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

We enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family, and now, a week later, I’m putting up the Christmas tree. We produced more garbage last week than normal, but much of it was things our out-of-town company brought with them and bought while they were here, but I really did make up for it this week by cutting food and kitchen waste to ZERO and by reducing and repairing everywhere else I could. Remember, these little things really add up week after week and allow us to live very well on very little. And that’s basically what this blog is all about.

This whole week saw us eating leftover turkey, made into several different ‘creations’. We enjoyed turkey sandwiches with cranberry sauce on slices of sourdough bread, 4 quarts of turkey noodle soup, and  a 9×12 pan of shepherd’s pie, topped with the leftover mashed potatoes from Thanksgiving. The carcass was cooked down…

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… and the only thing I had to buy for the gallon of soup were the noodles and some celery. I had the onions, carrots, and herbs from the garden on hand and used a similar combination of veggies, plus some leftover beans and broccoli from the garden for the pie. Savings: 4 lunches and 4 dinners with enough for company too

I spent so much time in the kitchen this past week though, that I began to get a little silly: (that’s a Longkeeper tomato I used for the head  of Mr. Carrot that was later WASHED, sliced and added to our sandwiches-and we were thankful for fresh garden tomatoes at Thanksgiving!) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Monday- Michael received a little book in the mail from a friend, and I got an unexpected ‘gift’ of 5 uncanceled stamps that were on the envelope when it arrived! I’ll use them to mail some out-of-town Christmas cards next week. Savings: $2.30

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Tuesday- My favorite very old slipper socks had seen better days, with their felted soles coming clean off. So, I sewed them  back on, repaired a few little holes, and they’re good for another winter! Savings: $15 plus shipping, comparing to a similar pair on Amazon

                                       Before:                                                                                                               After:

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Wednesday- I mixed up a batch of the same laundry detergent I’ve been using for almost 15 years. It’s environmentally friendly, produces no packaging waste, costs pennies per load and works very well. What else could  you ask for?

        3 Natural Ingredients + Water=                                                     2 Gallons of Pure Cleaning Power

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Here’s the recipe I have used all these years, made in the same free icing bucket I got from a bakery. Consider it an early Christmas gift.

LAUNDRY DETERGENT

Grate 1/3 bar of Fels Naptha soap into 6 cups boiling water. (This all-natural laundry soap can be ordered online if you can’t find it locally) I use an old box grater on the fine side for this-see photo. And by the way, it’s very easy to grate.

When melted, add 1 c. each of 20 Mule Team Borax and Arm and

Hammer Washing Soda. Bring to a boil, Stir till dissolved and slightly thickened.

In a 2 gallon bucket, put 4 cups hot water, then add the soap mixture, mix.

Fill rest of bucket with cold water. Mix until well blended. Set aside for

24 hrs; it will gel up. I ‘squeeze’ the finished gel with my hands to break it up

somewhat, then use 1 c. per load.

This works beautifully on average dirty clothes. For really oily or dirty clothes, you may want to use more soap, or hot water. I use cold, except for whites. This detergent is safe for greywater and septic systems too! These products can be found in the laundry section of most grocery stores.

NOTE: There will be no color and little scent to this detergent, nor will you see suds. Sudsing agents are added to commercial detergents to help the consumer feel that the product is ‘working’. The suds add nothing to the actual cleaning power of the product.

Savings? I’m going to estimate about $10 per gallon of detergent. This recipe makes 2 gallons or, enough for 32 loads for about $1.00 worth of ingredients.

Thursday-  I took advantage of the warm, sunny day we enjoyed before the storms came in to uncover my hoop houses so they could get rained on, get them weeded and then refilled my covered garbage cans that I keep for this purpose with dry, shredded leaves that my city  delivers free of charge each fall. I layer my kitchen scraps (greens) with the leaves (browns) on my compost piles all winter, so the finished product has a nice balance of nitrogen and carbon. Free shredded leaves + Free delivery= PRICELESS COMPOST

Friday-Printed some free ‘gift coupons’ (on the back of some pretty papers that I’d gotten years ago as part of a ‘gift pack’) and plan to fill them out for my family members for giving them the ‘gifts’ I wrote about here. Here’s the website to download yours too:

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

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Enjoy your weekend!



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.



Fall Has Fell

“Fall has always been my favorite season. 

The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year

for the grand finale.” Lauren DeStefano

 Fall is my favorite season too, even though it’s bittersweet for me, knowing what lies just beyond it. I’m still working on my summer to-do list, and now I’m in the midst of my fall list! Many of you have asked me to let  you know what’s going on in the garden during each season, so I hope this helps, although I suspect I should’ve written all this out back in August.  I hope it will give you an idea of where you need to be now anyway.

All of my raised beds in my community garden plot are now planted to either fall crops or crimson clover, which I like as a cover crop for winter.

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I’m harvesting broccoli and lettuces, beets, August-planted potatoes, and carrots there, with the kale, cabbage and cauliflower ready in another couple of weeks. Brussels sprouts remain a mystery to me, but I still plant them anyway. Maybe someday I’ll actually get some sprouts from them! 

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At home, I’ve started harvesting bok choy:

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I always feel like it’s a race to get the late summer plantings almost to harvest stage before the fall equinox, because things really slow down by then. This proves to be especially tricky with Longkeeper tomatoes! I have full-grown plants  loaded with green tomatoes now that were set out in August,. If they can just begin to turn pink before our first frost, they will slowly continue to ripen inside the house, allowing us to have fresh tomatoes until about Valentine’s Day- if we don’t eat them all before then. The key is that they won’t ripen if picked green, they must have at least a slight blush of color to continue ripening. I usually plant them out in July,  so don’t have as many this fall as in years past, but we’ll still have enough to last til Christmas with any luck. Longkeeper -the name is accurately descriptive. Even though they’re not as sweet and juicy as a summer ripened fruit, they are far, far better than ANY grocery store tomato you might buy in mid winter. And by golly, they’re local 😉  Some Farmer’s Market vendor is missing the boat by not selling them during the winter months.

I finished preparing my final bed today, turning in compost and shredded leaves. I’ll add some bone meal to the holes when I plant my garlic there at the end of October, but today I just raked it smooth and planted winter lettuces and spinach, neither of which will be ready until spring. With a simple little hoop house over that bed, those plants will just sit there, almost dormant, right in the row, until late winter. When the days begin to lengthen just a bit, that spinach and cold hardy lettuce will burst to life and offer us fresh greens, just about the time the kale and swiss chard grow tough and we’re tired of them anyway. Last, but not least, the parsnips that were planted way back in July won’t be harvested until after several hard frosts, but before the ground freezes solid (boy did I learn that the hard way!). The freezes sweeten them, and then they’ll keep in the refrigerator for a very long time; I consider it one of nature’s mysteries that just as my vegetable drawers are finally empty of all the fruits and veggies they held all summer, along come the greens, apples, nuts and root crops to fill ’em up for the winter.

I set up another compost bin today, and will let the one we filled during the summer cook and decompose all winter, hopefully ready for use in the spring, with this new one full and ready for use by next fall. And so the gardening cycle continues. After all this intensive digging, planting, harvesting and storing it’s nice to know we’re moving into a quieter, slower pace in the garden for a few months. God willing, the wheel of good health and fortune will continue to turn and the seed starting trays will be full again come February. Happy Fall Ya’ll!

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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



Homeland Security

I was in the grocery store the other day and overheard the produce manager telling a customer that the store had no lettuce, and wouldn’t have any for a week because the refrigerated truck hauling it across the country from California had broken down and the lettuce rotted before it could be off-loaded to another truck. This is one of those ‘Things that make me go, “hmmmm” ‘. So, let’s think about that… According to Purdue University’s Dept of Horticulture and Landscape website, (a most trusted source of food growing info for me) 81% of our nation’s lettuce is grown in California and 17% is grown in Arizona. Lettuce is a cool season crop, and needs lots of water for best growth. I have to question, why are we growing this staple in the freaking dessert??? Then of course after harvesting, it has to be immediately washed, chilled, packed, and then loaded onto refrigerated trucks for its’ 5 day trip across the country, where it’s then unloaded at distribution centers, then reloaded onto yet another truck for delivery to our favorite stores. Then we DRIVE OUR CARS to those stores to buy it, DRIVE HOME and put it in our refrigerators. Does any of that make sense to you? Nah, me neither.

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That’s a picture of my current lettuce ‘patch’. This same amount could be grown in two window boxes with about 50 cents worth of seed. I consider growing  lettuce a super bargain because it’s what I call a ‘cut and come again’ crop. Many many many bowls of lettuce have come from this little four-foot  row. You can also see I’ve got my tiny bok choi planted beside it, for once it turns hot, the lettuce will be pulled out to make room for this new veggie, followed by collards in summer’s heat, followed by kale in the fall. All in about 4′ of space. There’s also some onions growing there, so I have a ready-made salad, free of e-coli and chemicals, and grown without any fossil fuels. My lettuce is nutrition packed because I always cut it the day I plan to use it. Factoid: once a fruit or veggie is cut, it begins to immediately lose it’s nutrient density.

