About Me

Life is learning. Life is change. Life is good. Life doesn't have to cost a lot. I want to make my life greener, healthier, and thriftier. And I want to enjoy doing it!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Oops, Let'sTry That Again

I'm moving to Wordpress, and you'll find me here .


Blogger is just giving me way too many headaches lately, including deleting my post about a visit with friends last weekend.

So I'm migrating to Wordpress.  Look for me there next week: 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Bleeding Money

Ever feel like you're just bleeding money?  I'm having that kind of week ... and even though I've accomplished a lot in the last two days, I still feel like I spent too much and did too little.

Yesterday we went to the credit union and renewed / renegotiated / revamped our mortgage.  After a lengthy session with our CU rep, going over all our options in detail, we settled on a plan that will take eight years off the remaining time and wiped out what we owed on the line of credit, which we then cancelled.  From now on, if we can't pay cash, we'll wait until we can.  Since all the major repairs and upgrades to the house are finished except for one window, I don't think this will be difficult.

When we got home, I got on-line and paid this year's property taxes.  They weren't due until July, but now we don't have to worry about missing the deadline.

This morning, we planned and did our big bi-monthly Costco/stock-up shopping trip.  $140 later, we now have:

a year's worth of dish soap and laundry soap
4 months' worth of toilet paper (we normally wouldn't have got that much all at once, but it was on sale and I had a coupon)
4 months' (roughly) worth of oregano, black pepper, and thyme
4 months' worth of slab bacon that he'll run through the slicer later (1/3 the price of pre-sliced packaged bacon)
a week's worth of milk, bread, bananas, tomatoes, green beans, and a pomelo (will give me four servings of fruit, they're huge)
2 dozen cinnamon-raisin english muffins (fabulous with peanut butter!)
2 dozen apple-oatmeal jumbo muffins (perfect for a quick breakfast on the run, and cheaper than buying enough ingredients to make them myself)
a year's worth (at least) of filters for my Brita water bottle
4 kilos of sugar for this summer's canning
a nice big sturdy metal watering can so we don't have to try & fight the hose getting water from the rain barrels to the planters

And  -  at last!  -  I got a couple of spearmint plants, which I will go out and bung into a planter as soon as it stops raining.

Altogether, not bad ... not many actual food items, but a great re-stock on stuff we use that won't go bad.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Alas, the money outflow won't stop for a few more days.  My car insurance is due on the 20th, and P's birthday is the 22nd.  Now, with a bit of luck, my income tax refund will show up just in time  -  but I'm not holding my breath.

*  *  *  *  *  *

On the up side, I think I've finally found a new home for about six dozen quart canning jars.  I'm keeping all the pints and half-pints, but there doesn't seem to be much sense in hanging on to the quarts any longer.  Now that it's just the two of us, half of anything I put up in a quart jar would end up going bad before we could eat it all.  I still need new lids for this year's canning, but nobody seems to have them in stock yet, and I'm not going to buy whole cases of jars just to get the lids!  Even after I give the quarts away, I will still have all the jars I'll ever need.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Zero food waste again this week!  Either he's getting better at cooking smaller quantities, or I'm getting better at eating leftovers before they die ... a win either way.

*  *  *  *  *  *

So tomorrow looks to be a busy day as well; if all goes well I will:

get at least two loads of laundry on the line
find at least two jobs to apply for (my goal used to be five per day, but as things stand in the job market these days, I'll settle for two)
finish darning in the ends on the pink hoodie sweater
steam-mop the living room floor

Plus the daily dishes and tidying; and as usual, it'll be movie night at Mom's.

Right now  -  I think I need a nap!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Making A Difference

In my last post, I said one person can make a difference.  Then I got to thinking about what we do here and how we might step things up ...

We compost, and use the results in the garden.  Find out if the new "organics" bin from the city will take animal waste or used guinea pig wood shavings?  What about used tissues, cotton balls, and paper towels?

We try to shop for items in minimal and recyclable packaging.  Find out if the stores will let us bring our own bags/containers for produce and bulk bin items?

I always have a bag with me for any deposit cans or bottles I find on my walks.  Take another bag and pick up litter and recyclables?

I always turn off the coffeemaker as soon as the coffee is made, and nuke a cup of coffee when I want one.  Check Freecycle and/or thrift stores for a ten-cup thermos jug?

All of the electronics are plugged into power bars for easy shutoff, and I always unplug the phone/battery chargers as soon as the phone or battery is charged.  Unplug the toaster and coffeemaker when they're not in use?  Can't unplug the microwave unless I move the fridge, and there's nowhere else for it to go ...

I wash full loads of laundry in cold water with minimal eco-friendly detergent, and hang everything to dry (outdoor line in good weather, indoor line and rack in the basement in bad weather).  Not sure if there's any way to improve this, since we wear everything except socks and knickers (mine) and shorts (his) more than once, use the same towels for at least a week, and don't change the sheets every week.

I use rags for cleaning and wiping up spills.  Try to wean Big Guy off paper towels?  Might work, might not.

I walk everywhere that's a half-hour walk away or less, and take public transit almost everywhere else.  I'd like to walk more but my bad knees won't stand for it, even with my cane.  Can I do the monthly Costco trip on transit?  Tricky, since Big Guy absolutely will not use public transit, and it would take both of my "bag lady" carts to get the shopping home.  Maybe smaller trips every two weeks instead? 

Before a shopping/errands trip in the car, we make a list, collect the relevant coupons and marked sale flyers, make sure our bags are in the trunk, and plan the most efficient route to get everything done in one trip.  Could more of these errands be done on foot or on public transit?  How much gas does this trip take, compared to how much I'd spend on transit fares?  How much longer would it take on transit?  On foot?  How many errands and how much shopping can I manage by myself on foot or on transit?  

I have a long list in my notebook of (non-food) items not to buy, either because we have plenty already or I don't want to use that particular item any more.  How many things can I add to that list?  How many things can I phase out and not replace once they've been used up?

I already get most of my fabrics and yarn, and all of my clothes except for knickers, bras, socks, and footwear, at thrift stores, yard sales, and Freecycle.  Don't get any more until I've used up what I have, no matter how good a deal it is or how pretty it is? 

We have rain barrels, we have a brick in the toilet tank, I save the rinse water from the dishes for the planters, and in the summer I put the drain hose from the washer out the window on the rinse cycle to water the trees and shrubs on that side of the house, and we never water the lawn.  We also had the (free) city water meter installed so we only pay for what we actually use (a bit more than a third of the flat rate for unmetered houses).  Can I redo the flowerbeds with local native plants that need less water?  What can I use for mulch?  (It's been suggested that we use the shavings out of the guinea pig cage, but we already have big problems with wood lice aka sowbugs eating the plant roots.  That's why we can't grow potatoes, carrots, or radishes.)  Can we set up some kind of drip irrigation for the fruit trees and the veggie planters, so less evaporates and we water less often?

Questions?  Answers?  Suggestions?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It Rained

Again.   So I missed seeing the transit of Venus.  Guess I'll just have to wait until it comes around again when I'm 162.

I've also missed the last three eclipses (solar and lunar) because of rain, and several meteor showers.  Does the universe not want me to see these things?

*  *  *  *  *  *

The rain is also keeping the salmonberries from ripening; they'll need at least three sunny days before I can pick more.  The blackberries should be okay, since they wouldn't be ripe for at least another month anyway, and July is usually nicely warm and sunny. And today I saw little teeny baby fruit on my cherry tree and my plum tree and my apple tree!

*  *  *  *  *  *

I've been catching up (yes, still!) on the other blogs I read, and finding a lot of food for thought ...

I don't think we'll ever have a "Zero Waste Home", but every week I see a little less trash, a little less food waste, a little more making do with what we have ... baby steps.

This coming October, we'll be presented with three shiny new bins from the city: one each for garbage, recycling, and yard waste/compost/organics.  I think it's great!  The info that came in the mail says that garbage and recycling will be picked up every other week, and organics every week.  Well, as it is we don't put garbage or recycling out every week anyway, and since these new bins will be bigger we may end up only putting the garbage bin out once a month.  I'd like to get that down a lot farther, but P has a large dog and two cats, and we have two guinea pigs and are looking at a couple of kittens in August, so unless all their waste qualifies as organic it will all still have to go in the garbage.  I'll have to look into that.

Tomorrow I'll be walking over to the Post Office to see if I can stop all the unaddressed advertising we get every week.  It pretty much all goes straight from the mail slot to the recycling bin, and it's such a waste; the only things I don't toss immediately are envelopes with plain insides, which I turn inside out and make lists on.  From the P.O. I will head over to the Shaw office to see about downgrading our cable/internet/phone package  -  it's just costing us way too much for what we currently use/watch.  Then, on to the Safeway to return some deposit Coke cans and recycle this month's accumulation of plastic bags, and then to the bank to deposit my rolled coins (over $100!), and finally to the library.

No food waste in the last seven days!!  Not even the bone from Sunday night's ham  -  Dog is enjoying it out in the yard right now.  And the remains went into a huge vat of split pea soup, which we packaged up for the freezer this morning.  Carrot peelings were welcomed loudly by the guinea pigs, eggshells and onion trimmings went into the compost, and coffee grounds got scattered directly into the garden to discourage snails and slugs (I'll let you know if it works!).

*  *  *  *  *  *

Sadly, a lot of the comments I see on other blogs are of the "One person can't possibly make any difference" variety.  I disagree.  If only one person on the planet tried to change things, to conserve, to stop waste or pollution or excessive consumption, then maybe it wouldn't matter.  But when you add up all the "one persons" working for change, even if it's only in their own homes, it can make a difference.  And I believe it has made a difference already, and will continue and snowball and grow.

Friday, May 25, 2012

All Kinds Of Random

The job search continues ... nothing back from the most promising leads yet, but I refuse to give up!  Sooner or later something will happen for me, even if it's only something to pay me a living wage while I look for something better.

*  *  *  *  *  *

I'm happy to report that the food waste for the last two weeks consisted of one-half a baked potato skin  -  we were just too full to stuff & eat the last one  -  and the skin off my share of last weekend's barbecued salmon.  And even that wasn't really wasted, since Big Guy ended up giving it to the Dog.  I don't count the few wilted veggies from the back of the fridge, since the guinea pigs happily gobble those up.

*  *  *  *  *  *

It rained for a few days, so I spent a lot of time catching up on my blog reading, and following links from old favourites to a number of new favourites.  Isn't that always the way?  One link leads to another ... and another ... and another ... and before you know it, there goes the weekend!

Funny thing, though.  There are a gazillion "green" blogs, and a gazillion "frugal" blogs, but surprisingly few that put the two things together other than in an incidental "oh-by-the-way-this-might-save-money-too" kind of way.

Why is that?  Yes, I know that organic is more expensive than non-organic, and truly green cleaning products and recycled paper products are too.  But isn't there some way to do as much as we can afford to?  Do we have to choose either green or frugal?

Granted, with both of us unemployed, Big Guy and I just can't afford to go all-organic/all-natural/all-recycled in the grocery store... but we still manage to combine green and frugal in lots of ways:

Bar soap  -  we buy whatever non-scented, non-added-to soap is on sale ... and when the pieces get really small, I collect them and tie them into one of those mesh bags our fresh garlic came in, and hang it by the basement sink for grimy-from-the-workshop-or-garden hand washing.

Paper towels  -  are only used for draining bacon.  Which we buy in bulk slabs and slice ourselves, for about half the price of sliced bacon.

Pest control  -  we put out cat chow for the local skunk, so we don't have rats or mice.  We encourage ladybugs in the garden.  We scatter coffee grounds around the base of the rhubarb and tomato plants, so we don't have much snail/slug damage.  Fruit trees are patrolled by the cats. so the birds and squirrels are (slowly, I admit) learning to leave the fruit alone.  And I plant marigolds between the veggies to deter other bugs.

Laundry  -  we've never used fabric softener because of Big Guy's allergies.  Everything gets washed in cold water and whatever enviro-friendly detergent was on sale  -  and a lot less of it than the "recommended" amount!  -  and hung up to dry; towels do go in the dryer once they're dry, but just a few minutes on the no-heat "fluff" cycle to beat the stiffness out of them.  Because if I don't do that ... well, next time you shower, dry yourself off with a cedar shingle and you'll know exactly why I do that!

Groceries  -  we do buy in bulk and stock up at case lot sales, but I won't let him put anything in the cart unless all of the packaging is recyclable.  And I always have our reusable canvas bags handy  -  no plastic bags, thank you!

I guess my bottom line is that life is full of compromises, and I have to find the best compromise I can between what's completely "green" and what we can afford to do.

*  *  *  *  *  *

It looks as though I'm going to have to bite the bullet and either a) leave my herb garden until next year, or b) break down and buy bedding plants instead of starting from seeds.  Sigh.  If I can find the bedding plants, I'll probably get them; I don't want to wait another whole year and a half for my own homegrown mint tea.  (There are times when I think the universe just doesn't want me to have a garden ...)

*  *  *  *  *  *

A couple of weeks ago, Big Guy scattered a whole bunch of lime on the front so-called lawn, trying to kill the moss.  Well, as of today the moss is still there, but instead of greener grass in most of the yard, we have a beautiful lush cover of new clover!  I wonder if I can persuade him that the entire lawn should be clover, not grass?  More clover means more honeybees, which means more fruits and vegetables get pollinated ... plus it wouldn't need to be mowed nearly as often, and the cuttings make great guinea pig fodder ... hmmm.  I'll work on that!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Free Food On The Hoof

Well, actually, on the stem ....

In less than a month, this young forest will present us with a year's worth of blackberries:

The salmonberries are ripening nicely and should be ready early next week:

And the first crop of rhubarb now resides in the fridge, ready to be chopped and baked into tomorrow's muffins: