Filed under: Frugality | Tags: beekeeping, clotheslines, compost bins, Electric Pressure Cooker, frugal, growing food, recycling, repurposing, walkability, Waste reduction
I’ve made the transition from country living to city living rather seamlessly. Four years ago we moved to a house “in town” that’s got a walkability score of 76, according to walkscore.com. I beg to differ, because I feel like it’s more like a 97, but I guess that’s just because I’ve tried to center my life around what’s close by: the library, coffee house, the park and our bank, to name a few things. We no longer eat at national chain restaurants that are all located in areas that aren’t walkable anyway, switching to smaller, locally-owned places that are close by (and are also willing to make substitutions when we request them, as well as having generally healthier choices.) So, if you have a good cuppa joe, a great book, and a dollar or two in your pocket, what else do you need? Bees, it turns out. I sold my hives and all my equipment to the buyer of our ‘country’ house but now that my city has passed an ordinance that allows beekeeping within the city limits, I can “have my cake and eat it too”.
I set up my swarm trap on April 1st hoping to catch a swarm. It didn’t take long-I’ve eagerly watched my small swarm grow into a seemingly robust colony. This morning I hitched a ride with a friend to the beekeeping store (that’s out in the county-not walkable!) and noticed a sign there that said a new package of bees with a queen is selling for $135.00. I don’t have 3 pounds of bees yet but I will by summers’ end, so I figure I’ve saved about $100 already. Michael says keeping bees is akin to any expensive hobby like golfing or boating. Yes we could much more easily and economically buy honey than take care of our own hive, but my focus is really more on helping our pollinators, and that’s another story for another day.
Coming back to this week:
Monday: I’ve recently become aware of a new recycling center on the campus of ETSU that takes metals, including aluminum, as well as #1-7 plastics, plastic bags, cardboard and glass! It’s in a location that’s quite easy for me to get to (there’s that walkability again) and I wanted to share this especially with my local peeps. I’ve been taking my metal cans to church, where a friend takes them home with her for recycling in her community. This isn’t necessarily a money saver for me, but it DOES offer me an alternative to taking my #5 plastics to Asheville. What’s that old saw? “Time is Money?” That may be true too, but saving plastic from landfulls (my new word) is priceless! It ain’t much to look at but here it is. All the receptacles are well labeled, making it easy. *Local Friends-message me for directions
Tuesday: I had an old tote bag whose straps had broken so I stuffed it with an even older pillow and made it into a NEW pillow for my front porch!
It’s made of a waterproof nylon, had a zipper opening AND matched the seat cushion. Repurposing is so much better than recycling. And funner too.
Wednesday: Went into a nearby thrift store and found something that I’m always looking for in such places, yet never find. OK not ever, because I DID find pyrex containers with tight lids. Retro for real. 99 cents each. No BPA.
Thursday: Both of the free Japanese Maple tree seedlings that I scored at last year’s annual tree giveaway made it through their first winter and seem to be thriving this spring! I went back to this year’s giveaway and picked up another Japanese Maple sapling as well as a Redbud. Now both of them seem to have made it through their transitions after being planted and hopefully will thrive too. Potted Japanese Maples sell for about $50-$75 each and will soon be beautiful additions to my landscape. Savings for all four? About $175 I’d say!
Friday: About 5 years ago I donated my Troybilt tiller to the community garden. It seems as though it needs constant repairs to keep it running smoothly and with little to no operating funds, those repair bills have been a challenge. If I’d only known that all I had to do was to formally donate the tiller by writing a handwritten letter stating that the tiller is now the property of the Parks and Rec Department, I could’ve saved our money and sanity in having ‘volunteers’ (that’s a misnomer if there ever was one!) conduct the repairs. Some changes in the department have put me in direct contact with the person in the know. As I write this, the tiller is being repaired at no cost to the gardeners by the city’s repair shop guys. I also went to pick up my personal Mantis tiller from the repair shop a few weeks ago and willingly paid the bill for having the carburetor rebuilt. After starting once, it wouldn’t start again so I took it back to the shop where they then told me it needed a new carburetor-another $59.95. I complained and they agreed to replace it for free. Savings: $59.95!
Just as a matter of course, I did a number of things this week that although none were spectacular or special, all helped me to keep more money in my bank account. I hung out clothes to dry instead of using the dryer, dried fresh herbs from my garden, added my shredded documents to my compost bin rather than bagging them and sending to the landfull, used my electric pressure cooker to make oatmeal for breakfast (3 minutes) and Katmandu Stew for supper (15 minutes), took a free yoga class at the park, and planted Roma beans that were given to me by a friend. Lowering my carbon footprint on the earth, saving energy, helping honeybees, eating and living a healthy lifestyle, growing my own food-PRICELESS!!!!
Remember: “Thrift is liberation rather than deprivation”.
Have a great weekend friends!
Filed under: Earth Day | Tags: Compost, French marigolds, frugal, Global Warming, growing food, repurposing, reusing, root knot nematodes, sustainability, sustainable energy sources, vinegar uses, Waste reduction, zero waste lifestyle
April 22nd is Earth Day. hooray. I’m very happy we have that one internationally-recognized day a year to celebrate this beautiful blue planet, but we simply cannot continue to honor our mother only once every 365 days. The well-respected ‘science guy’, Bill Nye recently said,” We must engage political hopefuls and elected officials on the topic of global warming.” I say, we must also support our farmers and learn to eat a sustainable, diversified diet of foods (and medicines!) grown within our local regions. We must commit to a near zero waste lifestyle, while learning to reuse and repurpose everything that comes through our lives. We must support alternative energies, even if they are in our backyards. We simply must clean up our act and take better care of our earthly home.
To that end, I have been thinking about ways we can make the needed changes, going beyond the same old advice about carrying our own shopping bags and changing our light bulbs. By the way, compact florescent bulbs are now ‘old’ technology and have been replaced by LED bulbs in both output and energy usage. Check them out. (While you’re at it, turn the lights off when you leave a room if you didn’t learn that in third grade.) Buying our way out of hard to solve problems is not the answer but if you are going to buy bulbs anyway, please consider LEDs next time. Or better yet, set up a small solar panel on the tool shed and expand your array as you can afford it.
I think what started out as a post about planning and planting our gardens this spring made me realize how even the choices we make there are important in terms of how we treat the earth. Do you rotate the things you grow every other year or two, giving your soil a chance to rebuild it’s microbiological life and replenish what was taken from it the year before? Are you using at least some open pollinated seeds so that the seeds can be saved from your best plants year to year? Are you improving your soil by continuously making and adding compost, growing cover crops, or adding worm castings? Is your water supply for your garden sustainable? Are you capturing rainwater and using thick mulches to avoid evaporation and weeds growing? Growing food without the inputs of commercial chemicals, fertilizers and hybrid seeds is the best way to grow healthy food that doesn’t cost you-and the earth-an arm and a leg.
In the fall of 2014 when I was pulling up a spent tomato plant I discovered what looked to be evidence of root knot nematode damage. I took a picture of the tomato root and emailed it to my county extension agent and he diagnosed it. I spent the winter reading all I could about the soil pest and ended up planting the whole bed last summer to a special French marigold that was touted as THE best for helping to eliminate it…
Commercial nematicides are very toxic and very expensive but this package of seeds-with shipping-was less than $5.00. I stored the extra seeds wrapped tightly in my deep freezer in case I have more problems in the future. You can see from the picture what a beautiful solution it was!
Here’s another example of ways to solve a problem using what you have on hand: I run vinegar through my coffee pot on the first of each month to keep hard water deposits from building up inside of it. Once it’s run through, I pour the HOT vinegar on weeds. This picture was taken just 20 hours after the pour.
The hot vinegar works just as well as a toxic weedkiller and would’ve been ‘wasted’ had I just dumped it down the kitchen sink. Once I run the vinegar through, I follow that with a potful of plain water to remove all traces of it. I use that quart of hot water to pour down my bathtub drain where it promptly melts accumulated soap and keeps the drain running smoothly. Those weeds are dead. No chemicals used, and I solved two problems with one stone. Just sayin’…
Today I transplanted some of my early veggie starts into larger pots so that they can grow more freely until it’s time to plant them in the garden. The pots and trays have been reused many times over, and the ‘potting soil’ is some of our fine crumbly compost made from household and yard wastes. Absolutely nothing was purchased new to provide us with another season of healthy, delicious organic veggies. I even collect rainwater for watering them since I don’t like the idea of adding fluoride to my broccoli!
