This blog will not be adding more posts but will remain open for you to access the information that will remain here.
Showing posts with label mindfulness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mindfulness. Show all posts

Sunday, July 8, 2012

My Frugal Limits

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches























Every now and then I hear about a large family with the same food budget as our more avearage size family, or a family in size similar to ours, with a much more modest food budget and I question why I'm not able to be as frugal. I wonder where I am going wrong and I usually sit down committed to read their blog, or the article and learn something. The goal? To reduce our expenditures. I begin reading feeling like I'm doing something wrong, I finish, feeling like I'm doing something very right. You see, we all have to do what is right for our family and I believe, what is kinder and gentler for the earth and those who are more vulnerable. But reading the nitty gritty about what people are willing to compromise on, I actually leave feeling like it is a compomise too far. I'm personally not willing to:

- Shop once a month: access to fresh fruit and veg is too important
- Purchase ready meals or packaged foods with coupons
- Skimp on fruits and vegetables - one blog which which received much attention for being frugal and healthy posted a menu plan which included only 2 fruit and 1 veg a day (most studies recommend a minimum of 5-6 a day)
- Purchase factory produced animal products
- Build a diet around cheap fillers without much nutritional value. For example, a pasta dish served with bread was recommended as a cheap meal. Whereas e may have pasta, but it would be served with a fresh spinach salad and a veg.
- Shop at unethical major corporations

The more I think about it, the more I realize that while I certainly do budget and work hard to stick to it with food, I do see placing priority on green living, simple healthy meals and supporting others (for example by purchasing fairtrade items) as more imporant to me than slashing my budget another $50 or $100 a month. And for somewhere between $300 and $350 a month we purchase:

- Free range eggs from local farms
- All organic animal products
- Fairtrade: sugar, bananas, tea, coffee, mangos, flour and cocoa
- Green cleaning and laundry supplies
- Pet food & litter
- About 50% of our fruits and veg organic
- Enough fruits and veg for 3 fruits and 3 veg (plus a salad) a day
- A locally sourced produce box
- Seeds for our community garden plot

Yes, I could probably shave at least $50 a month off the budget if I changed to what some frugal bloggers recommend. And that $50 would come in handy. But more than that, I want my children, who have experienced malnourishment prior to joining our family through adoption, to continue to make educational and emotional gains that good food has allowed them. I want my hard earned money to tred softly on this earth and help people. I want to invest in our health now, to safeguard us for the future. And if that takes another $50 - $100 a month, I'm really OK with it.

What about you? What is your line when it comes to compromise? Is it only about money, or like me, something more?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

With Thanks

Saying thank you is more than good manners.  It is good spirituality. 

~Alfred Painter~




Posted by Bel

I hope I can tackle this topic without seeming all Pollyanna-ish...  I was explaining to someone the other day that my main tool for dealing with any challenging situation is gratitude.  The concept of conscious gratitude was first revealed to me in the Simple Abundance books by Sarah Ban Breathnach in the ‘90s.  If I can find at least one positive to every negative, then life’s on even keel.  And it is all about balance, after all!  If I can find lots of positives in my life, then life’s good!

Sometimes I almost believe my family and friends when they tell me I’m just too busy, overworked, or just plain crazy.  Juggling kids, homeschooling, relationship and friendships, a business, the farm and animals and volunteering in the community as well...  Yes, life is full.  But it’s really just a season.  Already I have one adult child, and within a decade all six will be grown up!  I am currently selling my business, after an enjoyable few years of nurturing it from a hobby to a real source of income.  Sometimes farm life is very demanding with lots of baby animals to nurture, gardens needing overhauling, the cow to milk once or twice a day (which leads to lots of time in the kitchen processing and preserving the abundance).  And sometimes it’s a lot quieter – waiting for babies, no milking, fallow gardens or just enough rain and sunshine to ignore the lot and let it grow!  So many 'seasons'.



image from HP

Remembering the quiet times, and appreciating them for what they are, fuel me through the inevitable hectic times of my life.  Sometimes I am so rushed that, for example, sitting and waiting for the cow troughs to fill with water could easily irritate me.  But instead of feeling frustrated about what else I could be doing, I feel gratitude for the chance to sit (even in the drizzling rain) and look around me - to Be.  I glance at the nut trees, feeling blessed at their maturity and abundant crops; the bee hives full of busy workers who not only create delicious honey for us, but also pollinate our gardens and orchard; the kilometres of fences my darling husband built and repaired so that we could keep large animals like by beloved cows and that crazy horse;  the water flowing from the hose – gravity-fed, clean, fresh spring water which keeps on coming all the year round; my cows and their offspring - the companionship, mowing, milk and even meat our herd provide us with.  I am surrounded by such abundance!  To everyone else it looks like hard work - muddy, smelly, physically challenging, expensive, responsibility-laden hobby farming!  But I know I am blessed and I am grateful for the chance  to live this dream I’ve held for so many years.

To read more about gratitude on the co-op, see:
Gratitude by Aurora
Being Grateful by Eilleen
Bloom When you are Planted –  a Note from the Frugal Trenches
Enough by Bel

Tell me, do you use conscious gratitude as a tool to cope with the pressures of your life?  Perhaps you keep a gratitude journal or have some other ritual?  Please leave a Comment with your experiences, or share something you are grateful for...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Frugal Angst

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Spring cleaning is a good time to purge, and for me it is a good time to reassess my hoarding frugal re-purposing strategies. My parents were adults during the Depression and WWII when rationing was necessary. Subsequently, everything was saved. I grew up watching my mom wash and dry plastic bags for re-use. So much so, it is second nature for me to just automatically save everything that comes my way. My hubby is the same way, socks beyond repair become grease rags, coffee cans can hold nuts and bolts, and old jeans can become patching material for new jeans.

I'm in the camp though that I don't think I can ever get enough canning jars since I use them so much. The collection above is about a day and half worth of scratch cooking from the freezer and pantry. So I of course save all my jars, and use my rusty rings and used lids for freezer storage items. These are destined to go back to storage for summer time preservation.

Lately though, I have been going through lots of stuff I have saved, you know, like magazines I can't live without etc. Straddling the old way of information gleaning and the Internet has been giving me conniptions. I find comfort in my old quilt magazines, but I know if I needed a patchwork pattern I would never even begin to look through 25 years of magazines - I would consult one of my quilt books or just draft my own pattern. I donated them to a senior center where at least the photos of quilts would bring joy a few more times to someone. I no longer had that need. My quilt bucket list is already too long... . For me letting go is the hard part. Saving something for someday, some doomer scenario or just plain to save it is one of my bad habits.

So systematically I am retraining myself, to not save every useful container that comes my way. Our waste stream is pretty small, since we don't really purchase much, but still, I think I have enough yogurt containers for now. Besides magazines I went through our storage areas and recycled all those yogurt and sour cream containers that are just too useful. Keeping back a storage box of each is enough I think.

So what do you think, is frugality causing more hoarding? Or is it a necessary evil of frugality to have lots of stuff?

Monday, March 5, 2012

There Is Nothing Like A Walk In The Woods

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















I've been a mother to two for six months. Adopting two children who have quickly become the lights of my life! As they are older, there is much pressure to do (though I'm sure this internal & external pressure can occur even if one has a wee babe in arms). I don't have many mummy friends, being only the second of all my friends to become a mother, the other had her first baby last year. The parents at the school gate are older and always seem so much more put together than I am. Their children seem to be masters at everything: yoga, ballet, tap, gymnastics, soccer, hockey, music, swimming and skating. They busily discuss how filled each weekend is with friend's Birthdays, which must be celebrated, and skiing and tutors and, and, and...For the first few weeks, or months, I wondered if I was doing my children a disservice. What if that tutor would make all the difference? What if not being able to skate yet becomes a sore point? What if they never catch up after such a rocky start in life? But slowly, one day, when on a long Sunday walk through the woods with a friend I realized something profound - my children are masters at nothing except being children. They know how to run, skip, hop and jump. They love collecting sticks (& counting them!), they like to giggle, laugh, tickle and be tickled. They like to explore and jump in puddles and visit farms and visit the ducks. And for them that is the good life.

Here's the truth, the six months has taught me a lot (though I have so much more to learn - oh how I hope the gaps close soon!), but most importantly it has taught me to listen to them, to push out the noise as much as you possibly can and just be. It has made me more and more committed to a simple life, a life not found by rushing to people's Birthdays each weekend, or spending each evening hurrying from one activity to the next. Yes, balance is important. Yes, hobbies can bring such joy. And slowly but surely my children are finding out what their interests are - for my daughter it is art, my son is a little actor (we are working on his confidence and I hope one day he will be at a place where he can join a small local theatre group). But more than that, if you ask my children what makes them happy they will answer: time with our family, going to the woods, knitting together and playing games. All of which are simple. All of which are free. All of which centre around just spending time together. And slowly but surely I'm learning the age old wisdom that there really is nothing at all like a walk in the woods with those that you love. The best things really are things that money can't buy.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Days Like These

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches



















It is days like these when we have nowhere to go and no real commitments, that I wonder why it isn't possible to be still more often. Today I declared it was a "home day". And just what is a home day? A day where we never leave home; no shoes need to be put on, no hats, scarves or gloves need to be tackled. It's a day where I stand at the window, cup of tea in hand and watch the world go by. It is a day where I enjoy simple crafts with my children, no one needing to be hurried, no one making us late. It is a day where I smell curries and soups and muffins cooking and baking, ready to nourish us through far too many busy and hurried days ahead.

