Tennesseetransitions


Frugal Friday: March 7, 2014

I’ve had lots of opportunities to save money lately. Some by sheer luck, some because of diligence on my part. I’ve learned that normally though, the best way to ‘save money’ is to not spend it to begin with, and that’s always my first line of thinking. I’ve also found it to be true that if I will wait a day or two before buying something, I often realize I didn’t need it after all. Or, if I wait LONG ENOUGH, often the very thing I need comes my way anyway. From a swatch of turquoise fabric to repair a pillow sham to  an electric heater that I needed in my cellar to keep pipes from freezing, planning ahead and being patient always pays off. Of course, sometimes opportunity knocks in the most unexpected ways and places and I have to ‘listen’ to hear that knock when it occurs.

Monday: Got my teeth cleaned at the local dental hygienist school. My dental insurance only pays for two cleanings a year. Because I have a tendency towards gum problems, I’ve found that if I have mine cleaned 3-4x a year, that really keeps the problems minimized. The dental clinic at the school will clean them twice a year, and for seniors, it’s free. They’ll also take x rays for free, then make copies for me to take to my regular dentist for $20. To top off that sweet deal, they always send me home with a ‘goodie bag’ that has a new toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste and a box of floss in it. Sometimes there are samples of mouthwash, specialty brushes or coupons for toothpaste too in the bag as well. Because I’ve been getting my teeth cleaned so regularly for years now, (even though I begrudge having to go) I haven’t had to have any other work done at all. Prevention is the best medicine, that’s for sure. If you live near a university, check out the services they offer. I’m able to ride my bike to the college, and my dentist is so close I don’t bother, I just walk there. Savings: Good Dental Health?=Priceless!

Tuesday: Speaking of the local university: Michael and I volunteer for the School of the Arts in order to earn free tickets to the event of our choice each spring and fall. We like to deliver the posters for those events because many of them are close enough by that they can be delivered while on our daily walks to the nearby businesses. Sometimes we’ll usher too, allowing us to see a show that way. Many of these events are followed by a free buffet of fruits, veggies and hors d’ oeuvres (did I spell that right?) that we’re invited to enjoy. Savings: Most tickets to these events are $15-$20 each. Date Night of Music/Film/Presentations and food=Priceless!

Wednesday:  I’m cooking multiple things together more and more often, to save time and energy. This week I again filled my clay cooker with recently-harvested carrots, parsnips and brussels sprouts, along with some leftover cubed chicken, and tossed it all with about a quarter cup of needs-to-be-used Italian dressing and some fresh sprigs of rosemary. Cooking the dish at the same time Michael’s home-made bread baked saved an hour of electrical usage, and provided us with two delicious meals! 

clay cooker    bread

 

Thursday: My favorite nearby farm and garden store held a ‘moving sale’ recently, and just like with ‘moving’ yard sales, things were marked down to rock-bottom prices. We snagged bags of organic soil amendments for 75% off!. Savings: Home-grown organic food-You guessed it-Priceless!

Friday: My nearby IGA grocery store closed last Friday, but I’ll use this example for today. I went in on the last day they were open, searching for a bargain, on foot. I ended up calling Michael to come pick me up and to bring some of my cloth tote bags because I got many many bags of food at 75% off! I spent $35 so that same stuff would’ve cost about $140. Savings: $105! I’m not happy about this though-I’d lots rather have this small hometown grocery open and within a 6 minute walk of my back door. The closing of this store leaves me and everyone living within a 4 mile radius living in a food desert now, forcing US to drive to the nearest store, or to catch a bus. I could go on and on about the issues this raises, but this post is not about that so I won’t go there-for now.

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.”

Elise Boulding  from the blog http://otrazhenie.wordpress.com/



Frugal Friday-January’s over!!!

I spent most of this week just like last- trying to stay warm. In between times I cooked a fair amount, wrote some long overdue letters (on yard sale stationary and mailed them with ‘salvaged’ stamps~read on!), and did a lot of reading. Not too much excitement when it’s this cold.

