Showing posts with label Redefining Normal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Redefining Normal. Show all posts

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

A glimpse of how extreme poverty can affect me.

by Eilleen


Me and my children


Hello everyone,

I hope you are all having a good week. Readers of my personal blog would know that a couple of months ago, I went on a week-long $2 a day challenge for Live Below the Line. During that week, I was not allowed to live on existing items in my pantry/fridge, nor was I allowed to accept freebies or others offers of meals. Instead, I was to live on $2 a day for all my food and drink. (The reason for why $2, is in this post.)

Having only $2 a day for my food and drink gave me a very small inkling on what it is like to be in extreme poverty. I found the challenge difficult and I posted in my personal blog what I learned and I thought I'd share it here:
When stressed and under pressure, I made bad nutritional choices. This tells me that I am not immune to media/advertising that tell me that non-nutritious food is "fun" and offered an "escape" from the stress. I never realised that I could succumb to emotional eating but there you go.
As a result of my bad nutritional choices, I felt soooo tired all the time. Littlest things like getting dinner done, getting to work in time, organising my children's everyday school needs became an effort.

That despite my bad nutritional choices, there was no joy in my eating during those 5 days. It was a very strange combination of being hungry but not looking forward to eating. Food was just a means to stop hunger pangs. I certainly did not want to eat more of the same!

Without joy in my eating, and without the ability to eat what everyone around me ate, I felt isolated. I was surrounded by friends and family and I ate my own food while they ate theirs...and I felt disconnected. This highlighted for me the importance of the little things we do together to connect and without it, one's entire world becomes different.

I also realised during my $2 a day week, that if this was for real, I probably can not consume according to my values... and that my values would drastically change. And if my values would drastically change, then I would make choices using a value system that would be completely foreign to the way I am now.

And I guess this highlights for me how vastly poverty can affect a person. I wonder, if I was living on the poverty line, would I be emotionally and physically capable to get my kids to school regularly? Would I be able get a job? Would I be able to function and make choices in a way that is socially acceptable? Would I still be "me"? And I suspect that the answer to all of this would be "no". I probably would not.

The more I think of my experience and my constant efforts to live more simply, I realise that living simply is one way that can help prevent one's slide to extreme poverty. If I ever lose my main source of income, I am able to gain some precious time to try to recover because:

1. I do not live above my means. I have a comparably modest mortgage and I do not have a lot of stuff that requires a lot of maintenance. I also make extra payments against my mortgage - not only to pay the debt off faster but also it is an insurance that I can draw on if my circumstances change drastically.

2. I have the skills that already help me how to live frugally. I know how to cook, look after and repair most things. Gone are the days when I had a "disposable" mentality (when I devalued my stuff because I can just buy another).

3. I also now have a vast network of friends who can help me and I am slowly overcoming my reluctance to ask for help. This is actually a big one. I have realised that asking for help is part of being in a community. I love helping others and I need to give others that gift by asking them to help me. By practising how to ask for help for little things, then I am more capable to ask for help for big things if my circumstances change (and sometimes by asking for help on little things, one can prevent having to ask for help for bigger things).

Through the Live Below the Line Challenge, I now know that what is at stake is not only my way of life but also my values and my children's future. This reinforces to me the importance of living simply, frugally and consuming ethically.

I wish you all well.

P.S. Joyful asked in the comments below if my children joined me in this challenge. The answer is, no they did not. They wanted to, but I did not let them. My children watched me eat my food while they ate theirs and we talked a lot about poverty during meal times that week! My daughter wrote a speech (for a competition) on what she learned during that week and I shared it in my personal blog. For those interested, this is the link to her speech:
http://consumption-rebellion.blogspot.com/2011/05/2-day-challenge-what-my-daughter.html

Monday, 4 July 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, 20 June 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, 18 June 2011

Line drying in the winter (what's the big deal?)

by Eilleen


Hello everyone!

I hope you are all well. I can't help but smile at recent posts lately about summer. I think its wonderful that we have so many writers here from all over the world and I get to enjoy their excitement of a warmer season.

As I sit here in the middle of the day, its currently 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Farenheit). Yep its winter here at my nation's capital. :) I don't mind winter. I actually prefer it to heat but winter does have its challenges - exercise being one of them. Its so tempting to just curl up under a warm blanket with a good book rather than go outside for a bike ride or run.

But I digress...

I thought I'd use this post to add to Chiot Run's post and Sadge's post (below)about line drying. I'm lucky enough to live in a place where line drying is still quite common. While most people do have dryers, it is rare to find someone who doesn't at some point during the year, line dry their laundry. And this goes for winter.

Line drying in the winter is something I have taken for granted - something that you just *do*. In the winter, I tend to dry the clothes on drying racks. If its sunny (like today), I put it outside during the day, under my porch, where it is cold but the sun and wind can get to it, then bring it in at night. If its totally miserable outside, I just place the rack inside the house. It only takes about 24 hours for clothes to dry.

Today's laundry under my porch

I am lucky enough that its not unusual here for people to see each other's laundry drying in racks or on a clothes line. I didn't even realise it was such a big no no until I visited my relatives in the United States and I realised there was some sort of stigma over seeing each other's clothes drying on a line. I'm not exactly sure why there is that stigma. After all, we do see those clothes on their person, so why the shyness with it on a line?? As for underwear - well again, everyone wears them and its not like we're seeing dirty underwear. But, for those who can't quite get their head around others potentially seeing their underwear on a line, my mother has always hung hers in the middle of the line or middle of the drying rack so you can't see the underwear (unless if one is sorting through one's line, in which case, they must be a close enough friend or family to do so!).

