Tennesseetransitions


Resilience Rocks

I write about resilience in this blog fairly often. I read or hear about extraordinary resilience among other people seeking their freedom through their own actions and get inspired. And as I seek resilience in my own life, I often feel as though I’m thriving, in an abundant and meaningful way. My household waste is minimal, and the inputs into my life seem to equal the outputs-some days. But I realize that every time I turn the key in my eco-friendly car, that so-called balance is destroyed. Every time I flip the switch on a compact fluorescent bulb I’m reliant on the electric company. Every time I eat fair trade, organic store-bought food, I’m reliant on a producer, and a truck and some oil somewhere along that long line. Every time I turn on the low-flow shower, I’m reliant on my water company, and rain, and God, and dams and waste water treatment plants. So how resilient am I, really? By myself, not very I’m afraid. Resilient communities are another matter altogether. They are the future. Communities that can supply food, water, energy and needed services are literally a detox for Western countries and are even being embraced in rural India as a way to help individual villages improve nutrition and food supplies, stop migration into large, crowded cities and improve quality of life.

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<———–Rooftop solar panels in Saudi Arabia!                        

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Chard and Sweet Potatoes growing in downtown Charleston, SC

 This NOT an impossible dream folks. I see evidence of transitioning taking place every week it seems, in one form or another. Author James Kunstler writes: “Much of America east of the Mississippi is full of towns that are waiting to be reused, with much of their original equipment intact. The lucky suburbanites will be the ones with the forethought to trade in their suburban McHouses for property in towns and small cities, and prepare for a vocational life doing something useful and practical on the small-scale, whether it’s publishing a newsletter, being a paramedic, or fixing bicycles.” 

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So, I traded in my suburban life for a country cabin and now for an urban lifestyle in this medium sized town I live in and love. “Prepare for something useful and practical on a small-scale?” I want to be the ‘Herb Lady’ in my neighborhood. You know, the person you’d go to if you had a headache, a toothache or an upset tummy and couldn’t get to, or afford to go to, a doctor. The sort of eclectic old sage you’d seek out for advice about how to treat a burn, a sore throat or iron-poor blood. I enjoy very much growing things, and have been learning about the many practical uses of apothecary herbs. We’re all familiar with the culinary herbs, but medicinal herbs, now that’s a whole other world! I’m going to start experimenting on myself, beginning with using rosemary to improve memory. As soon as I remember where I put it 😉

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 So, tell me, what are  you doing to become more resilient in  your personal life, or in your community? Are you working in community gardens, or planning biking trails? Is serving as a midwife or backyard mechanic  your thing? Is your town talking about a future based on local and small scale, rather than always bigger? I hope to have some super exciting news about resilience in my community to share with you very soon. In the meantime, please leave your own ideas and comments below. Inspire us all-please.



In the ‘Nick’ of Time

Even though the full moon that’s been keeping my kitty-kitty prowling and meowing around the house during the night is postcard beautiful…

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the cold, short days really are cause for prayer and Prozac. For those of us that love to garden this is the time of year that we begin to truly miss kneeling at our weedy altars. The answer to this annual crisis is found in my mailbox, right there with the Christmas cards and end-of-the-year requests for charitable donations. Just in the ‘nick’ of time, the seed catalogs arrive! The colorful, mouth-watering, dream-inducing wish-books can transport me right back to warm days and garden plots.

Today’s ‘crop‘ of catalogs…

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inspired me to get outside and remove the plastic from my hoop houses so I could harvest some fresh kale and parsley… 

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to add to tonight’s soup…

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In my winter hoop house and in the kitchen, kale is king. After some hard frosts, it sweetens up, is easy-peazy to grow, and hearty enough to withstand serious cold with just a little protection. And check out the nutritional qualities of this super food:

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While I was in the garden, I took a peek at another bed that I’d planted with Red Sails lettuce, chard, spinach and some micro-greens called Claytonia and Mache’. Here’s that bed on Oct. 25th:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s what it looks like today, Dec. 17th:

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Come late winter, when I feel like I can’t possibly look at another plate of kale, the spinach and chard will be filling this space with their tender sweetness that can’t be duplicated with winter varieties. Just in the Nick of Time.