Monday: Mailed my annual bundle of used greeting cards to St Jude’s Ranch. Children that live there use the card fronts (if they’re not written on) to recycle into new cards that they then sell to earn money. I wrote here about it last year, but I have a lot of new readers since then, so I thought it might be something they’d like to know about too.  Repurposing those cards is even better than recycling them, and makes me even happier when I can mail them for free. Yes, that’s right…this week I mailed the cards and a small package to my daughter, all free, because I keep getting things in the mail that don’t have their stamps canceled! And just to add frosting to the cake, I was even able to reuse the original envelopes that those uncanceled stamps were stuck to, which meant I didn’t have to peel off the stamps, nor buy mailing envelopes!  Postage savings: 8 stamps at the new rate of 49 cents each= $3.92 plus whatever new mailers might’ve cost me!

IMG_0175

Tuesday: After reading more than once about how the ongoing drought in California is forcing farmers to reduce their crops this year, and in some cases not plant at all, I decided that it would be prudent of me to increase my supply of almonds, which I truly enjoy eating as a healthy, out of hand snack almost daily. Sure enough, the price has already increased a bit, but not nearly as much as predicted so I stocked up and decided it was time to get out my Seal-A-Meal and vacuum seal them all in order to keep them fresh longer. Nuts will be stay fresh for 6-12 months in the freezer, but by sealing out all the oxygen they’ll last 2-3 years! Perhaps by then the drought will be over and almond growers won’t be forced to pay premium prices for the water their orchards need to survive. That is, if there are any bees left to pollinate them.   Anyway, this sealer came in handy, and I even made up some snack-sized bags to throw in our backpacks when we go hiking or travel. I bought my sealer and several rolls of bagging plastic for $20 at a yard sale, so I know they can be found second-hand, but it seems to me it would be one of those things that could be part of a ‘tool lending library’ since they’re not used every day. Just sayin’…

IMG_0190

Wednesday: Made my second visit to a ‘Discount Grocery Store” near my home. If I’m very careful, I can find some good bargains, but most of their stuff is boxed, convenience type foods, canned goods and snacks, all things that I try to avoid. They did have a small section devoted to some healthier things like name-brand organic products, protein bars and milk shakes, along with many condiments and international style cooking sauces. There were fresh Pepperidge Farms breads and buns for 99 cents, and lots of bulk packages of frozen foods like fish, chicken and burgers too. I didn’t find any out of date items though, so I got a few things that really were rock bottom prices but I’m sure their inventory changes daily and you may not be able to find the same things I did. The point is, there are more and more of these discount stores popping up, and perhaps you might get lucky enough to find one in your town too. They’re certainly worth a try! The first time I visited this little store, it was summer, and they had a fair selection of fresh fruits and vegetables too, but not any this week. I didn’t take a picture, but I was able to buy a Nutella equivalent, Jif brand Hazelnut Butter,  for $1.00 a jar! I bought five jars to give to my daughter who loves the stuff, but can’t afford  what I thought was normally $3-4 a jar, even though I now see that Amazon is selling it online for $10.00  a jar! Savings: $45.00!!! (and now that I see that ridiculous price, I may go back tomorrow to pick up some more jars for her)

jifjifjifjifjif

Thursday: Stitched up a long tube of fabric cut from an old curtain, filled it with sand and used it to block the cold air coming into my bathroom from the unheated bedroom connected to it. I could’ve used grits, rice, buckwheat or kitty litter, but sand was what I had on hand. Yeah, I could’ve rolled up a towel too, to stuff underneath the door, but the tube can also be moved around to different doorways and is easier to ‘move out of the way’ when I do want to open the door, and it hangs over the knob when not in use.

IMG_0182

Friday: Found a brand new 3M scrubber in the street when I took my walk. I’ll cut it into 3  pieces (sharpening my scissors at the same time) and use them for scrubbing pots and pans. Savings: $2 or so for three scrubbies?