It is days like these where I reflect on our choices, our dreams, our aspirations and instead of planning I think "be still". It is days like these where I accomplish our greatest goal - simplicity. It is days like these when absolutely everything else can wait and I'm reminded of a favourite poem...

Cleaning and cooking can wait 'till tomorrow
For babies grow up, as we've learned to our sorrow.
So quiet down cobwebs, dust go to sleep,
I'm rocking my baby, and babies don't keep

Anon

It is days like these, where my greatest wish for this world is for everyone to stop. Stop the negative and anxious thoughts. Stop the dash to the shops. Stop the hurried list of things to do. Stop. Stop. Stop. Be still. Be still. Be still.

I hope each person reading this soon has a plan to be still. To breathe. To relax. To be...

Friday, January 27, 2012

Changing spaces

by Rhonda at Down to Earth

When we first moved into our current home, we made quite a few changes. The house had been lived in by an older couple and some of the things that suited them didn't suit us. We pulled up the carpet and laid a wood floor, we changed the kitchen, added verandahs front and back and put in gardens and the chook house. We, although we didn't know it at the time, were getting ready to live more simply.

It's very easy to look at a new home and see spaces you don't really like, or know they won't work for your family and just ignore them. I want to encourage you to change what doesn't suit you. If you don't, you're changing yourself to suit the house.


We all have different circumstances and expectations but all of us can benefit from changing our living space to suit how we live. For instance, if you do a lot of sewing, you should have a space to store your equipment and fabrics; if you write or paint, you should have a quiet space to do it; if you bake a lot, have all your needs close to where you work. Outside, your mower and garden tools will serve you well if they're stored in a space out of the weather and close to a work bench were you can carry out your maintenance.



I guess the obvious and easy change is to create garden beds where there are none and to build a chook house or tractor. That change alone, while not costing the earth will equip you to provide a measure of fresh food right from your home. But there are other less obvious changes to be made, you just have to look at the space around you in a creative way with a focus on your sustainability.


Out in the back yard, along with the gardens and chickens, you could think about water tanks or barrels. If you don't have the finances for that now, it might we something worth saving for if your climate is fairly dry, if you get all your annual rain in a few months, or if you have a vegetable garden. And even if you don't have the money for big tanks right now, see if you can set up a system whereby you collect some water when it rains. We have a couple of 200 litre tubs here that, when full, can keep our garden going for a week. We just fill the watering cans or buckets from the tubs and transfer the water to the garden. It's more work than hosing, but we don't mind carting our harvested water the short distance. Make sure you set up your collector tanks close to where it will be used. Btw, mosquitoes take about 10 - 14 days, depending on the type, to go from egg to mosquito. Harvesting the water within a ten day period will kill the larvae before they fully develop. Or, you could just scoop the larvae out with a fine fish net.

Inside the home you might look for a cupboard to store your stockpile. I think one of the downsides of many modern homes is the lack of cupboard space. Think creatively about your cupboards, if you have a big cupboard near your kitchen, or in the laundry or garage, that may suit your stockpile better than what is currently in it.


Move pots and pans, baking supplies, tea and coffee making supplies close to where they're used. Organising your kitchen well will save you a lot of time and effort. It just takes an hour or so to think about how you work in your kitchen and then moving things closer to where they're needed.


Make a space to sit with your tea and coffee. This space might also serve well as the place you talk quietly with your partner, read to the children, write letters, knit or stitch. You need a space like this just as you need a place to store your linens or groceries. Make a space for yourself - make the house suit you, not the other way around.

I could go right through the house but I'm sure you get what I mean. Making small changes to your home will make your life easier. Modify the house to suit the type of family you are. Make the spaces work for you and if they don't, change them. Your home is one of the key tools you have in your life, making a few adjustments to make it work as it should and have it accommodate the activities of your family, will make living there easier. There will be some changes that cost money, just do them as the money becomes available, but many changes will cost only the effort you put in to make them happen.

I hope you identified some changes you want to make when we did our simple audit last week. So if you have some plans, I encourage you to dive right in and enjoy the process of change. You'll be making your home fit your family instead of living with the feeling that the house isn't quite right. This is another one of those things where we take the bull by the horns and give it a good shake, instead of sitting back wishing things were different.

