Tennesseetransitions


Frugal Friday, February 26, 2016

I can hardly believe another week has gone by since I wrote last Friday but I’m hoping to pick up my own slack next week…I’ve already got several (hopefully) good ideas for posts percolating. This week has been a steady round of doctor visits and tests, along with 3x a week physical therapy on my wrist (which is responding very well!) Time away from home almost always involves spending more money, whether it be on fuel for the car or meals out and this week proved it.

 Monday: We got the first round of cool season things planted. These things transplant well and I’ll replant them every week to 10 days until it’s too warm for them. We didn’t have to buy any seeds at all because we had plenty left from last year and had stored them in jars in the freezer. Some were our own saved seeds from prior crops so the food produced from them will be absolutely free, and because the seeds saved were from our own ‘best of the best’ we can expect them to produce well in the same microclimate that they were produced in last year!

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I also direct seeded 2 more kinds of lettuce and spinach as well as cilantro in the greenhouse bed. I’m betting they sprout in a few more days. Nothing picture-worthy there until they’re up! I’m already dreaming of the fresh green stuff soon to come. Savings to come: priceless

Tuesday: The spray bottle that I use to mist the top of the soil while seeds are sprouting quit spraying so I soaked the sprayer part in hot, soapy water and that cleared it up! Savings: About $2, a trip to the store AND one less thing in the landfill.

Wednesday: Multiple back to back doctor appointments meant carrying ‘lunch’ with us. It needed to be something that didn’t create a mess, was filling and a decent substitute for a ‘real’ meal. We packed up our standard bagels, nuts, apples and water bottles  and it was healthy and didn’t cost us any out of pocket money. Savings for 2 lunches from the hospital cafe? $8-$10

Thursday: We ate out this night after a long day of appointments and errands. We walked 2 blocks to the locally owned “Wok and Habachi” restaurant and had a splendid meal with enough leftovers for our lunches the next day. I considered it money well spent since we were both tired and out of sorts, but to compensate a bit, I used two uncanceled stamps peeled off of mail I’ve received, shredded old documents and added the shreds to our too-wet compost pile, and planted a newly rooted start of a very hardy variety of Rosemary that had made it through our coldest weather back in December…

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Friday: We got our income taxes done today at the local community center for FREE. This is the one of the few benefits of being a ‘senior’ and by golly, I’m going to take advantage of it! Friends tell us they pay $75-150 to have their tax returns completed!

Michael is having more surgery on Monday and will be in the hospital for a few days but I’ll find ways to continue to save money, lower my ecological footprint and live well on less regardless of the circumstances. It’s just how we roll…

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

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An Informal Economy

Traditionally, ‘informal economy’ referred to economic activity that is neither taxed nor regulated by a government. Even though the term may be rather unfamiliar, examples of informal economies practices are as familiar as babysitting or the drug trade. But I recently read a different description of  ‘informal economy’: “that which allows people to acquire goods and services they might not otherwise afford.” It’s an idea that deserves more than a glance. As we move into the second half of 2015, I sense a deepening economic uncertainty that demands each of us find ways to transition to a life style that is built on community, local resilience and living well on less. Enter: trade and barter.

Not long ago I bartered fresh heads of bok choy in exchange for a nurse neighbor’s steady hand in giving Michael his B-12 shots. We often trade watering or harvesting chores down at the community garden with fellow vacationers. A friend recently had a raised bed but nothing to plant in it, nor any extra money to invest in it. So I gave her some of my heirloom bean seeds that I’d saved, to plant in her bed. She’ll no doubt enjoy eating her beans all winter, and has promised to repay me in fresh beans. Yesterday I offered my skills as a canner to a woman that is equally skilled in quilting. We will both benefit from our reciprocal agreement to ‘help one another’. Carpooling, house and pet sitting are favorite trade-offs for me. I also enjoy doing sewing repairs in exchange for goods or services that I might need. Years ago I helped an acquaintance prepare for a major move by organizing and packing, in exchange for several months of fiddle lessons; our friendship has lasted long after the trades were completed. These informal economies help friendships to grow and allow all involved to benefit without any money being exchanged.

I wrote here recently about the free truckloads of gravel for my driveway I was able to get, via Freecycle, from a nearby church, who just wanted it off of their parking lot. My own church offers many, many opportunities for sharing and trading of goods and services. Our local electric cooperative delivers shredded wood mulch for free to anyone that lives within the city limits, and the city crews deliver shredded leaves for our compost piles during the fall leaf pickup. The members of the nearby community garden that I manage are constantly learning from, trading with, and helping one another, even though we all started as perfect strangers and have few common bonds other than our love for growing fresh, organic food. From an online community to a community garden, all of these informal economies help to build community strength and resilience.

 The nearby town of Abingdon, VA is home to the Barter Theater, a live theater venue that was set up during the Depression and so named because you could gain admission to see a play by bartering fresh eggs, produce or chickens instead of paying the 40 cent admission price. During that same period, when no one had any cash, it wasn’t uncommon for doctors to accept food as payment. My own grandfather was known to accept car repairs and haircuts as payment for his bookkeeping and accounting skills.

Produce traded at Barter Theatre
Produce traded at Barter Theater, circa 1933

For all those aspects of life that we need in order to sustain ourselves and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (in response to peak oil), drastically reduce carbon emissions (in response to climate change) and greatly strengthen our local economy (in response to economic instability)? An Informal Economy is a logical starting point and offers limitless possibilities that can help us with these transition issues. Some communities have even gone so far as to start community currencies based on barter, trading one hour of work for $10 in credit. From food to computer skills, we all have something to offer. Might a more formal organization of these kinds of efforts be more helpful or hassle? Please let me know in the comments section below if you or your community are working in informal economies, and what affects it is having on your resilience and/or personal economy.



Am I the Only One?

Many of our country’s major newspapers ran articles on Friday about how the federal government won’t be sending any reservoir water thru the 500 miles of canals to the Central Valley of California this year for farmers that produce in ‘the nation’s food basket’. Again. Last year, many farmers uprooted orchards or tapped unregulated ground water wells. UNREGULATED GROUNDWATER WELLS concern me, nearly as much as no water. Here’s a blurb from climate.gov, a science and information website: “In California’s San Joaquin Valley, so much water is being pumped from the ground that the land surface itself is subsiding, as many news reports have documented. The Valley is California’s top agricultural producing region, producing much of the nation’s grapes, nuts, and vegetables, and hosting three-quarters of the state’s dairy cows.” I lived in the San Joaquin Valley for over two years, and have seen firsthand the endless oceans of crops that are grown there. No water? Am I the only one that worries about this stuff?

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But enough about water wars. Let’s turn our focus to nuclear war. Specifically, the ‘deal’ that’s being negotiated between Iran, the US and its’ allies. My friends aren’t discussing this, I’m not seeing Facebook posts about it, my local leaders nor my local newspaper are touching it. Am I the only one that worries about this stuff?

Vaccines, computer hacking, ebola and crime seem to be highest on American’s minds, according to recent Gallup polls. I’ll admit, all of those things are rather ominous, but they pale in comparison, in my mind anyway, to water scarcity and nuclear proliferation. Am I the only one that worries about this stuff?

Obviously I can’t spend my life worrying about these things, but I can take certain actions to protect myself by carefully safeguarding my health and my private information, by not traveling to Africa (darn it!), and by not frequenting bars at 2 AM. Keeping my phone and computer updated with appropriate anti-hacking/virus software is doable, even for a computer novice like myself.  But as I learn to transition to a different world from the one I’ve grown older in, I’ll increase my efforts this year to capture rainwater, save seeds, decrease my energy usage, and teach myself about herbal  medicine. Am I the only one that worries about this stuff?