All of this is simply to say:
One final thought I’d like you to think about: “There is no ‘away’, as in “Throw it away“. Every day is Earth Day!
Filed under: A New Paradigm, Adapting to Change | Tags: Climate Change, G7 Summit, Peak Oil, radical homemaker, repurposing, reusing, steady state economy, stuff, the compact, World Economics
It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted on this blog and I think that’s because I’m going through a bit of a transition on my own and it’s taking me in new and unexpected, yet exciting, directions. In spite of my personal journey, the complex factors surrounding the trilogy of Peak Oil, Climate Change and World Economics have only gotten worse since I began writing about them five years ago. I’m not buying into the rhetoric that mainstream media offers me about these life-altering issues either. The members of the G-7 Summit earlier this week did reach a few conclusions though: Russian Embargoes will become worse, ISIS will become worse and Climate Change will become worse. Really?? These seemingly unsolvable problems serve only to inspire me to write more, rather than remain silent. It’s in the quiet time spent researching and writing that I find my own answers as to how to live more on less. Notice I didn’t say “how to HAVE more on less”.
I’ve spent the last 15 years happily obtaining many of the things that Michael and I needed to set ourselves up as ‘radical homemakers’, mostly via reusing and rehoming, buying new only those things needed to have good food, clean water, reliable transportation and shelter. We did buy a new car and a new freezer along the way; the former because we were having trouble getting parts for our old car, (since Saturn’s weren’t being made any longer) and the latter because our gardening skills had improved so much over the years that we simply needed a way to better preserve all that organic goodness and I just couldn’t find a reliable used one last August when I realized the need had become a matter of ‘freeze it or lose it.’ We’re counting on the car, the freezer and the bicycles we bought 4 years ago to last the rest of our lives with proper care, as well as the wood stove, sewing machine, greenhouse, grain mill, food dehydrator and water filter system. I just don’t understand the constant need to buy stuff. Once you’re set up with the needed tools for living, almost everything else except underwear and eyeglasses can be found used AND locally as well.
There’s a cooperative that started in San Francisco back in 2005 whose members pledged to go 365 days without buying anything new. Their vows were called ‘The Compact’. That Compact became a movement of people that are simply trying to bring less stuff into their homes. In the process, they’ve all improved the quality of their lives, saved a ton of money and inadvertently kept many of the Earth’s precious resources from being wasted. Many of them are still ‘not buying it’, almost 10 years later.
In addition to buying stuff, it seems economic growth is not just a goal in the West- it’s a religion; but I’m not buying that either. Infinite growth is simply not sustainable. Period. End of discussion. We MUST create ways and means of living that are more in line with a steady state economy. A steady state economy is a truly green economy. It aims for stable population and stable consumption of energy and materials at sustainable levels.
A reader wrote to me today to tell me that my blog “…is a reminder of what can meaningfully be done here and now in the face of a civilization in decline…”. He likes “concrete examples of coping and preparing, joyfully, for the inevitable.” Sometimes concrete examples can be hard to come by in this transition business, but the “coping and preparing joyfully” is a state of mind that actually develops as you transition to a life that is based on the concept that less is more. Whether that’s by eliminating your debt, learning some skills necessary for repairing and reusing your stuff so you don’t have to buy more stuff, or simply decluttering your life and home, a ‘steady state economy’ in our personal lives can truly be joyful. I’ll buy that!
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: bucket list, frugal, green cleaners, ORGANIC, rehoming, repurposing, strawberry jam, travel
Getting back to basics has reinforced long-ago lessons that slowing down, eating well, watching my spending and getting plenty of sleep and exercise enables me to lead a life that focuses on the positive and good things in my little world, while also giving me the energy and time to focus on some of those things in the world that perhaps need a bit of extra attention. Invariably, living a simpler life saves me money…and I’m saving up for a bucket list goal now, so there’s even more incentive to keep things simple.
Monday: I told you last week about my earth-friendly ant killer, and because I really do want to have a healthy life and a healthy home I mixed up some non-toxic glass cleaner and finally began the task of washing my windows today. But I am NOT using the damn paper towels, and am using newsprint in place of them, to do the job. I’ve learned over the years that if I clean the windows when they are in the shade, or when the day is overcast, they actually clean a lot easier than when it’s sunny. It seems that when the sun is shining on the glass, it dries so quickly that it streaks rather than cleans. My goal is to clean one room per day, so I should have them done by next week. I’m on a roll, just not a paper towel roll 😉 And if you’re interested, here’s my tried and true recipe for a ‘green’ window cleaner: Combine 2 cups of water, 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar, and up to 1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap or detergent in a spray bottle. That’s all there is to it.
Tuesday: My ‘back to basics’ mindset finds me outside more often: in the garden in the morning, washing windows in the afternoon, and strumming my ukelele in the backyard as the sun goes down and the moon comes up. All that outdoorsy-ness can lead to bug bites. Michael is especially susceptible to them, even though they rarely bother me. He says that’s because I’m so mean they won’t mess with me. Whatever. But here’s the recipe for my very own “Bug Potion #9” that we keep in the bathrooms, the kitchen and on the porch to wipe our skin with as soon as a bug has made it’s presence known. It really doesn’t help much as a repellent per se, but seems to completely take the sting out and prevents swelling. I also save all the cotton plugs that are packed in pill bottles and keep them in a ziplock with the bottles and use them to apply the soothing potion. Here’s the recipe..try to use a quality peppermint oil.
Bug Potion #9
1 cup witch hazel
1 cup rubbing alcohol
8-10 drops peppermint oil
Shake well, then store in a tightly capped container so that the alcohol doesn’t evaporate
Wednesday: Picked my first ripe tomato and strawberries of the season! This is like Mardi Gras at my house! They’re both organically grown and delicious with lots more to come. Ya’ll already know how absolutely important I feel it is to grow some of your own food, or at least to know where and how it’s grown, so I won’t get on my soapbox about it yet again. I enjoyed making several jars of freezer jam with some of the berries but it is a little ‘too’ good, if you know what I mean. How will I ever keep any of it around for Christmas gifting?
Thursday: I wanted you to see what I found in the alley behind my house…it was literally in pieces, but I was able to find all but 2 little connectors, which I easily solved by clipping on a couple of black PVC clips that hold plastic onto my little hoop houses in the winter. I put them on the bottom and you don’t even notice them. This is going in our little tool shed out back to hold cans of paint and other stuff. It’s really sturdy and the price was perfect. I think repairing and repurposing should be followed closely by rehoming before something is tossed out. There’s an adage that I firmly believe in: “There is no away, as in, throw it away.”
Friday: This has been a week of walking my errands, hanging clothes on the line to dry, and buying absolutely nothing. It’s also been a week of using what I have on hand and can harvest from the garden. In my efforts to avoid food waste I save and freeze the stems from mushrooms and when I have a cup or two, I use them to make a pot of cream of mushroom soup, which will give us another meal, made from what many might consider food waste. Homemade mushroom soup is my one concession to cream and the stems are what Mr. Campbell makes his mushroom soup from, only he doesn’t add real cream. Just sayin’…
Last month we spent $176 on food. I’m trying to lower that to $150 this month, and since the garden is offering up lots of lettuce and kale right now, we’re eating a lot of salads from the garden, paired with a grill cheese or tuna sandwich or a cup of soup. The salads are almost a meal in themselves, with hard-boiled eggs or cooked beets thrown in, even some leftover beans, pasta or nuts. Making big dinner salads like that really avoids food waste because I can add the tiniest amount of something to them rather than adding it to the compost pile, and no two are ever alike. Michael enjoys making his vinaigrette dressing to put on it, and now we have fresh herbs to add to that, which really pumps up the volume!
Now, about that bucket list: I want very much to go to Cuba and hope to make that dream come true before the year is over. Dreams like that take big money. The very essence of being frugal is that by saving money on the small things, it allows me to spend money on the bigger things that really matter; for years, that meant simply being able to make the mortgage payments or buying shoes, glasses and braces for the kids. Now it’s more about musical instruments or traveling or doing fun stuff with my grandkids, and I’ll happily eat beans and kale in order to enjoy those things.