The other thing I have been asked by those living overseas is: "What about mold?" Well, in the 20 odd years of line drying in the winter, I've never had that problem. From my understanding, mold needs two things to grow - damp and warmth. Here in Australia's capital, winter is definitely not warm! For those who are really worried, you can presoak in cold water and vinegar then wash clothes on hot, with another vinegar rinse as a fabric softener before line drying. That apparently protect clothes against mold.

Actually the only time I got mold in my clothes was in the tropics - and that was for clothes just hanging in the wardrobe! The high humidity and warmth got to the clothes....hmm....maybe I should try the vinegar/cold water trick then!

Anyway, I'm off to cook a roast lamb now in the slow cooker (love winter food!) then curl up under a blanket and read a good book.

I wish you all a good weekend!

Saturday, 7 May 2011

"Work"

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion (note that I had posted this in my personal blog last month but thought it would be good to share here as well)

Hello everyone,

A couple of months back, I posted here a little ramble about my thoughts on pocket money, rich and poor. In that post, I wrote a little bit about my thoughts on "work" and I thought I'd expand those thoughts here.

See I like work. Its true I do. And when I say I like work, I don't just mean paid employment - I am talking about all the things that people call work - making my house nice and clean, ironing my clothes, and re-ordering/decluttering my house. Most of all, I enjoy helping people with their work.

To me work is primarily about being social and being healthy. Since the dawn of time, we have worked together to survive - to hunt or grow our food, to build our houses and our towns. Through work, I have learned how to get things done with people who are very different from me and most of all I have received the social benefits that come with being productive. "Work" is a tie that binds.

My children walking someone else's dog - not because they wanted money but because they wanted to help out...and they really love this dog. :P

The weird thing is that for some reason there is a predominant view that "work" is something that we should try to lessen. The less work we have then the happier we should be. Is that really true?

I don't know about you, but when I don't work...then I feel:

a) overwhelmed - because I am unorganised and it takes me longer to get ready for the day because everything is all over the place,

b) socially inept - because I inevitably arrive at social gatherings unprepared or with the wrong things

c) lethargic - because for some reason, the less I do, the more tired I am and therefore find it harder to even start working.

d) unproductive - because...well, hardly anything is getting done.

On the other hand, when I work, I get the satisfaction of seeing the results of my work and the self-confidence that comes with knowing I have done a good job. I am active and have more energy. And best of all, my world opens up as I connect with people who are very different from me and through those connections, I know that I have many sources of support.

Now some of you may have noticed a benefit of work that I have not mentioned - money. That's because to me money is only a secondary outcome of work. See, I love my work. So I pay attention to it. I spend time learning all the different ways to do it and take care to get it done right and well.

And because I want to learn about it and take care of it, then at my paid work this approach has resulted in an increased income in the form of promotions and bonuses. At my unpaid work at home and to my community, it has meant increased savings because I have been able to make things or fix things, and swap or receive things from others.

But while I enjoy the security that comes with an increased income and increased savings, I know that it has come about because I have loved work in the first place and appreciate the joy it can bring into my life.

And so to me, the best thing I can pass on to my kids is a love for work itself. Because if they love work, then they will always reap the personal and social benefits and with that will be the increased income and savings that work can bring.

What about you? Do you have work that you love?

Monday, 11 April 2011

Lessons from the bus stop

By Aurora @ IslandDreaming

One of the joys of public transport is that you regularly end up in conversation with interesting folk you wouldn’t otherwise meet. Waiting at the bus stop yesterday, an elderly lady struck up a conversation with me. I think that she had noticed the gardening magazine in my handbag and the conversation quickly progressed from small talk about the weather to the joys of gardening and growing food.

She and her husband had maintained an allotment at my own allotment site for most of their adult lives, only giving it up when they turned 80 and the journey to and fro was getting a bit much. She spoke enthusiastically about all the benefits she had got from maintaining it and how she had passed that on to her daughter and grandchildren. She still involved herself in the community, regularly attending the jumble sale near the allotments where everyone went to sell off their excess plants and have a chat over a cup of tea. She still maintained her home garden, took the dog for long walks every day and socialised regularly.

The lady had been visiting her husband at the hospital where I work. He is 86, deaf and almost blind. She sighed and confessed that she was annoyed that whilst he was elderly in years, he was also now turning into an ‘old man’ in front of her eyes – he was becoming obstinate and curmudgeonly – and he had absolutely no excuse for it in her eyes. I reflected that she was lucky to have made it through 64 years of marriage before this happened - I have a 29 year old curmudgeon at home after just 7 years together. It turned out the allotment had played an important part in keeping her marriage fresh – ‘you do need somewhere to go to escape from each other every so often’.

My own darling 29 year old curmudgeon was dragged in for humorous effect only I must stress. However, the contentment expressed by this lady during our conversation is something I have rarely come across in my own age group. Success has been judged in our culture by how much money you have, how many degrees you have, how big your home is and how many expensive shiny toys you own (and how often you replace them). In short, just how much of the planet's resources do you consume on your way through life? The end result of this thinking for many is worry, restlessness and ever increasing debts - and it is very hard in the midst of misery to change tack and find a happier direction. 

This lady was friendly, good humoured and active, still interested in the world around her and obviously had a family and community that she had built and involved herself in. No doubt she had made many wrong turns in life, but at some point in the preceding years it seemed she had struck upon the formula for a contented life and ran with it. For all I know she may have had a big house, degrees and lots of shiny toys, but they weren't important enough for her to mention them during our meandering chat. Based upon what she had told me, she had led a good life. 

One day I would like to look back on a long life and wax lyrical about the contentment I had experienced and the lessons I had learnt (and my gardening successes and failures).  I would like my success to one day be measured by the good feeling I had engendered, the wisdom I had accrued and the damage I had repaired, or at least the damage I hadn't caused. But what if I don’t make it to such a vintage? There is no guarantee that I have all the time in the world to build friendships, potter about the garden, look after my health and well being, smell the flowers and find meaningful work to do – and share the fruits of it.

