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: A New Paradigm, Adapting to Change, Back to Basics, Resilience | Tags: backyard hens, community building, frugality, Great Depression, Little Free Libraries, muncipal composting, prosperity, stock market crash, sustainability, USDA, walkability
This 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:
Our 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.
Filed under: A New Paradigm, Adapting to Change, Frugality, Simplicity, Transitioning | Tags: biking, energy saving, Freecycle, Gardening, hiking, pressure canning, public library, root cellar, star gazing, walkability, yoga
So, we’ve eaten very well this week, completed a couple of home repair projects, ridden our bikes, went star gazing and night hiking, attended church, swapped books with friends, played music and made a bit of money doing so, and enjoyed a simple and impromptu supper out with friends one night, spending less than $20 the whole week. We have resisted the urge to turn on our whole house AC, even during this heat wave, and have found ourselves matching our activities and our pace to that of the sun. Cool showers at bedtime, with a fan blowing on damp bodies is positively chilling and a lovely way to enjoy open windows on summer nights! It was a week of pleasant surprises and some unexpected bonuses…
Monday: I had loaned my pressure canner to my neighbor, who had gotten some fresh antibiotic-free, no-growth-hormone chickens from a farm in nearby North Carolina and wanted to try her hand at canning them. When she returned the canner, she brought me two humongous frozen breasts that she had vacuum packed herself and a pint of shredded chicken meat that she canned! I’m saving the breasts for a special occasion dinner, and the pulled chicken for a cold night when chicken and dumplings will be most appreciated. Anyone else wanna borrow my canner? 😉
Tuesday: The outer door to our root cellar was rotten and in terrible shape. I forgot to take a picture of the old door before the new one was assembled and shingled, but the replacement was built entirely from repurposed and scavenged lumber, then covered with new roofing shingles that were given to me by a friend a year or so ago, and topped off with the original handle. All we had to buy new were some screws because we had the roofing nails left over from building a chicken coop. Total cost? $2.00 for a sheet of plywood we bought at the thrift store and about a dollar’s worth of screws.
Wednesday: You just gotta love Freecycle! A nearby church posted an offer for a load of gravel. I responded, but got no reply. So I waited a few days and responded again, telling the poster I had a truck and would come that day to get the gravel if they still had it. Bingo! Turns out the first two responders had been offered the gravel, but neither showed up. I simply waited until it cooled off a bit and drove the 3 blocks to the church in my trusty 25 year old truck about 7:30 PM. Bingo again! There were 3 teenaged boys inside that came out to offer their strong arms and backs to help load it, then they offered to help with the second load if I could get back before 9 PM. I’d been wanting gravel for our way-in-the-back parking area for a couple of years but since it wasn’t a big priority, just couldn’t justify the cost. Patience always pays off when it comes to frugality…
Thursday: During a free yoga class Michael had attended recently, the sponsor handed out coupons for Free Lunches for Two at a nearby former-hospital-turned-luxury-senior-living-apartments. Hooray for free yoga classes and free lunches that are also near enough to walk to!
Friday: I harvested the last of the spring-planted kale, broccoli, cabbages, cilantro, lettuce, cauliflower and peas and now have my little summer dorm fridge full of green goodies. Planting the lettuce in the shade of the squash trellis turned out to be a good move, keeping it from bolting as early as usual. Live and learn…
My personal transition to a lifestyle that strives to live well on less has become a game for me, even though I am fully aware that my privilege in life allows me to play the game to begin with. A frugal life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty. People living in true poverty don’t have the luxury of playing this game. They don’t have choices like most of us in the developed world do. Yet, so many of us have two (or more) incomes and are still broke. Buying less, using less, wanting less and wasting less leaves me with an unshakeable certainty and a deep peace that I’m on the right path, regardless of what happens in this uncertain world. And though trite, it’s true: “Transitioning is not so much about the destination as the journey”.