IMG_0141

That’s it folks! I may not have any Frugal Friday tips to share next week IF the weather warms and I get to be outside more. As important as I consider frugality is to our being able to live well on less, living a simple life that focuses on mindful consumerism and built-in resilience is even more so. Reduce, reuse, repurpose THEN recycle is what I strive for in all my buying decisions. For example, before I bought the Jif for my daughter, I called her and made her promise me that she’d wash the plastic jars when they were emptied and use them for storing things around her kitchen and apartment, or at the very least recycle them. Being the good recycling Nazi that I am, I’ll take pictures of the ways she finds to use them and include them in a future post. And as much as I like the convenience of sealing bulk-bought foods in smaller quantities I really HATE using rolls of plastic to do it. So, I’ve decided to try ‘Oven Canning’ to get the same results and I’ll be reporting on that method next week. What are YOU doing to “use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without?” Please feel free to post your comments and ideas below, and to share this blog with anyone you think might enjoy it-or not 😉



“I’m Mad as Hell and I’m Not Going to Take it Anymore!”

fracking

Let me begin this long rant by saying I already miss Pete Seeger and I’m quite tired of freaking five degree temps, so maybe that’s colored my usually optimistic outlook on things. I should also tell you that the provisions put forth in the new Farm Bill are confusing, and that I voted for O’Bama. Both times. I think his State of the Union address last night was beautiful oration, and I did like a lot of what he had to say, but I totally disagreed with his call to retrofit our economy for natural gas. He’s going to make it easy for businesses to open factories that run on natural gas, by cutting governmental red tape. He never mentioned that 90% of the oil and gas wells drilled in America today are fracked — there could be no oil and gas boom without it. Everyone knows that there are no easy answers to the problems of Peak Oil and the fact that we’ve, well, peaked. However, he did say “… the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.” Thank  you Mr. President for that acknowledgement. But shouldn’t the conversation from our nation’s leader at this point include at least some mention of alternatives to an energy-dependent future besides “In the coming months, I’ll (build on that success) by setting new standards for our trucks, so we can keep driving down oil imports and what we pay at the pump“?  By God, if we had to pay the true costs of gasoline at the pump we’d ALL be riding our bikes, taking a bus, a train or walking! Our pump prices don’t even begin to reflect the environmental costs of that fuel.  Just sayin’… And our food prices don’t reflect their environmental costs either, but I’m digressing here. 

WHERE is the conversation about plans for mass transit and alternative transportation systems? WHERE  is the conversation about retrofitting older buildings and factories and homes with simple systems like insulation, solar panels and windmills? WHERE is the conversation about our nation’s cities and towns converting public lands and commons areas to growing spaces, to food forests and community gardens? WHERE is the conversation about Americans needing to learn the skills needed to produce the foods and goods and tools and services we need to become self sufficient? Those conversations really do take place on millions of websites, in magazines and living rooms, but they’re never spoken of by our government. Well, I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!

In the last year or so I’d begun to feel somewhat hopeful that maybe the economic and financial experts hadn’t gotten it quite right, and that maybe our economy IS recovering. I’d also begun to feel that maybe the energy experts hadn’t gotten it quite right either and maybe we haven’t reached Peak Oil-yet. But as O’Bama said himself: “climate change is a fact”, and those of us lucky enough to live in First World countries can not ‘carry on as usual’ and expect that to change. I truly fear for my grandchildren at this point. I fear that they won’t have enough food, clean water and air to live healthy and productive lives. The government is paying some growers in California to not plant again this year because of lack of water. Let me say that again: The government is paying growers in California to not plant again this year because of lack of water. The ongoing drought in our nation’s breadbasket is so very serious and when I hear our President speak about ‘setting new (MPG) standards for our trucks’ it makes me angry.

