Archive for category The Frugal Yard & Garden
January. Snow covers the ground in many areas of the northern hemisphere, but already our minds venture to thoughts of things to come: Spring and planting.
The image of the boy spreading seeds to the four winds is probably familiar in every culture. It is often used by spiritual teachers in their efforts to convey an important truth about our behavior: we reap what we sow.
More than this, they aspire to convey, we have control over what we sow and thus it is foolish to sow mindlessly, for then many seeds that would be otherwise ripe with life and possibility may fall on barren soil and bear no fruit at all.
Early peasants spread seeds by hand. Not only did this have to be done in the proper season, but the conditions had to be adequate as well. Too much wind meant much waste. Seeds are light. How fascinating that something so small, so apparently weightless, can in truth bear so much weight. Every seed is the promise of a feast for the eyes and for the body. A lost seed may feed a mouse, but even that is a small morsel for the poor creature. The seed that is carefully brought to fertile soil will give so much that mouse and men can share.
Seeds were collected in satchels and folded pieces of fabric. Once released from these by hand, they were subjected to the elements. It did not take long, however, to realize that solid earthen vessels, if kept from moisture, provided a much extended period of dormancy for the seeds, and also a better spreading method.
We happen to be a species that not only plants seeds and grows food from scratch, but we also observe ourselves as we go, deciding in every moment what works best for the task at hand. The earthen vessel provided a funnel-shaped delivery system, allowing far more precise planting. An organized, symmetrical field is easier to manage and maintain.
A properly shaped container aligns the seed with its destination. Bring this close to the soil and you reduce exposure to wind. Add wheels and you do not have to bend over for hours on end; add wheels and you have just invented the garden seeder.
Imagine for a moment the earlier metaphor of the boy losing seeds to the wind. Replace his satchel with a modern, wheel-supported garden seeder, and the lesson takes on a slightly new angle. Since the wind is a lesser threat (fewer options to stray), there is all the more reason to plant each seed in fertile ground (act on purpose) and to read a healthy harvest (good consequences).
I like to think that the tools we use today, especially those we use near the land and table, represent the increasingly refined ways in which we face life as a whole.
Why fearless? Because we are on a path of creative self-reliance and we overcome floods and adversity of all magnitudes with our heads up, so a mere number is not about to get in the way of personal progress, thank you very much.
Secondly, New Year resolutions often fail not because they are too difficult to keep, but rather because they are boring. Unless I am mistaken, if you are reading this you are already someone who likes a good challenge and someone who is not afraid to put on your boots and gloves and make your own life by your own hands at some level… heck, you don’t even need gloves.
Thus, I am not calling these resolutions; I am calling them goals. Because worker bees like us are on a journey and journeys are made of goals. How we get there is entirely up to individual creativity and inspiration.
Here, then, are 13 very reachable goals for the 12 months ahead. These are intended as a little inspirational nudge, in case your actual resolutions don’t quite capture your interest. Often, resolutions miss the mark, also, because they are not in line with our true nature. Speaking of nature, we begin in the garden.
1 – Get a piggy bank for the garden - Drop money in it every time you receive payment for work or from sales (depending on your source of income) – This little piggy will help you treat yourself to the tools you need once in a while.
2 – Cook once and eat twice, or more – Canning is one way to put food away to use over time. Cooking with a pressure cooker is, in my opinion, one of the most economical ways of cooking. In addition to this, the time spent on preparing a large batch meal for the pressure cooker, using fresh ingredients, cutting everything by hand, perhaps with music in the background, is utterly relaxing and fulfilling. And you get to savor the fruit of your labor many times over, each time being reminded of a true sense of abundance and freedom.
3 – Give something away, randomly and often – Making bread? Bring some to a neighbor. Canning? Bring a jar to a co-worker. Gardening? Bring a basket of fresh produce to your mechanic. There does not have to be a special occasion. In fact, avoid special occasions; go for the no-reason-at-all approach instead.
4 – Start a sprout garden or patio garden – Begin and end each day tending your little corner of nature. If you happen to be less mobile than you used to be, a small square-foot garden can be raised so you do not have to bend and reach down so far. I am certain someone in your surroundings will be glad to help set this up; a neighbor’s young, strong teen perhaps. This could be the beginning of a mutually beneficial friendship. It’s amazing how much a little piece of garden can change lives.
5 – Get a rain barrel - Start collecting rain to water your plants. If you live in a community where you pay for water usage, add the money you save to your garden piggy… remember, from #1 above?
6 – Learn food canning and preserving – from a book, from a friend, from a neighbor, from the internet. You may be overwhelmed by notions of hundreds of canning jars lined up in a pantry (although this is quite exciting for some of us). Start small and smart with a water bath or steam canner and 6 jars. Expand your projects when you feel so inspired, or keep it down to small batches. Do not let the fact that you do not presently have access to a personal harvest get in the way. There is no rule that says you cannot can produce acquired from the market.
7 – Meet your neighbors – This is a great way to learn a new skill. Perhaps you could place an add in your local paper (or online forum) inviting a few neighbors who wish to start gardening to a monthly get-together. Inspire each other. Some of you may already have skills and knowledge. Learn from each other.
8 – Start a community garden while you’re at it.
9 – Pool resources – share gardening tools, kitchen appliances, knowledge, trips to the store, errands… This is another opportunity to expand your circle of acquaintances and friends.
10 – Get a piggy bank for the kitchen – You guessed it. It works like the garden piggy. They could live side by side on your kitchen counter, smiling at you every time you walk by. Do not be surprised if, once upon a blue day, these little guys manage to make you smile in spite of your grumps!
11 – Take a free online course to learn about a new skill that can inspire your journey of sustainability. Then take another one.
12 – Find online documentaries about gardening, cooking or about people who are living the lifestyle to which you aspire. Make tea and a tray of cookies or snack of choice. Take one hour to watch and think of nothing else. Do this several times a month.
13 – Cut out ads and pictures – Keep a scrapbook or make a collage of dishes, gardens, recipes, home decor ideas that inspire you. Once in a while, leaf through your collage with no particular goal in mind. Just offer yourself a moment of immersion in the images that speak to you, quietly but surely.
Still not confident that 13 goals is a good number? No problem… add some of your own!