Frugal Friday- April 25th, 2014

As the weather warms, I’m enjoying being in the garden and eating fresher home-grown foods, while still using up the bounty from last year’s garden. We ate beets, carrots, parsnips, green onions, lettuce and spinach this week, and because Michael’s chemo treatments don’t allow him to eat raw foods, I tried a new recipe for Creamed Spinach. It was really, really good. With a lot of sunshine, we cooked outside this week, on the grill and in the solar cooker, and even went to a picnic last night, so I know summer’s on its way. As you know, frugality isn’t just about saving money. It’s equally about saving time, resources, and energy (both personal and grid type). This week was a strange conglomeration of all of those things, with less about money than usual.

Monday: Got my old washing machine repaired, and it only cost $120, and that included two visits to my home-one to diagnose the problem, and the second visit to replace the part that had to be ordered. It’s running great, and I’m happy that it wasn’t the kind of repair bill that made me question whether I should fix it or buy new. Savings over new: Geez, who knows? The point is really about taking care of, and using up, what we already own, rather than buying new.

Tuesday:  Every freaking day is Earth Day as far as I’m concerned. We cannot ‘save the earth’ only recognizing it one day a year and after 40+ years of ‘celebrating’ the day, I see more environmental destruction and degradation than ever. That said, I still feel a ‘thrill’ when it’s mentioned, or when I know deep down inside that I’m living it every day, in every way, that I possibly can. In light of that, Earth Day is always the time of year that I’m trying to get my garden plot ready for planting and heavy summer production. Living in a downtown urban area doesn’t lend itself well to finding animal manure for composting and fertilization, unless you count the piles of dog shit in the park. But a fellow gardening friend took pity on my whining about the lack of poo,  and we were both able to drive our trucks on a beautiful spring morning out into the country, to a local alpaca farm, where the animals’ owner filled both trucks with huge loads of FREE composted manure with her little mini front loader! Not only did I get to personally meet the gang responsible for this wonderful windfall…


…when I got back to the community garden, I got help unloading it from several friends that happened to be in the wrong right place at the wrong right time! Priceless!


Wednesday:  Expecting company for dinner, I decided that my stove top could use a good scrubbing and cleaning. I like to line my burner pans with foil to catch drips, mostly because I’m lazy and don’t want to scrub them. It was time to change the foil. See how clean it looks now? This was a 15 minute job (I should’ve taken a before picture for comparison but forgot to) Savings? Hours of scrubbing!


Thursday:  Remember my telling you about how Michael and I enjoy volunteering with our local university’s arts department? Not only is it a great way to support the arts, we earn free tickets for our time too. But all of the volunteers were invited to a wonderful end of year ‘thank you’ picnic last night, complete with an old-time band and contra dance after the meal! The catered meal was fabulous, we got to meet and eat with old friends, and then dance off the calories afterwards. Savings? Priceless!






Friday: Continuing the cleanup of my oven required me to use a Brillo-type steel wool pad on some spots. I always cut the new pads in two, which sharpens my scissors and results in fewer pads being thrown away due to rust. 1/2 a pad almost always does the job. Savings? Well, it’s like getting a free box cutting them in half like that, AND it cuts down on the waste they make since they rust badly if  you try to ‘save’ them after a use. Just sayin’…


As  you see, there were no big dollar savings this week to speak of, but again, all the little things do add up to  big savings in all the areas of our lives. Whether it’s cutting brillo pads in two or dancing and picnicking with friends, I consider it an art to live my life in an abundant and meaningful way as I transition to a lifestyle that is based on lower energy, less money, climate changes and an economy that will NEVER return to “the way it used to be”. I hope my blog  inspires you to find your own ways to become more creatively resilient, and to use your own local resources to their fullest. Have a beautiful weekend!

Growing Awareness

You may have noticed I’m not posting as often as I did back during the winter. That’s because I’m busy gardening and playing music again. But, as promised, I will try to give you updates on what I’m doing currently in the garden so here goes. I am:

1. Weeding

2. Cutting garlic scapes off so more energy now goes into the bulb, rather than seeds. I posted last year about ways to use them in your meals so I’ll just give you a link here rather than repeat all of that.

3. Enjoying the beauty of the yellow crookneck squash blossoms. Mine are in the showy all-male cycle of their short lives, soon to be followed by females. When those appear, we’ll hand pollinate them early in the morning while they’re opened, to ensure a bigger crop. It’s done with a little water-color paint brush we keep for that purpose but you could probably use any old toothbrush you might have lying around. Here’s how to tell the difference: In the top photo, you’ll see a tiny ‘baby’ starting to form just BEFORE the blossom opens. The bottom photo shows the male blossom almost ready to open, but no baby.

female squash

4. Weeding

5. Piling the second layer of straw up around my potato plants. Straw is an easy way to keep the potato bug population down. In fact, we have NEVER seen a potato bug on our plants in the decade we’ve been planting potatoes. It’s far easier than hilling up dirt around the plants, and serves as a weed suppressing mulch at the same time.


6. Drawing out the garden beds on paper to refer to next spring so we don’t replant the same crop in the same spaces. We try hard to rotate things in a 3 year cycle. This rotation helps keep insect pressure down. If you’re like me, you WON’T remember in a year or so what went where. Just draw it!

8. Weeding

9. Harvesting the last of sugar snap and garden peas, spinach and the last of the gorgeous spring planted lettuces. But that’s ok, they’ll be back in the fall! Check out today’s pickins’:

          spinach and peas

10. Pulling out the spent peas and bolting spinach. Tomorrow I plan to add some compost where they were, then replant to squash we’ve got waiting in our little ‘plant nursery’. Planting squashes every 3 or 4 weeks prevents us from being overwhelmed with too much at one time AND ensures that when the squash vine borer finds one, we’ll have a new healthy plant to take its’ place. It’s a hassle, but keeps us in squash for months.

11. Stringing the Hopi Lima beans up our ‘bean tower’ made from a repurposed, inverted clothes line umbrella. Nice thing about this tower is that it’s lightweight, folds flat for easy storage under the tool shed and will last for decades!

bean tower 2

12. Last but not least, I’m growing awareness of the importance that gardening provides to my health and to my family’s resilience against food shortages or rising prices. And that’s priceless.

growing awareness

Gardening As If My Life Depended On It

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

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


gas prices

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

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

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

Hung up on hanging up
March 15, 2012, 9:33 PM
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Today was the day I’d been waiting for… a warm, sunny day absolutely meant for hanging out clothes! You can see in the picture how the pants are positively dancing they’re so happy to be there! I’ve always loved hanging my laundry out and never even think about buying an electric clothes dryer. Not having one is one less thing to take up room in our small house, one less thing to buy and replace or repair, and one less thing to add to my electric bill.

For me, hanging clothes on the line while listening to bird songs brings a sense of peace to my small world every time I do it. Time seems to kinda stand still during the five minutes it takes to hang a load of freshly washed clothes. I’m often amused by watching our resident squirrel run up a nearby tree or happy to hear the pileated woodpecker that lives in our woods drumming on the dead tree that he seems to love, during my morning hangup. And of course, depending on solar rays for drying our laundry necessitates me keeping in tune with the weather, which serves to put me in touch with the garden as well,  but it’s the quiet time spent outdoors that I’m most hung up on.

Hanging the wet clothes on a folding rack inside during the winter months raises the humidity in our dry, wood heated home and extends the life of the clothes as well so I’m certainly glad I have that option, but with the return of warm weather, you’ll find me at the clothesline! This morning I saw the curled, green heads of fiddlehead ferns pushing through the earth, and-ta da!- the stinging nettles that I planted on the edge of the woods last summer are also beginning to push up too. Oh yeah, I also found the faded mate to a long-lost sock laying under the lines, hidden by last  autumn’s dried leaves.

My grandkids say they’re  just “hangin’ out”.  Me too  🙂

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