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.

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! 🙂

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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!

Compost – a better land fill

In 2014 we were staying with my mom while saving up for a house, and there was a large backyard used mainly for the exercise of mowing the lawn. But then, I learned about composting. It was incredible. The onion skins, the carrot tops, the apple cores that were filling up the trash can every day and making it all stinky could instead be thrown out into the backyard. After the labor of raking up a yardful of leaves, instead of stuffing them into brown paper bags for yard waste pickup, they could just be piled up in the backyard messily.

Even though my mom’s not a gardener, composting piles were immediately useful as there were some dips in the yard and a couple of holes where shrubs had been dug up and wouldn’t be replaced. All the compostable material went right into those spaces. It would mound up for a while, but then it would break down or compact. Then more could be heaped on top and eventually that would flatten out also. Of course, this is similar to the concept of sanitary landfills, but without having to put all the produce trimmings in plastic bags first and then sealing them underground forever where they wouldn’t benefit the soil.

Fast forward a couple of years to this February. My husband and I had just bought our own house. One of the very first projects on my agenda was to set up a compost bin so I could have plenty of rich humus for future gardening projects. Being frugal, I found some hardware cloth that had been abandoned in the back yard, secured it into a cylinder shape with some twist ties (my husband has a whole collection that he’s saved), shoveled the grass off of its new location, and “planted” it. Success! All the food scraps we had, all the yard waste, I just threw it in there for our first five months without ever turning it, watering it, or whatever else it is that people do with compost piles.

From the outside it hasn’t looked like much has happened and I didn’t really expect much when finally turning / moving the compost to a new bin this weekend. But I was hoping, and was rewarded with this.

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Rich on the inside!

Although the outside was dry and didn’t sustain any kind of life, some of the inside was rich, moist, and full of bugs helping to break it down further. So now I understand why you’re supposed to turn the pile, to get some of that other material on the inside and benefiting from this goodness. Maybe in the future I’ll turn it more than once every five months. We’ll see.

As for the new compost bin, I needed one that was just a little larger. Strolling around the neighborhood during bulk pickup week turned to my advantage when I found a perfect-sized portion of chickenwire, which I’ve used as my new enclosure.

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The new compost pile

You can see a bit of the mess I made shoveling out another section of grass and some of the heavy clay soil underneath. I should probably add that back into the compost. The pallet was used for a gardening project earlier in this year, but it had bugs around it that looked like termites so into the compost it went too! At least it’ll help serve as a support. The new bin is about half-filled from the contents of the other full compost bin. And I’ll start filling up the old bin again (it’s closer to the house) while this one breaks down. If I wasn’t so lazy, I just might have compost for the fall garden. But, meh, I’ll settle for spring. 🙂

Interested in learning more about composting in your backyard? Zero Waste Chef has a great post on Composting for the Lazy.

Five Frugal Things (the Plastic-Free version)

With the folks in town lately there’s been too much food to really get down to my Plastic Free July resolutions, so instead in the spirit of the Non-Consumer Advocate here are some of my no-spend and plastic-free wins for July so far.

  1. My sister and her family left behind tons of leftovers after their visit to my mother’s so my husband and I have been doing or duty of eating them up the past few days and still have plenty to go. What we didn’t expect to eat soon enough, we stuck in the freezer. That’ll keep any of this food from going to waste before we can get to it.
  2. This evening I was entertained for a good half hour by watching the trees outside our bedroom window swaying in the wind. If you look around, you already know that often nature can be much more entertaining (and relaxing!) than anything on tv.
  3. I’ve eaten two canary melons from the garden in the past week and enjoyed every bit of them. Although critters got to most of the cantaloupes, I was able to save the last one and it’s waiting in the fridge now to be eaten. Last week I also planted more melon seeds to hopefully get some more delicious zero-waste, plastic-free, local, and organically grown fruit this fall.
  4. The two Roma tomato plants that we grew this summer produced way more fruit than we could possibly consume, so last week I took care of most of them by blending them up and then cooking them down into tomato paste, which has now been divied out into (appropriately enough) old tomato paste jars and stashed in the freezer for future use.
  5. Our tv was in bad shape. It was turning off on its own and creepily also turning back on on its own fairly regularly. I was ready to take it to be repaired rather than abandon it to be “recycled” and then have to replace it, but fortunately neither option turned out to be necessary. We left it unplugged for a week (we have a second tv set so it wasn’t much of a sacrifice), and since its long siesta it has been working great.

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?