How will you know if you have lived a good life? What changes are you going to make to get there? When are you going to start?

Sunday, 20 March 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?

Friday, 11 February 2011

Pocket money, income, "rich", "poor"...

by Eilleen

Hello everyone,

I was talking to someone a few months ago and he asked me "if you don't tie pocket money to chores, then how will your kids ever learn that money needs to be earned?" (see here for my approach to pocket money) We ended up having a long rambling conversation about income and what it means to be financially "rich" or "poor".

Now on the subject of kids learning that money needs to be earned.....To be honest, I actually don't think this is an issue. I believe that its more important to impart the love of work for its personal and social benefits rather than the income it can bring. I believe that one should work because it makes one feel good and allows one to participate more effectively in their community. I think if you love to work, then you will get an income...and the level of income should not be an indicator of whether you are "rich" or "poor".

I think what defines "rich" or "poor" is not so much the level of income but the level of spending.*

Knowing how to spend money wisely is hard work! I think its actually harder work than earning money. Looking back, I've had an income for over 20 years. That income has steadily grown from casual wage to minimum wage to the level it is now....and when I look back, I have been "rich" and "poor" in those 20 years, regardless of my income level.

I have been "rich" when I had less debt and a very clear commitment to my goals. I was rich when I was still at school on a casual wage and I wanted to buy a TV, VCR and stereo. I was rich when I was on minimum wage, living realistically within my budget, whilst saving up for a deposit on a house. I am rich now as a sole income earner for my family, with very clear priorities for my spending and savings whilst resisting the urge to accept offers from the bank to borrow more so I can have things now.

I have been "poor" when I had too much debt and no idea what to spend my money on. I was poor when I earned higher than the national average income and I got two credit cards with high limits. I was poor when I was promoted to an "executive" and I got myself into debt in order to live up to what I thought was the lifestyle that was expected of me. I was poor when I wanted things "now" rather saving up for them.

So for me, rich or poor doesn't have anything to do with what I was earning but had everything to do with my commitment to spend wisely in order to achieve greater goals.

What about you? Have you experienced "rich" and "poor"?


Saturday, 5 February 2011

Realistic Budgets

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


















Every now and then I think I can trim more off my budget and I try to convince myself that I don't really need to have as many items budgeted for in my monthly plan. Little conversations will run through my head, the more determined side convincing myself I don't really need to keep adding to my health fund because I so rarely get sick. That same voice would seem so sensible when it suggests I don't need a clothing jar because I don't need new clothes. And yet again the voice rears it's ugly head when it tells me mad money is just a frivolous spend. Only what the weaker voice didn't state loudly enough is that mad money is great fall back money, new clothes may be needed if your winter boots break in half and medication may need to be bought if you suffer from eczema.

Living the frugal life can be a worthy pursuit, but if you aren't careful it can make life more complicated instead of helping you simplify. Sometimes in my effort to have as simple a budget as possible I have actually made my life more difficult. Overspending because you haven't spent enough, pulling money from the wrong place, dipping into other funds and feeling overwhelmed are in direct contrast to the simplicity the frugal life can bring. And when you aren't realistic about your needs & aren't actively and practically planning for the worst - you can be in a situation which is a bit like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

I use a jar system to allocate my money and the truth is, whether I like it or not, whether I add in $1 or $50 a week I need to budget each week & month for all of my costs. Even if I wish I could eliminate more in every season of my life I need money jars which represent the truth. And right now my *truth* is I need jars for:

Grocery Shopping
Bills
Health
Pet Costs
Emergencies
Giving
Clothing

And while health and clothing usually don't entail monthly spends, knowing there's some money rattling around in a jar to help deal with inconveniences like itchy skin & boots which split in half {and are much needed items since we have yet another 2 months of snow storms ahead of us} helps me live a simple, green & frugal life!

How do you keep your budget organized and on track? How do you make cut backs that are realistic? What are your budget necessities?

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Eleven Ways To Reduce Waste In 2011

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















This year I'm fine tuning a few of my routines, beginning new challenges and trying to be purposeful about reducing waste. Here are the top 11 ways I'm reducing waste in 2011!

1. I've begun vermicomposting in my urban apartment! I have a box full of red worms which eat all my kitchen scraps! I was a tad nervous in the beginning, but it has been exceptionally easy! As I don't have a garden to compost this is the perfect solution!

2. I use re-usable batteries and charge them up as needed!

3. I take my own bags to the grocery shop

4. I have stopped buying plastic wrapped fruit & veg as much as possible, taking my own bags to place produce in. When I do have to buy something pre-wrapped, I re-use the wrapping

5. If I'm going out for coffee or tea {rare!} I try to remember to bring my own thermos or re-usable cup

6. I use reusable toilet paper {and after a few months it seems 100% normal now, so much so I'll talk about it in conversation and not remember 99.9% of people have no clue what I mean!!}

7. I use reusable feminine products!

8. I don't use any paper towels for cleaning or kitchen messes

9. Before I throw something away I check that I can't donate it

10. I try not to buy anything that can't be recycled or composted!

11. I've gone paperless with all my bills and statements!


I'm amazed that 11 simple steps have basically brought me to a place of not having garbage, or at the very least a very small amount of rubish each week. On top of that I save a huge amount of money by making these small changes in my life!


How do you cut down on waste? Do you find the measures you take save you money too?

Monday, 10 January 2011

Gluten Freedom - Not Quite

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

With winter full-on in our location, comfort food and warm fires come to mind. However, a few years ago my husband's life long digestive problems required a more in-depth look. He was diagnosed with many food allergies, and foods he liked started dropping off the menu like flies. The items that gave him the worst fits were potatoes and corn or dishes with those vegetables added. Low on the allergy tests were things like yeast, sugar and egg whites. All pretty easy to avoid, unless you really, really like baked goods like breads and desserts. As foods dropped away and he was still having occasional bouts of digestive problems, his doctor suggested maybe a gluten intolerance could be still bothering him.

