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

Frugal Friday-August 21, 2015
August 21, 2015, 9:38 PM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve just finished my third week of working full time, and just as I expected, I feel like I’ve been ‘too busy’ to write blog posts. But I did want you to know I’m surviving and have a renewed appreciation for all the folks that are able to hold down jobs, take care of families, and yet still somehow find time to volunteer, attend church and other meetings, exercise and sleep each night! Hats off to you!

One interesting result of my working has been that I find I’m not spending ANY money, other than the gas it costs me to go to work. My new office offers free coffee, tea and soft drinks, and because I take my lunch each day and wear the same casual wardrobe that I’ve collected piece by piece from thrift stores over the years, I go to work, come home, have supper and collapse relax. I don’t want to go anywhere else once I get home, and since Michael is doing our grocery shopping and most of the cooking, as well as running all the errands that I used to do, I’ve had the same three dollar bills in my purse for these three weeks.

We continue to be thrifty here at home by hanging our laundry on the line to dry, using our fans rather than the AC, cooking our meals from scratch and eating as much as possible from the garden. We walk and ride our bikes daily for exercise, and sleep really really well at night.

I haven’t had much time or energy for much else though, until this week; I guess I’m beginning to get ‘into a groove’ with this whole job business! I’ve been reapplying fresh pine mulch (that I get delivered free from my local power company) to my blueberry beds, and yesterday evening enjoyed picking organic Concord grapes  from a friend’s back yard-she was giving them away because she had so many! Remember how I wrote last fall about finding a brand new steamer/juicer at a thrift store for $3.49? I used it to transform this huge batch of grapes, from this…


…to this…in about an hour!


And so I am ‘hooked’ on the ease of steam juicing and will probably be arrested at some point for stealing fruits and berries from backyards all over town in order to feed my new addiction! But never fear, tomorrow is Saturday,  I’m OFF! and I have enough tomatoes on hand to make V8 Juice!

You know what I always say: “When the stock market drops 553 points in one day, make juice!”. Enjoy your weekend folks.

Frugal Friday-Barefoot and…

‘Tis the season of backyard potlucks, blue moons and dirty feet, at least in my little world. I managed to get a nasty blister last Friday when I had to wear ‘real shoes’ to a day long food coop meeting with potential investor/partners. Because I live less than a mile from the meeting place, I opted to walk, even though it was crazy hot, because I had arranged to ride home with a friend. When I got almost there, a train was stopped on the track and rumor was that someone had been hit! It wasn’t even running, so I had to turn around and walk back home. The shoes weren’t meant for walking like that, and with bare feet it was no time before I was sweaty and had a blister. The good news is, I’ve gone barefoot all week and love scrubbing reminders of the day off of them at night, just like I used to as a girl. There’s a term for that connection we make with the earth when we go barefoot, it’s called “earthing” or “grounding” and I’ve felt it’s impact all week. I’ve culminated my barefoot week today with cutting grass until my feet were green and watching the moon tonight til it turned blue!

blue moonThere’s something about being barefoot that encourages me to stay that way, so having to go somewhere that requires shoes not only saw me at home more, it also pretty much prevented me from spending any unnecessary money. It was a fine week friends…

Monday: When life gives you lemons-and basil…We were invited to an outdoor potluck in the evening, with acoustic music and mountains all around us. I took my usual local deviled eggs and my unusual local Basil Lemonade- and went barefoot. It was big fun!



Tuesday: Remember a couple of weeks ago when I told you about the great pasta sauce I’d made in my new electric pressure cooker? When life gives you tomatoes, onions and peppers, make sauce! So, I made another batch and after supper I canned the extra. Because I don’t like to use my canner unless it’s full, I filled the extra space with jars of water to store with my emergency preps in the cellar. Bare feet on a cold root cellar floor in mid summer is a special pleasure!

20150728_081449[1]Wednesday: A group of teens whose parents are migrants are attending a camp at the local university. Part of their week has a service component to it, so I was lucky enough to host a small group of them  at the community garden. They worked hard cleaning up the common areas that often get overlooked in such a setting. But it was really neat when the first of my ‘Moon and Stars’ watermelons I’m growing this year turned up perfectly ripe on this day. We split it and passed out sweet, drippy slices right on the spot! Afterwards, One Acre Cafe invited us all to lunch! Good food and good company didn’t cost me a dime. And yeah, I worked barlefoot in the garden but slipped on some flip flops to go in to eat. Those pesky health laws!  😉


Thursday: Barefoot in the Park: I try to support all the good things, both big and small, that are going on in my city’s gradual revival of its’ downtown district: they all add up to a more livable community for everyone. When I heard that there was going to be an unveiling of a newly restored ‘ghost’ Coca Cola advertising mural, along with the opening of a our latest restored train depot-turned-brewery, I wanted to be there. As soon as I hit the park, Coca Cola employees practically came out of the wood work to hand out free tee shirts and cold bottles of coke! They had this ‘booth’ that could print out any name you wanted on a can of coke. It was free and we were each allowed two cans, so I got my grandkids’ names, one of which is pretty ‘obscure’, imprinted and I’ll give them the teeshirts and personalized cans at Christmas this year. Michael chose to have our names printed on his two, and they look so sweet on the windowsill of my red, white and black kitchen!

20150731_221736[1]After the unveiling of the new sign, a local deli that had been hired by the local Coke bottling company offered free lunches of sandwiches, pasta salad, chips and yeah, more cokes, for everyone in attendance! Free tee shirts, drinks, lunch and a wonderful sense of community spirit was there. How much is that worth? It’s priceless!


