Tennesseetransitions


Old Fashioned Insurance

Flier

Just a few generations ago, very few people lived in apartments. Many folks lived and died in the same home in fact. Small, often remote communities often came together to help their neighbors with barn raisings, crop harvestings, or disasters. Folks didn’t have insurance on barns, crops and homes like many of us do now. (although I’m not altogether convinced that insurance is such a wise buy since it’s basically the policy holder BETTING they’ll need it, and the insurance company BETTING they won’t! ) 

Cloudland is just such a community. You can see from the flier above that they came together with just such an old fashioned “insurance policy” last Saturday to help 3 or 4 of their neighbors that have been displaced since their apartment building burned, shortly before Christmas. The normally pay-in-advance facility rental fee was waived for the event, the 9 local bands that played through the 6 hour event all donated their time and talents, the sound system and engineer for that system was donated and the community donated their money and potluck dishes to make this event a smashing success. Over $2,144 was raised! I think that says a lot about Cloudland, and the folks that helped make it so successful. But it also gives me renewed hope in a world that seems hell-bent on individuality, each man for himself mentalities, and embarrassingly evil ways to ‘shut out’ those that need help the most. 

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The Triple J Barn transformed for the evening

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Friends, food and music. A great time was had by all, devastated families will be helped by the money raised, and the spirit of community was strengthened. This embodies exactly what this blog is about and I simply wanted to share the warm feeling I’m still enjoying after attending this ‘Care Fest’ last Saturday. One more thing. I’m truly proud of Michael and several other friends for being one of those that donated his talents by playing with OUR band (I still can’t make this stiff hand work well enough to play bass!) and of my best friend Rhodyjane for spearheading it and making it all come together.

Tennessee may not be perfect (is there any place that is?) but together, we are making the transitions we need to in order to make sure that everyone not only survives, but thrives, during this new year. Make sure  you take good care of you and yours too!



We Have the Tools We Need

grandmaThis blog is mostly about ways to create resilient and prosperous households, neighborhoods and communities, or, as implied in the picture above, ways to “do stuff”. I wrote a post earlier this year on ‘redefining prosperity’ and I’ve been reminded of it several times this week while listening to lunch break talk. As you probably know, stock markets around the world have taken a beating since last Friday, and folks, from economists to retirees to my workmates are worried. Call me crazy, but I’m not worried, even though we lost a lot ON PAPER due to the plunge. I try to measure my personal prosperity based on how wealthy I am in non-tangible ways rather than on what the monthly statements tell me. Of course I hate to lose money, even if it is ON PAPER, as much as anyone. But I don’t feel any real sense of loss. I’m not going to sell out now, I’m going to stay the course and let the blue chips fall where they may. In the meantime I intend to continue doing whatever I can to make my home and family and community more resilient, so that when the economic crashes and recessions occur-and they will!- we’ll still be standing.

On a personal level, that means staying out of debt and paying cash or doing without. It means using what I have on hand, before buying something, whether it’s a jar of our home-grown tomatoes or a bottle of shampoo. It means continuing to grow as much food as I can, saving my own seeds and making small mountains of compost so that I can return what I’ve taken from the soil, and then doing it all over again next year. It means keeping my body as strong and as healthy as I can through healthy eating, regular exercise and sleeping 7 or 8 hours each night. It means repairing rather than replacing, putting food up for the winter, hanging the sheets on the line to dry, using the fan rather than the AC and driving the car less. I have the tools I need…

Resiliency and prosperity is different for each of us though. Perhaps for you it’s working through debt, learning a special skill that might be useful in bad times, or starting your own small business. For ALL of us, it really does mean having a local supply chain, just like our grandparents did during the Great Depression. When China’s economy collapses (and according to recent NPR reports that’s not as far fetched as you may think) that familiar ‘made in China’ supply chain will break and we’ll be dependent on what we can produce right here at home. And if that chain doesn’t break, doesn’t it just make SENSE to supply ourselves with our own stuff, right here at home? We need the jobs here-badly. And by the way, I’d advise China to do the same. Did you know that last month the USDA gave the OK to ship our LIVE chickens that were raised here to China for processing, then ship the meat BACK to the US for our consumption? What would our grandparents have thought of that hare-brained scheme? Would they have raised their own backyard chickens and sent them away to butcher? In direct contrast, check out the message on this poster that the USDA produced during the Great Depression:

Feed YourselfOur recently re-activated neighborhood association met with the chief of police and the sergeant  assigned to our district Monday night to discuss ways we can keep our neighborhood safer and free from July 4th fireworks that go on throughout the month. Working side by side with neighbors on issues that affect all of us is a sure way to get to know one another and be part of a more livable community. There were 33 people at the meeting, with plans to have block captains, neighborhood watches and to be represented in this year’s Christmas parade! That’s the start of better resilience for sure. I’m hoping at some point we’ll begin to talk about public gardens,orchards and vineyards, bike lanes, Little Free Libraries and “Safe Houses”, health clinics and more. We have the tools we need…

And finally, on a larger community level, resiliency and prosperity might mean outlining a detailed plan for community food security or supporting a community-owned energy system, municipal composting facility or ride sharing plan. It may mean a leaner and slower way of life for some, but also a healthier, happier and more peaceful world for us and future generations to enjoy. We have the tools we need… What we do with them is up to us.

hard times to dance



Nothing New Under the Sun
March 28, 2015, 9:18 AM
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Resilience | Tags: , , ,

Each year by April I’m threatening to quit gardening, to start buying canned beans at the grocery store and to throw my vegetable trimmings into the garbage can instead of into the compost bucket. I’m a week early this year. Those long, lazy days of winter are but a memory now and have been replaced with long days of ‘getting the garden in’. But because this cyclic turning guides my life and keeps my spirit buoyed, I guess I’ll be gardening in the courtyard of my nursing home eventually.

Even when work awaits me, there’s something about the warm sun and the greening of Earth that calls me to ‘come out and play’. I get so caught up in it that before I know it, I’ve overdone it. This feeling of being physically tired is a renewed sensation in my body, and one that feels good at the end of the day. I’m sure you can relate, whether you’re a gardener, or a ball player, a golfer or a biker.

Sometimes pictures tell a story faster and better than I can so I think I’ll just give you a pictoral of what we’ve been working on this week…

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The ‘Fall Grower’s Mix’ that was broadcast as a cover crop was thick and lush and needed to be trimmed before it could be turned under with the broadfork…

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This “Meadow Creature” Broadfork is our new favorite tool and has finally helped us reach a new level of sustainability by not having to till! With long steel tines, its’ silent, human-powered operation prepared a deeply prepared bed in no time, perfect for planting the potatoes…

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As well as a bed for  transplanting the cabbages and bok choi into…

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…which I then had to cover last night to protect from the impending cold snap!

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The weather was so beautiful that I was inspired to start hanging out the clothes again, which helped opened a conversation with a neighbor concerning ‘building a new model of living’. I like that phrase and you’ll likely see it again in this blog.

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The neighborly conversation has left me reflecting on the whole concept of resilience. It is often defined as relating to somehow “bouncing back” from a crisis, a somewhat silly notion in the context of the ‘New Normal’ of climate change, energy scarcity and the impending end of the age of economic growth. We can’t ‘bounce back’ even if we wanted to.  Resilience is defined as: “The capacity of a system, enterprise, or a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances”. 

Growing food and hanging clothes out to dry is nothing new under the sun. But isn’t it wonderful that those ‘old’ ways of doing things still offer the same promise of good health and resilience in 2015 that they have for centuries? See you in the garden!



Jimmy started all of this…
August 27, 2014, 9:51 PM
Filed under: Adapting to Change, Canning, Resilience | Tags: , ,

What got me to thinking about Jimmy Carter was hearing that this weekend he’s going to be a keynote speaker at a Muslim convention in Detroit. The man deserved his Nobel is all I can say! Now back to the topic at hand…

I’ll admit it. My zest for canning, drying, freezing and fermenting has changed over the years from a casual experiment  into a  complete lifestyle change. The first time I slipped hot green beans into a sterilized jar, screwed a metal lid and band on it, and then ate those late summer beans months later at Christmas, my now-40-year old daughter was a newborn, and I was hooked on canning!

Three years later Jimmy Carter became President and just two weeks into his new presidency he began hosting his ‘Fireside Chats’ while wearing a Mr. Rogers cardigan sweater, as he sat by the fireplace in the West Wing of the White House. Those chats encouraged us Americans to use less energy, and told us how important it was to have an energy policy that focused on conserving the nation’s natural resources.

carter I liked and admired President Carter very much but his message, along with an inflation rate of 20% (!) and a stock market that lost 40% of its’ value in 18 months time was pretty damn scary to me. So, what does a young mother of four little girls do when faced with the war in Vietnam that was in its’ 19th year, Russians standing in long, long lines to get extremely scarce toilet paper, ( I don’t remember why), all while living 600 miles from her nearest relative? Besides stocking up on toilet paper, I began growing food. And canning it. It gave me a sense of self-sufficiency and control over that scary world. Some things never change I guess. 37 years later, we still don’t have that national energy policy, and I’m still keeping our scary world at bay by keeping plenty of TP and beans on hand.