Do it thoughtfully, take it slow and enjoy the change.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Journeying

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday I posted my 1000th post on my blog. 1000 "essays" over the last 3.5 years about this journey. This downshifting, simplifying, greening, frugal journey. A journey which has seen me:

Give up paper products
Use reusable toilet cloth (as opposed to toilet paper)
Leave a corporate city job
Learn to cook
Give up tv
Begin shopping locally
Really commit to vegetarianism
Learn to reuse and/or refuse
Learn to knit
Use a vermicomposter
Move countries
Commit to cleaning without pesticides
Volunteer overseas
Become more passionate about Fairtrade
Learn to say no to things which don't reflect my/our values
Adopt two children

But honestly, it is more than all that. I could list 1000 things I've done since beginning this life, this new more simplified, frugal and green path. But here's the truth, the most important thing I've learned through the 1000 posts is to be still and to walk in grace, not only towards others, but towards myself too. That tender dance of stillness and grace means more than learning a frugal recipe or saving money on my utility bills. It is a dance that allows me to only see the beauty in a moment with my children, when other stresses and strains are hard to keep quiet. It is the dance which lets me know the importance of hope in a world where messages are often of doom.

1000 posts of journeying have led me to standing still. And from my still space on a very cold wintery morning, the frugal, simple and green life looks like a grand one, the world looks postively beautiful. The noise is shut out and the stillness is let in.

May we all journey well in 2012. May we all journey towards a place called simplicity. May be journey not as if in a race, but as if on a path with lots of forks, twists and turns, all leading you just where you need to be. All leading towards a quiet moment and a little sound whispering hush.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We're Different And That's OK

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Yesterday, my email provider had a front page article about the biggest mistakes people make when giving Christmas gifts; totally out of my character, I clicked on the article and began to read it. Lo and behold, one of the biggest mistakes, according to the author, anyone can make is to give homemade gifts, particularly knitted items. Apparently such things are ghastly and embarrassing for the giver and receiver. Who knew?!

When I got over my initial one second check in (I had just, the hour before, finished putting together a few little handmade gifts) I enjoyed a little laughter at the hilarity of it all. Not only did the article suggest homemade things are totally inappropriate, but so is anything useful, including some items of clothing, giftcards etc. And I began to think of the hilarity of it all, one person, who came across as incredibly spoiled and pampered, a person who is probably quite young and used to having money spent on them, is dictating what is acceptable/normal/OK. Well, here's the truth, his/her norm is certainly not my norm.

And there in that little article was the theme of my life over the last few months. As I navigate motherhood and find what other parents view as normal is vastly different to our life and the norm I want for my children. As I chat with colleagues and hear their views on necessities (a family can not live in less than 2500 square feet, apparently, nor can they function without TVs in their van), I've come to really think about being different and being OK with being different.

We are all on a journey. In my teenage years I desperately wanted to fit in and truth be told, for most of those years didn't. Sometimes, when I compare "notes" with the lives others have, I fleetingly think how nice it would be to have what they have, because in the throws of it, we are all human beings with needs and emotions. But the truth is, I'd rather be different. I'd rather put thought into what comes into our home, than accept the toys a manufacturer tells me my children need. I'd rather give money to help causes, then fret over which new car/van/TV/laptop to buy. I'd rather spend a couple of hours making a dishcloth, then pick up 10 for $2 and I'd certainly rather have to shop at 4 or 5 local shops/farmers stalls, than go to one big conglomerate and feel proud of how much more I could get for the same money.

Sometimes being different is challenging. Sometimes I can feel too different. Sometimes it would be easier not to think critically about each choice, not to have to wonder where something came from, or how its production impacted others. Sometimes it would be lovely to simply roll up at a particular fast food joint and be done with dinner in 2 minutes flat. But the truth is, 99.9999% of the time, I am totally head over heals in love with this different life, bad gift giving (knitted items!) and all. My greatest hope, is that 20 years from now, my children are OK with being different too.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Stock Pot in Every Kitchen

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

I've blogged about making bone broth and stock before but it bears repeating. If you're not making stock already with bones from the meat you're cooking, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and lots of turkey carcasses will be gracing our tables and can be put to good use instead of being tossed.

I make stock every week because:

1) Of the health benefits.

2) It makes food taste better.

3) I don't like to waste anything.


This is what's left of one of our home raised chickens by the time I get done with it.

That handful of bone pieces is about the size of the chick when it arrives at the farmstead.



Rather than thinking of just filling the freezer for our needs, we concentrate on intensively pasturing our poultry after the brooding stage. By doing this, we are fertilizing our pasture at the same time we are growing our meat chickens.

Providing fresh pasture daily helps grow a healthy bird, and ensures a healthy nutrition profile for the meat and broth.

To make sure I use the broth in my cooking, I like to have it on hand, either in the refrigerator or in the stockpot that seems to be always simmering on the back of the stove. We consume roughly one chicken per week. We raise them ourselves, but they are still an expensive item for the pantry. To stretch those dollars, I squeeze the most out of each bird.

One chicken per week feeds our family of three plus two dogs in the following ways:

1) One breast butterflied and sauteed for my husbands lunches.

