Things I bought in January

At the start of the month there were several things on my list of purchases I wanted to make. I must have been on a spree because now that list is totally empty!

I bought food, a bus pass, and paid the bills. As for everything else, there were a bunch of plants and plenty of not new stuff, but there were a few brand new items thrown in as well.

Plants

These are mostly perennials which will last us year after year. The only short-lived plant in this batch is the bluebonnet but, well, this is Texas and the seeds I scattered around the yard apparently didn’t take this year. If they don’t sprout next year, I’ll just have to deal with it and visit a bluebonnet patch elsewhere to relive my childhood memories.

  • Potting soil (my last bag lasted a year, so not too bad)
  • Bluebonnet
  • Spearmint
  • Provence lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Esperanza (to help shade the south side of the house in summer)
  • Fuyu persimmon (for shade and future fruit)

Not New Stuff

I’ve been careful to avoid Goodwill several times this month and didn’t even stop at the Really Really Free Market, so before tallying this up I had no idea I got so many new-to-me things! Fortunately, they’re mostly useful. I’d been wanting/needing a good ladder for the past year, have worn out a couple of pairs of shoes recently, and checked off a few punch list items for the house.

  • Replacement doorknobs (Habitat ReStore)
  • Porchlight cover (Habitat ReStore)
  • Trim paint (Habitat ReStore)
  • Curtains (Habitat ReStore)
  • Jigsaw puzzles (Freecycle)
  • Gorilla ladder (Craigslist)
  • Curtain rod brackets (Savers)
  • Shoes (Savers)
  • Cast iron mini-skillet (Goodwill)
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Comfy new-to-me shoes
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Mini-skillet to melt butter for popcorn (or cook something small like an egg)

New Stuff

This list could have been shorter, but I wouldn’t take any of it back.

  • Toilet paper and bar soap.
  • Rat traps and cementish puttyish stuff because rats got into the attic. I was planning to take care of this myself but then a month passed without me doing anything, with possible chewing of wires and everything else the whole time. Fortunately, we were able to get an expert, who took care of sealing up all entrances to make sure our home is protected. We’re now proudly rat-free.
  • Loppers. I’ve been borrowing my mom’s off-and-on for the past year to cut vines and prune shrubs and small branches. They’ve gotten a lot of use, so a pair of my own was definitely a need. And after a year of not coming across any in the secondhand shops, yard sales, or Freecycle/Craigslist, it was time to return my mom’s loppers for good.
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To prune all the things

That’s it for January. Unfortunately, writing this up has reminded me that there are still new things needed for other home repairs in the near future. Time to update the list and see which I can get secondhand. *fingers crossed*

A Ten-Mile Stroll to the Library

Sunday the library was closed for New Year’s. On Monday again it was closed for New Year’s (observed). But Tuesday the libraries opened at ten o’clock, and I was ready at eight to start my new year’s resolution of hiking the circuit of Austin Public Library branches. My maps and supplies were on hand to assist me in this awesome journey. And the weather was absolutely beautiful.

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Overall route

Why would I walk ten miles just to go to the library? you may ask. Well, it’s simple. I love walking and I love libraries. I’d like to walk more and to visit more of the libraries in Austin. Plus, as a non-driver this is a great opportunity for me to explore ways of getting around the area independently. As a non-consumer, it’s a fulfilling activity that doesn’t require spending a dime. And as someone that doesn’t always get out enough, it’s designed to bring out a bit more of the explorer in me.

Little Walnut Creek branch library

Well… I stopped at this library before it opened, but the lights were on inside so I’m counting it! Don’t worry, I’ll be back many times this year.

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Kicking off my hike at the Little Walnut Creek branch library

The route took me through a part of the neighborhood I had never explored before. Sadly, it was full of litter and I quickly had my fill of picking up trash. Next time I go out I’ll need to take a bag with me for collecting¬†it. ūüė¶

(It turns out the litter is most prevalent in my neighborhood. An hour into my walk, I stopped seeing so much trash everywhere.)

It was cool to see more of the area though. All the little creek and railroad crossings were my favorite. There were areas widely paved for pedestrian traffic and areas with no sidewalk at all. Winter really is the best time for walking in such places because the shrubs and other unruly growth (or worse, poison ivy) aren’t¬†pushing you into the middle of the street with the cars.

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Walnut Creek trail–once a dirt path and now a huge concrete slab complete with an amazing quantity of signs and a dashed yellow line in the middle.
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Crossing MoPac safely via underpass
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The area once known as Waters Park. This old railway transported in the granite used to construct the state capitol building in the 1880’s and a town built up around it but is long gone now.

Milwood branch library

Two hours after heading out, the Milwood library was finally in my sights.¬†It was an area that I¬†never visit. The bus doesn’t stop close by and I’ve always considered it to be in the middle of nowhere. How amazing that I was able to¬†walk there!

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Metal sculptures in front of the Milwood branch library

I quickly gobbled down a couple of rolls before going in, grabbed a few editions of Texas Gardener magazine, and enjoyed an hour of replenishing relaxation.

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Entry to Milwood branch library

The seating didn’t look that plentiful. Fortunately, it wasn’t at all crowded during my visit.

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One seating area at Milwood branch

I marveled at the checkout center for electronic devices to use in the library. Next time I’ll have to try it out instead of just getting a quick glance.

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Laptop / tablet kiosk!

Soon my hour was up and it was time to head out on the second part of my walk if I wanted to get home at a normal hour.

The strangest thing about this trip was that I was sure I’d be tempted as afternoon approached¬†to make a quick stop at the Krispy Kreme or Rudy’s barbeque or some other delicious food place, but I wasn’t. The few snacks I had with me kept me satisfied throughout the day. I’ve experienced this before too. Just by getting out and doing something active, I’m less tempted to overindulge. Then again, maybe it was due to that dead raccoon I saw by the side of the road.

Spicewood Springs branch library

Less than two hours after setting out again, I made it to my final circuit stop for the day.

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I made it to Spicewood Springs!

I’d been to the Spicewood Springs branch before, but it seemed way out there even when travelling on the bus. No wonder my feet were starting to hurt a bit. I quickly grabbed a couple more books and a comfy seat and sat down to read.

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Kicking back and reading Lynda Barry’s “One Hundred Demons” at the library.

After some relaxing easy reading, I had to walk just a few blocks to hop on the bus back home. There was a transfer towards the end involving a fifteen minute wait.

But no, I had a crazy idea. It wasn’t that far from the transfer stop to my home. I could walk that too! This may not have been the best idea. I could feel a¬†few little blisters forming on the bottom of my feet and the first several blocks¬†felt like the longest of all. Good thing it was only a half hour distance on foot from my house….

Home Base

Woohoo! I made it back in one piece. I was just in time to catch the episode of MacGyver with the robots that look like Daleks, while I made and then ate delicious fideo. My husband was really lucky he got home in time to eat some of it too.

Hike #1 of the Austin Public Library circuit was a resounding success. It was thrilling to realize the huge area that I could now consider “walking distance” and I immediately started dreaming about the next hike. Will I do another long trek all the way downtown to the central library (still shorter than this one)? Will I explore one I’ve never been to before? Every option sounds good right now.

Not New Doorknobs

I wish I could do a complete Buy-Nothing month but there’s too much work needed for the house that I’ve been putting off for too long already. To at least avoid buying brand new items when perfectly good ones already exist, today I headed over to the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store to pick up some items from my list.

I started off in Hardwares with the goal of finding some curtain rod brackets¬†so I can¬†add window treatments for the last few windows. Unfortunately it’s an uncommon item so rather than finding them easily on a shelf I had to dig through several different buckets along a row of some-sorted, some-not miscellaneous hardware.

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A few bins in the Hardware section at the Re-Store

In the end I found four of them, but in those four there wasn’t a single matching set and I had to walk away from that section empty-handed.

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Failure

Later in the trip I found a section with some wooden curtain rod brackets, but once again they were unmatching individuals. ūüė¶

Fortunately, my second item on the list was a resounding success. The¬†light on the back porch didn’t have a cover. (Or a bulb for that matter, but we found one in the closet.) There were several rows full of different kinds of lights and I ended up choosing a whimsical bubbly globe thing to add a bit of personality to our¬†home.

Next up was some white paint for the indoor trim. I had a bit of trouble identifying the container to purchase¬†because these were custom blend paints¬†and there wasn’t much more than a dab of paint on the lids to show what color they were inside. But in the end I found one that should work well.

After browsing¬†the second-hand cabinets, sinks, leftover tiles and other goods, I stopped by the doorknobs section to pick up a couple to replace two that haven’t been turning all the way. (It turns out that it was a¬†plastic bit that failed in our old ones, and these new-to-me knobs are metal where it counts. They could use a little oil to turn more smoothly, but I can take care of that later.)

Finally, I found a couple of really nice textured curtains that I wasn’t looking for. (It turns out that one’s a shower curtain and the other is just a nice sheet, but they’ll do.)

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Haul from the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store

All together these items cost a whopping $12 plus tax. Not much unnecessary packaging to dispose of. And better quality than I would have splurged on if I was buying new. So other than still not having the curtain rod brackets, it was a pretty good trip. Someday when we get our¬†real (not-just-a-flimsy-plastic-shell) bathtub I’ll be back, if not for the tub then at least for the tile. It’s awesome that these places exist!

Buy Nothing New Month 2016 completed!

October is over, and with that Buy Nothing New Month has come to a close. I’ve been working towards not buying anything¬†for a couple of years now, so there’s not much difference between this month and any other but it did turn out to be a slow month in goods needed for the house (other than the plants, of course). So without further ado, here are the non-food items that I purchased in October.

Plants

They’re new, but I had an explicit exception at the start of the month because October is the perfect time to plant perennials in central Texas. I have a huge, mostly empty yard now but if I keep getting a handful of perennials each year and learn how to propogate them so they multiply, well, eventually¬†it’ll be full of life¬†and beautiful. My plant finds from the nearby nursery include:

  • two lavender plants
  • a foxtail fern just because they’re so cute
  • a Mexican mint marigold (smells delicious to me, horrible to mosquitoes)
  • a variety of salvia greggi
  • a lemon verbena plant which smells divine but was getting a bit straggly¬†in the¬†clearance section
  • a chile pequin, also straggly-looking, also from the¬†clearance section, probably would have been tossed¬†without my intervention
  • pack of carrot seeds for my mom’s garden

A Mirror

One weekend while browsing Goodwill, my husband and I found a nice mirror with keyhooks to put by our front entryway. I also found what looked like a great light jacket but it turned out¬†to be¬†slightly too large when I tried¬†it on. I don’t really¬†need another light jacket right now, so I returned that one to the racks and will wait to find one I truly love.

Shirts

Not sure if I should even mention this because they’re not only not new, I didn’t even buy them.¬†Anyhow,¬†I stopped by the Really, Really Free Market this month and found a few shirts that I¬†wanted to try out. Two immediately got placed back in the bag to return next time after I got home and tried them on, but I have a couple which are likely winners. If I don’t love them after wearing them once, they’ll also go straight back. I also picked up a couple of random pillowcases to use as wraps for Christmas gifts.

Books

Speaking of Christmas gifts, I arrived at¬†Recycled Reads¬†early for book club this month to search for some second-hand finds to give to family. For most of them, I have no idea what they would really enjoy getting for Christmas, but there’s a common expectation to get¬†something. This trip found me presents for four people for the hefty sum of $4. Some of them may appreciate also getting the cash that I¬†could have spent on something that would wind up in the trash quicker; so for them I’ll be sure to slip in a special bookmark. They might use it to buy new crap, but at least in those cases it’ll be new crap with a higher likelihood of making them happy.

Toilet Paper

I’ve given up on most disposable products but, nope, not this. Does it count as not-new if it’s made from recycled paper? ūüėõ

That’s everything. I’ll have to declare this Buy Nothing New Month a resounding success!

Buy Nothing Day is November 25th

If you missed BNNM and want to participate, don’t feel like it’s a requirement¬†to do so only in October. My first time I missed it and did my own BNN month in November. And even if you’re not interested enough for a whole month, I strongly encourage you to participate in Buy Nothing Day this November 25th (a.k.a. Black Friday).

I have a colleague¬†whose post-Thanksgiving tradition is to stay home, watch the news reports and laugh at the people who get trampled in the Black Friday stampedes when the stores open. Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to laugh at folks who are getting hurt, but I do advocate staying home, staying safe, and avoiding the stress, the crowds, the long lines of Black Friday. What do you say? Do you thrive on shopping or are you ready to give your wallet a break?

Celebrate Buy Nothing Day - November 25, 2016
This year it’s November 25, 2016

 

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween folks! I didn’t do any decorating, but apparently a spider¬†around my house celebrates the holiday and spun up this beauty¬†by the back door for me to marvel at yesterday. They’ve never built a web there before, so I know it’s the Halloween spirit.

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large web but no spider in sight…

I haven’t gotten any candy to give out this year. I just couldn’t stand the thought of handing out individually-wrapped, tooth-decaying sugar bombs to little children, so I’m likely going to keep the lights off and pretend I’m not home. Does this make me a horrible person? Maybe. I’ve got to figure out something for next year.

On the bright side, I made a tiny harvest from my garden for the first time in weeks. The jalape√Īo first appeared a few weeks ago as I was doing some weeding and was shocked to realize the jalape√Īo plant that I had taken for dead was actually alive and produced this bite-sized offering.¬†Most of my Mississippi Silver cowpea plants now have pods on them, so I picked a few to sample. I never had southern peas before and was pleased that after boiling them they didn’t taste excessively bean-y. They were probably a bit immature still as they’re a¬†crowder variety and didn’t look all that crowded in the pod yet. I’m hoping that when they mature a bit more they’re also easier to shell, yeesh!

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Young cowpeas (Mississippi Silver) and a tiny jalape√Īo

Well, that’s all. Have a spooktacular day!

October is Buy Nothing New Month

Have you been thinking about spending less time at the shops? Less time trying to keep up with the consumerism cycle? More time doing the things you really love?

Join the thousands or more folks who are celebrating Buy Nothing New Month this October (and every October).

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Buy Nothing New Month is the event that really inspired me to change the way I was living. I got into it for frugality reasons, but by the time the month was over I had gained a lot more than a thicker wallet.

  • Buying less means more appreciation for the things you have.
  • Buying less makes you think if there’s something you already have that can be used to satisy a need or want.
  • Buying less means¬†an opportunity to learn new skills like sewing on a missing button or fixing a sticky doorknob.
  • Buying less means you’re less likely to send something to landfill when there’s a good opportunity for reuse.
  • Buying less helps you learn how to be more self-sufficient.
  • Buying less¬†means not having to stop by the mall, so you don’t end up eating a giant cinnamon bun and feeling lousy later.
  • And at the end if you weren’t doing it to save money, you’ll probably have a fair sum left over to give to a cause you care about. Or¬†if you were doing it to save money, you’ll be much closer to your goals.

If you’d like to give it a shot, let me know. I’d love to know how your efforts go. This gets easier for me each time, but I’ll share some tips throughout the month.

I do already have an exception on my list because October is the perfect time to plant perennials, and I’ve been waiting all year for this. But anything that isn’t going to be gracing my landscape for the next several years? Nah, I don’t need it.

You Don’t Need It

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I’ve read that within a given day the average American will see several thousand brand logos and advertisements. And while thinking about how ridiculous that is, I also realized that I was wearing a tshirt with a logo on it.¬†I thought it was awesome¬†to find a shirt with a Wheatsville Co-Op logo on it at the last Really, Really Free Market, but am I actually contributing to the problem of ad fatigue?

Fortunately, using billboards to display art instead of advertising is gaining popularity. And there are even a few instances like this bus stop bench which serve as a good reminder that¬†it’s okay to ignore all of the other advertisements out there. Maybe I could make my own “you don’t need it” shirt and see what happens.

Things I Didn’t Buy

Because¬†I have better things to do than make another trip to the store. Because I want to be more respectful of the things that I do own. And because I don’t want to waste more of the Earth’s resources than I already do.

A Lawn Refuse Bag

After some lawn cleanup this weekend, we had a large pile of grass and weed clippings. Some folks around here¬†buy lawn refuse bags, stuff them full of grass or leaves, and let the city collect them in huge trucks for municipal compost. No way! I raked it onto a piece of burlap to get it over to the compost bin, dumped it in, and someday it’ll be beautiful compost.

A Book

With a lot of book clubs, every member buys a brand new copy of the book. (And sometimes don’t even read it!) But like many participants in the Talk Green to Me book club, I checked out a copy from the library. The library website shows that someone else has a hold on the book and is waiting for it, so I’ll make sure to finish and return it by the end of the week too.

Random Crap

I’ve been near Goodwill stores a few times recently and have resisted the urge to go in. There isn’t anything in particular I need, so it’s likely if I go in that I’ll come right out with some impulse buy that I’ll soon regret.

Jeans

I posted earlier about patching up an old pair of jeans that were getting worn out. Apparently, I should have done symmetrical patching because before I knew it an actual hole had developed in the other side. No worries, because I had a needle and thread and some scrap denim and now have another almost entirely invisible inner patch to keep those jeans fully functional for a while.

A Bathroom Vanity

The bathroom vanity in our new house isn’t the most beautiful thing in the world. For a while, every time I looked at it, it tempted me to replace the whole thing. My husband was even more convinced that it had to be trashed. But now¬†after a coat of (recycled) paint, it looks decent enough that I no longer have to deal with that temptation.

A Car

No temptation here. I have a monthly bus pass which gets me anywhere I need to go beyond walking distance, and I can read my library books on the way. I may be able to get places a little faster with my own car, but nah, I can live without the cost, the maintenance, and the stress of driving around in busy traffic.

Not New Seeds

I haven’t harvested any food from my garden in a while and it’s a bore. At least the melon, squash, and cucumber seeds I recently planted seem to be doing well. And soon I’ll be adding to their ranks.

In the meantime, I’ve been dreaming about seed independence. Not having to go to the garden store to pick out seed for the next season. Having seed that was grown (super) locally so I know it can grow in these¬†conditions. Someday selecting seed¬†for the best characteristics and most delicious food possible. (Right now I’m just saving haphazardly.) Plus, another notch on my zero waste efforts.

Broccoli

My broccoli was unimpressive last winter/spring, but at least the leaves were tasty added to my salads. Almost time for another try.¬†There’s still¬†plenty of seed from the last packet, but a month or two ago I also harvested some new seed from the old broccoli plants. It’ll be exciting to see which grows better this winter!

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Future broccoli

Lettuce

Some of the lettuce from last winter also went to seed. Picking and opening the tiny pods was probably unnecessary. I bet there’s some trick to letting the heads dry out in a paper bag until the seeds fall out on their own. But, not being so patient, I instead carefully disassembled them to collect all the seeds. Judging from their dark color, I’m assuming these are seeds for the Black-Seeded Simpson I planted. More than enough to get me through the cool gardening season it looks like. It’s definitely more than came in the original packet.

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Lettuce. I’m assuming it’s the Black-Seeded Simpson because, well, the seeds are black.

Marigold

I bought a pack of Marigold seeds earlier this year but for a long time was afraid it had gone to waste because I either started them indoors and didn’t understand their needs or started them outdoors way too early. Fortunately, a couple of them survived my abuse and are super resiliant¬†in the summer heat so next year I won’t have to buy any seed here.

I’m storing them in one of my old foundation bottles. I wasn’t sure if they’d actually be recycled or thrown out from the single-stream recycling so have kept them around for a while. It’s so awesome to finally have a good use for them. Seeds make for a lovely display.

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Future Marigolds (Yes, that is a produce sticker on the back of my phone)

Zinnia

The zinnias have been way more prolific than the marigolds. I’ve been scattering some seed in the side yard straight off to see if it still has time to come up this year. But I’ve already collected at least as much seed as I got from the two packets I bought at the start of this year and will probably have much more by the time the season’s over. Probably won’t ever need to buy zinnia seeds again! ūüôā

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Zinnia heads drying out

Random Flowering Bush

The other day I came across this lovely bush with beautiful yellow¬†flowers and reddish seed pods. I don’t know what it is yet and if it can be started directly from seed, but I’m sure going to find out and if possible grow one myself.

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Future broccoli

Melon / Squash

From time to time I’ve also been setting aside 20-30 seeds from each good melon or squash I’ve eaten and will be making that into a more regular thing. That’s how I got my canary melons this year, and it was a delicious endeavor.

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Packaging for saved seeds–from waste paper or reused seed packets

I keep most of these seeds in a large peanut butter jar in my closet. Some folks recommend refrigerating seeds, but for now they’re doing just fine.

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Various seeds waiting to be planted

So that’s it, a small yet solid start on my way to seed independence!

A Happy Day: Library + RRFM + ZW Food

Sunday I made my regular monthly trip to East Austin for the Really Really Free Market. I dropped off a couple of items I decided not to keep from my last trip and just a couple of other things I no longer needed. Fortunately, most of the crowd had already been through all the bins to find their treasures so I had plenty of space while looking through the tons of clothing to see if there was anything I wanted to salvage.

This month turned into a fairly large haul and I went home with:

  • a new-to-me pair of jeans that fits me properly (finally!)
  • tshirts for Wheatsville and local bakery¬†Easy Tiger¬†(they make delicious pretzels)
  • a polo-style shirt to try out
  • one extra pair of socks to replace the one I’ve just worn big holes in (the socks aren’t exactly the same length but close enough)
  • some lovely fabric for my yo-yo quilt or another project

The Wheatsville shirt is a cotton-poly blend, and I’ve been trying to stick to natural fibers. But, hey, I’ll take it because Wheatsville is awesome!

Unfortunately, this also means I now own 23 shirts! Sounds like this weekend it’ll be time to pick out a few to get down to my limit of 20 and decide whether they end up going to the next free market or recycled into tshirt yarn. It’ll be nice to get back that little bit of free space in the closet again. A few shirts can make a world of difference.

Also this month, I finally realized that in.gredients is only a 15 minute walk away from Chestnut Pocket Park where the RRFM is held, so I wiped off some of the sweat dripping from my face and headed over for some zero waste and local foods. Another dragon fruit, a canary melon, some walnut bread (from Easy Tiger!), dark chocolate discs from the bulk bins, and more. Total success!

Combined with a stop at the library and some engaging reading on the bus, this was my idea of a divine weekend. This’ll definitely be a monthly zero waste tradition for me now that I know how easy (and satisfying!) it is to do both.¬†Sorry for all the exclamation points in this post, but I had a great day and can’t help it. ūüôā