 



Frugal Friday- September 4th, 2014
September 5, 2014, 4:19 PM
Filed under: Frugality | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Just because I haven’t posted a ‘Frugal Friday’ in about a month of Sundays, doesn’t mean I don’t constantly strive to live well on less. I’ve just been busy with growing food and preserving it as fast as I can harvest it! Which leads me to last Monday…

Monday: We bought a brand new freezer so that I can freeze more home grown goodies, and stock up on bargains that come our way. Now this wasn’t a snap decision and you can bet I researched far and wide for the best appliance at the best price. With a 10% off sale plus another 10% off for showing Michael’s Veteran’s ID card, as well as free delivery, we got exactly what we wanted. I’d been considering this for two full years but felt it best to wait to really determine if it was a “need” vs a “want” and to make sure that Michael’s cancer was in remission. The answer to both questions turned out to be a big “YES”! Freezers are long term investments and I believe we’ll eventually recoup the money invested by being able to grow more things that don’t can or dry well-stuff like PEPPERS, broccoli, peas, PEPPERS, cauliflower, berries, corn on the cob and oh, did I mention PEPPERS?

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Immediate  Savings: $120. Long term savings: in addition to lowering our food costs, I decided to put the freezer in front of a completely unused door in my kitchen (after blocking the bottom of the doorway with a sand-filled draft dodger I’d made from old curtains, and by applying silicone caulking that I had leftover from another project around the door frame). Blocking the door like that should help to keep any drafts at bay too.

 

Tuesday: I harvested some more cuttings from the mint ‘garden’ I’d started earlier this summer. I dried it and will enjoy having spearmint, apple mint, chocolate mint and peppermint tea this winter. (I also plan to buy some tea bag ‘blanks’ and make up some to give as gifts at Christmas.) I’d planted mints before but after a few years they would spread all over the place and become a nusiance so this time I decided to follow the experts’ advice and plant them in pots to avoid that. I salvaged a bunch of recycled #10 cans, punched holes in the bottoms with a nail, spray painted them with leftover bits of paint I’d saved for just such a small project and used the can lids as drip trays. Then I filled the cans with a mixture of ‘reused’ potting soil and homemade compost, put out the word to my friends that I’d like some various mint cuttings and that’s all it took! I lined them up across the front porch railing and enjoy the wonderful scents during the summer and the teas in the winter. Cost: $0

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Wednesday: I’m slowly learning to save seed reliably and am reaping the benefits now. The money I save is great but the feelings of self-sufficiency and resilience seed-saving gives me are priceless!

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Thursday: Michael’s feeling well enough lately to want to ride his bike again but his strap-on bike bag wouldn’t stay attached to the seat post. Seems the Velcro had just worn out. No problem! I had some wide Velcro scraps in my sewing box so in about 5 minutes I had sewn the new, grippier pieces right on top of the old ones and it works great now. It works so well he could probably haul a trailer behind his bike but that’s another project for another day. Savings: $30. Yes, $30 because that’s what the bike shop wanted for a new bag!

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Friday: With the shorter days of September already here, I’ve begun to think about fall gardening chores. The free tree seedlings that my city gives in the spring are tiny, bare root whips but I’ve kept them in pots in my ‘nursery’ area all summer and I believe they are ready to plant now. I hope my Japanese Maples and Serviceberries will provide us with beauty and berries for years to come! Cost: $0 and patience.

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And now it’s time to think about fixing supper before we walk downtown for this evening’s First Friday celebration. We’re having Dilly Potato Salad (so I can use up the last of the red potatoes in the pantry before they sprout wings) and Black Bean Burgers using the leftover beans I had from making Mexican Beans and Rice earlier this week. I always scour my frig and cabinets for ingredients that might need to be used up quickly before I plan meals. It’s a good habit that really reduces food waste to almost zero percent. Savings? Priceless! Have a fabulous and frugal weekend!




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