Friday, November 27, 2009

Early Morning Decluttering

In the last few weeks I've been waking shortly after 6 am and, rather than "sleep in", I've been getting up and spending an hour or so decluttering various spots in the house:
  • the bookcase in the bedroom - got rid of 8 books
  • the bookcase at the head of the stairs - got rid of a dozen books
  • the stack of books beside my bed -- I now had space for 2/3 of the books in the above two bookcases
  • the bookcase in the back storage room - more than twenty books and I rearranged books to have one shelf free for other storage; also got rid of a lot of extra travel mugs that have been superceded by "better" models (much less plastic)
  • the rest of the back room - got rid of a travel iron, a crate of Mardi Gras beads, a box a tent shelter came in, a wooden display rack, moved and went through a desk pull-drawer set
  • the cellar - got rid of a waffle iron, rice cooker, and tea kettle
  • the main attic - took out a lot of scrap wood stored up there and barn boards when we beefed up the insulation; also found a folding desk that we removed all the hardware from
  • upstairs bathroom - got rid of a lot of travel size products, some samples, and some things I never use
None of the stuff I listed ended up in the land fill. I Freecycled much it, donated some to an alternate library, and some stuff to the Diabetes Society. The lumber all went into shed storage for spring and summer projects. A lot of people were very happy to take the stuff we had around gathering dust.

It's a great way to start the day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Tankless Water Heater Saga

This saga began back at the end of August. We went into Home Depot and set the process in motion to get a natural gas tankless water heater. We don't use a lot of hot water (there's just two of us) and we realized we're paying a fair amount for hot water storage. We've gotten in the habit of turning off the electric hot water heater when we go away on vacation. Over two weeks we usually save 25% of the electric bill.

The fellow at Home Depot promised to follow up perusing the stock of other Home Depot stores for us since they didn't have any in stock. We were going away for a week and we thought there might be a message for us when we got back. But there wasn't. When we finally got a hold of him, he told us that someone had been going around buying up all the tankless hot water heaters (which were on special at the time). Apparently they were getting new models on their stock list and he'd see when they were available. A week later we still hadn't heard back from him and we went on vacation again.

Down in New Hampshire we wandered into a Home Depot. They had tankless water heaters there and the fellow we talked to was an enthusiastic owner of one. It was a different brand than what had been listed at the Home Depot in Canada.

When we got back, I decided to search the Home Hardware site for tankless water heaters. They had them listed. We went to the store on Thursday. They didn't have any in stock, but there was one in the warehouse. We went with a small model and it came in the following Wednesday.

Then I called around for someone to do the install. I finally got a hold of someone who looked up the specs on the one we bought: it required a vertical vent and a kind of vent pipe not common in Canada. We really didn't want to drive a vent pipe up through our living room and master bedroom. He recommended we get the next model up that had a side vent.

We brought the first tankless heater back and rolled over the price of that into the more expensive model. It was Monday, they had one in the warehouse, it would be there on Wednesday.

We got it home and a week later the installation man came over. We opened up the box and found that it did not come with a side vent: it would have to be ordered. A further complication was that we didn't three feet vertical clearance in the basement before running the side vent out.

I decided to give up. I took the second model back. I got the money back on the credit card.

I came home and put three-quarters of charitable donations for the year on the credit card. It seemed a better use of the money.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Is This Really November?

I went bicycling today. I rode to my Quaker meeting and then got on the bike trail behind Sadleir House and rode to its junction with the Rotary Trail along the Otonabee River. My bike basket fell off as I was crossing Water St but luckily I avoided running into it (I did that years ago on a gravel path and did it ever hurt!). A kind man walking his dog held my bike while I went to retrieve the basket. There were no further mishaps the rest of the sunny, blue-sky ride home.

That was definitely not a November sky, and it being warm enough to ride my bike is not the usual November day. We've had a lot of days like that. We've had days here in southern Ontario that were warmer than the second week of October in New Hampshire. The average temperature in November has been higher than what we had in October!

