Sunday, August 22, 2010

Harvest time! But bad legislation may outlaw your garden next year...

Apples and grapes
I've been quite busy in the last few weeks.  Hours slaving over a hot stove, etc. Fortunately the beastly heat wave finally broke so it was somewhat bearable in the kitchen.  So please pardon my non-writing lately.

I made 10 quarts of applesauce from apples from the tree growing in the back yard of the abandoned house next door, made 2 quarts of pickles from cucumbers someone was handing out from the back of a truck for free one day, started a batch of cider (not from my apples but from store bought juice), made a large pot of chicken soup from the donated carcasses of 2 small chickens, and harvested my beets, so I made beet greens earlier this week and I'm making borscht in the crock pot tonight.  My grapes, I just ate. Yum.

Beets (sideways!)
 It might be argued that the labor involved in processing my own food and the cost of the jars makes this more expensive than supermarket food.  Also, what on earth am I going to do with 10 quarts of applesauce? (it gets worse, I'm not done harvesting on that tree, I only got the low hanging fruit so far).  Well, the jars are a capital expense.  I'll be able to re-use them, only having to buy jar tops next time.  I also enjoy the fact that this is organically grown food, and I know exactly where it came from, and the "food miles" are maybe like 20 feet at most.  I might be able to trade applesauce for other food with my other gardening friends, or maybe I will have to learn to use it in recipes.  At any rate, I bet I could eat a quart a month easy and still not feel like I was on a constant diet of applesauce.

Speaking of gardens, I'm wondering if any of my dear readers have heard of the new House Bill HR 875, the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2009?  I have heard alarms and grumblings from organic gardeners that think this bill (which was submitted by the wife of a Monsanto exec) will outlaw backyard gardening and possibly put an end to farmers markets.  Here is a link to the bill.  I have read it.  There isn't anything specifically about organic or backyard gardening, but I think the problem with the bill is that the term "farm" is not defined in the bill.  This would open it up to any kind of interpretation.  The other thing is, even if they're not trying to outlaw our vegie gardens, it is possible that it would put an undue burden on small farmers, essentially running them out of business.  Also, consider the source of the bill...  http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h111-875

There is also a Senate bill, S.510. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=s111-510.  I have not yet read this bill, but I think it's getting the same amount of alarm and grumblings from the same crowd.  So that's my reading project for the next week.

Please weigh in and leave comments about these bills.  As for me, if they outlaw backyard gardens, I'll gladly become an outlaw.  In the meantime, perhaps it's time to buy some seeds, in case they make it impossible to get them next year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Be a Superstar with Less Effort and Make the Big Bucks

I sort of stumbled on this article in the Four Hour Workweek blog.  This is sort of related to personal finance in that if you've got a job, or are self-employed, you can use this premise to stand out from the crowd and maybe get more customers, or get a promotion, or just not get downsized along with everyone else.    

The idea in a nutshell is that superstars get way more money than people who are also very talented but not quite superstars.  The valedictorian has a 75% chance of getting into an Ivy League school; the 5th best student in a class, even with grades within a shade of the val's, only has a 25% chance.  However, there are other ways of skinning that cat.  Choose an arena where there is little to no competition and become the best around in that.  It's a lot easier than competing where there is a lot of competition, and you still will get places because you'll be the superstar in your arena.  Work smarter, not harder!

http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/2010/07/27/the-superstar-effect/#more-2896

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Living without utilities?

I got sent an article by Anita Sands (the link is to only one of her thousand or so pages) recently about people living without utilities.  Power companies are now sending agents around to talk to people who had their utilities cut off for nonpayment and who are living in their houses without energy, to get them on some kind of payment plan and get them turned back on.  The number of people living without utilities is increasing in this recession.

I replied with various ways people could use less energy and water at home, or live without utilities in their home if need be.  Some of these tactics could be used in an emergency, i.e. like in rural Kentucky when ice storms down a bunch of power lines and people are without electricity for weeks.  Or after a flood where the town water is no good.  This has happened a few times near here in the last 5 years.  Anyway, I thought it would make a good article, so here is my reply with a little editing for the blog:

A rain barrel is obvious for saving water.  Get a food grade drum or maybe even just a very clean (aka new) trash can, and stick it under a downspout.  If you don't trust it to drink, you can use the water to wash dishes and bathe with or water your plants.  This works when it's not frozen solid outside, anyway.

One could use the advice in www.cheaprvliving.com and get a deep cell (marine) battery at Wal-Mart and recharge it somewhere. (The library?  Work? A cafe that has plugs for laptops?)  Then run a light or two off it at night.  I am not sure how long it takes to charge one of these up.  It would be inconvenient if it took more than an hour or two.

Solar yard lights.  Get a mess of them, leave outside during the day, then bring them inside at night.  I have rescued one whose stake was broken off, and set it upside down in the top of one of my bedroom lamps.  When I turn out the light, I have an instant night light.

I once heated only the basement of a house, with a space heater, to keep the pipes from freezing, and I think the reason wasn't just frugality but that the house didn't have a furnace yet.  It was under renovation.  It cost $50 a month.

One ex-BF of mine was so frugal he would draw a super hot bath (he had free hot water) and try to partially heat his apt. with that. He'd just let it cool down for an hour until it was tolerable to bathe in and then bathe.

One of my bosses fills 5 or 6 gallon jugs weekly with water from the office.  His well water isn't fit to drink.  He can bathe in it but can't drink it so he gets his drinking water from the office.  I guess someone could also do that at a truck stop or other public bathroom.  If the gallon jug doesn't fit under the tap, get a big cup and then pour that into the jug.

I once had a bandmate who lived in a warehouse space.  He'd built an enclosure for his bed and stuck a space heater through the wall of it.  This way he could heat just his bed area instead of the whole place.

If your house has no heat, you can pitch a tent in the livingroom and put your mattress in it.  That is providing you have the right kind of tent (one that stands up on its own instead of needing stakes to keep it up).  I guess you could also just get a couple of tarps, drape them over chairs like you would a blanket for a kids' play space, and fake a tent, it's not like you have to keep moisture or wind out.

One of the most common pieces of advice I've seen for homeless people is to join a gym so you can take showers.  Gym membership is cheaper than rent. So if you are without water at home you could do that.  (But make sure you don't get hosed by the gym.  Sometimes it's hard to get RID of a gym membership once you join).  This may be more expensive than just a water bill. I'd only do this if it made sense under the circumstances.

Free heat: My handyman has jerry rigged his furnace.  Instead of burning gas, he uses a pot belly stove next to the furnace to burn scrap wood from his construction projects and then he uses the fan in the furnace to waft the hot air from the basement up through the vents.  The heat also naturally rises up through the house, so he makes one fire in the stove in the morning, and by night the attic where he sleeps is nice and warm.  He pays like $25 a month for gas/electric.  In the winter in the north.  And he doesn't have to pay for dumpsters to haul away scrap wood from his sites.  The better scrap wood, he turns into things like homemade cabinetry, shelves, etc.


He also has a window air conditioner that he installed ductwork from it through a wall into the next room.  He's got lots of little things like that.