Saturday, 8 September 2012

August brings challenges ~ and September brings Spring

August passed in a bit of a haze.  I had lots going on and some of it was difficult so I didn't write much.

Among the challenges was a letter from our electricity provider advising that prices are going up - and by quite a substantial amount.  I was filled with dismay.  How we could manage yet another price increase from our meagre income?  I considered turning off the hot water cylinder and wondered if this would help or simply result in complicating our lives in unhealthy ways?  These sorts of questions are the reality we live with.  I concluded we weren't quite at that point yet and fortunately the warmer weather makes the use of heating less necessary.  None the less my thoughts turned to ways in which we could economize still further than we do already.

We already make our own bread, do most of our own baking, buy almost all our clothes second hand, or I sew them myself, grow a large portion of our own vegetables and herbs, preserve fruit, make all our own jam, shop assiduously for the cheapest possible grocery items and so on.  We spend next to nothing on entertainment and eating out, and use the car as little as possible.  What else could we do?

It may seem strange but it is certainly true that our decidedly threadbare existence has forced a change to a much simpler and more ecologically sustainable lifestyle.  I've always been interested in these issues but when I had a comfortable income I didn't exert myself to achieve much - I didn't have to.  In subsequent years the combination of severe budgetary constraints and my interest in sustainability has resulted in a considerable shift in lifestyle and a great increase in domestic skills.  This kind of thing takes practice - lots of it.  Also it has to be said that, whether by choice or necessity, living more simply does not mean less work and effort; probably it means more, but I've found it very worthwhile and am proud of my achievements.

So what did I decide to do in August in order to extend my economizing and skills yet further?  Quite a bit actually: necessity really has been the mother of inventive creativity!  I achieved the following:
  • Researched and experimented with making my own detergent for use in both the kitchen and the laundry.  I had questions about what is in detergents, and whether it is possible to make something simple that does the job more cheaply?  The answers surprised me, and yes, it can be made more cheaply - and very simply indeed.
  • Bought some fine lawn, which is pure cotton, and sewed myself a dozen handkerchiefs.  This affirmed my stance that I do not need trees to be cut down and processed in order to blow my nose and dry my eyes.  I'm well aware that cotton is ecologically costly, but it does have the advantage of being able to be reused hundreds of times.  And I don't need someone on the other side of the world to sew them for me - I can sew my own, thank you very much!
  • Made a pile of supermarket shopping bags out of the good parts of a worn-out sheet.  I am absolutely determined to entirely dismiss these flimsy plastic bags from our household.  They are a pain to wash and re-use and have a very limited life span.  I'm still working on what to use in place of the little snap-lock bags supermarkets provide for loose dried fruit and nuts but am confident I'll work something out.
  •  Made three more hand towels out of a frayed bath towel.
  •  Made my first batch of marmalade - and wondered why I haven't been doing that for years!
Of these only my home made detergents are likely to free up a few more dollars, but the other projects have been most satisfying in expanding resourcefulness and reducing household waste, so all in all I count it as a productive month!

I look forward to sharing details of these with readers in forthcoming articles. 

Meanwhile, the energy of spring has roused the garden from its winter quiescence, and we've begun clearing winter weeds and readying the ground for the planting of new crops of vegies.  Our tenancy here is uncertain, but I always say that 'forever' is only as long as the foreseeable future, and since we don't know what the future holds it makes sense to go ahead anyway - to enjoy its beauty and mellow fruitfulness to the full, and to put back into it all that we can.  We had such bounty from our garden last summer that I'm keen to replenish it as much as possible.

This carrot was harvested just a couple of weeks ago - it is from last summer's crop, and has spent the winter in the ground with no trouble at all - still tender and delicious:

One way of giving to the garden is by composting food scraps and weeds along with a generous portion of horse manure.  Our compost heap has been quietly rotting down during winter and this afternoon we began barrowing the beautifully rich dark earth onto the garden under a mature tree where the earth is thin and depleted.  As we lifted the compost I could see lots of nice big dark pink wriggly worms, a sign of healthy earth full of lots of nutrients.  The garden seemed to sigh with pleasure!  We will get about ten to twelve barrow loads out of that heap, and then I'll be able to start piling up the next one!  

I foresee many happy days pottering about amidst the summer growth, and wish you joy in yours.

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