I first experimented with a Buy Nothing month several years ago, and it wasn’t as hard as I expected. Many of the habits have just stuck without having to make resolutions. But it may be time to start back up with a regular review of how I’m doing on this front.
One thing I purchased this month not on the list below (because it’s not an item) was a WordPress subscription. I intend to look into other options for hosting someday, but as much as I hate advertisements it only makes sense that for now I would spare anyone from seeing them when reading my blog posts.
My resolution to buy no more than 12 plants (seeds are OK) this year has definitely helped with temptation when I visited my local nursery this month and also while browsing the internet encouraged by other folks’ seed orders. I did order 2 plants, but that’s pretty reasonable.
2 black chokeberry plants (to be delivered in March) – This was one of the plants on my wishlist, so I shouldn’t regret it. One would have been enough but they came as a pair. At least I still have a month to figure out if I want to plant both or share one with someone else who wants it.
Onion starts – I’m not counting these against my 12-plant quota because the pack contained dozens of baby onions, and they were already fully edible when planted (although small) so they’re pretty much just food. 🙂
Cucumber seed – Because, yum.
Butternut squash – Once we had a butternut squash that just appeared out of the compost, so apparently they do grow well here.
Edamame seed – I’ve been thinking about growing this the past couple of years, but this is the year.
Borage – Attracts pollinators, edible leaves and flowers, what’s not to like? The last time I planted this I expected some self-seeding so I’d never have to buy more seed. Let’s see if it happens this year.
Not New Stuff
And it’s mostly Not New stuff that I got for free, so all the merrier for me.
Porch light fixture – This is one of the few things I purchased. We made a trip to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore just to get it, and this week we were able to turn on the porch lights for the first time since buying the house.
Bricks – Although this was a good month for scoring free bricks, I also purchased about a dozen more while at the ReStore. I may love bricks a bit too much.
Punching bag – As mentioned in a previous post, this is a way more functional replacement for the punching bag I found during bulk pickup week some time ago. It’s great for exercise.
Bricks and pavers – These came from many sources – by the dumpster, set out for bulk pickup, and posted on Craigslist. It doesn’t look like a lot in my unfinished garden path, but they were plenty heavy to lug around.
Cardboard – It should surprise no one that it’s easy to find used cardboard for free. 😛
Tomato cages – These were posted on Craigslist by someone getting rid of a bunch of gardening stuff. I got up early on a chilly morning to grab them before work.
Young yaupon hollies – I “weeded” these from my mom’s garden bed and planted them in my own yard.
Snakeplant – One of my coworkers had a plant just sitting somewhere being neglected (although they do thrive with neglect), and just by asking it is now mine to admire every day.
Sweet pepper seeds – That same coworker shared seeds of several different types of sweet peppers. (We’ll be doing a seed swap event at work at the end of Feb to share more.)
Various seeds – I attended the seed swap for the Central Texas seed library last weekend and got so many seeds — carrots, native milkweed, zinnias, melons, basils, and more. A few of these will end up getting swapped again at the work seed swap.
Plant cuttings – There will be many Mexican Honeysuckles to plant out in the spring for sure. They root amazingly well even just in water. I’m hoping many of the others pull through. The mints definitely should.
Lightbulbs – They’re LED bulbs so they should last a while.
Potting soil – The soil itself isn’t quite new, but it’s all packaged up in a plastic sack so I’ll count it.
Things I didn’t buy
A dragonfruit plant – This was in the seed catalog next to the black chokeberry and I really would like to have a dragonfruit plant someday, but it doesn’t grow as easily in this area and I’ll hold off until I have more time to devote to it.
A baker’s rack – Just one of the items I’ve seen posted to Craigslist which might be a good fit for replacing worn-out cabinets in our kitchen which will be taken out someday. I will be buying something in this line at some point though.
More seeds – Just because there were so many more awesome options for planting. It was hard to resist, but I have enough for this year.
Seed starting containers – I’m a bit low on reused small containers right now, but there are plenty of food containers to make do with.
Gutters – This was part of my plan for January. And maybe I should have gotten these. We have regular flash floods in Austin that would be much less impactful if more water was stored close to where it landed instead of all being directed into our waterways. However, I wound up with analysis paralysis on whether I should get gutter covers or not. For now, I’ve started digging out some earthworks to hold the water. I can go for the larger scale option later when I’m more confident about the purchase.
We’ve had a fairly long todo list since buying this house a few years ago, and we’ve been slowly picking one thing at a time to improve. I have no idea which of these will come first:
New back steps or ramp to replace the unused deck area that has rotting wood
Gutters, as mentioned above
A real bathtub (not a plastic surround) and a sink faucet that doesn’t have rust holes
New kitchen sink cabinet configured so the sink comes up near the edge of the countertop instead of making me stretch to wash dishes
Other new bottom cabinets or something like a baker’s rack as mentioned above or even a buffet, because one day I’m going to rip out this gross bottom cabinets. I’m a pretty accepting person, but these cabinets are sitting there unused because they’re really not in good shape.
Hallway runner – It’s a 20ft hallway with some of the last old carpet in this house that hasn’t yet been pulled up. If a runner that length pops up on Craigslist for a reasonable price, I’d get it.
More bricks or pavers – There’s only a path in one part of the garden so far, but I’m going back to taking it slow and only collecting free bricks.
Yesterday I happened to be in a neighborhood that is having bulk trash collection this week. Although I’ve previously found bulk collection to be a great source of treasures, I was feeling a bit under the weather yesterday and was only up for walking eight or ten blocks before heading home to rest up again. Fortunately, in just those few blocks I discovered a nice metal plant stand to liven up my living room with the pots I’ve collected previously.
But this morning I was feeling better again and decided to explore another part of that neighborhood. There were lots of cardboard boxes in front of houses as usual, and I had to go up to each one to see whether it was full of junk, a plastic christmas tree (it’s amazing how many plastic trees get thrown out in January!) or something more interesting. Just when I thought I wouldn’t find anything interesting, I noticed a long box that said Everlast on the side. Could it be?
Yes! It was an Everlast canvas heavy bag in good condition. Usually people buy exercise equipment at this time of year, not throw it out. It would have been such a shame for it to take a trip to the landfill. And lucky for me, a friend with a car was available to give me a ride home with my newly acquired toy.
But this was especially great because I had also found a heavy bag during bulk collection last year. That heavy bag came with a stand but unfortunately was never used because the bag wasn’t in good condition and at least needed to be thoroughly cleaned out. It was full of tiny scraps of fabric that had gotten wet, making the bag even heavier and gross enough to encourage me to tackle any task other than cleaning the bag during my free time. Just this morning, I cleared out yet another small chunk of the inner gunk before giving up again for the day. In the meantime, the heavy bag stand has also sat there unused. Until today. The chains for the bag were also in the box, and this bag was not so heavy as the other bag. Between two people it was easily raised onto a stepladder and then attached, followed by a few light punches to test it out.
We already have bag gloves, so the only things left to do are to put some weights on the stand to make it a bit more stable and replace the one remaining lightbulb in the garage with two new ones before it goes totally dark. Oh yeah, and punching. There is still much punching to do. 😀
Twice a year everyone in the neighborhood takes all the stuff they don’t want want or need and sets it out for neighborhood swap day. Like the large metal milk jug that my aunt gifted me because she didn’t want it. Someone else loved it and took it away, while I strolled around and got my pick of the other goodies folks have set out.
Well, technically it’s called Residential Bulk Collection, and it’s for bulky items that folks consider trash and just want to get rid of. The scrappers get a lot of the good stuff, too. There’s constantly another scrapper trailer driving around looking for metal pieces they can collect. It’s kind of disappointing that they end up recycling some items that could be reused, but at least it keeps things out of the landfill.
And it’s a great way for much other stuff to find new homes also. Need a new-to-you dresser or table? How about a book to read? This is a perfect time to get something for free and to save stuff from the landfill.
Here are the various treasures (and less treasured items) I collected:
(Ignore all the grey bricks. I did pick those up from the curb, but it was for a nearby multi-family residence that doesn’t have the same bulk service.)
Blue shelf – Not pictured since it was set out earlier and grabbed earlier. It’s already in the garage happily organizing pots, trowels, and other garage-dwelling items that were previously scattered on the floor or resting somewhere inconvenient.
Hanging pot – There were two of these and I was only interested in extra ingredients for the compost, so I dumped the soil from one into the other to tote it back more easily. Folks must have thought I was crazy carrying around that thing, but they don’t know what they’re missing.
6 light grey ceramic tiles – In retrospect, I’m not sure if this is enough tiles to be useful to me and I may keep passing these along.
Citronella candles – To discourage mosquitoes. They’re probably not too effective, but I’m sure I can find someone who wants them if I decide not to keep them.
Wide-ruled paper – I know plenty of people with school-age children.
Fabric adhesive – I’m second-guessing this now, but no matter. Even if I can’t find a new home for it, I haven’t done any harm by delaying its trip to the landfill.
Christmas greeting cards – I’ll use these next year.
Card games rule book – Mostly so I can learn another type of solitaire sans computer.
12 brick pavers – I can always use more brick pavers for my garden. This was a perfect find for me.
White marble chips – It says erosion control on the bag, worth a try.
Pink ceramic pot – Which will be perfect for the previously neglected snake plant that a coworker passed on to me recently.
If I had a truck, I would also have grabbed the three or four Christmas trees I saw while out. They’re going to be turned into mulch so it’s not a bad future for them, but they’d be even better as mulch in my yard or protecting the area by the creek from erosion. Well, that’s okay. I can share.
Of course my favorite find ever from a bulk collection week was Free Serenity, still hanging serenely on my bedroom wall. Has anyone else scored something great from what other folks considered garbage?
March wasn’t so bad. I’ve enjoyed spending time in the garden rather than at the shops. I bought a couple of items from my wishlist and bought fewer plants than in February, but did acquire more free stuff than expected. And my wishlist is getting longer with big ticket home improvement purchases coming up. Maybe someday we’ll get a boarder for the extra bedroom so at least these costs wouldn’t be for just the two of us.
The days have already been starting to feel hot, so my plant purchases are finally dwindling down a bit. (Maybe next month they won’t require they’re own category?) I did buy yet another citrus tree as a splurge purchase. After all, the kumquat is the one tree that I really wanted to buy but hadn’t been available in the nurseries every other time I checked. Other than that, just a couple of small potted plants and a couple of seed packs. Unfortunately, I’m almost out of seed starting mix (it goes fast once you realize that using fresh mix every time really does prevent damping off) and may have to get some next month.
Meiwa Kumquat tree – yay! kumquats!
Chili pequin – because what could be better than a perennial pepper plant
English thyme – to see how well it spreads for groundcover potential
Lemon balm seed (already sprouted)
Lemon grass seed (sprouted in under a week although the pack said 3 to 5 weeks) – because lemon grass is reputed to repel mosquitoes
Succulent pieces (orphaned pieces that I hope to propagate into full plants)
Not New Stuff
Wow, this list is fairly long this month. I went to Goodwill and found exactly what I was looking for early in the month, but the other things just happened.
Rain boots – I now have no fear when trolloping around the poison ivy-infested side yard (from Goodwill).
Mini-blinds for the front window for extra privacy. These were kind of new but I found them at Goodwill so close enough.
3 Shirts – Swapping out shirts I like less at the Really, Really Free Market. I know it’s meant to be free stuff but I participate like it’s a swapping party.
Patio chairs – I didn’t even ask for these but my mom dropped off a couple of old patio chairs one morning. They’ve actually been quiet convenient as a sort of shelf in the garden.
Plants – I’ve been doing some research online, and of the plants already in my yard, I may just have wild onions, wild blackberries, wild Muscadine grape vines, and a Mulberry tree. I’ll definitely be paying close attention to see if my identifications are correct!
Soil – From a neighbor doing some landscaping.
Mulch – well, grass clippings and leaves collected from sidewalks, as well as a few lawn bags set out on the street that I furtively made off with.
A book – one of the other book club members gave me an extra copy of the book for next month, so I don’t even need to wait for it at the library.
Lawn bags – I’m not sure if these count because I bought them at my mom’s request (I don’t count the tons of stuff my husband chooses to buy), but I did buy them before helping her rake up some oak leaves in early March. (My mom’s composts many things but the oak leaves just don’t seem to be breaking down.)
Line for the weed eater – The lawn (and weeds) that are already wide awake. My husband is happy to help out as long as it gets a clean trim, so weed eater it is.
Things I didn’t buy
More tomato seeds – Even though I have only two tomato plants that survived this year, it’s already getting hot out and may be late for Spring planting. I may consider starting fresh tomato plants for the fall garden, though.
Machete – I was looking at these on Etsy but it’s too soon to determine if it’s worth purchasing. It’s on my wishlist below though.
Fast food – I gave up fast food for Lent as well as eating out in general for the most part, but I’m ready to have pizza again. 😛
Seed starting containers – In addition to the plant pots I’ve saved from previous nursery visits, working in an office means I have access to plenty of food to-go containers. It’s not hard to find on the perfect size and even with an already vented lid.
Esperanza – The one I bought last year is definitely dead, but I’m going to give seed starting another try for this one. There are plenty of Esperanza bushes in the neighborhood to grab a few seeds from later this year.
Super long wishlist too! Fortunately, I know I won’t be indulging in all of these things in April.
A new roof! I finally got around to mucking out the gutters, and those shingles don’t look like they’re protecting our home that much anymore. Time to start checking out the roofers in this area. My goal is to get this done in the next month if possible.
Rain catchment system — gutters around the rest of the house and rain tanks. This is less about saving water than it is about saving my soil and preventing further erosion. (This has always been part of the post-new-roof master plan, but now it feels close enough to put on the list.)
Machete – My favorite lawn tool so far is definitely my scythe. It’s one of the most effective tools, the easiest, and hardly requires any storage space. With no lack of weeds, I’ve been considering a machete, grass hook, or other implement for the smaller spaces where I just can’t control a scythe with enough precision.
New tub? I’ve sealed up the crack again for now and caulked around the edges since the roof is first, but someday…
Bricks/pavers – Am still collecting the rogue brick for use in the garden whenever I come across it.
Seed starting mix – As I mentioned above, I’m almost out and I’m trying to reduce how many seeds I’m starting inside but will probably need more before long.
I managed to stay away from the thrift shops all of February, so this shouldn’t be as long a list as last month.
However, one of the things I noticed was that last month I was eating out regularly — three or even four times a week. It’s hard to resist. Therefore, I’m giving up eating out for lent. All the food I purchase will be basics (maybe a jar or two of spaghetti sauce in there though), and I’ll be doing more cooking next month. That should get me back on the right track.
My plant-buying spree continued this month–a couple of fruit trees, some onion transplants, and a handful of small (perennial) plants to experiment with and see what grows well/easily here (I’m hoping for some of these to expand quite a bit). Fortunately, it’s already getting fairly warm out, with highs frequently in the 80s, so from this point out it’s mostly about keeping these alive. No more plant spurges until fall.
Fig tree, Texas Everlasting
Satsuma mandarin tree
Not New Stuff
Toward the end of the month, I stopped at the Really, Really Free Market again to drop off a few items and scored some great finds.
Shirt – I’m slowly refining my style, replacing one shirt at a time.
Pair of jeans – Not needed yet, but I’ll stash these as a backup pair. They’ll need hemming before I wear them anyhow.
Couple of bras – This is the first time I’ve found a bra secondhand which actually fits well, and there were two of them. So excited! Don’t worry, I did wash them.
Lentils & spices – Another rare find. Someone apparently cleaned out their panty, and I grabbed what I expected to use. Very glad to get some marjoram as I’m out of oregano, and marjoram will do in a pinch.
Kitchen lights – These are the long tubes and I’d like to switch to smaller LED lights at some point but that can wait a while longer
Things I didn’t buy
A new mailbox – Early in the month ours was hit by a car and it doesn’t quite close properly anymore. But after being re-erected, it’s functioning well enough.
Mulch – I can always use more mulch, but I stole a couple of leaf bags and an xmas tree left on the curb on lawn-waste pickup day. We’re rich with organic matter now.
Even more plants – Yes, I could have gone much further.
A new umbrella – I left my umbrella one day and got rained on slightly. It wasn’t horrible.
Shampoo – I’ve been doing water-only hair washing for several months now and am never going back.
There are a few new items on the wishlist. I may be hitting the thrift stores in March for those first two.
Rain boots or other tall sturdy boots for gardening by the creek, now that the poison ivy is starting to spring back to life.
Mini-blinds for the dining room window, for more privacy than the current curtains offer. (We’re right on street with high pedestrian traffic to look in.)
Fresh tomato seeds if I keep killing off my tomato attempts 😦
New tub? I don’t know who invented these cheap plastic tub-like shells. Not sure if this one can be saved.
Bricks/pavers – This one is difficult to score second-hand without a car, but I’ve been very slowly collecting the rogue abandoned brick for the garden and would like to pick up the pace a bit.
Thursday morning was windy here in Austin. For a few hours, the winds averaged 20 miles per hour, and as I worked at the office I’d often stare out the window for a moment to watch trees swaying in the wind. I was mostly excited about the cooler weather that was on its way in, but when I got home Thursday evening something even more exciting happened. My back porch was sprinkled liberally with pecans! I greedily gathered as many as I could from the porch and surrounding yard and ended up with this large bowl of pecans before having to leave for other obligations.
There may be some undesirable pecans in that batch as I learned soon after by reading some pecan-gathering instructions from another windfall recipient. I’ll sort them out at some point, but in the meantime I gathered two more bowls full of pecans and have them all hanging out in an extra produce bag. Waiting a couple of weeks for them to cure will be difficult but so worth it.
I’m full of gratitude at the moment:
That the house we got earlier this year already had a couple of mature pecan trees. It had been a dream of mine but I was uneasy about the ten years or so that it would take for a newly planted pecan tree to start producing.
That some other folks for whom a yard littered with pecans would have just been a nuisance didn’t get this home. 😛
For being healthy enough to go outside and pick the pecans from the ground one by one without pain or too much effort.
For the extra exercise opportunity. My thighs may have been a tiny bit sore today, but it felt good.
That there are now more pecans at the farmers market. While I already had my bags full of good stuff today, next time some of those are sure to go home with me. Have to stock up while they’re in season!
And finally, for the cool weather that the wind helped bring in. It was in the 40’s this morning, which for Austin is true Texas weather. It won’t get that chilly again for a while, so the brisk air was savored while it lasted.
At my office, on most days there is some kind of a meeting with leftover food. It usually winds up in one of the kitchen areas for people to randomly find. Some gets eaten, some ends up in the trash. At my office, we also use a chat program for communicating, so I created a chat channel called #free. This has worked great for not just meeting leftovers, but has included some items culled from folks’ pantries at home, personal lunch leftovers, non-food items, and a successful call to eat (or take home for banana bread) the very ripe and spotty bananas in the kitchen one day before they would have been thrown out. This has to be one of the easiest ways to keep food out of the landfill in an office. We’re up to 59 members now who share info on food that needs saving or at least will happily eat some of it. 🙂
Here are just a few of the many recent postings with successfully adopted items:
I’m not an expert forager. The only plants that grow in my area which I know are edible are pecans, dandelions, and purslane. Edible pecans are super rare in my experience thus far. And I still haven’t eaten dandelions because I haven’t yet gotten past the fact that they’re dandelions. But purslane? It’s like a dream.
I was very careful the first few times, checking the smooth petals to make sure it was really purslane and not the poisonous spurge or some other unknown. Once reassured, I pulled off a leaf to try it out. Purslane tastes more like spinach than anything else, with just that little bit of tang in the crisp succulent leaves. Now it sticks out like a sore thumb whenever I pass a bunch, and if the area looks safe (not subject to chemical treatments, too much car exhaust, etc) I’ll grab a bunch and pluck off a few leaves at a time to drop into my mouth and savor during my walk.
Purslane is a true superfood, too. Iron. Magnesium. Omega 3 fatty acids. So many vitamins and other minerals. People have been eating purslane for thousands of years and praising its health benefits, so you know it can’t be all bad.
After discovering this bunch on the way home yesterday with lots of fresh growth probably due to the recent rains, I hurried over to my side yard where a few purslane plants were already growing. Unfortunately, they did not fare as well with the rain. A mold or some other disease got to them and they had started turning whitish at the edges. One side of the purslane patch still looked pretty happy, but upon further consideration I just left them. There’s plenty of other purslane. It grows all summer here, and summer isn’t over quite yet.
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.
So much clothes!
Most of the crowd had already died down
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
Tshirt for my favorite grocery store
Tshirt for Easy Tiger bakery
Polo-style shirt to try out
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. 🙂
It’s been a little while since Journal #1, so I’m sharing just a few more of the things that I’m grateful for. The first brightens my day every time I walk up to the front door.
Pink zinnia in bloom
When this flower bloomed recently, I was really surprised how a weed could be so beautiful. As it turns out, these are from the zinnia seeds that I planted months ago and which I had given up on. They look totally different from the picture I remember on the seed packet, but no matter, these are stunning. More are just starting to bloom now.
Our New Air Conditioner
When it’s really hot and humid out, the cool air in the house feels so good. It should be saving energy compared to our old unit. And it definitely helps me sleep better, which is worth anything. I’m also really thankful that we were able to afford it without having to borrow money.
A Backyard Bounty
There’s not as much going on in the veggie garden at the moment, but I’m still harvesting a bunch of Roma tomatoes. We’ve been slicing them on pizza and chopping them up into chili and spaghetti sauce. It might soon be time to make some salsa.
For a while now, my husband has occasionally been seeing a turtle or two in the creek near our house, but today was my first sighting. I’ll call him Leonardo, after my favorite ninja turtle. 🙂
Because in addition to everything else they recently got new copies of The Monkees on DVD, which I’ll be enjoying over my summer vacation.
Curbside Free Piles
Because I was able to get rid of the dirty and not needed yet fully functional ice chest from the back yard (that came with the house) without doing anything more than dragging it over near the sidewalk out front.