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!



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. !

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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.

 



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



Frugal Friday July 26th

I can’t believe it’s Friday again. Between hospital visits, gardening and canning, it’s been a busy, busy week. But I’m pleased that I’ve been able to avoid the extra expense of eating out, and have managed to have decent meals all week, without a whole lot of cooking. But first, let’s look at the week:

Monday: After paying almost four dollars for 2 cups of coffee at the hospital cafe, I made up my mind then and there to always bring my own. And so I did each day: water, coffee, tea or juice traveled in our  refillable mugs and bottles  each day. Savings Tuesday thru Friday: $16

Tuesday: Walked to the Thrift Store to take advantage of their monthly BAG SALE, where you can stuff a 13 gallon plastic bag with as many articles of clothing as you can fit in it for $12.00.  I found 3 pairs of capris, one pair of jeans, 2 teeshirts, one skirt and one blouse that I liked and that fit me. I also bought a like new retro over- the- headboard- lamp, complete with a pull chain off/on switch for the dark side of my guest room bed, and a Pyrex dish with matching lid. Total Spent: $16.00 Both the Pyrex dish and the headboard lamp reminded me SO MUCH of my grandmother, and that’s priceless!

Wednesday: I walked to the Farmer’s Market and bought a large, locally grown eggplant for $1.00. Savings over grocery store price: 99 cents. Later in the morning, asked for, and received, a like new waffle iron/griddle from a fellow  Freecycler! Savings: $65.34, according to Amazon! Not familiar with Freecycle? Go here: freecycle.org and enter the name of your town. It’s that simple to get rid of crap good stuff you don’t want, and find things you need.

Thursday: Signed up for auto bill pay for my monthly health insurance premium. No more monthly stamp or envelope. Savings: $5.52 a year for stamps, plus 12 envelopes

Friday: Canned 7 quarts and 4 pints of green beans. Used reusable Tattler lids instead of one-time-only metal lids. Savings: About $1.75? The lids have long ago paid for themselves, because this is about the 7th or 8th year I’ve used them. Here’s a picture, you can buy them yourself at http://www.reusablecanninglids.com  or on Ebay:

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Now, about that eggplant: (see Wednesday). I made Ratatouille for supper tonight with it, and cooked it in my brand new in the box Lodge cast iron dutch oven that I traded a friend for, in exchange for a few trips to the airport. We both felt we got a good deal- he saved parking fees and I saved $35 on the pot that I needed to replace after mine cracked a couple of months ago. Because I had every ingredient that it requires except the olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it was extremely cheap to make. I served it over pasta and used leftover hamburger buns buttered and sprinkled with garlic salt and toasted in place of Italian bread. Total cost to me: About $2.50, including the pasta-the buns were free at the bread store because I bought $5 worth of other stuff there, so I didn’t count them.

Here’s the recipe: 4-6 healthy servings when served over rice or pasta. It’s fabulous!

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium eggplant, (3/4 pound), diced

1 medium zuchinni, quartered and diced

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

6 tomatoes (2 pounds), diced

1 tsp fresh oregano, roughly chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme, roughly chopped

3/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 T balsamic vinegar

1 T. capers, drained and chopped (I don’t use these)

1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

What you Do:

1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the eggplant and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zuchinni and bell pepper and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and cook for 5 more minutes. All vegetables should be tender.

2. Stir in the oregano, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook for one additional minute. Remove from heat and add balsamic vinegar and capers, if using them. Garnish with basil and serve over rice or pasta.

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OK, your turn. What ways did you find this week to save money or reduce your expenses? There’s always something to learn from one another, so do tell!



It’s Frugal Friday again!

As Detroit signs the papers on their 18 BILLION dollar bankruptcy case, leaving many of their city workers without health care or pensions, I’m doing all I can to avoid bankruptcy and stay healthy in my own little ways.