If ever, in the course of a life, there was a time to plant food, build a pantry and invest one’s money in one’s life, it is now. Between Monsanto pouring millions of dollars into its’ efforts to control the world’s food supply…

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the mystery of the disappearing honeybees still unresolved, with the 2013 Farm Bill losing its’ clout to help small farmers, and broken down lettuce trucks all over the interstates, the time to secure YOUR future is now. This spring. Here’s a money-and-fossil-fuel free way to start your own seeds…

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When you’re cracking your eggs, tap them 3/4 of the way up the shell, rather than right in the middle. Don’t rinse the shells, that’s a waste of water and nutrition! The resulting ‘egg pot’ will be deep enough to start lettuce plants in, then you can transplant the whole thing right into a bigger pot, or a window box or your garden row. The shell will provide the little seedling some calcium, while it composts away to nothingness. 

My favorite farmer..

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is going to help me put together another small raised bed tomorrow. I plan to add homemade compost and manure, then plant it to a fast-growing green manure crop of buckwheat-followed by clover. By fall it’ll be ready to plant with more lettuce, some beets and broccoli, and I won’t be worrying about the truck breaking down, the price of fresh veggies, or what’s for supper! It’s a good feeling 😀

homeland security

 

 



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 😀

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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. 

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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.

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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?

 



Gardening As If My Life Depended On It

I can’t believe February’s almost over and I haven’t written a post all month. I’ve been quite busy working on some small home projects, tackling a small mountain of sewing repairs, finishing up January’s library loans, and taking part in some time consuming committee work at my church. They’re all fine, indoor activities for what I’m hoping will be our  final Winter month, but I’ll be sooo happy when I can get outdoors again and begin planting and gardening.

My New Year’s resolution to slow down to the ‘speed of light life’ is starting to have an effect. I’m finding more time to be spontaneous, and more time to do those things that are most gratifying to me. I gain a lot of pleasure in being a domestic Goddess and don’t consider it ‘gender inequality’, but that’s just me. And even though retirement has certainly given me extra time in my daily life, that extra time had become so filled with activities, that I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by them all. Retirement also comes with a fixed income and I wanted to focus my life energy on trying to maximize that income, all the while increasing my happiness and well being quotas. Slowing down and eliminating some of the to-do’s allows that to happen. After a hiatus from gardening last summer due to our mid-season move to town , I truly missed the growing,  preserving and of course, the fresh food that we’ve come to depend on from our garden. We’ve witnessed rising food prices this winter; $4 a pound for butternut squash, for example, along with questionable food products (horsemeat burgers anyone?), Listeria and Salmonella scares at our beloved Trader Joe’s stores, and according to the January 15th ‘U.S. Drought Monitor’, moderate to exceptional drought still covers 58.9% of the contiguous U.S. (And by the way, what the hell has happened to gas prices this week?)

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gas prices

So,what’s a body to do? My plan is to grow more food and then find ways to do it more sustainably. This is the year I hope to become more adept at having no- or-low-till beds, seed saving, cover cropping and succession planting, mulching and capturing rainwater to irrigate with during the dry spells, making compost with nothing more than leaves and urban-sourced manures, and tending vermiculture bins- all of which will reduce my dependence on ‘store bought’ inputs. Market prices for food and gasoline, the lingering drought, the state of Georgia making thirsty gulping noises again along with North Korea behaving very badly all serve to make life feel so out of control that I find growing food is the best medicine for my personal angst. It’s a 2-part strategy since it’s not just the food, but the actual being in the garden that offers me peace in troubled times. I’m gardening this year as if my life depended on it.

P.S. I thought some of you might be interested in attending this lecture:

The next event in the Leading Voices in Public Health Lecture Series will be held tomorrow,Thursday, February 21, 2013.
Dr. Robert S. Lawrence will be speaking on:
 
“Rethinking Water:  The High Meat American Diet is Draining Our Aquifers.”
 
Dr. Robert Lawrence is the Founding Director of the Center for a Livable Future and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  A brief summary of his impressive career is included in the flyer.
 
The Lecture will be at 7:00pm EST in the 2nd floor ballroom of the Millennium Centre in Johnson City, TN.  It is free and open to the public.  CME credits will be provided for on-ground participants only. For those of you who will be outside of the Tri-Cities areas, or otherwise unable to attend, the Lecture will be livestreamed from http://elearning.etsu.edu/publichealthlive.htm



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