2) One breast cubed for fajitas.

3) Breastless carcass wet roasted in 3 - 4 quarts of water to yield 3 - 4 quarts of semi-gelatinous broth, and cooked chicken. (I roast my chicken in a covered roaster at about 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 4 hours.)

4) Remaining cooked meat makes at least 2 more meals of chicken salad, enchiladas or whatever you wish to use cooked chicken for.

5) After all that I take the carcass and make at least two more quarts of stock, since the bird has been roasted already, this stock needs no skimming and stays clear. I cook this for 12 - 24 hours with a glug of vinegar to help release the minerals and gelatin in the bones and gristle. Note: since the dogs will be getting the spoils I do not add onions to the stock. If you're not feeding dogs, onions are a good addition, as well as any other vegetable odds and ends in your kitchen. Carrot ends, celery trimmings etc.

6) Strain the stock for the kitchen and break down the skins and bones for the pups. Most bones will be soft enough for dogs, except the weight bearing bones of the bird. On these I squeeze the bone and marrow until I get to the hard part of the bone. Feeding cooked bones to dogs is not a good idea unless the bones are soft. They are very sharp (unlike uncooked bones) and may potentially puncture your dogs digestive tract. I personally inspect each bone and piece of chicken before my dogs get any of it. This go round yields about two quarts of chicken skin, leftover bits of meat and soft bones for the dogs. They love it!

What hasn't softened in the cooking process goes into our woodstove and is cooked into ash that goes to the garden. I suppose if you were so inclined you could pressure cook the hard bones and make them entirely soft, however for me, it's just one more step that isn't needed. My garden can always use some ash, and it is an amendment that I don't need to buy if I can make my own.

For more reading on the health benefits of bone broths and stock check out the Weston Price organization here:

http://www.westonaprice.org/abcs-of-nutrition/health-topics

The interconnectedness of farm and kitchen is an amazing and satisfying feeling. Stock warms your belly and your heart.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Simple, Green and Frugal Parenting

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

In one more sleep I become a mummy, it has been a long and hard journey and one I'm delighted is finally happening! I've been thinking a lot about how to encorporate a simple, green and frugal life into parenting and the truth is I know no one can accomplish it all, so I'll need to focus on the most important things. So far I've been focusing on a couple of key points/ideas so that I don't feel overwhelmed.

Simple
- Establishing a rhythmn that meets everyone's needs and is flexible, yet predictable
- Not over-committing and prioritizing time to adjust

Green
- No disposable products
- Get a community garden membership
- No plastic
- Shopping for locally sourced products and/or fairtrade

Frugal
- Focusing on what is really needed vs. what people tell you are needs (I'm shocked at what people believe you need in order to parent)
- Buying second hand where possible
- Establishing a "norm" which isn't about commercialism or materialism

But here is where I turn it over to you. I'd love to know how you encorporate a simple, green and frugal life into your parenting and family life? I feel like I have a lot to learn and am most probably only scratching the surface!

So dear co-op readers: what advice do you have for living purposefully while parenting? How do you explain raising your children so differently than most people they will come into contact with?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sowing Seeds for the Future

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Incorporating children into garden and farm plans is a investment in our future.

Not everyone farms, I know, but many people garden and sometimes I see gardens that are only planted with delayed gratification plants, like tomatoes, corn and potatoes. All good, but to a child whose attention span and grasp of time is different than ours, waiting for a tomato to ripen can take forever.

If I had a wish it would be that gardeners with small children would do more succession sowing so that kids get the idea that the garden can actually feed you. Eating daily from the garden, even just one thing, plants the idea that you don't go to the store all the time for your food. It may take some time to find out the combination of what to plant for kids that they will eat on a regular basis, (my teenager eats greens) it may be salad, peas, cherry tomatoes, or mild salad turnips.

If I had another wish it would be that you let your children help you in all aspects of gardening, not just eating, but soil prep, planting and weeding, and finally harvesting. Allowing your children to help will give them more of a stake in the garden. Gardening is a huge opportunity for learning about plants, and insects, and the 3 R's too. Reading seed packets, writing labels, and calculating how much to plant take the boredom out of "school" type activities. Little hands become deft when handling the big job of planting tiny seeds. Sure, they will make mistakes, planting, weeding and harvesting, but it won't be the end of the world.

We have to be careful about what message we send to our children about work and self-worth. Do you go to the health club to work out, or do you stay home and weed your garden and exercise all your body alongside your child? Do you pay someone else to do your "dirty" jobs while you take vacations? As long as we keep our children isolated from the real work of gardening and farming we limit their chances of being successful gardeners or farmers if they choose to follow those pursuits.

Farming and gardening may not be in your child's future but the skills and life lessons they pick up along the way will stand them in good stead in any profession.

