Monday, November 12, 2018

Western Montana Artisanal Kombucha and Good Food

I took a work trip to Whitefish, Montana.  While the hotel wasn't thrifty, frugal, or particularly impressive for the $$, it was paid for by work so what the hell.
For the record, it was the "Lodge at Whitefish Lake."  It's fine, but at about 100$ a night I got much less than I get at my usual 50-70$ a night hotels.  No free breakfast, slow wifi, no control of room heat (several of the conference attendees agreed that the thermostats had no effect on the room temp).  My room was 71degs F the WHOLE TIME.  I can't sleep that warm.  I only had a sliding glass door to a patio, which was lovely, but no window to crack and leave open in hopes of cooling off a bit.   The gas fireplace had 2 temperature settings, 1: world's biggest pilot light  2: center of the sun.

The good bits were the food elsewhere.  I didn't try food at the "Lodge."  The prices were not in my approved range for standard fare.

So, road trip!

Just down the road 1/2 mile was the Montana Tap House.  The food...meh.  Cheap and edible.  It looked like the "cook" had to go out the back door and back in to bring food.
The brews though!  Good!  My colleague tried a beer and said it was excellent.
I had a beet kombucha on tap from Dark Side Fermenters.   It was most excellent!!!

I know one of the fermenters...kombuchers...one of the people who owns the company who makes the stuff.  OK, I sort of know him.  He's adorbs.  Hi Pete!

Had I known I could get them to fill a growler I would have gone to a thrift store and gotten one of those football-sideline-beverage-cooler things and brought home about 5 gallons.  Damn.  Next time.

The colleague and I headed south one day to tour some work relevant sites.  Really.
We of course, had to eat as well.  

Polson, Montana...who knew the food was so good???  

First we stopped at Flathead Lake Cheese.  Go get some.  I don't even eat cheese (damn you dairy!)
I tasted a tiny bit.  It was good.  I got some for office gifts and it was well received.  Smoked gouda and some garlicky cheese curds.  The place is all solar and you buy cheese out the side window of the old house.  It's the bomb.

Next door, across the alley actually, is the Cherries BBQ Pit.  OMG!  Brisket sandwich is awesome.  For reals.  It came with 2 sides, 8$ total.  I got "ribbon fries" and coleslaw.  A ribbon fry turns out to be a giant russet potato sent through a veggie spiralizer into hot fat.  It was HUGE.  And delicious.  The coleslaw was quite nice.  I also ordered some pork rinds for the table.  They come sprinkled with the house rub.  Very very very good.  And huge.
This was the first time in ages I could not finish a meal.  I took it with me and had it for supper.  2 meals for 11$ (including the rinds).  I tried to buy a bottle of the jack daniels sauce, but the waitress lady never quite figured out that my saying "I want to buy a bottle of that" meant that I wanted to buy a bottle of that.

There is a drive through but I went inside and sat down like a grown up.

No great meals on the way home sadly.  We had to just drive straight through.  Oh well.  I plan to take a road trip to the area again as a leisure trip and to bring my stretchy pants.


Friday, October 26, 2018

When Did America Decide Kids Are Stupid?

I've got TV this week.  Not much.  A few broadcast channels.  Hence this is not a full survey of children's programming.  It's impressions from PBS programming.

When did kids get stupid?  The shows on offer are insulting to the intelligence of a toddler.  Squeaky baby animal characters are the most common lead figures.  Followed by squeaky baby humanoids.  Ew. 

In my day....(spoken like an oldster)...we had cartoons with irony and snark. I like irony and snark (my character would be "Captain Obvious).  I liked irony and snark as a child.  Bugs Bunny, who is now a baby for some creepy anti-aging reason, was sarcastic and a bit mean sometimes.  Elmer Fudd may have a stutter, but he doesn't talk like a squeaky toy.  No wonder children end up surfing the internet and finding porn.  It's less insulting, though possibly more damaging. 

Of course, I was the kid who loathed Mr. Rogers.  I don't like being talked down to and that cat puppet gave me the willies.  Still, he's starting to look better to me.  There were real topics and sometimes he talked about issues that were in the news.

We were also apparently smart enough back in the day to understand that even though the road runner could fall off a cliff and be smashed flat, then stretch-pop back into a normal shape, such a feat was not possible for human children.  I do not remember, nor can I find evidence of, any rash of children jumping from heights because they were inspired to emulate the road runner.  We also rarely built bombs despite Wile E. Coyote's constant attempts.   They never seemed to work for him anyway.