Studies show that people focus more on material things when they feel insecure, and I was certainly insecure as a too-young mom. I’m happy to say that I feel more secure at this stage of my life than I ever have, but I still continue to grow and preserve as much as I can. I’m certain there are still security issues hidden in there somewhere, but by this time, I consider it normal. We all have our ‘issues’ I guess, but if growing food, having a fully stocked pantry, and living by the belief that ‘we are what we eat’ is an ‘issue’ for me, I think it’s a good one to have. Michael was exposed to Listeria earlier this summer due to peaches that were later recalled-oops! and that experience, along with his colon cancer, has certainly made both of us more conscious than ever of how important food is to our health, both mental and physical. Jimmy Carter must be doing something right too-he’ll be 90 years old on October 1st and he’s still building habitats, growing peanuts, and teaching peace. God love him.

why-do-we-can-so-much

 



Frugal Friday- June 13, 2014

It’s Friday the 13th AND a full moon! Seems like an auspicious way to begin post number 2-0-1- on this blog. Since returning from my trip to Ohio, I’ve been distracted with gardening and meetings, and festivals and meetings and shelling peas and meetings and out of town company and oh yeah, did I mention meetings? This week I’ve really tried to concentrate on eating from our garden every day, as well as walking and biking as much as possible to get where I need to go. When I left town to travel to Ohio, I filled up for $3.32 a gallon, but when I got there, gas was $3.99 a gallon! If that’s not incentive to park the car, I don’t know what is, yet the city where my family lives just had bumper to bumper traffic everywhere! Before I get on to my personal efforts to live fully and frugally beneath my means, I wanted to show you a picture I took in downtown Columbus of a new ‘car rental’ system they have there…

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The Car2Go system is brilliant for use in a big town. A one time membership fee of $35 gets you a swipe card. The card readers are on the dash of the car. Swipe your card, the doors unlock, then the reasonable pay by the minute-mile-or hour fees are charged to your credit card. Park it when you’re done in one of many many spaces allocated for them. They’re perfect for one, they’re fuel-efficient because of their small size and as  you can see, you can park two cars in the space that one car normally takes up! Talk about frugal! The only bad thing is having to live in a big town to take advantage of this. No thanks, I’ll just walk.

OK, before I get started on ‘this week’: a few of my close friends have said, from time to time, “you didn’t do such and such on Monday, it was Wednesday!” Whatever. The point here is not to give you a play by-play rundown of my week but instead, to simply show that every single day there are opportunities in our lives to save time, energy and resources. Living well on less is a way of life. Even on Mondays. Or Wednesdays. Just sayin’…

Monday: We had two compost bins but wanted to start a third one so we can be sure to have enough compost made this fall and next spring to add to our garden beds. The two bins we already had-and love-were $75 each last time I priced them (that’s them on the right, below) but with graduation gifts and travel expenses this month, there’s simply not enough money right now to buy another. But-we had a small section of wire fencing that we’d used several times to trellis growing vegetables, so we rolled it up, stuck it in the corner beside the other two and said ‘good enough’! It works fine and didn’t cost us a dime. And, as  you can see, it’s already filling up!

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Tuesday: Speaking of graduation expenses, or special gift giving occasions: I’m always on the lookout for the perfect gift for such events. A few months ago I was in my favorite thrift store and found this little gem for 50 cents:

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It had a lot going for it, from my point of view: it looked brand new, but no new resources were used for me to purchase it used, I wrote a personal note to put inside with the $100 bill I gave my graduating granddaughter, so no card had to be bought and then thrown away, nor did I need any wrapping paper. AND she’s got the little box for as long as she wants it to store ‘stuff’. Cheap? Nah, Sweet!

Wednesday: With summertime comes mosquitoes. I was hopeful that Michael’s chemo treatments would make him less desirable to the biting buggars but that doesn’t seem to be the case so it was time, once again, to mix up a batch of my infamous ‘Bug Potion #9’. Here’s the ‘recipe’: it makes 2 cups and usually lasts all summer. We keep it in repurposed spice jars, along with some cotton balls, in the camper,the car, the kitchen and the bathroom!

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1 cup witch hazel
1 cup rubbing alcohol
8-10 drops peppermint oil

Shake well, store in a tightly capped container so that alcohol doesn’t evaporate. Applying this with a cotton ball as soon as possible after being bitten results in better effectiveness.

Thursday: I signed up on-line to join the Adult Summer Reading program at my local library. Just for doing that, when I went in to the library today, I received a free tote bag, bookmarks, and a book of my choice! And for each book review I post on their website, my name will also be entered into a weekly drawing! Does your library offer such sweet deals? Check it out-pun intended.

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Friday: I invite company over at least once a month so my house will get cleaned. (oh surely you do that too! 😉  This week we had an out of town band stay with us overnight and the upstairs guest quarters were looking, um…kinda shabby. The night stands and table belonged to my grandmother and looked as old as she did-hey! she was 101, and she deserved to display all those years proudly, just like this furniture does:

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  I spent $40 on new knobs and paint, a few pleasant hours on the patio and think the 3 pieces look pretty nice. I’ve also got enough paint left to do another small project so I’ll be on the lookout at yard sales this summer for a scuffed-but-solid table or stool to use it on- perhaps as a Christmas gift for my daughter? I just don’t know what to do with the paint cans once they’re empty. Any ideas?

 

I hope you’re carrying the ideas of Frugal Friday with you throughout your week, and that you’re inspired to make the best use possible of whatever resources present themselves in your life before looking ‘elsewhere’ for the things  you need. Enjoy the weekend-frugally of course!



Frugal Friday- May 16, 2014

This weeks’ rain and cooler weather have been welcome visitors to my spring garden! Bok Choy, spinach, cilantro and broccoli have been the stars this week, with peas in full bloom. We’ve tried to plan our meals around these seasonal treats, because they’ll be gone soon, at least until fall.

Monday: Speaking of cilantro: I had such a surplus of this pungent spicy herb that I decided to try to preserve some it. After reading over several different methods, I took the easy way out by shoving handfuls of the plant, tender stems and all, into my blender. I simply poured enough olive oil to help the process, added some salt, and pureed it to a thick paste. Then I scraped about 2 Tablespoons of the green goo into empty ice cube trays and froze it. When solid, I popped them out and into freezer bags. I tried two of the cubes last night in a curry dish that called for fresh cilantro. Maybe not quite as good as the fresh, but definitely a nice flavor.

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BEFORE:

 

 

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The only thing I’d do differently would be to simply drop the thick paste by tablespoons onto a cookie sheet instead of ice trays. Less cleanup and easier to remove. Savings? With organic cilantro selling for 99 cents a bunch, I think I must’ve cut at least 5 bunches from my little patch, leaving enough to continue using fresh for a while longer and enough to go towards reseeding. One time years ago I bought a little tray of these little frozen cubes (only MUCH smaller!) at Trader Joe’s for about $3.00. Based on that, I’d say I saved at least $9.oo on this easy project.

Tuesday: On my daily walk I saw that my neighbor had put out a couple of carpets and rugs for trash pickup. I brought home the smallest one because it was very pretty, clean and just the size and combination of colors I needed for a bedside rug in my bedroom! I returned a bit later to take a picture of the larger one to show ya’ll how nice it was but it had already been claimed from its’ street-side ‘grave’. So I took a pic of the one I got. Very pretty I think:

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Savings? Well the main reason I hadn’t bought such a rug was because the ones I saw in the stores and admired were always too expensive for my tastes, running from $25-$45. I always say if I’m patient enough, I’ll find just what I want for a fraction of the price, or better yet, in the trash!

Wednesday: Michael’s favorite old gardening shorts had gotten a hole worn in them. I spent a few minutes patching them with an old scrap of muslin I had (which is what old feedsacks and consequently, our grandmother’s long-wearing dresses were made from) and I expect he’ll get plenty more garden mileage out of them. Savings: Does anyone REALLY need new shorts to garden or cut the grass in?

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Thursday: Michael loves A-1 Steak Sauce, even though we never eat steak. He likes it on eggs, hash browns and more. A-1 is expensive. (I mean really, what the hell’s wrong with ketchup???) Anyway, he bought a store brand this week for half the price and likes it just fine. Savings: $2.25 a bottle.

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Monday through Friday:  We’re eating more and more fresh food from our garden and the remains of last summer’s bounty that’s left in the freezer so it will be fairly empty when the space is needed again. This requires creativity on the cook’s part. This week we’ve enjoyed Shepard’s Pie, stuffed with broccoli, beans, greens and carrots and topped with mashed potatoes made from the last of the 50 pound bag I’d bought for a few dollars, Pasta Primavera Sauce simmered with frozen tomatoes, peppers, squash, and mushrooms, Fish Fillets with corn on the cob and homemade slaw, and after a long day in the garden, we enjoyed big fruit smoothies for supper one night, using up frozen bananas and berries that I found hiding in the bottom of the freezer! Savings: A week’s worth of meals using whatever’s on hand saved enough money to enable us to eat out one night! Priceless

There are many benefits to living frugally. Being a mindful consumer and an even more mindful NONconsumer inspires an attitude of gratitude and contentment within me, it increases my resilience to be better able to withstand shortages, inflation, losses or emergencies in life by encouraging me to be resourceful and to find creative ways to ‘use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without‘ and is better for the environment because I generate less waste and consume fewer resources. Oh yeah, it saves me tons of money too 😉

 

 

 



Lean In

When we were kids, my group of friends would always say “Lean in!” when we had something earth-shaking we wanted the others to hear. We all knew it was time  to ‘listen up’ and ‘pay attention’. So, lean in, I’ve got stuff to share. I’m noticing more and more and MORE that average, every day folks are beginning to transition their lives. In some cases its subtle, in others, major. But, as Bob Dylan sang to us 50 years ago, “the times they are a’changing”.

For example, yesterday I read a blog post from an ordinary suburbanite mom that was encouraging her readers to prepare for emergencies by putting together bug out bags for each family member, complete with a list of suggested items to include. In part it reads: “I am not talking fear or panic.  I am promoting intelligent, practical, thoughtful preparation.  I don’t know what is around the corner, but I must admit to a growing need to learn all that I can and adjust my outlook to one of greater self-sufficiency and resilience”.  I totally agree with her, and have had my own bug out backpack for over 10 years now, but her post reminded me that I should recheck and update it. With the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing over the last few years, and becoming more extreme it seems with each passing season, it’s a suggestion that every person should consider. My friend in Pensacola, FL is unable to get to work due this week due to washed out bridges and roads from Tuesdays’ storms, while many in Mississippi and Alabama are devastated and homeless after getting hit by tornadoes. This ‘before and after’ picture is from his Facebook page…

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Are you prepared for such things? Lean in and take heed.

I’ve noticed an uptick in local community gardens and food forests. There’s keen interest in the canning classes I enjoy giving…

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…as well as a renewed desire to learn other kitchen skills such as pie and biscuit making and cooking meals from scratch. Classes are full for cheese-making, bread-making, fermenting foods, as well as making yogurt, kombucha and kefir. Workshops on everything from organic gardening and building raised beds to woodworking and soap-making are sold out. The local beekeeping school had 400 people attend this year, by far the largest number ever, and clandestine chicken coops are all over the city now. I  went to a well-attended lecture Tuesday night at the local college, called “Brightening the 21st Century” given by ‘The Solar Sister’. Her story of turning an old chicken coop located on the nunnery grounds where she lives, into an environmental learning center was enjoyed by the room full of folks that were there. During April, our local university held a month-long calendar of Earth Day celebrations and events for the first time ever. When I left the lecture hall, I saw this out in the hall and wanted to show you too: the ‘Mixed Paper’ and “Cans&Plastic” bins both had stuff in them, but the container on the far right which was marked “LANDFILL” was empty.

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In the two years I’ve lived in my urban neighborhood, the number of red recycling bins I see out on the curb on Monday mornings has quadrupled. (That’s not saying a whole lot, since I had to call the truck drivers almost every week for the first month or two we lived here because I was the only one on the street at the time that was putting it curbside and they would ‘forget’ to stop), but the point is, lean in here, more people are recycling, growing some of their own food, and using renewable energy than I’ve ever noticed. I received an email from a friend just this morning: “I finally ordered my own solar cooker today!” Lean in friends, this is all good news!

People are also learning to reuse and repair again, as well as recycle. The local shoe and bike repair shops have long ‘wait times’ they are so busy. I recently went to a small engine repair shop to pick up new belts for my 23-year-old tiller and  was fifth in the line of customers buying their own parts to repair their own stuff. My youngest daughter has recently begun to renew her long-neglected sewing skills, and the Bernina sewing shop that opened downtown a couple of years ago seems to be always quite busy. Lean in: people are indeed transitioning to a future that is based on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being.

I am thrilled to see the changes taking place! Not only are we taking control of our lives again, according to recent articles I’ve read, we’re also saving more for retirement and carrying far less debt than we were when the ‘economic depression’ began in 2008. That downturn has brought about some rather nice changes in my own life: in response to lower incomes and higher prices, my circle of friends has been getting together for potlucks and cookouts and birthday celebrations more often these days, ending these festive times with board games or music jams. Fuhgeddaboud cover charges or drinks by the glass. We brew our own beer or wine or herbal sun tea and enjoy the comfort of being in our own homes, saving clubs and restaurant outings for rare special occasions. Now there’s even talk of forming an intentional community, right here in our urban area! There’s hope and light everywhere, you just gotta lean in to find it.

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