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, July 4, 2011

Weddings and Frugality

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Recently I was invited to a friend's wedding. When I make that statement it sounds simple enough, only as details of the wedding & pre-wedding showers emerged, it became incredibly complicated.

The Wedding

Takes place on a weekday = a day off of work (unpaid)
Reception takes place 2.5 hours north of the Church in a very rural area = renting a car and possibly an overnight stay (it is assumed guests will book rooms as the hotel is so rural and there are events the next day).
A new outfit because I have nothing to wear having just moved overseas

Shower One
In a rural location, absolutely no public transport there. On a Sunday which means renting a car for the day
Required to give $50, which they will use to buy things
Everyone attending will also need to pay towards the costs of the shower

Shower Two
On a weekday afternoon which means taking a day off work unpaid
All guest (even if you already attended the other shower) are required to give $50 towards the honeymoon
There will be a charge for activities but it is not known how much yet

Anyone trying, through necessity, choice or circumstance, to live a frugal life will know where I'm going with this... Firstly and perhaps most importantly I want to clarify that it isn't my friend's fault that I would need to rent a car or buy a new outfit, those are because of my circumstances and my circumstances alone. But it is increasingly difficult to attend showers and weddings because of the financial implications and expectations of brides & grooms. At the very least, attending each shower will be almost $100 per event, and I was specifically asked to attend both. On top of that it was made clear that the shower gifts do not replace the wedding gift. This week, before I purchased what I planned to give to the couple, I asked if there was a registry for the wedding, I was told everyone invited was asked to give money because they already own 10 homes, already live together and don't need anything, so they want to use the money to splurge. What's more the wedding coincides with my friend's 30th Birthday, so there will be a separate party so that the Birthday isn't over looked. I didn't ask if I'd be asked to contribute financially to that too, because my then I was already doing the math in my head ;)

Doing my sums and taking all the costs out which are because of my individual circumstances (renting a car, time off work unpaid, a new outfit etc), attending the wedding and two showers & paying the minimum suggested for gifts, the total comes to $455, the suggested contribution towards gifts alone is $175.

When I first found out all the facts, I was a tad disgruntled about it all, many people commented on my blog & emailed in outrage that a bridge & groom could expect their guests to contribute so much. There were an array of similar stories and others shared they to have had to send regrets to events because expectations were too high in their particular season of life.

I wish my friends well, marriage is a gift and I hope they have truly found their life mate. For a while I felt incredible guilt about not being able to be there on their special day, but the more I put into practice the skills and thought process' this simple, green & frugal life has taught me, the more honest I was able to be with myself. Right now it simply isn't possible. And there's no guilt with that!

I'd love to hear from you. Do you think it is OK to charge attendance for showers? Is it OK to request monetary gifts in specific amounts? Have you ever had to say no to a wedding or shower because of the financial implications?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekly Rhythms Which Help

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


After a few weeks which left me feeling positively disheveled, I've been taking some time to commit to getting back into a rhythm which helps me lead a simple, green & frugal life even among the chaos of life! And for me, right now, those essential rhythms include...



















:: A weekly walk, preferably repeated each day ;)




















:: Homemade soup, perfect for a winter's eve - or for tackling summer allergies & sinuses



















:: Weekend cooking sessions so meals are healthy & simple during the week - this week roasted trout, brussel sprouts, cooked sweet potato, roasted lemony carrots and broccoli salad



















:: A few sessions with the needles - the perfect way to unwind

And when I take the time to incorporate a few little activities which help me lead a simpler life, I find that I'm learning an important lesson. A lesson in understanding no matter how busy, there is always a choice. A choice to rest, a choice to be in that moment, a choice to let go of the distractions and instead take a few minutes to focus, to be, to let go. And in that very moment - even if in the background there is noise and lists of things to do, I see the beautiful! And when I find that beautiful, even just a few minutes each day, it helps me set the tone for a relaxed and simple week.

What activities do you incorporate into your life which help you lead a simple, green or frugal life?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

My Little Reminders

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















When I lived by the sea all I needed was a walk along the coast to remind myself of my journey, to remember the importance of breathing deeply, loving widely and living gently. When I moved away from a more rural live I was scared I wouldn't find those little reminders, but oh they arrived, little daily reminders about the joy found through a simple, green and frugal life.

I'm reminded of this commitment and life every time I:

















:: Purchase fresh produce from local farmers at the market!

















:: Put fresh bedding in my vermicompost!

















:: Find light in my home or snuggle with the furries

















:: Take my knitting everywhere I go - even when in dim light, which may explain the holes which plague my knitting ;)



















:: Enjoy a plain Jane cup of tea after a good day's work or a long hike!