The cartoons I've seen this week have been pandering to the stupidest children and their genetic source material, the parents.  I don't like it. 

The laundromat I go to generally has a dvd of a classic cartoon from the 1960s and 1970s running so I have seen the adult Bugs Bunny recently for comparison.  I AM disturbed by the weird racism in the old cartoons.  Perhaps there can be new exciting versions that are not completely infantile and not racist. 

I also wonder what happens when kids turn about 7 or 8 years old and they can't hack the squeaky baby pablum cartoons and switch to hyperviolent superhero cartoon and live action stuff. 
Probably they will grow up just fine like humans always have, but they will have wasted all that time on crap TV.


Sunday, October 21, 2018

Random Thoughts on Pants

Even Carhartt is making their pants stretchy.  Dang.  I'm down to 4 pairs of pants that more or less fit and have zero stretchiness to them.
Turns out, lack of stretch is more important to me than fit or cost.

One pair of my current jeans is a men's Levi's without stretch, but they are boot cut and tight on my lady thighs. But they are 100% cotton and the pockets are full size.

Tiny pockets are the other loser in women's jeans.

Another pair is flannel lined. They are lady jeans, straight leg, decent size pockets and no stretch.  With the flannel, they are only good for winter but I was thinking I could get another pair and cut the flannel out.  Alas, they are discontinued.  The new model is stretchy.  WTF?  Two layers of stretchy, because the flannel is also stretchy, would be like wearing tights over pantyhose. 

My third pair is ancient Carharrt lady jeans in 100% cotton.  The pockets are a bit small.  Apparently because girl car keys are smaller than man car keys.  Whatever.  They are long enough, and shapeless, but they don't have stretch so I wear them.  Somehow I tore the shin wide open, only on the pants, not my actual shin, and these are not double fronts.  So, I patched it with scraps of previous non-stretchy jeans.  The seams are frayed and there are parts of those jeans that are so thin you could read newsprint through them.  So, not long for this world.

The final pair is a set of lady, short waisted, medium leg length, 100% cotton double front Carhartts.  The holy grail of pants for me.  If they were inches longer, they would be perfect.
But, they aren't. 
I tried ordering a brand new pair of these, paying retail (well, sale retail but it's so rare I don't buy thrift and instead get on the internet and order pants that it's newsworthy, or blogworthy).  35$ including shipping.  That's a lot for a garment in my book. 

I read the reviews that these run BIG.  I was about an 8 by the size chart so I ordered a 4.  Well, gentle reader, you and I could have both put those on..  They were a 34 inseam so that was good, but I could take them off without unzipping.  And the leg opening.  I like a straight leg on my trousers.  These were oddly HUGE at the bottom.  Like so huge they would catch on crap.
Still, they were nice hard cotton double fronts and I had to pay to send them back so I get back on line to see if there is a size 2 long left.  Nope.  In fact, they never made the 2 in a long.  Crap.  I don't want to pay retail for inadvertent capris.

I have worn men's carhartts.  They are tough and last well and are available long enough, but rarely in a small enough waist size.  Not many men apparently wear a 30x34.  When they do, the rise is about 2 feet long so they button right to my bra.  I could cut armholes just below the waist band.

There is a company in Montana now that will make real hard cotton pants.  Red Ants Pants.
The pants are 139$, but they are 100% cotton, double front, double butt, gusseted crotch, come in a straight cut, full size pockets, have a longer inseam option, and are made in the USA.  So, we'll see.  Perhaps I will use christmas money for a pair.

Wranglers do make a few styles in 100% cotton.  So far all the options I've tried, including the men's option, were way too big in the butt and waist by the time I got my thighs in them.  I suppose I could use a hula hoop instead of a belt and carry my groceries around in the resulting waist basket.  They fit like clown pants with tight legs.  I tried a pair I got from a thrift store with new tags on them.  Alas, I took them back after 1 wearing.  The bubble butt and tight thighs caused a problem different from the stretchy pants.  Stretchy pants ride down all day, requiring lots of yanking up and the pantyhose squat move (where you have to grab the waist, yank up with all your might while doing a wide stance squat, then stand back up, still yanking.  This gets the crotch back up in the vicinity of your actual crotch).  With the thin thigh big butt wranglers, the pants rode UP all day.  I spent my day doing the wedgy hop (where you grab the butt crack seam and yank down while hopping up a bit, then grab the thigh fabric and shimmy it down a bit).   These activities BOTH piss me off. So, sorry wranglers, unless you acknowledge that some women have thighs without the bubble butt, we're over.