Friday: Just an ordinary day: I helped my daughter apply for her first home loan, and dropped off some fresh produce to One Acre Cafe’s kitchen. Later we cut the grass, worked in the garden, played some music, took the dog for a walk through the park, and ate leftovers for supper, beefed up with fresh tomato slices and green beans from the garden, and thick slices of garlic bread. After supper I sat on the porch and snapped more green beans. It was a perfect day…


I tried mightily to weave this new-to-me concept of “earthing” or “grounding” into this post, but feel as though the sense of connection to the earth and all of humanity that I’ve experienced this week by being barefoot so much, was lost in the minutia of the days. Regardless, the mundane has become profound at times; from fat, red tomatoes all over the kitchen counters to the 10 foot tall Hopi Blue corn growing in a little patch by the shed, I feel as though all is right with the world. (ha!) I think the stalks look like mythological green nymphs, with hands raised to the sky, shouting “Hallelujah!”.

20150728_175318[1]Have a grounded weekend friends!

Frugal Friday- April 11, 2014

I’ve stayed at home most of this week, either in the garden or finishing up some easy ‘indoor’ projects that were on my winter ‘to-do’ list. Un huh, I KNOW winter is over but such is life. I save the most time, energy and money when I stay home, because I don’t spend money here, so there’s not a lot of dollar savings this week, but one special one I want to share with you.

Monday: In my position as the Carver Peace Gardens coordinator, it falls to me to make sure the tools and equipment we offer the community gardeners are kept in working order. Enter: ‘Big Red’ the 20+ year old Troybilt tiller that’s still got plenty of life left in her if people would just treat her kindly. Anyway, seems a gardener pulled Big Red out of the toolshed and ‘she was broken’. As in, one of the handlebars made of 1″ steel tubing was sheared in two. We are a nonprofit of course, and our bank account reflects that. (There’s really no bank account, it’s all kept in an envelope in my desk drawer 😉 because the bank wanted a $3 a month service charge for balances under $1000.) Which is every month. But I digress..I figured a weld would fix it so I called the nearby high school and spoke with the weld-shop instructor there, who said if we’d bring Big Red to their on- campus shop, the students would fix her pronto. I did, the instructor was the only one on hand when I arrived, so he welded it expertly for free for me in about 5 minutes. I don’t know what this would’ve cost to have it welded at a local shop but the instructor’s good nature and encouragement to bring all my future welding projects to the school was: Priceless


See that large black spot of welding on that handlebar, down near the engine? Fine job!

Tuesday: Last week Michael and I met friends at a local bakery for breakfast. Smoky Mountain Bakers in Roan Mountain has great breakfast sandwiches, along with fresh breads and pizzas that are baked in their wood fired oven. We paid $1 a piece for bagels to bring home and it inspired Michael to try his hand at making them. Though not as beautiful as the bakery’s -YET- the cinammon/raisin wonders were really delicious and we figured they only cost about 10 cents a piece to make. He made six on his first attempt, saving us $6.00 since there was also tax on those bakery bagels. Let me say this about those bakery bagels before I move on:  The hard working couple that own that Roan Mountain bakery (and all other entrepreneurs like them) deserve our business and support but that’s simply not possible since their bakery is a 35 minute drive from my home. To my knowledge, there are no locally owned bagel shops near me, and until there is, we’ll continue to make our own baked goods. The Farmer’s Market is opening next weekend, with several vendors selling fresh baked bread there that we’ll try to support during the summer months when we don’t like to heat up the kitchen with oven baking anyway. But, that’s next week. Just sayin’











Wednesday: This time of year finds us watering trays of seedlings twice a day, using almost 1/2 gallon each time. We’ve started pouring the water collected in our dehumidifier into the watering can and using that de-gassed  water for this chore. Savings: 7 gallons a week x 4 weeks= 28 gallons, enough to wash my car and a sink full of fresh spinach! I’m noticing more documentaries, webinars, books and blogs devoted to our growing water crisis, and I heard a speaker at the local college last night say our next wars will be over water, not oil. If not already, we all might as well get accustomed to being as frugal with our water as with everything else in our lives. Do  your part, don’t waste a single drop!

Thursday: About that speaker: our local college brought him here from Berea College in KY as part of their month-long Earth Day celebration. His name is David Cooke, and he is the director of Grow Appalachia, a nonprofit that is planting seeds for a sustainable future here in the Southern Appalachians. His foundation is doing good work and he’s trying to expand their reach into my area of TN, which is why he was here. There was no charge for the presentation, there were great snacks, and I got a free Earth Day tee shirt, all while listening to an engaging speaker talk about some of the very things this blog ponders! Again, if you live in or near a college town, take advantage of all they offer beyond the paid classes! My new teeshirt —————————————–>sam with t shirt 4

Friday: OK, I’m stretching here, including this on Frugal Friday, but it’s definitely consistent with what this blog is all about, and that is eating locally, using resources wisely, and building community. New neighbors have been moving in this week and I decided to take them a spring time loaf of Lavender Tea Bread as a ‘welcome to the neighborhood’ gift. I’ll be dropping it off to them this afternoon when I walk by their house to go to the drugstore. As a special bonus, I’m going to give you the recipe for this bread because it is frugal and fabulous. It used my home-ground locally raised wheat, eggs from my friend Sandy’s eggs, lavender from my own plants and sugar, lots of sugar 😉


Lavender Tea Bread

3//4 cup milk (I used soy)

2 TB dried lavender flowers, finely chopped or 3 T fresh flowers

2 C all purpose flour (I used half AP and half wheat)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

6 TB butter, softened

1 C Sugar

2 large eggs



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