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Showing posts with label making do. Show all posts
Showing posts with label making do. Show all posts

Friday, April 13, 2012

April Showers

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Looking down towards my garden, this photo taken today shows the form April Showers usually take around here. Getting a harvest from any of my fruit trees is always an iffy-proposition. A storm came through and nailed the apricot blossoms a few weeks ago; another one was just in time to get the plums. The flower buds on the peaches and cherries are ready to pop any day now - if this storm blows through quickly enough, maybe they'll make it.

Out in the garden however, as with the daffodils and herbs up close to the house, some things see this storm as welcome precipitation. The garlic and spinach planted last fall are up and putting on new growth; the onion plants set out a couple of weeks ago are starting to green up and settle in. And it's about time to direct-seed peas and lettuces. They might be a bit slow to germinate, but I need to get them into the ground soon in order to get a harvest before the high-desert summer heat gets here in June.

Inside the house, the warm season vegetable plants are up and growing under lights in the spare room. In our small two-bedroom house, this room serves many purposes. A six-foot folding banquet table is just the right size to fit across the four-poster guest double bed. Often used as a sewing table (my sewing machine is to the right of the photo), this time of year it's a planting table - the perfect spot for seeds planted but not up yet, wrapped in plastic to hold in the moisture (the really messy part, filling the pots with soil, is done at a potting table outside - a bin of my seed starting soil mix has been stored in the cellar so it's not frozen; I then bring the filled pots inside to seed and label). The upholstered bench that usually sits at the foot of the bed has been moved into our bedroom. In its place a pair of ladder-back chairs just fit between the bed and my desk.

 Did I mention, it's a very small house? It would be nice to have a dedicated seed-starting area (and I dream of a some-day greenhouse outside). But flexible space and using what you have is a major tenet of sustainable living. A plank, two shop lights, a couple of drapery rods, a light timer, reusable pots, six-packs and foil pans, plus the aforementioned ladder-back chairs, and this summer's garden is already started. Now I'll just sit back and wait on the weather.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Creating


 By Aurora@Island Dreaming


This months project has been soap, led by the example of a good friend. So excited have I been by the knowledge that I can make yet another necessity of life at home from three simple ingredients, that I made two batches and have been melting them down and adding things to them, just to see what can be done. Exercising my creativity and personal preference, in this instance, to make a soap that soothes, or at the very least does not irritate, my problem skin.

I am not what you might call traditionally creative – I am no artist, unlike many of my relatives. I have long loved the idea of setting out as a creator of musical works, as a dancer, as a sculptor, as a creative force, putting in my 10,000 hours of hard slog to then reap and sow the rewards of mastery. But I am a tinkerer and have never found anything to so catch my imagination that I could invest 10,000 hours in it. Yet I create in many ways – I am not artistic, but creative.

There was a time when not only did I not create, but I consumed with abandon. It was a short period of my life where I came to have disposable credit and the marketplace was eager to furnish me with worldly goods - in every flavour of synthetic vanilla that I could handle. The consumer economy does a nice line in convincing us that we can have the perfect life, if we just buy x. And then the new improved version of x a few months later. But ultimately everything that is mass produced is designed with an average imaginary customer in mind.

I never did find a mass produced soap that didn't inflame my skin. I never found the perfect sofa to fit in our small lounge. I still to this day would love to find the perfect pair of jeans, but I know that they will have to be made, not bought. The mass market can furnish us amply with things that almost meet our true needs. If you have unlimited time and money, then your chances of finding a match between need and product offered increases, but for the rest of us we often make do; and we may be called to compromise not just our personal tastes and preferences, but our ethics also. Whilst the market for 'ethical' goods expands, it is still hard to furnish the necessities of life from its offerings; and whilst the pursuit of perfection is futile, the reality of flimsy or poorly designed products can be infuriating.

As consumers of raw materials, as creators of finished products, we ultimately arrive at something more meaningful and more personal - if often roughly hewn - than the mass produced could ever offer. As salvagers and renovators we reject synthetic vanilla and one size fits all to find the best imperfect solutions we can. We use what we have to create something worthwhile. We make do, in the very best sense; and it is inherently rewarding.