You ask, “So, what are you gonna do about it?” I’m going to keep on writing about, talking about, and working for, the changes I think need to take place. But I’m going to write a little longer, talk a little louder and work a little harder. I’m going to continue to grow and preserve as much of my food as I can and teach others to do the same. I’m going to walk and carpool more-the walking keeps me healthy and doesn’t add to our environmental problems. I’m going to support local organizations like One Acre Cafe and The Livable Communities Group that are working to make a difference in our community, not by offering handouts, or asking for them, but that are “leaning in”, to use a new catch-phrase, to find out first hand what’s needed to make lives better. I’m going to learn new skills and share them with others whenever I can. I’m going to get more involved with politics so that the type of leaders we need to make big change get elected. I’m gonna write letters to the editor and sign petitions. And that’s just for February folks!  I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore!

The ‘About’ page of this blog, written exactly two years ago states: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!” I still believe in this statement fervently. I hope you do too.

lomax



Frugal Friday- January 24, 2014

With the extreme cold, I’ve found myself staying home more, cooking a lot, and making some minor changes in order to stay warm without having a $400 electric bill. Maybe one of these tips will help you reduce your energy costs and keep your home cozier too!

Monday: It was a  pleasant day but I knew the cold was returning that night so I washed the car at the quarter car wash then brought it home to vacuum it. I also spent time in the sunshine, soaking up Vitamin D while cutting back all the frozen and dead leaves from my kale plants and reinstalling the plastic covered hoops that had blown off in the last ‘Polar Vortex’ (which is why they froze to begin with!). My hope is that they will resprout once things begin to warm up again. Gardening is always a learning experience, and this is just part of that. Savings: $2.50 for the vacuum job, and if the kale resprouts, it will seem quite valuable indeed, coming back from the dead and all. At the very least, the knowledge I gain in growing food is always invaluable.

Tuesday: I fixed my own food dehydrator!!! It was no longer putting out any heat, even though the fan was blowing. I took the back of the dryer off, found a loose wire that seemed to lead to a sheared-off doohickey. I called the toll-free number for the manufacturer, where I spoke with their tech guy, who diagnosed it as  needing a new thermostat. After trying to find the part online at a cheaper price than the $35 that was quoted me, I bit the bullet and ordered it and was able to install the new part with very little trouble. High Five! The dehydrator now works even better than it did when new so I spent a very cold day drying a bunch of apples that were beginning to shrivel in storage. Now I have a 3 lb coffee can FULL of dried apple slices to use in my daily oatmeal. Dehydrating foods is a practical and easy way to preserve fresh foods for long term storage, and actually retains more vitamins that other preservation methods. They take up much less storage space and weigh a lot less than canned or frozen foods, and if, like me, you have limited storage space, that’s a big plus. Savings: 15 lbs of organic apples=$30. Feeling of self sufficiency and competence: pricelessIMG_0131

Wednesday: The cold sets in…Michael made bread, using bread flour bought in a 25 lb sack for less than $9, 2 teaspoons of yeast bought in one pound foil-packed bags for less than $5 and a tsp of salt. Total cost per loaf: about 25 cents. But wait! The savings continue…while the baking stones preheated, I decided to use that time to bake some white and sweet potatoes on them, along with a pan of Shepherd’s Pie and a tin of egg shells (yes, egg shells are saved year round and dried; after drying them I grind them up for adding to my tomato and pepper planting holes each spring-doing so adds calcium and helps prevent blossom end rot).  The Shepherd’s pie and one loaf of bread made 6 servings, which fed us, along with some unexpected overnight company.  Then we enjoyed the company, along with the baked potatoes and some chicken and veggie leftovers the next day, finishing the impromptu meal with some summer-canned peaches for dessert. Heating the oven once yielded two loaves of bread, and two large meals. I’m already considering what other things I can cook while next week’s loaves are baking. Spinach lasagne maybe, more potatoes and a pan of macaroni and cheese perhaps? With just a little advance planning, cooking multiple meals offers time and energy savings.

IMG_0136

Thursday: The deep freeze continues…more time spent indoors, playing music, making soup, and dreaming of spring. I don my silk long johns underneath my clothes, and add more quilts to the bed. Heat pumps are notoriously ineffective in this kind of weather and we’ve found that by closing off unused rooms and dressing in layers we stay warmer. I stream free movies and hem pants while drinking herbal tea and staying by the gas stove.