Everywhere you look there are gluten free recipes for everything. For us though, that approach didn't really fit. Too many additives and things we didn't want to buy or eat just to have that brownie or bread. We - he the eater, and me the cook- decided that just cutting back would be a better approach. Since he wasn't really that gluten sensitive, maybe going back to a simpler time when desserts were actually a treat, not everyday fare, would be the way to go. Besides, cutting out sugar and refined carbs would benefit all of us.


Expanding on the treat idea, we decided we would just have one or two items a week that contained gluten. Maybe pizza, or pie. And I pretty much quit making two crust pies, whether savory or sweet. We found we didn't miss the extra crust, and in small amounts the weekly gluten or a little yeast in a pizza crust did not cause any digestive upsets. I think if I was trying the gluten free recipes for everything we would still be eating too much sugar and other things like high calorie nut flours we don't really need and are very expensive.

We all feel better, and realized that we were all a little sluggish with the baked goods and cereals in our diet. I realize that this won't help if you have a serious problem with gluten like celiac disease, but just a few changes in our kitchen yielded great results.

Have you made similar changes in your cooking and eating in regards to food sensitivities and allergies?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

One Hundred Ways To Save Money in 2011 Part II

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Part one of this series can be found here! Hopefully people found some helpful suggestions in the previous post, today I'll be looking at another 50 suggestions!

51. Keep 15% to 20% of your weekly grocery budget for stocking up on items when they are on sale.
52. See what you can produce/make {hats, scarves, gloves, soap, jams etc} and organize a swap with someone else whose items you need, such as someone who keeps chickens/hens and has eggs to give away.
53. Search for local farms and see what they sell in bulk, friends of mine buy gallons of wheat & honey for 20% of the cost the shops by purchasing it in very large quantities.
54. Can produce in the summer.
55. Buy bulk produce from farms in the summer and make pies, tomato sauce, crumbles, apple sauce, pear sauce. One year I made 18 apple pies,18 apple crisps and 12 peach pies and froze them!
56. Get your pets from rescue centres, my local centre charges $50 and that includes all the vaccines needed as well as neutering/spaying and micro chipping!
57. Keep a large stock of pet food, if you happened on lean times it is one less worry!
58. Consider getting pet insurance!
59. Learn to knit
60. Learn to sew
61. Learn to make your own shampoo & conditioner
62. Learn to make your own soap
63. Keep a list in your purse of household needs and always pop into second hand shops and/or garage sales to see if any of your items are available at a reasonable cost, but be strict with yourself no purchasing of anything that isn't on the list!
64. Ask your friends if they'd be willing to sell you the clothing their child has outgrown.
65. Organize a clothing swap with friends
66. Attend mom to mom sales and twin sales
67. Start a baby-sitting coop
68. Search for any shops the specialize in second hand furniture - I bought a wonderful couch and a fabulous retro chair for less than $100 {and they both look new!} at a wonderful charity shop that specializes in furnishings!
69. If you are buying new, always arrange to purchase items during the sales.
70. Do your research on prices pre sale {so you know if you are getting a good deal!}
71. Don't be afraid to ask for discounts on large purchases.
72. Consider buying the store model - I did this today as I needed a table, the table was $199 on sale but the sales person gave it to me for $50! $50 for a beautiful new table that was the store model {and it was right at the back of the store with very little traffic so is in great condition!}
73. If you don't have a good rapport with a sales person, go find another one or go back another day!
74. Ask the shops if they have any sales coming up!
75. Buy yourself gift cards, I purchase a couple of cards and put a balance of about $20 on them, this means on the rare occasion I choose to purchase a coffee {usually because I'm meeting a group of friends at a coffee shop} it doesn't cost me anything.
76. Ask for gift cards for Christmas gifts.
77. Get your DVD's from the library
78. Join a wool co-op if you knit
79. Keep lights turned off
80. In the evenings light candles
81. Keep your TV & computer off when not in use {and ensure the power is fully off and they aren't on standby}
82. Turn the tap off as you brush your teeth
83. Take quick showers
84. If you go to the gym or swimming shower there
85. Learn to love simple meals, like a baked potato with salad.
86. If you eat meat, make it an accompaniment to a meal not the main part of the meal!
87. Use nuts, seeds and beans to get protein
88. Shop around for medication, prices vary greatly
89. Ditch the make-up {or at least use bare bones!}
90. Ditch the perfume {or keep it only for special occasions}
91. Hang clothes up after you've worn them, this helps keep them looking nice & reduces the amount of washing you have to do
92. Find a cobbler and see if your shoes can be repaired rather than thrown out
93. Buy plants instead of flowers, they last for years!
94. Keep a tally book in your purse/handbag with average costs of items, this helps you know when something is worth stocking up on
95. Only allow yourself to go to the shops once a week at most
96. Suggest pot luck meals when getting together with friends and family
97. Volunteer - a great social activity at no cost!
98. Do your taxes - you never know when you'll get a refund!
99. Pay yourself each pay day - put a set amount of money into a long term account that you don't touch!
100. Get rid of your sense of entitlement - just because you work hard it doesn't mean you have a "right" to buy what you want. I ran a series about how damaging a sense of entitlement can be, part one is here, part two here and part three here.

In thinking about it, I think the greatest way to save money is to: enjoy life, find joy, search for beauty, commit to reducing your carbon impact, live purposefully and be thankful! The simple, green & frugal life is a beautiful life!

What are your tips for saving money?