I am almost over soap, for the time being at least (and we now have enough to ride out a few years cleanly!). There is sauerkraut fermenting on the side, making best use of an extra cabbage picked up for pennies last week. This is weighed down by a demijohn of pomegranate wine made from bottled juice that was on offer. There are bath bombs waiting to be wrapped and given as gifts and a pile of DIY and craft books stacked high on the solid side table that was once a wobbly chest of drawers. It isn't artistic, it isn't beautifully staged, but it is a very creative space.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nature Deficit Disorder - Holiday Decoration Edition

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

With Thanksgiving behind us, there is no denying Christmas is right around the corner. Our quiet country road was abuzz with traffic on Black Friday with families heading to the neighbor's Christmas tree farm. Conifers are king in our neck of the woods, with Christmas trees being a major agriculture crop due to our high rainfall and acid soils providing perfect conditions for growing trees. In fact it's hard to keep land clear here, it naturally wants to grow trees.

That being said, many people do get a natural tree, but still buy many decorations for the rest of their homes that aren't natural at all. I have to admit I am a sucker for the bright colors of ornaments and lights, but I'm trying to end it there, and have more natural decorations to go along with the fir tree we will decorate.

Douglas Fir bark with lichen.

No matter where we live we can look outside in our surroundings and find something to decorate with. My daughter and I challenged ourselves to make a bouquet to get us in the Christmas spirit. But, it had to be out of ordinary plants available nearby, and put together quickly. She took off with the camera, and I took off with my trusty Felco pruners.


Cotoneaster, bird planted.

She was attracted to the berries on various plants, all these are natives or wildings and just part of our landscape on the farm.


Snowberry.

English Holly.


In the wintertime we cut firewood on any dry day that we are all available. We're taking out dead or damaged trees, and the dead trees have loose bark. Living in a rain forest means moss and lichen grow on anything that doesn't move. It is lovely and perfect for bringing in to dress up a vase or to decorate with.

For our impromptu arrangement we went for scotch broom and sword fern for filler and just added a spray of holly and a multi-branched snowberry to add some contrast.



We know this bouquet wouldn't win any prizes at the fair, but it was fun, didn't cost a penny, and we brought a little bit of the forest into our house to enjoy.


What types of greenery or natural items do you have in your neck of the woods to decorate with?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

UFO's and Christmas

by Throwback at Trapper Creek



The cats have absolutely nothing to do with UnFinished Objects in my sewing room, except to remind me that I don't have much time to rest if I think I am going to sew gifts for Christmas!

Harvest time is still winding down in the gardens, but night is getting here much sooner these days, leaving me more time for needlework projects.

I have also been thinking of the economy and not really feeling like being much of a consumer this holiday season. Rather I would like to make good on projects I have already started. I have several unfinished projects that would actually make great gifts. A denim work shirt for my husband, a pair of flannel pajamas for my daughter and maybe a new quilt for my bed, fashioned from a quilt top that is crying out for batting and binding. I have spent the money, I need the space, and a lot of the work is already done! What could be more fitting in a bad economy?

Are you thinking along the same lines this holiday season? What projects are in the works in your Christmas basket?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What to use as bin liners - Plastic Bag Ban

by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

As some of you may know, here at Australia's capital, we are soon going to have a plastic shopping bag ban. From 1 November 2011, shops will no longer be able to give you a plastic shopping bag for the goods you buy from them.

This has raised quite a discussion in my little community - specifically what are we to use as bin liners? While many people I know use re-usable shopping bags, we all (me included) do the occasional shop without them so that we can take home the plastic bags and use them as bin liners.

Many other people are also poo-poohing the plastic bag ban in the first place, with many suggesting that this is yet another political headline-grabbing act rather than real action for the environment. Some have even pointed out that in places like Adelaide where they have banned the plastic bag, bin liner sales have gone up. A quick search of the internet reveals a news article citing that bin liner sales in Adelaide are double the national average.

Regardless of our political leaders' motives for banning the plastic bag, I have to say I support this ban. Plastic bags ARE bad for the environment. Many of our plastic bags are not disposed of properly and they end up clogging our waterways and killing a lot of our wildlife. Most plastic shopping bags take up to a thousand years to properly decompose.

For those who want to continue using plastic shopping bags as bin liners, then I think it is right that they should pay for that. (I think it would also be good if a % of profits made on bin liners can go towards environmental causes and research). When you make people pay for polluting then it makes them more conscious of it...and hopefully there will be flow-on effects in terms of reducing polluting habits.

But I am getting off topic. I guess I wanted to share what I have done and will be doing when the plastic bag ban comes in.