Do you have beautiful little reminders which help you delight in your journey/choices/values?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Account Balance is Low

When hunger dogs winter's heels, old traditions point your feet straight to the pantry, cellar, or whatever little hiding place you may have carved out. It's time to go in and spend your culinary savings account lavishly. You'll feel mighty clever!

Connie Green and Sarah Scott from The Wild Table: Seasonal Foraged Food and Recipes

When I read this quote I smiled to myself. It was mid-winter and my basement pantry was stocked with all kinds of goodies. We had boxes of potatoes, onions and garlic. There were also rows of glass jars filled with all sorts of vegetables and fruits. Bright orange pumpkins and green squashes filled one corner of the dining room and the freezer was full of venison.

Basement Pantry

Figuring out how much you need to preserve to get through winter can be a little difficult at times. You don't want to end up with too much food come spring, but you don't want to run out before those first green shoots appear in the garden. You want to make sure your pantry savings account it low, but not completely empty!

Cleaning out the Pantry

This is the best time to think about the coming preservation season. Take a good long look at your pantry, what did you eat up quickly, what is still on the shelves not touched. Is there anything you won't be canning again? What will you can more of? Is there anything you can grow during the cold winter months to help supplement the pantry food so that you don't have to spend as much time in summer canning? Did you eat more dried fruit than canned fruit? Did you have enough garlic, potatoes, and onions? Did you run out of popcorn halfway through the winter?

A little time spent planning now can make your winter food savings account a little more balanced to your personal tastes and can make you feel mighty wealthy all winter long!

How do you decide how much and what to preserve each season? Has it changed throughout the years?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves and Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Repeated Refrains of Nature

by Chiot's Run

There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.

- Rachel Carson (The Sense of Wonder)


In the spring I am deeply appreciative of the "repeated refrains of nature" as Rachel Carson calls them. When you live in a climate with long cold winters the assurance that spring will come eventually really keeps you going during those long dark days at the end of January.
Spring
When spring does come I find myself trying to take it all in, I don't want to miss a bloom, drop of rain or plant emerging from the ground. I find myself stealing any moment I can to get outside and enjoy the rebirth and regeneration that spring provides (not just for the garden but for the gardener as well).
Spring
Sometimes it's hard to step back from all the to-do's that come with the spring, but doing so is important. Being able to slow down and enjoy the season is very rejuvenating to the spirit and the mind. We can all use a little warmth of the sun on our backs, a little rain on our faces, and some cool green grass under our feet. Whether you live in a climate with four seasons or no seasons, taking time to notice the difference between them is very healing to the soul - it helps connect us with the earth!

What season are you experiencing in your area of world? What part of it do you enjoy most?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Ethel Gloves and Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

I Occasionally Want But I Don't Need

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


















I'm not sure about you, but for many of the people I know I am the only person they know who lives a simple, green, frugal and downshifted life. Many of them would never elect to go without their SUV's, drive through dinners, busy schedules, quest to climb the career ladder, extensive clothing/shoe/jewelry collections, the convenience of disposable diapers or even the use of paper plates {I have a friend who uses paper plates, cups and cutlery for all their meals - going through 72 of each per week!}. One of the main things I've noticed is they struggle to understand why anyone would choose to wash dishes by hand, hang clothes to dry, live without a vehicle, wait for books at the library and wonder how anyone can want those things. I try never to seem perfect or totally put together either on my blog or in real life and I certainly share that there are times I do really wish for a little bit of convenience {usually after a long hard day!} and yes, occasionally I want. The other day after a long day, I thought about all the things I occasionally want and I wrote them down. A few minutes later I countered my wants by identifying what my needs were...

I want to drive a car down a big open road, listen to tunes on the radio & gaze at the sky...but I don't need to own a car.

I want a week of no dishes...but I don't need a dishwasher, I have two hands that work perfectly well

I want a weekend where I don't have to make time to take my food waste to the city compost when my vermicomposting worms aren't quite up to the challenge...but I don't need that time, in fact I like my weekly walk and I certainly like my worms {most days!}

I want to be able to eat 3 mouthfuls of a cookie {which contains gluten} without spending the night with skin bleeding {like it is tonight!}...but I don't need to eat cookies to survive, in fact going without cookies is a good way to make my frugal budget stretch further

I want to have some reprieve from life & eczema by sitting on a beach in the sun for a week or more {just like my Dr. recommended!} and enjoying a good 5* service...but I don't need anything except inner peace and the earth certainly doesn't need those carbon miles!

I want a much healthier bank account...but I don't need anything more than trust, sacrifice and perseverance and I certainly don't need more work hours to give me that bigger bank account

I want a microwave to make my meals in 2 minutes flat...but I don't need things to be ready at the push of a button, there is a rhythm to waiting for good nourishing food that fills my evening routine, which I'd be sad to say goodbye to

I want a week of no dishes...but I don't need a dishwasher, I have two hands that work perfectly well

I want a new wardrobe that doesn't need to be built around my skin issues or a non-existent budget... but I don't need anymore than I have, even if compared to the world it is more than frugal.