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Simple Does It

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches


















Every now and then I realize I'm making a mistake, I'm over complicating life. Sometimes I feel a need to have things a certain way, like I'm failing if my plate doesn't look, smell and taste all together epicurean. Sometimes I put so much pressure on myself to make things perfect that I seriously contemplate making something bought look homemade and fret (for a quick second!) at the fact I'll never have the skills to make something fit for a food magazine. And then a little voice inside me whispers some home truths, usually at the same time I smell toast toasting and marvel at it's succoring nature, it's ability to evoke so many wonderful emotions, it's ability to say so much about the beauty of simplicity. And somehow, by the time the butter is spread, toast has taught me a valuable lesson. Food, like life, doesn't need to be as complicated as we make it. Sure it's good to occasionally stretch oneself, but one's feet need to stay firmly planted on the ground.

With the stress of moving and new challenges, coupled with a few kitchen baking disasters (I may never try to make lemon tart again...) I've decided, as I ease into winter (-12 tonight....brr) and long work hours that I need to take lessons from toast with butter. Sometimes simple is all you really need. And so this week, I noticed a little change in my kitchen. Gone were the piles of dishes, dread about what to prepare and grumbling and instead simple, basic, joy.

And for the curious, my new simple favourites are:

Breakfasts
- Toast with peanut butter
- Yogurt with homemade granola, almonds & fruit

Dinners
- Fish with salad & green beans
- Homemade soup with homemade rolls
- Homemade curry with rice & veggies
- Beans on toast :)

Snacks
- fruit with peanut butter or almond butter
- cheese and crackers
- canned apple sauce

Lunches
- leftovers
- cut up veggies with hummus
- winter veggie pasta

















One day I'm sure I'll try something more complicated, but right now I'm savoring in the simple. And after a simple meal and a simple evening spent knitting, my heart and soul tell me I'm in the place I'm meant to be, even if I never succeed at lemon tart!

Do you get little reminders to focus on the simple things? What does your food say about you?

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Skills to Survive

I had an interesting conversation with some friends the other day about the skill set many of us have in our modern world and the skill set people had 200 years ago. Many of us now have skills that aren't directly linked to our survival. My skills as an business manager earn me a salary of money which I then give to a grocery store to buy food which it purchased from someone else. If something drastic happened in our world and we could no longer earn money, or if we could no longer buy food at a grocery store many people would be in a huge pickle. This is because our skills are no longer directly linked to our survival.

There are many of us that are trying to learn these basic survival skills once again, things like growing food, raising poultry, hunting, eating seasonally, canning, baking, building, sewing, knitting, spinning, etc. Some of us were lucky and grew up with parents that grew food, mom's that cooked from scratch and dad's that built furniture in the garage. Others weren't so lucky. Even if we were lucky enough to have parents that were into that sort of thing, most likely we didn't pay attention or hated gardening, or perhaps they just didn't do some things you are now interested in. As a result many of us are now trying to learn these skills through the internet, books, videos and from others.

One of the things I've noticed as I strive to learn new skills is that there's a huge overload of information. It can be difficult to glean the good stuff from the bad. I find it amusing sometimes when I read a book about something like keeping chickens that was written by someone that didn't grow up with chickens and just learned about them a few years ago. They often say things in the book that seem completely ridiculous and go against the way nature intended things to be. Books can be a good source of info, but they can also be completely wrong or not as in depth as they should be. Sometimes they completely gloss over important information. When researching a new topic I usually read 5-10 books about it and then assimilate all the information from the various sources. Usually I end up with a pretty good idea of how it should be done.

I find a lot of wonderful information on blogs and through internet friends (like all of you). Blogs are a great way to connect with others that are like-minded not only for advice and information, but also to have a support network. The connections I've made through blogging are not only a great source of information, but also a wonderful network of support!

I have also been working on building a network of local people that have some of the skills I don't posses so I can purchase or barter for their goods or services and learn from them. I have yet to be able to raise chickens or keep dairy cows, but I have a small local farm where I get these items. I know that I can rely on them to provide me with quality milk, eggs and meat and I'm so much happier giving them my money. Bartering is also a great option when you have developed a small local network for the things you need. One spring I traded 50 tomato seedlings for a good amount of pastured meat from a local farmer. I have also traded elderberries and other items for items I can't produce myself.

I am now confident that I have many of the skills needed to survive should I ever need them. Lets hope we never need these skills for some major disaster, but it may well be that they'll come in handy during a localized natural disaster or even an extended season of unemployment. I'm more comfortable knowing that I have a safety net, beyond our monetary emergency fund, in the skills I've taken the time to cultivate over the last 5 years. I would hate to be scrambling to learn these things when I needed them most.

What kinds of survival skills have you been learning over the past couple years? Where do you find the best information?

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 Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

These Boots Were Made For Walking...Going Car Free!

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

















Just shy of a month ago, I moved abroad. I left my little eco friendly car behind (no room for it on the plane you see!) and arrived car-free, but not quite care-free. The decision to go car-less for as long as possible was both purposeful and intentional and while I had a small moan yesterday on my blog, the reality is, I have found it a very blessed experience. I suppose, for me, owning a car is like owning a TV, it provides opportunities, but it is very easy to over-use. If a car, or TV, charged $10 for a 30 minute use and you had to pay to drive/watch I would probably find it easier to choose to walk when the car is in the driveway or find something else to do rather than stare at a screen...but alas "free" at point of entry is too tempting at times. And while I didn't own a car from age 17-24 I have gotten a tad too comfortable with the convenience of it all!