That said, here’s some of the little things I’ve done this week to save a dime or two:

Last Saturday: Found a deluxe wire grill basket at the thrift store for $10 but felt that was a bit high. Went back on Wednesday, after thinking about it for 4 days, and it was marked down to $6.oo! Just in time for grilling all these fresh summer veggies from the garden. Savings: $4.00

Sunday: Made a day- long car trip so packed a tuna sandwich, chips and a drink from home for my lunch. Stopped at a beautiful overlook in the mountains to eat. Savings: About $5.00 I’m Lovin’ It!

Monday: Had to accompany Michael to doctor in the morning for some testing and knew ahead of time it was going to be a few hours. Took my library book so I could avoid shooting the newscaster on FOX TV, my own mug of coffee, along with a fresh peach and some trail mix to munch on. Savings:  About $5.oo on snacks, plus a life 😉

Tuesday: Harvested about 30 pounds of potatoes from my little patch. Cost to plant: $2.50  Savings: 30 pounds of organic potatoes- Are you kidding? About $60.00 I’d say!

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Wednesday: Pulled the straw off the old potato patch (see Tuesday), and used it to cover a patch of newly planted grass seed in my yard. Savings: $4 for another bale of straw and about 30 cents on the grass seed because Master Gardener’s get a 10% discount at the local garden store! Mailed my daughter a card that I’d saved from my mother’s stash after she passed away, and glued an uncancelled stamp that was peeled off a piece of mail that I’d received. Additional Savings: At least $1.00 for stamp and card

Thursday: Used the.last.bit. of toothpaste from the tube that was ’empty’ over two weeks ago. I always cut the tops of ’empty’ tubes off and dip my brush down in the open tube, allowing me many more cleanings before it’s REALLY empty! Like this:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASavings? Enough to make the quick ‘snip’ worthwhile!

Today: Harvested seeds from my heirloom slo-bolt cilantro, along with enough chamomile flowers to make several cups of tea, which is good as a sleep aid or to dispel stomach gas. Savings: $2.50 for the original  packet of seeds and perhaps $1 for two cups of  organic tea. Not to mention the rich feeling of self reliance and sustainability growing herbs and saving seeds gives me.

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OK, it’s your turn again! What did you do this week to save a dime or a dollar? Comment below so we can all benefit. A dollar saved… yada yada yada…



TMI
March 30, 2013, 10:08 PM
Filed under: Global Warming, Herbs | Tags: , , ,

Destroyed by MTV,
I hate to bite the hand that
Feeds me so much information
The Pressure’s on the screen
To sell you things that you don’t need
It’s too much information for me

Duran Duran – from the song, Too Much Information, 1993.

This was a hit song twenty years ago. I didn’t even own a computer then and had no idea that today the Internet would be such a big part of my life. I never have watched much TV, but the modern-day miracle of the world-wide web has allowed me to “take a trip and never leave the farm”. It is my go-to source for everything from recipes to world news to this blog. This weeks’ massive global cyber attack caused me some minor irritations, while I was also dealing with some major computer hassles due to problems with my virus protection software. Not a good combination on yet another coldish, gray day at the end of this long-ass winter. But you know what? Because I couldn’t get to Word Press to write this post, and because I was running an hours-long scan on my system, I was forced (oh no!) to do other things with my time. Here’s what I did instead:

  • Visited a friend who sent me home with potted herb plants and fresh cut arugula
  • Went to my tai chi class AND worked out in the gym
  • Cooked a delicious slooww food meal and used the arugula, along with lettuce and kale from my raised bed, to make a fine salad to go with it
  • Finished reading my library book
  • Made a big bowl of popcorn and watched an old VHS movie-yes VHS!  (as part of my ongoing effort to declutter and get rid of stacks of them that are taking up valuable real estate in my den, I’m rewatching all the oldies before making a decision on what to keep, and what to get rid of-it’s a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it. Watch for them soon on Freecycle!)
  • Took the dog for a walk
  • Dreaming of summer, I hemmed a pair of shorts
  • Walked down to the community garden just to see how everyone’s plot looked
  • Made phone calls to some of my mom’s old friends in Florida and Alabama
  •  Practiced music pieces that Michael and I are working on for upcoming events
  • Meditated