A week ago Thursday I went out kayaking on Little Lake. This is the first year here in Peterborough that I've kayaked so late in the fall. For some reason the water was really high. Possibly because the Trent-Severn Waterway keepers were dumping water into the lake in expectation of some heavy rain and snow/rain combo (which can really raise water levels in the upper section of the waterway). Or possibly because water had been dumped out of the lake at the end of October in expectation of November rains that never really amounted to much this year and the water level of the lake got lower because we had so many sunny days.

We did have one day and a half of heavy rain this past week. We had some frosty nights, but there's still lots of green in the yard and my lettuce, chard, and kale are doing fine (but not growing very fast).

The ground hasn't frozen up yet. I'm waiting for signs of that so I can mulch my garlic. I should mulch my lavender and thyme, but they're still thriving. My rosemary plant is in the greenhouse but it's not called to me yet to bring it in.

But this is the last week of November. Rosemary, you're coming in the end of this week! You need to keep the parsley and garlic chives (those have passed in the garden) company.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Beads and Things

I've been periodically going through shelves upstairs, downstairs, in the pantry and in the back room and pulling things out, saying "I don't use this", "I don't need this"... "But someone else might!"

So I've been listing things on Freecycle lately. I stopped for a while because I was responding to first responders (probably lurkers with email on their cellphones) who were never able to pick stuff up and then I had to go to a later responder anyway who would be responsible and pick things up. I'm usually going with the later responder right up front now (like the radio or TV show that say "7th and 9th callers get the prize") and I'm liking the dealing a lot better. I'll post at night and check responses the next morning.

Things I've Freecycled in the past month:
  • a microwave rice cooker/vegetable steamer (I use my thermal cooker for rice now)
  • a waffle iron/sandwich griddle (older than our current waffle iron)
  • a bag of cookbooks that had been superceded by newer ones
  • a bundle of computer art books
  • a 50' length of garden hose
During my period of disenchantment with Freecycle I put a few things on the grass strip between the sidewalk and the actual street in front of my house. Folks picked up:
  • two coffee urns
  • a vanity top
  • pink venetian blinds that don't go with our current decor but went with someone else's
  • a mailbox
  • a disassembled cabinet
Now I've made up 33 bundles of Mardi Gras beads and offered them on Freecycle. Once they're gone I'll have a wooden milk crate for storing other things.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Latest Local Food Tally