The weather has been hot, well over 100 degrees each day, yet my commitment to walking everywhere has meant I've simply found a rhythm which works for me, a rhythm which makes me be more purposeful and sacrificial, which chooses priority over apathy. I walk to a pool and swim (to exercise and cool off), walk to shops, job interviews, visit friends, run errands, go to the bank, volunteer or pretty much do anything else. Most of where I need to go is no more than about a 75 minute walk each way and to be honest, walking has opened up a whole new world. While I'm in a smallish city on my walks I've seen deer, beavers, raccoons, groundhogs, robins, blue jays, cardinals and an adorable yellow bird I've not yet been able to name. Friends of mine who go the same route in their cars have never, in 10 years (compared to my month), seen any such beauties. Through walking I've met people, happened on community farmers markets, found new places to explore and felt an incredible connection not offered by the disconnect which is an easy consequence of using a car to get from point A to B, B to C, C to D. I've noticed that many people are happy to "go for a walk" but not to "have to walk" to a specific point. Many people have asked me how I've walked in this heat and the answer is, I try to accomplish tasks early in the morning (which has provided a natural rhythm to my days), I wear long sleeves and a hat, I drink water and when it gets too much I simply "pull over" and find a new place to explore for a bit of a breather! I've also found that walking everywhere has made me need to be organized, I can't simply "nip to the shops" when the shops are a 65 minute walk each way, so being purposeful about my time has become a necessity!

The reality is, at some point I may "need" to get a car, because in my line of work 90% of jobs advertised list one as essential for being hired. Many years ago, I remember seeing a neighbour who lived 40 feet (1 house away) from the postbox drive down her drive and stop at the postbox, collect her mail and drive back. I asked her if she forgot something and she said she simply couldn't be bothered to walk. I hope, my couple of months with no car makes me choose to connect when possible rather than disconnect, helps me keep with the simple, frugal and green commitment of walking whenever possible and makes me less like my old neighbour and more like the person I am today.

While I know for many a car is a need, if for some reason I find a job which doesn't require a car, I am seriously considering trying to go a year without. When you add up car insurance, tax, petrol, break-down cover and (for many) the car payments, compared to my two working feet it seems like a very expensive want...or I could find some sort of a pay as you go system, $10 for 30 minutes which I think would mean I choose my feet a whole lot more and sitting behind the wheel a whole lot less.

Have you ever gone without a car out of necessity or circumstance? What did it teach you? Did you find it a simple, green and frugal choice? Have you ever cut down on your use of your car and how did you keep yourself motivated when it was there to be used?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Pass It On

I have been thinking a lot here lately about education and passing on knowledge. I submitted the forms necessary for our area to be "official" homeschoolers this year, as my daughter is of the mandatory reporting age. Our reasons for keeping our children home are numerous and varied. From personal experience, there is so much learning that should happen at home, anyway, that it made a lot of sense for us. Much of that knowledge is of the homemaking variety. My daughter and son can be whatever they choose when they are older, but I expect them to be able to make dinner for themselves, sew clothes if needed, plant a garden and various other homesteading tasks that get easily left behind in modern schooling.

Recently I was given the opportunity to teach some classes at a local farm/store, and I have loved it. I love that the classes exist, period, really, though, as the fact that people will pay to learn something like making jams, making soaps, sewing aprons and cooking from scratch, tells us that priorities are changing, and for the better. There are so many crafts and skills that are getting lost-lost in a fast paced society and also due to changes in priorities. There was a time when schools (and grandmothers) taught girls how to do simple homemaking tasks-basics at the very least-so they could maintain a home when they were older. It didn't matter what path they were going to take-working full-time, having children or not-they needed basic skills. Young men were required to learn how to change the oil in a car and simple woodworking. Currently many of these programs are being cut from schools due to lack of funding and families no longer pass that sort of knowledge on, if they even possess it. I think the priorities of our society have shifted. What is even more troubling is that the older generations have even been removed from these skills in many cases. I know many families where the matriarchs or patriarchs are just as clueless about how to perform tasks many of us in the simple/frugal/green movement do everyday as their younger counterparts are.

Luckily, those of us who have learned, either from the internet, friends, grandparents who have been there, books or other classes are seeing the need to pass on that knowledge. I love showing others how to do things-whether it is mending a garment, recycling a sheet into something new and fun, baking bread or canning the season's bounty. I love to do it whether I am getting paid (which is just a nice bonus for a one income household) or not. I think education is vital for the survival of communities. Many people hear me talk about something and their response is "I didn't know you could do that!". It is important to keep up with our public display of the things we do to open up opportunities to teach others. It isn't that there isn't something for us to learn from folks who live faster, more modern "normal" lives, but much of what we do is getting lost and the only way to preserve these skills, which may be necessary someday-we cannot know-is to teach them, both to the next generation and to current ones.

I end in saying how very tickled I was about the attendance of the sewing class I co-taught over the weekend. A very close friend and I taught an intro to sewing class, and helped the ladies there to sew simple aprons. They were giddy that there was an easily accessible outlet to learn something of the sort, and we were happy to pass the knowledge on. The thing that got me was the ages of the people there; from a teenager (who turned red every time we mentioned tagging her in a picture of her in her apron on facebook for all her friends to see-which we had no intention of doing, but she was so darn cute) to ladies in their thirties and forties. The bread baking class last month had ladies in their fifties. It is awesome to see people willing to learn, no matter their age, and being able to make that happen. If those who have the knowledge do not pass it on, whether to their children or others, it will be lost. Knowledge is one of our most valuable resources, and one that is both easily wasted and easily given. I hope more people take opportunities to give it. It is so terribly fulfilling to see someone use their new skills, and in knowing that they now have the chance to pass it along.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

A Frugal Virtue - Patience

by Kate
Living The Frugal Life

I was not brought up in a particularly frugal household.  I come from a middle of the road, middle-class American family.  My parents made decent money most of the time, though there were periods when my father was laid off.  They didn't tend to indulge in big, extravagant purchases, but neither did they sock away every penny.  Looking back, I know that a lot of money trickled through my parents' fingers by way of waste, and a steady stream of small but frivolous purchases.  I wasn't taught the skills of living frugally at home, so I had to learn frugality as an adult. 

I suppose that even most people who are raised in a frugal home must do the same thing, since most of us tend to rebel at least a little from our parents.  It took me a while to apply myself seriously to the study of frugality.  I went through a learning phase, really not so very long ago, when I read the books and actively looked for all sorts of frugal tips, techniques, and advice.  All those things are useful.  But I also found that there were a few larger, overarching values or virtues that profoundly shape a frugal life.  One of those is patience, or the ability to delay gratification.

Patience is regarded as a virtue in the Catholic faith I was brought up in, and by many other major religions.  It's not highly regarded or promoted in western culture though.  Our entire capitalist economy and in particular the credit boom of the '90s encouraged all of us to buy it now! don't delay! hurry! give yourself a break!  In trying to live a frugal life, we have to swim hard against that tide, and struggle counter to the cult of instant gratification.  It's a hard thing to learn patience, especially least at first.  It's not a skill easily acquired, or at least it wasn't for me.  After all, most skills need practice, and when the skill you're trying to develop is patience, well... by definition, those who most lack it are going to have the hardest time developing it.  I was one of them.  It seems incredible to me now, but even waiting until my vegetables were ready for harvest was difficult for me a few years back.

Patience is indeed a virtue, and one worth deliberately cultivating if you wish to live a frugal life.  I still wrestle once in awhile with the impulse to just go out and buy something I've taken it into my head to want.  But slowly it has become easier and easier to accept that I don't need to have everything immediately.  Age helps.  I've gotten this far without whatever it is that I think I want, so how important could it really be?

Patience allows me to request books that interest me through the inter-library loan program, when my own library doesn't have a copy, rather than buying them myself.  No small benefit for households that read as much as we do.

Patience often allows me to wait for something to turn up at an annual church rummage sale, or on a craigslist listing, at a yard sale, etc. Now, when that rummage sale comes around on the calendar and the very two items I've had on my list for months are priced at about $1 each, the satisfaction is enormous.

Patience helps me believe that many tiny changes and efforts will have big effects in the long term.  It's a form of faith, and confidence in the future.  Without patience, would I ever see the benefit of saving a few pennies each day by using cloth napkins instead of buying paper?

And yes, patience helps me wait for the potato and garlic and tomato crops to ripen in their turns.   The garden teaches patience and many other virtues if we but allow it.


Those of us who choose the frugal path will likely walk that path for years.  Our goals may vary from paying off a mortgage or saving enough to buy a home without one.  We may have children to provide for, or elders to care for.  They all take discipline over the long term.  Patience and frugality are bound up with one another. Patience allows us to hold to our path when it looks unending.  It allows us to persevere when we question why we do what we do, and when we wonder whether our efforts are bringing us closer to our goals.

 Is patience a skill you've mastered?  What other skills or virtues help you live the life you want?

Friday, 30 July 2010

Enough

by Kate
Living the Frugal Life

A while ago we had the chance to spend a little time with my husband's oldest friend. In his mid-forties now, this friend is a charming, energetic, and creative entrepreneur who has built several businesses to astonishing financial success at a fairly young age. He came from a very large family of modest means and though he always had food to eat and decent clothes, he always felt poor by comparison to my husband's average middle class family. Today he's worth millions, but he's always got five new ideas he's excited about, one of which will likely play out and make him another pile of money. I like this man who is so smart and seems so "real."  He's also on the brink of a contentious and messy divorce, his second.

Now I don't mean to criticize this person in particular; as I said, I like him.  But I don't know any other people that I'd consider truly rich by even American standards.  And I want to use the wealthy as a lens to look at the wider culture of my own country.  I think this man exemplifies something that most of us are saddled with - a drive for more money, to possess more things, to enjoy more experiences that involve airplane flights, and distant hotels.  Simply put, we all want "more" - however we happen to define that.  The difference between most of us and my husband's friend is that by any rational standard, he's made enough money several times over to do all of those things.  He can literally afford to do whatever he wants.  He says he'd love to have time to teach his two children how to garden.  But what he does is continue to make more money.  That highlights for me the absence of any concept of enough in our culture.  We may not even be able to articulate what it is we long for.  But longing, acquisitiveness, desire, covetousness are so deeply inculcated in our culture that the very concept of "enough" is foreign, strange to us.  Even when we amass huge amounts of money, we seem to have no sense of satiety, contentedness, of simply having enough to be happy.  Contentment is rare, and if you are content with little, this is somehow suspect, as though it were a fault rather than a remarkable achievement.

I think about this quite a lot.  I don't mean to say that I live an ascetic life of austerity and meager pleasures.  Of course there are things I would still like to have - a hoop house or greenhouse, and a better dresser than the one I bought for my first dorm room.  And goodness knows we've committed to spending quite a bit of money to put in a passive solar heating system.  I can't say that we'd have no use for another $5,000 in our annual budget.

But I do believe that I understand better now - in a visceral sense - what some of humanity's greatest teachers have pointed at:

"Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity." - The Tao te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell

"Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship." - Buddha

"The best things in life are nearest. Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life's plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life." - Robert Louis Stevenson

"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to leave alone." - Henry David Thoreau

"He has the most who is most content with the least." - Diogenes

Each of these quotes by great thinkers had crossed my path by the time I was in my mid-twenties.  I understood them all on a superficial level.  But I did not really believe them.  I actively did not want to embrace beliefs that I thought would lead to living happily with less. I could not grasp these ideas as truths that made sense in my own life. In short, I had no sense of enough.

I do now, and I give a lot of credit to the sustainability movement for helping me reach that understanding.  But I've also seen from my own direct experience that the richest people I know are not the happiest.  The happiest people I know are not people who were born well off or who spent their youth working to amass a lot of money.  The people who have seemed both happy and "rich" to me have been utterly indifferent to status or markers of wealth - their own or anyone else's. They seemed somehow to stand outside of the material drive of our culture.  It was the literal work of their hands, their moral courage, their appreciation for what they had, their unfailing ability to find the good in other people and take them on their own terms that made an impression upon me.  Each of those people embodied a zeal for life that made them cherish each day they were given.

I haven't reached that earthly state of bliss. I don't live in the way that those I most admire did.  There are still material things I want.   I know that I say these things from a position of incredible privilege by global and historical standards - that what I reckon as a very modest life is unimaginable luxury to millions of people.  But I have enough in my sights.  I believe it's a place I can get to, and genuinely admire those who have reached that state.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Thinking Differently

written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

In last fortnights post about Deviating From The Norm, I mentioned that I have realised that I have different thought patterns that others around me.  Once again, due to my green transformation, I find that I am deviating from what is considered normal behaviour.  Let me give you a few examples, which may seem a little crazy, but hey, that is just who I am.

Driving down the freeway the other day going towards Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, I noticed that the roads department were installing high tension steel cables as barriers.  My very first thought was that it was really nice of them to protect the trees from cars hitting them.  Maybe I am right?  If the drivers didn't do irrational things in their cars, then the trees wouldn't need barriers to protect them!

Every time I walk to the Gym on Sunday morning for exercise rehab,  I am always gazing up at the roof tops as I power walk my way down the road.  Why, I hear you ask?  Certainly not because I am admiring my neighbours homes.  It is to determine the best houses that solar panels would work on, of course.  As I live in the Southern hemisphere the north roof get direct sun and the bigger the roof, the bigger the system.  There is nothing quite like a big north facing, unshaded roof.  I even comment to Kim (my wife) when we drive past massive warehouses and factories, that they should have solar panels on them, or at least have a big rainwater tank connected.  Is it just me?

When it is windy, I don't complain.  I just wish I had a wind turbine.  When it rains, I don't complain.  I just dream of having more space for a larger rainwater tank, and think that the veggie patch is loving all this extra water.

When I see a green lawn, I just want to rip it up and plant vegetables.  Where others see weeds, I see food for my compost bins or chickens.  Where others see empty jars, I see jam receptacles.  Where others see empty beer bottles, I think of my next batch of home brew beer!  Where others throw away lumber, I see chicken houses.  Where other see pretty city lights at night, I see dangerous carbon emissions.  My green thoughts just keep on coming.

The 3R's have become an obsession, to the point of if I can't use it, I try and find another person who might use the item.  Nothing elevates my blood pressure faster than someone putting a recyclable item into the general waste bin at work.  It is not like the co-mingled recycle bin is not right next to it with a great big label or anything!

Anyway, enough of my unusual thoughts, because I could go on forever listing the weird green ways that I ponder each day.  Am I alone in this behaviour or do our readers also have random green moments of insanity like I do?  I would love for your to share your "out there" think with us.  Don't be shy!

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Stretching the Corn Harvest

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
Old-timers' wisdom said to have your water boiling before you go out to pick corn for dinner. With today's super sweet varieties, the sugars don't convert to starch quite as quickly as the old heirloom corns did, so ears of corn nowadays do hold their sweet flavor longer. But nothing beats really fresh sweet corn, straight out of the garden in the summer.

Birds and bees lecture time (hint: for corn, it's wind). Each little piece of corn silk leads down to one kernel of corn on the ear. At least one grain of wind-blown pollen from the tassel on the top of the stalk has to fall on each strand of silk to get a fully filled-out ear of corn to eat. So you have to plant enough corn, in a square block (not just one long row), to get adequate pollination (or, play artificial corn inseminator - shake the top tassels into a paper bag, and then immediately pour out over the silks just emerging below).

But a whole block of corn all maturing at once means feast or famine. You might get a week's worth of fresh sweet corn to eat, more getting starchier by the minute, and end up freezing the rest. Nothing wrong with freezing some - frozen corn goes great in winter soups and chili. But I want weeks of fresh corn, right out of the garden.

So, following the conventional wisdom, I tried successive planting - another short row or two every week. And found that didn't work very well for me. The colder early summer weather around here would slow down the maturing of the earliest plantings, and then the later ones, planted when the weather was a bit warmer would grow quicker. I still ended up with everything maturing at once - it just made more work for me. Sometimes, the latest plantings wouldn't have enough roots to deal with the onslaught of summer heat, and they'd fry instead. And sometimes, I'd get busy elsewhere, get behind on the planting schedule, and then have nothing. Time to figure out a better way.

So I did. I now plant all my corn at the same time, but have my fresh-eating harvest stretching from the end of July into September. Instead of planting the same variety of corn at different times, I looked at days-to-harvest times instead. I start with the upwind-most rows, and plant a 60-day variety. The middle rows in the block fall more around the 75-day range. And then the last rows are the 95 to 100-day ones - enough of those to both eat fresh and freeze for later. If I could count on a long enough frost-free season, there are even 120-day varieties, but getting a harvest from those here would be iffy at best. I help the pollination along on the earliest-maturing varieties, rubbing the top tassel between my hands then dusting them off above the new silks below. Letting the little side-stalks grow, plus the wind, takes care of the later ones.

This same technique can work for other veggies too. I have the earliest leaf lettuces coming along now, the small heads of buttercrunch will be ready a bit later, and the romaines even later. Little round red radishes are ready in just a couple of weeks, the longer french ones a little later, the daikons after that, and then the winter storage ones keep growing into the fall. Differing days-to-harvest instead of successive plantings can mean more eating time, and less work.