Once again, I may end up getting tailored pants.   I tried that through Lands End once.  It took a half dozen returns and turn arounds and eventually I got workable pants that were long enough and straight enough.  I got compliments.  Alas, they would not go short enough in the rise. They weren't truly tailored, it was a computer program that made a one-off pattern. I fell outside the allowable limits.  So, while the pants looked good, they were gouging by ribs every time I wore them. 

If anyone knows a good tailor who will make my new blue jeans...let me know.




Sunday, September 23, 2018

Dear Duffer, Open Your Eyes

This is a response to a letter to the editor and common comments I hear at professional meetings (I'm an anthropologist, not a field the world is dependent on and still this silly myopic lament is common).
And to an asinine country western song.

The title of the letter to the editor in the local paper is this:

Who's going to fill their shoes?


Well, if you have to ask, I'm going with "not you."

The letter writer was, and probably still is, wondering who will fill the shoes of the county commissioners and other local "leaders."   Leaders who are pointedly unkind to large portions of the community.  They were the movers and shakers of their day.  Like many movers and shakers, as they age, they tend to cling to past glory rather than mentor up or help someone get ready to take the reins and, god forbid, take things in a new direction.  Never mind that the current "shoes-fillers" made big changes back when they were starting out.  Kicking out the aging curmudgeons who had the community stuck in the past.  Guess what, after 50 years, you, dear current shoe-filler, are now the curmudgeon stuck in the past.  You are the one packing the local boards with your cronies and making  sure the school educates kids for professions that are on the way out, the ones that were good jobs in your day, rather than professions that are on the way up.

So, letter writer, when you say "who is going to fill their shoes," try looking around.  Not everyone in your generation was a leader.  Not everyone in the younger generations is a leader. But some are.  How about the National Merit Scholar who just won a full ride at an ivy league school?  What are you doing to attract her back to your community...oh right, she's a girl, not a leader in your eyes.  Also, a book worm, which you don't respect.

What about your former chief of police who is also a chainsaw champion (yes, we have chainsaw contests here)?  Oh right, she's a middle aged woman.  Not a leader in your eyes.  If I remember right, and I do because I looked it up, you were among those who ousted her for playing nice with the local minority population. She is a leader.  And she's still a leader and she's still living in your community.

What about the dude who is running for county commissioner despite the fact that one pair of the shoes you are looking to fill has been commissioner for nearly 2 score years and bad things happened to those who've run against him in the past?  How about encouraging him to support someone younger coming in to the position and being willing to share the history of the county politics and struggles and advise new commissioners on handling local politics and business interests?

Rather than just lamenting "who's going to fill their shoes" you could be helping folks learn the ropes and fill the shoes.  Look around.  And quit looking at funerals. The dead have better things to do.  And they're dead.  Look at the young and middle aged people who are doing new and different things that are helping the community and be open to the idea that MAYBE they are going to change things just like the current shoe-fillers did back in their day.  Get over it.  Get over yourself.  Get over the past.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Seriously Safeway?

So, I don't usually shop in large chain groceries as part of my attempt to shop more locally.  I shop at farmers markets, veggie stands, the Moscow Food Co-op, local chain "Rosauers" and sometimes Winco if I need a GIANT bag of sugar (for the bees...hi bees!), or some Zevia pop.  (That's right POP.  It's not SODA.  It's POP.  Baking soda is "soda.")  Anyway, not usually you're safeways or albertsons.

Alas, last week, I needed a few burger buns (cooking up some elk that I was given into pulled elk sandwiches) for people unaccustomed to the sorts of breads I would eat (organic, sourdough, dark rye, 78 grain sprouted whatever with extra fiber so I poop).  I was near a safeway so I stopped there for some reasonably healthy but familiar looking buns.  I mean, how hard could it be?

HARD.  EVERY SINGLE TYPE OF BURGER BUN in the store had some sort of "deal" on the price label that made it very difficult to decide the cost per bun.  It was things like "3 for 2 deal" with 4 buns a pack, a 2 for 1 deal with 8 buns a pack, a percent discount for people with a loyalty card (making me do higher math for stupid mediocre buns does not buy MY loyalty and certainly does not get you my email or phone number).  The combinations were endlessly varied and the bun sizes varied independently from the number in the pack.  It also turned out, when I finally found a "deal" that would apply to me without my handing over personal contact information to prove my loyalty, that since I bought 1 package, not 3, of that type and a package of another type (seeds vs no seeds), the 2 for 1 deal DID NOT COUNT.  Cripes.  By then I'd spent 15 minutes on damn buns. 