Firstly, the big one is to reduce the amount of waste that is going into landfill. Since embracing simple living, I no longer have a lot of waste to begin with. Currently, my waste consists of one plastic shopping bag a fortnight. This is how I reduced my waste:
  • Compost - all my vegetable scraps are placed in my compost bin (note you may want to check out my indoor newspaper compost bin post).
  • I recycle all hard plastics, tins and glass bottles.
  • I try to buy in bulk and not to buy goods with lots of packaging.
  • I serve smaller portions at meal times so that there is no meal waste that contain lots of meat (and therefore can't go in the compost bin). My children and I can always come back for seconds and thirds if we are still hungry
All of the above has meant, that pretty much the only thing that goes in my one plastic shopping bag bin liner are small amounts of meat scraps and bones as well as other soft plastic packaging (eg. packaging that my cheese comes in).

Now as I said, I do admit to going shopping once every few months or so so that I can get the plastic shopping bag for use as the bin liner. I am now down to only 5 plastic shopping bags...this means that I can continue to use those bags for the next 10 weeks (given my current waste output). After that I will no longer use plastic shopping bags for my bin. And I am hoping to completely avoid having to buy plastic bin liners. So here's my plan:

1. Soft packaging (eg. bag for the frozen peas etc) will be used for wet meat scraps and other wet items that can not be composted.
2. Dry meat scraps (eg bones) will be wrapped in newspaper and placed directly in the bin.

It doesn't look like a comprehensive plan....but then again, I tend to like simple, easy to remember plans. :)

I hope you are having a good day.


The bevy of black swans living in my local lake

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sell Outs

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















I have long held the belief that a simple, frugal and green life isn't about following a script or ticking off certain things on a list. A simple life in the country isn't so simple if you spend your time yelling, constantly bargain hunting or feeding a tv addiction. A simple life doesn't mean you have to keep pigs and bees or make every single meal from scratch. A simple life doesn't mean you can't work. Instead I view the simple life as a paradigm and a lense by which I view the world; a fundamental belief in focusing on the most important things, seeking to find balance in all I do and living by the principals "less is more" and "living simply so others may simply live".

Lately all around me colleagues and friends have been talking about what is important to them, a few even mentioned the term sell out. You see many of them thought in their early 20's that they would make "good choices" (that is their term, I certainly am not value judging their choices as good or bad) but as their lives have developed through their late 20's and 30's they really haven't decided to stick to those "good choices" they once thought they would live by. I spent the last week listening to their examples, some of which were:

- Deciding to commute for 2 hours to work so they could have the "biggest bang for their buck" aka the biggest square footage house
- Not buying free-range or organic meat or dairy because they don't care anymore about animal welfare (this person was very pro responsible farming in her late teens)
- Not taking the option of a 4 day work week after returning from parental leave because that extra day is a weekend in Las Vagas every year.
- Never hanging clothes to dry because it would take an extra 10 minutes and interrupt precious facebook time
- Feeding the family hot dogs, boxed pizza and boxed macaroni & cheese almost every night because that is what is quickest and after 10 hours outside the home, no one has the energy to cook
- Admitting they see less than 10 hours a week of their 4 and 2 year old because with an 11 day work day 5 days/week and a love of bargain/frugal shopping (thus visiting 5 different shops on Saturdays and often nipping to the US for the real sales) the grandparents pick up the grandchildren from daycare Friday afternoon and keep them until Sunday morning. This was a hard one for this friend to admit because while suffering from infertility they swore time with their children would always come first, now they have 2 very good careers, a very large house they just totally renovated and only see their children Sundays.
- Being scared to go without because their friends are richer than they are.
- Becoming so obsessed (their words) with paying off their mortgage, buying a second and third home to rent out and retiring at 55 that they are not really living now
- Throwing away anything with a tear/needing a new button and buying new

As I have listened to these conversations, I have tried not to make any value laden statements but did occasionally ask "so if you know, would you change anything", I further asked one "would you now go to work 4 days a week so you can do the things that used to be important to you and simply shop/eat out less". What was really interesting to me, is that no one said they wanted to change a thing. One, a top city lawyer married to another top city lawyer, who eat out 20x a week and admits they don't see their children at all between Mon-Fri said "nope, I'm a proud sell out - I want as much as I can have for as little as I can get it for, we're not interested in having less money, we want more money". I smiled and pondered those words, asking myself what I can learn from their experiences, choices and definition of happiness/selling-out.

What is interesting to me, is in my experience, the older I get the less I want to "sell-out" and the more comfortable I am going without what most people view as a necessity. It took fostering four very broken and traumatized children to help me see there was another life waiting patiently for me to embrace; they taught me there is so much more to life than work, stuff, money and materialism. And while I don't really have any friends in real life who live like I do (although I am blessed to have one friend on either side of the Atlantic who are at the beginning of their simple living journey!) hearing these friends and co-workers yearn for more money and not desire to change anything about their current circumstances, made me very thankful for places like this co-op, the readers of my own blog, Rhonda's blog and the myriad of others which remind me daily that each day I will face choices, those choices bring me closer to the values I hold or further away. While I do aim to be careful about how much time I spend online, I do feel a bit of a haven in what I choose to read in this amazing place. It was that haven that helped me stick to my choice not to attend a friend's wedding and your words gave me the confidence to stick to my conviction when the bride expressed her anger.

Through my own learning this past month (both from the wedding and the new life that awaits me, as well as conversations with those who live so differently to myself) I've come to a place of both certainty I'm on the right path and also grace - grace in deciding I don't have to be perfect or do things exactly like other simple life followers. I've come to realize if we embrace the simple life as a lifestyle choice, then we are probably all doing the best we can, sometimes under extra-ordinary circumstances and most often without people around us to commiserate or encourage. I've come to accept this path will often be lonely. And maybe when it comes to a simple, frugal and green life, that is OK. Maybe as long as we hold onto that value and don't allow ourselves to totally "sell-out", then our anchor will at the very least keep us grounded through the seasons where being simple, green and frugal is more challenging. Like my current season of vermicomposting - and it failing time and time again. Yes, it may be easier to throw in the towel like many people and not bother with spending more time trying to "do good" but since when is the right choice the easy choice. And by heck, one day I'll get that worm compost system right!

My own personal goal this week is to write a list of things I'm not willing to compromise on, as I begin a brand new and exciting chapter in my life, maybe it will serve as a reminder to hold onto what is most important and leave the rest behind! Because the truth is, whether people see it or not, there is a cost to selling out - a cost to ourselves, our families, those we love, our community, our environment and future generations. By focusing on the most important things, I hope to avoid the real cost associated with selling out and instead reap the rewards of a slower, more balanced, person/community centered path. And suddenly I'm reminded of the tortoise and the hare. And now I can firmly, without a shadow of a doubt, say I'm the tortoise, how about you?

Have a happy, simple, frugal and green week, filled with choices which represent the real you !

Monday, May 30, 2011

Rhubarb Curd

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I affectionately call rhubarb "Poor Man's Citrus", but maybe I should call it Northern Man's Citrus. Poor ol' rhubarb, the ubiquitous kitchen garden and sensible farmyard perennial has made its way into the foodie culture. A spring herald around here, and the first fruit abundant enough to be eaten and preserved, tart and tangy rhubarb deserves the attention it is getting; a secret farm wives have known for years.

Faster than you can shake a stick, well not quite, you can pull a few stalks, slice, add a tiny bit of water, sugar and vanilla to taste, cook in covered pan for 10 minutes more or less and you have sauce for...the possibilities are endless.



We have always called this rhubarb pudding, but many call this rhubarb curd. Take your pick, it is delicious, eaten plain or used as a filling for tarts or pies. This dish is common on our table in the spring when eggs and rhubarb are abundant.

Rhubarb Pudding or Curd 5 one cup servings

4 - 5 stalks trimmed rhubarb or enough for two cups of rhubarb sauce.
1/3 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
6 egg yolks
1 stick butter, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon vanilla

Wash, trim and cut rhubarb into one inch slices. Combine rhubarb slices, 1/2 cup sugar and water in covered saucepan. Cook on medium heat until rhubarb is tender - about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Measure 2 cups cooked rhubarb sauce and purée in food processor or blender until smooth.

Separate egg yolks and press through a fine mesh sieve into double boiler (this removes any egg white left behind). Add puréed rhubarb, remaining one cup sugar, butter, and vanilla, whisk together. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. This takes about 10 minutes. Spoon into serving size dishes, chill before serving, or not, it is delicious warm on ice cream!

As an aside, I grow the hardier green rhubarb that has flourished on our homestead since it's inception (1881), and have just a few plants of the red variety which have yet to show much growth this cool spring. So as you may have noticed my rhubarb curd is almost tan, which may appear unappetizing to some. Growing up with food coloring in the kitchen cabinet, I have chosen to eschew this practice and present food in my kitchen as it appears. The newer red commercial variety will yield a pretty pink curd, but the taste is the same. Also pressing the yolks through the sieve is only necessary if you don't want a guest getting a tiny piece of rubbery egg white stuck in their teeth. Often when short on time and weary of washing dishes, I skip this step - it's all food.