Filed under: Community Building, Livable Community | Tags: bike paths, community gardens, Farmer's Market, green spaces, Livable Communities, public transportation, resilent, walkability
Back in 2011 my city held an ‘Economic Summit’ that had great speakers and breakout sessions, while offering lots of info for anyone that wanted to know the state of the city. It was there that the attendees were given a survey to answer the question, “What would make our city more livable?”. The answers were then compiled and developed into a Stategic Plan for the the members of the Community Partnerships group to use as as a guiding light, if you will. Several subgroups were formed as a result of that survey, and even though the Livable Communities group has been meeting for about a decade or more, it was first introduced to me during that summit. Today I serve as chairperson of the group because it’s purpose and function integrated so seamlessly with my own values for transitioning to a lifestyle that is based on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being, that I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
The current Livable Communities group serves as a sort of advisory group to the city, yet remains autonomous enough to implement plans and ideas of our own. As our community has built resilient “amenities,” such as community gardens, green spaces, a more walkable business district, farmers markets and bike paths, we have certainly become a more desirable place to live- and invest in, it seems. The survey results have served us well in acting as our guide.
The good news is, we have pretty much managed to see implementation of many of the things the survey results revealed. One remaining ‘wish list’ item from the survey is to ”Improve public transportation using the Complete Streets model with a schedule to accommodate working people.”
We’re not there yet folks, but I’ve recently discovered some incredible online resources to begin this next phase of our efforts to improve our bus transit system. Stay tuned here for updates on that process, as our current system really does leave a lot to be desired…
But first things first; our committee is planning to partner with other nonprofits to man a table during the upcoming Blue Plum music festival, being held in downtown Johnson City on June 5-7th. We’ll share the space with Build It Up E. TN, Grow Appalachia!, Insight Alliance, the JC Public Library, and Appalachian Resource Council and we’ll have various items to attract passersby to the table. Maps, Quilt Trail Guides, Local Food Guides and even some locally produced food products will be for sale, along with library resources and much more. The spot we’ll hold down is THE BEST spot in town for this, underneath the wide overhang of the Insight Alliance offices, located at 207 E Main St. It’s a half block from the main stage, with bathrooms and a water fountain just inside. I’m looking for folks to join us at the festival and hope that you’ll attend our planning session next Tuesday, May 19th at 5:30 at the same location. Our main message this year is simply ‘all things local’. If you have any ideas for making that message more attention getting, I’d love to hear from you!
2014 Blue Plum Table
Filed under: Buy Local, Community Building, Growing Food, Liveable Communities, Local Food, organic gardening, Resilience, Sustainability, Urban Living | Tags: Downtown Farming, growing food, hydroponics, the good life, urban revitalization, walkability
Most of my readers know that I live downtown and am excited to be a part of the urban revitalization that is taking place in my community. For two years, the very premise of this blog has been about finding ways and means that will enable us to transition, gracefully if you will, to a lifestyle that is more sustainable, resilient and fulfilling than the one that we find ourselves in today. It’s about re-creating our future in ways that are not based on cheap, plentiful and polluting oil but on localized food, sustainable energy sources, resilient local economies and an enlivened sense of community well-being. For me, the good life involved moving from our acreage in the country to an urban area with high walkability, a nearby community garden, and where I can work alongside my neighbors to help ‘be the change I want to see’. What I discovered this afternoon is all that.