I've been amazed at what has been showing up on my shopping radar and in the farmers market over the past year. These are the things I currently buy:
  • mushrooms (usually cremini, though white, portabello, and oyster are availabe at the same price as well)
  • goat chevre and goat cheddar
  • ground goat meat
  • grass-fed beef (ground, stew, round steak, cross-rib roast)
  • free-range eggs
  • free-range chicken
  • apples (Empire, Cortland, and Russet are my favorites)
  • organic whole wheat flour (Red Fife wheat and Canadian Red Winter)
  • carrots
  • rutabagas
  • spaghetti squash
  • leeks
  • hemp nuts
  • honey
  • peanut butter (via a friend travelling to south west Ontario)
  • beeswax
  • hand-made soap
  • sweet potatoes
  • zucchini
  • sweet peppers
  • pears
  • tomatoes (usually cherry or other varieties I don't grow)
  • potatoes
  • pork
  • ground buffalo and buffalo sausage
Things I'm producing on my own:
  • tomatoes
  • tomatillos
  • lettuce
  • chard
  • carrots (colored variety only)
  • peppermint
  • yarrow
  • spearmint
  • lavender
  • thyme (lemon and creeping)
  • oregano (regular and yellow)
  • sage
  • garlic
  • parsley
  • rhubarb
  • black raspberries (jam, frozen, liquor, med, sauces)
  • green beans
  • red potatoes
  • sugar pod peas
  • calendula
  • dandelion greens and dandelion wine
  • cucumbers
  • dill
  • alfafa sprouts
  • mung bean sprouts
  • rosemary
  • green onions
Things I make "from scratch" for immediate use or storage:
  • bread stuffs (English muffins, pizza, loaves, buns, pot pie crusts)
  • wine
  • specialty vinegars (for salad dressing)
  • tomato sauce
  • stir-fry base
  • mixed vegetable stock base
  • tomato stock
  • poultry stock
  • dried herb mixes for cooking
  • relishes and salsas
  • fruit spreads
  • chili-garlic sauce
  • Thai dipping sauce (for spring rolls)
  • cookies and cakes
  • kefir
  • almond milk
  • mustard
  • ketchup
My usual shopping list for places other than the farmers market:
  • milk (cow, soy, and goat)
  • whole grain bread (for my husband)
  • sausage (usually a bulk buy)
  • cold cuts (for the husband)
  • tofu
  • vinegar (a gallon at a time)
  • sea salt (bulk buy 2 or 3 times a year)
  • unbleached flour (bulk buy 2 or 3 times a year)
  • yellow sugar (bulk buy 2 or 3 times a year)
  • white sugar (bulk buy once a year)
  • non-hydrogenated margarine (usually 2 lb containers, usually on special)
  • yeast (bulk buy)
  • shrimp (usually a bulk buy on special)
  • soy sauce (two or three times a year)
  • black bean sauce (twice a year)
  • Thai curry paste (bulk buy)
  • occasional citrus (lemon, lime, or Clementines)
  • coconut milk or cream

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

This Consumer Isn't Buying It...

There are a number a things that I still do buy:
  • insulation, insulation, insulation (this year of Energy Audit retrofit anyway)
  • construction materials for the retrofit
  • construction materials for garden stuff (when I can't find something to reuse)
  • gasoline (only 2 gallons for the mower this year; less than 10 liters a week for the car except when we do a road trip vacation)
  • seeds (but I'm starting to save my own and swapping with other seed savers)
  • garden supplements
  • local meat and speciality foods I can't grow/make myself
... but I've long since given up on:
  • brand new outfits
  • commercial tomato sauce
  • weekly purchases of citrus fruit while in Ontario (we've bought Arizona citrus when in Tucson)
  • the latest computer
  • the latest cell phone
  • i- Anything
  • a newer car (we may die before the Honda CRV does)
  • a bigger house (we spend enough to heat what we have)
  • a different house (we'd never be able to afford the yard we currently have)
  • brand new furniture (we bought good and it's aging well)
  • magazine subscriptions (go to the library or Chapters and browse while having a coffee)
  • a bigger TV
  • electronic game systems
  • more and newer appliances (only replace what breaks that we use frequently)
  • makeup
  • chemical cleaners (for house and body)
  • pre-baked goods
  • boxed cereal
  • pre-made dinners
  • just about any processed food
There's a lot of excess in the industrial economy. I'm doing my best to reduce its bloat. And if I'm going to spend money, it will be with local business and producers because that's what I want to have around for my very old age and all the ages of my children and grandchildren.

Local (Ontario, Canada) Peanut Butter!

A couple of weeks ago my friend Tracy told me about getting freshly ground peanut butter from a farm in south-western Ontario where the peanuts were grown. She was visiting the area soon so I put in a request for a 4 lb container, crunchy preferred.

Well, yesterday she delivered. She also had some local honey that I was glad to take off her hands. The peanut butter was scrumptious. My husband really liked it too. But we decided to use up the open jar of commercial peanut butter that we had on hand (I made some peanut butter cookies today).

The peanut butter has only peanuts and peanut oil in it. She had watched them grind it that weekend. A further miracle was that it was $2 a pound. The place was a Picard Peanuts store in Talbotville, Ontario, one of eight branches in the province. More info about the company and peanut growing in Ontario here.