Friday: Zero degrees overnight last night, and I’m feeling like I live in Antarctica instead of Tennessee. Michael dons his long johns. We bring in the old kerosene heater from the shed, and fill it with $4 a gallon fuel. Using it and the gas stove in the living room we stay toasty without having to use the heat pump much at all. Two weeks ago I went shopping for an electric space heater, but the cheapest I found was about $40. Instead, I bought one for six dollars at the thrift store. It’s running on low down in the cellar, keeping our water pipes from freezing.  I also installed some more foam insulators behind the wall switches and outlet plates, after buying a package of 14 for less than $2.  Savings: $34 on the heater and perhaps hundreds of dollars and much aggravation saved over NOT having frozen or burst water pipes. Feeling cozy: priceless.

IMG_0159

IMG_0160



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!



Forget the Money Market- Invest in Yourself

I had a meeting with my financial counselor recently and asked him where I should invest my small inheritance that I received from my mother. I was thinking a CD, Money Market fund, or some other short-term investment where it could earn a bit of interest, yet not be penalized if I needed to use it. His advice?  Keep it in my emergency savings account because interest rates are so low still that it wouldn’t be prudent to tie it up in anything right now. The assumption is that rates.will.rise. Yeah, and so will the price.of.things.

So I gave a lot of thought to where I might currently get the best R.O.I. for my little nest egg based on that advice, and came up with the some ideas; while CD’s are currently paying less than 1% interest, and mortgage rates are hovering near 5% now, perhaps I could hold a mortgage for someone? Nah. Not unless they intended to buy a tiny house to live in.  The best Return On Investment would come from investing in my household: a new roof, long-term food storage, energy-saving measures or even learning new skills that might prove useful over the rest of my life. Self reliance tools like a pressure canner, a grain mill or sewing machine also came to mind but since I already own those things, I bought a new laptop instead.  My old desktop computer was really outdated, and my daughter, whose computer was even older, can still enjoy the old one. I bought it during Tennessee’s annual back to school tax-free weekend and saved enough cash on the tax to pay for a new wireless printer. Both the computer and printer are tools for me, and learning the new Windows 8 operating system has turned out to be a REAL investment in my brain health (or brain degradation, depending on how you look at it). I don’t have a smart phone, (nor do I feel the need for one and the monthly fees to support its smartness), cable TV, a daily newspaper or any number of available technological wonders of the world. A computer is my tool of choice to stay connected to my family, the world, and to you. Besides, I’m writing the next Great American Novel and long hand is soooo 1980’s 😉

I’ve also decided to invest in a rocket stove and a couple of small solar panels too, so that if the grid goes down, I can charge my laptop and my ‘dumb’ cell phone while boiling the water for a cup of herbal tea, using only a few twigs as fuel. Rocket Stoves rock.

Speaking of herbal tea, I’ve also decided it would be wise of me to invest a bit of money, some time and a lot of labor into a new medicinal herb bed so that I can grow some of my family’s medicines. Learning to grow and use plants like Elderberries for making cough syrups, Comfrey for wound care, Feverfew for headaches, Camomile for upset stomachs, and Hawthorne for high blood pressure should keep me and Michael out of the drugstore, more money in our pocket, and healthier to boot. That’s what I call a really good R.O.I. !

herbs

Outdoor clotheslines, a chicken tractor and a couple of hives of honey bees will complete my investments for now. The rest will be saved for when we need that new roof on the house-another good investment in our largest asset, which is our home.

It’s true, you can’t buy happiness. That said,  I’m sure I could be REAL HAPPY with a European vacation -for about 2 weeks. But what could possibly be a more satisfying start to each and every day than eating a fresh egg that I’ve just gathered at my back door, spreading my morning toast with honey from my own hives, and washing it down with a cup of herbal tea, while writing a new book or reading the morning news on my laptop- all while sitting in my garden? Call me crazy, and I’m sure some of you would, but investing in yourself, your health, your home and your own unique ‘good life’ will give you the very best returns. Guaranteed.

 



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?




%d bloggers like this: