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? 😛

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 jalapeño first appeared a few weeks ago as I was doing some weeding and was shocked to realize the jalapeño 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 jalapeño

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

The Literal Windfall

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.

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Pecans! Beautiful pecans!

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.

And that, my friends, is what a windfall is. 🙂

Slowing Down

A few weeks ago I was feeling a bit burned out. Constantly tired. A bit irritable. Disappointed with things in general. Work had been hectic and I was fortunate enough to be able to take some time off, but afterwards I still felt completely worn out.

Something else was draining me, and I did foolish things. I went to our monthly neighborhood meeting at the wrong time. I was careless in dinner prep, spilled the food all over the floor, and then just ragequit and let my husband know that there would be no dinner that evening. At another event the next day, I went to a location on the other side of town before realizing that that location didn’t even make any sense.

I didn’t know what to do other than to curl up in bed and cry for a good while. At first I just felt more miserable because I should have been using that time to go water the garden, finish painting the bedroom, or write up a blog post I had thought of. And then it finally hit me. It was that long ToDo list that had been dragging me down. I needed to take some time to just relax, and what better way to do that than to stay curled up in bed for the rest of the day and enjoy a few scoops of my favorite ice cream.

My resolution to plant a few seeds in the garden every day? It changed to a resolution to plant nothing else for the rest of the month. I made an exception or two, but time spent in the garden was much more relaxing afterwards.

Those plans to finish painting the bedroom? On hold.

And the blog post? It takes at least an hour for me to write one. That’s in addition to the hour or several that I had been spending every day to read other blogs. I needed to cut back, but how much? And how? The only way for me really was cold turkey, and like gardening I resolved to stay off of WordPress for the rest of the month. At first it made me a bit anxious, but as I realized all the time it freed up it’s a decision I came to love.

It’s a new month now, and I feel refreshed. Sometimes you have to learn things the hard way, but those are the lessons that really stick. My ToDo list is filling out again after the hiatus, but I realize that those things can be prioritized and some of them can be postponed indefinitely. In fact most of them can be postponed indefinitely, and it feels so good to have escaped from that urgency. I’ll do things on my own time.

Zero Waste Week – Day 3 – Gratitude Journal

Going zero waste isn’t about denying yourself the good things. In fact, the things that are trying to frustrate me this week don’t have anything to do with zero waste at all…. Well, the soda has been beckoning me and it’s hard to resist and it’s quite wasteful, but I have much better reasons to not drink it than Zero Waste Week.

And I definitely have the things that really matter, so without further ado, here are just a few of the things that I’m grateful for this week….

I’ve said it before, but first and foremost, I’m grateful that we have healthy and inexpensive tap water available so there’s no need to resort to a bottle.

I am grateful that we have a refrigerator and stove, which together make eating leftovers a breeze. (We ate yesterday’s leftover soup for dinner tonight, this time remembering to add the chickpeas and mushrooms.)

I am grateful that one of our local farmers at the market had tons of delicious cucumbers last weekend, and our local grocery sells package-free carrots, cabbage, and salad mix.

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Breakfast salad

I am grateful for working somewhere with a foosball table and plenty of coworkers willing to play a game or two. When your job involves staring at a computer screen all day, getting up, moving around, and maybe letting out a bit of aggression is a very welcome option. And other than the occasional drop of rod grease used, it’s zero waste entertainment.

I am grateful that my husband and I were able to afford this house and that it has a great yard that was (and still is) rich with weeds. There was plenty of clover adding nitrogen to the soil and dandelions loosening up the soil by sending down their long tap roots. Without them, we wouldn’t have these happy cowpea sprouts and squash baby.

I am grateful that even though I didn’t realize until after I picked it that this canary melon wasn’t fully ripe, it turned out to still be sweet, crisp, and satisfying.

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If this melon was ripe, the flesh would be white

I am grateful that although some insects are in the biting mood lately, most of them are totally harmless to me.

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On a melon leaf

What are you grateful for?

Zero Waste Week – Day 1

Today was the easiest day of zero waste week because it was a holiday and I wasn’t tempted by the junk food at work. Instead around lunch time I made a huge pot of vegan chili full of various diced veggies. FYI, this is also a great way to use up random veggies that would otherwise go bad. To start out the week, I’ll share the foods I stocked up on this weekend in preparation for this no-fast-food week. Not perfectly zero waste, but fairly close.

I knew I would need plenty of sweet fruits to avoid the week without regressing to soda so I picked up some peaches, pears, and holiday honeydew (maybe?). Plus there are a few canary melons in the backyard which are almost ripe.

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Fresh grub from the farmers market

Likewise, plenty of bread for satiety.

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Package-free bread and bagels

More carbs and plenty of nuts, plus peppercorns for good measure. (I’m already fully stocked on beans).

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No mason jars required!

Extra veggies, with a few stickers just to taunt me. I got these pears before getting the farmers market pears shown above and probably should have skipped these. And I know avocados aren’t the most eco-friendly item to buy these days, but my husband is so happy to eat the occasional avodado.

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Non-local produce
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Mixed greens and garlic that somehow avoided being in the previous photo

Then of course, there are the weekly wasteful things. Milk is a necessity for my husband and he’d be rather upset if I didn’t get him any… and then go out and get it himself. As for the toilet paper, well, at least the wrapper and cardboard core will be composted, and I imagine some of the tissue particles will wind up in Dillo Dirt.

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The wasteful things

To make up for that waste, though, I did something adventurous to make sure the pumkin blooms in my backyard weren’t going to waste. This morning there was both a male and female flower open, so I pulled off the male flower, stripped it down to the stamen, and showed that female flower a good time. I’m usually less concerned about wasting future food, so this is my first lesson learned for Zero Waste Week.

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Well, that’s it! Time to get to sleep early so I’ll be less tempted by the caffeine tomorrow.

Zero Waste Week 2016

The Fall Garden Begins!

It may feel pretty hot again here in Austin, but there’s some hope that we’ll see a little relief not too long from now, like those couple of beautiful weeks that we saw last month where it was a pleasure to be outside. A few weeks ago I described the couple of garden beds I planted during that brief pleasurable time. But now I know that it’s time for fall gardening. And it’s all because of this.

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A carrot!

Normally carrots take forever to germinate. Sometimes it feels like they never will. But one of my Paris Market carrots has already poked its head out of the ground and is telling me that it’s time to go.

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The canary melon vines have come back to life
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The pumpkin vines are also in bloom

I’ve decided to use go without any soil amendments for the fall garden and see what happens. No compost (because none of mine is ready) and no purchased mulch (crumbled leaves and grass clippings will have to do). But some new seeds were a must. As far as my Buy Nothing New project, I count seeds as food and therefore allow myself to buy anything I reasonably believe I can use. Last weekend I visited Shoal Creek Nursery to stock up. Reading about soil health recently, I ended up getting a few different legumes to experiment with, as well as some buckwheat. (Ignore that the buckwheat package says it’s for sprouting. I’m gonna plant it!)

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I intended to buy carrot and onion seeds, but things happened.

I’ve resolved to plant one row or square of something every day. So far it’s been just cowpeas and snap peas, but I have a lot of back lawn left to plant.

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The area chosen for cowpeas turned out to be really rocky. I cleaned out some, but it’s a good thing I wasn’t planning to plant carrots there. It’ll need more work in the future.

This morning I discovered something else wonderous.

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Some of the cowpeas sprouted already!

So today my husband and I went back to the garden center to get some onion seeds and maybe a few more beans to get into the ground while there’s still time. Somehow, with earlier season seeds on sale at 75% off, I ended up with this…

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So many seeds!

At least I’ll have plenty of time to learn about some of these varieties before starting them out in the spring. Other than carrot seeds (because I love carrots) and perennials, that’ll be it for me this year. Including the carrot seeds I bought a couple of weeks ago, I’ve spent altogether just over $20 on seeds and don’t at all doubt that I can grow $20 worth of food with minimal additional input. Well, that’s it, time to get gardening!

And my apologies for all of the exclamation points in this post. I’ve been messing around in the garden regularly for a couple of years now, and this is the most variety of veggie life I’ve ever had thriving at once so it’s pretty awesome. 🙂

Eat Your Weeds – Purslane

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Fresh-picked purslane

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.

The August Garden

It’s 76° outside right now! A couple of days ago at this time it was a toasty 104°. Not only that, but there’s rain. It’s just been drizzling most of the time, but it still came out to an inch here yesterday and more is on its way.

That’s why this weekend I needed to throw as many seeds as possible into the moist garden beds to prepare for fall. If it gets too hot again (fairly likely), some of them won’t make it, but that’s a risk I have to take.

I bought a couple of packets of carrot seeds from Wheatsville while grocery shopping and pulled out a bunch of leftover seeds from this spring or last fall. Well, except for the turnip seeds which were intended for 2008 and which my mother found somewhere and decided I was the right recipient for.

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Seeds that went into the garden this week

So, without further ado, here’s my garden after living in this house for six months. The pics with all the wilted leaves are from Friday afternoon obviously, when the plants were trying to protect themselves from the heat.

Cucumber Variety Bed

This bed has not just a few cucumber seeds planted, but also nasturtiums, watermelon radishes, Jaune Du Doubs carrots, and a couple of broccoli. That may be too much to plant in this little bed, but I really wanted to get more things in the ground. And my experience with carrots is that they take many months to grow so they’ll probably wait to grow until I get rid of everything else.

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Future cucumber bed

The smaller cucumber bed that I prepared recently seems to be doing well enough. I’ll have to thin some out yet again. It’s always painful to see plants go in the compost, but it’s the recommended way for plants to have room to thrive.

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Baby cucumber plants, wilted in the summer sun

And right next to that, not worth it’s own topic is the yellow squash bed. More accurately, it’s the pile of dirt that I stuck some squash seeds into a couple of weeks ago when there was rain forecast. We’ll see whether or not I can still get a decent-sized squash from my yard.

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Yellow summer squash

Variety Bed #2

Unfortunately, the dirt in these new beds has dried up a bit since the summer harvest. I need to figure out how to start getting my mulch on. You can see a volunteer pumpkin vine growing in the corner of variety bed #2. This bed now has seeds for radishes, turnips, spinach, and a corner patch of lettuce.

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A place for vegetables

Melons

This is the same melon bed I’ve had all summer. Only now, I threw in a couple of seeds for Paris Market carrots because I read melons and carrots make fine companion plants and they should start really growing around the time I get those melons out of the way. That is, unless I have to tear up the whole bed to get the melons out.

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Melon vines still everywhere!

I tried looking very carefully for melons Friday and was surprised to discover what looks like an almost-ready cantaloupe. I’ll be keeping a close eye on that!

In the newer small canary melon bed, it looks like the plants are ready to be thinned again. There’s no telling if they’ll have time to produce this year.

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Canary melon vines

Lemons

Well, no, there aren’t any lemons yet. I planted this tree from a seed less than two years ago so there are still years to wait. But look how leafy and green it’s getting. I’m excited already. Do baby trees need to be pruned at all though? I’m wondering after seeing just how much it’s leaning after the rain.

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The Meyer Lemon tree at 21 months

Bell Pepper

No signs of any fruit, but it’s still hanging in there.

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Bell pepper wilting its leaves to avoid peak heat

Peas

Finally, I soaked and planted the peas from last spring and planted them in their own little plot. Unlike last spring’s peas, these will be in my own backyard so I can closely monitor them and pick them at perfect ripeness.

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The pea plot

Gratitude Journal #4

I’m grateful to have clean running water, for the amazing social powers of the internet, for having a comfortable bed to sleep in every night. But here are just a few other things I’d like to call out this month.

My Mom

For many reasons, but in this case because she let me borrow her loppers. These trees were covered with poison ivy and virginia creeper, but after a couple of sessions with the loppers attacking the lower vines, the poison ivy leaves above have shriveled up and died.

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So many trees! 🙂

This mouse

Because it’s cute. I pass by this construction site every day on my way from work. As soon as I approach, this little guy darts off to hide. Not sure if it’s the same mouse or if I’ve seen many different ones, but if so they’re all cute. It draws my attention away from the ugly parking garages recently built.

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Construction-site mouse

The squirrel that ate my melon

One day I was sitting by my bedroom window staring out into the garden when I noticed some quick movements in the melon patch. It was a squirrel engaging in a most curious behaviour. It would quickly stand up tall, look around in every direction, and then crouch back down again, and was doing this repeatedly.

There was something yellowish in its hands. And then in its mouth. The squirrel somehow knew that the treasure it had found doesn’t normally appear on its own, and that its rightful owner might come to claim it. It looked all around but didn’t see me, all the while chomping and chewing away guiltily.

I hadn’t noticed a melon outside earlier, but sure enough when I went outside to check (after the squirrel had left) there was a canary melon sitting there under some vines and weeds. I don’t believe squirrels should ever have to feel guilty about anything. I took the melon from the patch and placed it in a clear area where the squirrel could return and eat guilt-free.

And it did.

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Squirrel-damaged canary melon

Mother Nature

Because she rewards those who share.

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Another melon in the making