I want my clothes to be dried in a dryer with no creases and no extra work of hanging to dry...but I don't need a dryer and there is something exceptionally mentally cleansing about hanging clothes to dry!

I want land with lambs, donkeys, rabbits and chickens {oh my!}... but I don't need anything more than myself in order to live the frugal, simple and green life.


Once I finished writing out my list, I reflected on what life would be like if I had all those wants. The truth is, my life wouldn't be something I personally would want to lead. I have enjoyed my little journey in downshifting, learning self-sufficiency skills and the peaceful rhythm which finds its way into my daily and weekly life. I like that my choices reflect the values I have and that I aim to tread lightly on this earth. Yes I occasionally have hard days, every so often I wish there was a little button I could push to make that particular day easier, but the truth is, I wouldn't swap my new life, or my new choices, to return to my old ways. Nope, no going back!

What things do you occasionally want that you don't need? Do you think about what life would be like if you weren't on this journey? Could you ever go back?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Holidaying away from the web

Aurora @ Island Dreaming

I am writing this post whilst lazing in bed, 200 miles from my computer and Internet connection. I had considered rescheduling my post for when we returned home, but realized that this was a good opportunity to try out a much hyped piece of modern technology - the smartphone. This isn't my own, but my much more gadget minded darling other half's, who over the years has amassed quite a collection of electronic wizardry and the assorted tangle of spare cables and wiring that go with it.

This week we are away visiting family, who aren't connected to the Internet. If I was at home, I would be logging on first thing in the morning and probably also in the evening too. If something interesting is occurring somewhere in the world - and there always seems to be something - then I would probably be checking in on that during spare moments too. I have blog feeds to catch up on, email to check and reply to, news sites to read (all of which seem to offer live blogs of various news stories on a seemingly daily basis now). I occasionally take a look at Facebook just in case anyone is trying to contact me. Then there are the forums that I check into on an on-off basis. All of which come embedded with hyperlinks that allow me to hop around the web reading the background, sideshows and tangents of every story I come across.

All in all I could probably fill entire days with online activity. At the end of which I would have achieved very little of actual value and would have a headache. Most of what I do online is a complete energy and time drain that detracts from the things that I would like to be doing. This week I haven't had that luxury. This tiny screen and infuriating touch keyboard, combined with very temperamental mobile broadband has made all of my usual online activity a chore. It has also drawn my attention to the things that I really miss being able to do, the things that when I get home I should use my nice ergonomic PC and Internet connection for.

My own priorities are to streamline my blog feeds and decide whether I need to be reading them everyday. At the same time I would like to be writing and tweaking my own blog a little more often (though I blame pregnancy related brain fog for my recent reluctance to string words together), simply because I enjoy it. I plan to check news sites no more than a handful of times a week and to ignore all the hyperlinks encouraging me to delve into non-stories far more deeply than I need to, instead using the Internet to research things that I actually need and want to know about, not the things I "should" know about.

Everyone's priorities will be different, so how do you manage you time online? Do you find yourself distracted constantly or have you managed to strike a balance?



Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bloom Where You Are Planted

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















When I think about the culture around me, I think it is a culture of excuses; the truth, is I used to be a part of that culture. All around me I hear the statement if only; if only we had the money to have land, we would hang out sheets to dry, if only we had a bigger kitchen, we would make jam, if only we could afford it, I wouldn't work so much. I used to believe those lies myself. I used to think everyone else had easier options because they had houses in the countryside, or more money, or less demanding jobs. Slowly but surely through small, little steps in my frugal, simple and green journey I began to see the truth.

-I may not have land to plant, but I can grow herbs in my kitchen
-I may not have acres for chickens, but I can volunteer at a farm
-I may not have a garden, but I can hang my sheets inside
-I may not have a big country kitchen, but I can make jam and preserves and cook from scratch
-I may not have solar panels, but I can reduce, reuse and recycle
-I may not have a big garden compost, but I have my vermicomposter in my little city flat

The truth I discovered is this: in almost any circumstance, you can choose to bloom where you are planted, or choose to stay underground. Listing all the reasons you can't simplify, or make frugal, green choices, will never let you break through the barrier to a purposeful life. Thinking everyone else has it easier, or is able to make choices you can't is debilitating. But when you see a life filled with choices and options and gratitude, you begin to bloom into something that grows before your very eyes. Your life may look different to others, you may have unique strengths, challenges and barriers, but your bloom can be just as beautiful.

I'm attempting to choose, even in more challenging times, to bloom where I'm planted, are you?