Housed in an old brick bakery just behind the Farmer’s Market, on the corner of Buffalo and Cherry St is ‘DOWNTOWN FARMING’, a great new store for organic and hydroponic gardeners. I know this isn’t a great picture, but wait ’til you step inside! It was raining like crazy outside but the worn wooden floors and brick walls were as warm and welcoming as Kyle’s smile was. The store been closed for 2 hours when we arrived, but the shopkeeper, Kyle, opened the door and invited us in like we were old friends when he saw us peeking in the windows. He told us about all the products that were for sale; many familiar, some new and strange, but he also shared with us the owners’ mission: to be an integral part of this urban community while advocating the growing of sustainable, local, organic food. There were bags of organic worm castings, soil mixes, and fertilizers, along with the fans, lights and other components to put together your own hydroponics system. In fact, we took pictures to show you what they had growing there, at the tail end of the most vicious winter we’ve seen in recent history:
We bought a package of sage seeds from Seeds of Change but they also had a full rack of heirloom seeds from Sow True Seed Company, from nearby Asheville, NC. I could see this store becoming a wonderful replacement for the recently-moved Mize Farm and Garden store, minus the poisons. They had growing pots and trays for sale, but could use some tools and a few more familiar gardening needs to fill that niche easily. I hope you’ll pay them a visit, support their early efforts and let them know what you’d like to see them stock. I think they’re ‘all ears’ and might be willing to fill the empty spot in our hearts and gardens that Mize once occupied. ‘Downtown Farming’ indeed! Those two little words embody the very essence of this blog.
Store hours: Monday-Friday 10 AM to 6 PM
Saturday 8 AM to 2 PM
Closed Sunday and Monday
It’s time once again for a little of this and a little of that. I do this because sometimes I think I’d like to share something with you but it’s just a little tip or idea and certainly not enough to write a whole blog about. So when I get a ‘blog’s worth’ of those ideas, I roll ’em all into one post. Here’s this week’s:
SAVE THOSE EGG SHELLS! I keep mine in an old tin pie pan that I keep in the oven. When it gets way full, I run the unwashed, dried shells through my little mini food processor and then store them in a covered container. When we plant our tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, we mix about a half cup or so of ground eggshells in the bottom of each planting hole, and it provides the plant roots with a slow release calcium source during the whole growing season. Blossom end rot on these fruits occurs when the plants are low on calcium and since we’ve been doing this, we hardly EVER have that problem anymore!
One more thought: The reason I keep my pie pan in the oven is because after I’ve used the oven to bake something, putting the shells in there helps them dry without my having to actually use extra fossil fuel energy to do so. Residual heat is free and dries them well and they crush a lot better if they’re dried first. If you’re a flockster like me, you can also feed crushed shells to your chickens-just spread ’em on the ground or in the coop bedding. The ground shells will also provide your girls with calcium that will make their shells harder and is far more sustainable than buying oyster shell for them. Since I don’t have enough shells with just me eating eggs through the year to use them both in the garden AND in the chicken yard, I’m not able to do this. But if you’ve got a family’s worth of eggshells you should have enough to do both! Or ask your neighbor to save their eggshells for you if they’re just throwing them away. Eggshells compost easily too. Just sayin…
$SAVING MONEY$ We save our coins throughout the year, or until our crock gets full. In the past, we’d then take the coins to a Coin Star machine to ‘cash them in’. The machine is slow and keeps 10% of the total. Last week we took our stash of pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters to our local bank and they counted them out using their machine in only a minute or two AND didn’t charge us to do so. We saved $22.60 doing it this way! The only requirement is that you have the money directly deposited into your bank account. Not all banks have the machines so you’d need to check with yours first before hauling YOUR crock ‘o money all over town.
WALK SCORE.COM Walk Score is a large-scale, public access walkability index that assigns a numerical walkability score to any address in Australia, Canada, the United States. I plugged in the address of our current home and got a walk score of zero-out of 100 possible points. I then entered the address of our new home we’re moving into in a few weeks, and it got a walk score of 87! From ‘Car Dependent’ to ‘Very Walkable’ makes us sure we’ve found the right place to live a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle. Check it out. It will even show you nearby amenities such as restaurants, shopping, doctors offices, and so forth. The site has even started a ‘Bike Score’ and a ‘Public Transit Score’.
I hope you gardeners and farmer’s market shoppers are enjoying all the season has to offer. This cooler weather has prolonged our harvests of greens, lettuces and peas. We’re eating the kale and collards fresh as fast as we can, but today I dried a BUNCH of the kale to add to soups and other dishes next winter. Here’s today’s pickins’…
That’s it for this edition of little things. Remember, little things add up!