So, safeway, if you can't just tell me the damn price and let me have the product at that price, then you confirm my opinion that giant chain stores are not a value for me.  I'm not going to play "price roulette" at the check out on every item. 

In summary:  bite me.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

Growing Food From Scraps

This kind of thing is fun, but cuts into my wormbin scraps supply, but still, I want to try to do more of it.  This year I started ginger for myself and another person.

When asked how long it would take before it was harvestable I said "10 years" because I didn't know.

According to the chart below, it may only take a year.  Nice.

Below are things you can regrow from grocery items or scraps from grocery items.   A warning on the potatoes:  often they are treated with a "no-sprouting" chemical and won't want to sprout.  Buy those organic.  In fact, you could by everything organic and regrow it.

More after the chart...


I have regrown celery.  I got mostly leaves and dried them for winter seasoning.  I've planted organic/local garlic and potatoes that sprouted and had great results.  You don't have to wait for the garlic to sprout.  Just stick it in the ground.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

10 ways to save $10 a Week!


If you do all of them, you'll save 100$ a week. 5200$ a year.
If you do half of them, 50$ a week. 2600$ a year.
A half assed job at all of them, also 2600$ a year.
A half assed job at half of them...still 1300$ a year.

These aren't in any order and are because I'm doing a frugal touch-up and rereading The Tightwad Gazette. I don't know how many of these I can do but I'm going to try.

1) Make 2 homemade coffees instead of buying 2 fancy coffees per week.

Assuming $5.25 and a tip per fancy coffee, you could even use those spendy pod or cup thingies for the coffee.

I am already using my thrift purchased travel french press stainless steel mugs and a thrift purchased thermos of hot water (heated upon the butane burner I found for free in a former apartment like 3 years ago and using the cheapest butane I can get my hands on)

To cut that EVEN MORE, I asked for coffee for my birthday and my favorite Aunt...well, one of my favorite aunts...sent not the 1 lb I asked for, but 2 full lbs AND several little fancy roast samplers that I can get 3-5 cups from. Nice. I figure that's 3 months of coffee. After that I still have an lb of chicory blend coffee I bought for 6$ in Louisiana (I was there for work) as a gift for someone but ended up not needing. So there is a few more weeks of coffee.
AND I need to cut back to just one cup per day. More than that gives me hot flashes anyway. I do make a 2nd cup from the same grounds. It's not good, but I don't want to waste the last of the caffeine.

2) Cut out 1 restaurant work-lunch per week. 

 It's hard to get a restaurant lunch with a beverage for under 10$. In the past few weeks I've been invited to work lunches repeatedly.  I go because people expect me to be minimally social.  The trouble is, it costs $$.  The other trouble is, I eat too much and get fat and salty and tired and have hot flashes. I guess that's several troubles.

I am retrenching personally on this one.  I texted the colleague who most likes to do lunch, and knows the VERY best lunch spots.   I suggested that since I need to save $$ AND the delicious food was undermining my health goals and making me sweaty...we should meet up in the conference room with salads or whatever. Perhaps we could share lunch preparation.  We've tried to help each other in the past with cutting sugar content in the diets so this is someone sympathetic to at least the health part of the equation.   It's much cheaper to even buy bag of salad and some fancy tuna than to go out.

3) Cut 100 miles of driving.  

For reals.  At the current price of gas, a 50 mile round trip is costing me about 5$.   Actually a bit more. I drive 25 miles each way to work.   That's not very cuttable. I use my car for work during the week and am “on call” from the office to field sites so can't really share rides with people unless they want to not know what time they will be home at night. I could cut one trip to town (25 miles each way) and try to consolidate work trips each week. I can also walk more once I get to town for errands. This one is a challenge in the summer when I'm called out more. But, worth a try.

4) Cut food waste by eating what I have and eating all of what I buy.

Food waste….On the “Dollar Stretcher” website there has been a forum called Food Waste Friday where those who choose to participate can post what they wasted each week. Despite my efforts, I still chuck some of the fresh food I buy. Convenience foods tend to get fully consumed, but cost more. Buying fresh or at least not convenience and eating all of it would save the most money. Making the effort! It doesn't take much waste to add up to 10$. Since I try to spend 200$ a month on groceries, 40$ (4 weeks at 10$) is 20% of the budget! That's worth the effort and will more than offset any extra groceries needed by not going out to lunch.

5) Shop in my stuff before I shop at the store. 

 I have more often than I wish to admit bought a duplicate of an item that I already own, just because I forgot I had it. So, before I buy a clothing item, I will go through the clothing back stock and really see if I need the exact item or if something will work just as well. E.g. today I say a nice raincoat at thrift (5$), but thinking through it, I have a rubber rain coat (also from thrift) that works fine. Just doesn't look fabulous. Ultimately, not worth another 5$ to me to have a nicer looking less rubbery raincoat that might not be all that waterproof.

I've also bought medical supplies when I already HAD that medical supply (bandaids, elastic wraps, creams, etc). So, a few weeks ago I went through the box in storage marked “meds” and got out the aspirin I'd forgotten I had. I was out of aspiring at the homestead. I also went through the first aid kits at home and in the vehicles and made sure the stock was evenly distributed instead of all the bandages in one case and none in the other. This way, hopefully, everything will get used up at a fairly steady rate.

I periodically go through my clothes to see what really isn't getting used and can be donated, chucked, recycled, or in several instances...put back into circulation. E.g. I have too many pairs of lovely knee high wool skiing sox. I can't store them all in the homestead. So some are in storage. When the ones in full rotation get tatty, I try to remember to go through the stored winter clothes before buying new socks. In trying on all my pants to see what did/didn't work I found that one pair that I hadn't worn in a while, was actually presentable and fit reasonably well. They aren't my favorite pants, but no reason not to wear them. An old pair of work pants is just too big, but also pretty tattered so may be turned into a set of pouches with the waist band and belt loops still attached so I can use it when gardening to carry pin flags, seeds, tools, etc.

6) Cut back on entertainment expenses. 

 Mine are pretty well cut, but there is always more to be done!
I used to do a movie a week at 5$ (2nd run theater...1st run theaters are too expensive to even be considered). This year, I bought a 10 movie pass for 50$, which is a better deal than it sounds since their basic movie rate went up to 7$. I was also buying the 1$ popcorn. I can skip the popcorn. The 10 prepaid movies means I can see how many movies I want to spend on this year, it's already spent, and prioritize which ones I go to.

I get most movies from the library. I rent a few from the local video co-op. I will be cutting back on co-op movie rentals.

I also rarely spend on books anymore (says the woman who spent 20$ on a plant guide this morning….more on that anon). I get them from the library. Even audio books. Library. With interlibrary loan I can get pretty much anything. Today I asked about a book I wanted but could not find in the system. The librarian put in a “purchase request” for the book. If they don't buy it, they will look further afield to interlibrary loan it. If I find I check a book out over and over, I put it on the list for things to find used, at thrift, or ask for when it's gift time (holidays, birthdays). Just this year I got multiple books I'd been coveting (including a different plant guide than the one I bought) as gifts.
I don't go out to clubs or bars so that saves but that means it's also a spot I can't cut from the entertainment budget...already cut to 0.

Radio: don't under estimate it. I listen most days to get the weather and news. I don't have internet at my place or a smart phone. The radio is the basic info stream. No TV on the premises (movies watched on the laptop). One day I couldn't get the weather I wanted on the radio so I called information...that's a thing we used to use all the time and DOES cost a buck or so, and got the number for the local national weather service office. Sure enough they have a phone line where you can get the weather forecast for your area. NICE!! No need for a TV and cable to watch the weather channel. I programmed the number in the phone so it's a one-time cost for information.


7) Review car insurance coverages.

I recently did this and saved over 400$ per year. I had full coverage on one vehicle, including rental car. This made sense when I had one vehicle given how dependent I am on it (life choice that costs $$ but one I made with my eyes open). I would need a rental vehicle. NOW that vehicle is worth much less and I have a 2nd vehicle. I don't need the rental. Should I decide to make a long distance road trip, I will look into adding the rental coverage back in. You can do that. You can also suspend the insurance on the vehicle you aren't driving at the moment. I don't have the attention span to turn the insurance on and off depending on which rig I'm driving on a day, and often drive both in one day for different tasks. So, cutting insurance made sense. See what you can personally tolerate and see if you can cut back. Also, compare companies. That's my next step.