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Because I ended up having SUCH a fine day sans computer yesterday, I decided today was another opportunity to disconnect from my virtual online life. So this morning I visited another friend, ran lots of small errands I’d been putting off for two weeks, enjoyed seeing more friends that stopped by to visit us, did some house work, cut the grass, straightened up the tool shed, met even more friends at a new-to-us-restaurant for dinner tonight, practiced our music again, worked on my ‘brain games’ and now, here I am, sitting in front of the computer that is, once again, behaving ‘normally’, and enjoying writing again, while wondering where the line crosses between enjoyment and TMI.

I’ve been feeling pretty blue lately, blaming it on the lousy weather, personal grief, and this weeks’ bleak news of Monsanto’s Protection Act victory, more climate change denial from lawmakers and those hell-bent on the X#%##%*!L Pipeline, the fragile European banking system, North Korea rattling their sabres and more. And that was just THIS WEEK in the news! I’ve decided to go on a news fast. I’m feeling powerless and hopeless and I don’t function well when I feel this way. So, a big “Thank You” to the cyber attackers for helping me overcome my internet and news addiction. It lifted my funk and brought me a renewed awareness and appreciation for all I have to be thankful for. The break also helped me to refocus on the very intent of this blog, which is to discover ways for you to unplug from mainstream assumptions about learning and living, disconnect from the artificial process of life and discover the freedom and joy in learning and living more authentically within your community and without overwhelming you. Let me know if it ever becomes ‘TMI’, ok?



Empower House
A home is considered a refuge not only from nature’s elements, but from societal pressures as well. It’s a basic need, right along with food and clothing. But I’ve got a question for you; Is your home living up to its’ potential?
Turning our homes into a place of production, rather than consumption, can help us produce the food, energy, water and products we rely upon and can even produce extra income in a pinch! To really become resilient, we need to make sure our homes are able to provide for at least some of our needs.
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Here’s an example:  Let’s say you have a beehive and a little coop with a couple of laying hens in the backyard. And let’s also say you have a modest vegetable garden, a few fruit trees, a strawberry patch and some blueberry bushes planted out by the shed. The one thing all those things need for survival is water. Now, suppose your region suffers through a drought like the one that’s been going on in the midwestern states for several years now and water rationing becomes a reality in your town. Or suppose storm-produced flooding or power outages overwhelms and shuts down your city’s municipal water system. How would you take care of your water needs? Our great grandparents had wells, springs, cisterns and outhouses for dealing with their water needs but we modern urban dwellers are completely dependent on complex, energy- intensive water systems.Why not put in place your own water system? Here’s some ideas to help you do just that:

  • Landscape your yard with a rain garden to capture and divert excess rainwater into an area that your bees and fruit trees can easily access
  • Set up rain barrels, using your roof  as the channel device
  • Install an underground tank in the yard, a dirt-floored cellar or even under a deck to store even more rainwater. If underground storage isn’t feasible, above ground tanks are available, and now you can buy slimlined tanks that form a fence, serving dual purposes:

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One option for an almost endless supply of drinking water is to purchase a gravity-feed counter top water filtration system that uses no electricity and very long-lasting carbon filters that can clean raw, contaminated water well enough to allow you to drink it. This is our home’s ‘drinking station’ and I’ve read where this particular type of filtration system is used by Vista and Peace Corps workers to enable them to have clean drinking water while working in third world countries.

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At the very least, you can also store extra drinking water in jugs in the basement or even under the beds-anywhere it won’t freeze. Humans and pets can go for weeks without food but only a couple of days without water. When tornadoes or storms are bearing down on us is NOT the time to think about emergency water.  Plenty of clean water can be provided right from your own home with a little advance planning.

What are some other ways your home can become empowered to support YOU?

  • A small solar array can provide you with some hot water or generate a bit of electricity, and with prices at an all time low, coupled with tax incentives, solar has become more affordable
  • Using your backyard to grow a mini orchard, a  garden- and perhaps raise some meat rabbits in hutches- could go a long way towards feeding your family
  • Hanging your clothes to dry outside on a clothesline or inside on a rack
  • Growing fresh herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes
  • Brewing your own wines and beers in the basement can make hard times a little less so
  • Adding a small solar greenhouse over a south-facing window of your home can provide you with fresh food in winter AND be an extra source of heat
  • Building a wood fired brick oven on the back patio can provide you with a wonderful way to cook food and heat water if the power is out-or not
  • Or convert that patio into a full-blown screened in ‘summer kitchen’ with running water from, you guessed it, your stored rainwater
  • … the list of things your home can be empowered to do is almost endless.

Many people make money by using part of their home for a purpose other than simply shelter and refuge; from renting a spare bedroom to offering daycare, the possibilities are endless. One very popular family owned pizza shop in the heart of  our downtown has built a wood fired brick oven that’s used for baking their pies, and they live upstairs. Root cellars and basements can be mighty useful for food and pantry storage as well as work space. Garages can be converted to workshops, studios and more.

The systems you put into place in your home make you able to produce more, become less dependent, and live a better life.  Whether it’s a water, energy, or food system, the synergies between these systems compound this effect. Just like in the case of modern-day financial assets, savings or investment accounts get increasingly valuable due to compounding over the long term. Empower your home to take care of your needs!



Souper Food

I began January by promising I’d write about FOOD this month and have covered ways we keep food costs down, seasonal eating and the value of keeping a well-stocked pantry. Today, it’s more of the same, tied up in one big pot~of soup!

The next couple of days are forecast to be some cold ass days, so what better way to feed the fam than by making a big ass pot of soup? There are entire cookbooks devoted to soups but it seems most of them start with “saute chopped onion, garlic and celery”, add broth, then the main ingredients. In preparing for the coming cold, I  decided to harvest some kale, parsley and lettuce from the hoop house before tightening the plastic…

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Then as usual, I took a quick survey of what I had on hand and decided  last night was Minestrone night, since I had small amounts of lots of different fresh veggies on hand. I added tomatoes that I’d frozen in bags last summer, fresh potatoes and carrots that were grown by a fellow gardener, the remaining cabbage and broccoli that I’d harvested from the hoop house last week when the weather was warmer, herbs and peppers that were dried last summer and stock from my pantry.

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Stock+Veggies and Leftover Beans+’Store Bought’ Bay Leaves, Fennel and a handful of Pasta=This:

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Total Cost: About $1.00…at most. There’s at least a gallon of delicious, healthy and filling soup in this pot with enough to share with my brother and a cup over the dog’s kibble too! We enjoyed a salad prepared with the lettuces I’d picked earlier in the day, topped with another fresh vegetable from my windowsill ‘garden’:

100_1135This pint jar full of fresh alfalfa sprouts was made from one tablespoon of seed. Sprouts are considered to be a ‘super food’ meaning they have benefits that are so nutritious they’re considered a superior food. Right up there with blueberries, which I don’t have a lot of this time of year 😦  But I’ve got a LOT of sprouting seeds that will last for many, many years if I keep them dry in a sealed glass jar in a cool dark place. For about a dime, I can have fresh sprouts of any kind to add to casseroles, salads, soups-even breads-in 3 days! The sprouts we enjoyed tonight were exceptionally fresh and tender, and can really perk up an otherwise ‘plain’ winter salad. Dressed with our own honey/mustard dressing, we ate like kings for under a dollar, with plenty left for lunch tomorrow.

Learning the skills of growing some of your own food, preserving some of that food for winter time use, planning and cooking meals from scratch, and taking care of your health by eating a nutritious diet will help you stretch your food and health care dollars while offering you resilience and self-sufficiency during uncertain times. Learning to ‘make do’, whether it’s in the kitchen, keeping an older car running, living in a smaller house, or repairing and wearing older clothes is a mindset that can help us truly learn to ‘live MORE on LESS’. Ain’t that souper?




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