8) Use the discounts or coupons that you have AND that you need. 

 I won't use a coupon for an item I wasn't buying anyway. I won't go somewhere or buy something just to get the discount. I keep a list of what I need or choose to buy, then watch for a coupon or discount that will apply to that.

Today, I knew I had a 10$ off customer appreciation coupon for a local hardware store. It was good yesterday and today only. Yesterday I wasn't going to be in town and gas to town and back is about 5$ so ...not worth a specific drive to use the coupon. TODAY I was in town for multiple errands and tasks. I took my list to the hardware store. It included the above mentioned plant guide (it is specific to local native species and I am trying to restore native species on my property). I also needed a ground tamper and had compared prices during other trips to hardware stores. This store had one in stock and at the same price as elsewhere. So, the cost of the book and the tool met the minimum amount to use the 10$ coupon which maximized the value of the coupon. I went in, spun the wheel for a free gift (which turned out to be a free sample of dog treats...I don't have a dog but I can use them as bait in traps), grabbed the two items I had already identified as the best things to buy there with the coupon, and hit the check out. Then it was off to the next errand.

9) Keep a list and keep it on you. 

 I have a master list of things I need or want and have chosen to buy. I don't go to stores without it. This morning I had to get out of the car and go back up the hill to the homestead on foot (no driveway up there...too expensive) to get the list. No point in going to town to do errands without the list.

With the list, I can go to thrift stores and yard sales I may pass, and see if things on the list are available for cheap. Just yesterday I stopped by a yardsale and found a ground squirrel trap! That was on the list. I have a ground squirrel problem and have chosen not to poison them. The trap was 5$ at the yard sale. In full working condition. I looked online and new it would be 56$. I would never spend that much. I'd suffer with squirrels. For 5$ I will try it and if it doesn't work the way I like, I can resell it or trade it for something else.

At the farmers market and grocery stores today (walking from one to the other to save on the gas noted above) I carried the list and got things at the best price without duplicating or having to go back and return something when I found it cheaper elsewhere. TP at the co-op. There is cheaper TP but the co-op TP is one roll in paper, not 4 or 36 in plastic. I have limited storage and store things in tins. I can store 3 or 4 rolls, not 36. I also don't like to buy things in plastic if I can avoid it. I wanted stevia sodas this week as I get off the sweet restaurant food. Those are cheaper at a grocery store. As was mint tea. There was a 3rd grocery store. That one has the best “discontinued” or “discounted” food rack and the cheapest allergy stuff that was on my list. It is also near the recycling center with the free book bin. I got a free book and next time I'm through I will drop off a free book I'm done with.

10) Free stuff! 

 I love those little free libraries and the free book bin at the recycling center. I use them. A few times I year I actually find books on my list. That's always a treat. Sometimes I find awesome antique books like the vest pocket dictionary from the early 1900s that I have now been using for more than a year. It's tiny and handy and antique and free. I've found a few books from a home designer that I admire and have used ideas from them in designing my next home. The free book bin also yielded a honey cookbook that I've been using and may pass on if I ever stop using it. Today, I got a multi-cassette audio book about how to be a winner...I can't wait to find out how I can be a winner. The brand new used pickup has a cassette player.

At the community garden, in exchange for helping them while I learn new things, I am given greens and a few eggs. That's a win-win-win. They get help. I get educated. I get food.

Next to the community garden is a 2nd harvest food distribution center. The manager there is happy if we take pallets. Many pallets. I do take pallets when I need them. I try to remember to drive that brand new used pick up that day and load up on the pallets I can use.

At work, people open lots of boxes of stuff. Big boxes. When I'm setting up new garden beds or smothering thistle thickets, I take boxes. Leave them in the rain a day or two and the tape and other plastic peels right off. Then they go down where needed, often held in place with pallets that haven't been used on their assigned project yet.

Beware of free stuff with strings. If it's new and free, you may be the product. I don't sign up for free stuff on the internet if it requires my contact info. That means someone is selling my contact info and/or trying to sell me crap for NOT free. I hate that.

I don't take free things I don't also need.
Today at the library I used the free seed exchange. I took 6 asparagus seeds. I could have taken enough seed to grow a market garden feeding dozens of people, but I don't need that much. I want to see if I can start asparagus in a newly tilled up garden bed. 6 seeds should give me an idea about that.